Contra Apionem Question

John Milton

Well-known member
When discussing this text today, I came across the following passage with the following translation:
Contra Apionem 1.50b said:
εἶτα σχολῆς ἐν τῇ Ῥώμῃ λαβόμενος, πάσης μοι τῆς πραγματείας ἐν παρασκευῇ γεγενημένης χρησάμενός τισι πρὸς τὴν Ἑλληνίδα φωνὴν συνεργοῖς οὕτως ἐποιησάμην τῶν πράξεων τὴν παράδοσιν.

Afterward I got leisure at Rome; and when all my materials were prepared for that work, I made use of some persons to assist me in learning the Greek tongue, and by these means I composed the history of those transactions.
The part that I have a question about in the translation is the phrase "to assist me in learning the Greek tongue." Is this text saying that Josephus did not know Greek as this translation seems to say? It seems to me to be saying instead that Josephus utilized helpers to work with him on the Greek language. Thoughts?
 

Roger Thornhill

Well-known member
When discussing this text today, I came across the following passage with the following translation:
The part that I have a question about in the translation is the phrase "to assist me in learning the Greek tongue." Is this text saying that Josephus did not know Greek as this translation seems to say? It seems to me to be saying instead that Josephus utilized helpers to work with him on the Greek language. Thoughts?
There is a difference of opinion.
 

Gryllus Maior

Active member
It largely depends on what Josephus meant by the prepositional phrase πρὸς τὴν Ἑλληνίδα φωνὴν. It doesn't necessarily mean learning Greek (notice there is no actual word for "learning"), but helpers "with regard to the Greek language" This could easily mean style assistants. φωνή (not quite the usual word for the Greek language) may also be translated as "sound" or idiom, which suggests style and proper expression. Anybody who reads Josephus knows that he was at least competent in Greek, though sometimes constructions seem a bit out of control. Anecdote: I had a professor who was fluent in French, and had lived for many years teaching (in French) at a small seminary in Aix-en-Provence. He wrote his Ph.D. dissertation for the Sorbonne, and despite his obvious competency and fluency in the language, he still hired a style assistant to make suggestions on his writing. I asked him why, and his response was a native speaker could always do it a little better with expression...

The article cited above also gives a pretty definitive answer to the question.
 

John Milton

Well-known member
It largely depends on what Josephus meant by the prepositional phrase πρὸς τὴν Ἑλληνίδα φωνὴν. It doesn't necessarily mean learning Greek (notice there is no actual word for "learning"), but helpers "with regard to the Greek language" This could easily mean style assistants. φωνή (not quite the usual word for the Greek language) may also be translated as "sound" or idiom, which suggests style and proper expression. Anybody who reads Josephus knows that he was at least competent in Greek, though sometimes constructions seem a bit out of control. Anecdote: I had a professor who was fluent in French, and had lived for many years teaching (in French) at a small seminary in Aix-en-Provence. He wrote his Ph.D. dissertation for the Sorbonne, and despite his obvious competency and fluency in the language, he still hired a style assistant to make suggestions on his writing. I asked him why, and his response was a native speaker could always do it a little better with expression...

The article cited above also gives a pretty definitive answer to the question.
Thanks for the response. In the preceding verses, it seems that Josephus was relaying information to the Roman army.

He uses the word συνεργοῖς along with the phrase πρὸς τὴν Ἑλληνίδα φωνὴν. The two taken together it make me inclined to think he is pulling his own weight in the work, not just being taught. I can't possibly know, but ooooooohhhhh makes me won-der...

I can totally understand his feelings of inadequacy in the language.
 

Gryllus Maior

Active member
Thanks for the response. In the preceding verses, it seems that Josephus was relaying information to the Roman army.

He uses the word συνεργοῖς along with the phrase πρὸς τὴν Ἑλληνίδα φωνὴν. The two taken together it make me inclined to think he is pulling his own weight in the work, not just being taught. I can't possibly know, but ooooooohhhhh makes me won-der...

I can totally understand his feelings of inadequacy in the language.
It says nothing in the text about relaying information to the Roman army, but is a summary of his role in the Jewish war, his capture by the Romans, and eventually being set free and finding Vespasian and then Titus as his patrons. He says specifically ἐποιησάμην τῶν πράξεων τὴν παράδοσιν, "I composed an account of the history."
 

John Milton

Well-known member
It says nothing in the text about relaying information to the Roman army, but is a summary of his role in the Jewish war, his capture by the Romans, and eventually being set free and finding Vespasian and then Titus as his patrons. He says specifically ἐποιησάμην τῶν πράξεων τὴν παράδοσιν, "I composed an account of the history."
That's not how I read that.
τὸ μὲν πρῶτον δεδεμένον, αὖθις δὲ λυθεὶς συνεπέμφθην ἀπὸ [49] τῆς Ἀλεξανδρείας Τίτῳ πρὸς τὴν Ἱεροσολύμων πολιορκίαν. ἐν ᾧ χρόνῳ γενομένην τῶν πραττομένων οὐκ ἔστιν ὃ τὴν ἐμὴν γνῶσιν διέφυγεν: καὶ γὰρ τὰ κατὰ τὸ στρατόπεδον τὸ Ῥωμαίων ὁρῶν ἐπιμελῶς ἀνέγραφον καὶ τὰ παρὰ τῶν αὐτομόλων ἀπαγγελλόμενα μόνος [50] αὐτὸς συνίειν.
First underlined part: Paraphrase "in time nothing that happened got by me"
Second underline part: Paraphrase "the things that the deserters said were lost on everyone but me"
The implication seems to be that nothing got by him because he had to translate.
 

The Real John Milton

Well-known member
Thanks for the response. ….I can't possibly know, but ooooooohhhhh makes me won-der...

I can totally understand his feelings of inadequacy in the language.

Either you are unknowingly channeling a line from the song Stairway to Heaven or else you are a fan of it. Neither bodes well for your spiritual condition. 🤔
 

Gryllus Maior

Active member
That's not how I read that.
τὸ μὲν πρῶτον δεδεμένον, αὖθις δὲ λυθεὶς συνεπέμφθην ἀπὸ [49] τῆς Ἀλεξανδρείας Τίτῳ πρὸς τὴν Ἱεροσολύμων πολιορκίαν. ἐν ᾧ χρόνῳ γενομένην τῶν πραττομένων οὐκ ἔστιν ὃ τὴν ἐμὴν γνῶσιν διέφυγεν: καὶ γὰρ τὰ κατὰ τὸ στρατόπεδον τὸ Ῥωμαίων ὁρῶν ἐπιμελῶς ἀνέγραφον καὶ τὰ παρὰ τῶν αὐτομόλων ἀπαγγελλόμενα μόνος [50] αὐτὸς συνίειν.
First underlined part: Paraphrase "in time nothing that happened got by me"
Second underline part: Paraphrase "the things that the deserters said were lost on everyone but me"
The implication seems to be that nothing got by him because he had to translate.
You need to read the text more carefully. Josephus is providing evidence for his credentials to write about the Jewish war. As for your underlined phrases, it's "at that time" not "in time." He's talking about past events, events before his decision to compose his apologia. εἶτα σχολῆς ἐν τῇ Ῥώμῃ λαβόμενος, note that the εἶτα marks the next in the series of events he's talking about. Yes, he acted as Titus' assistant and interpreter, and he was able to speak to captives in Aramaic and Hebrew, but that is more background support for his claims to write an accurate history (though it's more of an apologia).
 

John Milton

Well-known member
You need to read the text more carefully.
Are you sure?
Josephus is providing evidence for his credentials to write about the Jewish war.
Agreed.
As for your underlined phrases, it's "at that time" not "in time."
Also, agreed, but remember it was a paraphrase.
He's talking about past events, events before his decision to compose his apologia.
Agreed.
εἶτα σχολῆς ἐν τῇ Ῥώμῃ λαβόμενος, note that the εἶτα marks the next in the series of events he's talking about.
Agreed.
Yes, he acted as Titus' assistant and interpreter, and he was able to speak to captives in Aramaic and Hebrew, but that is more background support for his claims to write an accurate history (though it's more of an apologia).
Agreed. I've agreed with everything you've said except one: if you agree that he acted as Titus's assistant and interpreter, why do you say he didn't translate for the Roman army? And since I agree with you on every point, which part of the text do you think I need to read more closely? Do you think I've implied that Josephus learned Greek during this time?
 
Last edited:

Gryllus Maior

Active member
Are you sure?

Agreed.

Also, agreed, but remember it was a paraphrase.

Agreed.

Agreed.

Agreed. I've agreed with everything you've said except one: if you agree that he acted as Titus's assistant and interpreter, why do you say he didn't translate for the Roman army? And since I agree with you on every point, which part of the text do you think I need to read more closely? Do you think I've implied that Josephus learned Greek during this time?
If you all you meant was that, at that time he could have functioned in part as a translator, then I have no problem with that. I thought you meant that he was doing contemporaneous to his composition of Contra Apionem.
 

John Milton

Well-known member
If you all you meant was that, at that time he could have functioned in part as a translator, then I have no problem with that. I thought you meant that he was doing contemporaneous to his composition of Contra Apionem.
You must really have a low opinion of me then! :)

I want to circle back to what you said about ἐν ᾧ χρόνῳ. You are correct that my paraphrase didn't reflect that phrase, but the spanner in the works for me would've been the phrase γενομένην τῶν πραττομένων. I took the whole to mean literally, "in which time (having become/having been) one of the participants." Is this latter phrase an example of a rare accusative absolute? If not, what is its relationship to the rest of the sentence? (And, of course, do you understand it differently?) It's a weird sentence grounded in the present with some elements in the past.
 

Gryllus Maior

Active member
You must really have a low opinion of me then! :)

I want to circle back to what you said about ἐν ᾧ χρόνῳ. You are correct that my paraphrase didn't reflect that phrase, but the spanner in the works for me would've been the phrase γενομένην τῶν πραττομένων. I took the whole to mean literally, "in which time (having become/having been) one of the participants." Is this latter phrase an example of a rare accusative absolute? If not, what is its relationship to the rest of the sentence? (And, of course, do you understand it differently?) It's a weird sentence grounded in the present with some elements in the past.
No, I simply misunderstood you and then we started talking past each other. It's all good. As for the phrase you cite it has to be taken in the context of the whole sentence, ἐν ᾧ χρόνῳ γενομένην τῶν πραττομένων οὐκ ἔστιν ὃ τὴν ἐμὴν γνῶσιν διέφυγεν· Notice that γενομένην is feminine and can't therefore refer to Josephus, πραττομένων, present m/p participle from πράττω, almost certainly neuter plural. The sense of it is something like "nothing happened of the things done which escaped my knowledge." But at this time I can't explain why γενομένην is feminine accusative singular. I would expect the neuter. I'll have to do some thinking on it to see what I come up with.
 

John Milton

Well-known member
No, I simply misunderstood you and then we started talking past each other. It's all good. As for the phrase you cite it has to be taken in the context of the whole sentence, ἐν ᾧ χρόνῳ γενομένην τῶν πραττομένων οὐκ ἔστιν ὃ τὴν ἐμὴν γνῶσιν διέφυγεν· Notice that γενομένην is feminine and can't therefore refer to Josephus, πραττομένων, present m/p participle from πράττω, almost certainly neuter plural. The sense of it is something like "nothing happened of the things done which escaped my knowledge." But at this time I can't explain why γενομένην is feminine accusative singular. I would expect the neuter. I'll have to do some thinking on it to see what I come up with.
I recognized the disagreement, but I have/had no idea what else to with it. Thanks for taking the time to help find a solution.
 

Gryllus Maior

Active member
Okay, I think the best thing to do is see γενομένην as referring back to πολιορκίαν. Literally, nothing of the things happening in the siege..."
 

John Milton

Well-known member
Okay, I think the best thing to do is see γενομένην as referring back to πολιορκίαν. Literally, nothing of the things happening in the siege..."
Forgive me for being slow; let me make sure I follow you. You think the best thing to do is to ignore the punctuation and take the phrase in the following manner?

συνεπέμφθην ἀπὸ τῆς Ἀλεξανδρείας Τίτῳ πρὸς τὴν Ἱεροσολύμων πολιορκίαν ἐν ᾧ χρόνῳ γενομένην.
I was sent from Alexandria in the company of Titus to the siege of Jerusalem in which time having occurred.

τῶν πραττομένων οὐκ ἔστιν ὃ τὴν ἐμὴν γνῶσιν διέφυγεν
Of the things occurring there is not [anything] which escaped my knowledge.

Did I understand you correctly?

The problem I have with this is the disharmony of the aorist and present participles. I don't feel I have it quite right because τῶν πραττομένων seems jarring with γενομένην. Why not an aorist in both places?

On a side note, I wonder how the editor took it since he was apparently untroubled by it.
 

Gryllus Maior

Active member
From a recent dissertation:


Barclay in his translation, like most modern editors including Thackeray, omits the orphaned γενομένην, which does not appear in all manuscripts and which is untranslatable with this punctuation, but could oth- erwise possibly be construed with πολιορκίαν (see Gutschmid 1893: 409). Siegert, however, prints it, and so I do, too, but have not forced it into my translation.


Yes, we have to do something with the punctuation to read it the way suggested. The Greek is so awkward that it looks like this might actually be a text critical problem, and one should throw in a "crux frustationis" and obelize the text at this point. So there is a reason we are struggling with it. As for the difference in participles, if we still want to retain it, the aorist would, I think, look at the action as whole (besieging the city) and the present participle the individual events (the things done during the course of besieging the city), so that didn't bother me at all.

Full disclosure: I asked this question on Textkit hoping there was a real Josephus expert, and that's where I got the dissertation citation.
 

John Milton

Well-known member
As for the difference in participles, if we still want to retain it, the aorist would, I think, look at the action as whole (besieging the city) and the present participle the individual events (the things done during the course of besieging the city), so that didn't bother me at all.
I'm sure that I understand you. If your remarks are about γενομένην only, I agree. But what about the use of τῶν πραττομένων with ἔστιν? Of course, you might have a different punctuation in mind than the one I posited.

On a side note, thanks for bringing that textual variant to my attention and for participating in this exchange that some might find tedious. I appreciate both greatly.

Edit: I just checked over on textkit. I'm hoping mwh will chime in at some point.
 

Gryllus Maior

Active member
I'm sure that I understand you. If your remarks are about γενομένην only, I agree. But what about the use of τῶν πραττομένων with ἔστιν? Of course, you might have a different punctuation in mind than the one I posited.

On a side note, thanks for bringing that textual variant to my attention and for participating in this exchange that some might find tedious. I appreciate both greatly.

Edit: I just checked over on textkit. I'm hoping mwh will chime in at some point.
And he just did. He essentially agrees that the placement is impossible as it stands. And as for tedious? Some might find it so, but not me.
 

John Milton

Well-known member
And he just did. He essentially agrees that the placement is impossible as it stands. And as for tedious? Some might find it so, but not me.
Thanks for posting it there, Gryllus. I just took a look at what he said. Knowing that there is a textual variant, I am satisfied that the matter is settled.

I was surprised, at first, that a couple of people seemed troubled by where I chose to start the excerpt. (I assume you copy/pasted what I had here). It really didn't matter for the question and couldn't have, as far as I can tell. But then I realized that it's simply a different manifestation of what we have been doing here: desiring to know all the answers. I suppose those of us who enjoy the languages have a strong preference for resolution. It's a unique form of camaraderie, I guess.

Thanks again, Gryllus!
 
Top