Note that this is presented as part of Whiston’s translation of Josephus, not as modern scholarship and not as my own opinion or work. If you want to argue about its content or its conclusions, I will not answer. Mr. Whiston of course cannot answer. You will need to hold your disputes for the afterlife.
This appears by the Arguments following.
1. Sections 1 to 27 to come, one day, maybe.
28. N.B. There is among many other things that Josephus’s copy appears to want, but which are in the other copies, one omission of so important a nature as ought to be particularly taken notice of in this place: I mean of the heinous sin of the golden calf, or the idolatrous worship paid to it in the wilderness, by the people of Israel. What makes it stranger is this, that Josephus’s account is not only negative, by a bare omission; but positive, by affording an exact coherence without it, nay such a coherence as is plainly inconsistent with it. And what still makes it the more surprizing is, that Josephus frequently professes, in these Antiquities, neither to add to nor take away from the sacred Books which lay before him. And when he thought proper to digest many of the laws of Moses into a regular system [Antiq. IV.8.4.], and this only in an order different from that in which they were delivered, and in which they stood in the Pentateuch, he does not venture upon that procedure but with great caution, and with giving a distinct intimation of it: that so he might not incur any blame among his brethren of the Jewish nation, as having made some unwarrantable alteration in their bible. Accordingly he, in the most solemn manner, appeals to all original records, sacred or profane, and to those that please to compare his accounts with those originals, for his justification upon all occasions. Nor do we need to trust his bare affirmations, and protestations, but have abundant evidence from his entire works, that he really did all along regard, not the honour or reputation of his nation, or of the great men of it, but the real truth of facts; whether they were to their honour or dishonour. Of which the reader will meet with innumerable instances, every where in his writings. One example I shall give, because it is so exactly to the present case, and it is that of the later idolatry of the ten tribes with the two golden calves at Dan and Bethel. Which he is so far from omitting, that he does not so much as attempt to disguise it, but plainly sets it down in its proper place, and always owns that the captivity of those ten tribes was the punishment of that idolatry. All which notwithstanding, and notwithstanding the great reputation he has ever obtained among the best judges for his fidelity and integrity; this omission is universally ascribed to him; and laid against him; and that sometimes with the highest aggravations. But all this without any real evidence at all. ’Tis plain that his copy was taken out of the temple, and was not a little different from our other copies. ’Tis pretty plain also, as I have proved that he used Nehemiah’s own copy or library. And what parts were wanting in that copy we have no other way to know at present but by Josephus himself. So that this accusation is entirely a supposition without proof. Those indeed who have suffered themselves to be imposed upon by the later Jewish rabbins, and have been by them made to believe that the original copies of the sacred Books of the Old Testament were the very same with those we have had from them since the days of Barchocah, may charge this and many other omissions and additions and corrections upon Josephus, as their author; and may blame him for corrupting the sacred text in these cases. But those who will have the patience that I have had, in comparing the ancient Samaritan, Septuagint, and Masorete copies, with that of Josephus all along; and will therein use the same impartial sagacity which they would think proper in comparing the copies of other ancient authors; will see a very different state of things before them. They will particularly admire and adore the good providence of God, in preserving, not only the oldest and most authentick version of the Septuagint interpreters, in a considerable degree of purity; but chiefly the Samaritan Pentateuch, and the eleven first Books of Josephus’s Antiquities: and this last as a faithful extract out of Nehemiah’s library, collected about 270 years earlier than the Septuagint version was made, and above 600 years earlier than Barchocah was set up: from which time I date our present Masorete copy. Any sober enquirer, who compares all these copies, will soon discover such varieties in them, and gain such great light by the comparison of those varieties, as will greatly surprize, and, if I be not much mistaken, will greatly please him also. Thus he will soon find, on such a comparison, that the heinous sins of David, as to his adultery and murder; as well as his punishments for them: as also the heinous sins of his son Solomon, in his polygamy and idolatry, are entirely omitted in our books of Chronicles. He will also soon find, that most of the glorious things done by Jehosaphat, and God’s miraculous delivery of him and his people in the sudden and dangerous invasion by the Moabites, Ammonites, and the inhabitants of Mount Seir. As also the famous repentance and restoration of Manasseh, are entirely omitted in our Books of Kings: to give no more examples at present: though they be all preserved in other Books of our bible, and are all thence faithfully described in Josephus’s Antiquities. But the examples of this kind are too many to be here set down: so many indeed, that I am satisfied this omission in Josephus is no sufficient evidence of his want of integrity; but rather an evidence of a great degree of it, in following his temple copy, even where it so greatly differed from all the other copies; and where it might expose him to the censure of his countreymen for an omission of a very famous history, always own’d for true and genuine by that nation. It may well enough be supposed, that Nehemiah’s copy might deliver this account nearly as it is in Josephus. I mean that Moses came down the first time from Mount Sinai or Horeb, with two large tables of the laws of righteousness contains, Exod. 21, 22, 23. like those two great stones in the Samaritan text, Chap. 20:17. for the very same purpose afterwards: and with the description of the tabernacle contained Exod. 25–30. and that the people had not then offended, and did then receive Moses with great joy and a ready obedience to those laws: as Josephus assures us they did. Although when he went a second time to receive the two small tablets of the covenant, containing the ten words, they made the golden calf; as we find in all our other copies. Those Jews seem to have had a notion of some such thing who supposed Moses to have been three distinct times in the mount, for 40 days. [See bishop Patrick on Deut. 9:25.] And if we consider the words of our ordinary copies, Exod. 24:12. I will give thee [Moses] tables of stones: the law and the commandments which I have written: and compare the language of scripture, still distinguishing the covenant, and the ten words delivered solemnly by God himself at Mount Sinai, from these other laws and commandments delivered by Moses; as I have long ago observed; we shall not perhaps be averse to such an interpretation. See Prim. Christ. Reviv’d, Vol. III. pag. 56, 57. However, I must not here conceal a remarkable fragment produced from the Greek Catenæ by Vossius [De 70 Inter. Apud Ittig. Prolegom.] out of Josephus, which seems to belong to this very matter, and to be an intimation that this idolatry by the golden calf was not of old omitted in all the copies of Josephus. The words are these, He [Moses] concluded that it was absurd for the people, when they were drunk, and in their transgression, to receive the legislation of God: which passage highly deserve the reflexion of the learned upon this occasion. But the reader will judge better of such matters after he has considered better of my next observation.
29. N.B. It will be fit to observe here, the several occasions, steps, and methods by which the sacred Books of the Old Testament have come down to us in their present form, and in so imperfect and disordered a manner, as we now find them. We all know there have been many distreses, idolatries, persecutions, and captivities, which the Israelites fell into after the days of Moses, and before the days of Christ. Under which not only some of their old Books have been entirely lost; a catalogue of which Mr. Du Pin has give us [Bibliotheca: Prelim. Dissert. pag. 30. See also 3 Kings 8:53. ap LXVII, “τότε ἐλάλησεν Σαλωμων ὑπὲρ τοῦ οἴκου ὡς συνετέλεσεν τοῦ οἰκοδομῆσαι αὐτόν ἥλιον ἐγνώρισεν ἐν οὐρανῷ κύριος εἶπεν τοῦ κατοικεῖν ἐν γνόφῳ οἰκοδόμησον οἶκόν μου οἶκον ἐκπρεπῆ σαυτῷ τοῦ κατοικεῖν ἐπὶ καινότητος οὐκ ἰδοὺ αὕτη γέγραπται ἐν βιβλίῳ τῆς ᾠδῆς”. The idea is that this "Book of Song" is really a mistranslation of "Book of Jashar", the "Book of the Righteous", and that this book was quoted by name in the original Hebrew text used by the 72.]; but many of the rest have either lost some parts, or had those parts greatly disordered and dislocated by collectors and compilers, when they put them together afterward. The first of the moderns who seem to have been throughly sensible of these disorders and dislocations, I speak it on my own personal knowledge, was the most learned bishop Lloyd; though he very rarely let the publick into that his discovery. Possibly his interlined bible, that great treasure of sacred learning, if once decyphered, would afford us many excellent observations of this kind. To omit then the observation, that after nine Chapters of the Book of Proverbs are over, the tenth begins like a new collection of them; the Proverbs of Solomon; we find in the first place a collection, or rather an improvement of an ancienter collection of the sacred Books, in the days of Hezekiah King of Judah; about 710 years before the Christian æra: when the 25, 26, 27, 28, and 29 Chapters were added to the Book of Proverbs. Which Chapters begin thus: These are also Proverbs of Solomon, which the men of Hezekiah, King of Judah copied out. And perhaps the two last Chapters, ascrib’d, the former to Agur, the son of Jakeh; and the latter to King Lemuel [or to Solomon himelf], might be added not long afterwards. I interpret King Lemuel of King Solomon; because we meet with no King whose proper name was Lemuel: and because the last part of the Chapter ascribed to him, is quoted in the Apostolical Constitutions [Constitut. I.8] as Solomon’s. Though I confess the subject of these verses is so different from the rest of the foregoing Chapter: and may possibly belong to a distinct author. Thus after the long, and, for the greatest part, most wicked and idolatrous reign of Manasseh, and the short, but alike wicked and idolatrous reign of his son Amon, there was found by Hilkiah, the High Priest, upon repairing the temple in the days of Josiah [2 Kings 22:8. &c. 2 Chron. 34:14. &c.], the original copy of the Book of the Law, or of the principal laws of Moses: and that as Josephus informs us, not ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ, in the buildings about the courts of the temple only, in which he supposes the entire collection of sacred books to have been placed; but particularly ἐν τῷ ναῷ in the Holy House itself; the proper place for that small most sacred Book of the Laws of Righteousness: and, as I suppose, written by Moses’s own hand. Of the contents of which Book see Horeb Covenant Reviv’d, pag. 107, 108. Upon this discovery it was, probably, that those principal laws of Moses came to be inserted into the Pentateuch; where we now find them. This I may call the second collection, or rather an improvement of such collection, which we meet with any intimation of in ancient records. Next to this we may reckon Nehemiah’s, as a third collection: of which largely already. Only upon its particular nomination of the acts or works of David, as distinct from the acts or works of the Kings, and of the Prophets, it may not improbably be supposed, that the present collecton of David’s Psalms into five Books, or parts, was now made: though Josephus never mentioning this five fold division, as belonging to his copy, I cannot be at all positive about it. this collection of the holy Books of Nehemiah is justly called a Library [see Esth. 2:23 ap. LXXII, “καὶ προσέταξεν ὁ βασιλεὺς καταχωρίσαι εἰς μνημόσυνον ἐν τῇ βασιλικῇ βιβλιοθήκῃ ὑπὲρ τῆς εὐνοίας Μαρδοχαίου ἐν ἐγκωμίῳ”]; and is, I think, one of the earliest examples of such a collection under that name of a Library in all Antiquity. This original collection of the holy books of the Old Testament, this Biblia, or Bible, appears to have been met with by Josephus, upon the sacking and burning of Herod’s temple by Titus Vespasian: When it was given him by Titus; but had perhaps lain concealed many years in that temple: as had the forementioned original Book of the Law lain probably long concealed till the days of Josiah, in Solomon’s temple. And had not this last temple been sack’d and burnt by Titus, when Josephus was there; and the former being repaired by Josiah, when Hilkiah was there; ’tis possible to be supposed that neither of these inestimable treasures had been recovered by us.
Thus the prophet Esdras [4 Esdr. 1:39,40], not long after the days of Nehemiah, added, in the fourth place, the prophecy of Malachi to the ancienter sacred catalogue: and thereby compleated the Hebrew canon of Jerusalem: at least if we include the prophet Esdras’s ow Book or Books. Of which see the Appendix to the fourth volume of Primitive Christianity Reviv’d, and the Authentick Records, pag. 46–161.
Thus there was in the fifth place, about a century later, an addition made to the Book of Esdras the Scribe; though now inserted into the Book of Nehemiah; reaching as low as the days of Juddua the High Priest, in or near the days of Alexander the Great, already intimated. this was probably done by those who made that collection which the Septuagint interpreters followed, in the days of Ptolemy Lagi, and Ptolemy Philadelphus; in which edition we find that insertion. About, or perhaps before this time, it seems to me, in the sixth place, the Samaritan Pentateuch obtained its present form; as being much of kin to, and greatly supported by the Septuagint Greek copy of that Pentateuch, though it be a more full, and a much better copy than the other. Whether it came to the first Christians from the Samaritans themselves, or from the proper Jews, I cannot certainly say, for want of historical memoirs concerning it. Though it reaching no farther than the Pentateuch, looks more like a derivation from the Samaritans, who owned no more than that Pentateuch; than from the proper Jews, who owned all the other Books. The reason of the difficulty is this; that, as I have elsewhere proved, not the Samaritan Bible only, but the Jewish also, was all written in no other than the Samaritan character, till the days of Barchocah. See Essay on the Old Testament, pag. 149–171. But then, in the seventh plcae, the most entire collection of the sacred Books of the Jews, preserved in any language, which may be called the Hellenistical, as the former the Hebrew Canon; seems to have been reserved for Ptolemy Philadelphus, and for the enriching of his famous Alexandrian Library. The remains of which Hellenistical Canon we have chiefly in the Synopsis sacræ scripturæ, and in the Septuagint Bible; including now some books written a little after that version was made. Which Hellenistical Canon is attested to by the known Books of the New Testament; by the Apostolical Constitutions; and by all the other apostolical and most primitive Christian writers; who always quote the Books of the Old Testament according to that version. Thus we know, in the eighth place, that Judas Maccabeus [2 Maccab. 2:14] made a collection of the holy Books at Jerusalem, after the persecution by Antiochus Epiphanes, which seems to have been the last publick Hebrew collection that was made, till in the ninth and last place, the Jew fixed upon us their later collection or edition (called by me the Masorete copy), when they set up their spurious Messiach Barchocah, in the former part of the second century of Christianity. Of whose imperfections I have largely treated in my Essay on the Old Testament.