Saturday, 11 April 2015

William Klingshirn: Prophecy and Divination in the Hypomnesticon of Joseph of Tiberias

The Hypomnesticon of Joseph (PG 106:10-176) is a Christian handbook of biblical learning compiled from the Bible itself and from a variety of Jewish, pagan, and early Christian sources. It was likely composed in the later fourth century by Joseph of Tiberias, whose association with the patriarch Hillel II, conversion to Christianity, and church-building in the Galilee are described by Epiphanius of Salamis (Panarion 30.4-11). The chapters of the Hypomnesticon consist mainly of lists on subjects as varied as the generations from Adam to Christ, the names of the high priests, the titles of the Old Testament books, translators of the Scriptures into Greek, the variety of Christian heresies, and how many men named John are mentioned in the New Testament. A significant portion of the work is devoted to prophecy and dreams, and (in a passage borrowed, at least in part, from Porphyry of Tyre) to Greek forms of divination. This paper seeks to understand Joseph's discussion of prophecy in the context of the fourth-century pagan/Jewish/Christian debate over the relationship between divinatory practice and religious truth, to which the Hypomnesticon provides an important witness.

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