A New King David for Late Antiquity: Classical Exemplarity & Biblical Personality in Pseudo- Hegesippus

Bay, Carson (2021). A New King David for Late Antiquity: Classical Exemplarity & Biblical Personality in Pseudo- Hegesippus. Journal of Early Christian History, 11(2), pp. 1-49. Taylor & Francis 10.1080/2222582X.2021.1880953

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In late ancient Christian literature, King David is ubiquitous. Not simply cited as the famous author of many psalms, he almost always appears as a model of penitence, a foreshadow of Christ, or a paradigm of Christian virtues and values. But not always. In one fourth-century Christian text, King David appears in a striking and distinctive relief. This Latin text, known as De excidio Hierosolymitano (On the Destruction of Jerusalem), sometimes called PseudoHegesippus, presents King David as a figure familiar from Judaeo-Christian tradition, but in a way that resonates most strongly with classical Greco-Roman literary norms. This text rewrites Josephus’s Jewish War from a Christian perspective, and mentions David at a dozen points. In each case, David appears as an exemplum associated with a particular biblical episode or theme. Often, the treatment of these episodes in Josephus or other early Christian literature helps explain why Pseudo-Hegesippus presents David in particular lights. However, taking all of the appearances of David in De Excidio into view, this article shows that Pseudo-Hegesippus is not only beholden to biblical, Josephan, or early Christian precedents, but creatively constructs his own portrait of David within his historiographical framework. This article then suggests that this David’s rhetorical valence and distinctive character are best explained vis-à-vis the traditional (Greek and) Roman use of exempla inasmuch as Pseudo-Hegesippus’s David conspicuously lacks any of the theological, doctrinal, or ethical features so characteristic of his portrayal in most of ancient Christian literature. Pseudo-Hegesippus portrays King David in terms resonant of both Greco-Roman and Judaeo-Christian traditions.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


01 Faculty of Theology > Institute of Jewish Studies
01 Faculty of Theology > Institute of Historical Theology

UniBE Contributor:

Bay, Carson Michael


200 Religion
200 Religion > 220 The Bible
200 Religion > 230 Christianity & Christian theology
200 Religion > 270 History of Christianity
200 Religion > 290 Other religions
400 Language
400 Language > 470 Latin & Italic languages
400 Language > 480 Classical & modern Greek languages
400 Language > 490 Other languages
800 Literature, rhetoric & criticism
800 Literature, rhetoric & criticism > 870 Latin & Italic literatures
800 Literature, rhetoric & criticism > 880 Classical & modern Greek literatures
800 Literature, rhetoric & criticism > 890 Other literatures
900 History
900 History > 930 History of ancient world (to ca. 499)




Taylor & Francis


[4] Swiss National Science Foundation


[UNSPECIFIED] Lege Iosephum! (SNF 180217)




Carson Michael Bay

Date Deposited:

08 Apr 2022 10:55

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 16:16

Publisher DOI:






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