Pseudo-Hegesippus and the Beginnings of Christian Historiography in Late Antiquity

Bay, Carson (2021). Pseudo-Hegesippus and the Beginnings of Christian Historiography in Late Antiquity. In: Vinzent, M.; Künzl, K. (eds.) STUDIA PATRISTICA VOL. CXXVI - Papers presented at the Eighteenth International Conference on Patristic Studies held in Oxford 2019. Studia Patristica: Vol. 126 (pp. 255-266). Leuven: Peeters

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Scholars routinely date the beginnings of Christian history-writing to the fourth century AD. In this century, so the story goes, Eusebius reinvented and solidified for subsequent Christian generations the two normative forms of Christian historiography: the church history and the (Christian) world chronicle. But this is not the entire story. For in that same century another type of Christian historiography emerged: namely, historiography written in the classical mode as established by Thucydides (i.e., the ‘war monograph’) and continued by later Roman historians. To wit, in the 370s a Latin text appeared, colloquially referred to as Pseudo-Hegesippus, or De excidio Hierosolymitano (On the Destruction of Jerusalem). This text rewrites the story of the Roman Jewish War (66-70/73 AD), which Flavius Josephus had recorded centuries earlier, using a number of sources and following standard literary conventions of Greco-Roman historiography. Rather than a history about Christians (i.e., church history) or a universal history (i.e., the world chronicle), this work continues in a Christian vein the tradition of ancient historiography by dealing with a particular war and its defining episodes, characters, descriptions, and speeches. The fact and significance of this text has been missed by scholars of early Christianity and late antiquity. In the defining era for Christian historiography, Christians were not only thinking and writing about history in terms of church history or world history; the formative fourth century also witnessed Christians conceptualizing and articulating history in the more classical mode, thus illustrating a hitherto unappreciated facet of late antique Christianity.

Item Type:

Book Section (Book Chapter)


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 > 230 Christianity & Christian theology
200 Religion > 270 History of Christianity
400 Language
400 Language > 470 Latin & Italic languages
800 Literature, rhetoric & criticism
800 Literature, rhetoric & criticism > 870 Latin & Italic literatures
900 History
900 History > 930 History of ancient world (to ca. 499)




Studia Patristica




[4] Swiss National Science Foundation


[UNSPECIFIED] Lege Iosephum! (SNF 180217)




Carson Michael Bay

Date Deposited:

12 Apr 2022 09:03

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 16:16

Additional Information:

Volume 23: Apocrypha et Gnostica Ignatius of Antioch – The Mysterious Bishop (Edited by KEVIN KÜNZL) The Second and Third


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