Cleodemus Malchus.

A Jewish historian.


Attributed author(s).
Demetrius.

Text(s) available.
On site (present page in Greek and English).
Online Critical Pseudepigrapha.

Useful links.
Cleodemus Malchus in the Jewish Encyclopedia.
EJW (Peter Kirby).

Cleodemus Malchus was an ancient Hellenistic historian who wrote about the Jews. Only a single fragment of his work is preserved, thanks to Josephus, who is quoting from Alexander Polyhistor, and Eusebius, who is quoting from Josephus.

From Eusebius, Preparation 9.20, quoting Josephus, Antiquities 1.15[.1] 240-241:

Και ο Ιωσηπος δε εν τη πρωτη της αρχαιολογιας του αυτου μνημονευει δια τουτων·

But Josephus also in the first book of his Antiquities mentions the same man [Alexander Polyhistor] in these [words]:

Λεγεται δε ως ουτος ο Αφρην1 στρατευσας επι την Λιβυην κατεσχεν αυτην, και οι υιωνοι αυτου κατοικησαντες εν αυτη την γην απο του εκεινου ονοματος Αφρικα προσηγορευσαν. μαρτυρει δε μου τω λογω Αλεξανδρος ο Πολυιστωρ, λεγων ουτως· Κλεοδημος δε φησιν ο προφητης, ο και Μαλχας, ιστορων τα περι Ιουδαιων, καθως και 2aΜωσης ιστορηκεν2b ο νομοθετης αυτων, οτι εκ της 3aΧεττουρας Αβρααμω3b εγενοντο παιδες ικανοι. λεγει δε αυτων και τα ονοματα, ονομαζων τρεις· 4aΑφερ, Ασσουρι, Αφραν· και απο4b Ασσουρι μεν την Ασσυριαν κεκλησθαι, απο δε των δυο, Αφρα τε και Αφερ, πολιν τε Αφραν και την χωραν Αφρικα ονομασθηναι· τουτους δε Ηρακλει συστρατευσαι επι Λιβυην και Ανταιον· γημαντα 5aδε την Αφρα5b θυγατερα Ηρακλεα γεννησαι υιον εξ αυτης Διοδωρον,6 τουτου δε γενεσθαι Σοφωναν,7 αφ ου τους βαρβαρους Σοφας8 λεγεσθαι.

1 The textus receptus of Josephus has Εωφρην.
2 Josephus has Μωυσης ιστορησεν.
3 Josephus has Κατουρας Αβραμω.
4 Josephus has Ιαφεραν, Σουρην, Ιαφραν· απο.
5 Josephus has τε την Αφρανου.
6 Josephus has Διδωρον.
7 Josephus has Σοφωνα.
8 Josephus has Σοφακας.

But it is said how this Afren made an expedition upon Libya and took hold of it; and his grandsons having housed in it and called the land Africa after his name. And Alexander Polyhistor testifies to my word, saying thus: But Cleodemus the prophet, who is also Malchas, while recounting the history concerning the Jews, just as Moses their lawmaker has narrated it, says that Abraham bore plenty of sons from Chettura; and he also says what their names were, naming three of them: Afer, Assur, Afran; and that Assyria was called such after Assur, and that a city Afra and the country of Africa were named from the other two, Afra and Afer; and that these men joined Hercules in his expedition upon Libya and Antaeus; and that Hercules married the daughter of Afra and begat a son from her, Diodorus, and that Sophonas was born from him from whom the barbarian Sophae are called.

Τα μεν ουν περι του Αβρααμ ως εν ολιγοις τοσαυτα παρακεισθω.

Let such things as concern Abraham, therefore, be sufficient in these few [quotations].


Peter Kirby (Early Jewish Writings).

Peter Kirby surveys scholars writing on Cleodemus Malchus:

Emil Schürer writes: "The work of a certain Cleodemus or Malchus, of which unfortunately only a short notice is preserved, seems to have presented a classic example of that intermixture of native (Oriental) and Greek traditions, which was popular throughout the region of Hellenism. The notice in question is communicated by Alexander Polyhistor, but is taken by Eusebius, Praep. evang. ix. 20, not directly from the latter, but from Josephus, Antt. i. 15, who on his part quotes literally from Alexander. The author is here called Κλεοδημος ο προφητης ο και Μαλχος, ο ιστορων τα περι Ιουδαιων καθως και Μωυσης ιστορησεν ο νομοθετης αυτων. Both the Semitic name Malchus and the contents of the work prove, that the author was no Greek, but either a Jew or a Samaritan. Freudenthal prefers the latter view chiefly on account of the intermixture of Greek and Jewish traditions. But about 200-100 B.C. this is quite as possible in a Jew as in a Samaritan. In the work of this Malchus it is related, thta Abraham had three sons by Keturah, Αφεραν, Ασουρειμ, Ιαφραν, from whom the Assyrians, the town of Aphra and the land of Africa derive their names. . . . But while in Gen. xxv. Arab tribes are intended, our author derives from them entirely different nations, which were known to him. He then further relates, that the three sons of Abraham departed with Heracles to Libya and Antaeus, that Heracles married the daughter of Aphra, and of her begat Diodorus, whose son again was Sophonas (or Sophax), from whom the Sophaki derive their name. These last traditions are also found in the Libyan (or Roman?) history of King Juba (Plutarch. Sertor. c. ix., also in Müller, Fragm. hist. gr. iii. 471); only that the genealogical relation of Diodorus and Sophax is reversed: Heracles begets Sophax of Tinge, the widow of Antaeus, and Diodorus is the son of Sophax." (The Literature of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus, pp. 209-210)

James Charlesworth writes: "Cleodemus Malchus probably lived sometime in the second century B.C. The odd mixture of Jewish and Greek ideas and loyalties leads some authorities either to affirm that he was a Samaritan (J. Freudenthal, Alexander Polyhistor. Breslau: Skutsch, 1875; p. 133) or to deny that he was a Jew (B. Z. Wacholder, no. 688; cf. no. 819). However, the extreme varities we are now perceiving within Judaism, especially in the second century B.C., should preclude us from denying that he was a Jew." (The Pseudepigrapha and Modern Research, p. 93)