Born in Spain, probably in Córdoba, at the beginning of the seventeenth century, he settled in Amsterdam. In 1661 and 1667, he issued two editions of the Hebrew Bible.  Though carefully printed, they contain a number of mistakes in the vowel points and the accents. But as they were based on the earlier editions compared with the best manuscripts, they were the foundation of all the subsequent editions. The copious marginal notes added by Jean de Leusden, professor at Utrecht, were of little value. The 1667 edition was strongly opposed by the Protestant Samuel Desmarets; Athias answered the charges in a work whose title begins: Caecus de coloribus. 
He published, also, some other works of importance, such as the Tikkun Sepher Torah, or the Order of the Book of the Law, and a Yiddish translation of the Bible. The latter involved Athias in a competition with Uri Phoebus Halevi.
- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Athias, Joseph". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Maas, Anthony John (1907). "Joseph Athias". In Herbermann, Charles. Catholic Encyclopedia. 2. New York: Robert Appleton.
- (in Dutch) Biography