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MORE JEWISH PSEUDEPIGRAPHA

James R. Davila

University of St. Andrews

Paleojudaica.com

(c) 2006:  reproduction beyond fair use only on permission of the author.

Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha Section, International SBL

Edinburgh, 3 July 2006

The More Old Testament Pseudepigrapha project at the University of St. Andrews has assembled an international team of scholars to translate a new collection of Old Testament Pseudepigrapha.  The project is being headed by Professor Richard Bauckham and myself.  I use the term "Old Testament Pseudepigrapha" to mean ancient books that claim to be written by a character in the Hebrew Bible or to be set in the same time period as the Hebrew Bible.  Other retellings of biblical stories survive from antiquity, but there are far too many of them to be included in a single collection.  This paper surveys and comments on some twenty-one texts in the MOTP corpus which can be assigned to Jewish authorship beyond reasonable doubt and notes some others for which a case for Jewish authorship can be made.

 

Our overall criteria for inclusion are somewhat more flexible, but at the same time more consistent and focused, than those that underlie the two-volume edition of Old Testament Pseudepigrapha published by Charlesworth in the 1980s.  First, with a few exceptions to be noted, we are limiting the corpus to texts for which a reasonable -- if not necessarily conclusive -- case can be made for a date of composition before the rise of Islam in the early seventh century C.E.  (As an aside, it is interesting to note that our oldest text is an Iron Age II inscription dating to around 700 B.C.E.)  Second, we are including texts of any origin (Jewish, Christian, pagan, etc.).  Third, we are not including texts published already in the Charlesworth volumes unless we have important new manuscript data or we believe that the text was inadequately treated for other reasons.  Fourth, for purely practical reasons we exclude texts that fit best in and survive only in other coherent collections of works that have been treated (or deserve treatment) on their own terms.  These include the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Nag Hammadi Library, the Hekhalot Literature, and the like.  In some cases fragments of our texts survive in the Dead Sea Scrolls, but important manuscripts are known from elsewhere as well.  Finally, fifth, we have included a number of texts that were written in the form we have them well after the early seventh century, but which clearly either preserve earlier material or have a close relationship with such material.

 

As noted, the corpus includes pagan pseudepigrapha, Jewish pseudepigrapha transmitted by Jews, Jewish pseudepigrapha transmitted by Christians, pseudepigrapha composed by Christians, etc.  They survive in a great many different languages, including Arabic, Judeo-Arabic, Aramaic, Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopic, Greek, Hebrew, Manichean Iranian, Old Irish, Iron Age Jordanian (Northwest Semitic), Latin, Old Church Slavonic, Syriac, and Manichean Turkic.  We currently have an international team of nearly forty contributors who are editing about fifty complete or nearly complete texts and numerous additional quotations and fragments.  We estimate that the project will produce two volumes of texts and may be about the same size as the Charlesworth corpus.  The project is supported by a generous research grant from the Leverhulme Trust which has allowed us to hire Dr. Alexander Panayotov as a research fellow.

 

This paper offers a brief survey of texts in the corpus that can be regarded as Jewish compositions beyond reasonable doubt, along with a few which may be Jewish but whose origin is less certain than the others.  Most of the texts are written in Hebrew or Aramaic and were transmitted in an explicitly Jewish social context, so their origins are secure.  As a starting point I assume that texts that circulated only in Christian circles are Christian compositions unless a compelling positive case can be made for a different origin and that we should understand them first in the social context of their earliest surviving manuscripts and move backwards from there only on the basis of convincing evidence.  Evidence for Jewish origin may include internal evidence for a pre-Christian date combined with informed interest on Jewish matters; compelling linguistic evidence for a Hebrew Vorlage ; and a consistent pattern of sympathetic interest in Jewish ritual and halakha and Jewish ethnic and national interests.  I have discussed these issues at length in my monograph The Provenance of the Pseudepigrapha:  Jewish, Christian, or Other? and will not rehearse my arguments at length here.  The documents can be categorized in many different ways, but for the purposes of this paper I will list them according to genre, starting with the works transmitted in Jewish manuscripts and then moving to a few transmitted by Christians.  The summaries that follow give my own understanding of each text at present and are subject to any amount of correction by the editors of those texts in their contributions.  Additional texts may also be added to the corpus as they come to our attention.  If you know of any that seem relevant, please draw them to my attention.

 

First, under rewritten scripture , we have the early work Aramaic Levi , which survives in individually very fragmentary manuscripts from Qumran, a better-preserved manuscript the Cairo Geniza, and a long translated extract in a Greek manuscript of the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs from Mt. Athos.  Most of the document can be reconstructed out of these varied sources.  This text was a source for the Christian Greek Testament of Levi .  The case of Hebrew Naphtali is still more complicated.  This work survives in a medieval version embedded in the Chronicles of Jerahmeel .  It has a close relationship of some sort to the Greek Testament of Naphtali and they both seem to have developed from a common archetype from the Second Temple period.  A fragment of this archetype, or something closely related, survives in 4Q215, a Qumran fragment in Hebrew which gives the genealogy of Bilhah.  The eleventh-century author R. Moses the Preacher of Narbonne cites Naphtali material in Hebrew which also seems to stem ultimately from this lost work.  All of these Hebrew sources will be included under the rubric Hebrew Naphtali in the More Old Testament Pseudepigrapha contribution.  The Book of Giants is another work that fits loosely under the rubric of rewritten scripture, although it may be more accurate to call it scripture-related literature, since it may both be inspired by Genesis and include early traditions omitted from Genesis.  This Second Temple-era Jewish work survives in a number of highly fragmentary Aramaic manuscripts from Qumran, but it was adopted by the Manicheans as well and medieval fragments of their version survive in the Iranian and Turkic languages.  The combined sources allow us to reconstruct the overall shape of the work, although many of the details remain lost or obscure.  The Words of Gad the Seer is a collection of oracles attributed to the prophets Gad and Nathan and stories set in the time of David.  It survives in a single eighteenth-century manuscript from Cochin, India, and has been know but mostly ignored for the last two centuries.  Its current editor, Meir Bar Ilan, argues for a date in the early centuries C.E., although others have taken it to be medieval.

 

Three apocalypses are included.  The Hebrew Apocalypse of Elijah (Sefer Eliyahu ) presents revelations from the archangel Michael about military conflicts in the end times and the coming of the Messiah, along with oracles from the prophet Elijah concerning the fate of the dead and the coming of the New Jerusalem.  The Visions of Ezekiel (Re'uoth Yehezkel ) is a midrash on the opening words of the book of Ezekiel which then develops into an apocalypse with a tour of the other world.  In it the prophet Ezekiel is granted a vision of the seven levels of the underworld, then he gazes into the River Chebar and sees the seven heavens reflected therein.  Each heaven contains its own merkavah (throne-chariot), while Metatron is found in the third heaven and the celestial Temple in the fourth.  This work is composed in Hebrew and quotes only Palestinian rabbinic sages of the fourth century and earlier.  Some have suggested that this in itself indicates an early date, but this may oversimplify the complexities of the text.  But a case has been made by David Halperin that, whatever the date of the work, the mythology of The Visions of Ezekiel is derived from third-century Palestinian synagogue sermons associated with the festival of Shavuot.  The Hebrew Apocalypse of Zerubbabel (Sefer Zerubbabel ) purports to give revelations granted to Zerubbabel by the angel Michael-Metatron.  This revelatory material gives an obscure timetable for the end and tells of the future coming of the Davidic Messiah, his mother, the suffering Messiah son of Joseph, and Elijah, and describes their battle with and defeat of the Antichrist.  Most scholars date this work to the early seventh century or earlier.

 

Two poetic works are included in the corpus.  The Aramaic Song of the Lamb is an acrostic poem quoted at length but perhaps not completely in the Tosefta-Targum to 1 Samuel 17.  Another fragment may survive in Targum Pseudo-Jonathan to 2 Sam 23:8.  This poem presents the dialogue between David and Goliath during their encounter and describes David metaphorically as a "lamb" who does battle with the "bear" Goliath.  The original editors have argued, mainly on the basis of parallels with the book of Revelation, that it was composed in the first century B.C.E. or C.E.  In addition four Hebrew Songs of David were recovered from the Cairo Geniza about a century ago.  Some have argued that they are medieval compositions, but others take them to have been composed in the Second Temple period and perhaps even to have been composed within the Qumran community.  (These are not to be confused with the Syriac Psalms of David , which are know in part also from Qumran.)

 

The corpus includes one sapiential text .  The so-called Cairo Geniza Wisdom Text survives in a twelfth-century manuscript recovered about a century ago from the Cairo Geniza.  It has a dualistic two-ways orientation with interesting parallels to the dualism of the Treatise on the Two Spirits in the Qumran Community Rule (1QS iii 26-iv 6).  It also reinforces Qoheleth's skepticism in a this-worldly context, while correcting it in the larger context of eschatological dualism.  This work has been dated to as early as c. 100 C.E. and as late as the Middle Ages, with some possibility of a late-antique origin as well.

 

Three magical and mantic texts are included.  The Seven (Adjurations) of Elijah (Sheva Eliyyahu ) or The Seven Lesser (Adjurations) (Sheva Zutarti ) consists of seven adjurations of exorcism and healing structured around the seven Sabbath Amida blessings of the Palestinian rite.  It survives in two recensions in manuscripts of the eleventh to the fourteenth centuries from the Cairo Geniza and elsewhere.  The work has numerous close parallels to both the Hekhalot literature and to Greek and Aramaic incantations from late antiquity.  The Sword of Moses (Harba di-Moshe ) is a collection of magical traditions supposedly revealed to Moses.  It consists of an opening Hebrew section of preparatory rituals, a middle section giving the divine names and nomina barbara that constitute the Sword proper, and a concluding Aramaic section that gives instructions for the use of these names for numerous specific purposes.  The Book of the Mysteries (Sefer Ha-Razim ) is a late-antique Hebrew compendium of incantations organized according to the various angels in the seven firmaments who are to be invoked for each spell.  We are told that the book was revealed to Noah by the angel Raziel and then was transmitted via Abraham to Solomon.

 

The works mentioned above which are clearly written after the early seventh century include the following.  The Greatness of Moses (Gedullat Moshe ) is a Hebrew account of the ascent of Moses through the seven heavens and his tour of hell and paradise.  It echoes many traditions found in earlier works, including early Christian apocalyptic tours of heaven and hell.  The Midrash of Shemihazai and Aza'el is a medieval Hebrew account in several versions of the rise of the Watchers and the genesis and fall of the Giants.  It has some connection with the Book of Giants .  The Hebrew work Midrash Vayissa'u (The Book of the Wars of the Sons of Jacob ) was published by Jellenik in the nineteenth century.  It appears to draw on source material used in the book of Jubilees and the Greek Testament of Judah .  Likewise, The Book of Asaph (Sefer Assaf ), a Jewish medical work from perhaps the tenth century C.E., claims to quote from The Book of Noah , and parallels in the excerpted passage with Jubilees 10:1-14 support the possibility that this medieval author actually had access to this lost Second Temple work, which is also mentioned in the Qumran Genesis Apocryphon and elsewhere, or at least access to traditions based on it.  Finally, The Treatise of the Vessels (Massekhet Kelim ) is a remarkable Hebrew work of undetermined date which purports to tell where certain leaders at the time of the Babylonian destruction of the First Temple hid the Temple vessels and paraphernalia.  Remarkably, the text claims that this information was hidden on a bronze tablet or tablets and one of the copies of the work was found engraved on marble plaques in a house in Beirut.  The parallels with the Copper Scroll as well as other Second Temple legends that claim to describe the fate of the lost Temple treasures are obvious and make this document worthy of further attention whatever its date.

 

Two texts already published in the Charlesworth volumes are revisited by the More Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Project.  The Ladder of Jacob (a text of rewritten scripture) was translated by H. G. Lunt in the second Charlesworth volume on the basis of two poor recensions in the Explanatory Palaia in Old Church Slavonic.  A highly corrupt Hebrew version of Jacob's prayer in chapter 2 of this work has recently been recovered from the Cairo Geniza and is included in our corpus.  Redactional considerations suggest that this may be an excerpt from a Hebrew version of the whole work.  The Treatise of Shem (another magical/mantic text) was published by Charlesworth in a fifteenth-century Syriac manuscript.  Recently an earlier rather different recension in Byzantine-era Jewish Aramaic and Judeo-Arabic has been recovered from the Cairo Geniza and will be translated for our project.

 

We will also include a section on quotations of and references to lost works in the canonical biblical books , both Hebrew Bible and New Testament.  The Hebrew Bible alludes to many such, including, for example, The Book of the Righteous (Sefer Ha-Yashar ); The Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah; The Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel ; The Words (or Acts) of Samuel the Seer ; The Words (or Acts) of Gad the Seer ; and The Words (or Acts) of Shemiah the Prophet and Iddo the Seer According to Enrollment by Genealogy .  The New Testament quotation of 1 Enoch 1:9 in Jude 14 is well known, as is the apparent allusion in Jude 9 to an Assumption or Testament of Moses and the mention of Jannes and Jambres in 2 Timothy 3:8.  Lost pseudepigrapha may also be quoted in Ephesians 5:14 (from the Apocrypha of Jeremiah according to George Syncellus) and James 4:5.  We also plan to include a number of other quotation fragments in other sources.

A few works of possibly Jewish origin survive only in manuscripts transmitted by Christians.  First, two Sermons on Jonah and Samson are found only in an Armenian translation.  Although their attribution in the manuscripts to Philo of Alexandria seems to be erroneous, their content strongly supports the contention that they are ancient Jewish sermons.  Second, a Coptic Apocryphon of Jeremiah survives complete in a single manuscript, but fragments of other manuscripts go back to the ninth and seventh centuries C.E.  The text, which is rife with anachronisms, retells Jeremiah's confrontations with King Zedekiah and narrates the fall of Jerusalem; Jeremiah's hiding of the Temple treasures; the Babylonian exile; the Rip Van Winkle-like seventy-year sleep of the righteous eunuch Ebedmelech; and Jeremiah's recovery of the Temple treasures at the end of the exile.  The work contains Christian references as it stands, but some would argue that it was originally a Jewish composition.  Third, in 1990 Ephraim Isaac published an Ethiopic History of Joseph that he believed went back to a Second Temple Jewish work, perhaps via Arabic and Syriac versions.  Unknown to him, the Syriac text behind the Ethiopic had actually been published already in the late nineteenth century, as was recently noticed by Kristian Heal, and the Syriac History of Joseph is to be translated for our project.

 

All of these texts are of importance for understanding the reception history of the Hebrew Bible in late antiquity and they frequently give us different perspectives from those found in the retrospectively canonical traditions of the rabbinic and Patristic literatures.  Some of the earlier pseudepigrapha in our corpus are of interest for background to the New Testament and Tannaitic rabbinic texts.  Our aim is to make these documents widely available with good English translations and accessible introductions so as to promote more scholarly study of them and to raise awareness of them among nonspecialsts as well.

 


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