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The Story of Zosimus / History of the Rechabites


by Alan Turnbull

The Story of Zosimus is about a fictitious hermit who was supposedly linked to, and associated with, the monasticism of the early Church. The Story is therefore to be understood by some (James, Vassiliev and Knights) as a Greek apocryphon with redacted Jewish influences inserted into it. However, because The History of the Rechabites is a Jewish pseudepigraphon within the work as a whole the view still of others (Charlesworth and McNeil) is that the Story was added to an already existing document which contained the story of the Rechabites. The whole plot of the Story of Zosimus and of the History of the Rechabites is centred around a man who visits an island and discovers that the occupants there are none other than the Blessed Ones who, to his amazement, are the precursors to the monasticism of the early Church, namely the Rechabites.

In my paper I have given several reasons why we should favour the view of C. H. Knights that the History of the Rechabites is the earliest part of the work as a whole. First, the Story of Zosimus is undoubtedly a Greek apocryphon because we have four extant MSS that tell us so. Used within these MSS are the specific Christian terms of Lent and Easter (not so in Charlesworth's Syriac version only allusions to these terms). Second, it is a Greek apocryphon because we already know from M. R. James that it was condemned by the ecclesiastical authorities of the time, namely the Canon of Nicephorus Homologeta (c. 850 CE) cf. JSJ 26 P. 331. Third, although the History of the Rechabites is undoubtedly a Jewish pseudepigraphon, because of its internal Jewish signature features, none the less it was written in Greek by a Greek speaking Jew who used the LXX version of the Bible. Furthermore, the joins at the end of chapters seven and ten of the Greek recension, before the publication of Charlesworth's 1985 Syriac recension, allowed me to argue that because of the roughness of these joins the Greek recension was to be understood as the more primitive. Both Charlesworth and McNeil saw, at one time or another, the Story of Zosimus as an Apocalypse only to change their minds at a later date.

In the final analysis I believe Knights's argument is the more tenable because of the failure of the author of The History of the Rechabites to use the Hebrew version of the Bible. Moreover, although McNeil saw The History of the Rechabites as a homiletic midrash on Jeremiah 35 it could not have been the earliest part of the work because of the fluidity of language in the (later) Syriac recension. Incidentally, we have no extant MSS in Hebrew.

(c) 2002
Reproduction beyond fair use only on permission of the author.

Eupolemus and Pseudo-Eupolemus


by Keaton Hyatt

[Keaton Hyatt is a undergraduate at the College of William and Mary and is spending a semester of her junior year at the University of St. Andrews.--JRD]

The study of Eupolemus and Pseudo-Eupolemus is an exercise of discovery--uncovering two of the first Hellenized works on Jewish history. Eupolemus, a Jewish ambassador from Palestine, provides a Graeco-Jewish perspective on the role of Moses and the contributions of King David and Solomon to the Temple cult. Predating Eupolemus is Pseudo-Eupolemus, an author to which two fragments are attributed. Evidence shows this author to be a Samaritan who combined not only Greek tradition but also Babylonian mythology with biblical narrative to produce a historical account of the Hebrew traditions.

Following our usual methodology, the identities of each author can be established from _On the Jews_ by Alexander Polyhistor, a first century pagan historian who preserved ancient historical texts. By comparing his style of presentation in the context of the works of Church Fathers Clement of Alexandria and Eusebius of Caesarea, scholars now maintain with sufficient assurance that the reconstructed fragments are compatible to the original text. The agenda of each author must be considered: Eusebius was a fourth century theologian concerned with validating Christianity by proving its well-established influence; Clement was a third century theologian mindful of the relevance of philosophy to Christianity, and Alexander Polyhistor was a first century BCE pagan interested in recording the histories of various cultures. The histories of these three provide the conditions of transmission: the content of the fragments illuminates the authors themselves. Having established their identities, we can appreciate the significance of the fragments. Their age and cultural background elucidate an interesting, previously mysterious, span of history. Through these fragments the contemporary reader can learn of Hellenism's influence on both ancient Jewish and Samaritan cultures.


(c) 1999
Reproduction beyond fair use only on permission of the author.

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