The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: v. 2 Hardcover – 1 Nov 1999
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In this volume are such vital works as 1 Enoch. The apocalyptic literature which began, if scholars are correct, with Daniel (and traces in some of the Prophets) blossomed into an entire genre of literature which would greatly influence what would become Christianity. The book of Jude quotes from 1 Enoch expressly and Revelation and other New Testament books bear many commonalities wih 1 Enoch. This is just a taste of what is in store for the reader.
This volume and the second volume reveal just what was going on in the Judaism(s) of this period of time. There was lots going on and it is not so cut and dry as it is often traditionally taught. The variety of beliefs derived, no matter how loosely, on the Jewish Scriptures is endlessly diverse. This book does an excellent job of placing the actual writings in one book.
Charlesworth and those who have introduced/translated the works contained herein have done a great job tracing the history of the works and what is known about the communities in which they were written. Also included are margin notes that show the connection, directly or indirectly, to the Tanakh and the New Testament (including the Apocrypha).
This is a necessary resource for anyone interested in and open to understanding exactly how it was that Christianity and Rabbinical Judaism emerged from the tumult of the period between c. 200 BCE and 200 CE.
Whatever one's creed or intentions, if one approaches this volume in earnest, one will find much of interest including, but not limited to, strong, implied historical evidence of egregious tampering by the early Church fathers of certain non-canonical works. A good example in this collection is 1 Enoch, which had been in the canon for centuries before being finally removed and, in the West, abandoned. In other instances, copies were, on Church orders, simply destroyed. Fortunately, complete copies of Enoch (or Henok) were preserved in Ethopic texts. In fact, the version of 1 Enoch presented in this volume (translated by E. Isaac) is largely structured on the Ethiopic texts, though the Aramaic fragments found among the Dead Sea Scrolls have been consulted along with Greek and Hebrew renditions. Charlesworth has also included many other fine renditions of apocalyptic works, including selections from the Syriac and Slavonian. Even more is to be had in the many non-canonical Testaments presented here, many with apocalyptic passages.
Matters of whether these "rebel" and "outcast" books appeared to be divinely inspired by the various communities that embraced them is a matter of conjecture, though there are strong hints here and there from the various communities of seekers that preserved these texts around the Mediterranean world. Of greater interest to me was the thoroughness with which each non-canonical text has been researched and translated. Charlesworth should be lauded for at least that contribution to our body of collective knowledge about what was being written and by whom at the end of the pre-Christian era and in the early years of the Common Era.
To the truly curious I recommend both volumes, whether for personal enrichment, Bible study, research, or tasting and comparing various translations of non-canonical literature. This is as unbiased a compilation as I have seen in many years. I rank it with the work being done by scholars like Geza Vermes as invaluable to any person seeking a deeper understanding of the great minds on either side of that turbulent millennium (i.e., give or take 300-500 years either way). Of course these writings can lead one's mind to many other insights and down many other paths of inquiry and thought; that is best left for the individual.
Be assured that this scholarly work is exactly that, and is not only highly-informative about the stories, symbols and myths of non-canonical literature that informed the consciousness of the Near East and eventually the Western world, but this volume does so in a highly accessible way. It is easy to read and certainly gives one pause. Savor it.
Charlesworth's introductions and notes are invaluable covering themes, dates, authorships rescensions, translations notes and variants.
The documents in this Volume II are all considered to have been written over a period of about five hundred years from the beginning of the 3rd Century BC to the beginning of the 3rd Century AD. They are grouped into 4 sections, each of which has a short introduction describing the nature of the contents, and a list of documents included within the section. The documents within each section are in date order, and each is introduced by a discussion of the contents, the original language of the text, the probable date, and where it was written, its historical, theological, and cultural importance, the earliest translations, relationship to other books, and a select bibliography. The texts themselves contain cross references to other biblical texts as well as copious detailed notes on the text itself.
I found it was as important to read the introductory section and the detailed notes as it was to read the texts themselves. The commentaries on each document were generally most interesting and throw considerable light on the currents of theological thought which was occurring during this period, but with a caution. Many of the documents were preserved in Christian communities, and some were only available in a language of a much later period. The provenance of some of these works is therefore difficult to determine, and the analysis of the theology and the language of these documents indicate that they have been subject to some later editing and insertions by Christian writers. Of course, only some of the works have these Christian overtones, and in general, the commentaries make clear where these "adjustments" have occurred.
I am quite happy that I acquired Volume II, and do recommend it for those readers who have also succeeded in making it through to the end of Volume I. For those who may be interested, I have included the following brief summary of the contents of the Volume II
Section 1, which is half the book, includes 13 documents which are essentially expansions of the Old Testament and associated Legends. These include:
* The Letter of Aristeas, which is an account of the writing of the Septuagint, and which can be compared with the that of Josephus.
* Jubilees which is basically an expansion of the books of Genesis and Exodus, purporting to be an account of matters revealed to Moses during the 40 days he spent on Mount Sinai. Copies of this book were discovered at Qumran, which indicates its theological importance to that community, and allows it to be dated more precisely.
* The Martyrdom and Ascension of Isaiah which is in two parts - the first being a Jewish account of the Martyrdom of Isaiah with an insertion which is clearly Christian, and the second part being a Christian addition of the Vision of Isaiah.
* Joseph and Aseneth which is an expansion of the biblical account where the Pharaoh gives Aseneth, the daughter of Potiphera, Priestess of On for his wife.
* Life of Adam and Eve
* Pseudo-Philo Biblical Antiquities being a retelling of the Old Testament from Adam to David and Saul.
* The Lives of the Prophets being a short account of the lives of the 23 prophets, some of which are only a few lines long
* The Ladder of Jacob, being an elaboration of Jacob's dream at Bethel
* 4 Baruch, which is an expansion of items omitted from the book of Jeremiah the Prophet.
* Jannes and Jambres - with only short fragments of a pre-Christian tale whose base is the biblical account of the Exodus
* History of the Rechabites which is a description of Zosimus, a virtuous man who after 40 years of prayer is taken to the abode of the Blessed Ones - a sort of Utopian paradise in the middle of the great ocean. This was originally a Jewish account, but has many Christian interpolations to include Jesus Christ.
* Eldad and Modad - a discussion on the two line text from the Shepherd of Hermes of the 2nd century AD, which refers to two prophets who are mentioned in Numbers 11:26-29
* History of Joseph - which is a meager textual remnant of what appears to be a Midrashic expansion of the life of Joseph in the Book of Genesis.
Section 2 includes 5 documents which are all classified as Wisdom and Philisophical Literature. These include:
* The Word of Ahiqar, which was one of the best-known and widely disseminated tales of the ancient Mediterranean world. It is the oldest text in the collection, and probably antedates the post exilic portions of the Old Testament. It is in two parts, the first being the story of Ahiqar, scribe and counselor to the Kings of Assyria, the second contains a collection of about 100 sayings attributed to Ahiqar
* 3 Maccabees, the account of the visit of Ptolemy IV Philopator to the Temple of Jerusalem after his defeat of Antiochus III at Raphia.
* 4 Maccabees which is a discussion on devout reason's mastery over passions, based upon the martyrdom of Eleazar and of the seven sons and their mother
* Pseudo-Phocylides - a collection of sayings in Greek - attributed pseudonymously under the name of Pholcylides, an Ionic poet living in Miletus during the 6th century BC
* The Sentences of the Syriac Menander - a collection of wisdom sayings written in Syriac probably during the 3rd Century AD which are in the form of practical rules for human behaviour and were attributed to the Greek Sage Menander,
Section 3 includes 7 documents which are classified as Prayers, Psalms, and Odes. These include
* Six additional Psalms of David, beyond the 150 included in the Masoretic text,
* The Prayer of Manesseh,
* Eighteen psalms of Solomon,
* Sixteen Hellenistic Synagogal Prayers
* The Prayer of Joseph,
* The Prayer of Jacob
* Forty two odes of Solomon, the origins and datings of which are quite uncertain
Section 4 includes fragments of 13 lost Judeo-Hellenistic works of Poetry, Oracles, Drama, Philosophy, History etc, the general characteristics of the excerpts from these once voluminous works being a claim that the best Greek ideas were derived from the Jews. Many of the works in this section have been preserved in the works of later writers such as Alexander Polyhistor, Eusebius and others, but in general the discussion on the fragments is often more informative than the extant fragments themselves.
This book is great because there is about 4 to 6 pages of information presented about each collection of writings. This would include a full detailed synopsis so you don't actually have to read the actual writings to get all the details covered in them, It mentions the Title of the writing and where it came from, the texts in existence from where the translations come from, where they were found, and the languages they are in, The original languages the writings were written in, the date which they were written and evidences that points to certain dates, the provenance of the writing (Provenance, from the French provenir, "to come from", means the origin, or the source, of something, or the history of the ownership or location of an object), the theological importance of the document, The relation to Canonized books and other apocryphal books, the cultural importance of the book, and a bibliography of all the sources he uses to presume the above.
The book then contains the full text of each of the writings. I will list the titles of the works included as it is important to know these things when picking up collections like this to ensure you are not duplicating anything you may already have in your library.
APOCALYPTIC LITERATURE AND RELATED WORKS
1 (Ethiopic Apocalypse of) Enoch
2 (Slavonic Apocalypse of) Enoch
3 (Hebrew Apocalypse of) Enoch
Treatise of Shem
Apocryphon of Ezekiel
Apocalypse of Zephaniah
The Fourth Book of Ezra (4 Ezra)
Greek Apocalypse of Ezra
Vision of Ezra
Questions of Ezra
Revelation of Ezra
Apocalypse of Sedrach
2 (Syriac Apocalypse of) Baruch
3 (Greek Apocalypse of) Baruch
Apocalypse of Abraham
Apocalypse of Adam
Apocalypse of Elijah
Apocalypse of Daniel
TESTAMENTS (OFTEN WITH APOCALYPTIC SECTIONS)
Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs
Testament of Job
Testaments of the Three Patriarchs
Testament of Abraham
Testament of Isaac
Testament of Jacob
Testament of Moses
Testament of Solomon
Testament of Adam
This is for the second book, which is a separate book and purchase, this is a two volume series sold separately.
EXPANSIONS OF "OLD TESTAMENT" AND LEGENDS
Letter of Aristeas
Maryrdom and Ascension of Isaiah
Joseph and Aseneth
Life of Adam and Eve
The Lives of the Prophets
Ladder of Jacob
James and Jambres
History of the Rechabites
Eldad and Modad
History of Joseph
WISDOM AND PHILOSOPHICAL LITERATURE
The Sentences of the Syriac Menander
PRAYERS, PSALMS, AND ODES
More Psalms of David
Prayer of Manasseh
Psalms of Solomon
Hellenistic Synagogal Prayers
Prayer of Joseph
Prayer of Jacob
Odes of Solomon
SUPPLEMENT: FRAGMENTS OF LOST JUDEO-HELLENISTIC WORKS
Philo the Epic Poet
Ezekiel the Tragedian
Fragments of Pseudo-Greek Poets
Demetrius the Chronographer
Aristeas ten Exegete
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