The word pseudepigrapha, meaning "books with false titles," refers to books similar in type to those of the Bible whose authors gave them the names of persons of a much earlier period in order to enhance their authority. Among the best known are 3 and 4 Esdras and the Prayer of Manasses, which are included in the Apocrypha.
The term is applied to many Jewish and Jewish - Christian books written in the period 200 BC - 200 AD. The Jewish books include Jubilees, Enoch, Psalms of Solomon, Assumption (or Testament) of Moses, Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, the Sibylline Oracles, and the Apocalypse of Baruch. Fragments of the Damascus Document have been found among the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Other pseudepigrapha exist in Greek, Slavonic, and other languages, many of them revisions of Jewish books. These include the Apocalypse of Peter, the Shepherd of Hermas, and the Ascension of Isaiah. The Gospel of Thomas and the Protevangelium of James contain many legends about Jesus and Mary and show the influence of Gnosticism, as does the Apocalypse of Adam. The Gospel of Nicodemus is composed of the Acts of Pilate and the Harrowing of Hell.
The pseudepigrapha are important for the light they throw on Judaism and early Christianity. The Epistle of Jude, for example, reflects a knowledge of Enoch and the Assumption of Moses.
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I H Brockington, A Critical Introduction to the Apocrypha (1961); R H Charles, ed., Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament (1913); J H Charlesworth, ed., Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (1986); O Eissfeldt, The Old Testament: An Introduction (1965); P D Hanson, Old Testament Apocalyptic (1987); J T Milik, ed., The Aramaic Books of Enoch (1968); G W Nickelsburg, Jewish Literature between the Bible and the Mishnah (1981); C C Torrey, The Apocryphal Literature (1945).
(See vol. i. pp. 37, 38, and other places.)
ONLY the briefest account of these can be given in this place; barely more than an enumeration.
I. The Book of Enoch. As the contents and the literature of this remarkable book, which is quoted by St. Jude (vv. 14, 15), have been fully described in Dr. Smith's and Wace's Dictionary of Christian Biography (vol. ii. pp. 124-128), we may here refer to it the more shortly.
It comes to us from Palestine, but has only been preserved in an Ethiopic translation (published by Archbishop Laurence [Oxford, 1838; in English transl. 3rd ed. 1821-1838; German transl. by A. G. Hoffmann], then from five different MSS. by Professor Dillmann [Leipzig, 1851; in German transl. Leipzig, 1853]). But even the Ethiopic translation is not from the original Hebrew or Aramaic, but from a Greek version, of which a small fragment has been discovered (ch. lxxxix. 42-49;published by Cardinal Mai. Comp. also Gildemeister, Zeitschr. d. D. Morg. Ges. for 1855, pp. 621-624, and Gebhardt, Merx' Arch. ii. 1872, p. 243).
As regards the contents of the work: An Introduction of five brief chapters, and the book (which, however, contains not a few spurious passages) consists of fiveparts, followed by a suitable Epilogue. The most interesting portions are those which tell of the Fall of the Angels and its consequences, of Enoch's rapt journeys through heaven and earth, and of what he saw and heard (ch. vi.-xxxvi.); the Apocalyptic portions about the Kingdom of Heaven and the Advent of the Messiah (lxxxiii-xci.); and, lastly, the hortatory discourses (xci.-cv.). When we add, that it is pervaded by a tone of intense faith and earnestness about the Messiah, 'the last things,' and other doctrines specially brought out in the New Testament, its importance will be understood. Altogether the Book of Enoch contains 108 chapters.
From a literary point of view, it has been arranged (by Schurer and others) into three parts:,1. The Original Work (Grundschrift), ch. i.-xxxvi.; lxxii.-cv. This portion is supposed to date from about 175 B.C. 2. The Parables, ch. xxxvii.- liv. 6; lv. 3-lix.; lxi.-lxiv.; lxix. 26-lxxi. This part also dates previous to the Birth of Christ, perhaps from the time of Herod the Great. 3. The so-called Noachian Sections, ch. liv. 7-lv. 2; lx.; lxv.-lxix. 25. To these must be added ch. cvi., and the later conclusion in ch. cviii. On the dates of all these portions it is impossible to speak definitely.
II. Even greater, though a different interest, attaches to the Sibylline Oracles, written in Greek hexameters. [1 We have in the main accepted the learned criticism of Professor Friedlieb (Oracula Sibyllina, 1852.] In their present form they consist of twelve books, together with several fragments. Passing over two large fragments, which seem to have originally formed the chief part of the introduction to Book III., we have (1) the two first Books. These contain part of an older and Hellenist Jewish Sibyl, as well as of a poem by the Jewish Pseudo-Phocylides, in which heathen myths concerning the first ages of man are curiously welded with Old Testament views. The rest of these two books was composed, and the whole put together, not earlier than the close of the second century, perhaps by a Jewish Christian. (2) The third Book is by far the most interesting. Besides the fragments already referred to, vv. 97-807 are the work of a Hellenist Jew, deeply imbued with the Messianic hope. This part dates from about 160 before our era, while vv. 49-96 seem to belong to the year 31 B.C.
The rest (vv. 1-45, 818-828) dates from a later period. We must here confine our attention to the most ancient portion of the work. For our present purpose, we may arrange it into three parts. In the first, the ancient heathen theogony is recast in a Jewish mould, Uranus becomes Noah; Shem, Ham, and Japheth are Saturn, Titan, and Japetus, while the building of the Tower of Babylon is the rebellion of the Titans. Then the history of the world is told, the Kingdom of Israel and of David forming the centre of all. What we have called the second is the most curious part of the work. It embodies ancient heathen oracles, so to speak, in aJewish recension, and interwoven with Jewish elements. The third part may be generally described as anti-heathen, polemical, and Apocalyptic.
The Sibyl is thoroughly Hellenistic in spirit. She is loud and earnest in her appeals, bold and defiant in the tone of her Jewish pride, self-conscious and triumphant in her anticipations. But the most remarkable circumstance is, that this Judaising and Jewish Sibyl seems to have passed, though possibly only in parts, as the oracles of the ancient Erythraean Sibyl, which had predicted to the Greeks the fall of Troy, and those of the Sibyl of Cumae, which, in the infancy of Rome, Tarquinius Superbus had deposited in the Capitol, and that as such it is quoted from by Virgil (in his 4th Eclogue) in his description of the Golden Age.
Of the other Sibylline Books little need be said. The 4th, 5th, 9th, and 12th Books were written by Egyptian Jews at dates varying from the year 80 to the third century of our era. Book VI. is of the Christian origin, the work of a Judaising Christian, about the second half of the second century. Book VIII., which embodies Jewish portions, is also of Christian authorship, and so are Books X. and XI.
III. The collection of eighteen hymns, which in their Greek version bear the name of the Psalter of Solomon, must originally have been written in Hebrew, and dates from more than half a century before our era. They are the outcome of a soul intensely earnest, although we not unfrequently meet expressions of Pharisiac self-religiousness. [1 Comp. for example, ix. 7, 9.]
It is a time of national sorrow in which the poet sings, and it almost seems as if these 'Psalms' had been intended to take up one or another of the leading thoughts in the corresponding Davidic Psalms, and to make, as it were, application of them to the existing circumstances. [2 This view which, so far as I know, has not been suggested by critics, will be confirmed by an attentive perusal of almost every 'Psalm' in the collection (comp. the first three with the three opening Psalms in the Davidic Psalter). Is our 'Psalter of Solomon,' as it were, an historical commentary by the typical 'sage?' And is our collection only a fragment?] Though somewhat Hellenistic in its cast, the collection breathes ardent Messianic expectancy, and firm faith in the resurrection, and eternal reward and punishment (iii. 16; xiii. 9, 10; xiv. 2, 6, 7; xv. 11 to the end).
IV. Another work of that class, 'Little Genesis,' or 'The Book of Jubilees', has been preserved to us in its Ethiopic translation (though a Latin version of part of it has lately been discovered) and is a Haggadic Commentary on Genesis. Professing to be a revelation to Moses during the forty days on Mount Sinai, it seeks to fill lacunae in the sacred history, specially in reference to its chronology. Its character is hortatory and warning, and it breathes a strong anti-Roman spirit. It was written by a Palestinian in Hebrew, or rather Aramaean, probably about the time of Christ. The name, 'Book of Jubilees,' is derived from the circumstance that the Scripture-chronology is arranged according to Jubilee periods of forty-nine years, fifty of these (or 2,450 years) being counted from the Creation to the entrance into Canaan.
V. Among the Pseudepigraphic Writings we also include the 4th Book of Esdras, which appears among our Apocrypha as 2 Esdras ch. iii.-xiv. (the two first and the two last chapters being spurious additions). The work, originally written in Greek, has only been preserved in translation into five different languages (Latin, Arabic, Syriac, Ethiopic, and Armenian). It was composed probably about the end of the first century after Christ. From this circumstance, and the influence of Christianity on the mind of the writer, who, however, is an earnest Jew, its interest and importance can be scarcely exaggerated. The name of Ezra was probably assumed, because the writer wished to treat mainly of the mystery of Israel's fall and restoration.
The other Pseudepigraphic Writings are:
VI. The Ascension (ch. i.-v.) and Vision (ch. vi.-xi.) of Isaiah, which describes the martyrdom of the prophet (with a Christian interpolation [ch. iii. 14-iv. 22] ascribing his death to prophecy of Christ, and containing Apocalyptic portions), and then what he saw in heaven. The book is probably based on an older Jewish account, but is chiefly of Christian heretical authorship. It exists only in translations, of which that in Ethiopic (with Latin and English versions) has been edited by Archbishop Laurence.
VII. The Assumption of Moses (probably quoted in St. Jude ver. 9) also exists only in translation, and is really a fragment. It consists of twelve chapters. After an Introduction (ch. i.), containing an address of Moses to Joshua, the former, professedly, opens to Joshua the future of Israel to the time of Varus.
This is followed by an Apocalyptic portion, beginning at ch. vii. and ending with ch. x. The two concluding chapters are dialogues between Joshua and Moses. The book dates probably from about the year 2 B.C., or shortly afterwards. Besides the Apocalyptic portions the interest lies chiefly in the fact that the writer seems to belong to the Nationalist party, and that we gain some glimpses of the Apocalyptic views and hopes, the highest spiritual tendency, of that deeply interesting movement. Most markedly, this Book at least is strongly anti-Pharisaic, especially in its opposition to their purifications (ch. vii.). We would here specially note a remarkable resemblance between 2 Tim. iii. 1-5 and this in Assump. Mos. vii. 3-10:
(3) 'Et regnabunt de his homines pestilentiosi et impii, dicentes se esse iustos, (4) et hi suscitabunt iram animorum suorum, qui erunt homines dolosi, sibi placentes, ficti in omnibus suiset onmi hora diei amantes convivia, devoratores gulae (5) (6) [paupe] rum bonorum comestores, dicentes se haec facere propter misericordiam eorum, (7) sed et exterminatores, queruli et fallaces, celantes se ne possint cognosci, impii in scelere, pleni et inquitate ab oriente usque ad occidentem, (8) dicentes: habebimus discubitiones et luxurian edentes et bibentes, et potabimus nos, tamquam principes erimus. (9) Et manus eorum et dentes inmunda tractabunt, et os eorum loquetur ingentia, et superdicent: (10) noli [tu me] tangere, ne inquines me.' But it is very significant, that instead of the denunciation of the Pharisees in vv. 9,10 of the Assumptio, we have in 2 Tim. iii. 5. the words 'having the form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.'
VIII. The Apocalypse of Baruch. This also exists only in Syriac translation, and is apparently fragmentary, since the vision promised in ch lxxvi. 3 is not reported, while the Epistle of Baruch to the two and a half tribes in Babylon, referred to in lxxvii. 19, is also missing. The book had been divided into seven sections(i.-xii.; xiii.-xx.; xxi.-xxxxiv.; xxxv.-xlvi.; xlvii.-lii.; liii.-lxxvi.; lxxvii.-lxxxvii.).
The whole is in a form of revelation to Baruch, and of his replies, and questions, or of notices about his bearing, fast, prayers, &c. The most interesting parts are in sections v. and vi. In the former we mark (ch. xlviii. 31-41) the reference to the consequence of the sin of our first parents (ver. 42; comp. also xvii. 3; xxiii. 4; liv. 15, 19), and in ch. xlix. the discussion and information; with what body and in what form the dead shall rise, which is answered, not as by St. Paul in 1 Cor. xv., though the question raised (1 Cor. xv. 35) is precisely the same, but in the strictly Rabbinic manner, described by us in Vol. ii. pp. 398, 399. In section vi. we specially mark (ch. lxix.-lxxiv.) the Apocalyptic descriptions of the Last Days, and of the Reign and Judgment of Messiah.
In general, the figurative language in that Book is instructive in regard to the phraseology used in the Apocalyptic portions of the New Testament. Lastly, we mark that the views on the consequences of the Fall are much more limited than those expressed in 4 Esdras. Indeed, they do not go beyond physical death as the consequence of the sin of our first parents (see especially liv. 19: Non est ergo Adam causa, nisi animae suaetantum; nos vero unusquisque fuit animae suae Adam). At the same time, it seems to use, as if perhaps the reasoning rather than the language of the writer indicated hesitation on his part (liv. 14-19; comp. also first clause of xlviii. 43). It almost seems as if liv. 14-19 were inteded as against the reasoning of St. Paul, Rom. v. 12 to the end.
In this respect the passage in Baruch is most interesting, not only in itself (see for ex. ver. 16: Certo enim qui credit recipiet mercedem), but in reference to the teaching of 4 Esdrasm which, as regards original sin, takes another direction than Baruch. But I have little doubt that both allude to the, to them, novel teaching of St. Paul on that doctrine. Lastly, as regards the question when this remarkable work was written, we would place its composition after the destruction of Jerusalem. Most writers date if before the publication of 4 Esdras, Even the appearance of a Pseudo-Baruch and Pseudo-Esdras are significant of the political circumstances and the religious hopes of the nation.
For criticism and fragments of other Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, comp. Fabricius, Codex Pseudepigraphus Vet. Test., 2 vols. (ed. 2, 1722). The Psalter of Sol., IV. Esdr. (or, as he puts it, IV. and V. Esd.), the Apocal of Baruch, and the Assumption of Mos., have been edited by Fritzsche (Lips. 1871); other Jewish (Hebrew) O. T. Pseudepigraphs, though of a later date, in Jellinek's beth haMidrash (6 vols.), passin. A critical review of the literature of the subject would here be out of place.
From Appendix 1, Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah
by Alfred Edersheim, 1886
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