This short text is sometimes called the Apocalypse of Zosimus or the Story of Zosimus since it features the visionary travels of the virtuous monk Zosimus. Since a critical edition of the text has yet to be published, Charlesworth suggests it is unwise to state a probable date and provenance for the book. The book appears in Greek, Syriac and Ethiopic but it is possible the text goes back to a Semitic source. More recently, Chris Knights considers chapters 11-12 and 14-16 to be a Jewish Pseudepigrapha written before A.D. 850 originally composed in Greek (Knight, 1998, 92-3).

The book was preserved by Christians and has obvious Christian glosses. While the book has limited value for the study of the New Testament, it is an interesting parallel to the story of St. Brendan, the Irish monk who twice sailed to the Isle of the Blessed in the fifth century A.D. It is impossible to know if History of the Rechabites was influences by the tale of St. Brenden or vice versa. For details, see Witikowski, “Syriac Apocalyptic Literature,” in The Armenian Apocalyptic Tradition: A Comparative Perspective: Essays Presented in Honor of Professor Robert W. Thomson on the Occasion of His Eightieth Birthday. eds. Kevork B. Bardakjian, Sergio La Porta (Brill, 2014), 670.

History of the Rechabites is an expansion of Jeremiah 35. Jeremiah encounters a nomadic tribe of people known as the Rechabites who drink no wine and live in tents because of a vow their forefather had made. In canonical Jeremiah, this tribe is a model of faithfulness in the last days of the kingdom of Judah. In this apocalypse the tribe now resides on the Island of the Blessed Ones. A holy man by the name of Zosimus spends forty years fasting in the desert asking to see the Island of the Blessed. His prayer is finally heard and an angel escorts him over a gigantic sea. An animal of some kind takes him the rest of the way onto an island where he meets a naked man who claims to be one of the Blessed.

The Blessed Ones take Zosimus in and teach him their background including a few stories about Jeremiah and Josiah’s sons in the last days of Judah. A wicked king attempts to force the Rechabites to break their vow by forcing them to drink wine, but God himself protected them and brought them to this island. The people living on the Blessed Island know all about people in Zosimus’ world. They are aware how wicked they are and they pray for them. The Lord announced to these Blessed Ones the coming of the Word Incarnate through the Holy Virgin.

The Island of the Blessed Ones is like the Garden of Eden. The people are naked, “covered with a stole of glory similar to Adam and Eve before they sinned” (12:3). They eat from the fruits of the trees drink from “the exceedingly good, sweet, and delightful water which comes out to us from the roots of the trees.” These people are aware of the fallen world because “the angels of God dwell with us and they announce to us those things which (happen) among you.” They pray for the “sinners and pagans who are in the world and petition God constantly to restrain his anger” (12:8).

On feast days the Lord rains manna on the Blessed Ones, and they never suffer from sickness or temptation. The Rechabites know when they are going to die, but there is no need to dig graves because the angels conduct them to heaven. The Blessed pray for Zosimus specifically that he could be a guide and refuge. While they pray, a white cloud delivers him back to his home. The text breaks off here, although OTP notes there is an additional four chapters in Greek by a Christian author concerning temptation.

 

Bibliography:

Bosman, H. L. “The Rechabites and ‘Sippenethos’ in Jeremiah 35.” ThEv 16 (1983): 83-86.

Frick, Frank. “Rechab, Rechabites” in ABD 5:630-631; “The Rechabites Reconsidered,” JBL 90 (1991): 279-287. Frick suggests the Rechabites were a guild of chariot makers, based on the etymology of their tribal name.

Haelewyck, J-C. (Jean-Claude), et al. “Diverse Perspectives on the Manuscript Tradition of the Story of Zosimus,” Oriens Christianus 99 (2016): 1-44

Keown, G. L. “Excursus: The Identity of the Rechabites” in Jeremiah 26-52 (WBC 27; Dallas: Word, 2002) 194-96.

Knights, Chris “‘The Story of Zosimus’ or ‘The History Of The Rechabites’?” Journal for the Study of Judaism in the Persian, Hellenistic, and Roman Period (1993): 235–245.

Knights, Chris. “Towards a Critical Introduction to ‘The History of the Rechabite,’” Journal for the Study of Judaism in the Persian, Hellenistic and Roman Period 26 (1995): 324-342.

Knights, Chris. “The History of the Rechabites-an Initial Commentary,” Journal For The Study Of Judaism In The Persian, Hellenistic And Roman Period 28 (1997): 413-436.

Levenson, J. D. “On the Promise to the Rechabites.” CBQ 38 (1976) 508-514;

 

 

 

The text of Jannes and Jambres is fragmentary and lacking in solid historical allusions, making it doubly difficult to date. Origen appears to refer to the book when commenting on 2 Timothy (Contra Celsus, IV. 51.)  The fragments in Chester Beatty papyri XVI date to the third century A.D. The book could be either Jewish or Christian since the Jannes and Jambres traditions are found in both streams.

The Damascus Document is the first reference to one of the magicians by the name, suggesting a tradition which predates 100 B.C.: “For in earlier times Moses and Aaron arose with the help of the Prince of Lights, while Belial raised up Jannes and his brother in his cunning, when Israel was saved the first time” (CD–A Col. v:18, trans. Davies, 245). In his commentary on Matthew, Origin indicated the reference to the Jannes and Jambres in 2 Timothy came from a non-canonical source (see commentary on 27:3-10). There are several rabbinic sources for the names (b.Men., 85a; Exodus rabba, 7 on 7:11) and in Targum. Ps.-Jonathan. on Exod 1:15, but these are also late and not useful for dating the document with any precision

It is possible Paul knew the tradition since 2 Timothy 3:8 to two men who opposed Moses, Jannes and Jambres. Paul’s point is his opponents stand in the tradition of Jannes and Jambres, “corrupted in mind” and “disqualified in the faith.” From about the same time as 2 Timothy, Dibelius and Conzelmann quote Pliny, Hist. Nat. 30.2.11: “There is yet another branch of magic, derived from Moses, Jannes, Lotapes and the Jews, but living many thousand years after Zoroaster.” They also mention a tradition in the Acts of Peter and Paul 34: “For just as the Egyptians Jannes and Jambres deceived Pharaoh and his army until they were drowned in the sea, so also etc.” (The Pastoral Epistles; Hermenia, 117).

These two men are the magicians who were able to change their staff to a snake as did Moses in Exodus 7:11. Although they are not mentioned by name in Exodus, the traditional use of these two names as prototypical magicians is well known. In Eusebius’ Praeparatio evangelica (9.8) the pagan Numenius may have alluded to this tradition, saying that Jannes and Jambres were able to undo, the plagues against Egypt. In the Decretum Gelasianum, a sixth-century Latin manuscript attributed to Pope Gelasius I (492–96), Jannes and Jambres is listed among the sixty-two “apocryphal” (rejected) works.

The book makes for difficult reading since most lines are fragmentary and there are a number of gaps in the text. When the two magicians are summoned to oppose Moses, Jambres ran back to the library to collect his “magical tools.”  A fragment in the British Library states that Jambres (Mambrews) performed necromancy. When he died he went into the netherworld where there is a great burning pit of perdition.

Mambres opened the magical books of his brother Jannes; he performed necromancy and brought up from the netherworld his brother’s shade. The soul of Jannes said in response, I your brother did not die unjustly, but indeed justly, and the judgment will go against me, since I was more clever than all clever magicians, and opposed the two brothers, Moses and Aaron, who performed great signs and wonders. As a result I died and was brought from among (the living) to the netherworld where there is great burning and the pit of perdition, whence no ascent is possible. (Pietersma A. and R. T. Lutz, “Jannes and Jambres,” in OTP 2:440)

The use of the fragments for New Testament studies is extremely limited, perhaps only serving to illuminate the tradition standing behind 2 Tim 3:8.

 

Bibliography:

Davies, Philip R. The Damascus Covenant: An Interpretation of the “Damascus Document” (Translation) (JSOTSupp 25; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1982), 245–247.

James, M. R. “A Fragment of the ‘Penitence of Jannes and Jambres.’ ” JTS 2 (1901): 572–77.

Klippenstein, Rachel “Jannes and Jambres, Text,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).

Pietersma A. and R. T. Lutz, “Jannes and Jambres,” in OTP 2:427.

Pietersma, Albert. “Jannes and Jambres” in ABD, 3:368-369.

Like many of the smaller books in the Pseudepigrapha, it is nearly impossible to guess a date the Ladder of Jacob. H. G. Lunt argues for a Jewish origin of the first six chapters based on the otherwise inexplicable reference to “lawless Falkon” as a Satan-figure in 6:13. Observing that Isaiah 27:1 Leviathan is called a crooked or twisted serpent (נָחָ֖שׁ עֲקַלָּת֑וֹן), Lunt suggests this can be taken as a proper name and speculates the Hebrew ʿqltwn was transliterated as καλθον, then through a transposition error, the word became θαλκον. When translated into east Slavonic, the word became φαλκον. Since the only extent copies of this work are Slavonic translations, it is not difficult to change a θ to a φ in the copying process. At best this thin piece of evidence indicates a Jewish origin.

The book expands on the details of the dream of Jacob only briefly described in Genesis 28. After his vision, Jacob worships (chapter 2) and the angel Sariel visits Jacob and explains this dream of the angels going up and down a ladder. This angel is identified as the “leader of the beguiled,” but this term can mean “sweetness, charm” or negatively, “deluded.” He is further described here as the angel who is in charge of dreams. The twelve steps of the ladder are the twelve ages of the earth, each with two kings who will oppress the people of God.

In Jacob’s vision the ladder going up to heaven had twelve steps on each step were two human faces which continually changed their appearance. Chapter five uses the twelve steps of the ladder from Jacob’s Vision as a kind of “timeline” of the future. Like other apocalyptic visions where heads on a beast refer to kings, each step on the ladder are the “kings of ungodly nations.” These wicked kings

“You have seen a ladder with twelve steps, each step having two human faces which kept changing their appearance. The ladder is this age, and the twelve steps are the periods of this age. But the twenty-four faces are the kings of the ungodly nations of this age. Under these kings the children of your children and the generations of your sons will be interrogated. These will rise up against the iniquity of your grandsons.”

In chapter 6 we are told a king will arise in judgment and Israel will go into slavery. This is such a general statement it cannot be used for dating the book since it could refer to 568 B.C., 67 B.C. or A.D. 70. The Mighty One will rise at that time and fight for his people when the land is swarmed by reptiles and all sorts of deadly things, killing the lawless Falkon by the sword. After this seed of Israel will sound a horn and the kingdoms of Edom and Moab will perish.

Chapter 7 is a Christian addition giving a few of the signs of the impending apocalypse. Lunt indicates the work is described as a first century A.D. work, but he does not argue in his introduction (OTP 2:404). Lunt states the source for the chapter is the Explanation of the Events in Persia (also known as the Tale of Aphroditanus, known from thirteenth to nineteenth century Russian and Serbian Slavonic texts). This book appears as The Legend of Aphroditanus in New Testament Apocrypha (Burke and Landau (Eerdmans, 2017, p. 3-18), although the translator Katharina Heyden does not reference the Ladder of Jacob. In two manuscripts one of the Magi describe their first encounter with Jesus. The first sees a child, the second sees a thirty year old man and the third as like an old man. This is similar to Ladder of Jacob 7:6-9, but it is far from a clear allusion and cannot be used to determine dependence. Other than the reference to wise men in 7:18, there is less connecting the two books than expected.

In the final chapter of the book, author of the Ladder of Jacob describes several signs the “expected one” will soon arrive: “Such will be the signs at the time of his coming: A tree cut with an ax will bleed; three-month-old babes will speak understanding; a baby in the womb of his mother will speak of his way; a youth will be like an old man” (7:4-8).

As with most of the short expansions of Scripture in the Pseudepigrapha it is difficult to assess the value of the Ladder of Jacob. The activity of the angels in the book certainly is consistent with other apocalyptic books and the series of kings who will oppress Israel until a messiah-like liberator appears is similar to Daniel or 2 Baruch.

The Lives of the Prophets (Liv. Pro.) seems to have been written in the first century by a Jew, but because it was preserved by Christians there many interpolations with distinctive Christian theology. It is possible the legendary acts of the prophets included in the book date to the Maccabean period but it is almost impossible to date the various strata of the book (the legends, the Jewish text, the Christian editing.) The best hint is the description of Elijah as having come from “the land of the Arabs” (21:1), possibly connecting his birthplace to the Nabateans. Since the Nabateans virtually disappear after A.D. 106 when Trajan moves trade routes to avoid Petra, the book was written after this time.

This book lists prophets from the Hebrew Bible and gives details on their birth, city of residence, and death. As D. A. Hare notes, the reason the book is so rarely included in collections of Pseudepigrapha is that it is nearly devoid of theology: “Religious edification is not its prime purpose, and consequently theological themes are for the most part dealt with only indirectly” (OTP 2:382). However, expanding biblical narratives is a practice driven by theology. For many of the prophets in the collection were not associated with miracles in the canonical texts. By passing along traditions of miracles (or creating new miracle stories) the author validates the word of these particular prophets. No non-canonical prophet appears in the list, even if a few are obscure in the Hebrew Bible. There are a few Christian additions, such as Jeremiah’s prophecy of the virgin birth, including the detail that the child would be laid in a manger (2:8).

Image result for The Martyrdom of IsaiahThe book assumes the text of the Bible as a foundation and adds legendary miracle stories to the adventures of the prophets. For example, Jeremiah prays for asps and crocodiles to leave the Jewish refugees alone when then arrive in Egypt (2:3). When Nebuchadnezzar goes mad in Daniel 4, the prophet is asked to pray for Nebuchadnezzar when asked by his son Baltasar (4:4).  Daniel did “many other prodigies” for the Persian kings which were not written down (4:18). Habakkuk sees the glory of the Temple and predicts its destruction (12:10-12).

The stories pass along a few traditions about the prophets. The tradition Isaiah was sawn in two by Manasseh (1:1) appears in the Martyrdom of Isaiah and possibly Hebrews 11:37. According to the book, Daniel was born in Upper Beth-Horon and was thought to be a eunuch (4:2). When Elisha was born in Gilgal, the golden calf in Bethel bellowed shrilly, so loud that it was heard in Jerusalem (22:1-2).

The Lives also passes along the story that Jeremiah hid the Ark of the Covenant in a rock in the wilderness (2:11-19), a story with some parallels in 2 Maccabees 2:4-8 and 4 Baruch 3:8-12. Since D. R. A. Hare sees no evidence of borrowing he suggests the Lives of the Prophets is evidence for the currency of this tradition in the “folklore of Palestine” (384). There is a location near the Dead Sea some Israeli guides will point out as the location of the Ark, at least according to fringe archaeologist Vendyl Jones.

A major interest of the author of these prophetic lives is the burial place of the prophet. Isaiah was buried underneath the Oak of Rogel (1:1). Jeremiah died in Taphnai, Egypt “in the environs of Pharaoh’s palace” after being stoned by his own people (2:1). Ezekiel was buried in the “field of Maour” in the grave of Shem and Arpachshad (Gen 10:22, possibly the “Oaks of Mamre”). The tomb is described as a double tomb like Abraham’s tomb at Hebron (3:3-4). Catherine Hezser speculates in her Jewish Travel in Antiquity (WUNT/2; Mohr Seiberg, 2011) that it is possible the Lives of the Prophets was used as a kind of guidebook to the tombs of the prophets, but she concludes it is impossible to be certain (386).

 

Bibliography: D. R. A. Hare, “The Lives of the Prophets: A New Translation and Introduction,” in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, vol. 2 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985)379-399.

Fourth Baruch was likely written in Hebrew, although no Hebrew manuscript of the book is extent. There are a number of words which are difficult in Greek, but make some sense of a Semitic language original is assumed. The book refers several times to the “vineyard of Agrippa.” Agrippa II ruled Judea from A.D. 41 until the fall of Jerusalem. If the fall of Jerusalem in the book refers to the events of A.D. 70, then the book must have been completed in the late first century. The problem for this date is the presence of redactional levels within the “Jewish” text. It seems probable a number of books could have been written in the wake of the fall of Jerusalem using Baruch and Jeremiah as models, 2 Baruch is the most obvious example of such a literary attempt to deal with the crisis of faith a Jew might have experienced after the temple was destroyed. A Christian revision of the work was made at a later date including the obviously Christian ending (8:12-9:32).

If the book does come from a Jewish context, then 4 Baruch is evidence some first century Jews believed the Temple administration were “false stewards” and the fall of Jerusalem was God’s just punishment. Just as in the apocalyptic literature, there is a pattern of punishment (exile) and restoration. The restoration is described in terms of a resurrection of the nation (represented by the eagle flying over the tombs). In the Christian conclusion the writer implies the Jews are responsible for the death of Jesus and are justly punished in the events of A. D. 70. In either case, the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 is interpreted as a just act of a righteous God.

The book begins with Jeremiah praying to the Lord on behalf of the city of Jerusalem. The Lord tells Jeremiah the city will fall, which Jeremiah reports to Baruch. Baruch is to take the vessels from the temple “to the earth” and guard them. Abimelech the Ethiopian is sent to the vineyard of Agrippa to collect figs and while he is gone the city falls. Baruch is told the city fell because the people were false stewards and he goes and sits at a tomb waiting for the things God would reveal to him. Abimelech, meanwhile, sits under a tree in the heart of the sun with his basket of figs. He sleeps there for sixty-six years, awakens and takes his basket of figs to the city. Obviously he is a bit surprised to find the city destroyed and long abandoned, so he cries out to the Lord.

An angel is sent to him and takes him to the tomb of Baruch, who is waiting patiently for him to return. They embrace and the angel tells him to prepare himself because the Mighty One is coming. Baruch writes a letter to Jeremiah telling him what the Angel of has announced. This letter is delivered to Jeremiah in Babylon by an eagle, along with fifteen of the figs (cf. 2 Baruch 78). When the eagle flies over the place where exiles have been buried, the dead come alive. Jeremiah reads the letter to the people and they rejoice and celebrate a feast day since they are about to return to Jerusalem. Jeremiah is going to lead the people back from Babylon but many do not want to leave because they have married Babylonian women. Jeremiah forbids them to enter Jerusalem, so they go and found Samaria instead.

The final chapter is a scene of worship in Jerusalem led by Jeremiah (verse 7f mentions the Son of God, Jesus Christ the light of the Aeons). Before the Lord comes will be four hundred and seventy seven years (chronologically the author thinks this return from captivity is about 477 B.C.). Why 477 years? This is an odd number since it is not a multiple of 70 (as would 490 years in Daniel 9). The number 477 is 3×159, but 159 is not a particular significant number either.

The people are angry at Jeremiah for this prophecy about Jesus and attempt to stone him, but the stones cry out condemning Israel for their treatment of Jeremiah (cf. the Lives of the Prophets, where the prophecy of the Virgin Mary is the reason Jeremiah is stoned by the Jews). In Luke 19:40 Jesus says that if he commands the people to be silent “the stones will cry out.” This is not likely a direct parallel since the words of Jesus probably go back to several Psalms which indicate creation will rejoice when the Lord “the Lord reigns” (Pss 96:11; 98:7-9; 114:1-8, see also Isa 55:12; Hab 2:11). This Christian ending to the book is a polemic against the Jews for their role in killing Jesus. The Jews in the story are enraged by the prophecy from Jeremiah about the coming Son of God, so much so they kill him.

 

Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum is a Second Temple period collection of biblical expansions. These are not quite “alternate histories” but rather attempts to fill-in-the-gaps left by some of the stories in the Hebrew Bible. Joshua and Judges mention a few characters in passing, the author of LAB attempts to expand these tantalizingly brief biblical stories.

In LAB 25 Kenaz, from the tribe of Caleb, was elected as leader after the death of Joshua. This Kenaz is an obscure character in Judges, where he identified as the younger brother of Caleb and the father of Othniel.  He captured the city of Kiriath Sepher (Joshua 15:17, Judges 1:13, 1 Chron. 4:13). Like Joshua, he dedicates the people to the covenant as they are to continue the conquest. Kenaz discovers that some men from the tribe of Reuben have made a copy of the Golden Calf. In fact, men from many of the tribes are discovered to have made idols or committed idolatry. These sinners are punished with death (put to death in the river Fison). The precious stones from the idols are to be destroyed “under the ban.”

The Lord himself destroys them, but Kenaz is instructed to look for twelve stones to represent the twelve tribes and to make these into an ephod. Which stone was to represent which tribe is detailed in chapters 9-11 (cf. Ex. 28:17-20, which does not designate specific stones for tribes.) As Kenaz discovers stones not burned by fire and he finds they have names of the tribes inscribed on the back. It might be possible to use this passage as a guide for the various stones in the New Jerusalem, Rev. 21. It is possible there are several competing lists of stones for tribes since this list includes Joseph and Levi, but not Ephraim and Manasseh. The military victory of Kenaz are recorded in chapter 27. Like Moses and Joshua, his victories are based on prayer and relying on the Lord to fight the battles.

Chapter 28 is Kenaz’s last testament, although it differs a bit in form since he allows Phineas, the son of Eleazar the priest report a dream which he had three nights before in which the Lord threatens to destroy the nation if they do not follow the covenant. The holy spirit came upon Kenaz and he was “put into an ecstasy” and he began to prophesy about the creation of the world. Man has been given 7,000 years during which time they will dwell in this world. In chapter 29 Zebul is appointed to lead after Kenaz. Zebul is another obscure character from Judges 9:28-41 who liberates Shechem from Gaal, the son of Ebed. Perhaps this otherwise unknown person is Ehud (Judges 3:12-30, immediately after Othniel and before Deborah; see OTP 2:342 note o).

Chapter 38 expands on the career of Jair (Judges 10:36). In the biblical material there is little said about the man. Here he is a leader appointed by the Lord who does not lead the people to follow the Law, rather, he builds an altar to Baal. Both he and the worshipers at his sanctuary are burned with fire.

Chapter 40 offers some details on the well-known story of Jephthah’s rash vow appears here, with a great deal more detail (the daughter’s name is Seila, for example. “Seila is only one of more than forty names given by subsequent writers to this girl, who is unnamed in the biblical story” (Sol Liptzin, “Jephthah and His Daughter” in D. K. Jeffrey, editor, A Dictionary of Biblical Tradition in English Literature.) Her lament while on Mount Stelac makes it clear she expects to be sacrificed, which exactly what happens. Israel mourns for Seila for four days every year and they named her tomb after her.

In chapter 44 the writer develops the intriguing story of Micah’s sin and idolatry (Judges 17). The idols are described as in the shape of human boys, calves, a lion, and eagle, a dragon and a dove. Depending on what one was praying for, they would offer a sacrifice at one of the altars (at the altar of boys for children, and the dove for a wife, etc.) This complex idolatry begins a stinging rebuke from the Lord himself (no prophet is mentioned here.) The Lord will destroy the whole nation because they have chosen to worship idols despite the fact they agreed (in the covenant) not to do. The Lord will cut his root off of the earth and the dying will outnumber the ones being born. Micah and his mother are the first to be burned up because of their idolatry.

The writer develops the disturbing story of the Levite and his concubine (Judges 19). The story in Judges has an implied parallel to the story of Lot’s rescue from Sodom, our author makes this parallel explicit. The difference is the priest stopped in Gibeah and went on to Nob; in Judges the outrage occurs at Gibeah (The biblical story may be part of an anti-Saul polemic. King Saul was from Gibeah, therefore his own family may have been involved in the atrocity recorded here; at the very least his father or grandfather would have been among the men who stole brides in Judges 21). Perhaps the writer is shifting the location of the outrage in order to protect the reputation of King Saul.

Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum is retelling of biblical stories originally written in Hebrew in the late first century A.D. This date is based on a possible reference to the fall of Jerusalem in 19:7, but the evidence is thin and could be interpreted as referring to the Babylonians (586 B.C.) or Romans (67 B.C.), or even the period of Antiochus IV Epiphanies’ persecutions. There are potential parallels with 2 Baruch and 4 Ezra which would imply a date in the late first century.

The book claims to be written by Philo of Alexandria, but this is unlikely since Philo wrote in Greek. At several points in the text Pseudo-Philo contradicts Philo (the number of years from Adam to the flood, the description of Moses’ burial, etc.) The book is important for New Testament studies since it sheds light on how Jews in the first century may have understood their own history. However, this is limited since the texts “expanded” by Pseudo-Philo are not discussed by the New Testament authors in any detail.

The major interest in the book is the Covenant of God. The whole book of Genesis is summarized in chapters 1-8, yet there are four chapters detailing the covenant rededication at the time of Joshua (21-24). The leadership of the nation is an important theme, so much so that the author invents careers for Kenaz and Zebul to fill in the gap between Joshua and the first of the judges. Several “minor” judges are given detailed stories where the Hebrew Bible has nothing. This succession of leadership is more important than the origins of the nation, Genesis is rapidly summarized while the careers of Joshua, Kenaz, Zebul and the other Judges are quite detailed.

There are a few expansions of the biblical text in this book which are interesting. Chapter 6 relates the apocryphal tale of Abram’s refusal to make bricks for the Tower of Babel. Both Nahor and Lot are included among the twelve individuals who refused. The story was rewritten through the lens of the three youths in Daniel 3, including the climactic statement of faith in God in 6:11.

“Behold, today I flee to the mountains. And if I escape the fire, wild beasts will come out of the mountains and devour us; or we will lack food and die of famine; and we will be found fleeing from the people of this land but falling in our sins. And now as he in whom I trust lives, I will not be moved from my place where they have put me. If there be any sin of mine so flagrant that I should be burned up, let the will of God be done.”

The Babylonians throw Abram and his supporters into a fiery furnace, but God “caused a great earthquake, and the fire gushing out of the furnace leaped forth in flames and sparks of flame. And it burned all those standing around in sight of the furnace. And all those who were burned in that day were 83,500. But there was not the least injury to Abram from the burning of the fire” 6:17). God responds to Abram’s faith by promising to bring Abram to the “the land upon which my eye has looked from of old” and promises him “I will have my servant Abram dwell and will establish my covenant with him and will bless his seed and be lord for him as God forever” (7:4). Abram settles in Canaan after the confusion of tongues, although the author skips over Abram’s attempt to have a son through Hagar (ch. 8).

Overlooking the faithlessness and sin in the live of Abraham is typical of biblical expansions in the Second Temple period. As the great heroes of the faith become even more heroic, there is a tendency to omit their shortcomings. Even within the Hebrew Bible, Chronicles overlooks David’s sin with Bathsheba. In the case of LAB, the author offers an explanation of why God chose Abram. Abram is a faithful monotheist before God gives him the promise of Genesis 12.

In the summer of 2016 I began a long series on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. I made about 75 posts that summer but only managed to work through the Enoch literature, the Sibylline Oracles, Fourth Ezra and 2 Baruch, and short posts on Treatise of Shem, The Apocryphon of Ezekiel, and Apocalypse of Zephaniah. I picked up the series again in the summer of 2017 and worked my way through Joseph and Asenath. Even after 120 posts on this literature, there is still many more the pseudepigraphical books I have yet to cover in Charlesworth. I hope to get to the recent More Noncanonical Scriptures, Volume 1 (eds. Richard Bauckham, James R. Davila, Alexander Panayotov; Eerdmans 2013).

My original motivation for the series was preparation for teaching an intertestamental literature class in Spring 2017. I enjoyed teaching the class and I think most of the students liked the class and learned a great deal about the literature of the Second Temple Period. Evangelicals tend to shy away from this material, but I think it is essential to have a firm grasp on what was in the air in the Second Temple period in order to understand the New Testament, especially as more scholars recognized the apocalyptic nature of both Jesus and Paul.

Another benefit of an open publication like this blog is the feedback I get from readers. There were a number of comments which interacted with what I had posted and often gave me new insights or links to other material to supplement my posts. Most of the posts in the original series still generate hits every day, so I hope people are finding some value in this series.

I plan to pick up this series again this summer beginning with the biblical expansions as they appear in Charlesworth and then move on to the Wisdom and Poetry Literature.

If you missed the series last two summers, here is an index for the previous posts on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha.

Introduction

1 Enoch

2 Enoch

3 Enoch

Sibylline Oracles

The Treatise of Shem

The Apocryphon of Ezekiel, Fragment 1

The Apocryphon of Ezekiel, Fragments 2-5

What is the Apocalypse of Zephaniah?

Fourth Ezra

2 (Syriac Apocalypse of) Baruch

The Greek Apocalypse of Baruch (3 Baruch)

Apocalypse of Abraham

Apocalypse of Adam

Apocalypse of Elijah

Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs

Testament of Job

Testament of Abraham

Testament of Isaac

Testament of Jacob

Testament of Moses

Testament of Solomon

Jubilees

The Martyrdom of Isaiah

Christian Visions and the Ascension of Isaiah

The Life of Adam and Eve

The Apocalypse of Adam and Eve

Joseph and Aseneth

 

 

 

 

 

Beitzel, Barry J. and Kristopher A. Lyle, eds. Lexham Geographical Commentary on the Gospels. Bellingham, Wash.: Lexham Press, 2017. 583 pp.; Hb.  $49.99  Link to Lexham Press

As Professor Emeritus of Old Testament and Semitic Languages at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Barry Beitzel has a well-deserved reputation in scholarship for his contributions to biblical geography. He edited the The New Moody Atlas of the Bible (Moody, 2009; reviewed here). His new edited volume contains forty-eight essays written by fifteen New Testament scholars who have contributed to the field of New Testament geography.

The chapters are roughly chronological, beginning with the infancy narratives, baptism and temptation before moving on to the ministry of Jesus. The book could function as a “Harmony of the Gospels” since each of the forty-eight chapters include Gospel parallel passages when available. A chapter on John 4 appears early in Jesus’s ministry, chapters on John 7:37-39 and John 9 are placed in a series of chapters on the teaching of Jesus.

Some of the essays in this book concern geographical problems. For example, Benjamin Foreman’s essay on the location of the baptism of Jesus. Todd Bolen assess the evidence for the location of the “drowned pigs” in Matthew 8:28-42 (Gadara? Gerasa? Gergesa? Kursi?). Benjamin Foreman examines evidence for the burial of Jesus, comparing the Holy Sepulcher to the Garden Tomb and concludes the Holy Sepulcher is more likely even if there is value is far more spiritually uplifting to for Protestants. But most of the essays describe locations which are less controversial, such as Perry Phillips on the Well at Sychar or Todd Bolen’s contribution on the Temple, “Magnificent Stones and Wonderful Buildings of the Temple Complex.”

Other essays in this collection deal with elements of cultural in the background of various stories in the Gospels. Elaine Phillips’s article on domestic architecture in Capernaum, Carl Laney on “Fishing the Sea of Galilee” and Chris McKinney’s “Pig Husbandry in Israel during the New Testament.” Aubrey Taylor’s chapter on the “Historical Basis of the Parable of the Pounds” deals with Roman taxation. (As a side note, this chapter does not have a single illustration in the print version of the book.)

A few of the chapters make a connection between a geographical location and a theological issue. Gordon Franz contributes a fascinating essay on the Valley of Hinnom as a metaphor for Hell. In this revised paper first read at the national Evangelical Theological Society meeting in 1987, Franz points out the earliest reference to Hinnom as a garbage dump comes from A. D. 1200. He therefore argues the word is not based on a Second Temple reality (a garbage dump), but it refers to a place of eschatological judgment (325).

Each article in this Geographical Commentary is well researched and written. Each has detailed bibliography pointing interested readers to detailed studies on the topic considered. The book can be used as reference or as a running commentary as one is reading through one of the Gospels. Since the articles are rich in details, the book would be an excellent companion for someone traveling to Israel for a study tour.

iPad Screen Shot

Logos Bible Software Version

Like most Lexham publications, this book was published in both print and Logos Library formats. The electronic version of the book makes full use of the Logos system, including indexed searching and linking key words to other resources. For example, all biblical text is linked to your preferred Bible, or users can hover over the reference to read the text.

The electronic version of this book has many more images and graphic than the book and cab include videos. For example, in the five-page section entitled “Millstones in Capernaum” (Matthew 17:24-18:14), the print edition has two photographs. The Logos format book has a map of Galilee, an info-graphic of the synagogue at Capernaum, and links to two videos, a walk-through of Capernaum which plays in the Logos software itself and a link to a seven-minute video, “Capernaum: Jesus’ Base of Operations in Galilee” on FaithlifeTV.com. This video is from The Cultural Context of the Bible series with David A. deSilva (although the narration sounds like it was produced with speech-to-text software). Maps, photographs and other graphics can be copied and pasted into your own documents (Word and PowerPoint, be sure to cite your source!). Many of the inforgraphics and other resources appear in many other Faithlife resources.

The electronic version includes all the same footnotes and bibliography as the print version, and includes a “see also” section which lists all the links appearing in the section. One advantage to the electronic version is the ability to cut/paste these references into a document, or to copy them to BibTex for use in bibliography management software. Usually Logos resources are tagged to open a resource if you owe the book, but I noticed Anchor Bible Dictionary articles are not tagged to open the article within Logos.

One feature missing in the electronic version is page numbers. Since the Logos version was published first and was initially intended as a fully interactive multimedia resource, there was no need for page numbers. Now that a “real book” has been published, Logos could enhance the value of this resource by adding page number tags to the text in the electronic version. Since Logos Bible Software does an excellent job assisting users to properly cite their sources, it would be an improvement to sync the print pages to the text in the electronic book. One other minor quibble, there are a few repeated graphics; this is forgivable in the electronic version but a waste of limited space in the print version (the millstone on page 112 and 311).

Conclusion

The Lexham Geographic Commentary on the gospels is a joy to read. The articles are stimulating and well-illustrated.  This book will make an excellent addition to the library of any student of the Bible, but especially for those visiting Israel. Lexham has a second volume on Acts through Revelation in production; hopefully additional volumes on the Old Testament will follow.

NB: Thanks to Lexham Press for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

Bock, Darrell L. and Mitch Glaser, eds. Messiah in the Passover. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel, 2018. 379 pp. Pb. $16.99   Link to Kregel

Darrell Bock and Mitch Glaser have edited several recent books on the topic of Israel, including To the Jew First: The Case for Jewish Evangelism in Scripture and History (2008), The Gospel According to Isaiah 53 (2012), The People, the Land, and the Future of Israel (2012), and Israel, the Church and the Middle East (2018), all published by Kregel. This volume collected essays from the staff of Chosen People Ministries, an evangelistic mission to Jews led by Glaser.

In the introduction to the collection, Mitch Glaser asks “Why Study the Passover?” For a Jewish person, Passover is a celebration of God’s deliverance of his people from Egypt. The feast celebrates the symbols of Sinai, Torah, and redemption. For a Christian, celebrating Passover is an opportunity to deepen one’s appreciation for the Jewishness of the Gospel. For Glaser, this “common experience” can better communicate the Gospel to Jewish friends (20).

The first set of essays gather the biblical foundations for Passover. Five essays survey portions of the canon which mention Passover: Passover in the Torah (Robert Walter), the Writings (Richard H. Flashman), the Prophets (Gordon Law), the Gospel of Luke (Darrell L. Bock), the Gospel of John (Mitch Glaser). The weakest of these chapters is the section on the prophets, simply because there are virtually no references in either the former or latter prophets to the Passover. Law could have included references to a “second Exodus” (Isaiah 40-55, for example) in this section, but instead he focuses his short chapter on the links between Elijah and the modern Seder. There are certainly links between Moses and Elijah, but many of these are post-biblical traditions. Both Bock and Glaser deal with the problem of the Last Supper as a Passover meal. Both weigh the evidence and conclude it was in fact a Passover meal, although there are several outstanding difficulties with the conclusion. The final essay in this section also argues the Last Supper was a Passover meal. Brian Crawford examines several passages in 1 Corinthians to conclude Paul used the Passover to deepen the Corinthian church’s experience of the Gospel (109). Communion is therefore passed on Passover tradition.

The second section of the book collects three essays Passover in Church history. Scott P. Nassau deals with the Passover in the early church (“Passover, the Temple, and the Early Church”). Early church history is tangled with post A.D. 70 Jewish Christianity. Hagg includes the Ebionites and Nazarenes as examples of Christian (or better, semi-Christian) groups who continued to keep Passover well into the Christian era. Of special interest is Melito of Sardis, a Hellenistic Jew who converted to Christianity and wrote Peri Pascha, “Concerning the Passover.” Although Melito created a Christian Haggadah, by the time of the council of Nicean there was a clear movement away from Passover in Christian practice. While Nassau only briefly mentions the Quaterodeciman debate, Gregory Hagg introduces the “Passover Controversies in Church History” with the Quaterodecimans. The name means “fourteen” and refers to Christians who chose to celebrate Easter on Passover (14 Nisan). Citing Ignatius’s letter to the Philippians, any Christian who celebrates Passover with the Jews “is a partaker with those that killed the Lord and his apostles” (132). By the time of Nicea, the Quaterodecimans were persecuted. While Hagg’s article begins to deal with Christian anti-Semitism (specifically blood libel), Olivier Melnick traces Christian attitudes toward Jewish people through the modern era.

A pair of essays forms the third until of the book on Jewish Tradition and the Passover. First, Zhava Glaser collects references to the Passover in Rabbinic Writings (the Mishnah, Talmud, Tosefta). It is in this vast literature that many of traditions now part of a Passover Haggadah began to develop. But many of these practices are rooted in biblical texts. For example, the first mention of four cups of wine is in the Mishnah, but Glaser follows Baruch Bosker in arguing the cups drawn on biblical imagery in the Torah itself. After the loss of the Temple, the Passover Haggadah was transformed into a celebration of the sacrificed Lamb which looked forward to a future redemption of Israel (168). Second, Daniel Nessim discusses the fascinating tradition of the Afikoman at Passover. I first ran across the practice in Craig Evans’s Word Commentary on Mark 8:27-16:20 (p. 390; Evans cites Daube, who appears in Nessim’s essay). The word אפיקומן is from Greek ἀφικόμενος, “he who comes.” Nessim argues the word is an acronym for seven elements of the Passover meal (see the chart on page 172). What is intriguing about the practice is the possibility

In the fourth section of the book focuses on the communication of the Gospel through Passover. First, Michael Cohen discusses what the Passover says about atonement. This seems strange since atonement is not mentioned in connection to Passover in the Torah, but it is the backdrop to the New Covenant and the sacrificial lamb does foreshadow Jesus’s once-for-all sacrifice (Hebrews 9:11-12). He then traces the theme of atonement through four stages represented by the Passover mean. Second, Larry Feldman offers several examples of the Gospel in the Passover Seder. He begins with the karpas, the dipping of the parsley into saltwater. The parsley is dipped twice into the sale water to remind participants of both the tears shed while in slavery in Egypt and the crossing of the Red Sea. More significant, the parsley is related to the hyssop used to sprinkle the blood of the lamb. He suggests viewing the Seder in the light of its fulfillment in Jesus reminds the Christian of the time when God will wipe away all tears (Rev 21:4) as well as the redemption we have in Jesus (Rom 6:22-23). The section includes two brief sermons, “Jesus, the Lamb of God” (Richard E. Freeman) and “The Third Cup” (David Secada).

Finally, the fifth section of the book has four essays on celebrating Passover as a Christian. First, Cathy Wilson offers some practical advice on keeping Passover in a Christian home. She is clear that in the original Passover the shed blood of the lamb was central. The re-telling of the Passover story, the Christian ought to focus on Jesus as “our Passover lamb” (1 Cor 5:7). She narrates a Christian Haggadah similar to the “Messianic Family Haggadah” from Chosen People Ministries (Chapter 18). Although both follow the traditional order of service (seder), there are frequent references to New Testament when appropriate. Rachel Galilstein-Davis supplements this with “Passover Lessons for Your Children.” She begins with the observation that children are the most important part of a Passover celebration since the point of re-telling the Exodus is to re-inforce the story to the younger generation. She offers are new children’s lessons with crafts and other activities which highlight key aspects of Passover and teach a few Hebrew words along the way.  Finally, Mitch Forman offers a few comments on Passover foods and even shares some recipes (including gefilte fish and roast brisket).

The book includes nine appendices over twenty-three pages, a ten-page glossary of terms, nineteen pages of recommended reading and bibliography, and twenty-one pages of indices. Some of the appendices are valuable, for example “Passover Observances in Biblical History” and “Last Supper Sayings Compared,” of which are in charts. However, a list of the “Jewish and Protestant Canons of the Bible” and a map of the Exodus do not seem like a good use of space.

Conclusion. Glaser began this book with an argument in favor of Christians celebrating Passover, or at least incorporating elements of Passover into their Christian worship. Christians ought to not simply be aware of the Jewish roots of Christianity, but to drink deeply in the waters of the Hebrew Bible. In doing so, they will more fully understand how God has worked in the past, how he is working in the present and will work in the future. However, there is some risk when importing the practice of Passover back into Christian worship. As Glaser himself admits, we really do not have any idea how much Jesus’s practice looked like a modern Passover celebration (24). It is possible some (gentile) Christians can become overly attracted to modern Jewish practice to the point they misunderstand the Body of Christ in the present age.

This book is an excellent contribution to a Christian understanding of both ancient and modern Jewish celebration of Passover.

 

NB: Thanks to Kregel for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

 

Follow Reading Acts on WordPress.com

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 3,962 other followers

My book Jesus the Bridegroom is now available from Amazon in paperback or Kindle


Christian Theology

%d bloggers like this: