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Don Stewart :: What Are the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha? (Enoch, Jubilees)

Don Stewart

The Jewish religious books that were written during the Old Testament period can be divided into three basic categories. First, there are the books accepted by all - the Hebrew Scriptures. Second, there are the books that are accepted by some - the Old Testament Apocrypha. Finally, there are a number of books that are rejected by all - the Pseudepigrapha or forgeries.

The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Defined

The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha is a general term that refers to religious books written by Jews during the last few centuries A.D. and the first few centuries B.C. Therefore they overlap the Old and New Testament period. These books were neither part of the Hebrew Old Testament Scripture or the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scripture, the Septuagint. While these works claim to have been composed by biblical characters such as Adam, Enoch, Abraham, and Moses, they are forgeries. The real author wrote the book under the name of someone else. Consequently they are not authentic writings.

The Exact Total Of Writings Is Unknown

The term Old Testament Pseudepigrapha is often defined in a vague way among modern authors. There is no agreement as to what exactly qualifies a book to be part of the Pseudepigrapha. Consequently it is not possible to come up with an exact total of these books.

Two Important Writings Of The Pseudepigrapha: Enoch And Jubilees

There are two of these writings that deserve special attention. They are the Book of Enoch, and the Book of Jubilees.

Enoch (First Enoch)

The patriarch Enoch purportedly wrote the Book of Enoch, or First Enoch, as it is sometimes called. The Book of Enoch consists of five units that contain one hundred and eight chapters. In this work it is claimed that Enoch was given a number of revelations from the Lord. While a number of manuscripts of the Book of Enoch have been found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, there is no evidence whatsoever that these five units were actually written by Enoch.

The Book of Enoch surveys human history from the start to the finish. In each of the five units there is the theme of angels coming down from heaven and marrying earthly women. This union produced gigantic offspring who became evil and violent. Because of the sin of these giants God destroyed the earth with a flood in the days of Noah. This first judgment was given as a warning of judgment that is to come at the end of human history. Thus the Book of Enoch understands the "sons of God" in Genesis 6:1-4 to refer to fallen angels.

The Biblical Enoch

We know little of the biblical character Enoch. His life is briefly summarized in a few verses in Genesis.

And Enoch lived sixty-five years, and became the father of Methuselah. Then Enoch walked with God three hundred years after he became the father of Methuselah, and he had other sons and daughters. So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him (Genesis 5:21-24).

Enoch was called a man of faith by the writer to the Hebrews.

By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God (Hebrews 11:6).

Jude called Enoch, "the seventh from Adam."

Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men: "See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones" (Jude 14).

Apart from this we know nothing authentic about Enoch.

The Book Of Jubilees

The author of Jubilees is supposedly the lawgiver Moses. However this is not possible since the date of composition is usually assumed to be around 160 B.C.

The book claims to record revelations that God gave Moses through an angel. Jubilees basically retells a number of biblical stories. It begins with the biblical account of creation and goes all the way through Israel arriving at Mt. Sinai for the giving of the Law.

It is interesting that about fifteen or sixteen copies of Jubilees were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Accepted As Part Of Scripture By The Ethiopic Church

These writings are rejected as Scripture by all of Christendom with one exception - the Ethiopic Church. They accept both Enoch and Jubilees and divinely authoritative Old Testament Scripture. However there is no real basis to accept these writings as authentic.

Summary

The books written during the Old Testament period can be divided into three categories - there were books that all believers accepted as Scripture, the Old Testament, books that some accepted as Scripture, the Old Testament Apocrypha, and books that all rejected as Scripture, the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha are books written in the name of a biblical character but are in actuality forgeries. Two of the most prominent of these are Enoch and the Book of Jubilees. The Ethiopic Church is the only Christian group that gives authoritative status to these books.

CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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