APOCALYPTIC LITERATURE, 3
III. Psalmic Pseudepigrapha.
1. The Psalter of Solomon:
The Psalter of Solomon is the one of all the pseudepigrapha which seems to have hovered most nearly on the border of deutero-canonicity. Even 4 Esdras, since not being found in Greek, scarcely can be counted an exception, as it was never admitted into the canon of Alexandria. The famous Codex Alexandrinus, as its table of contents proves, originally contained the book before us. In several catalogues of books that were acknowledged, by some at least, to be authoritative, it is named--sometimes to be declared uncanonical. Like so many other books--Jewish and Christian--during the Middle Ages, sank into oblivion. A manuscript of it was first noticed by Hoeschel the librarian in the Library at Augsburg, in the beginning of the 17th century, and published by de la Cerda in 1626. This manuscript has since been lost. More recently, four other Greek manuscripts have been brought to light. From these, with the assistance of de la Cerda's text, it has repeatedly been published. The name given to it, "The Psalter of Solomon," seems purely gratuitous; the writer makes no claim, direct or indirect, to be the Son of David.
The present collection consists of 18 psalms closely modeled as to line of thought and diction on the canonical Psalms. The first psalm announces the declaration of war, but is occupied with the denunciation of hypocrites. The second describes a siege of Jerusalem and acknowledges that the distresses of the siege have been deserved, but ends by the description of the death of the besieger on the coast of Egypt. The third psalm is one of thanksgiving on the part of the righteous. In the fourth we have the description and denunciation of a hypocrite in terms which suggest strongly our Lord's words against the Pharisees. It is evidently directed against a prominent individual member of the Sanhedrin. On the generally received date, Antipater may be the person denounced. The fifth psalm is a prayer for mercy from God and an appeal to His loving-kindness. The sixth is occupied with a description of the blessedness of the righteous.
The short psalm which follows is a prayer of Israel under chastisement, entreating God not to remove His tabernacle from their midst. The eighth psalm describes the siege of the temple and denounces the sins of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, which had brought the Smiter from afar against them, and a prayer for restoration to favor. Israel, a captive, prays to God for forgiveness in the ninth psalm. In the tenth we have the blessedness of the man who submits to the chastening of the Lord. The theme of the eleventh is the return of the captives. The idea of the following psalm is not unlike the middle stanza of Psalms 120 of the canonical Psalter. The next has as its theme the blessedness of the righteous and the evil estate of the wicked. The fourteenth has a similar subject. The next begins with the sentiment so frequent in the canonical Pss:
"When I was in trouble I called upon the Lord." The psalm which follows is experimental in the sense of the old Puritans.
The seventeenth psalm is the most important, as it is Messianic, and exhibits the hopes prevalent among the Jews at the time when it was written. The eighteenth gives a description of the blessedness of the return of the Jews to Divine favor. Messrs. Ryle and James would divide this psalm into two, as there seems to be a conclusion at the tenth verse with the sign diapsalma. Moreover, a slightly different theme is introduced at this point, but there is a reference in the Pistis Sophia to the 19th ps, and this is not the one implied. There seems to be some probability that a Latin translation once existed from references, though few, in the Latin Fathers; but no manuscript of it has yet been discovered. A Syriac translation has been discovered by Dr. Rendel Harris, along with a number of other psalms also attributed to Solomon, which he has called "Odes." Of these more will be said below.
That the Greek of these psalms is a translation from the Hebrew may be proved by what seem to have been errors in translation, as tou eipein, "to say," where sense implies "to destroy," from the double meaning of dabhar, "to say," and later "to destroy"; heos enikese, "till he conquered," where the meaning must be "forever" or "continuously," equivalent to `adh, la-netsach, which might be taken as in Aramaic, and translated as in the Greek. Further, the general character, the frequent occurrence of en in senses strained in Greek but suiting thoroughly the Hebrew preposition "b-", the omission of the substantive verb, the general simplicity in the structure of the sentences, serve to confirm this. For fuller elucidation the reader is directed to Ryle and James edition of this book (lxxviii-lxxxiv). Hilgenfeld has urged some arguments in favor of Greek being the original language. These really prove that the translator was very much influenced in making his translation by the Septuagint version of the canonical Psalter.
While Ewald would place it back in the time of Epiphanes, if not even earlier, and Movers and Delitzsch would place it about the time of Herod, the description of the siege does not suit any siege but that of Pompey. Still more the death of the proud oppressor who besieged the Temple suits down to the minutest detail the death of Pompey, and suits that of no other. This is the opinion of Langen, Hilgenfeld, Drummond, Stanton, Schurer, Ryle and James. The psalms, however, were written at various dates between 64 BC, the year preceding the Pompeian siege, and the death of Pompey 46 BC. The common critical idea is that it is the Psalter of the Pharisees. The singular thing is that though the writer reverences the Temple, he speaks nothing of the sacrifices, and shows no horror at the dishonor of the high priests--the attitude one would expect, not from a Pharisee, but from an Essene.
The main interest of this pseudepigraphon is its Christology, which is principally to be seen in the 17th psalm. The Messiah is to be of the seed of David:
He is to come on the downfall of the Asmoneans, to overthrow the Romans in turn. He is to gather the dispersed of Israel, and is to subject the Gentiles to Him rule. The cha racter of this rule is to be spiritual, holy, wise and just. All these features indicate a preparation for the coming of Him who fulfilled the expectation of the Jews in a way which they had so little dreamed of.
2. The Odes of Solomon:
The students of Gnosticism in perusing the Pistis Sophia, one of the few literary remains left us by those bizarre heresies, found repeated quotations from the Psalter of Solomon, not one of which was to be found in the received collection. There was one numbered reference, but it was to the 19th psalm, whereas only eighteen were known to exist. Lactantius has a quotation from the Psalter of Solomon which, like those in Pistis Sophia, has no place in the "eighteen." It was obvious that there were more Solomonic writings that were called Psalms than those ordinarily known. In the beginning of 1909 the learned world was startled by the information that Dr. Rendel Harris had found on his shelves the missing Psalter of Solomon in a Syriac translation. The manuscript was defective both at the beginning and end, but there was, after all, little missing of the whole book. The title and the colophon were of course wanting. It begins with the new Psalms, or, to give them Dr. Harris' title, "Odes," which are followed by those till now known.
(1) Relation to Pistis Sophia and Summary.
This cannot have been the order of the time when Pistis Sophia was published, as the first of these odes is quoted as the 19th. There are forty-two of them. They are the work of a Christian. The doctrine of the Trinity is present; very prominent is the miraculous birth of the Saviour; the descent upon Mary of the Holy Ghost in the form of a dove; the crucifixion, and the descent into Hades; and, though less clearly, the resurrection. One striking thing is the resemblance of the account of the virgin birth to that we find in the Ascension of Isaiah.
Dr. Rendel Harris dates these Christian odes in the last quarter of the 1st century, and there seems every reason to agree with this. The relation the 19th psalm (Ode 37) bears to the Ascension of Isaiah is not discussed by him, but to our thinking, the Ascension of Isaiah seems the more primitive.
Although, strictly speaking, Jewish law had no place for "testamentary dispositions" by those about to die--"the portion of goods" that fell to each being prescribed--yet the dying exhortations of Jacob addressed to his sons, the farewell song of Moses, David's deathbed counsels to Solomon, were of the nature of spiritual legacies. Under Greek and Roman law testaments were the regularly understood means of arranging heritages; with the thing the name was transferred, as in the Mishna, Babha' Bathra' 15 26, dayytike, so also in Syriac. The idea of these pseudepigrapha is clearly not drawn from the "Last Will and Testament," but the dying exhortations above referred to.
1. Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs:
Genesis 49 in which Jacob addresses his sons gathered round ins dying bed furnished the model for a number of pseudepigraphic writings. Of these the longest known is Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs. In it the writer imagines each of the sons of Jacob following his father's example and assembling his descendants in order that he might give his dying charge. While Jacob addressed each of his sons separately, the sons of none of his sons, save those of Joseph, became at all prominent; so in the case of the sons of Jacob they each address their descendants as a whole. These Testaments are occupied with moral advices mainly. The sin most warned against is incontinence.
The first Patriarch whose Testament is given is Reuben. While he bewails the sin that deprived him of his birthright, he gives an account of the various propensities that tend to sin, and accommodates each of these with an evil spirit--spirits of deceit. He gives details of his sin, which, resembling those given in the Book of Jubilees, differs in an apologetic direction. This apologetic effort is carried farther in the Targum of the pseudo-Jonathan. In it Reuben is declared to have disordered the bed of Bilhah because it was put beside his mother's, and he was accused of impurity with her; but the Spirit revealed to Jacob that he was not guilty.
The next Testament is that of Simeon. The crime that seems to have most affected Jacob, if we may judge by Genesis 49:5-7, was the murder of the Shechemites by Simeon and Levi. That, however, is not touched upon in the Testament; his envy of Joseph is what he most repents of. A stanza, however, is inserted, warning against fornication (Genesis 49:3).
The Testament of Levi follows. It is mainly apocalyptic. The murder of the Shechemites is regarded as a wholly estimable action, and is commended by God. The treachery of the circumcision is not mentioned at all. He tells how he was admitted in dream to the third heaven. In another vision he is clothed with the garments of the priesthood. After a piece of autobiography followed by general admonitions Levi tells what he had learned from the writing of Enoch. He tells how his descendants will fall away and become corrupt. It is to be noted that fornication becomes very prominent in the picture of the future. The destruction of Jerusalem is foretold, and the captivity of Judah among all nations. This cannot refer to the setting up of the "Abomination of Desolation" by Epiphanes. The Temple was not laid waste, although it was desecrated; and there did not follow on the desecration by Epiphanes the scattering of the Jews unto all nations. It seems necessary to understand by this wasting the capture of Jerusalem by Titus. Consequently, the "new priest" of XII P 18 seems to us the priest "after the order of Melchizedek" according to the New Testament interpretation.
Judah is the next whose Testament is given. He first declares his own great personal prowess, slaying a lion, a bear, a boar, a leopard and a wild bull. When the Canaanite kings assailed Jacob as related in the Book of Jubilee, he showed his courage. Several warlike exploits, of which we only learn here, he relates. The assault made by the descendants of Esau upon the sons of Jacob and Jacob's victory is related in the manner and nearly in the terms of the account in the Book of Jubilees. He mentions with a number of explanatory and excusatory details his sin in the matter of Tamar. He denounces covetousness, drunkenness and fornication. Then he commands his descendants to look to Levi and reverence him. Then follows a Messianic passage which seems most naturally to bear a Christian interpretation.
The Testament of Issachar is much shorter than either of the two preceding ones. After telling the story of the mandrakes, he dwells on husbandry. As is noted by Dr. Charles, this is at variance with the rabbinic representation of the characteristics of the tribe. He, too, denounces impurity and drunkenness.
Zebulun's Testament is little longer than that of Issachar. This Testament is greatly occupied with tho history of the sale of Joseph in which Zebulun protests he took only the smallest share and got none of the price.
The Testament of Dan also is short. He confesses his rage against Joseph, and so warns against anger. Here also are warnings against whoredom. The Messiah is to spring from Judah and Levi. Dr. Charles thinks the first of these was not in the original, because it would naturally have been "tribes," not "tribe," as it is. This somewhat hasty, as in 1 Kings 12:23 (Septuagint) we have the precisely similar construction pros panta oikon Iouda kai Beniamin, a sentence which represents the construction of the Hebrew. In this there is a Messianic passage which describes the Messiah as delivering the captives of Beliar.
The Testament that follows, that of Naphtali, has apocalyptic elements in it. It opens with the genealogy of Bilhah, his mother, whose father is said to be Rotheus. His vision represents Levi seizing the sun and Judah the moon. The young man with the twelve palm branches seems to be a reference to the Apostles. Joseph seizes a bull and rides on it. He has a further dream in which he sees a storm at sea and the brethren being separated. Again there is a reference to the recurrent theme of sexual relation (XII P 8).
The subject of the Testament of Gad is hatred. Gad is associated with Simeon as being most filled with wrath against Joseph.
Asher urges whole-hearted obedience to righteousness, as the apostle James does in his epistle.
One of the most important of these Testaments is that of Joseph. The opening is occupied with a prolonged description of the temptation of Joseph by Potiphar's wife. There is in that connection the unhealthy dwelling on sexual matters which is found in monkish writers. There are not a few resemblances to the language of the Gospels (compare XII P 1:6 and Matthew 25:36). There is a more important passage (XII P 19:8):
"And I saw that from Judah was born a virgin wearing a linen garment, and from her was born a lamb, and on his left hand there was, as it were, a lion: and all the beasts rushed against him, and the lamb overcame them, and destroyed them, and trod them under foot." This to us is clearly Christian. Dr. Charles, without apocalyptic credence to support him, would amend it and change the reading.
The Testament of Benjamin is very much an appendix to that of Joseph. It opens with the account Joseph gave Benjamin of how he was sold to the Ishmaelites. He exhorts his descendants against deceit, but, as all his brethren, he warns them against fornication. There is a long Christian passage which certainly seems an interpolation, as it is not found in some of the texts, though others have all verses. The text concerning Paul (XII P 11:1,2) appears in varying forms in all versions.
That these "Testaments" have been interpolated is proved by the variations in the different texts. Dr. Charles has, however, gone much farther, and wherever there is a Christian clause has declared it an obvious interpolation. For our part, we would admit as a rule those passages to be genuine that are present in all the forms of the text. The Greek text was first in, so to say, recent times edited by Grosseteste, bishop of Lincoln, in the 13th century. Since then other manuscripts have been found, and a Slavonic and an Aramaic version. We are thus able to check the interpolations. In essence the Christian passage in T Josephus is found in all versions.
Dr. Charles makes a very strong case for Hebrew being the original language. His numerous arguments are not all of equal value. While some of the alleged Hebraistic constructions may be actually so, not a few may be explained by imitation of the language of the Septuagint. As an example of the first, compare T Jud (XII P 7):
ochlos barus = chel kabhedh, "a numerous host." On the other hand T Reub XII P 3:8: "understanding in the Law," is a turn of expression that might quite well be common among Greek-speaking Jews. Of passages that are only explicable by retranslation, as in T Josephus 11:7, "God .... increased him in gold and silver and in work," this last turn is evidently due to the translator's rendering `abhuddah, "servant," as if it were `abhodhah, "work." On the whole, we are prepared to amend the decision elsewhere, and admit that the probability is that this book, like so many more of the same class, has been translated from Hebrew.
(4) Date and authorship.
Dr. Charles declares the author to have been a Pharisee who wrote in the early part of the reign of John Hyrcanus I. The initial difficulty with this, as with the other pseudepigrapha in attributing a Pharisaic authorship, is the preservation of the book among the Christian communities, and the ignorance or the ignoring of it among the Jews. The only sect of the Jews that survived the destruction of Jerusalem was that of the Pharisees. The Sadducees, who were more a political than a religious party, disappeared with the cessation of the Jewish state. When Judaism became merely a religion--a church--not a nation, their function was gone.
The third sect, the Essenes, disappeared, but did so into the Christian church. If the writer had been an Essene, as we suppose he was, the preservation of this writing by the Christians is easily explicable. If it were the work of a Pharisee, its disappearance from the literature of the synagogue is as inexplicable as its preservation by the Christians. The constant harping on the sin of fornication--in T Naph XII P 8:8 even marital intercourse is looked at askance--indicates a state of mind suitable to the tenets of the Essenes. The date preferred by Dr. Charles, if the author is a Pharisee, appears to us impossible. The Pharisees had, long before the final break, been out of sympathy with the Maccabeans. The Chasidim deserted Judas Maccabeus at Elasa, not improbably in consequence of the alliance he had made with the heathen Romans, and perhaps also his assumption of the high- priesthood. Further, the temple is laid waste and the people driven into captivity unto all nations (T Levi 15:1). This does not suit the desecration of the temple under Epiphanes.
During that time the temple was not laid waste. The orgies of the worship of Bacchus and of Jupiter Olympius dishonored it, but that is a different thing from its being laid waste. The scattering unto all nations did not take place then. Some were taken captive and enslaved, but this was not general. The description would only apply to destruction of the temple by Titus and the enslaving and captivity of the mass of the inhabitants of Jerusalem. The "New Priest" cannot refer to the Maccabeans, for they were Aaronites as much as Alcimus or Onias, though not of the high-priestly family. This change of the priesthood only has point if it refers to the priesthood of Christ as in Hebrews 7:12. If Dr. Charles is right in maintaining that 2 Macc in its account of Menelaus is to be preferred to Josephus, the change of the priesthood was not unprecedented, for Menelaus was a Benjamite, not a Levite. Yet 1 Macc takes no notice of this enormity.
Further, there are the numerous passages that are directly and indirectly Christian. Dr. Charles certainly marks them all as interpolations, but he gives no reason in most of the cases for doing so. That the omission of such passages does not dislocate the narrative arises from the simpler construction of Semitic narrative, and is therefore not to be regarded as conclusive evidence of interpolation. The reference to Paul in T Ben XII P 11, occurring in all the sources, although with variations, also points to a post-Christian origin. For these reasons, we would venture to differ from Dr. Charles and regard the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs as post-Christian, and to be dated in the first quarter of the 2nd century AD.
(5) Relation to Other Books.
From the decision we have reached in regard to the date of these Testaments, it follows that all the many resemblances which have been noted between them and the books of the New Testament are due to imitation on the part of the Testaments, not the reverse. A case in point is T Josephus XII P 1:6 where the resemblance to Matthew 25:31-36 is close; only, whereas in the Gospel the judge approves of the righteous on account of their visiting the sick and the imprisoned, and condemns the wicked because they did not do so, in T Josephus God ministers to His servants. The Testament is really an imitation of the passage in the Gospel. The direct visiting of the afflicted, whatever the form of the affliction, was a thing of everyday occurrence. To think of the Almighty doing so is the result of a bold metaphor. One familiar with the Gospel narrative might not unnaturally think of God's dealings with the saints in terms drawn from our Lord's description of the Last Judgment. In T Naph XII P 2:2 the figure of the potter and the clay is, as in Romans 9:21, applied to God's power over His creatures. The passage in the T Naph is expanded, and has not the close intimate connection with the argument that the Pauline passage has. While none of the other resemblances give one any ground to decide, these instances really carry the others with them. We may thus regard the resemblances to the New Testament in the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs as due to the latter's copying of the former.
2. Testament of Adam:
The Testament of Adam survives merely in a group of fragments published first by Renan in the Journal Asiatique (1853). A Greek fragment was published by M. R. James. A portion of it is apocalyptic, and gives an account of the adoration offered by all the different classes of God's creatures. More strictly of the nature of a Testament is a Syriac fragment entitled "More of Adam Our Father." It contains a prophecy of the incarnation, and appears to be of late date. It was used by the Sethires.
3. Testament of Abraham:
The Testament of Abraham is a late document. It opens with representing Abraham at his tent door. One recension declares his age then to be 995 years. Michael comes to him. The purpose for which Michael has been sent is to reveal to Abraham that he must die. He hesitates to do this. When, however, the fatal message is revealed, Abraham will not yield up his spirit at first. He is after a while persuaded, and as reward, before his death he has a revelation:
there is given to him a vision of the whole world in the widest sense--the world of spirits as well. Seeing a soul, which, weighed in the balance, is nearly being found wanting, by his intercession the soul is admitted to Paradise.
There are several traces of Christian influence; many of the thoughts and phrases are similar to those to be found in the Gospels. At the same time, although to one who had read John's Gospel the statement of our Lord that Abraham had seen His day "and was glad" (John 8:55,56) would inevitably have led a Christian writer to have exhibited Abraham as seeing in vision the day of Christ. The writer's failure to do so seems to show that he was not a Christian. The echoes of the Gospel in the language and the want of that distinctive Christian mark is to be explained if we regard the translator as a Christian, while the original Midrash was the work of a Jew. The language was probably Aramaic. There are two Greek recensions, one longer than the other. There is an Arabic version which appears to be a translation direct from Aramaic. As there is no reference to the coming of Christ, this Testament is probably pre-Christian. The translation may be dated early in the 2nd century, as Origen knew it. In Arabic there is a manuscript of the Testaments of Isaac and Jacob. They are late and Christian. The latter is founded on the last chapter of Genesis.
4. Testament of Job:
More interesting is the Testament of Job published in Anecdota Apocrypha by M. R. James in 1897. It purports to be an account of his sufferings related by Job himself. It appears to be the work of a Jew, translated by a Christian. The position of Satan in the Midrash is not so subordinate as in the drama. Elihu, when not confused with Eliphaz, is regarded as inspired by Satan.
It begins with Job, "who is called Jobab," summoning his seven sons and three daughters. The list of the sons forms a singular assemblage of names, most probably of Semitic origin. Most of them are certainly Greek words, though not Greek proper names--Choros and Nike, "dance" and "victory," Huon, "of pigs," Phoros, "tribute." The other names are Tersi, Phiphi, Phrouon. He tells his descendants how he had been called in the night and had had it revealed to him that the sacrifices that had been offered previously in the great temple near him were not offered to God, but to Satan. He was ordered to destroy the temple thus devoted to false worship. He did so, but knew that Satan would seek him, to take his revenge. Satan came disguised as a beggar, and Job, recognizing him, ordered his porteress to give him a burned cake of bread, all ashes. Satan reveals himself and threatens Job. With XII P 9 begins an account of Job's wealth and lordly beneficence founded on the canonical book.
It continues to XII P 16. This portion is an expansion of the canonical Job. In some portions there are marked variations. Job is a king, and since this is so, the power of Persia is invoked to overthrow him. After twenty years his friends come to condole with him. They also are kings. Sitis his wife is bemoaning her children. Job declares he sees them crowned with heavenly beauty. On learning this, Sitis dies, and so rejoins her children. The speeches of the friends are much condensed, and scarcely of the same character as those in the canonical book. Lyric passages are introduced. The most singular difference from the canonical book is the role assigned to Elihu. Job says, "Elihu inspired by Satan addressed to me rash words" (XII P 42). God then speaks to Job in the whirlwind and blames Elihu. Job sacrifices for the three friends, and Eliphaz in a lyric piece congratulates himself and his friends, and declares that the lamp and glory of Elihu will be quenched (XII P 43).
By a second wife we are told Job had the seven sons and three daughters who are summoned to his bedside. Closing his narrative (XII P 44) Job exhorts kindness to the poor. In the end of the book his successive daughters speak. He had divided his property, now double what it had originally been, among his seven sons and had left the daughters unprovided for. He, however, bestows upon them other gifts. Three golden vessels are brought him and given them, three cords besides, and each one has a several endowment. The first daughter, called, as in the Septuagint, Hemera, (Jemima in the canonical Job), had another heart given her, and she spoke in the tongue of the angels. Casia (Keziah), the second daughter, also had a changed heart, and it was given to her to speak in the dialect of the principalities (archon). Then the third daughter girded herself, and with the changed heart it was given her to speak in the language of the Cherubim. This daughter is called Amaltheias Keras, the rather strange translation of Keren Haphukh adopted by the Septuagint. All the names are transferred from that source. A brother of Job named Nereus (or Nereias) is introduced, who records further gifts to these daughters--a lyre to the first, a censer to the second and a drum to the third. This brother is a relative of whose existence we have no hint elsewhere. He is introduced to supply the conclusion to the narrative.
It would appear that from XII P 1 to 45 is the original Testament in which Job is the speaker. In XII P 46-51 a new state of matters comes into prominence, in which Nereus is the speaker. The last two chapters seem decidedly to be additions:
the new gifts to the daughters seem unexplained. Of course, oriental authors do not look so strictly to the unity of parts as do Occidentals.
The dependence on the Septuagint would suggest that Greek was the original tongue. One or two phenomena point to a Semitic tongue being behind the Greek. The names of Job's daughters are taken from the Septuagint; those of the seven sons have been invented. As we have seen, they are not Greek names, but are probably really Hellenized versions of some Semitic appellations. At the same time, they do not seem to be Hebrew, but rather Aramaic. It would seem to have been translated by one familiar with the New Testament.
(4) Date and authorship.
It has no direct references to Christian doctrines or the facts of Christian history. This seems conclusive against its having a Christian origin. The reason that would lead a Christian to compose such a document would be to give a further prophetic evidence for the mission of his Master. He would have no object in making Job out to be a connection of Israel, unless he were so himself. Dr. James thinks the writer to have been a Jewish Christian of the 2nd century resident in Egypt. By the 2nd century few Jews passed from Judaism to the faith of Jesus:
the break between church and synagogue had become complete. That Job is made king of all Egypt (XII P 28) may indicate some relationship to that country, as if the writer had identified Job with Psammeticus, the Egyptian king overthrown by Cambyses. This, however, may have been due to the translator. If the original language were Semitic--Aramaic or Hebrew--the probability is that the author wrote in Palestine. There are no direct signs to indicate the date. There is no appearance of knowledge of Rome. The fire of the opposition to the Seleucids had died down. It may have been written in the reign of Alexander.
V. Sibylline Oracles.
The burning of the Capitol (83 BC) and the destruction of the famous Sibylline books led Sulla to search in Italy and Greece for any Oracles that might replace the contents of the volumes which had been burnt. About half a century later Augustus revived the search for Oracles. Such a demand would naturally produce a supply. It would seem that certain Jews of Alexandria, eager to propagate the faith of their fathers, invented verses in the shape in which these Oracles had been preserved, as we learn from Herodotus--i.e. in hexameter lines and in the epic dialect in which Homer and Hesiod had written. Those in Herodotus are mainly from the Oracle of Delphi. From Pausanias, who quotes several of them, we learn that the Oracles attributed to the various Sibyls were delivered in a similar style. Hence these Jewish forgeries were written in epic hexameters. Later, this industry was pursued with even greater zeal by Christians.
These have been collected into several books--some 15 are named--of which some have been lost. The books are made up of fragments of different ages. The first book begins with the creation, and narrates the history of the race to the flood and the going out of Noah from the ark. Then the history of our Lord is given succinctly, the miracle of the loaves, the crucifixion, and the destruction of Jerusalem. In it Hades is derived from "Adam." Reference is made to the sin of the watchers, as in En, and an arithmograph is given which seems to be fulfilled in Theos Soter. The second book is modeled largely on our Lord's eschatological discourses, many passages bearing a distinct echo of it. It may be noted that the four archangels of the Book of Enoch--Michael, Gabriel, Raphael and Uriel--are introduced. The third is by much the longest, but it is a confused mass of fragments.
There is early reference to the conquest of Egypt by Rome; the building of the tower of Babel, the siege of Troy, the conquest of Alexander and many other events appear. The fourth book is Christian throughout. After praise to the Christians, there is a sketch of the history of the great empires, beginning with the Assyrians and ending with Alexander; then an account of Nero appearing from the East and doing evil fills the end of all things. The fifth book begins with an account of the successive emperors from Julius Caesar to the Antonines. Then a new song begins with Egypt, and wanders off indefinitely, referring to Xerxes crossing the Hellespont, the impurities of Rome, and ending with Egypt and the burning up of all things. The sixth is short--28 lines in praise of the Cross; and the seventh is fragmentary. In the eighth is the arithmogram and acrostic:
Iesous christos theou huios soter stauros. The remaining books have similar characteristics. The place of composition is evidently Egypt, as, whatever the immediate context may be, the writer gravitates to Egypt; and the authors are Jews or Jewish Christians. The dates of the various fragments of which this collection is composed fall between the first triumvirate and the age of Diocletian.
There are many points in which theology of the Apocalyptic prepared the way for that of Christianity. These, however, are more naturally taken up under their special headings. Angelology is much more developed in certain apocalyptic writings than it is in Christianity, if we except the writings published under the name of Dionysius the Areopagite. Most of them are occupied with the coming Messiah. The Christology of these writings is decidedly in advance of that of the Old Testament. That question, however, is discussed under its appropriate heading. Closely connected with this is the doctrine of God, or theology proper. In this, too, there is an approximation to the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. With these writers the doctrine of the Last Things is always brought into close relationship to that of the Messiah. His coming is the signal for the end of the world, the last judgment, the punishment of the wicked and the reward of the righteous. What we have just said applies mainly to the strictly Jewish and pre-Christian Apocalypses. In the Christian Jewish Apocalypses the place the incarnation and the miraculous birth hold is worthy of special note. The representation in regard to the latter of these subjects is independent of the gospel narrative. Connected with this independence of the written Scriptures are the variations these writings introduce into history. Many of these are due to apologetic reasons, not a few to the desire to enhance the national glory. The reverence for the letter of Scripture, so markedly characteristic of the rabbinic teachings found in the Talmud, is not found in the apocalyptic writings. Apocalyptic thus presents a stage in the doctrine of Scripture.
On Apocalyptic generally:
Deane, Pseudepigrapha; Derembourg, Histoire de la Palestine; Drummond. Jewish Messiah; Ewald, History of Israel, translation V; Gratz, Geschichte der Juden, III; Hilgenfeld, Messias Judeorum; Judische Apocalyptik; Kautzsch, Die Apocryphen und Pseudepigraphen des Allen Testaments; Langen, Paldstina zur Zeit Christi; Renan, Histoire du Peuple d'Israel; Schurer, Jewish People, translation V; Stanton, Jewish and Christian Messiah; Thomson, Books Which Influenced our Lord. On special books: Enoch (Text, Ethiopic): Laurence, Dillmann, Flemming; (English): Laurence, Schodde, Charles. Slavonic Book of Enoch: Morfill. Baruch (Text, Syriac): Ceriani; (English): Charles, The Assumption of Moses (Text, Latin): Ceriani; (English): Charles, The Ascension of Isaiah (Text, Ethiopic): Laurence, Dillmann; (English): Charles, Fourth Book of Esdras (Text, Latin): Vulgate; (English): Apocrypha the Revised Version (British and American) Book of Jubilees (Text, Ethiopic): Dillmann, Charles; (English): Schodde, Charles, Psalter of Solomon (Text, Greek): Pick, Ryle and James; (English): Whiston, Pick, Ryle and James, Rendel Harris (from Syriac). Odes of Solomon (English): Rendel Harris, Testaments of the XII Patriarchs (Text, Greek): Sinker, Charles; (English): Sinker, Charles, Testaments of Abraham and Job; Texts and Studies; Sibylline Oracles (Text): Alexandre, Rzach.
J. E. H. Thomson
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