"Parabiblical Literature" in Early Judaism and Early Christianity
Religious Studies 525 (Spring 2006)
Robert A. Kraft, University of Pennsylvania
[Much of the following
material was created for RelSt 735 and the Philadelphia Seminar on
Christian Origins in 2002-2003; see
also PSCO 2003-2004]
- Ancient Texts for Close Reading (for DSS see Alan Humm's page):
- Enoch Cycle ("1 Enoch" and 2 Enoch, with annotated excerpts; 3 Enoch, "Giants"),
- "Testaments" (12 Patriarchs, Jacob, Isaac, Abraham, Adam, Job, Moses, Solomon),
- Jeremiah-Baruch Cycle (Paraleipomena [also here], 2 Baruch [and here], 3 Baruch [and here], etc.)
- Ezra Cycle (4 Ezra (3-14), 5 Ezra (1-2), 6 Ezra (15-16), GkApocalypse, etc.)
- Other "Apocalypses" (Adam, Abraham, Elijah, Isaiah, Zephaniah, Daniel, Sedrach, "War Scroll" [Davila analysis], "Throne-Chariot," "Messiah," "New Jerusalem"),
- Other Narratives (Adam/Eve, Eldad/Modad, Jannes/Jambres, Aseneth, LAB (Ps-Philo Antiquities), Prophets, Rechabites, "Genesis Apocryphon" [or here, or paraphrase], "Words of Moses," etc.)
- Poetry & Proverbs (David [and here and here], PssSolomon, OdesSolomon, Sibylline Oracles, Greeks, Orphica, "Hodayot" [and here], "Sabbath Sacrifice," "Wicked Woman," "Bountiful Tree," etc.)
- Prayers (Greek Synagogue Prayers?, Prayer of Joseph, Prayer of Jacob, "King Jonathan," etc.)
- Community Guidance ("Community Rule," "Damascus Document" [Davila analysis], "Temple Scroll," "How Things Are," "Secrets," "Tongues of Fire," "Calendar Text," etc.)
- Class Minutes (including Requirements) and EMail discussions
- Class Reviews and Reports
- M. R. James Lost Apocrypha Project and its sister Early
- James Davila's "PaleoJudaica" blog site
- Kraft essays on
- Bibliography of other Recent Discussions
One of the ways in which students of Judaism in the
Greco-Roman period have attempted to identify and describe its contours
(varieties, continuities and discontinuities) is through examining the
mass of literature that has been preserved, often through Christian
transmission, or through archaeological good fortune (Dead Sea
Scrolls), or in Jewish circles. In this seminar we will focus on
the “parabiblical” texts (sometimes called “pseudepigrapha,” among
other terms) – that is, writings that are similar to what became
“Bible” for mainstream Judaism and Christianity, but were not included
in that collection (e.g. Enochic writings, Jubilees, Testaments of the
Patriarchs, War Scroll, TempleScroll, Sibylline Oracles). The
texts will be studied in English translations, many of which are
The problem in a (large) nutshell: our
terminology assumes certain historical developments and related
perceptions regarding "biblical" literature, while the
materials that have given rise to the need for clearer labels sometimes
appear to be in some senses accepted by some author or group as
"authoritative," but unrelated to, or in other ways not dependant on
what came to be accepted as the "biblical" categories or even on a
concept of a special closed collection of authoritative writings. How
can we avoid or overcome "the tyrrany of canonical assumptions"
in attempting to identify and study these materials, as well as the
other materials that seem more clearly to depend on (often being
derivitive of) "biblical" works or genres?
Some major collections of relevant material
R. H. Charles, Apocrypha & Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament
- Charlesworth, "Old Testament" Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha
M. R. The Lost Apocrypha of the Old Testament: their Titles and
Fragments Collected, Translated and Discussed (SPCK
1920) [being updated]
ALFRED. Agrapha. Aussercanonische Schriftfragmente. Gesammelt
und untersucht und in zweiter völlig neu bearbeiteter durch
alttestamentliche Agrapha vermehrter Auflage hrsg. von Alfred Resch.
Mit fünf Registern. (Texte und Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der
altchristlichen Literatur 30.3-4, Neue Folge 15.3-4) Leipzig, 1906
[first ed 1889]. [Pp. XVI + 426.]
- James and Elliott, Apocryphal NT
- Hennecke-Schneemelcher-Wilson, NT Apocrypha
Christian Extracanonical Materials, arranged by supposed author
In search of definitions and/or alternate terminology
- What makes something "authoritative" (respected,
special, worthy of being taught and being transmitted), and with what
purpose/result in view?
- Often (normally?) associated with a person and/or office
to be trusted and/or obeyed (Enoch, Moses, David, Solomon, Jeremiah,
Ezra, Jesus, Paul; rulers, prophets, apostles, etc.)
- Often associated with a desirable/memorable past
(respect for antiquity, rootedness)
- Often connected with special knowledge or information
or inspiration (revelational)
- Normally in the context of community/society
(approved practices [ritual, customary, ethical], views [assumptions
about reality, acceptable ideas], expressions of reverence [hymns,
prayers], efficacious activities [cures, magic, desirable results],
future expectations [vindication, rewards/punishments]) -- but how
it functions may vary considerably
- When associated with material fixed in writing,
various connections can be imagined:
1. Whatever is written under
authoritative auspices (kings, priests) is authoritative;
2. Some writings come to be
considered relatively more authoritative ("scriptural" in a weak sense)
than others (open ended);
3. Only certain "canonical"
("Scriptural" in a strong sense) writings come to be ascribed the
highest level of authority (possibly with gradations even there; canons
within a canon) as the "biblical" anthology gradually comes to be
- Types (sometimes overlapping) of presumably
authoritative/scriptural material in need of clearer labels:
- Consciously using "scriptural" materials, reshaped, augmented
("rewritten bible"; e.g. Josephus) -- and sometimes becoming scriptural
in the new form (e.g. Diatessaron)
- Possibly using "scriptural" materials, directly (from texts)
or indirectly (living traditions of various sorts: oral, excerpts,
summaries, synthetic compendia, etc.), without clear indications (e.g.
- Independent materials with content
similar to (or supplementary of) "scriptural" (e.g. 4Q Prayer of
Nabonidus, Paraleipomena Jeremiou)
- Independent materials with form
similar to "scriptural" (e.g. "extracanonical" Psalms,1QH Hodayot, Acts
- Independent materials unlike "scriptural" in content (e.g. parts of Enoch cycle,
- Independent materials unlike "scriptural" forms (e.g. 1QS Community Rule,
of current labels
"Parabiblical" currently seems to me to be the
least unsatisfactory designation (including my own proposed:
"scripture/scriptural vestiges" -- vestiges of scripture): "para" as
alongside of, developing in parallel (not necessarily subsequent to;
sometimes possibly even prior to and/or extending beyond), with
"biblical" as the anachronistic terminological point of departure (see
especially Talmon and Reeves). Even more useful would be a
general term to identify both "biblical" and "parabiblical" materials
as related phenomena arising in Jewish (and Christian) antiquity prior
to the firming up of "canonical" anthologies ("bible"), enabling us to
look at such developments as Deuteronomy, Jubilees, and the Temple
Scroll through the same scholarly spectacles, without making
assumptions about priority or presumed authority.
Related aspects of the problem:
- textual developments
(identifying authoritative [individual] texts/passages)
see, e.g. James A. Sanders, "Text
and Canon: Concepts and Method," JBL 98 (1979) 5-29
[deals especially with developments of the Hebrew biblical
texts and how they were perceived]
- recensional developments (which
version? patterns of textual variation)
e.g. Jeremiah (shorter/longer), Daniel ("additions"),
Esther ("additions"), Psalter
- concepts of authority
(oral, written, controlled, precise) [see above]
how can we determine what was considered to be
"authoritative" for some purpose?
what were the parameters of, and justifications for, such
- concepts of "scripture" as having special authority
(process and product)
to what extent was such "authority" identified with a
specific written expressions
- concepts of "canon" (see also here) as
inclusive/exclusive, then closed
whence the idea of collective written authority? of an
Ancient claims of possible interest (secondary references):
1. References to "lost" or suppressed writings associated with
respected persons or groups
2. Other References to more or less known and authoritative materials
- Sources cited in Jewish scriptures (e.g. Annals of the Kings)
on David's writings (col. 27); also the letter of Timotheos
(200 Psalms of David)
Document 10.6 = 13.2 "book of HAGY/HAGU"
- Philo on Therapeutae
and their special writings
Ezra 14.26 & 45f on Ezra's restoration of the 24 public and 70
1.1-4 on use of available sources, including from eyewitnesses
canon/fragment on Paul's writings, Apocalypse of Peter, etc.
on oral truth and on the "dominical oracles" (see also Polycarp apud
- ps-Clementines (Kerygmata Petrou) on "false pericopes" (e.g. Homily
scriptures (e.g. "Book of the Giants"; see now DSS fragments? )
- Ebed Jesu ("Traditions of the Elders," "History of Asenath,"
"Proverbs of Josephus" [=Aesop])
defense of "apocrypha" (see CSEL 18, De
fide et de apocryphis)
- Exploring "magical"
contexts, especially on Solomon (suggestions from Sarah Schwarz)
- Christian lists,
stichometries, tables of contents -- e.g. List of the
60 Books, Stichometry
of Nicephorus, Gelasian
Decree, etc. [fill out "OT" lists ?]
Chronicle on Christian Gospels
from non-canonical works treated as authoritative (see especially Resch):
- Testaments of the Patriarchs on Enochic
2.23 (the prophet) "Nazarene" (Resch Ag1)
- Matthew 27.9f (Jeremiah) "30 pieces of silver" (Resch Ag2)
- Acts 20.35 (Lord Jesus) "better to give than receive" (Resch Ag3)
- 1 Corinthians 2.9 (as it is written) "eye has not seen" (Resch
Ag4 and 85, PrPaul 25ff)
- 1 Corinthians 9.10 (it was written) "plow in hope" (Resch Ag6 and
- Ephesians 5.14 "Awake, O sleeper" (Resch Ag8)
- James 4.5f (the scripture) "he yearns over the spirit" (Resch
14 (Enoch prophesied) "The Lord came with his holy myriads"
- 1 Clement 46.2 (it is written) "Congregate with the saints"
- Barnabas 7.11 (it/he says) "Those who desire to see me" (Resch
- Didache 1.6 (it is said) "Let your alms sweat in your hands"
- 2 Clement 12.2 (The Lord said) "When the two shall be one" (Resch
- Ignatius Smyrneans 3.1f ([Jesus] said) "Take, handle me and see"
- Justin Apology 15 (he said) "I haven't come to call righteous"
- Justin Dialogue 47 (Jesus said) "In whatever things I find you"
- ps-Clem Homily 12.29 (the prophet of truth said) "It is necessary
for good things to come" (Resch Ag82)
- ps-Clem Homily 19.20 (our Lord said) "Guard the mysteries" (Resch
- Eusebius in Ps 16.2 (the savior taught) "Pay attention to the big
things" (Resch Ag86* [Origen])
- Clement Alex Strom 1.28.177 (the scripture) "Be wise cashiers"
- Clement Alex Strom 6.6.44 (the Lord said) "Come out of bondage"
- Didascalia 2.8 (scripture says) "An untested person is not
approved" (Resch Ag90*)
- ps-Cyprian de duobus montibus 13 (Epistle of John to the people)
"You see me in you" (Resch Ag93)
- Dialogue de recta fide 1 (in the gospel) "Don't let the sun set
on your wrath" (Resch Ag94*)
- Didascalia 5.15 (in the gospel) "Pray for your brethren" (Resch
- Ephraem ... (the Lord said) "I chose you before earth was
created" (Resch Ag100)
- Jerome in Ezek 17 (in that gospel) "Shame leads to death" (Resch
- Macarius Homily 12.17 (the Lord said) "Why are you amazed at the
signs" (Resch Ag104)
- 2 Clement 8.5 (in the gospel) "If you don't take care of the
little thing" (Resch Ag126)
- Justin Dialogue 38 (the Logos said) "Wisdom is hidden from you"
- Hermas Vis 2.3.4 (as it is written in Eldad and Modat) (Resch
- Synod of Nicea 2.18 (as it is written in the book of the
Assumption of Moses) (Resch Log12)
- Irenaeus Epideiksis 77 (it says in the 12 Prophets book) "They
bound him" (Resch Log15)
- Justin Dialogue 72 (Ezra said to the people) "This passover is
..." (Resch Log16)
- 1 Clement 26.2 (it says somewhere) "And if you recognize me"
- Barnabas 16.5 (the scripture says) "It shall happen in the last
days" (Resch Log21)
- Apostolic Constitutions 6.18 (Solomon said) (Resch Log29)
- Tertullian de idololatria 20 (it is written) "Behold man and his
work" (Resch Log38*)
- Barnabas 12.1 (in another prophet) "When will these things be
accomplished" (Resch Log44)
- Justin Dialogue 72 (Jeremiah) "The Lord remembered" (Resch
- Clement Alex Quis Dives 40 (it says) "In what things I find you"
- 1 Clement 23.3f = 2 Clement 11.2ff (the scripture / the prophetic
word) (Resch Log48)
of the Apostles 33(44) (the word of the prophet) "out of Syria"
- ps-Titus Epistle (formula quotations
of non-canonical texts alongside canonical; NTA 2)
Specific writings for closer consideration (primary sources):
(canonical in classical Christianity) -- e.g. Sirach (and as used in NT)
- disputed "Apocrypha" (western vs eastern Christianity) -- e.g. 4
(transmitted by Christians, mostly) -- e.g. Jubilees, Enoch corpus ("1 Enoch," 2 Enoch, 3 Enoch)
- new DSS
discoveries -- e.g. Temple Scroll, Genesis Apocryphon, Hymns & Psalms
- "apocryphal NT"
(transmitted by Christians) -- e.g. Protevangelium Jacobi, Acts of
- new discoveries (papyri, etc.) -- e.g. Gospel of Thomas
(sayings), other Nag
Special problems relating to Rabbinic Jewish Literature:
1. "Oral Torah" as a "parabiblical" category?
Indicators of authority --
persons, schools, "bat kol"
2. Written forms of "Oral Torah" -- recording and development
Mishna as authoritative
extension of scripture concept, and base for further development
Tannaitic variations and
alternatives? Tosefta, Baraita ("paraMishnaic"?)
3. Authoritative "Completions" from Babylon and Palestine -- the
4. Uses of the various stages of authoritative "oral law" now written
E.g. Responsa literature?
Impact on community worship/liturgy?
[updated 08 May 2003, RAK]
Addendum: PSCO 40.1 Discussion (10 October 2002)
In connection with Annette
Reed's presentation --
-Are there ancient discussions of situations such as
Chronicles as rewritten bible within the bible? (see also the synoptic
gospels!) At what point does any of it become recognized as
"scriptural"? Is it helpful to attempt to plot a continuum along which
various fixed items can be identified, from "pre-scriptural" material
through various formulations and reformulations to "post-scriptural"
iterations (e.g. with Genesis-like material)?
-Connection with liturgical usage seems important to some
witnesses (e.g. Athanasius), less so to others (e.g. Jerome); this
underlines the importance of community context in the discussions; the
"liturgical perspectives" regarding this subject are complex, since not
everything considered "scriptural" seems to have been used liturgically
(e.g. Ezra-Nehemiah or Chronicles in Judaism; Revelation in
Christianity), and liturgical use can even serve to isolate works in
some situations (e.g. Esther at Purim) -- "authoritative" can have a
range of meanings and functions in the life of communities (see further
below), where exposure to "texts" is often a matter of hearing rather
than reading, and what is heard is often determined by considerations
other than what is considered "scriptural."
-Do the rabbis ever discuss issues of authorship as
important for scriptural authority? Nothing obvious.
-Does Sid Leiman's distinction between "inspired" and
"canonical" help clarify things? Can items move from "canonical to
"inspired" as well as vice versa?
-The presence of various idiosyncratic approaches to these
questions in antiquity is apparent!
In connection with Robert Kraft's presentation (see above), and
-Note such interesting situations as the Diatessaron, where
Tatian must have recognized the gospels as scriptural before he wove
them together, and what he produced in turn became scriptural for the
-"Parabiblical" in the sense of "alongside" the biblical
materials seems adequate for at least a large portion of the
problematic material; but can it serve for the material which has
little or no "biblical" connection?
-Is precision of terminology and its general applicability
really possible in such a complex body of materials? Perhaps not, but
at least attempts at consistent and circumspect treatment should be
encouraged, with close attention to the perspectives of the historical
participants taking precedence over our inadequacies of expression.
(RAK notes, 10 October 2002)
PSCO 40.4 Minutes (13 March 2003 [Princeton]; RAK notes)
1. Bill Adler paper (get copy; see PSCO web material)
2. Ben Wright summary of article on Sirach in Sanhedrin 100
-note magnet effect of the name "ben Sira," picking up other
unidentifiable materials, as well as loss of precise attribution in
some identifiable quotations!
-complications are rampant at both the textual level (the book of
Sirach itself) and with reference to things attributed to "ben Sira"
-explanations appealing to "faulty memory" or "careless citation" do
3. Martha Himmelfarb response
-rich and interesting presentations of detailed evidence and
(RAK on "historians shouldn't shave with Ockham's razor" quite
-"canon consciousness" first establishes what is acceptable, which
opens the door to reintroduction of other things that can shed light on
-Rabbinical approach to scriptural situation may be less complicated in
that it does not need to take NT into account
-How one acquires and attributes information -- e.g. as a child,
hearing stories of Abraham and the idols as though biblical -- is quite
-role of anthologies is not always recognized, where biblical can be
mixed with all sorts of other stuff, especially as time goes on
-despite striking differences between Jubilees and Sirach, similar
issues of transmission, anthologization, are also striking!
-how do we imagine our sources encountering such materials? Probably
monastic libraries in some Christian circles, but what about in Judaism?
-Sirach MS C (Cairo Geniza, 9-11th c) organizes excerpts from Sirach
-collections of various sorts appear to have been widespread
-"chronicles" are sometimes composed of bare excerpts, and even get
called by such names as "scholia," "eklogia," "synopsis," "epitome,"
"catenae," etc. (Adler)
-the desire to invent "filler" to give coherence to excerpts,
especially where problems of various sorts are recognized, is noteworthy
-also the tendency to "sloppiness" in making ascriptions (e.g. Jubilees
materials get called "Genesis" as well as "Little Genesis," often vague
formulae occur such as "the same source says," where the name of the
source is lost; Adler)
-would "liturgical" use of biblical and other material provide some
sort of control over usage? But audiences often don't pay that close
attention, on the one hand, although the producers and performers might
be more selfconscious
-knowing the overall context of the transmission of learning in the
various circles (e.g. Rabbinic, Chronographic) would be very important
-the recently published Catena material is especially revealing on
several fronts (Adler)
-at the level of complete texts (not excerpts), Sirach well illustrates
the close relationship of "textual" and "authoritative" (scriptural) as
well as the problem of "which text?" (Hebrew versions 1 and 2, Greek 1
and 2, etc.; Wright)
-terminologically, does "recension" really work for such materials --
does it imply more systematization than is apparent? (Wright)
-some uses of Jubilees material are dictated by warnings (don't use
this material or information, which is false or unauthoritative -- see
especially Glycas in 12th century representing a very circumspect
stance with regard to non biblical things), but more positively we find
attention to chronology and to problems in the narratives often call
forth use of the "extrabiblical" information (Adler)
-it would be interesting and valuable to note what was going on in
Muslim circles at the same time (collections of sources, etc.)
BIBLIOGRAPHY of Recent Discussions
Esther G. Chazon, et al., eds., Pseudepigraphic Perspectives: The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha in Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Proceedings of the [Second] International Symposium of the Orion Center for the Study of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Associated Literature, 12-14 January 1997.
- Review by
Eileen Schuller, Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha 15/2 (2006) 155-157.
Esther G. Chazon, Devorah Dimant & Ruth A. Clements, eds.
Reworking the Bible: Apocryphal and Related Texts at Qumran: Proceedings of a Joint Symposium by the Orion Center for the Study of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Associated Literature and the Hebrew University Institute for Advanced Studies Research Group on Qumran, 15-17 January, 2002 . Studies on the Texts of the Desert of Judah 58. Leiden : Brill, 2005.
- Brook, George J. "Between Authority and Canon: The Significance of Reworking the Bible for Understanding the Canonical Process," 85-104.
Brooke, George J. 2000 "Rewritten Bible," in Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls, edited by Lawrence H. Schiffman and James C. VanderKam, 777-81 (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
Steven D. Fraade, "Rewritten Bible and Rabbinic Midrash as Commentary," 59-78 in Current Trends in the Study of Midrash, ed Carol Bakhos (Supplements to the Journal for the Study of Judaism 106; Brill 2006).
Moshe J. Bernstein,
"'Rewritten Bible': A Generic Category Which Has Outlived its Usefulness?"
Textus 22 (2005)