Presentation at Univeristy of Toronto for 11 April 2007


"Pursuing the Para-Scriptural by way of the Pre-Scriptural"
[Seminar, 4 pm on Wednesday, 11 April 2007]  [update 10ap07]


" I have no truth to put on record, having lived a very humdrum life, I fall back on falsehood (τὸ ψεῦδος) -- but falsehood of a more consistent variety; for I now make the only true statement you are to expect, that I am lying (κἂν ἓν γὰρ δὴ τοῦτο ἀληθεύσω λέγων ὅτι ψεύδομαι). This confession is, I consider, a full defence against all imputations, for I am saying nothing that is true. (ὁμολογῶν μηδὲν ἀληθὲς λέγειν). My subject is, then, what I have neither seen, experienced, nor been told, what neither exists nor could conceivably do so. I humbly solicit my readers' incredulity (διὸ δεῖ τοὺς ἐντυγχάνοντας μηδαμῶς πιστεύειν αὐτοῖς)."
Evidence -- what do the preserved sources tell or show us about antecedent sources?

Explicit references --

There is ample evidence that some of those responsible for the composition and transmission of what have come to be considered "scriptural" writings in the traditions of Judaism and Christianity believed that earlier sources existed and often claimed to use them. The most blatent general statement comes from the cynical Hebrew book of Qohelet [[image03]] -- "of the making of books there is no end" (12.12; OG "guard against making many books")! Whenever that was written -- and it probably can be no later than the time of Alexander the Great and his immediate "hellenistic" successors -- and whatever it may mean statistically, we are unable to flood our bibliographies with the names of authors or fill our shelves with books from that period, especially those written in semitic languages.  

More specifically, we find such explicit passagess as the following in the books that have come to be considered "scriptures," not to mention additional references to various letters: [[image04]]


Exod 24.7 (book of the Covanant; see 2 Kgs 23.21, 2 Chron 34.30)
Num 21.14 (the book of the Wars of the LORD),
Joshua 10.13 and 2 Sam 1.18 (the book of Jashar, "lament of the bow"),
Joshua 24.26 (Joshua records things in the book of the Law of God)
1 Chron 27.24 (the book of the Acts of David)
1 Kings 11.41 (the book of the Acts of Solomon),
1 Kings 14.19 et passim (the book of the Acts of the Kings of Israel [23], or of Judah [15], or the book of the kings of both [4]) -- Israel (1 Kgs 14.19, 15.31, 16.5, 16.14, 16 20, 16.27, 22.39, 2Kgs 1.18, 10.34, 13.8, 13.12, 14.15, 14.28,15.11, 15.15, 15.21, 15.26, 15.31, 16.5, 16.14, 16.20, 16.27, 22.39); Judah (1 Kgs 14.29, 15.7, 15.23,  22.45, 2 Kgs 8.23, 12.19, 14.18, 15.6, 15.36, 16.19, 20.20, 21.17, 21.25, 23.28, 24.5); book of the kings of Israel and Judah (1 Chron 9.1, 2 Chron 16.11, 25.26, 27.7, 28.26, 32.32, 35.27, 36.8); book of the kings (2 Chron 24.27)
Neh 12.23 (book of the Acts)
Esther 2.23 & 10.2 (book of the Acts, the chronicles of the king's reign)
Luke 1.1-4 (many have attempted this before me)
2 Corinthians 7.8 (made you sorry with a letter)
Colossians 4.16 (the Laodicean Letter)
2 Thess 2.2 (letter supposedly from Paul's group)

The title that was given to the Hebrew books of Chronicles in the Greek tradition may also be revealing. These books are called "Paraleipomena" -- "Leftovers." [[image05]] Leftover from what? Presumably from what is contained in Samuel-Kings (or as they came to be known in Greek, 1-4 Kingdoms). I once wondered whether "paraleipomena" might have been a traditional Greek title for certain types of material, but found no confirmation in searching Greek literature (TLG). It does appear in the "Testament of Job" as a title, and the whole situation may merit further investigation, for anyone looking for this type of dissertation topic. 

Compositional evidence --

In addition to such references or allusions to prior literature, there is plenty of evidence for composite compilations in scriptural and related materials -- we can even glimpse  the process happening in certain instances:  

A striking example [[image06]] of misplaced juxtaposition occurs with an extensive family of Greek manuscripts in which Polycarp's Letter to the Philippians is cut off at 9.2 by the Epistle of Barnabas 5.7 and following, thus forming a hybrid that was copied again and again, without any indication of the join. Probably the cause was the loss of an entire section (a quire or more) in an early codex that contained these texts of what came to be called the "apostolic fathers." The preservation of other copies of the involved texts made it relatively easy to identify this sort of "mechanical" problem. The Epistle of Barnabas itself contains two distinct sections, of which the final part, on the "two ways," is absent from the early Latin translation. [[image07]]  We also know of other versions of the "Two Ways" tradition, both separate and also sometimes joined with other materials (as in the Didache), which suggests that various combinations and revisions of sources are taking place in the prehistories of these materials.

Similarly, in the 4th/5th century CE mega-codices Vaticanus and Alexandrinus, the book of Baruch and the brief Letter of Jeremiah are treated as separate compositions, with the Letter following Lamentations (see also the SyroHexapla and Arabic evidence), but many other witnesses (especially Latin) adjoin the Letter to Baruch, as a final section and without any warning. Similarly, as time goes on a Greek Jeremianic corpus becomes standard, usually with Jeremiah plus Baruch plus Lamentations plus Letter, but sometimes with Baruch last (or omitted [[[image08]] see Origen in Eus HE 6.25, Jer+Lam+Letter "in one book"]). Probably these sorts of development took place as the relatively new codex technology provided an easy (or easier) means of bringing smaller units into juxtaposition and standardizing their organization.
Again, what we now usually call the apocalypse of "4 Ezra" exists as a separate unit in various old versions (Syriac, Coptic, Ethiopic, Armenian, Arabic, etc.), but in virtually all Latin manuscripts, it is preceded by what we now call "5 Ezra" and followed by "6 Ezra," to the confusion of many who study these materials [[image09]] -- especially as the Latin version is perpetuated in many English translations under the title "2 Esdras" (e.g. AV, RSV, NRSV)! "5th" and "6th" Ezra seem to be unknown outside of the Latin tradition and its poorly attested Greek parentage.

Moving earlier in time, already into the world of scrolls, we find the twelve Minor Prophets drawn together as a collection, although not always in exactly the same order. [[image10]]  Our earliest surviving physical example, a fragmentary Greek scroll (or perhaps two scrolls) from Nahal Hever along the west coast of the Dead Sea near Masada, seems to follow the order that became standard in later Hebrew circles (at least the order Joel - Micah seems sure), not the order than became standard in later Greek compilations (Micah - Joel, etc.), also with occasional exceptions. The concept of viewing these "minor prophets" together seems to have been more important than the exact sequence, at least in some circles. The same, of course, can be said about other sub-sequences among traditional "scriptures," as well as the overall sequence in general. The concept of "holy scriptures" is separable from the details of content and order, at least in  the earliest periods before it was possible to include everything in one physical "book." I'll  talk more about that development tomorrow night.

Issues of order and also extent, plague the anthology that we call "Psalms," especially in the light of the Dead Sea Scroll discoveries.[[image11]]  Even before the DSS came to light, the presence of Psalm 151 in non-Hebrew versions was a symptom of  the larger problem, as were the presence or absence of authorial attributions (psalms of David [most], of the sons of Korah [42, 44-49, 84-85, 87-88],  of Asaph [50, 73-83],  of Solomon [72], of Ethan [89], of Moses [90], etc. -- and not necessarily grouped together in the collection[s]). The extensive cave 11 fragments of a collection of Psalms (11Q5) underlines these problems, since it includes what came to be "biblical" psalms (sometimes in a different order, and not in sequence) along with other psalms and even a statistical note about how many Davidic compositions were thought to exist [[image12]] -- 4,050, all composed "through the spirit of prophecy which had been given to him from before the Most High." The DSS also provide us with copies of other psalmic compositions as well, perhaps similarly revered.

\n/ Note also the different division of materials between MT and OG (= Latin Vulgate):
Hebrew 1-8 = OG/Vulgate 1-8
Hebrew 9 = OG/Vulgate 9-10
Hebrew 10-112 = OG/Vulgate 11-113
Hebrew 113 = OG/Vulgate 114-115
Hebrew 114-115 = OG/Vulgate 116
Hebrew 116-145 = OG/Vulgate 117-146
Hebrew 146-147 = OG/Vulgate 147
Hebrew 148-150 = OG/Vulgate 148-150
(Hebrew lacking)  + OG/Vulgate 151

Even the book of Jeremiah itself betrays its problematic prehistory. It is preserved in both a shorter version (e.g. OG, and some DSS fragments) and a longer one (MT, and some DSS fragments!), with major internal differences in order as well [[image13]] (chs MT 25.15 - 51; both end with 52). This should not be surprising insofar as that material itself provides ample evidence of stages of development and collection (see MT 45.1 = OG 51.31, and the conclusion in MT 51.64 [cf OG 28.64 var] which is followed by an appended contextualizing narrative much like Isa 39 -- Jer 52 = 2Kgs 24.18-25.30). [[This situation is comparable to the problems relating to the ending of the Gospel of John, where what is now the final chapter follows an obvious concluding statement; also the "adulterous woman" pericope in John 8 illustrates a similar set of issues.]]

Further Compositional clues --

In addition to such "control cases" (where we can actually witness the processes of association, collection,  and even amalgamation taking place), there are numerous examples of the results of similarly agglomorative procedures that have left clear roadmaps in the surviving literature, even without the "smoking guns" of manuscript variations or explicit statements:

Evidence -- what do we know about availability of antecedent sources?

In General --

In 1942, Edgar J. Goodspeed included an final chapter on "the Lost Books of Early Christian Literature" in his History of Early Christian Literature, [[image22]] in which he listed "lost works" known to have existed in the early Christian worlds. In Robert M. Grant's 1966 enlarged revision of this volume, a chapter on "Eusebius and Early Christian Literature" was also added. We can get a rough idea of how many works named by such catalogers as Eusebius have not survived intact, or nearly intact, to the present. Most have not survived at all. Probably, as Christians became more involved in writing and authorship became more noticed, more items were produced to be listed and lost. It is difficult to get an accurate idea of what was happening in the first hundred years or so of Christian existence, with largely anonymous gospel production, narratives about the apostles, public and private letters, apocalyptic accounts, community handbooks, and the like. Clearly much that was once present has now disappeared, although occasional new discoveries such as the Coptic finds of the past 60 years both increase the list of previously unknown items and increase what has survived. And if it were possible to identify the sources represented by the hundreds of scraps of literary papyri from Egypt that are deposited in our museums and libraries, not to mention private collections, the general picture might be a bit more revealing. But as it is, my guess is that no more than 10% of early Christian literature has survived to any significant extent, and that estimate might be optimistic.

A similar exploration of surviving Greek and Latin literature, without reference to Judaism and Christianity, would be possible by comparing the extensive lists of "authors consulted" that is provided by Pliny the Elder in his Natural History [[image23]] with lists of surviving manuscripts (e.g. the TLG canon for Greek authors). Perhaps someone has done this already, but I haven't found it yet.

My point is that in all liklihood the worlds from which our Jewish and Christian scriptures came were full of other public writings -- not to mention more private materials and unwritten traditions -- of which we know very little.  The attempts to explain virtually everything in terms of what has survived are undoubtedly quite misguided. Elsewhere I've called this "textual myopia," meaning that we have often restricted our gaze to the texts we can see, without recognizing that the range of possibilities is much more extensive.

In Early Judaism --

The Dead Sea discoveries are helping to open our eyes with reference to the situation in early Judaism. Even if the estimate that some 800 or so different documents are represented by the Scrolls [[image24]] should prove to be exaggerated (after all, different scribes can work on the same copy, and hitherto unknown texts can change their contents in different sections), we are still faced with a flood of new materials that call for close attention in the discussion of scripturality and the development of texts and traditions within Judaism. Even if we decide that the DSS do not represent anything important in Jewish history, we still have Philo and Josephus and several other preserved writings from that period to interrogate in a more informed manner about their sources and procedures.

Although often relatively "daring" in his interpretations, Philo seems relatively "conservative" in his designation of what constitutes his "scriptures." [[image25]] Moses is major, with the Greek  Pentateuch providing  the basis of most of Philo's extant works, and the figure of Moses treated "larger than life." Yet Philo feels free, in his extensive narrative on Moses' Life, to give Moses a voice not found in the Pentateuch [[image26]]. Philo is also aware of other scriptural books that deserve respect, and even mentions by name "Judgments" (Judges), . He is also respectful of certain non-Jewish Greek sources including, as one might expect, Homer and Plato. What other literature  he may know and respect from his Alexandrian Jewish context, and how he knows it (complete texts, anthologies, reviews and reports) is worth further consideration, but probably will not assist us much in  the quest for pre-scriptural materials. It is, after all, a strong view of scriptural authority that drives one to allegory -- the scriptural claim is not reasonable as interpreted literally, but since scripture must be correct, it must have another interpretation (allos agein). On the other hand, Philo's description of the Therapeutae and their literature is suggestive, [[image27]] but unfortunately rather vague. Note, at least, that he does not criticize them for their production and use of such literature.

With Josephus, we move to the edges of first century CE Greek Jewish evidence. Josephus claims not to be sophisticated in his use of Greek, although this need not mean that he did not have a working knowledge of Greek from his youth. But he did not consider Greek to be his primary literary language. Nevertheless, by the time he releases the surviving published version of the Antiquities he clearly has made extensive use of Greek Jewish materials, even allowing for the possibility that the surviving copies of Josephus may have been adjusted by later copyists to the LXX/OG text in places, as they seem to have been to give reverence to Jesus. [[image28]] Unlike Philo, when Josephus deals with material that we find in our copies of the Pentateuch he seldom gives direct quotes or even verbally identical wording. It is open to question whether he even used the Pentateuch directly, [[image29]] or depended on modified versions of the pertinent material, created by himself or by some predecessor. And what are the sources of his departures from or additions to the Pentateuchal thread? Whence did he derive the tale of Moses and the Ethiopians, for example? [[image30]] Josephus knows and sometimes quotes from a variety of other sources regarding the history of Israel and associated matters (especially Nicolaus of Damascus, also Alexander Polyhistor, among others). Quite different is his treatment of the materials parallel to 1 Maccabees, [[image31]] where the extensive verbal repetitions are difficult to mistake.

Like the 11QPsalms notice about David's compositions, Josephus (Ant 8.(2.5).44-46) [[image32]] says of Solomon:

"He also composed books of odes and songs a thousand and five, of parables and similitudes three thousand; for he spoke a parable about every sort of tree, from the hyssop to the cedar; and in like manner also about beasts, about all sorts of living creatures, whether upon the earth, or in the seas, or in the air; for he was not unacquainted with any of their natures, nor omitted inquiries about them, but described them all like a philosopher, and demonstrated his exquisite knowledge of their several properties. God also enabled him to learn that skill which expels demons,  which is a science useful and healing to men. He composed such incantations also by which distempers are alleviated. And he left behind him the manner of using exorcisms, by which they drive away demons, so that they never return; and this method of cure is of great force unto this day."

We can't determine what Josephus has actually seen and read, but he certainly claims to know much more than we do, or than the existing scriptures and related materials (e.g. "Testament of Solomon") do about such things. Solomon is also associated with exorcism in the Qumran materials (11Q11).

Since most of the non-DSS Jewish "extracanonical" materials have come to us through Christian channels, they also invite some attention, along with various materials of certifiably "Christian" origin. A work such as the Latin LAB attributed to Philo [[image33]] is especially ripe for exploration, filled as it is with supplementary pentateuchal material. Prior to the discovery of the DSS, Jubilees would have been in a similar category -- preserved only through Christian scribal activity -- and also the "1 Enoch" library, for that matter. Of course now we know better, although the "Similitudes/Parables" of Enoch still stimulate heavy discussion regarding their origins, since they have not yet turned up in the Qumran discoveries. Furthermore, the discovery among the DSS of fragments of a "Testament of Levi" with connections to the later texts of the "Testaments of the 12 Patriarchs" is not terribly surprising, although the survival into Byzantine times of a close Greek translation of a section of that Hebrew material in a single Greek MS of the Testaments is provocative. But for present purposes, this is all further evidence for the existence of a large number and wide variety of respected and preserved materials in early Judaism, flowing over into early Christianity. And similarly with the "Jewish Apocrypha," [[image34]] most of which survived because of the respect shown them by Christians, some of them now attested at Qumran (most notably Letter of Jeremiah and Tobit; Sirach was already known from Hebrew fragments in the Cairo Geniza).

In Early Christianity --

As has already been noted, early Christianity has its share of "lost" writings, judging from the lists provided by Eusebius. This scene carries back to the poorly attested earliest period of early Christian developments. As already noted, scholars reconstruct the mysterious "Q" source for sayings attributed to Jesus that appear in the later compilations called Matthew and Luke. The discovery of the sayings "Gospel of Thomas" has strengthened the probability that such collections circulated from early in the game. The author of Luke admits to knowing of the existence of "various" prior attempts to present information on Jesus (Lk 1.1-4), evidence of which may survive in the various fragmentary papyri dealing with Jesus traditions; [[image35]] and many ancient claims are preserved that "Matthew" wrote an account of some sort in Hebrew or Aramaic. Of course, it is assumed that as a Roman administrator, Pilate must have kept records, [[image36]] so it is no surprise that by the mid 2nd century Christians are appealing to such a source, whatever its origin. The preserved letters of Paul, whether authentic or not, attest the existence of other such letters at an early date, [[image37]] and  scholarly conjecture finds remnants of at least two Pauline letters in what we now call "2 Corinthians," while a "3rd Corinthians" correspondence turns up in connection with the partly preserved Acts of Paul.  It was clearly a world full of books!

Questions (points to ponder) --  [[image38]]

What became of such materials? The simple idea that it all disappeared when Judaism and Christianity decided on their respective scriptural canons must have some truth to it since emerging mainstream Judaism preserves only weak hints about it all, while emerging mainstream Christianity tends to marginalize what has managed to survive despite the restrictive filters that were developed. Fortunately, enough has survived from alternate forms of both traditions to shed some light on the broader situation. The marginality of early Christianity in relation to early Judaism is a significant factor, along with the discovery of dead ends in Jewish history such as what the DSS represent. And the marginality of "gnostical" Christianity, and of non-Greco-Roman forms of Christianity (Syriac, Coptic, Armenian, Ethiopic, etc.) play a similar role. Might we have such early lost materials reflected or even embedded in what we know as parascriptural locations (known texts) or elsewhere (comments, exerpts)?

Judgments about "rewritten scriptures" often fail to consider this larger picture. Even when it is clear that what became canonical scriptures are intentionally in the background, as with Josephus, there are significant anomalies that call for other explanations -- e.g. Moses and the Ethiopians episode, or the earthquake of Uzziah [[image39]] (which Eusebius cites and attributes to Josephus' knowledge of the "deuterosis," the orally or perhaps secretly transmitted tradition). Information from written sources are probably in the picture, if not directly at least indirectly. That is, whatever their origin, traditions or stories such as this probably found their way into written accounts, although the connection with a Josephus need not have been directly from something written, just as Josephus' treatment of other accounts found in the Pentateuch need not have been produced by direct literary consultation. The words attributed to Jesus, "you have heard it said,"  probably are applicable in many situations. Heard information gets to be written, and written information gets to be heard.  [[image40]] Written information also gets to be excerpted in writing, and summarized in writing, and reused in various ways.  Settling on simple answers may sometimes be justified -- Philo almost certainly had access to the Greek Pentateuch text, more or less as we know it -- but more often is not likely to bring convincing or satisfying results in this type of exploration. We have lost sight of that world full of books, and traditions, and our scholarly endeavors may be significantly poorer for that fact.