Revelatory Experience And Pseudepigraphical Attribution In Early Jewish Apocalypses -- By: Armin D. Baum

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 21:1 (NA 2011)
Article: Revelatory Experience And Pseudepigraphical Attribution In Early Jewish Apocalypses
Author: Armin D. Baum

Revelatory Experience And Pseudepigraphical Attribution In Early Jewish Apocalypses

Armin D. Baum

Freie Theologische Hochschule (FTH) Giessen And Evangelische Theologische Faculteit (ETF) Leuven

Early Jewish apocalypses claimed to contain the content of revelatory experiences. These revelatory claims were widely perceived by ancient readers of apocalyptic texts. As far as ancient evidence and modern analogies go, at least some authors of pseudepigraphical apocalypses may have been honestly convinced that they were actually presenting more than human dreams and messages. The plausible assumption that at least some apocalyptic texts originated from genuine ecstatic experiences does not, however, offer any reason to suppose that their literary attributions were not measured against the generally accepted ancient standards of authenticity. If an author who was honestly convinced that he had received much of his book’s content from an angel published his apocalyptic text under the name of an ancient prophet, this attribution was, according to ancient standards, deceptive, because there was no justification for tracing its content back to the biblical prophet. By attributing not only the content but also the recording of their apocalyptic books to ancient seers and by explicitly claiming that their books had been carefully transmitted from the remote times of the biblical prophets to the present, the apocalyptic authors clearly intended to deceive their readers about the true origin of their books.

Key Words: ancient standards of authenticity, authorship, deception, early Jewish apocalypses, forgery, literary attribution, orthonymity, pseudepigraphy, revelatory experience

Author’s note: Earlier versions of this paper have been presented at the annual meeting of the Tyndale New Testament Study Group in Cambridge in 2008 and at the Doctoral Colloquium of the ETF in Leuven in 2009.

Early Jewish apocalypses were usually published pseudonymously. The authorial intention that stood behind the pseudepigraphical ascriptions of these apocalyptic texts is controversial. Did the ancient authors who made use of this literary genre want to pretend that their books were written by Enoch, Baruch, or Ezra? And should we therefore classify their texts as

literary forgeries? Or did they make use of a common literary convention that was understood by (many of) their readers and should therefore not be regarded as deceptive?

This rather complex question has sometimes been answered by referring to the genuineness of the religious experiences of the apocalyptic authors. The authorial attributions of apocalyptic texts to ancient figures such a...

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