The Kingdom of God in the Jewish Apocryphal Literature Part 2 -- By: George E. Ladd

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 109:434 (Apr 1952)
Article: The Kingdom of God in the Jewish Apocryphal Literature Part 2
Author: George E. Ladd

The Kingdom of God in the Jewish Apocryphal Literature
Part 2

George E. Ladd

(Continued from the January-March Number, 1952)


The book of Jubilees may be roughly but not inaccurately described as a Jewish commentary on Genesis and Exodus 1–12. It has often been called the “Little Genesis,” the term “little” referring not to its size but to the detail into which it enters. It consists of an interpretation of history from creation to Mount Sinai in the interests of later Judaism. This history is organized artificially into jubilees, periods of 49 years. Each jubilee consists of seven weeks of years, or 49 years. The formal setting of the book is that of an apocalypse or revelation, because it represents itself to be a revelation made to Moses on Mount Sinai of the entire course of human history from creation to the new creation (Jub 1:4, 26). The book is sometimes called the Apocalypse of Moses. The author rewrites history to suit his own taste and to support the interests which he represents, omitting from the Old Testament record much that is offensive to his views, changing other items, and adding a great deal of traditional material.

Numerous quotations from the book are found in the church fathers from the second to the twelfth centuries, when it was apparently lost sight of. In the mid-nineteenth century, it was discovered by a Christian missionary in Abyssinia in an Ethiopic version. Four Ethiopic manuscripts are now known, and scholarship is greatly indebted to R. H. Charles for his work in the Ethiopic version.1

About one-fourth of the book has been recovered in a Latin version. Scholars agree that both the Ethiopic and the Latin versions were translated from a lost Greek version which appears in the quotations of the Greek fathers. The Greek was probably derived from the original Semitic form.

The date of the book has been vigorously debated, for there are no fixed data by which a certain time may be postulated. The most commonly accepted date is the second half of the second century B.C., the times of the Maccabees,2 although scholars have dated it anywhere from the third or fourth centuries B.C. to the first century A.D.

The author is unknown, as is the case with most of these writings, but he seems to have shared Pharisaic views. He glorifies the Law and exalts especially the oral law. By this means he gives divine authority to observances in Judaism which were not contained in the written Law of the Old Testament, the oral law being esteemed a part ...

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