Summary and Analysis The Pseudepigrapha


The Pseudepigrapha is a group of writings, each one of which is attributed to someone other than its real author. Many writings of this kind appeared during the centuries immediately preceding and immediately following the beginning of the Christian era. Most are apocalyptic in character. In several instances, they reflect the legalistic attitude that was especially strong among the majority of Jews during those periods when the Jews were subject to the domination of the Roman government. This type of literature was used during New Testament times; there are references to books in both the Apocrypha and the Pseudepigrapha in the books of the New Testament.

The most important of the apocalyptic writings is the Book of Enoch, a relatively late book but one attributed to Enoch, who received visions revealing all sorts of mysteries pertaining to both heaven and earth. One section of the book contains "The Apocalypse of Weeks," which tells of a vision in which the whole course of history, from creation to the setting up of the messianic kingdom, is revealed to Enoch. "The Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs," which purports to have come from the twelve sons of Jacob, contains a series of predictions concerning the future of each of the twelve tribes of Israel. "The Sibylline Oracles" is a collection of so-called revelations made to ancient prophetesses but which have been edited and rewritten in light of contemporary events.

"The Assumption of Moses" is another apocalypse, written as if it were an address delivered by Moses to his successor. In the vision that was given to Moses shortly before his death, the whole course of Hebrew history was revealed in advance. The final triumph of the people of Israel will be brought about through supernatural intervention. "The Secrets of Enoch" concerns a dream-vision in which Enoch is transported through a series of heavens to the presence of the deity. Here, many mysteries about the created universe are explained to him, including the length of time that will elapse before the setting up of the messianic kingdom. Other examples of apocalyptic writing are 2 and 3 Baruch and 4 Ezra, which discusses such questions as the origin of evil and the way in which evil will finally be banished from the universe.

Not all of the writings in the Pseudepigrapha are of an apocalyptic nature. "The Psalms of Solomon" is a collection of eighteen psalms that extol the Pharisaic conception of righteousness. The standard that is set forth is complete obedience to the perfect Law of God. The Fourth Book of Maccabees, concerning the field of ethics, is a discourse on the power of reason to control passions; illustrations are drawn from the experiences of such men as Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and David. "The Story of Ahikar" belongs to the folktales of the ancient Hebrews. The hero of the story is an official in the court of an Assyrian king. An evil plot against him is formed by men who wish to kill him. The plot fails, and Ahikar is able to take full revenge on his enemies. The Book of Jubilees praises the Law revealed to Moses. The Law is declared to be everlasting, and the importance of obedience to its demands is illustrated throughout the entire course of history. A somewhat different attitude toward the Law is presented in the Book of Zodak, which was written in support of a reform movement designed to counteract the formalism and irregularities of the priesthood. Among the sacred legends, one finds the Epistle of Aristeas, in which the circumstances that led to the making of the Septuagint version of the Hebrew writings are described. The Books of Adam and Eve record popular beliefs concerning the events that occurred immediately after Adam and Eve were driven out of the Garden of Eden. Finally, "The Martyrdom of Isaiah" describes the way in which the prophet Isaiah met his death at the hands of wicked King Manasseh.