Passover the Haggadah
The Haggadah is a Jewish text that reveals the order of the Passover Seder. Reciting the Haggadah at the Seder table is a fulfillment of the mitzvah to each Jew to “tell your son” of a story from the Book of Exodus about Israelites being delivered from slavery, involving an Exodus from Egypt through the hand of Yahweh in the Torah (“And thou shalt tell thy son in that time, saying: It is because of that which the LORD did for me when I came forth out of Egypt.” Ex. 13:8).
Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews likewise apply the term Haggadah to the service itself, as it makes up the act of “telling your son”.
The Apocalypse of Baruch
2 Baruch is a Jewish pseudepigraphical text thought to have been composed in the late 1st century AD or early 2nd century AD, after the destruction of the Temple in AD 70. It is associated to the biblical Baruch and then is associated with the Old Testament, but not regarded as scripture by Jews or by most Christian groups. It is consisted of in some editions of the Peshitta, and is part of the Bible in the Syriac Orthodox tradition. It has 87 parts (chapters).
2 Baruch is also acknowledged as the Apocalypse of Baruch or the Syriac Apocalypse of Baruch (used to distinguish it from the Greek Apocalypse of Baruch). The Apocalypse proper occupies the initial 77 chapters of the book. Chapters 78–87 are normally referred to as the Letter of Baruch to the Nine and a Half Tribes.
The Apocalypse of Ezra (4 Ezra)
4 Ezra comprises seven visions of Ezra the scribe. The first vision takes place as Ezra is yet in Babylon. He seeks God how Israel can be kept in despair if God is just. The archangel Uriel is sent to deal with the question, answering that God’s plans cannot be understood by the mortal mind. Soon, however, the end would take place, and God’s justice would be made manifest. Similarly, in the second vision, Ezra asks why Israel was conveyed up to the Babylonians, and is again told that man cannot understand this and that the end is near. In the third vision, Ezra asks why Israel does not possess the world. Uriel responds that the current state is a period of transition. Here follows a description of the fate of evil-doers and the righteous. Ezra asks whether the righteous may intercede for the unrighteous on Judgment Day, but is told that “Judgment Day is final”.
The next three visions are more symbolic. The fourth is of a woman mourning for her only son. It transforms her into a city when she hears of the desolation of Zion. Uriel says that the woman is a symbol of Zion. The fifth vision concerns an eagle with three heads and twenty wings (twelve large wings and eight smaller wings “over against them”). The eagle is rebuked by a lion and then burned. The explanation of this vision is that the eagle refers to the fourth kingdom of the vision of Daniel, with the wings and heads as rulers. The ending scene is the triumph of the Messiah over the empire. The sixth vision is of a man, representing the Messiah, who breathes fire on a crowd that is attacking him. This man then turns to another peaceful multitude, which accepts him.
The Book of Enoch
The Book of Enoch also known for 1 Enoch is an ancient Hebrew apocalyptic religious text, attributed by tradition to Enoch, the great-grandfather of Noah. Enoch contains rare material on the origins of demons and giants, why some angels fell from heaven, an answer of why the Genesis flood was potentially significant, and prophetic exposition of the thousand-year reign of the Messiah.
1 Enoch is a collection of several works, most of which are apocalyptic. Its oldest part is the “Apocalypse of Weeks,” written shortly before the Maccabean revolt of 167 BC against the Seleucids. Other parts, specifically those dealing with astronomical and cosmological believes, are complex to date. Because of its views on messianism, celibacy, and the fate of the soul after death, parts of I Enoch may have come from with or been influenced by the Essene community of Jews at Qumran. No fragments of the longest portion of the work (chapters 37–71), however, were found among the Qumran writings. This has led scholars to theorize that this part was perhaps written in the 2nd century AD by a Jewish Christian who wished to imbue his own eschatological speculations with the authority of Enoch, and added his work to four older apocryphal Enoch writings.
The Book of Jubilees
The Book of Jubilees, often called Lesser Genesis, is an ancient Jewish religious work of 50 chapters, considered canonical by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and Beta Israel (Ethiopian Jews), where it is recognized as the Book of Division. We consider jubilees one pseudepigraphon by Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Churches. It is likewise not acknowledged canonical within Judaism outside of Beta Israel.
The Book of Jubilees is a retelling of many biblical events and significant resource for those seeking more detail on biblical history and events. It was found in Ethiopia and is regarded by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church as canon. The original author’s identity is shrouded in mystery, previously believed to be a Pharisee and a Jewish person from the biblical era. We will probably never truly know. What is undeniable is that R. H. Charles’ translation and accompanying notes are instructive, clear, and assist the modern reader in making sense of this piece of theological and literary treasure?
Charles sheds light on the extraordinary position of the Book of Jubilees as the first substantive response to the Book of Genesis, and religious beliefs of some Jewish population in the pre-Christian era. We can see both the familiar elements of the bible and the legal traditions and forms of observance of Judaism in forms that are never seen elsewhere or necessarily within the rest of Christian and modern Jewish practice and theory.
The Book of the Secrets of Enoch
The Second Book of Enoch (abbreviated as 2 Enoch and also known as Slavonic Enoch, Slavic Enoch or Secrets of Enoch) is a pseudepigraphic text in the apocalyptic style. It represents the ascent of the patriarch Enoch, ancestor of Noah, through ten heavens of an Earth-centered cosmos.
The cosmology of 2 Enoch corresponds closely with early medieval beliefs about the metaphysical structure of the universe and may have been influential in shaping them. The text was lost for several centuries, then recovered and published at the end of the nineteenth century. The full text is extant only in Church Slavonic, but we have known Coptic fragments since 2009. The Church Slavonic itself represents a translation from an earlier Greek version.
Some scholars attribute 2 Enoch to an anonymous Jewish sect, while others regard it as the work of first-century Christians. Some consider it a later Christian work. It is not included in either the Jewish or the Christian canon.
2 Enoch is distinct from the Book of Enoch, known as 1 Enoch, and there is also an unrelated 3 Enoch. Scholars have applied the numbering of these texts to distinguish each from the others.
The Fourth Book of the Maccabees
The Fourth Book of Maccabees has scanty historical information and belongs to the Maccabees series only because it deals with the beginning of the persecution of Jews by Antiochus IV Epiphanes. It was possibly written during the reign of the Roman emperor Caligula (37–41 CE). Throughout the early Christian period, they wrongly attributed IV Maccabees to Josephus.
The work’s main religious theme is that the martyr’s sufferings vicariously expiated the sins of the entire Jewish people.
The Christian church preserved the Maccabees books. St. Augustine wrote in The City of God that it preserved them for their accounts of the martyrs. This suggests that in antiquity, IV Maccabees, dealing almost only with martyrdom, may have been the most highly regarded.
The Gospel of the Ebionite
The Gospel of the Ebionites is the traditional name given by scholars to an apocryphal gospel extant only as seven brief passages in a heresiology known as the Panarion, by Epiphanius of Salamis; he misidentified it as the “Hebrew” gospel, believing it to be a truncated and changed version of the Gospel of Matthew. It embedded the quotations in a polemic to point out inconsistencies in the beliefs and practices of a Jewish Christian faction known as the Ebionites relative to Nicene orthodoxy.
The surviving fragments derive from a gospel harmony of the Synoptic Gospels, formed in Greek with numerous expansions and abridgments expressing the theology of the writer. Distinctive features include the absence of the virgin birth and of the genealogy of Jesus; an Adoptionist Christology, in which it chooses Jesus to be God’s Son at the time of his Baptism; the abolition of the Jewish sacrifices by Jesus; and an advocacy of vegetarianism. It is believed to have been composed some time during the middle of the 2nd century in or around the region east of the Jordan River. Although the gospel was said to be used by “Ebionites” during the time of the early church, the identity of the group or groups that used it remains a matter of conjecture.
The Gospel of the Hebrews
The Gospel of the Hebrews, or Gospel according to the Hebrews, was a syncretic Jewish–Christian gospel. They lose the text of the gospel with only splinters of it surviving as brief quotations by the early Church Fathers and in apocryphal writings. The fragments consist of traditions of Jesus’ pre-existence, incarnation, baptism, and probable temptation, along with some of his sayings. Distinctive features include a Christology characterized by the belief that the Holy Spirit is Jesus’ Divine Mother and a first resurrection appearance to James, the brother of Jesus, showing a high thought for James as the leader of the Jewish Christian church in Jerusalem. It was probably composed in Greek in the first decades of the 2nd century and is believed to have been utilized presumably by Greek-speaking Jewish Christians in Egypt during that century.
The Letter of Aristeas
The Letter of Aristeas or Letter to Philocrates is a Hellenistic work of the 2nd century BC, given by Biblical scholars to the Pseudepigrapha.
Josephus, who paraphrases about two-fifths of the letter, attributes it to Aristeas and to have been written to a certain Philocrates, describing the Greek translation of the Hebrew Law by seventy-two interpreters sent into Egypt from Jerusalem at the request of the librarian of Alexandria, resulting in the Septuagint translation. Though some have argued that its story of the creation of the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible is fictitious, it is the earliest text to mention the Library of Alexandria.
The Letter of Aristeas, called so because it was a letter addressed from Aristeas to his brother Philocrates, deals primarily with the reason the Greek translation of the Hebrew Law, also called the Septuagint, was created, and the people and processes involved. The letter’s author alleges to be a courtier of Ptolemy II Philadelphus (reigned 281-246 BC).
Over twenty Greek manuscript copies of the letter survive, dating from the 11th to the 15th century. The letter is also mentioned and quoted in other ancient texts, most notably in Antiquities of the Jews by Josephus (c. 93 AD), in Life of Moses by Philo of Alexandria (c. AD 15), and in an excerpt from Aristobulus of Paneas (c. 160 BC) preserved in Praeparatio Evangelica by Eusebius.
The Martyrdom of Isaiah
The first five chapters of this piece are a Jewish expansion of 2 Kings, revealing the martyrdom of Isaiah. Chapters 6-11 are a Christian work that describes Isaiah’s ascension through the seven heavens. This section is like the apocalyptic literature of Enoch in that Isaiah’s soul is ushered through different stages of heaven. Each section is a composite of discrete sources. This complicates the dating of the book. The Jewish section was likely written in Hebrew and transcribed into Greek. Hebrews 11 turns out to relate to the martyrdom of Isaiah (“some were sawn asunder”) or the same tradition that Isaiah the prophet was martyred by being sawn in half. This would signify a date preceding to the late first century.
The Sibylline Oracles
The Sibylline Oracles (Latin: Oracula Sibyllina; sometimes called the pseudo-Sibylline Oracles) are a collection of oracular utterances written in Greek hexameters ascribed to the Sibyls, prophets who uttered divine revelations in a frenzied state. Fourteen books and eight fragments of Sibylline Oracles survive, in an edition of the 6th or 7th century AD. They are not to be confused with the original Sibylline Books of the ancient Etruscans and Romans which were burned by order of Roman general Flavius Stilicho in the 4th century AD. Instead, the text is an “odd pastiche” of Hellenistic and Roman mythology interspersed with Jewish, Gnostic and early Christian legend.
The Sibylline Oracles are a valuable source for information about classical mythology and early first millennium Gnostic, Hellenistic Jewish and Christian beliefs. Some apocalyptic passages scattered throughout seem to foreshadow themes of the Book of Revelation and other apocalyptic literature. The oracles have undergone extensive editing, re-writing, and redaction as they came to be exploited in wider circles.
The Story of Ahikar
The Story of Ahiqar, also known as the Words of Ahikar, is a story first attested in Aramaic from the fifth century BCE that disseminated widely in the Middle and Near East. It has been characterised as “one of the earliest ‘international books’ of world literature”.
The primary cast is Ahiqar who was born in Kalhu/Nimrud, the ancient capital of Assyria.
In the story, Ahikar was chancellor to the Assyrian kings Sennacherib and Esarhaddon. Having no child of his own, he adopted his nephew Nadab/Nadin, and raised him to be his successor. Nadab/Nadin ungratefully plotted to have his elderly uncle murdered and persuades Esarhaddon that Ahikar has committed treason. Esarhaddon orders Ahikar be executed in response, and so Ahikar is arrested and imprisoned to await punishment. However, Ahikar reminds the executioner that the executioner had been saved by Ahikar from a similar fate under Sennacherib, and so the executioner kills a prisoner instead and pretends to Esarhaddon that it is the body of Ahikar.