06 June 2013

A short note on Hebrew Scriptures

At the turn of the era, when BCE dawned into CE (2nd century BCE-2nd century CE), there were approximately four million “Hebrews” (Jews and Samaritans) in the world out of a then global human population of around three hundred million.  One million of these Hebrew humans lived in Egypt.  Roughly half of these four million overall were Judeans and half were Samarians.

With the Samarians/Samaritans making up half of the four million, adding the Judean/Jewish sect of the Sadducees to that number leaves a clear majority of Hebrews in Palestine and in the Diaspora held no writings sacred except those called the Torah, or Pentateuch: the five writings commonly known in English as Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.

By contrast, the predominant version among Jews world-wide of the Tanakh at this time, what Christians call the Old Testament, was the Greek Septuagint.  For example, all the quotes from the Tanakh in the Christian New Testament come from the Septuagint, which contains all the books currently recognized by Jews plus the additional books sometimes called the Apocrypha, which Hellenistic Jews regarded as sacred.

The Septuagint was superceded among both Christians and Hebrews by a translation by a Jewish scholar in Ephesus named Theodotion in 150 CE, which is quoted in the Shepherd of Hermas and in Justin Martyr’s Trypho.  Theodotion’s version of the Book of Daniel replaced the Septuagint’s and the Hebrew translations upon which it was based in popularity and scholarly esteem, as did his versions of the Book of Jeremiah and the Book of Job.  The Karaite Masoretes whose version of the Tanakh now dominates Judaism and is favored by Protestant Christians, especially in the American South, based their version largely on his work.

The Septuagint, and its Greek-speaking Hellenistic Jewish and Christian readers counted as sacred several books and parts of books which never made it into the Palestinian canon.

Among the Jews in more conservative Palestine at the turn of the era, Hebrew translations were used, with an Aramaic targum, or translation into the common language of the people, since the Canaanite language of Hebrew had long been a dead language.  The Pharisees and other sects held many other writings as sacred.  At the time only the Torah (Law) and the Nevi’im (Prophets) were standardized, while the Ketuvim (Writings) still being collated, at least in Palestine.   

In addition to the written Tanakh, the Pharisees (and only the Pharisees) followed the Mishna, or Oral Law, which had not yet been codified and written down.  A small Jewish sect called the Bene Sedeq, the forerunners of today’s Karayim or Karaite Jews, accepted the whole Tanakh but rejected the Mishna.  The sect at Qumran, probably the Essenes, seemed to have some of its own texts, such as the Manual of Discipline, the Damascus Document, and the War of the Sons of Light and Sons of Darkness.

In addition, apocalyptic literature (of which Daniel is a prime example) and pseudepigraphic literature (of which Daniel is also a prime example) flourished in the 2nd century BCE through 1st century CE.  Some of the more prominent examples, in addition to those found at Qumran specifically of the Essenes, include the Assumption of Moses, the Testament of the Twelve Patriachs, 1 Enoch, 2 Enoch, the Apocalypse of Abraham, Jubilees, the Sibylline Oracles, and the Martyrdom of Isaiah.  These books were widely popular at the time, some quoted directly or referenced implicitly in the New Testament as well as being found at Qumran and Nag Hamadi.

Regardless of translation, edition, redaction, collection, etc., none of these supposedly sacred writings were dictated by a superior being and all are the product of the hand of each copyist, scribe, translator, editor, redactor, forger, fabricator, etc., kind of like what they said in the early days of the AIDS epidemic that when you have sex with someone you are also having sex with everyone that person has already had sex with.

Septuagint
(completed c. 132 BCE)

The first collection of Hebrew scripture was the Septuagint.  In fact, collecting and editing the religious writings of the Hebrews (politically divided into Samerina and Yehud) for the Library at Alexandria is probably how the five books of the Torah came into being (as we have them today) in the first place.  Though superceded in Jewish circles and among some Christian circles by the translation of Theodotion, the Septuagint remained a primary edition and remains the official translation for the Eastern churches.

Genesis
Exodus
Leviticus
Numbers
Deuteronomy
Joshua
Judges
Ruth
1 Samuel
2 Samuel
1 Kings
2 Kings
1 Chronicles
2 Chronicles
1 Esdras
Ezra
Nehemiah
Esther
Judith
Tobit
1 Maccabees
2 Maccabees
3 Maccabees
4 Maccabees
Psalms (incl. Psalm 151)
Proverbs
Ecclesiastes
Song of Songs
Job
Wisdom of Solomon
Ecclesiasticus
Hosea
Amos
Micah
Joel
Obadiah
Jonah
Nahum
Habakkuk
Zephaniah
Haggai
Zechariah
Malachi
Isaiah
Jeremiah
Baruch
Lamentations
Letter of Jeremiah
Ezekiel
Daniel (with “additions”)

Some ancient editions of the Septuagint included Odes of Solomon, Psalms of Solomon, and 1 Enoch, all three of which are considered canon by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

Vulgate

In the West, Latin was the common language of the people while Greek was the language of the educated.  Therefore, the Western Church produced a Latin translation differing somewhat in its ordering of books and leaving out 3 Maccabees, 4 Maccabees, and Psalm 151.

Genesis
Exodus
Leviticus
Numbers
Deuteronomy
Joshua
Judges
Ruth
1 Kings
2 Kings
3 Kings
4 Kings
1 Chronicles
2 Chronicles
1 Esdras (Ezra)
2 Esdras (Nehemiah)
Tobit
Judith
Esther
Job
Psalms (minus Psalm 151)
Proverbs
Ecclesiastes
Song of Songs
Wisdom of Solomon
Ecclesiasticus
Isaiah
Jeremiah
Lamentations
Baruch
Ezekiel
Daniel (with “additions”)
Hosea
Joel
Amos
Obadiah
Jonah
Micah
Nahum
Habakkuk
Zephaniah
Haggai
Zechariah
Malachi
1 Maccabees
2 Maccabees

Note in the two lists above that although the Torah, or Pentateuch, books are in order at the beginning, the remaining books (considered noncanonical by Samaritans and Sadducees) were mixed up, or not separated according to genre and degree of sacredness assigned them by their Jewish users.

Hebrew Canon

It is in the Hebrew Canon, formulated over about two or three centuries by the Masorete scholars of the Karaite sect and published a little over a millennium after the turn of the era, that the books are first divided into three separate genre, with descending degrees of sacredness.

Torah (or “Law”)

Genesis
Exodus
Leviticus
Numbers
Deuteronomy

Nevi’im (or “Prophets”)

Joshua
Judges
Samuel
Kings
Isaiah
Jeremiah
Ezekiel
Minor Prophets*

*(Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi)

Ketuvim (or “Writings”)

Psalms
Job
Proverbs
Ruth
Song of Songs
Ecclesiastes
Lamentations
Esther
Daniel
Ezra-Nehemiah
Chronicles

Note that in the Hebrew canon Samuel, Kings, Ezra-Nehemiah, and Chronicles are each one book rather than two each, and that the canon concludes with Chronicles.  Also worthy of note is the fact that the Masoretes placed the book of Daniel so beloved by fundamentalist Christians in with the Writings rather than the Prophets.

Noncanonical books referenced in the Old Testament

In the Tanakh, or Old Testament, quite a few noncanonical writings are referenced, some of which are explicitly cited as the basis for what is written in the canonical literature.  As a matter of fact, the books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles state so explicitly.

Book of Jasher
Book of the Wars of Yahuweh
Chronicles of the Kings of Israel
Chronicles of the Kings of Judah
Book of Shemaiah
Manner of the Kingdom
Acts of Solomon
Annals of King David
Book of Samuel the Seer
Book of Nathan the Prophet
Book of Gad the Seer
Prophecy of Ahijah
Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel
Book of Jehu
Story of the Book of the Kings
Acts of Uziah
Visions of Isaiah
Acts of the Kings of Israel
Sayings of the Seers
Laments for Josiah
Chronicles of King Ahasuerus
Wisdom of Ahikar
Aesop’s The Two Pots
The Egyptian Satire of the Trades
Memoirs of Nehemiah
The 5 books of Jason of Cyrene

Protestant Old Testament

During the Protestant Reformation, many new sects of Christians threw out books from their Old Testament which were not recognized by the Masoretes.  Anglicans, Lutherans, and Continental Reformers considered these books inspired if not sacred and collected them into the Apocrypha, which they placed between the Old Testament and the New Testament.

Genesis
Exodus
Leviticus
Numbers
Deuteronomy
Joshua
Judges
Ruth
1 Samuel
2 Samuel
1 Kings
2 Kings
1 Chronicles
2 Chronicles
Ezra
Nehemiah
Esther
Psalms
Proverbs
Ecclesiastes
Song of Songs
Job
Hosea
Amos
Isaiah
Jeremiah
Lamentations
Ezekiel
Daniel
Micah
Joel
Obadiah
Jonah
Nahum
Habakkuk
Zephaniah
Haggai
Zechariah
Malachi

Protestant Apocrypha (Anagignoskomena)

Tobit
Judith
Additions to Esther
Wisdom of Solomon
Wisdom of Jesus ben Sira (or Sirach or Ecclesiasticus)
Baruch
Letter of Jeremiah
Prayer of Azariah and Song of the Three Holy Children
Susanna
Bel and the Dragon
1 Maccabees
2 Maccabees

Take note that in the original translation ordered by King James I of England and VI of Scots these books, the Apocrypha, were placed together in between the Old Testament and the New Testament, and that any copy of the Bible not containing the Apocrypha which calls itself the King James Version is lying, unless it calls itself the King James Version, Abridged.

Deuterocanonicals

There are a number of books considered canon by the Eastern churches yet not by the Roman church which is the anatagonist of the Protestants.  These are often called Deuterocanonicals.

3 Maccabees
4 Maccabees
Psalm 151
Prayer of Mannasseh
Odes of Solomon
2 Esdras

Qumran Writings

In addition to copies of several canonical books of the Tanakh/Old Testament and known pseudepigraphal writings, the Essene center at Qumran held a number of sect-specific works.

Great Isaiah Scroll
War of the Sons of Light and the Sons of Darkness
Community Rule
Pesher on Habakkuk
Thanksgiving Hymns
Genesis Apocryphon
Book of Mysteries

Old Testament Pseudepigrapha

In the 2nd century BCE through 1st century CE, quite a number of forgeries in the name of worthies mentioned in the Tanakh appeared and became popular.  Four of these (Assumption of Moses, 1 Enoch, Martyrdom of Isaiah, and Life of Adam and Eve) are referenced and/or alluded to in the Christian New Testament.

1 Enoch
2 Enoch
3 Enoch
2 Baruch
3 Baruch
4 Baruch
3 Esdras
4 Esdras
5 Ezra
6 Ezra
5 Maccabees
6 Maccabees
7 Maccabees
8 Maccabees
1 Meqabyan
2 Meqabyan
3 Meqabyan
Adam Octipartite
Adjuration of Elijah
Apocalypse of Abraham
Apocalypse of Adam
Apocalypse of Elijah
Apocalypse of Ezekiel
Apocalypse of Sedrach
Apocalypse of the Seven Heavens
Apocalypse of Zephaniah
Apocryphon of Ezekiel
Apocryphon of Jacob and Joseph
Apocryphon of Melchizedek
Apocryphon of the Ten Tribes
Ascension of Moses
*Assumption of Moses
Book of Assaf
Book of Noah
Cave of Treasures
Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan
(Coptic) Apocryphon of Jeremiah
Eldad and Modad
Enochic Book of Giants
Epistle of Rehoboam
(Greek) Apocalypse of Daniel
(Greek) Apocalypse of Ezra
History of Joseph
History of the Rechabites
Jannes and Jambres
Joseph and Aseneth
Jubilees
Ladder of Jacob
Letter of Aristeas
Life of Adam and Eve
Lives of the Prophets
Manual of Discipline
Martyrdom and Ascension of Isaiah
Prayer of Jacob
Prayer of Joseph
Psalms of Solomon
Questions of Ezra
Revelation of Ezra
Rule of the Congregation
Rule of the Blessing
Sibylline Oracles
Signs of the Judgement
Sword of Moses
Testament of Abraham
Testament of Adam
Testament of Isaac
Testament of Jacob
Testament of Job
Testament of Solomon
Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs
Treatise of Shem
Vision of Ezra
Visions of Heaven and Hell
Words of Gad the Seer

2 comments:

Wondell said...

absolutely lovely and useful information

Chuck Hamilton said...

Thank you, Wondell