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Yeshua in Context » Apocalyptic Literature, Apocrypha & Apocryphal, Background to Gospels, Pseudepigrapha » Other Jewish and Christian Writings from Biblical Times

Other Jewish and Christian Writings from Biblical Times

We have found over the centuries a number of “other” writings from the time of the Bible by Jews and Christians. These writings were preserved and found a number of ways including: preserved in Syriac and Ethiopic by eastern churches, the Cairo Geniza find from the 19th century, and non-biblical writings preserved in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The Bible itself mentions many lost books? What are they? How does Jewish literature from before and during New Testament times help us? Where can people get more information?

The definitive collection of “other” books up to the end of the first century CE (with some documents and some parts of documents actually as late as 400 CE) is contained in two volumes (in English) by James Charlesworth called The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. Serious readers and students may want to follow Joseph Kelly’s One-Year Reading Plan in the Pseudepigrapha. You can find more tools, such as the Online Critical Pseudepigrapha on the right sidebar at MJPassages.com.

What are the lost books mentioned specifically in the Bible? James Charlesworth makes a rather complete list in his introduction:

The book of the War of the Lord (Num 21:14), the Book of the Just (Josh 10:13, 2 Sa, 1:18), the Book of the Acts of Solomon (1 Kgs 11:41), the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Israel (1 Kgs 14:19; 2 Chr 33:18; cf. 2 Chr 20:34), the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Judah (1 Kgs 14:29; 15:7), the Annals of Samuel the Seer (1 Chr 29:29), the History of Nathan the Prophet (2 Chr 9:29), the Annals of Shemaiah the Prophet and Iddo the Seer (2 Chr 12:15), the Annals of Jehu son of Hannai (2 Chr 20:34), an unknown and untitled writing of Isaiah (2 Chr 26:22), the Annals of Hozai (2 Chr 33:18), and an unknown lament for Josiah by Jeremiah (2 Chr 35:25).

Charlesworth notes that the Apocrypha also lists more lost books as do some writings in the Pseudepigrapha.

And then there are documents called the New Testament Pseudepigrapha, especially including gnostic gospels and much more.

Some of the writings in the collection we now call the Pseudepigrapha are directly cited or alluded to in the New Testament (famously, the book of Enoch is cited in Jude).

And we learn from these writings more about the ideas held by some Jewish people in those times. It is difficult to say how influential all of them were, though some must have held at least some popularity, such as Jubilees, Enoch, and Psalms of Solomon.

They broaden our understanding of the diverse Judaism leading up to Yeshua and the apostles.

The writings included in Charlesworth’s two volumes are not lost books, though they were for many years. The list of lost books mentioned in the Bible reminds us that much more was written than we now possess. It opens our imagination to wonder at how much we do not know about history, even the history we care most deeply about.

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Filed under: Apocalyptic Literature, Apocrypha & Apocryphal, Background to Gospels, Pseudepigrapha

11 Responses to "Other Jewish and Christian Writings from Biblical Times"

  1. art says:

    the otp volumes include books that were written after 100 ce, not just books written up to that point.

    1. yeshuain says:

      Yes, I was keeping it simple.

  2. art says:

    how is making an incorrect statement “keeping it simple”?

    you could have just as simply, and correctly written, “the definitive collection of “other” books from between ca 350 bce and ca 400 ce (and
    sometimes later)
    is contained in two volumes (in english) by james charlesworth called the old testament pseudepigrapha.”

    keeping it simple does not mean misinforming your readers.

  3. yeshuain says:

    Art:

    I guess it’s perspective that counts here. The intention of OTP, stated in the introduction, is to include works related to the Hebrew Bible. The fact that some of these documents have late parts or may have been misdated in earlier scholarship is irrelevant to the inclusive principle for the book.

    It is not attempting to include works in the rabbinic stream or the New Testament Pseudepigrapha stream. I did not want to give the impression that OTP included all the relevant Jewish and Christian writings up to 400 CE.

    But, though I think you could use a lesson in tact, I will modify the wording of the post so that you feel I have not “misinformed” my readers.

    Derek Leman

  4. karen elizabeth says:

    glad to discover (blessed actually) this site as i have been searching for a ‘new covenant, torah and sabbath observing’ congregation. i look forward to spending time soon reading these blogs and hopefully visiting this congregation in the near future.
    my eyes have been opened and the ‘dim glass’ is being cleared by the Ruach HKodesh and the Father is taking me to new spiritual heights than i ever could have reached in the ‘counterfeit’ churches i had been raised in. halleluYAH
    Adonai Eloheinu Echad

    shalom

  5. yeshuain says:

    Thank you, Jim. For everyone who hasn’t checked out the link Jim sent, there is more complexity to the references to lost books in the Hebrew Bible that I realized.

  6. Wouter says:

    just to clarify, You guys probally still agree that all the inspired writtings are contained in the Bible we have today? As those books can show us something about history, but it probally has some reason for being pseudographia. As i’ve heard that the book of Enoch only appeared in 150 BC, but was about an event suppose to be around 2500 BC or longer ago.

    1. yeshuain says:

      Wouter:

      Yes, I believe the canons of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament are authoritative. But I am thinking through and asking things like, “Why?” or “How do we know?”

      Right now I think Jewish and Christian tradition are what I am resting my belief on.

      Derek Leman

      P.S. I don’t suppose the book has arrived yet in the down under?

      1. Wouter says:

        Hi Derek

        Thanks, yes the book actually arrived today. Read the first three chapters. Enjoyed it, can’t wait to read some more.

        Will be interested in hearing what you find in this research about the pseudographa, seems to always be a big issue. Previously I’ve read the FF Bruce on the formation of the Canon, I found that helpful in clearing some of my questions.
        One thing that always strikes me when I read books from the apographia and pseudographia is how many of the teachings seem to be quite foreign to what is taught in the Canon’s of the Old testament and New Testament. Such as money being given to the temple as a sin offering for dead soldiers in 2 Maccabees 12. After they found coins on with the face of Baal on them, with the dead soldiers.

        Thank You, God Bless

        Wouter Joubert

  7. Bill Meyer says:

    @Wouter
    Hi Wouter
    Are you from South Africa?

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