Apocrypha of Jewish origin with Christian accretions
- 1. Sibylline Oracles
- 2. Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs
- 3. The Ascension of Isaias
- 4. Minor Jewish-Christian Apocrypha
II. APOCRYPHA OF JEWISH ORIGIN WITH CHRISTIAN ACCRETIONS
(a) Sibylline Oracles
See the separate article under this title.
(b) Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs.
This is an extensive pseudograph, consisting of;
The body of the work is undoubtedly Judaic, but there are many
interpolations of an unmistakably Christian origin, presenting in
their ensemble a fairly full Christology, but one suspected of
Docetism. Recent students of the Testaments assign with much
probability the Jewish groundwork to the Hasmonean period, within
the limits 135-63 B.C. Portions which extol the tribes of Levi
and Juda are interpreted as an apology for the Hasmonean
pontiff-kings. The remaining ten tribes are supposed to be yet in
existence, and are urged to be faithful to the representatives of
the priestly and royal power. In this defence of the Machabean
dynasty, and by a writer with Pharisaic tendencies, probably a
priest, the Testaments are unique in Jewish literature. True, there
are passages in which the sacerdotal caste and the ruling tribes are
unsparingly denounced, but these are evidently later insertions.
The eschatology is rather advanced. The Messias is to spring from
the tribe of Levi (elsewhere, however, from Juda); he is to be the
eternal High-Priest -- a unique feature of the book -- as well as
the civil ruler of the nation. During his reign sin will gradually
cease. The gates of paradise are to be opened and the Israelites
and converted Gentiles will dwell there and eat of the tree of life.
The Messianic kingdom is therefore to be an eternal one on earth,
therein agreeing with the Ethiopic Henoch. The Testaments exist
complete in Greek, Armenian, Latin, and Slavonic versions. Aramaic
and Syriac fragments are preserved.
- narrations in which each of the twelve sons of Jacob relates
his life, embellished by Midrashic expansions of the Biblical data
- exhortations by each patriarch to the practice of virtues,
or the shunning of vices illustrated in his life
- apocalyptic portions concerning the future of the twelve tribes, and the Messianic times
(c) The Ascension of Isaias
The Ascension of Isaias consists of two parts:
- The Martyrdom of Isaias, in which it is told that the prophet
was sawn in two by the order of the wicked King Manasses.
- The Ascension proper.
This purports to be the description by Isaias of a vision in
which he was rapt up through the seven heavens to the presence of
the Trinity, and beheld the descent of the Son, "the Beloved", on
His mission of redemption. He changes his form in passing through
the inferior celestial circles. The prophet then sees the glorified
Beloved reascending. The Martyrdom is a Jewish work, saving some
rather large interpolations. The rest is by Christian hands or
perhaps a single writer, who united his apocalypse with the
Martyrdom. There are tokens that the Christian element is a product
of Gnosticism, and that our work is the same with that much in
favour among several heretical sects under the name of the
"Anabaticon", or "Ascension of Isaias". The Jewish portion is
thought to have appeared in the first century of our era; the
remainder, in the middle of the second. Justin, Tertullian, and
Origen seem to have been acquainted with the Martyrdom; Sts. Jerome
and Epiphanius are the earliest witnesses for the Ascension proper.
The apocryphon exists in Greek, Ethiopic, and Slavonic manuscripts.
(d) Minor Jewish-Christian Apocrypha
Space will permit only an enumeration of unimportant specimens of
apocryphal literature, extant in whole or part, and consisting of
Probably with this second class are to be included the
"Testaments of Job" and "Zacharias", the "Adam Books", the "Book of
Creation", the "Story of Aphikia" (the wife of Jesus Sirach).
These works as a rule appeared in the East, and in many cases show
Gnostic tendencies. Further information about some of them will be
found at the end of articles on the above personages.
- Jewish originals recast or freely interpolated by Christians,
viz., the "Apocalypses of Elias" (Elijah), "Sophonias" (Zephaniah),
the "Paralipomenon of Baruch"; and
- Christian compositions whose material was supplied by Jewish
sources; the so-called "Apocalypse of Moses", the "Apocalypse of
Esdras", the "Testament of Abraham", the "Testament of the Three
Patriarchs", the "Prayer of Joseph", the "Prayer of Aseneth", the
"Marriage of Aseneth", (the wife of Joseph)