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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
Jubilees, Book of
Jubilees, Book of
This apocryphal or Hagadic book, which was used so largely in the ancient Church, and was still known to the Byzantines, but of which both the original Hebrew and the Greek were afterwards lost, has recently been discovered in an Ethiopic version in Abyssinia.
I. Title of the Book, and its Signification. — The book is called Ι᾿ωβηλαῖα = ספר הרובלות, "the Jubilees," or "the book of Jubilees," because it divides the period of the Biblical history upon which it treats, i.e. from the creation to the entrance of the Israelites into Canaan, into fifty jubilees of forty-nine years each, equal to 2450 years, and carefully describes every event according to the jubilee, sabbatical year, or year in which it transpired, as stated in the inscription: "These are the words of the division of the days according to the law and the testimony, according to the events of the years in sabbatical years and in jubilees," etc. It is also called by the fathers ἡ λετὴ Γἐνεσις, λεπτοσγένεσις, μικρογένεσις, τὰ λεπτὰ Γενέσεως = זוטא בראשית, i.e. the small Genesis, compendium of Genesis, because it only selects certain portions of Genesis, although through its lengthy comments upon these points it is actually longer than this canonical book (comp. Epiphanius, Adv. Hoer. lib. 1, tom. 3, cap. 6, edit. Petav.; G. Syncellus, p. 8); or, according to Ewald's rendering of it, τὰ λεπτὰ (subtilia, minuta) Γένεσις, because it divides the history upon which it treats into very minute and small periods (Geschichte des Volkes Israel, 1, 271); it is called by St. Jerome the apocryphal Genesis (see below, sec. 3), and it is also styled ἡ τοῦ Μωυσέως ἀποκάλυψις, the Apocalypse of Moses, by George Syncellus and Cedrenus, because the book pretends to be a revelation of God to Moses, and is denominated" the book of the division of days" by the Abyssinian Church, from the first words of the inscription.
II. Design and Contents of the Book. — This apocryphal book is designed to be a commentary on the canonical books of Genesis and Exodus.
(1) It fixes and arranges more minutely the chronology of the Biblical history from the creation to the entrance of the Israelites into Canaan;
(2) Solves the various difficulties to be found in the narratives of these canonical books;
(3) Describes more fully events which are simply hinted at in the sacred history of that early period; and
(4) Expatiates upon the religious observances, such as the Sabbath, the festivals, circumcision, sacrifices, lawful and unlawful meats, etc., setting forth their sacred character, as well as our duty to keep them, by showing the high antiquity of these institutions, inasmuch as they have been sacredly observed by the patriarchs, as may be seen from the following notice of these four points.
a. In its chronological arrangements we find that it places the deluge in A.M. 1353 (Jubil. 6, 61), and the exodus in the year A.M. 2410 (4, 10). This, with the forty years' sojourn in the wilderness, yields fifty jubilees of forty-nine years each from the creation to the entrance into Canaan, i.e. 2450, and also allows a new jubilee period to commence immediately upon the entering of the Israelites into the Promised Land. Though in the calculations of this period the book of Jubilees agrees in its particulars with the Hebrew text of Genesis and Exodus, yet it differs from the canonical text both as to the time of the sojourn in Egypt and the years in which the ante and post-diluvian patriarchs begat their children. Thus Jared is said to have lived 62 instead of 162 years before Enoch was born, Methuselah was 67 instead of 187 at the birth of Lamech, and Lamech again was 53 instead of 182 when he begat Noah, agreeing partly with the Samaritan Pentateuch, and partly with the Septuagint in their statements about these antediluvian patriarchs. In the chronology of the post-diluvian patriarchs, however, the book of Jubilees deviates from these versions, and says that Arphaxad begat Cainan when 74-75; after the deluge, Cainan begat Salah when 57, Salah begat Eber when 67, Eber begat Peleg when 68, Peleg begat Reu when 61; the birth of Serug is omitted, but Serug is said to have begat Nahor in the year 116 after the birth of Reu, and Nahor begat Terah in his 62d year (compare Jubil. 4:40, etc.). The going down into Egypt is placed about A.M. 2172-2173 (Jubil. 45:1-3), so that when we deduct it from 2410, in which year the exodus is placed, there remains for the sojourn in Egypt 238 years. In the description of the lives of Noah, Abraham (23:23), Isaac (36:49-52), Jacob (45:40-43), and Joseph (46:9- 15), the chronology agrees with the Hebrew text of Genesis.
b. Of the difficulties in the sacred narrative which the book of Jubilees tries to solve may be mentioned that it accounts for the serpent speaking to Eve by saying that all animals spoke before the fall in paradise (comp. Genesis 1:1 with Jubil. 3:98); explains very minutely whence the first heads of families took their wives (Jubi. 4, 24, 71, 100, etc.); how far the sentence of death pronounced in Genesis 2:17 has been fulfilled literally (4:99, etc.); shows that the sons of God who came to the daughters of men were angels (5:3); with what help Noah brought the animals into the ark (5:76); wherewith the tower of Babel was destroyed (10:87); why Sarah disliked Ishmael and urged Abraham to send him away (17:13); why Rebecca loved Jacob so dearly (19:40-84); how it was that Esau came to sell his birthright for a mess of pottage (24:5-20); who told Rebekah (Genesis 27:42) that Esau determined to kill Jacob (37:1, etc.); how it was that he afterwards desisted from his determination to kill Jacob (35:29- 105); why Rebekah said (Genesis 27:45) that she would be deprived of both her sons in one day (37:9); why Er, Judah's first born, died (41:1-7); why Onan would not redeem Tamar (41:11-13); why Judah was not punished for his sin with Tamar (41:57-67); why Joseph had the money put into the sacks of his brethren (42:71-73) and how Moses was nourished in the ark (47:13), and that it was not God, but the chief mastemah, משַשמה, the enemy, who hardened the hearts of the Egyptians (48:58).
c. Instances where events which are briefly mentioned or simply hinted at in the canonical book of Genesis, and which seem to refer to another narrative of an earlier or later date, are given more fully in the book of Jubilees, will be found in Jubil. 16:39-101, where an extensive description is given of the appearance of the angels to Abraham and Sarah as a supplement to Genesis 18:14; in Jubil. 32:5-38, 50-53, where Jacob is described as giving tithes of all his possessions, and wishing to erect a house of Good in Bethel, which is a fuller description of that hinted at in Genesis 28:22; in Jubil. 34:4-25, where Jacob's battle with the seven kings of the Amorites is described, to Which allusion is made in Genesis 48:22.
d. As to the religious observances, we are told that the Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost (הקגיר םשבועות חג םיוםהבכורים ), is contained in the covenants which God made with Noah and Abraham (comp. Jubil. 6:5660 with Genesis 9:8-17 with Genesis 15:18-21); the Feast of Tabernacles was first celebrated by Abraham at Beersheba (Jubil. 16:61- 101); the concluding Festival (שמיני עצרת ), which is on the 23d of Tisri, continuing the Feast of Tabernacles, (See FESTIVAL), was instituted by Jacob (Jubil. 32:87-94) after his vision at Bethel (Genesis 35:9-14); and that the mourning on the Day of Atonement (יוםכפיר ) was instituted (Leviticus 16:29) to commemorate the mourning of Jacob over the loss of Joseph (Jubil. 34:50-60). (The German version by Dillmann, through which this book has recently been made known to Europeans, has been divided by the erudite translator into fifty chapters, but not into verses. The references in this article are to those chapters, and the lines of the respective chapters.)
III. Author and Original Language of the Book. — That the author of this book was a Jew is evident from,
(1) His minute description of the Sabbath and festivals, as well as all the Rabbinic ceremonies connected therewith (1:19-33, 49-60), which developed themselves in the course of time, and which we are told are simply types described by Moses from heavenly archetypes, and have not only been kept by the angels in heaven, but are binding upon the Jews world without end;
(2) The elevated position he ascribes to the Jewish people (2:79-91; 16:50- 56); ordinary Israelites are in dignity equal to angels (15:72-75), and the priests are like the presence angels (31:47-49); over Israel only does the Lord himself rule, while he appointed evil spirits to exercise dominion over all other nations (15:80-90); and
(3) The many Hagadic elements of this book which are still preserved in the Talmud and Midrashim. Compare, for instance, Jubil. 1:116, where the presence angel, שר הפניםמטטרון, is described as having preceded the hosts of Israel, with Sanhedrim, 38, b; the description of the creation of paradise on the third day (Jubil. 2:37 with Bereshith Rabba, c. 15); the twenty-two generations from Adam to Jacob (Jubil. 2:64, 91, with Bereshith Rabba and Midrash Tadshe, 169); the animals speaking before the fall (Jubil. 3:98 with the Midrashim); the remark that Adam lived 70 years less than 1000 years in order that the declaration might be fulfilled "in the day in which thou eatest thereof thou shalt die," since 1000 years are as one day with the Lord (Jubil. 4:99 with Bereshith Rabba, c. 19; Justin. Dial. c. Tryph. p. 278, ed. Otto); the causes of the deluge (Jubil. 5:5-20 with Bereshith Rabba, c. 31); the declaration that the beginning of the first, fourth, seventh, and tenth months are to be celebrated as festivals, being the beginning of the four seasons called תקפות, and having already been observed by Noah (Jubil. 6:31-95 with Pirke R. Eliezer, cap. 8; Pseudo- Jonathan on Genesis 8:22); the statement that Satan induced God to ask Abraham to sacrifice his son (Jubil. 17:49-53 with Sanhedrim, 89, b); that Abraham was tempted ten times (Jubil. 19:22 with Mishna, Aboth, 5; Targum Jerusalem on Genesis 22:1, etc.); and that Joseph spoke Hebrew when he made himself known to his brothers (Jubil. 43:54 with Bereshith Rabba, cap. 93). As, however, some of the practices, rites, and interpretations given in this book are at variance with the traditional expositions of the Rabbins, Beer is of opinion that the writer was a Dosithean who was anxious to bring about a fusion of Samaritanism and Rabbinic-Judaism by making mutual concessions (Das Buch d. Jubilaen, p. 61, 62); Jellinek, again, thinks that he was an Essene, and wrote this book against the Pharisees, who maintained that the beginning of the month is to be fixed by observation and not by calculation (הראייה קידושׁ ההדש על פי ), and that the Sanhedrim had the power of ordaining intercalary years, (See HILLEL II), adducing in corroboration of this view the remark in Jubil. 6:95-133, the chronological system of the author, which is based upon heptades; and the strict observance of the Sabbath, which, as an Essene loving the sacred number seven, he urges upon every Israelite (compare Jubil. 2:73-135; 4:19-61; Beth ha-Midrash, 3, p. 11); while Frankel maintains that the writer was an Egyptian Jew, and a priest at the temple in Leontopolis, which accounts for his setting such a high value upon sacrifices, and tracing the origin of the festivals and sacrifices to the patriarchs (Monatsschrift, 5, p. 396).
Notwithstanding the difference of opinion as to which phase of Judaism the author belonged, all agree that this book was written in Hebrew, that it was afterwards translated into Greek, and that the Ethiopic, of which Dillmann has given a German version, was made from the Greek. Many of the expressions in the book can only be. understood by retranslating them into Hebrew. Thus, for instance, the remarks "und es gibt keine Uebergehung" (Jubil. 6:101, 102), "und sie sollen keinen Tag uebergehen" (6:107), become intelligible when we bear in mind that the original had עיבור, intercalation. Moreover, the writer designates the wives of the patriarchs from the family of Seth by names which express beauty and virtue in Hebrew; Seth married Azurah, עצורה , restraint; Jared married Beracha, ברכה, blessing; Enoch and Methuselah married wives of the name of Adni, עדנה, pleasure; while Cain married his sister Avan, ]אָוֶ, vice (Jubil. 4:24-128). The words בי נשבעתי, Genesis 22:16, are rendered in the book of Jubil. (17:42) bei meinem Haupte, which is the well known Palestinian oath! בחיי ראשי ראש (compare Sanhedrin, 2, 3, al.), and which no Greek writer would use, especially as the Sept. does not have it here. There are also other renderings which show that the writer had the Hebrew Scriptures before him and not the Sept., a fact which is irreconcilable on the supposition that he was a Greek Jew, or wrote in Greek, as he would undoubtedly have used the Sept. Thus, for instance, the book of Jubil. 14:9,10, has "der aus deinem Liebe hervorgeht," which is a literal translation of the Hebrew!אשר יצא ממעי, Genesis 15:4; otherwise the Sept. ὅς ἐξελεύσεται ἐκ σοῦ : Jubil. 14:29 has "aber Abram wehrte sie ab," so the Hebrew, וִיִּשֵׁב אוֹתָםאִבְרָ (Genesis 15:11), not the Sept. καὶ συνεκάθισεν αὐτοῖς ῞Αβραμ (comp. also book of Jubil. 15:17 with Sept. Genesis 17:7; 15:43 with Sept. 17:17; 15:46 with Sept. 17:19). To these is to be added the testimony of St. Jerome, who remarks upon רַסָּה, "Hoc verbum, quantum memoria suggerit, nusquam alibi in scripturis sanctis apud Hebraeos invenisse me novi, absque libro apocrypho, qui a Graecis μικρογένεσις appellatur. Ibi in aedificatione turris pro stadio ponitur, in quo excercentur pugiles et athletae et cursorum velocitas comprobatur" (comp. In epistola ad Fabiolam de mansionibus, Mansio 18 on Numbers 33:21-22); and again (Mansio 24 on Numbers 33:27-28), "Hoc eodem vocabulo (תֶּיִח ) et iisdem literis scriptum invenio patrem Abraham, qui in supradicto apocrypho Geneseos volumine abactis corvis, qui hominum frumenta vastabant, abactoris vel depulsoris sortitus est nomen;" as well as the fact that portions of the book are still extant in Hebrew (comp. Jellinek, Beth Ha-Midrash, vol. 3, p. 9, etc.). The agreement of many passages with the Sept., when the latter deviates from the Hebrew, is, as Dillmann observes, to be ascribed to the translator, who, when rendering it into Greek, used the Sept. (Ewald, Jahrbuch, 3, 90).
IV. Date and Importance of the Book. — That this book was written before the destruction of the Temple is evident not only from its description of the sacrifices and the services performed therein, but from its whole complexion, and this is admitted by all who have written on it. Its exact date, however, is a matter of dispute. Kruger maintains that it was written between B.C. 332 and 320; Dillmann and Frankel think that it was written in the first century before Christ; while Ewald is of opinion that it originated about the birth of Christ. The medium of the two extremes is the most probable.
The importance of this book can hardly be overrated when we remember that it is one of the very few Biblical works which have come down to us written between the close of the O.T. canon and the beginning of the N.T. There are, however, several other considerations which render this book a most important contribution, both to the interpretation of the Bible and to the history of Jewish belief anterior to the Christian era.
1. Many portions of it are literal translations of the book of Genesis, and therefore enable us to see in what state the Hebrew text was at that age, and furnish us with some readings which are preferable to those given in the textus receptus, e.g. Jubil. 17:17 renders it probable that the correct reading of Genesis 21:11 is אדת אמתו על אדת בנו ועל, which is corroborated by the verse immediately following.
2. It shows us that the Jews of that age believed in the survival of the soul after the death of the body (23:115). though the resurrection of the body is nowhere mentioned therein; that they believed in the existence of Satan, the prince of legions of evil spirits, respecting which so little is said in the O. Test. and so much in the New; and that these evil spirits have dominion over men, and are often the cause of their illnesses and death (10:35-47; 49:7-10).
3. It shows us what the Jews believed about the coming of the Messiah, and the great day of judgment (33:37-118).
4. It explains the statements in Acts 7:53; Galatians 3, 19; Hebrews 2:2, which have caused so much difficulty to interpreters, by most distinctly declaring that the law was given through the presence angel (1:99-102).
5. It even appears to be quoted in the N.T. (compare 2 Peter 2:4; Judges 1:6, with Jubil. 4:76; 5, 3, 20).
V. Literature. — It has already been remarked that the Hebrew original of this book is lost. Chapters 34 and 35 are, however, preserved from Maidrash Vujisau, in Midrash Jalkut Sabbat. section Bereshith, 133, as has been pointed out by Jellinek (see below); and Treuenfels has shown parallels between other parts of the book of Jubilees and the Hagada and Midrashim in the Literaturblatt des Orients, 1846, p. 81 sq. The Greek version of this book, which was made at a very early period of the Christian era, as is evident from Clement's Recognit. cap. 30-32, though Epiphanius (Adv. Hoeres. lib. 1, cap. 4, 6; lib. 2; tom. 2, cap. 83, 84) and St. Jerome (in Epistola ad Fabiolanz de mansionibus, Mansio 18 on Numbers 33:21-22; Mausio 24 on Numbers 33:27-28) are the first who mention it by name, was soon lost in the Western Church, but it still existed in the Eastern Church, and was copiously used in the Chronographia of Georgius Syncellus and Georgius Cedrenus, and quoted several times by Joannes Zanoras and Michael Glycas, Byzantine theologians and historians of the 11th and 12th centuries (compare Fabricius, Codex Pseud.-epigraph. V. Test. p. 851-863; Dillmann, in Ewald's Jahrbuech. 3, 94 sq.). From that time, however, the Greek version was also lost, and the book of Jubilees was quite unknown to Europeans till 1844, when Ewald announced in the Zeitschrift fur die Kunde des Morgenlandes, p. 176-179, that Dr. Krapff had found it preserved in the Abyssinian church in an Ethiopic translation, and brought over a MS. copy which was made over to the Tü bingen University. This Ethiopic version was translated into German by Dillmann in Ewald's Jahrbü cher, 2, 230- 256, and 3, 1-96 (Gö ttingen, 1849-51), and Ewald at once used its contents for the new edition of his Geschichte d. Volkes Israel (vol. 1, Gö tting. 1851, p. 271; vol. 2, 1853, p. 294). This was seasonably followed by Jellinek's edition of the Midrash Vajisau, with an erudite preface in Beth Ha-Midrash, vol. 3 (Leipzig, 1855); next by the learned treatises of Beer, Das Buch der Jubilä en und sein Verhä ltniss zu den Midraschim, 1856; and Frankel, Das Buch d. Jubilaen (in the Monatsschrift. f. Geschichte und Wissenschaft des Judenthums, 5, 311-316, 380-400); then by another masterly production by Beer, entitled Noch ein Wort ü ber das Buch der Jubilaen (in Frankel's Monatsschrift, 1857); and strictures on the works of Jellinek, Beer, and Frankel, by Dillmann, in the Zeitschrift der Deutschen morgenlandischen Gesellschaft, 11 (Leipzig, 1857), 161 sq. Kruger, too, published an article on Die Chronologie im Buche der Jubilaen in the same journal, 12 (Lpz. 1858), 279 sq., and Dillmann at last published the Ethiopic itself (Kiel and Lond. 1859), which Ronsch has since translated with notes (Leips. 1874, 8vo).
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Jubilees, Book of'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/j/jubilees-book-of.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
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