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Manasses, the Prayer of
Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
one of the shorter apocryphal pieces appended to the O.T. (In the following account we mainly follow the articles on the subject in Kitto and Smith's Dictionaries.) Though wanting in the early printed editions of the Sept., it must have been included in the ancient MSS. of the Sept., as is evident from the fact that there exists an Ante-Hieronymian Latin version of it. It is found in the Codex Alexandrinus, and the Greek text was first published in Robert Stephens' edition of the Biblia Latina (Paris. 1540), and in the edition of the same printed in 1546. It was also printed in the Apostolical Constitutions in 1563; it was then published by Dauderstadt in 1628; inserted in the fourth volume of the London Polyglot, with the various readings of the Codex Alexandrinus, in the Apostolical Fathers of Cotelerius in 1672; in the Libri apocr. V. T. (Francof. ad M. 1694, Halle, 1749); in the editions of the Apocrypha by Reineccius (1730). Michaelis (1741); and after the text of the Cod. Alexandrinus in the editions of the Sept. by Grabe and Breitinger.
I. Title and Position. — This apocryphal production is called the prayer of Manasses (προσευχὴ Μανασσῆ ), or hymn of prayer (προσευχὴ τῇς ῳδῆς ), because it purports to be the supplications which this monarch offered to God when captive in Babylon, mentioned in 2 Chronicles 33:12-13. Its position varies in the MSS., printed editions of the text, and in the versions. It is more generally appended to the Psalter with the collection of hymns and prayers, as in the Codex Alexandrinus, the Zurich MS. of the Psalms mentioned by Fritzsche, and in the Ethiopic Psalter, published by Ludolf (Frankfort-on-the-Main, 1701); in the three Latin MSS. used by Sabatier it is placed at the end of 2 Chronicles (Sabat. Bibl. Lat. 3:1038); in the editions of the Vulgate formed after the Trident. Canon of the Bible it is usually put at the end of the N.T., succeeded by the third and fourth books of Esdras. Luther placed it as the last of the Apocrypha, at the end of the O.T., while Matthew's Bible, which first inserted it among the Apocrypha, and which is followed by the Bishop's Bible and the A. V., puts it before the Maccabees.
II. Contents, Author, Date, Original Language, etc. — It opens with an appeal to the God of the faithful patriarchs and their righteous seed, describes his greatness as Creator of all things, before whose power every one trembles, and whose wrath no sinner can endure, and speaks of his proffered pardon to the penitent (2 Chronicles 33:1-8). Thereupon the repentant king confesses his sins, humbles himself on account of them, prays for pardon, and promises to lead a life of gratitude and praise (2 Chronicles 33:9-15).
Many writers have seen nothing in this prayer to militate against its being the penitential dirge of the penitent Manasseh; on the contrary, they think that the simnplicity and appropriateness of its style, the earnest and touching manner in which it is expressed, go far to show that if it is not literally "his prayer unto his God" rendered into Greek, that prayer formed the basis of the Greek. It is, indeed, certain that the prayer was still extant when the Chronicles were compiled, that the chronicler saw it "in the book of the Kings of Israel" (2 Chronicles 33:18), and that later writers, as well as tradition, constantly refer to it (compare Sanhedrin, 101, b; 103, a; Jerusalem Sanhedrin 17; Midrash Rabboth on Lev., Parsha 30, p. 150; on Deut., Parsha 2, or ch. 4:25, p. 216, ed. Sulzbach; Chaldee Paraphrase of 2 Chronicles 33:11, etc.; Const. Apost. 2:22). We may more reasonably conclude, however, that it is but the embodiment of these traditions. (See MANASSEH), 3.
The Greek text is undoubtedly original, and not a mere translation from the Hebrew, for even within the small space of fifteen verses some peculiarities are found (ἄστεκτος, κλίνειν γόνυ καρδίας, παροργίζειν τὸν θυμόν, τίθεσθαι μετάνοιάν τινι ). The writer was well acquainted with the Sept. (τὰ κατώτατα τῆς γῆς, τὸπλῆθος τῆς χρηστότητός σου, πᾶσα ἡ δύναμις τῶν οὐρανῶν ), but beyond this there is nothing to determine the date at which he lived. The allusion to the patriarchs (2 Chronicles 33:8, δίκαιοι; 2 Chronicles 33:1, τὸ σπέρμα αὐτῶν τὸ δίκαιον ) appears to fix the authorship on a Jew, but the clear teaching on repentance points to a time certainly not long before the Christian era. There is no indication of the place at which the prayer was written. All that we know is that reference is made to it in a fragment of Julius Africanus (circa A.D. 221), that it is given,at length in the Apostolical Constitutions (2:22), a work attributed to Clemens Romanus, but generally believed to be of the 3d or 4th century, and that the whole complexion of it shows it to be an ante-Christian production, compiled most probably in the first century B.C. The Latin translation which occurs in Vulgate MSS. is not by the hand of Jerome, and has some remarkable phrases (insustentabilis, importabilis [ἀνυπόστατος ], omnis virtus clelorum), but there is no sufficient internal evidence to show whether it is later or earlier than his time. It does not, however, seem to have been used by any Latin writer of the first four centuries, and was not known to Victor Tunonensis in the sixth (Ambrosius, 4:989, ed. Migne).
III. Canonicity. — This prayer was considered by many of the ancients as genuine, and used as such for ecclesiastical purposes. It is quoted as such by the author of the Sermons on the Pharisee and Publican; in the sixth volume of Chrysostom's works; by Anthony the monk (2:94); Theodore Studita (Sesrm. Catachet. 93); Theophanes Ceramaeus (Homnil. 2 and 56); by Freculfus, George Syncellus, and George the sinner, in their Chronicles; by Suidas (Lex. s.v. Μανασσῆς ); and by Anastasius Sinaita (in Psalms 6); and is still placed by the modern Greeks in their Psalter along with the other hymns (Leo Allatius, De lib. Ecclesiast. Graecorum, p. 62). But the fact of its non-occurrence in the Heb. text, and its uniform rejection by the Jewish Church, clearly stamp it as apocryphal. It was never recognized in the Roman Church as canonical, and has, therefore. been omitted in the ancient editions of the Sept. For this reason it is also omitted from the Zurich Version, and Coverdale's Bible. which follows it, as well as from the Geneva Version; but is retained among the Apocrypha in Luther's translation, Matthew's Bible. and in the Bishop's Bible, and thence passed over into the A.V.
IV. Versions and Exegetical Helps. — Greek and Latin metrical versions of this prayer have been reprinted by Fabricius, in his edition of the books of Sirach, Wisdom, Judith, and Tobit (Leipz. 1691). A Hebrew version of it is mentioned by Wolf, Bibliotheca Hebraea, 1:778; a very beautiful Hebrew version, with valuable notes, is printed in the Hebrew Annual, entitled likure Ha-Itim (Vienna, 1824), v. 12 sq.; important literary notices are given by Fabricius, Codex Pseudepigraphs V. T. 1:1100 sq.; Bibliotheca Graeca (ed. Harles), 3:732 sq.; Mü ller, Erklurung des Gebet Manasse (Salzwedel, 1733); and especially Fritzsche, Kurzgefasstes exegetisches Handbuch z. d. Apokryphen d. A. T. 1:157 sq. (Leips. 1851). (See APOCRYPHA).
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Manasses, the Prayer of'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​m/manasses-the-prayer-of.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.