Book of Jubilees--Commentary
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Book of Jubilees, elaboration on Genesis and Exodus: part 2
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also called the Little Genesis,   pseudepigraphal work (not included in any canon of scripture), most notable for its chronological schema, by which events described in Genesis on through Exodus 12 are dated by jubilees of 49 years, each of which is composed of seven cycles of seven years. The institution of a jubilee calendar supposedly would ensure the observance of Jewish religious festivals and holy days on the proper dates and, by setting Jews apart from their Gentile neighbours, would emphasize the Old Testament picture of Israel as the covenant community of God.

In addition to paraphrasing and embellishing on Genesis, Jubilees also relates stories explaining the origin of contemporary Jewish laws and customs. An older (hence, to the Hellenistic mind, more sacred) origin is attributed to the Mosaic Law and many of the legal precepts in Leviticus by asserting that the patriarchs in Genesis observed laws and festivals that actually came into existence after the age of the patriarchs.

Jubilees, in its final form, was likely written about 100 BC, though it incorporates much older mythological traditions. Its isolationist religious spirit and its strictness led the Essene sect of Jews at Qumran in Palestine to quote extensively from it in the Damascus Document, one of their major works. Jubilees is also closely connected with the Genesis Apocryphon, which also parallels Genesis and was favoured by the Qumran community. Several fragments of the original Hebrew edition of Jubilees were found in the Qumran library.

Jubilees is preserved in its entirety only in an Ethiopic translation, which was derived from a Greek translation made from the Hebrew. Fragments of the Greek and Hebrew texts are also extant.


THE BOOK OF JUBILEES  from; The Christian Classical Ethereal Library (


The Book of Jubilees is in certain limited aspects the most important book in this volume for the student of religion. Without it we could of course have inferred from Ezra and Nehemiah, the Priests' Code, and the later chapters of Zechariah the supreme position that the law had achieved in Judaism, but without Jubilees we could hardly have imagined such an absolute supremacy as finds expression in this book. This absolute supremacy of the law carried with it, as we have seen in the General Introduction, the suppression of prophecy -at all events of the open exercise of the prophetic gifts. And yet these gifts persisted during all the so-called centuries of silence-from Malachi down to N.T. times, but owing to the fatal incubus of the law these gifts could not find expression save in pseudepigraphic literature. Thus Jubilees represents the triumph of the movement, which had been at work for the past three centuries or more.

And yet this most triumphant manifesto of legalism contained within its pages the element that was destined to dispute its supremacy and finally to reduce the law to the wholly secondary position that alone it could rightly claim. This element of course is apocalyptic, which was the source of the higher theology in Judaism, and subsequently was the parent of Christianity, wherein apocalyptic ceased to be pseudonymous and became one with prophecy.

The Book of Jubilees was written in Hebrew by a Pharisee between the year of the accession of Hyrcanus to the high priesthood in 135 and his breach with the Pharisees some years before his death in 105 B.C. It is the most advanced pre-Christian representative of the midrashic tendency, which has already been at work in the Old Testament Chronicles. As the Chronicler had rewritten the history of Israel and Judah from the basis of the Priests' Code, so our author re-edited from the Pharisaic standpoint of his time the history of events from the creation to the publication, or, according to the author's view, the republication of the law on Sinai. In the course of re-editing he incorporated a large body of traditional lore, which the midrashic process had put at his disposal, and also not a few fresh legal enactments that the exigencies of the past had called forth. His work constitutes an enlarged Targum on Genesis and Exodus, in which difficulties in the biblical narrative are solved, gaps supplied, dogmatically offensive elements removed, and the genuine spirit of later Judaism infused into the primitive history of the world. His object was to defend Judaism against the attacks of the hellenistic spirit that had been in the ascendant one generation earlier and was still powerful, and to prove that the law was of everlasting validity. From our author's contentions and his embittered attacks on the paganisers and apostates, we may infer that Hellenism had urged that the levitical ordinances of the law were only of transitory significance, that they had not been observed by the founders of the nation, and that the time had now come for them to be swept away, and for Israel to take its place in the brotherhood of the nations. Our author regarded all such views as fatal to the very existence of Jewish religion and nationality. But it is not as such that he assailed them, but on the ground of their falsehood. The law, he teaches, is of everlasting validity. Though revealed in time it was superior to time. Before it had been made known in gundry portions to the fathers it had been kept in heaven by the angels, and to its observance henceforward there was no limit in time or in eternity.

Writing in the palmiest days of the Maccabean dominion,in the high-priesthood of John Hyrcanus, looked for the immediate advent of the Messianic kingdom. This kingdom was to be ruled over by a Messiah sprung, not from Levi -that is, from the Maccabean family, as some of his contemporaries expected- but from Judah. This kingdom would be gradually realized on earth, and the transformation of physical nature would go hand in hand with the ethical transformation of man till there was a new heaven and a new earth. Thus, finally, all sin and pain would disappear and men would live to the age of 1,000 years in happiness and peace, and after death enjoy a blessed immortality in the spirit world.


Our book was known by two distinct titles even in Hebrew. (a) Jubilees (b) The Little Genesis (c) Apocalypse of Moses and other alleged names of the book.

a.       Jubilees. This appears from Epiphanius (Haer. xxxix. 6) to have been its usual designation. It is found also in the Syriac Fragment entitled 'Names of the Wives of the Patriarchs according to the Hebrew Book of Jubilees,' first published by Ceriani, Mon. sacra et profana, ii. 1.9-10, and reprinted by the present writer in his edition of The Ethiopic Version of the Hebrew Book of Jubilees. This name admirably describes the book, as it divides into jubilee periods of forty-nine years each the history of the world from the creation to the legislation on Sinai. The writer pursues a perfectly symmetrical development of the heptadic system. Israel enters Canaan at the close of the fiftieth jubilee, i.e. 2450.

b.      The Little Genesis. The epithet 'little' does not refer to the extent of the book, for it is larger than the canonical Genesis, but to its character. It deals more fully with details than the biblical work. The Hebrew title was variously rendered in Greek. 1 [(Gk.) he lepte Genesis (or Lepte Genesis)] as in Epiphanius, Syncellus, Zonaras, Glycas. 2 [(Gk.) he Leptogenesis] in Didymus of Alexandria and in Latin writers, as we may infer from the Decree of Gelasius. 3 [Gk.) ta lepta geneseos] in Syncellus. 4 [(Gk.) Mikrogenesis] in Jerome, who was acquainted with the Hebrew original.


      1. The Apocalypse of Moses.
      2. The Testament of Moses.
      3. The Book of Adam's Daughters.
      4. The Life of Adam.
      5. The Apocalypse of Moses. This title had some currency in the time of Synceflus (see i. 5, 49). It forms an appropriate designation since it makes Moses the recipient of all the disclosures in the book.
      6. The Testament of Moses. This title is found in the Catena of Nicephorus, i. 175, where it precedes a quotation from x. 21 of our book. It has, however, nothing to do with the Testament of Moses, which has become universally known under the wrong title -the Assumption of Moses. Ronsch and other scholars formerly sought to identify Jubilees with this second Testament of Moses, but this identification is shown to be impossible by the fact that in the Stichometry of Nicephorus 4,300 stichoi are assigned to Jubilees and only 1100 to this Testament of Moses. On the probability of a Testament of Moses having been in circulation -which was in reality an expansion of Jubilees ii-iii see my edition of Jubilees, p. xviii.
      7. The Book of Adam's Daughters. This book is identified with Jubilees in the Decree of Gelasius, but it probably consisted merely of certain excerpts from Jubilees dealing with the names and histories of the women mentioned in it. Such a collection, as we have already seen, exists in Syriac, and its Greek prototype was used by the scribe of the LXX MS. no.135 in Holmes and Parsons' edition.
      8. The Life of Adam. This title is found in Syncellus i. 7-9. It seems to have been an enlarged edition of the portion of Jubilees, which dealt with the life of Adam.


There are four Ethiopic MSS., a b c d, the first and fourth of which belong to the National Library in Paris, the second to the British Museum, and the third to the University Library at Tubingen. Of these a b (of the fifteenth and sixteenth century respectively) are the most trustworthy, though they cannot be followed exclusively. In a, furthermore, the readings of the Ethiopic version of Genesis have replaced the original against bed in iii. 4, 6, 7, 19, 29; iv. 4, 8, &c. For a full description of these MSS. the reader can consult Charles's Ethiopic Version of the Hebrew Book of Jubilees, pp. xii seqq.


(a) The Greek Version is lost save for some fragments which survive in Epiphanius [(Gk.) peri Metron kai Stathmon] (ed. Dindorf, vol. iv. 27-8). This fragment, which consists of ii. 2-21, is published with critical notes in Charles's edition of the Ethiopic text. Other fragments of this version are preserved in Justin Martyr, Origen, Diodorus of Antioch, Isidore of Alexandria, Isidore of Seville, Eutychius, Patriarch of Alexandria, John of Malala, Syncellus, Cedrenus. Syncellus attributes to the Canonical Genesis statements derived from our text. This version is the parent of the Ethiopic and Latin Versions.

(b) The Ethiopic Version. This version is most accurate and trustworthy and indeed as a rule servilely literal. It has, of course, suffered from the corruptions naturally incident to transmission through MSS. Thus dittographies are frequent and lacunae are of occasional occurrence, but the version is singularly free from the glosses and corrections of unscrupulous scribes, though the temptation must have been great to bring it into accord with the Ethiopic version of Genesis. To this source, indeed, we must trace a few perversions of the text: 'my wife' in iii. 6 instead of 'wife'; xv 12; xvii. 12 ('her bottle' instead of 'the bottle'); xxiv. 19 (where the words 'a well' are not found in the Latin version of Jubilees, nor in the Mass., Sam., LXX, Syr., and Vulg. of Gen. xxvi. 19). In the above passages the whole version is influenced, but in a much greater degree has this influence operated on MS. a. Thus in iii. 4, 6, 7, 19, 29, iv. 4, 8, v.3, vi. 9, &c., the readings of the Ethiopic version of Genesis have replaced the original text. In the case of b there appears to be only one instance of this nature in xv. 15 (see Charles's Text, pp. xii seqq.).

For instances of corruption native to this version, see Charles on ii. 2, 7, 21, vi. 21, vii. 22, x. 6, 21, xvi. 18, xxiv. 20, 29, xxxi. 2, xxxix. 4, xli. 15, xlv. 4, xlviii. 6.

(c) The Latin Version. This version, of which about one-fourth has been preserved, was first published by Ceriani in his Monnmenta sacra et profana, 1861, tom. i. fase. i. 15-62. It contains the following sections: xiii. 10b-21; xv. 20b-31a; xvi. 5b-xvii. 6a; xviii. 10b-xix. 25; xx. 5b-xxi. 10a; xxii. 2-19a; xxiii. 8b-23a; xxiv. 13-xxv. 1a; xxvi. 8b-23a; xxvii. 11b-24a; xxviii. 16b-27a; xxix. 8b-xxxi. 1a; xxxi. 9b-1 8, 29b-32; xxxii. 1-8a, 18b-xxxiii. 9a, 18b-xxxiv. 5a; xxxv. 3b-12a; xxxvi. 20b-xxxvii. 5a; xxxviii. 1b-16a; xxxix. 9-xl. 8a; xli. 6b-18; xlii. 2b-14a; xlv. 8-xlvi. 1, 12-xlviii. 5; xlix. 7b-22. This version was next edited by Ronsch in 1874, Das Buch der Fubilaen . . . unter Befugung des revidirten Textes der . . . lateinisehen Fragmente. This work attests enormous industry and great learning, but is deficient in judgement and critical acumen. Ronsch was of opinion that this Latin version was made in Egypt or its neighbourhood by a Palestinian Jew about the middle of the fifth century (pp.459-60). In 1895 Charles edited this text afresh in conjunction with the Ethiopic in the Oxford Anecdota (The Ethiopic Version of the Hebrew Book of Jubilees). To this work and that of Ronsch above the reader must be referred for a fuller treatment of this subject. Here we may draw attention to the following points. This version, where it is preserved, is almost of equal value with the Ethiopic. It has, however, suffered more at the hands of correctors. Thus it has been corrected in conformity with the LXX in xlvi. 14, where it adds 'et Oon' against all other authorities. The Ethiopic version of Exod. i. 11 might have been expected to bring about this addition in our Ethiopic text, but it did not. Two similar instances will be found in xvii. 5, xxiv. 20. Again the Latin version seems to have been influenced by the Vulgate in xxix. 13. xlii. II (canos meos where our Ethiopic text = [(Gk.) mou to geras] as in LXX of Gen. xlii. 38); and probably also in xlvii. 7, 8, and certainly in xlv. 12, where it reads 'in tota terra' for 'in terra'. Of course there is the possibility that the Latin has reproduced faithfully the Greek and that the Greek was faulty; or in case it was correct, that it was the Greek presupposed by our Ethiopic version that was at fault.

Two other passages are deserving of attention, xix. 14 and xxxix. 13. In the former the Latin version 'et creverunt et iuvenes facti sunt' agrees with the Ethiopic version of Gen. xxv. 27 against the Ethiopic version of Jubilees and all other authorities on Gen. xxv. 27. Here the peculiar reading can be best explained as having originated in the Greek. In the second passage, the clause 'eorum quae fiebant in carcere' agrees with the Ethiopic version of Gen. xxxix. 23 against the Ethiopic version of Jubilees and all other authorities on Gen. xxxix. 23. On the other hand, there is a large array of passages in which the Latin version preserves the true text over against corruptions or omissions in the Ethiopic version: cf. xvi. 16, xix. 5, 10, 11, xx. 6, 10, xxi. 3, xxii. 3, &c. (see my Text, p. xvi).

(d) The Syriac Version. The evidence as to the existence of a Syriac is not conclusive. It is based on the fact that a British Museum MS. (Add. 12154, fol. 180) contains a Syriac fragment entitled, Names of the Wives of the Patriarchs according to the Hebrew Book called Jubilees.' It was first published by Ceriani in his Monumeitta Sacra, 1861, torn. ii. fasc. i. 9-10, and reprinted by Charles as Appendix III to his Text of Jubilees (p. 183).


Like all the biblical literature in Ethiopic, Jubilees was translated into Ethiopic from the Greek. Greek words such as [drus, balanos, lips, schinos, pharaggs, &c., are transliterated into Ethiopic. Secondly, many passages must be retranslated into Greek before we can discover the source of their corruptions. And finally, many names are transliterated as they appear in Greek and not in Hebrew.

That the Latin is derived directly from the Greek is no less obvious. Thus in xxxix. 12 [(Lt.) timoris = (Gk.) deilias], a corruption of douleias; in xxxviii. 13 [(Lt.) honorem = (Gk.) timen], which should have been rendered by (Lt.) tributum. Another class of mistranslations may be seen in passages where the Greek article is rendered by the Latin demonstrative as in (Lt.) huius Abrahae xxix. i6, huic Istrael xxxi. 15. Other evidence pointing in the same direction is to be found in the Greek constructions which have been reproduced in the Latin; such as xvii. 3 (Lt.) mem or fuit sermones' = (Gk.) hemnesthe tous logous: in xv. 22 (Lt.) consummavit loquens = (Gk.) Sunetelese lalon: in xxii. 8 (Lt.) 'in omnibus quibus dedisti' = en pasin ois edokas.


The early date of our book -the second century B.C.- and the fact that it was written in Palestine speak for a Semitic original, and the evidence for such an original is conclusive. But the question at once arises, was the original written in Hebrew or Aramaic? Certain proper names in the Latin version ending in -in seem to bespeak an Aramaic original, as Cettin xxiv. 28; Adurin xxxviii. 8,9; Filistin xxiv. 14-16. But since in all these cases the Ethiopic transliterations end in -n and not in -nit is not improbable that this Aramaising in the Latin version is due to the translator, who, as Ronsch has concluded on other grounds, was a Palestinian Jew. Again, in the list of the twelve trees suitable for burning on the altar some are transliterations of Aramaic names. But in a late Hebrew work -written at the close of the second century B.C.- the popular names of such objects would naturally be used. Moreover, in certain cases the Hebrew may have already been forgotten, or, when the tree had been lately introduced, been non-existent.

But the arguments for a Hebrew original are many and weighty. (1) A work which claims to be from the hand of Moses would naturally be written in Hebrew; for Hebrew, according to our author, was the sacred and national language, xii. 25-6; xliii. 15. (2) The revival of the national spirit is, so far as we know, accompanied by a revival of the national language. (3) The existing text must be retranslated into Hebrew in order to explain unintelligible expressions and restore the true text. Thus (Ar.) la 'eleja in xliii. 11 = (Gk.) en emoi; which is a mistranslation in this context of (Hb.); for (Hb.) here = (Gk.) deomai, 'pray,' as in Gen. xliv. 18. In xlvii. 9 the text = (Lt.) 'domum (= Hb. ) Faraonis', but the context demands (Lt.) 'filiam (= Hb.) Faraonis',though here the argument is not conclusive, since (Hb.) might have been corruptly written for (Hb.) which in Aramaic = 'daughter'. Again in xxxvi. 10 (cp. also xxxix. 6) the text = (Gk.) ouk anabesetai (= ja'arg) (Gk.) eis to biblion tes zoes. But ja'arg must = 'will be recorded'. Now this meaning is unattested elsewhere in Ethiopic, but the difficulty is solved when we find that it is a Hebrew idiom: see I Chron. xxvii. 24, 2 Chron. xx. 34. (4) Many paronomasiae discover themselves on retranslation into Hebrew, as in iv. 9 there is a play on the name Enoch, in iv. 15 on Jared, in viii. 8 on Peleg, &c. (5) Many passages are preserved in Rabbinic writings, and the book has much matter in common with the Testaments xii Patriarchs, 'which was written about the same date in Hebrew. Both books, in fact, use a chronology peculiar to themselves. (6) Fragments of the original Hebrew text or of the sources used by its author are to be found in the Book of Noah and the Midrasch Wajjisau in Jellinek's Beth-ha-Midrasch, iii. 155-6, 3-5, reprinted in Charles's edition of the Ethiopic text on pp. 179-81.


A minute study of the text shows that it attests an independent form of the Hebrew text of Genesis and the early chapters of Exodus. Thus it agrees with individual authorities such as the Samaritan or the LXX, or the Syriac, or the Vulgate, or the Targum of Onkelos against all the rest. Or again it agrees with two or more of these authorities in opposition to the rest, as for instance with the Massoretic and Samaritan against the LXX, Syriac and Vulgate, or with the Massoretic and Onkelos against the Samaritan, LXX, Syriac, and Vulgate, or with the Massoretic, Samaritan and Syriac against the LXX or Vulgate. But the reader must here be referred to Charles's Book of Jubilees (pp. xxxiii--xxxix) for a full classification of these instances. A study of these phenomena proves that our book represents some form of the Hebrew text midway between the forms presupposed by the LXX and the Syriac; for it agrees more frequently with the LXX, or with combinations into which the LXX enters, than with any other single authority. Next to the LXX it agrees most often with the Syriac or with combinations into which the Syriac enters. On the other hand, its independence of the LXX is shown by a large array of readings, where it has the support of the Samaritan and Massoretic, or of these with various combinations of the Syriac, Vulgate and Onkelos. From these and like considerations we may conclude that the textual evidence points to the composition of our book at some period between 250 B.C. and 100 A.D. and at a time nearer the earlier date than the latter. 4


From a study of the facts which are referred to in the preceding Section it will be clear that before and after the Christian era the Hebrew text did not possess any hard and fast tradition. It will further be obvious that the Massoretic form of this text, which has so long been generally as conservative of the most ancient tradition and as therefore final, is after all only one of many phases through which the text passed in the process of over 1,000 years, ie. 400 B.C. till A.D. 600, or thereabouts.

As we pursue the examination of the materials just mentioned we shall see grounds for regarding the Massoretic text as the result partly of conscious recension and partly of unconscious change extending over many centuries. How this process affected the text in the centuries immediately preceding and subsequent to the Christian era, we have some means of determining in the Hebrew-Samaritan text which, however much it may have been tampered with on religious or polemical grounds, still preserves in many cases the older reading, even as it preserves the older of the alphabet. Next we have the LXX of the Pentateuch, to which we may assign the date 200 B.C.; next the Book of Jubilees just before the Christian era; the Syriac Pentateuch before A.D. 100; the Vulgate of the fourth century; the Targums of Onkelos and Ps.-Jon. in their present form A.D. 300-600.

We have above remarked that the evidence of 6 shows that the Massoretic text is only one of the phases through which the Hebrew text has passed; and if we consider afresh the materials of evidence suggested in that Section in connexion with their dates, and given in some fullness in the Introductions to Charles's Text and Commentary, we shall discover that in some respects it is one of the latest phases of the Hebrew Pentateuch that has been stereotyped by Jewish scholars in the Massoretic text.

This conclusion will tally perfectly with the tradition that all existing Massoretic MSS. are derived in the main from one archetype, i.e. the Hebrew Codex left behind him by Ben Asher, who lived in the tenth century, and whose family had lived at Tiberias in the eighth.

We shall now proceed to give a list of readings in the Massoretic text which should be corrected into accord with the readings attested by such great authorities as the Sam., LXX, Jub., Syr., VuIg.

The following list was published in Charles's Ethiopic Version of the Hebrew Book of Jubilees in 1895. More than two-thirds of the emendations of the Book of Genesis here suggested were subsequently accepted independently, on the evidence of the Sam., LXX, Syr., Vulg., without a knowledge of Jubilees, by C.J. Ball in his edition of the Hebrew Text of Genesis, 1896, by Kittel in his edition of the Hebrew Text of Genesis, 1905, and more than half in the recent Commentary of Gunkel.

[What follows contains many phrases written in Hebrew. At the time of scanning there was not an accessible means to accurately reproduce the Hebrew script. If this information is desired please see Mr. Charles book.]


(a) Jubilees was written between 153 B.C. and the year of Hyrcanus' breach with the Pharisees. (1) It was written during the pontificate of the Maccabean family, and not earlier than 155 B.C., when this office was assumed by Jonathan the Maccabee. For in xxxii. 1, Levi is called a 'priest of the Most High God.' Now the only Jewish high-priests who bore this title were the Maccabean, who appear to have assumed it as reviving the order of Melchizedek when they displaced the Zadokite order of Aaron. Despite the objections of the Pharisees, it was used by the Maccabean princes down to Hyrcanus II (Jos. Ant. xvi. 6.2). (2) It was written before 96 B.C.; for since our author was of the strictest sect a Pharisee and at the same time an upholder of the Maccabean pontificate, Jubilees cannot have been written later than 96, when the Pharisees and Alexander Jannaeus were openly engaged in mortal strife. (3) It was written before the public breach between Hyrcanus and the Pharisees when Hyrcanus joined the Sadducean party. As Hyrcanus died in 105, our book was written between 153 and 105.

But it is possible to define these limits more closely. The book presupposes as its historical background the most flourishing period of the Maccabean hegemony -such as that under Simon and Hyrcanus. The conquest of Edom, which was achieved by the latter, is referred to in xxxviii. 14. Again our text reflects accurately the intense hatred of Judah towards the Philistines in the second century B.C. It declares that they will fall into the hands of the righteous nation, and we learn from I Macc. and Josephus that Ashdod and Gaza were destroyed by Hyrcanus and Alexander Jannaeus respectively. But it is in the destruction of Samaria, which is adumbrated in the destruction of Shechem, xxx. 4-6, that we are to look for the true terminus a quo. Now all accounts agree in representing the destruction of Samaria as effected by Hyrcanus about four years before his death. Hence we conclude that Jubilees was written between 109 and 105 B.C.

Many other phenomena point to the second-century origin of our book, which are given in Charles's edition, pp. lviii-lxvi. Amongst these we might mention the currency of older and severer forms of the halacha than prevailed in the rabbinical schools, or were registered in the Mishnah. The severe halacha regarding the sabbath in 1.8, 12, were indubitably in force in the second century B.C., if not earlier, but were afterwards mitigated by the Mishnah and later Judaism. Again the strict halacha in xv. 14 regarding circumcision on the eighth day was a current, probably the current, view in the second century B.C. and earlier, since it has the support of the Samaritan text and the LXX. This strict law was subsequently relaxed in the Mishnah. In xxxii. 15 the severe law of tithing found in Lev. xxvii. 15 is enforced, but rabbinic tradition sought to weaken the statement. As regards the halacha laid down in iii. 31 regarding the duty of covering one's shame, it is highly probable that such a halacha did exist in the second century B.C., when Judaism was protesting against the exposure of the person in the Greek games. See also iii. 8-14 notes and xx. 4 note.

Other cases of strict rules afterwards relaxed are the limitation of trees for use with burnt offerings (see xxi. 12-15 notes), the restriction of the eating of the passover to the court of the Lords house (see xlix. 20 note), the close adherence to the exacting demand of Lev. xix. 24 that the fourth year's fruit should be holy (see vii. 36 notes), though here we have a variant reading. Note that the rest of the firstfruits belong to the priests, who are to eat them 'before the altar.' On the other hand, the thank-offerings in xxi. 8-10 do not belong to the priest. The computation of the Feast of Weeks is different from the later prevalent Pharisaic reckoning (see xv. 1 note; xvi. 13, xliv. 4-5), while the account of the Feast of Tabernacles in xvi. 21-31 is peculiar to Jubilees.

Finally, we might draw attention to the fact that the Pharisaic regulation about pouring water on the altar (Jer. Sukk. iv. 6; Sukk. 44a) at the feast of tabernacles appears to have been unknown to him. We know that the attempt of the Pharisees to enforce its adoption on Alexander Jannaeus resulted in a massacre of the former. Attention might also be drawn to the fact that the Priests and Levites still numbered in their ranks, as in the days of the author of Chronicles, the masters of the schools and the men of learning, and that these positions were not filled as in the days of Shammai and Hillel by men drawn from the laity. This inference is to be deduced from the fact that the Levites are represented as the guardians of the sacred books and of the secret lore transmitted from the worthies of old time (x. 4, xlv. 16).

(b) Date of the Ethiopic and Latin Versions. There is no evidence for determining the exact date of the Ethiopic version, but since it was practically regarded as a canonical book it was probably made in the sixth century. Ronsch, as we have already pointed out in 4, gives some evidence for regarding the Latin version as made in the fifth century.


Our book is the work of one author, but is largely based on earlier books and traditions. The narrative of Genesis forms of course the bulk of the book, but much that is characteristic in it is due to his use of many pseudepigraphic and ancient traditions. Amongst the former might be mentioned the Book of Noah, from which in a modified form he borrows vii. 20-39, x. 1-15. In vii. 26-39 he reproduces his source so faithfully that he leaves the persons unchanged, and forgets to adapt this fragment to its new context. Similarly our author lays the Book of Enoch under contribution, and is of great value in this respect in determining the dates of the various sections of this book. See Introd. to I Book of Enoch, in loc. For other authorities and traditions used by our author see Charles's edition, 13.


The Chronicler rewrote with an object the earlier history of Israel and Judah already recounted in Samuel and Kings. His object was to represent David and his pious successors as observing all the prescripts of the law according to the Priests' Code. In the course of this process all facts that did not square with the Chronicler's presuppositions were either omitted or transformed. Now the author of Jubilees sought to do for Genesis what the Chronicler had done for Samuel and Kings, and so he rewrote it in such a way as to show that the law was rigorously observed even by the Patriarchs. The author represents his book to be as a whole a revelation of God to Moses, forming a supplement to and an interpretation of the Pentateuch, which he designates 'the first law' (vi. 22). This revelation was in part a secret republication of the traditions handed down from father to son in antediluvian and subsequent times. From the time of Moses onwards it was preserved in the hands of the priesthood, till the time came for its being made known.

Our author's procedure is of course in direct antagonism with the presuppositions of the Priests' Code in Genesis, for according to this code 'Noah may build no altar, Abraham offer no sacrifice, Jacob erect no sacred pillar. No offering is recorded till Aaron and his sons are ready' (Carpenter, The Hexateuch, i. 124). This fact seems to emphasize in the strongest manner how freely our author reinterpreted his authorities for the past. But he was only using to the full a right that had been exercised for nearly four centuries already in regard to Prophecy and for four or thereabouts in regard to the law.


The object of our author was to defend Judaism against the disintegrating effects of Hellenism, and this he did (a) by glorifying the law as an eternal ordinance and representing the patriarchs as models of piety; (b) by glorifying Israel and insisting on its separation from the Gentiles; and (e) by denouncing the Gentiles and particularly Israel's national enemies. In this last respect Judaism regarded its own attitude to the Gentiles as not only justifiable but also just, because it was a reflection of the divine.

But on (a) it is to be observed further that to our author the law, as a whole, was the realization in time of what was in a sense timeless and eternal. It was observed not only on earth by Israel but in heaven. Parts of the law might have only a time reference, to Israel on earth, but in the privileges of circumcision and the Sabbath, as its highest and everlasting expression, the highest orders of archangels in heaven shared with Israel (ii. i8, 19, 21; xv. 26-28). The law, therefore, was supreme, and could admit of no assessor in the form of Prophecy. There was no longer any prophet because the law had made the free exercise of his gift an offence against itself and God. So far, therefore, as Prophecy existed, it could exist only under the guise of pseudonymity. The seer, who had like Daniel and others a message for his time, could only gain a hearing by issuing it under the name of some ancient worthy.


Since our author was an upholder of the everlasting validity of the law, and held the strictest views on circumcision, the Sabbath, and the duty of complete separation from the Gentiles, since he believed in angels and demons and a blessed immortality, he was unquestionably a Pharisee of the strictest sect. In the next place, he was a supporter of the Maccabean pontificate. He glorifies Levi's successors as high-priests and civil rulers, and applies to them the title priests of the Most High God '-the title assumed by the Maccabean princes (xxxii. 1). He was not, however, so thoroughgoing an admirer of this dynasty as the authors of Test. Lev. xviii. or Ps. cx, who expected the Messiah to come forth from the Maccabean family. Finally, that our author was a priest might reasonably be inferred from the exaltation of Levi over Judah (xxxi-xxxii), and from the statement in xlv. i6 that the secret traditions, which our author claims to publish, were kept in the hands of Levi's descendants.


On the influence of Jubilees on I Enoch i-v, xci-civ, Wisdom (?), 4 Ezra, Chronicles of Jerachmeel, Midrash Tadshe, Book of Jasher, the Samaritan Chronicle, on Patristic and other writings, and on the New Testament writers, see Charles's edition, pp. lxxiii-lxxxvi.


Freedom and determinism. The author of Jubilees is a true Pharisee in that he combines belief in Divine omnipotence and providence with the belief in human freedom and responsibility. He would have adopted heartily the statement of the Pss. Sol. ix. 7 (written some sixty years or more later) (Gk.) ta erga emon en ekloge kai exousia tes psuches emon, tou poiesai dikaiosunen kai adikian en ergois cheiron emon: v. 6 anthropos kai e meris autou para soi en stathmo ou prosthesei tou pleonasai para to krima sou, o theos. Thus the path in which a man should walk is ordained for him and the judgement of all men predetermined on the heavenly tablets: 'And the judgment of all is ordained and written on the heavenly tablets in righteousness -even the judgment of all who depart from the path which is ordained for them to walk in' (v.13). This idea of an absolute determinism underlies many conceptions of the heavenly tablets (see Charles's edition, iii. 10 note). On the other hand, man's freedom and responsibility are fully recognized: 'If they walk not therein, judgment is written down for every creature' (v. 13): 'Beware lest thou walk in their ways, And tread in their paths, And sin a sin unto death before the Most High God. Else He will give thee back into the hand of thy transgression.' Even when a man has sinned deeply he can repent and be forgiven (xli. 24 seq.), but the human will needs the strengthening of a moral dynamic: 'May the Most High God . . . strengthen thee to do His will' (xxi. 25, xxii. 10).

The Fall. The effects of the Fall were limited to Adam and the animal creation. Adam was driven from the garden (iii. 17 seqq.) and the animal creation was robbed of the power of speech (iii. 28). But the subsequent depravity of the human race is not traced to the Fall but to the seduction of the daughters of men by the angels, who had been sent down to instruct men (v.1-4), and to the solicitations of demonic spirits (vii. 27). The evil engendered by the former was brought to an end by the destruction of all the descendants of the angels and of their victims by the Deluge, but the incitement to sin on the part of the demons was to last to the final judgement (vii. 27, x. 1-15, xi. 4 seq., xii. 20). This last view appears in I Enoch and the N.T.

The Law. The law was of eternal validity. It was not the expression of the religious consciousness of one or of several ages, but the revelation in time of what was valid from the beginning and unto all eternity. The various enactments of the law moral and ritual, were written on the heavenly tablets (iii. 31, vi. 17, &c.) and revealed to man through the mediation of angels (i. 27). This conception of the law, as I have already pointed out, made prophecy impossible unless under the guise of pseudonymity. Since the law was the ultimate and complete expression of absolute truth, there was no room for any further revelation: much less could any such revelation, were it conceivable, supersede a single jot or tittle of the law as already revealed. The ideal of the faithful Jew was to be realized in the fulfilment of the moral and ritual precepts of this law: the latter were of no less importance than the former. Though this view of morality tends to be mainly external, our author strikes a deeper note when he declares that, when Israel turned to God with their whole heart, He would circumcise the foreskin of their heart and create a right spirit within them and cleanse them, so that they would not turn away from Him for ever (i. 23). Our author specially emphasizes certain elements of the law such as circumcision (xvi. 14, xv. 26, 29), the Sabbath (ii. 18 seq., 31 seq.), eating of blood (vi. 14), tithing of the tithe (xxxii. 10), Feast of Tabernacles (xvi. 29), Feast of Weeks (vi. 17), the absolute prohibition of mixed marriages (xx. 4, xxii. 20, xxv. 1-10). In connexion with many of these he enunciates halacha which belong to an earlier date than those in the Mishnah, but which were either modified or abrogated by later authorities.

The Messiah. Although our author is an upholder of the Maccabean dynasty he still clings like the writer of I Enoch lxxxiii-xc to the hope of a Messiah sprung from Judah. He makes, however, only one reference to this Messiah, and no role of any importance is assigned to him (see Charles's edition, xxxi. 18 n.). The Messianic expectation showed no vigorous life throughout this century till it was identified with the Maccabean family. If we are right in regarding the Messianic kingdom as of temporary duration, this is the first instance in which the Messiah is associated with a temporary Messianic kingdom.

The Messianic kingdom. According to our author (i. 29, xxiii. 30) this kingdom was to be brought about gradually by the progressive spiritual development of man and a corresponding transformation of nature. Its members were to attain to the full limit of 1,000 years in happiness and peace. During its continuance the powers of evil were to be restrained (xxiii. 29). The last judgement was apparently to take place at its close (xxiii. 30). This view was possibly derived from Mazdeism.

The writer of Jubilees, we can hardly doubt, thought that the era of the Messianic kingdom had already set in. Such an expectation was often cherished in the prosperous days of the Maccabees. Thus it was entertained by the writer of I Enoch lxxxiii-xc in the days of Judas before 161 B.C. Whether Jonathan was looked upon as the divine agent for introducing the kingdom we cannot say, but as to Simon being regarded in this light there is no doubt. Indeed, his contemporaries came to regard him as the Messiah himself, as we see from Psalm cx, or Hyrcanus in the noble Messianic hymn in Test. Levi 18. The tame effus1on in 1 Macc. xiv. 8-15 is a relic of such literature, which was emasculated by its Sadducean editor. Simon was succeeded by John Hyrcanus in 135 B.C. and this great prince seemed to his countrymen to realize the expectations of the past; for according to a contemporary writer (Test. Levi 8) he embraced in his own person the triple office of prophet, priest, and civil ruler (xxxi. i5), while according to the Test. Reuben 6 he was to 'die on behalf of Israel in wars seen and unseen'. In both these passages he seems to be accorded the Messianic office, but not so in our author, as we have seen above. Hyrcanus is only to introduce the Messianic kingdom, over which the Messiah sprung from Judah is to rule.

Priesthood of Melchizedek. That there was originally an account of Melchizedek in our text we have shown in the note on xiii. 2,5, and, that the Maccabean high-priests deliberately adopted the title applied to him in Gen. xiv, we have pointed out in the note on xxxii. I. It would be interesting to inquire how far the writer of Hebrews was indebted to the history of the great Maccabean king-priests for the idea of the Melchizedekian priesthood of which he has made so fruitful a use in chap. vii as applied to our Lord.

The Future Life. In our text all hope of a resurrection of the body is abandoned. The souls of the righteous will enjoy a blessed immortality after death (xxiii. 31). This is the earliest attested instance of this expectation in the last two centuries B.C. It is next found in Enoch xci-civ.

The Jewish Calendar. For our author's peculiar views see Charles's edition 18 and the notes on vi. 29-30, 32, xv. I.

Angelology. We shall confine our attention here to notable parallels between our author and the New Testament. Besides the angels of the presence and the angels of sanctification there are the angels who are set over natural phenomena (ii. 2). These angels are inferior to the former. They do not observe the Sabbath as the higher orders; for they are necessarily always engaged in their duties (ii. 18). It is the higher orders that are generally referred to in the New Testament but the angels over natural phenomena are referred to in Revelation: angels of the winds in vii. 1, 2, the angel of fire in xiv. 18, the angel of the waters in xvi. 5 (cf. Jub. ii. 2). Again, the guardian angels of individuals, which the New Testament refers to in Matt. xviii. 10 (Acts xii. 15), are mentioned, for the first time in Jubilees xxxv. 17. On the angelology of our author see Charles's edition.

Demonology. The demonology of our author reappears for the most part in the New Testament:

(a) The angels which kept not their first estate, Jude 6 ; 2 Peter ii. 4, are the angelic watchers who, though sent down to instruct mankind (Jub. iv. 15), fell from lusting after the daughters of men. Their fall and punishment are recorded in Jub. iv. 22, v.1-9.

(b) The demons are the spirits which went forth from the souls of the giants who were the children of the fallen angels, Jub. v. 7, 9. These demons attacked men and ruled over them (x. 3, 6). Their purpose is to corrupt and lead astray and destroy the wicked (x. 8). They are subject to the prince Mastema (x. 9), or Satan. Men sacrifice to them as gods (xxii. 17). They are to pursue their work of moral ruin till the judgement of Mastema (x. 8) or the setting up of the Messianic kingdom, when Satan will be no longer able to injure mankind (xxiii. 29).

So in the New Testament, the demons are disembodied spirits (Matt. xii. 43-5; Luke xi. 24-6). Their chief is Satan (Mark iii. 22). They are treated as divinities of the heathen (I Cor. x. 20). They are not to be punished till the final judgement (Matt. viii. 29). On the advent of the Millennium Satan will be bound (Rev. xx. 2-3).

Judgement. The doctrine of retribution is strongly enforced by our author. It is to be individual and national in this world and in the next. As regards the individual the law of exact retribution is according to our author not merely an enactment of human justice -the ancient lox talionis, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; it is observed by God in His government of the world. The penalty follows in the line of the sin. This view is enforced in 2 Macc. v. 10, where it is said of Jason, that, as he robbed multitudes of the rites of sepulture, so he himself was deprived of them in turn, and in xv. 32 seq. it is recounted of Nicanor that he was punished in those members with which he had sinned. So also in our text in reference to Cain iv. 31 seq. and the Egyptians xlviii. 14. Taken crassly and mechanically the above law is without foundation, but spiritually conceived it represented the profound truth of the kinship of the penalty to the sin enunciated repeatedly in the New Testament: 'Whatsoever a man sows that shall he also reap' (Gal. vi.;); 'he that doeth wrong shall receive again the wrong that he hath done' (Col. iii. 25, &c.). Again in certain cases the punishment was to follow instantaneously on the transgression (xxxvii. 17).

The final judgement was to take place at the close of the Messianic kingdom (xxiii. 30). This judgement embraces the human and superhuman worlds (v. 10 seq., 14). At this judgement there will be no respect of persons, but all will be judged according to their opportunities and abilities (v. 15 seq.). From the standpoint of our author there could be no hope for the Gentiles.


(a) Greek Version: see above, 4 (a). Ethiopic Version: this text was first edited by Dillmann from two MSS. cd in 1859, and by R. H. Charles from four MSS. abcd. The Ethiopic Version of the Hebrew Book of Jubilees with the Hebrew, Syriac, Greek, and Latin Fragments, Oxford, 1895. Latin Version: see above, 4 (a).

(b) Translations. Dillrnann, Das Buch der Jubilaen . . . aus dem Aethiopischen ubersetzt (Ewald's Jahrbucher d. bibl. Wissensch., 1850-1, ii. 230-56; iii. 1-96). This translation is based on only one MS. Schodde, The Book of Jubilees, translated from the Ethiopic ('Bibliotheca Sacra,' 1885-7): Charles, The Book of Jubilees, translated from a text based on two hitherto uncollated Ethiopic MSS. (Jewish Quarterly Review, 1893, v. 703-8; 1894, vi. 184-217, 710-45; 1895, vii. 297-328): Littmann, Das Buch der Jubilaen (Kantzsch's Apokryphen und Pseudepigraphen des A. T., 1900, ii. 31-119). This translation is based on Charles's text.

(c) Commentaries. Charles, The Book ofjubilees, 1902. Ronsch published a Commentary on the Latin Version. See above, 4.

(d) Critical Inquiries. Dillmann, 'Pseudepigraphen des A. T.,' Herzog's R. E.2, xii. 364-5; 'Beitrage aus dem Buche der Jubilaen zur Kritik des Pentateuch-Textes' (Sitzungsberichte der kgl. preussischen Akad., 1883); Beer, Das Buch der Jubilaen, 1856; Singer, Das Buck der Jubilaen, 1898; Bohn, 'Die Pedeutung des Buches der Jubilaen' (Theol. Stud. u. Kritiken, 1900, 167-84). For a full bibliography see Charles's Commentary or Schurer.


[Notes and dates added by Mr. Charles will not be given due to length and difficulty in scanning and editing. If this information is desired, please see his book.]

commentary came with Jubilees part 1

Gary A. Anderson
The University of Virginia
Michael E. Stone
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.


The Life of Adam and Eve is an apocryphal story about the experience of the first human couple after their expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Of the numerous apocryphal works that were written regarding Adam and Eve in the ancient world, this text certainly has pride of place. Not only was its influence in antiquity quite evident and widespread but the tale also enjoyed enormous popularity in the medieval world as well.


The text has proven very difficult to date and one can be no more accurate than to say it must have been composed between the 3rd and 7th centuries. It is quite possible of course that certain literary units of the work are considerably older than this as there can be no question that the present form of the work is the result of a complex redactional process that wove together different source materials into a single story.


Equally problematic is the question of the work's provenance. Most scholars have assumed a Jewish origin for the work, on the grounds that evidence of explicit Christian features are so minimal in the tale and seem to be of a late redactional level rather than integral to the story itself. Yet recent scholarship on the creation and transmission of such apocryphal tales from antiquity suggests that the possibility of Christian origins be given due consideration. In any event the fact that the tale was copied, edited and expanded by Christian scribes and enjoyed immense popularity in Christian circles needs to be taken seriously. There is evidence of Jewish familiarity with parts of the work but no evidence of any role in the transmission of the text as it now presently stands.


The text survives in six languages: Greek, Latin, Armenian, Georgian, Slavonic, and Coptic (only small fragments remain of this version). Most scholars agree that the text was written originally in Greek and that all of the six versions stem from some form of Greek vorlage. But it should be emphasized here that the Greek manuscripts that we now possess are not witnesses to this putative Greek original. The present Greek material has undergone considerable redactional activity and should not be considered a better witness to the original form of the text than any of the other forms. Yet it should also be underscored that the text-critical work has hardly begun on this document and almost any conclusions about such matters must be considered provisional and exploratory.

For purposes of convenience we shall refer to all the forms of this work under a simple title, "The Life of Adam and Eve," or Vita for short. But it should be borne in mind that each version has its own unique title.


  • Native Title: The Apocalypse of Moses
  • Original Publication: C. von Tischendorf, Apocalypses Apocryphae Mosis, Esdrae, Pauli, Iohanni. . . Leipzig, Mendelssohn; reprinted, Hildersheim, Olms, 1966.
  • Current Edition Used: The text prepared by Nagel used in A.-M. Denis, Concordance grecque des pseudépigraphes d'Ancien Testament: concordance, corpus des textes, indices. Louvain-la-Neuve, Université catholique de Louvain, 1987.
  • Translation: prepared by Gary A. Anderson
  • Extended Discussion in Stone, A History of the Literature of Adam and Eve pp. 6-13.

The Greek text of the Vita was first published by Tischendorf in 1866 on the basis of four manuscripts. Because one of the manuscripts had a prologue which identified the work as a "revelation (apokalypsis) to Moses" von Tischendorf titled the work accordingly. Sadly, the misnomer has been the long-standing title of the work even to the present day. Since the original publication of van Tischendorf numerous additional manuscripts have come to light, bringing the total to 25. A full representation of all 25 manuscripts appears in the variorum edition of Nagel, a doctoral dissertation presented to the University of Strasbourg in 1974. Nagel compiled a new text of the Vita for a concordance of the Greek pseudepigrapha edited by Denis. The nature of this text is unclear but it appears to be a presentation of the superior reading from Nagel's Family I with numerous additional readings which demosntrate close affinity to the Armenian and Georgian versions.

  • Native Title: Vita Adae et Evae ("The Life of Adam and Eve")
  • Original Publication: W. Meyer, "Vita Adae et Evae." Abhandlungen der königlichen Bayerischen Akademie des Wissenschaften, Philosoph.-philologische Klasse. Munich: 14.3, 1878, pp. 185-250.
  • Current Edition Used: The text presented here is basically that of Meyer's edition with special notation of the additions found in Family III. The text was prepared by W. Lechner-Schmidt of Germany.
  • Translation: prepared by Berlie Custis and Gary A. Anderson
  • Extended Discussion in Stone, A History of the Literature of Adam and Eve pp. 14-30.

The Latin text was first published by W. Meyer in 1878. He relied mainly on a set of manuscripts found in Munich. Later, J. H. Mozley published another text based on a set of manuscripts found in England. Most recently a full listing of all of the known Latin texts was published by M. E. B. Halford. Most still cite Meyer's edition although numerous superior readings are to be found in Mozley.

At present 73 manuscripts of the Latin are known to exist. The Latin material has only been surveyed in a summary fashion and much work remains to be done. The Latin manuscripts are especially significant for medievalists because of the enormous significance the Vita had in spawning later vernacular versions of the life of Adam and Eve. Among these one should include those versions for which we now have excellent editions in English: the Old Irish, Saltair Na Rann, the Old French, Penitence of Adam, and Lutwin's Middle High German, Eva und Adam. The problems involved in sorting out the textual sources of these works have been usefully surveyed in the publications of Murdoch, Quinn, and Halford.

The Latin version of the tale is certainly the most complex of all. At present no critical edition of the material exists. Meyer's edition is regularly cited as authoritative in spite of the fact that numerous superior readings exist in Mozley's survey of the texts found in England. The Latin material has not been re-examined in light of the recent publication of the Armenian and Georgian editions. The Latin material is also difficult because it was subject to such extensive re-writing in the course of its transmission. Halford, indeed, has wondered whether the establishment of a single critical text is possible, so varied is the text in its multiple forms. It seems to have been rewritten each time it was copied. We may only be able to establish priority within particular narrative units. In addition, because the Latin version served as a base text for dozens of other medieval vernacular editions, it may be that a standard critical edition of this text is not to be preferred, for the establishment of a primitive text would be of little use for tracing the life of these traditions in later medieval literature.

[Those in the other languages are similar but for the Coptic, which survives only in fragments.—(JK)]

 [In the translation published in The Other Bible, edited by Willis Barnstone, the work is titled The Book of Jubilees.  The second section with Moses is included below, thought from another source—(JK).]