James H. Charlesworth on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha

OT PseudepigraphaJames Charlesworth offers four important reasons for the study of the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. This is a corpus of essential Jewish literature for the history and thought of Jewish life from 200 BC – AD 200.

  1. “First, there is the very abundance of the literature, although we possess only part of the writings produced by Jews during the period 200 B.C. to A.D. 200.”
  2. “Second, the Pseudepigrapha illustrate the pervasive influence of the Old Testament books upon Early Judaism.”
  3. “Third, we learn from the Pseudepigrapha that the consecutive conquests of Palestinian Jews by Persians, Greeks, and Romans, and the intermittent invasions by Syrian, Egyptian, and Parthian armies did no dampen the enthusiasm of religious Jews for their ancestral traditions.”
  4. “Fourth, the Pseudepigrapha attest that post-exilic Jews often were torn within by divisions and sects, and intermittently conquered from without by foreign nations who insulted, abused, and frequently employed fatal torture.”

Charlesworth concludes such section by stating, “Without the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha (and we would add other documents recovered since his time, notable the Dead Sea Scrolls) it is absolutely impossible to explain the course of religious development between 200 B.C. and A.D. 100.” With these types of comments from Charlesworth, I see it as a vital enterprise to interact with such Jewish literature as well as the the New Testament Apocrypha (Schneemelcher vol. 1 and vol. 2, Elliot, Ehrman), and the Apostolic Fathers for the study of the New Testament. Both of these sets of cropassist the New Testament student in backgrounds as well as frontgrounds and reception.

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James H. Charlesworth, ed., The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1983), xviii–xxix.

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