Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures

9780802827395Eerdmans’ newest contribution to the field of the study of the pseudepigrapha is – perhaps – the most important work published in the field in decades.  The volume at hand (and sent by Eerdmans for review)  contains materials which are inaccessible elsewhere and which open windows on the world of early Judaism and Christianity in such a way as to shed new light on that world.

Edited by Bauckham, Davila (the world’s leading expert, in my view, on the subject of the Pseudepigraphal texts), and Panayotov, this collection commences with a foreword by Charlesworth (himself the editor of a very important, earlier collection) and is followed by an introduction by Bauckham and Davila.

Unlike earlier collections which tend to group works by genre, this volume follows the ‘biblical chronology’ (a quite brilliant move, I have to say).  Contributors offer fresh translations of obscure and certainly widely unknown texts and said contributors include Gathercole (who translates and introduces the coptic fragments of the Life of Adam and Eve), VanderKam (Apocryphon of Eber), Cook (The Balaam text from Deir ‘Alla), and many, many others.

The collection consists of 39 documents, each newly translated (that point is worth repeating) and each including a very fine bibliography and absolutely masterful introductions.  Additionally, in several of the documents the translator has included biblical reference in the margins for quick reference (as Davila has done in his translation of Aramaic Levi).

Footnotes abound and these serve the scholarly community massively.

Interestingly, one of the documents has recently been in the news (rather a lot).  Which?  Davila’s translation of the Treatise of the Vessels.

The Treatise of the Vessels … is a legendary account of the hiding of the treasures of Solomon’s Temple before its destruction by the Babylonians.  It is not to be confused with the Mishnaic tractate of the same name (p. 393).

Davila goes on to describe the texts contents, manuscripts, genre and structure, date and provenance, literary context, the relationship to the Copper Scroll, and finally, and very interestingly, the fate of the Temple treasures.  The document itself then occupies pp. 403-409.

Long ago we all learned that we could not, and would not, understand the worldview of the inhabitants of the age of transition between BCE and CE without a thorough grasp of the literature of the margins.  This volume fills in so many gaps that it cannot and should not be ignored or overlooked.

I look forward with excitement to the promised second volume.  More gaps will surely then be filled as well.