Book of Jubilees

John C. Endres

in Biblical Studies

ISBN: 9780195393361
Published online January 2012 | | DOI:
Book of Jubilees


The Book of Jubilees is a Jewish book from the 2nd century bce that presents the narrative of Genesis and Exodus 1–20 by retelling many of the stories in these books from a different perspective. Included in the collection of Jewish works known as the Pseudepigrapha, it has been known in the West only since the1840s, when European travelers acquired manuscripts from monasteries in Ethiopia and transported some of them to European locations. Preliminary studies of these manuscripts led scholars to believe that they were texts of a book previously known from citations from early Christian literature in Greek, fragments of which had been collected and published in the 1720s. Even before the discovery of Hebrew manuscripts at Qumran, it was argued that the book had been written in Hebrew and then translated into Greek; from the Greek, translations were made into Syriac, Latin, and Ethiopic. The revelatory framework is connected with Mount Sinai, where the events of God’s revelation to Moses in Exodus 20–24 set the background of the story. In Jubilees, however, the author recounts a revelation to Moses that came about quite differently: here, the angel of presence reads aloud to Moses the contents of the book from the heavenly tablets. This book creates the impression that most of Israel’s important laws, even those revealed at Sinai according to the Torah, already existed during the era of the patriarchs and matriarchs; thus, the antiquity of Jewish laws can be sustained from Jubilees. Related to these laws is the covenant between God and Israel; unlike the Torah (which includes covenants addressed to Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and Moses), there appears to be only one covenant in this book, and it remains operative for all time. As a covenant people, Israel’s role is to live a priestly existence, which necessitates separation from all other nations. Jubilees contains further novel aspects: the prominence of women in this era, the roles of the angels in the revelatory scheme, and the ideological and theological expressions in prayer and testamentary speeches.

Article.  12443 words. 

Subjects: Biblical Studies

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