External Texts

A bibliographical summary of Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha.

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Apocrypha

1 Esdras (also known as 3 Esdras): A retelling of three parts of the biblical narrative: the Josianic Passover of 621 BCE (based on 2 Chronicles), and the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.

Tobit: An account of Tobias and his trip from Nineveh (to where the family was exiled after the Assyrian conquest of 722 BCE) to Media. Guided by the angel Raphael, Tobias weds a woman whose previous husbands had been killed by a demon. The couple (and Raphael) then returns to Nineveh to cure Tobit, Tobias' father, of blindness.

Judith: Set in the concluding years of the First Temple (destroyed in 586 BCE), Judith saves the inhabitants of a besieged fortress, Bethulia, from the enemy general Holophernes. Judith seduces Holophernes and murders him.

Esther: The Septuagint's Esther includes six passages not included in the Tanakh. These include: (1) a description of how, exactly, Mordechai saved the king's life; (2) the specifics of Esther's appeal to Ahashverosh; (3) the text of the king's decree to kill the Jews; (4) the text of the king's letter reversing his decree and requesting support and defense for the Jews; (5) a prayer uttered by Mordechai; and (6) a prayer uttered by Esther.

stack of leather booksDaniel: The Septuagint's Daniel includes three passages not included in the Tanakh. These include: (1) a prayer uttered by Azariah and a poem by Shadrakh, Meshakh, and Abednego from their experience in the oven; (2) a story about Susanna, a righteous woman saved by Daniel when she is falsely accused of adultery, which also serves as a way of introducing Daniel as a paragon for wisdom, even at an early age; and (3) tales of Daniel proving the illegitimate claims of false gods.

Baruch: Ascribed by the text to Baruch, the prophet Jeremiah's scribe, this work includes the Jews' confession of their sins (notably the ill-fated rebellion against the Babylonians that led to the destruction of the First Temple, the exile to Babylonia and, for all intents and purposes, the end of the first Judaism) and an assertion that wisdom rests with God and that God's people will be returned to their land.

Letter of Jeremiah: Presented as a letter by Jeremiah to the early exiles of 597 BCE, this letter condemns pagan worship.

Ben Sira: An anthology of wisdom literature (not dissimilar from the canonical Proverbs). This literature--as in its other variants in the Jewish tradition--provides practical advice on ethically living one's life (with other people, with one's family, in business, et al.) and ascribes the advice to an historically involved God, doling out reward and punishment. Wisdom is seen to be embodied in the Torah.

Wisdom of Solomon: An argument against idolatry, wisdom here, instead of embodied in Torah, is seen here as an emanation from God (perhaps related to Philo's conception of the logos).

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Jacob Cytryn

Jacob Cytryn is a doctoral candidate in Jewish Studies and Education at Brandeis University. A Wexner Graduate Fellow, Jacob has a B.A. in Classical Studies from the University of Pennsylvania and an M.A. in Talmud and Rabbinics from the Jewish Theological Seminary. He also serves as the year-round Program Director for Camp Ramah in Wisconsin.