External Texts

A bibliographical summary of Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha.

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2 Esdras (also known as 4 Ezra): Ezra is given information, from the angel Uriel, of the coming eschaton during which all evildoers will be destroyed. The only work of the Apocrypha that is completely apocalyptic.

1 Maccabees: An historical account of Judea from 175 to 134 BCE, including the political context that sparked the Maccabean revolt and the revolt itself. Attention is focused on the exploits of Judah the Maccabee and his family (notably Jonathan and Simon, two of his brothers) and their successful attempt (for a time) to reestablish Jewish sovereignty.

2 Maccabees: An epitome of a longer historical work by Jason of Cyrene, the scope of this historical work is limited to the events leading up to the revolt and the career of Judah (to his death in 160 BCE).

3 Maccabees: Though not accepted by all to be part of the Apocrypha, this work recounts--with themes clearly borrowed from Esther--the persecution and subsequent deliverance of Egypt's Jews.


1 Enoch (also known as the Ethiopic Enoch): This and the other works entitled Enoch are based on the character from Genesis who was a direct descendent of Adam and an ancestor of Noah. A long work (105 chapters) based on the description of how God "took" Enoch (as opposed to Enoch "dying," the language of the rest of the genealogies in Genesis 5 and 11), this work imagines Enoch on a tour of the heavens, the divine punishment in store for sinners and the complementary reward for the pious, a discussion of the heavenly hosts, assorted visions, revelation of astronomical data in which are preserved the secrets of the world, and a history of the world through the flood.

2 Enoch (also known as the Slavonic Enoch): An account of Enoch and his descendants' lives before the flood, including Enoch's journey through the heavens and an early history of the world (though in this instance not including the flood itself).

Jubilees: A free re-write of the entirety of biblical history from Genesis 1 through Exodus 12 (where God gives the commandment for the Passover offering). The book is obsessed with numbers, framing its chronology in periods of the sabbatical (7-year) and jubilee (49-year) periods, and introducing a solar calendar with fixed dates for the Jewish festivals. The work, perhaps introducing a theme later picked up extensively by rabbinic literature, emphasizes the observance of Jewish law by pre-Mosaic biblical characters. This focus is enhanced by the context in which the author places the narrative, namely in an angel's mouth to Moses on Mount Sinai (at the theoretical moment that law is introduced and required to the Israelites).

Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs: This work consists of testaments written by the twelve sons of Jacob to their children, building off Jacob's poetic (and cryptic) blessings to his own children at the end of his life. In each of the individual testaments, the life story of the presumptive author is retold. Additionally, each is framed by the positives and negatives of that life and the predicted positives and negatives of the tribe to which this specific son of Jacob gives his name. All focus on allegiance to the descendants of Levi and Judah.

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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.