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The Book of Jubilees

R H Charles

The Book of Jubilees

$22.99

The Book of Jubilees, probably written in the 2nd century B.C.E., is an account of the Biblical history of the world from creation to Moses. It is divided into periods ('Jubilees') of 49 years. For the most part the narrative follows the familiar account in Genesis, but with some additional details such as the names of Adam and Eve's daughters, and an active role for a demonic entity called 'Mastema'. The anonymous author had a preoccupation with calendar reform, and uses Jubilees as a platform for proposing a solar calendar of 364 days and 12 months; this would have been a radical departure from the Jewish Calendar, which is lunar-based. There are also a couple of messianic, apocalyptic passages, although quite a bit less than the Book of Enoch. The only complete version of Jubilees is in Ethiopian, although large fragments in Greek, Latin and Syriac are also known. It is believed that it was originally written in Hebrew. If at times one gets the impression that you are reading a first draft of Genesis, you are in good company. R.H. Charles, the translator, a distinguished academic Biblical scholar, concluded that Jubilees was a version of the Pentateuch, written in Hebrew, parts of which later became incorporated into the earliest Greek version of the Jewish Bible, the Septuagint.

The Book of Jubilees, or, as it is sometimes called, The Little Genesis, purports to be a revelation given by God to Moses through the medium of an angel and contains a history, divided up into "jubilee periods" of 49 years, from creation to the coming of Moses. Although the actual narrative of events is only carried down to Moses's birth and early career, its author envisages the events of a later time and in particular certain events of special interest at the time he wrote, which was probably in the latter years of the 2nd century B.C. This work, though containing one or two passages of an apocalyptic character, is quite unlike the typical apocalypses. It is largely based upon the historical narratives in Genesis and Exodus, interspersed with legends and emphasizing certain legal practices (such as the strict observance of the Sabbath, circumcision, etc.). The author's main object is to inculcate a reform in the regulation of the calendar and festivals in place of the lunar calendar, which he condemns. He proposes to substitute a solar calendar consisting of 12 months and containing 364 days. The result of such a system is to make all festivals, except the Day of Atonement, fall on a Sunday--a radical idea for its day. With notes clarifying the translation, this is an important text for students of the origins of Christianity and Essene teachings.


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