Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Legomena & antilegomena

“There is a great deal that we do not yet know about the reception history of Old Testament pseudepigrapha and the uses to which they were put in their Christian contexts of transmission. Probably most Christians who have valued such works in some way have not regarded them in the same way as they did the canonical Scriptures of the Old Testament (though a few pseudepigrapha have been reckoned canonical in some Christian traditions, such as the Ethiopian). This is clear enough from the fact that the texts were not preserved with the care accorded to Scripture, but were frequently abbreviated, interpolated, extended and redacted in various ways. This means that Christian readers of these works could have been interested in them without approving or agreeing with everything in them. In many cases it may be that the stories rather than the teaching were what attracted them. This would have been true at a popular level, but we should also not forget that from as early as Julius Africanus in the third century there were Christian scholars with antiquarian interests, especially in the kind of ancient history about which such works as Jubilees and the Enoch literature could inform them. Much material from Old Testament pseudepigrapha has been preserved in the works of the later Christian chronographers such as George Syncellus and Jacob of Edessa. Modern scholars tend to be interested in the teaching or the message of a work, but this is not necessarily what interested Christian readers or even what they noticed. They preserved these works for all sorts of reasons which may not correspond at all well to the purposes for which the works were written,” R. Bauckham, “The Continuing Quest for the Provenance of Old Testament Pseudepigrapha,” The Jewish World Around the New Testament (Baker 2010), 479-80.

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