Quartz Hill School of Theology

Old Testament Pseudepigrapha


The phrase "Old Testament Pseudepigrapha" is a shorthand description of a very extensive body of literature composed from the 3rd century BCE to the 5th century CE. These documents were written in a variety of languages by a variety of believers (both Jew and Christian) for a variety of purposes. But, it must be pointed out immediately at the beginning, each of the three words in the phrase "Old Testament Pseudepigrapha" are very problematic. First, the notion that these documents are contemporaneous with the writing of the Old Testament texts is not necessarily true. Second, the anachronistic idea of canon retrojected on the texts by the term testament is likewise unfortunate. And the word pseudepigrapha denotes not falseness but something wholly other.

The texts which will be examined in this course will be examined by me with the following presuppositions in mind. Others have disagreed with these presuppositions, but I believe them to be accurate: first- these texts were written, in the main, by Jews. There are, to be sure, Christian interpolations. But these interpolations can be easily excised thus leaving the documents intact. Second- the original language of these texts was either Hebrew or Aramaic. Jews of the 3rd century BCE to the 5th century CE would, most naturally, write in their mother tongue. The texts were, of course, later translated into a large number of different la nguages and now only einally, the term pseudepigraphal is unfortunate but is the best we have at hand. It connotes for the average reader something false. Nothing could, however, be further from the truth. The authors of these documents were not interested in deceiving but in presenting the living traditions of Israel to a new generation. These documents, then, are sermons and give us an exceptionally clear view of the piety of Judaism in very close proximity to the birth of both Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity.

N.B. A very useful source for OT Pseudepigrapha on the World Wide Web can be found at:

Wesley Center Online: Noncanonical Literature - Old Testament Pseudepigrapha

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Quartz Hill School of Theology
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