The Lost Apocrypha of the Old Testament/Jeremiah

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All the four major prophets have had spurious books fathered upon them. For Isaiah we have the extant Ascension of Isaiah; for Jeremiah the Paralipomena of Jeremiah, current in Greek, Ethiopic, and Armenian, and edited by Dr. Rendel Harris under its alternative title, The Rest of the Words of Baruch. We have also some scattered quotations attributed to him. In Matt. xxvii. 9 the prophecy, "And they took the thirty pieces of silver," etc., is, as we all know, assigned to Jeremiah. Origen (in loc.) suspects either a mistake (Jeremiah for Zechariah) or the existence of some apocryphal writing of Jeremiah in which the words occurred. Jerome (in loc.) had actually seen such a thing. "I lately read in a Hebrew book, which a Hebrew of the Nazarene sect showed me, an apocryph of Jeremiah in which I found this, word for word." We know of no continuous text comprising these words, but there is current in Ethiopic, usually appended to the canonical Book of Jeremiah, a short prophecy, which Dillmann prints and translates in his Chrestomathia Æthiopica, p. viii. I believe it to exist also in Coptic.

"A Prophecy of Jeremiah. And Jeremiah spake thus unto Pashur: But ye all your days fight against the truth, with your fathers and your sons that shall come after you. And they shall commit a sin more damnable than you: they shall sell him who hath no price, and shall hurt him who will heal pain, and shall condemn him who will forgive sin, and shall take thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom the children of Israel shall sell, and shall give that money for (into) the potter's field. As the Lord commanded me, so I speak. And therefore shall there come upon them judgment and destruction for ever, and upon their sons after them, because in their judgment they have shed innocent blood."

Nothing can be more obvious than that this was written to set right the difficulty caused by the mention of Jeremiah in the Gospel. It may quite well be identical with the writing seen by Jerome. His interest in such things was not lively enough to make him use accurate language: he is oftener contemptuous and angry when apocryphal writings come into his ken.

Eph. v. 14, "Awake, thou that sleepest," etc., is said by George the Syncellus to be quoted "from what are called the Apocrypha of Jeremiah," and this attribution is found in a marginal note in some MSS. of the Epistles: one authority names the Paralipomena of Jeremiah, but, though an important part of that story is the seventy years' sleep of Ebed-melech and his awaking at the Return of the People from Babylon, the words of Ephesians are not in our texts of this book. Hippolytus (on Antichrist, 65) quotes them as said by "the prophet," and (on Daniel iv. 56) as from Isaiah. We have seen that Epiphanius assigns them to Elias.

Then there is a passage which Justin Martyr (Dial. with Trypho) accuses the Jews of having deleted from the Book of Jeremiah. He says it was still to be found in some synagogue copies, so that its deletion must have been recent. Irenaeus also quotes it not less than four times in varying forms, once as from Isaiah, once as from Jeremiah, and twice without naming the prophet. Justin's form, the only one we have in Greek, is:

"And the Lord God of Israel remembered the dead which slept in the dust of the earth, and came down unto them to preach (evangelize) His salvation."

In the Latin Acts of St. James the Great, which form Book IV of the so-called Historia Apostolica of Abdias, in a speech of St. James to the Jews, several Messianic prophecies are quoted, and among them this:

"Jeremiah adds: Behold, O Jerusalem, thy redeemer cometh, and this shall be his sign. He shall open the eyes of the blind and restore hearing to the deaf, and by his voice he shall raise the dead."

In a similar anti-Jewish oration of St. Silvester in his Acts (I quote from the text of George Cedrenus) is this:

"And that He shall be buried also, Jeremias saith: By (in) his burying the dead shall be made alive."

Of these three obviously Christian passages it is difficult to say whether all are taken from an apocryphal book or were Christian interpolations into the text of the LXX. To the Justin passage this last explanation probably does apply. As to the Silvester passage, I note that it immediately follows one from Esdras which is to be found in the best text of 4 Esdras i. This is a presumption (slight enough) in favour of the view that it was at least not invented by the writer of the Acts. As to the quotation in St. James's Acts, I am left quite doubtful: but here again it is the only prophecy cited which cannot be found in the Bible.