The Lost Apocrypha of the Old Testament/Noah

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The literature attributed to Noah and his family is various. We hear of writings under his name and under those of his wife and of one of his sons.

The Book of Noah seems nowhere to be mentioned by any ancient writer; but pieces of it have been incorporated with the Book of Enoch and the Book of Jubilees. It must, therefore, be at least as old as the early part of the second century B.C.

The portions of Enoch which Dr. Charles (Jubilees, p. lxxi) describes as Noachic are chapters ii.–xi.; lx.; lxv.–lxix. 25; cvi.–cvii.; and probably xxxix. 1. 2a; xli. 3–8; xliii.–xliv.; liv. 7–lv. 2; lix., but this second set has been modified.

Of these chapters, vi.–xi. contain the story of the fall of the Watchers. The most tell-tale passage is x. 1, where the Most High sends an angel (Arsalaljur, Istrael, or Uriel) "to the son of Lamech, saying, 'Go to Noah and tell him in my name,'" etc.

lx. is a vision, abruptly introduced, concerned largely with the two monsters Leviathan and Behemoth.

lxv. begins: "In those days Noah saw how the earth bowed itself," etc. In 5 the first person appears, and we read of "my grandfather Enoch." lxvii. 1, has, "The word of God came to me and spake, 'Noah, thy lot is come up before me,'" etc. It is mainly a prophecy of the Flood.

cvi., cvii. may possibly be the beginning of the Book. They deal with the birth of Noah. But Enoch is the speaker.

The second set of passages does not contain Noah's name.

In Jubilees, the Noah-passages are vii. 20–39, x. 1–15.

The former gives Noah's commandments to his sons. At v. 26 he begins abruptly to speak in the first person: "And we were left, I and you, my sons."

The other (x. 1–15) tells how the demons afflicted Noah's posterity, and how at his prayer all but a tenth part of them were bound in the place of condemnation, and how the angels taught Noah all the remedies for the diseases which the demons had introduced, which he recorded in a book and gave it to Shem.[1] Parts of this section exist in Hebrew in a Book of Noah, printed by Jellinek and by Charles, and analyzed by Rönsch in his Buch der Jubiläen.

It will be seen that the book was of miscellaneous character; partly legendary and haggadic, partly apocalyptic: not unlike the Book of Enoch, in fact. As to its original compass, we have no indication whatsoever, and the absence of references to it in literature seems to show that it went out of sight and use at an early date. Possibly the speeches of Noah in the Sibylline Oracles (Book I.) may be derived from it, but not probably; there is little that is distinctive in them.

  1. There is in Syriac a book of prognostics under Shem's name recently edited by Dr. Mingana (Rylands Library Bulletin).