The Book of Jubilees (ספר היובלים), sometimes called the Lesser Genesis (Leptogenesis), is an ancient Jewish religious work, considered one of the PseudepigraphaHarris, Stephen L., Understanding the Bible. Palo Alto: Mayfield. 1985.] by most Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Christians. It was well known to Early Christian writers in the East and the West, as well as by the Rabbis. Later it was so thoroughly suppressed that no complete Hebrew, Greek or Latin version has survived. It is considered canonical for the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, where it is known as the "Book of Division" (Ge'ez: "Mets'hafe Kufale"). In the modern scholarly view, it reworks material found in the Biblical books of "Genesis" and "Exodus" in the light of concerns of some 2nd century BC Jews.

The "Book of Jubilees" claims to present "the history of the division of the days of the Law, of the events of the years, the year-weeks, and the jubilees of the world" as secretly revealed to Moses (in addition to the Torah or "Law") while Moses was on Mount Sinai for forty days and forty nights. The chronology given in "Jubilees" is based on multiples of seven; the jubilees are periods of 49 years, seven 'year-weeks', into which all of time has been divided. According to the author of Jubilees, all proper customs that mankind should follow are determined by God's decree.

Manuscripts of "Jubilees"

Until the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the only surviving manuscripts of "Jubilees" were fragmentary quotations in Greek (in a work by Epiphanius, for example), a fragmentarily preserved Latin translation of the Greek that contains about a quarter of the whole work, and four Ethiopic manuscripts that date to the 15th and 16th centuries, which are complete. [R. H. Charles, in his introduction to his edition of "Jubilees", 1913 [http://wesley.nnu.edu/biblical_studies/noncanon/ot/pseudo/jubilee.htm] .] The Ethiopic texts, now numbering twenty-seven, are the primary basis for translations into English. Passages in the texts of "Jubilees" that are directly parallel to verses in "Genesis" do not directly reproduce either of the two surviving manuscript traditions; ["A minute study of the text shows that it attests an independent form of the Hebrew text of Genesis and the early chapters of Exodus. Thus it agrees with individual authorities such as the Samaritan or the LXX, or the Syriac, or the Vulgate, or the Targum of Onkelos against all the rest. Or again it agrees with two or more of these authorities in opposition to the rest, as for instance with the Massoretic and Samaritan against the LXX, Syriac and Vulgate, or with the Massoretic and Onkelos against the Samaritan, LXX, Syriac, and Vulgate, or with the Massoretic, Samaritan and Syriac against the LXX or Vulgate." R.H. Charles, "Textual affinities", in his introduction to his edition of "Jubilees", 1913 [http://wesley.nnu.edu/biblical_studies/noncanon/ot/pseudo/jubilee.htm] .] consequently, the lost Hebrew original is thought to have used an otherwise unrecorded text for "Genesis" and the early chapters of "Exodus", one that was independent of either the Masoretic text or the earlier Hebrew text that was the basis for the Septuagint. As the variation among parallel manuscript traditions that are exhibited by the Septuagint compared with the Masoretic text and which are embodied in the further variants among the Dead Sea Scrolls have demonstrated, even canonic Hebrew texts did not possess any single hard and fast 'authorized' manuscript tradition, in the first centuries BC. [Robin Lane Fox, a classicist and historian, discusses these multifarious sources of Old and New Testaments in layman's terms in "Unauthorized Version" (1992).]

A further fragment in Syriac in the British Museum, titled "Names of the wives of the patriarchs according to the Hebrew books called Jubilees" suggests that there once existed a Syriac translation. How much is missing can be guessed from the "Stichometry of Nicephorus", where 4300 "stichoi" or lines are attributed to "The Book of Jubilees."

Between 1947 and 1956 approximately 15 Jubilees scrolls were found in five caves at Qumran, all written in Hebrew. The large quantity of manuscripts (more than for any biblical books except for Psalms, Deuteronomy, Isaiah, Exodus, and Genesis, in descending order) indicates that Jubilees was widely used at Qumran. A comparison of the Qumran texts with the Ethiopic version, performed by James VanderKam, found that the Ethiopic was in most respects an accurate and literalistic translation.


Before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the predominant scholarly view was that expressed by Robert Henry Charles. Based on internal evidence he maintained that the "Book of Jubilees" was written in Hebrew between the year that Hyrcanus became high priest (135 BC) and his breach with the Pharisees some years before his death in (105 BC), and that the author was a Pharisee. "Jubilees" would be the product of the midrash which had already been at work in the Old Testament "Chronicles". As the Chronicler had rewritten the history of Israel and Judah from the point of view of the post-exilic Levites, so the author of "Jubilees" re-edited in turn, from the Pharisaic standpoint of his own time, the history of events from the Creation to the publication of the Law on Sinai. In the course of re-editing, the author allegedly incorporated a large body of traditional midrashic lore. His work enlarges upon some elements of "Genesis" and "Exodus", solves difficulties in the narrative, gives details that were passed over in the originals, removes all offensive elements that could suggest any blemish in the actions of the patriarchs, and infuses the history with the spirit of Pharisaic Judaism.

After the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Pharisaic hypothesis of the origin of the document has been almost completely abandoned and the majority of scholars would rather locate Jubilees in the context of Jewish apocalypticism. [ VanderKam (1989, 2001).]

The book of Jubilees was evidently held in high regard by the Early Church Fathers of the Christian Church. There is no record of it in Rabbinic sources, but it is safe to assume that at some point it, and several other books, were left out of the canon, although we cannot know if the church declared it uncanonical or simply ignored it. Many of the traditions which Jubilees includes for the first time are echoed in later Jewish sources, including some 12th century midrashim which may have had access to a Hebrew copy. In the 4th century, after Bishops had been appointed by the Roman Emperor Constantine, they similarly rejected many of the same books that had been rejected by the Jews, including Jubilees. It is only through the canons of the Oriental Orthodox Churches, that were outside the jurisdiction of Rome, and the Dead Sea Scrolls, that the book has managed to survive at all.

The Oriental Orthodox Churches consider Jubilees an important book of the Bible and older than Genesis, and accept the account given in the book itself, of having been given to Moses atop Mt. Sinai.


According to Charles, "Jubilees" emphasizes the need for observant Jews to separate themselves from the Gentiles, whose customs render them unclean. The subtext of the "Book of Jubilees" is considered by scholars to be a defense of traditional Judaism against the pressures of Hellenistic culture. The more Hellenized among the Jews had begun to urge that the levitical ordinances of the Mosaic law were only of transitory significance, that they had not been consistently observed by the founders of the nation anyway, and that the time had now come for them to be swept away, and for Israel to take its place in the brotherhood of nations, under the Hellenistic world-monarchies. The major center for these Hellenized and assimilated Jews was Alexandria.

In Charles' view, the author of "Jubilees" regarded all such views as fatal to Jewish religion and cultural identity. The Law, the book teaches, is of "everlasting validity." Though revealed in time, it transcends time. It is believed that before it had been made known in sundry portions to the fathers, "Jubilees" avers, it had been kept in heaven by the angels, and there was no limit in time or in eternity to its supremacy. It explains how many of the individual rules of the Torah were first given to the patriarchs long before Moses’ day.

At the high point of the Maccabean dominion, in the high-priesthood of John Hyrcanus, the Pharisees looked for the immediate advent of the Messianic kingdom. This kingdom was to be ruled over by a Messiah sprung, not from Levi — that is, from the Maccabean family — but from Judah. This kingdom would be gradually realized on earth, and the transformation of physical nature would go hand in hand with the ethical transformation of man until there was a new heaven and a new earth. Thus, finally, all sin and pain would disappear and men would live past the age of 1,000 years in happiness and peace, and after death enjoy a blessed immortality in the Messianic kingdom.

According to the author of "Jubilees", Hebrew was the language originally spoken by all creatures, animals and man, and is the language of Heaven. After the destruction of the tower of Babel, it was forgotten, until Abraham was taught it by the angels. Enoch was the first man initiated by the angels in the art of writing, and wrote down, accordingly, all the secrets of astronomy, of chronology, and of the world's epochs. Four classes of angels are mentioned: angels of the presence, angels of sanctifications, guardian angels over individuals, and angels presiding over the phenomena of nature. As regards demonology, the writer's position is largely that of the deuterocanonical writings from both New and Old Testament times.

The "Book of Jubilees" narrates the genesis of angels on the first day of Creation and the story of how a group of fallen angels mated with mortal females, giving rise to a race of giants known as the Nephilim. The Ethiopian version states that the "angels" were in fact the disobedient offspring of Seth ("Deqiqa Set"), while the "mortal females" were daughters of Cain. This is also the view held by most of the earliest commentators. Their hybrid children, the Nephilim in existence during the time of Noah, were wiped out by the great flood.

Biblical references to "giants" found in Numbers, Deuteronomy, and Joshua have confused some who regard these "giants" to be the same as the antediluvian Nephilim; the Hebrew words for "giants" in most of these verses are "Anakim" or "Rephaim". (One such verse, Num. 13:33, does refer to the sons of Anak as 'Nephilim'.) These references do not necessarily contradict the account of the original "Nephilim" being completely destroyed in the Deluge. However, Jubilees does state that God granted ten percent of the disembodied spirits of the Nephilim to try to lead mankind astray after the flood.

ee also

*Wives aboard the Ark"



* James C. VanderKam. "The Book of Jubilees" (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001)
* Martin Jr. Abegg. "The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible". San Francisco, CA: HarperCollins, 1999. (ISBN 0-06-060063-2)
* James C. VanderKam. "The Book of Jubilees", 2 vols. (Leuven: Peeters, 1989)
* John C. Endres. "Biblical Interpretation in the Book of Jubilees" (CBQMS 18; Washington: Catholic Biblical Association of America, 1987)
* Orval S. Wintermute, "Jubilees", in "Old Testament Pseudepigrapha", ed. James H. Charlesworth (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1985) 2:35-142
* James C. VanderKam. "Textual and Historical Studies in the Book of Jubilees" (Missoula: Scholars Press, 1977)
* Albert-Marie Denis. "Concordance latine du Liber Jubilaeorum sive parva Genesis" (Informatique et étude de textes 4; Louvain: CETEDOC, 1973)
* Gene L. Davenport. "The Eschatology of the Book of Jubilees" (SPB 20; Leiden: Brill, 1971)
* Michel Testuz. "Les idées religieuses du livre des Jubilés" (Genève: Droz, 1960)
* Chanoch Albeck. "Das Buch der Jubiläen und die Halacha" (Berlin: Scholem, 1930)
* Robert Henry Charles. "The Book of Jubilees or the Little Genesis, Translated from the Editor's Ethiopic Text, and Edited with Introduction, Notes, and Indices" (London: 1902).
* Robert Henry Charles. "The Ethiopic Version of the Hebrew Book of Jubilees" (Oxford: Clarendon, 1895)
* August Dillmann, and Hermann Rönsch. "Das Buch der Jubiläen; oder, Die kleine Genesis" (Leipzig: 1874)
* August Dillmann. "Mashafa kufale sive Liber Jubilaeorum... aethiopice" (Kiel, and London: Van Maack, Williams &Norgate, 1859)

External links

* [http://wesley.nnu.edu/biblical_studies/noncanon/ot/pseudo/jubilee.htm The text translated by R.H. Charles, 1913, preceded by an account of the manuscript tradition.]
* [http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=582&letter=J "Jewish Encyclopedia" entry]
* [http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08535a.htm The "Catholic Encyclopedia" view]
* [http://www.ntcanon.org/lists.shtml Development of the Canon]
* [http://earlyjewishwritings.com/jubilees.html Jubilees at earlyjewishwritings.com]

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