Old Testament Pseudepigrapha
neuter plural of Greek pseudepigraphos ‘with false title’
Pseudepigrapha (also Anglicized as "pseudepigraph" or "pseudepigraphs") are falsely attributed works, texts whose claimed author is represented by a separate author or a work whose real author attributed it to a figure of the past. The word pseudepigrapha (from the Greek: ψευδής, pseudes, "false" and ἐπιγραφή, epigraphē, "name" or "inscription" or "ascription"; thus when taken together it means "false superscription or title"; see the related epigraphy) is the plural of "pseudepigraphon" (sometimes Latinized as "pseudepigraphum").
- 1: spurious or pseudonymous writings, especially Jewish writings ascribed to various biblical patriarchs and prophets but composed within approximately 200 years of the birth of Jesus Christ.
Pseudepigraphy covers the false ascription of names of authors to works, even to authentic works that make no such claim within their text. Thus a widely accepted but incorrect attribution of authorship may make a completely authentic text pseudepigraphical. Assessing the actual writer of a text locates questions of pseudepigraphical attribution within the discipline of literary criticism.
In Old Testament biblical studies, the term Pseudepigrapha typically refers to an assorted collection of Jewish religious works thought to be written c 300 BC to 300 AD. They are distinguished by Protestants from the Deuterocanonical (Catholic and Orthodox) or Apocrypha (Protestant), the books that appear in the Septuagint and Vulgate but not in the Hebrew Bible or in Protestant Bibles. Catholics distinguish only between the deuterocanonical and all the other books, that are called biblical Apocrypha, a name that is also used for the pseudepigrapha in the Catholic usage. In addition, two books considered canonical in the Tewahedo churches, viz. 1 Enoch and Jubilees, are categorized as "pseudepigrapha" from the point of view of the Chalcedonian churches.
In biblical studies, pseudepigrapha refers particularly to works which purport to be written by noted authorities in either the Old and New Testaments or by persons involved in Jewish or Christian religious study or history. These works can also be written about biblical matters, often in such a way that they appear to be as authoritative as works which have been included in the many versions of the Judeo-Christian scriptures. Eusebius of Caesarea indicates this usage dates back at least to Serapion, bishop of Antioch whom Eusebius records as having said: "But those writings which are falsely inscribed with their name (ta pseudepigrapha), we as experienced persons reject...."
Many such works were also referred to as Apocrypha, which originally connoted "secret writings", those that were rejected for liturgical public reading. An example of a text that is both apocryphal and pseudepigraphical is the Odes of Solomon. It is considered pseudepigraphical because it was not actually written by Solomon but instead is a collection of early Christian (first to second century) hymns and poems, originally written not in Hebrew, and apocryphal because they were not accepted in either the Tanakh or the New Testament.
The term Pseudepigrapha also commonly describes numerous works of Jewish religious literature written from about 300 BC to 300 AD. Not all of these works are actually pseudepigraphical. It also refers to books of the New Testament canon whose authorship is misrepresented. Such works include the following:
- 3 Maccabees
- 4 Maccabees
- Assumption of Moses
- Ethiopic Book of Enoch (1 Enoch)
- Slavonic Book of Enoch (2 Enoch)
- Book of Jubilees
- Greek Apocalypse of Baruch (3 Baruch)
- Letter of Aristeas
- Life of Adam and Eve
- Martyrdom and Ascension of Isaiah
- Psalms of Solomon
- Sibylline Oracles
- Syriac Apocalypse of Baruch (2 Baruch)
- Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs