lethargic_man: "Happy the person that finds wisdom, and the person that gets understanding."—Prov. 3:13. Icon by Tamara Rigg (limmud)
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Regular readers of this blog will be aware that I am fascinated with what filled the gap between the last books of the Bible being written and the opening of the Talmudic era. A few months ago I read the Book of Jubilees, which fits slap-bang into the middle of this period, being written roughly contemporaneously with the Hasmonean revolt. After a while, I found myself, as one does, beginning to forget what I'd learned in it, so I decided I'd do the same with it as I did the other year with the Samaritan Torah and, week by week, blog the portion relevant to that week's sedra (only with multiple posts the first two weeks, because there's a lot of interesting differences with the Masoretic Text those weeks); so I shall be doing this starting with פַּרְשַׁת בְּרֵאשִׁית next week. The backlog of posts will be available here.

But first I should give an introduction to what the book is, as it's not well known today in Judaism or most branches of Christianity (with the notable exception of the Ethiopian church).

The book purports to be a dictation, at God's behest, of the history of the world by the Angel of the Presence to Moses on Mt Sinai; it differs in various interesting ways from the account in the Bible. The book does not represent the mainstream Jewish tradition (i.e. what became it, by virtue of the other traditions dying out!), though; indeed, it was heavily used by the monastic community at Qumran (possibly the Essenes) who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls.

One of the biggest differences between its worldview and that of mainstream Judaism is that it recognises a solar calendar. As I learned from Rachel Elior's book The Three Temples and the talk she gave about it at Limmud, at this time the Jewish world was split between those who believed that the calendar was and had always been solar, and calculated, and those who believed that the calendar was and had always been luni-solar, and based on observations of the moon. The calendar was, as we shall see, very important to the author of Jubilees; indeed the reason for the name of the book is that everything in it is dated in jubilees (forty-nine year periods) since the creation of the world, which are divided up into "weeks" of seven years, which are further divided into into individual years.

Jewish learning notes index


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