The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha

Too often people limit their idea of what constitute the Bible, whether in Jewish, Christian, or secular circles. Not many actually endeavor to understand the theological and literary developments found within the Pseudepigrapha. Unfortunately the unawareness of such literature within certain circles results in a narrow minded approach to biblical interpretation, not realizing that they are joining in over two millennia of discussion. More use and discussion of the Pseudepigrapha within temple, church, and other communal setting will promote biblical literacy and recognition of the rich tapestry of theological traditions.

Bible Odyssey, a creation of Society of Biblical Literature designed to promote people literacy especially as it relates to the academy, is one place that attempts to bridge “the gap between the academy and the “street.”” While I would never expect full fledged discussion of something like the Prayer of Joseph, Ahiqar, or the Prayer of Manasseh, some sort of reference would be beneficial to promoting biblical literacy and the richness found surrounding it. None of the previous three Pseudepigrapha showed up from the brief search on Bible Odyssey. For this, I can think of two basic possibilities:

1) Perhaps the involvement in the promotion of biblical literacy through websites like Bible Odyssey is lacking. That isn’t to say that the academy is not attempting to share the information; rather, the academy is, generally speaking, too busy to move in the direction of promoting popular biblical literacy. In response universities and the academy should push for more involvement in websites like Bible Odyssey, bringing the academy to the “street”.

2) Perhaps certain things are too far outside of the aims of Bible Odyssey. Although  I certainly understand this, I believe that it doesn’t mean the total exclusion of certain biblical books and topics. Even a nod to the Pseudepigrapha, brief reference, or discussion would provide students and the “street” with direction in which they might pursue biblical themes and ideas as discussed outside of the traditional biblical canons. Having recently graduated, I recognize how much “signs” help students, something to inform them of the direction they should look beyond the biblical canon.

The academy should consider these two possibilities, and how they may respond to them in action. Yet I also recognize that the issue is also whether or not people care to become biblically literate, to learn of the rich historical and theological traditions of the biblical canon and literature surrounding it. Creating genuine interest is, of course, a whole other issue. So for now, people within the academy should do what can be done to generate interest.

 

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