Pseudepigrapha Saturday: Artapanus

PharaohIntroduction to the Text:

Artpanus deals with Abraham, Joseph and Moses, each presented as founders of culture in Egypt. Three fragments of his work are present in Eusebius’ Praeparatio Evangelica. J. J. Collins offers a tentative date of composition at the end of the 3rd century BCE. More broadly, he proposes any possible date from 250-100 BCE.

Artapanus expands on three biblical stories: Genesis 12:10-20, Genesis 37-50, and Exodus 1-16. He expands each of these texts significantly and re-appropriates it as apologetic literature for late 3rd century Judaism, which Collins calls “competitive historiography”. Competitive historiography sought to establish the primacy of cultural traditions in antiquity. Especially in a predominately Greek culture which tended to critique the Judean ethnos (Manetho, Apion, etc.), his work applied Greek concepts to Abraham, Joseph, and Moses in order to make them more favorable to Greeks. For example, Artapanus considers Moses a “divine man” (theios aner). Moses is also called Hermes by priests and is auspicious in warfare.   These sorts of elements made Moses in antiquity, along with Abraham and Joseph, more favorable to Greeks.

Magic in Artapanus

Artapanus displays an interesting religious synchronizing tendencies; however, perhaps it is too much to say his use of magic of synchronic. The multiple references to magic in Fragment 3 include ibises [1], burning fire without wood or kindling [2], the name of Yahweh [3], and the plagues [4]. These occurrences of magic may not be due to synchronizing various religious traditions. As has been noted by many scholars, ancient Israel practiced magic, albeit not in the modern sense of Harry Potter (Perhaps closer to Lord of the Rings?). Jeremy Smoak, for example, argues that the Aaronic Benediction (Numbers 6:23-27) was part of a wider apotropaic magic blessing formula, evidenced by archaeology and the Hebrew Bible [5]. Likewise, the Urim and Thummin have been associated with divination [6]. These two examples demonstrate that, perhaps, Moses’ magic in Artapanus was not heretical or abnormal in any sense; rather, it merely represented magic through Greek ideas rather than ancient Mesopotamian ideas. In short, magic was an important part of the ancient world, and modern sensibilities should not attempt to sever the important role it played in a variety of traditions, as each tradition appropriates magic according to their culture [7].

[1] Ibises have an apotropaic function in 3.27.4, 3.27.9. See also Donna Runnals, “Moses’ Ethiopian Campaign”, in Journal for the Study of Judaism in the Persian, Hellenistic and Roman Period, 14 no 2 (Dec 1983), 135-156.

[2] Although this is a reference to the burning bush in Exodus, the brevity and historical context of Artapanus’ statement indicates a possible explanation of magic as the origin for the fire in 3.27.2. The text does not explicitly or implicitly imply that God’s presence was in the fire; rather, the fire was primarily a miracle in nature. See Collins, “Artapanus”, in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Vol. 2 (Peabody: 1983), 901, n. g2.

[3] “But he [Moses] bent forward and pronounced it in his ear. When the king heard it, he fell down speechless but revived when taken hold of by Moses” 3.27.25, translation by J. J. Collins. The name of God holds power to stun the king, indicating that the name held a sort of magical function.

[4] Like the burning bush, the series of plagues in Artapanus come across as a series of magic tricks when compared to Exodus. Unlike Exodus, Artapanus does not attribute the plagues and miracles directly to God. Furthermore, the plagues do not follow the same order and also include additions ones, such as an earthquake.

[5] Jeremy D. Smoak, The Priestly Blessing in Inscription and Scripture (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015).

[6] Victor Horwitz, “Urim and Thummim in Light of a Psephomancy Ritual from Assur (LKA 137)”, in Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Studies 21 (1992), 95-115, esp. 114.

[7] Horowitz, “Urim and Thummim”, 115, notes that “in Mesopotamia, psephomancy was assimilated to rpevailing religious practices, “Shamashzing” it, while in Israelite religion it was “Yahwehized”.

Bibliography

Collins, J. J.. “Artapanus,” in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Vol. 2 (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1983). 889-903.

Horwitz, Victor. “Urim and Thummim in Light of a Psephomancy Ritual from Assur (LKA 137),” in Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Studies 21 (1992). 95-115. Click here to view online.

Smoak, Jeremy D. The Priestly Blessing in Inscription and Scripture (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015).

 

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The Intertextuality of Genesis 15:9 and Leviticus 1

Genesis 15 is the center of the Abraham narrative because God moves beyond mere command and word to covenant, or vow. God does so via moving between a halved heifer, goat, ram, turtledove, and young pigeon. God’s appearance is that of a smoking fire pot and flaming torch which moves through the halved heifer, goat, and ram (Wenham 1982, e.g. Exod. 13:21-22; 19:16; 20:18 etc.) . The covenant ritual God participates in is common within the ancient Near Eastern context (cf. Collins 1992, 223-24). While the nature of that ritual is still an unsolved mystery and deserves full explanation, the following may at least more fully color the intertextual nature of the whole passage. Primarily, my focus is on the animals which God command Abram to bring and the intertextual connections with the burnt offerings of Leviticus 1.

Leviticus 1 presents five creature options for burnt offerings: herd creatures; flock creatures, such as sheep or goats; or turtledoves and pigeons. All of the terms for the animals are plural as they are part of Moses’ commands to all of Israel. Israelite cultic ritual also expects Israelite burnt offerings to be done before God (for an exception, see my previous blog post). Sacrifices must be accepted before the presence of the LORD (אֹתוֹ֔ לִרְצֹנֹ֖ו לִפְנֵ֥י יְהוָֽה).

Genesis 15:9 is similar in it’s expression of Abram’s piety. He is commanded to bring a heifer, female goat, ram, turtledove, and young bird. All of the terms for the animals are singular as they are God’s command to only Abram. Although the ritual is not expressed as needing to be accomplished before the presence of God, as is in Leviticus, it may be assumed because Abram is already with the Lord in his vision from the Lord.

Leviticus 1 and Genesis 14:9

  • herd creatures and a heifer
  • flock creatures (sheep/goats) and female goat/ram
  • turtledoves/pigeons and turtledove/youngbird

Both of these passages, while maintaining distinct theological thrusts, dialogue with each other and provide a richness to the text. The correlation between the order of the order of animals, type, and context all suggest that the two texts are intended to dialogue. The order of the animals in Leviticus 1 are, broadly speaking, herd, flock, and bird. More specifically, they are herd, flock of sheep or goats, and turtledove or pigeon birds. Similarly, Genesis 15:9 includes a heifer (part of a herd), female goat, ram (male sheep), turtledove, and pigeon bird. Although the sheep and goat are in reversed order, the total order of the animals, along with their type, indicate that Genesis 15:9 is utilizing the pattern from Leviticus 1, or vice versa.

Additionally, the contexts of Leviticus 1 and Genesis 15:9 indicate positive correlation. Leviticus 1 operates within a cultic context that offers sacrifices within the tabernacle as part of the covenant (e.g. Lev. 26:9, 15, 25 etc.). Genesis 15:9, though Abram is not officially in covenant chronologically, is within a section that finds the climax at God’s covenant with Abram. Thus, the covenant focuses of both passages indicate a correlation and intertextual dependency.

What is does the intertextuality of Genesis 15:9 and Leviticus 1 indicate for the reader? Already Gordon Wenham has expressed that these five animals are standard sacrifices. He also notes that they represent the nation of Israel as a kingdom of priests (Wenham 1982, 135). To this I wish to extend his thoughts. First of all, Israel is not just a kingdom of priests for the sake of being a kingdom of priests. Rather, they are so in order that they may be priests to the world. Thus, secondly, Abram is represented as upholding the priestly role as the predecessor to the actual ancient Israel. Because Abram sacrifices the same sacrifices in the same order as found in the burnt offerings of Leviticus, he is represented as the totality of Israelite society. In effect, these ideas brings greater depth and focus to God’s universal outlook.

In Genesis 12:3, God promises Abram that “all peoples on earth will be blessed through [him]” (NIV). While this is already quite universal in outlook, the two previous points, Israel as a kingdom of serving priests and Abraham as the representative priest, serve to further demonstrate the universal outlook of ancient Israel. The god whom they expressed sought to move beyond the borders of Canaan once ancient Israel attained the promised land. Through the intertextual connections of Leviticus 1 and Genesis 15:9, the Pentateuch editor reminds the reader of God’s universal outlook by bring back the reader to Abram’s narrative, and thus to God’s promise to Abram to bless all peoples through him.  In conclusion, the editor’s reminder about the universal aim of the God of Israel propels the development of a community which operates to change the world and prevents the development of a community which builds high walls to always avoid the world.

Works Cited

Wenham, Gordon J. 1982. “The symbolism of the animal rite in Genesis 15 : a response to G F Hasel, (19,61-78 1981).” Journal For The Study Of The Old Testament no. 22: 134-137.

Collins, Billie Jean. 1990. “The Puppy in Hittite Ritual.” Journal of Cuneiform Studies vol. 42, no. 2: 211-226.