Pseudepigrapha Saturday: The Epistle to Diognetus





The Epistle to Diognetus was written in the mid to late 2nd-century church by an unknown author [1]. Although there are not extant manuscripts, we do have transcriptions by scholars in the earlier centuries. Like many written sources in literature of antiquity, the epistle began in an oral form and over time was written into a literary composition. Its current form is best regarded as an apology [2]. Even these conclusion, though, are not certain because we have so little information regarding the text.

The epistle is divided into 12 chapters [3]. Jefford divides it into 7 sections:

  1. Prologue (1.1-2)
  2. On Greeks (2.1-10)
  3. On Jews (3.1-4.6)
  4. On Christians (5.1-6.10)
  5. About God’s Power (7.1-9.6)
  6. About God’s Plan (10.1-8)
  7. The Witness of the Word (11.1-12.9) [4]

Essentials chapters 1-4 attempt to dissuade the listener from Greek and Jewish religion options. Chapters 5-6 focuses on why Christian worship is superior to the alternatives and good for the societal cohesion. Chapter 7-10 transition into more theological issues, such as the role of God, his power, divine revelation, etc. Chapters 11-12, later editorial additions, clearly stand apart as later theological developments; however, the editor demonstrably attempted to smoothly add them into the greater framework of the epistle.

The Epistle to Diognetus, Theurgy, and Rabbinic Judaism

In his discourse on Jews, the author writes that Jews “should rather consider it folly {i.e., Temple sacrifices}, not worship, when they imagine that they offer these things to God as though he needed them” (3.4) Although the authors ties the sacrifices back to the folly of Greeks worshiping “deaf images”, each group, Jews and Greeks, are still autonomous to a certain extent and we need not necessarily analyze the presentation of Jews solely in context of Greek descriptors. So, chapter 6 transitions into a critique of Jewish practices like food laws, Sabbath, and circumcision, and fasting and new moons. For each of these descriptions of Jewish practices, the author offers an alternative in chapters 7-10. What, though, is the underlying historical theology behind the Jews whom the author references?

Yair Lorberbaum’s groundbreaking work on conceptions of zelem Elohim (in the image of God) in Rabbinic Judaism sheds important light on the historical theology of Jews during the period of the epistle. Essentially, Lorberbaum argues that zelem Elohim underlies all commandments in Talmudic literature and Rabbinic Judaism. As he summarizes towards the end of his work, “in the tannaitic [5] understanding, the commandments are a form of Imatio Dei, a view based on the conception of man (including Israel) as Imago Dei” [6]. Such an understanding suggests that all actions of mankind are, therefore, theurgical. That is, human actions have potential to grow or diminish God because humans are eikons, or physical extensions, of God.

If we apply this framework to the epistle’s description of Jewish practices, they don’t seem as irrelevant. Unlike Christian praxis in the community behind the epistle which focused on ethical and spiritual issues t0 bring God’s rule, Jewish tannaitic praxis focused on obeying the traditional commandments and understanding how to do so in order to bring God’s rule and augment his presence. Where this splinter in ideology occurs historically is beyond the scope of this post; however, it is evident that at some point Judaism and Christianity went different directions in this regard of what constitutes praxis [7].

What we see here allows us to read the epistle more critically and avoid reading our own theological biases into early Christian literature. Additionally, this helps to historically contextualize the epistle within its own period. Consequently we see a fuller image of what theological currents existed during the 1st and 2nd centuries CE and how various traditions interacted.


[1] Clayton N. Jefford, The Epistle to Diognetus (With the Fragment of Quadratus), Oxford Apostolic Fathers (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 28.

[2] Ibid., 56, calls the earlier form of chapters 1-10 protreptic discourse. When chapters 11-12 were added, the editor refashioned the entire text into apologetic discourse.

[3] Although scholars often separate the text into different periods from editorial emendations, for the most part we will read it as a unified text, aside from chapters 11 and 12 which are late additions.

[4] Jefford, The Epistle to Diognetus, 31. See footnote 2 for alternative divisions by scholars.

[5] The tannaitic period was c. 10-220 CE; therefore, it was concurrent with the epistle.

[6] Yair Lorberbaum, In God’s Image (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 284.

[7] So Jefford, The Epistle to Diognetus, 97-98.


Jefford, Clayton N. The Epistle to Diognetus (With the Fragment of Quadratus). Oxford Apostolic Fathers. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.

Lorberbaum, Yair. In God’s Image. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015.


Philosophy before the Greeks

I am hope to eventually read Van de Mieroop’s forthcoming book titled Philosophy before the Greeks: The Pursuit of Truth in Ancient Babylonia. It looks extraordinary. Here is little summary from the Princeton University Press website:

There is a growing recognition that philosophy isn’t unique to the West, that it didn’t begin only with the classical Greeks, and that Greek philosophy was influenced by Near Eastern traditions. Yet even today there is a widespread assumption that what came before the Greeks was “before philosophy.” In Philosophy before the Greeks, Marc Van De Mieroop, an acclaimed historian of the ancient Near East, presents a groundbreaking argument that, for three millennia before the Greeks, one Near Eastern people had a rich and sophisticated tradition of philosophy fully worthy of the name.

In the first century BC, the Greek historian Diodorus of Sicily praised the Babylonians for their devotion to philosophy. Showing the justice of Diodorus’s comment, this is the first book to argue that there were Babylonian philosophers and that they studied knowledge systematically using a coherent system of logic rooted in the practices of cuneiform script. Van De Mieroop uncovers Babylonian approaches to knowledge in three areas: the study of language, which in its analysis of the written word formed the basis of all logic; the art of divination, which interpreted communications between gods and humans; and the rules of law, which confirmed that royal justice was founded on truth.

The result is an innovative intellectual history of the ancient Near Eastern world during the many centuries in which Babylonian philosophers inspired scholars throughout the region—until the first millennium BC, when the breakdown of this cosmopolitan system enabled others, including the Greeks, to develop alternative methods of philosophical reasoning. (Source)



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”.


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).


BibleWorks 10 (Part II)

*This is Part II of a review of BibleWorks 10. Click here for Part I.

This post will focus on the “Analysis Window” of BibleWorks 10.

The first feature is the UserLexicon. This tab allows the user to roll over a term, English, Hebrew, or Greek, display a window similar to the “Editor”. Unlike the “Editor”, the “UserLex” tab displays a user lexicon in which a personal definition, or copied information, may be entered. I utilized it to enter the LXX equivalent to zar, entered the Holladay and BDB lexical entries for zar, and inserted a list of all occurrences of the root in the WTT. Henceforth, any time I roll over the root zar, my entry in the UserLex will appear. This tool is especially convenient for tracing how terms are used throughout the Bible and supplying definitions with information from personal lexicons and commentaries.


Additionally, the “Context” tab allows for more efficient use of time because it automatically displays all words within the book, pericope, and chapter. If one disagrees with the various pericope divisions, simply create a new .txt file and place it in the correct location or adjust how the selected outline divides the books. Another convenience is the ability to specifiy what type of words are preset in the “Context” tab, allowing one to cut out any parts of speech to allow for quicker and more efficient analysis. Both of these resources allow for quick and easy analysis of how often terms are utilized.

Last, but definitely not the least, the analysis tab can now be split into two windows, no longer limiting the user to one analysis tab. This is incredibly convenient because it allows the user to focus on, for example, the “Analysis” tab, which displays lexical entries, and the “UserLex”. Of course, any combination of analysis displays are possible by simply dragging one tab to the next window.

Overall, the analysis window is a strength of BibleWorks 10, especially with the “UserLex” tab and ability to display two analysis windows. And while there are many more features in the analysis window, they will be covered in future posts. Overall, the analysis window is one of the many unique aspects of BibleWorks 10, creating opportunity to focus more on analysis of text than preparation for analysis.

Part III will focus on the tools available within the Toolbar.

BibleWorks 10 Review (Part I)

Initial Reactions

*Prior to reviewing BibleWorks 10, I prepared by watching all of the instructional videos on YouTube from BibleWorks 10. Additionally, I’d like to express my gratitude to BibleWorks for providing me with a review copy.

Founded in 1992, BibleWorks has sought to establish students of the Bible with a comprehensive and reliable software resource for Hebrew Bible and New Testament exegesis. And, in contrast to many other companies, BibleWorks is not in the business to profit. Thus, the software is made to be efficient in every which way possible, without necessity for excessive add-ons. Although additional modules are available, the base program contains the basic resources, and really primary resources necessary for sound exegesis of the Hebrew or Greek. With over 200 bible translations, including, though not limited to, the major English translations, over 30 non-English translations, and numerous Hebrew/Greek texts, BibleWorks offers a plethora of resources.

Additionally, BibleWorks 10 includes two new mss images for its manuscript project and high resolution, Leningrad codex images. Conveniently, BibleWorks provides a toggle within the Leningrad codex images to mark where each new verse begins. Such resources are invaluable to text critical scholars and those beginning seeking to be text critical scholars.

As for specific Lexicons, BibleWorks includes standards such as the Holladay lexicon and full BDB.  Far more resources are included for Greek: Friberg Lexicon, Liddell-Scott Lexicon, Louw-Nida Lexicon, Thayer Lexicon, Mouton-Milligan Lexicon, Gingrich Greek Lexicon, and Danker Greek Lexicon. Such inclusion of the Greek Lexicons and exclusion of as many Hebrew Lexicons is problematic in that BibleWorks seems more oriented towards NT exegesis than study of the HB. This is no surprise because BibleWorks explicitly notes that they are oriented towards the Church. Perhaps they did so because they recognize that their audience tends to focus more on the NT than the HB.

Last, but surely not least, BibleWorks has a plethora of tools for analyzing the text. They are easy to use because the Browse Window is directly connected to the Analysis Window. By simply rolling the mouse over a Hebrew term, the Analysis tab in the Analysis Window displays the Holladay definition for the lemma, and the same with Greek. If the mouse rolls over a non-Greek/Hebrew text and it has Strong’s data, the lemma will display. From there it is simple to display the Holladay or BDB definition. For those who do not have experience with Greek or Hebrew, initially it may be difficult to figure out the lexicon entries for the term. Fortunately, after displaying the Strong’s data, moving the mouse to the Strong’s data, and doubling clicking the lemma from the Strong’s definition, initiating a search in the Search Window, the Hebrew text in the Browse Window will highlight the term the user seeks to define.


Overall, upon my initial use and observations, BibleWorks 10 is like Adobe Photoshop for biblical studies. Figuring out how to utilize the plethora of tools and resources may be a challenge, but tools are surely worth the challenge. For the sake of the user, BibleWorks, as I noted at the beginning of the post, provides free How-To videos on YouTube so user can fully utilize the tools. The resources are excellent for biblical exegesis, though they do lack classical Greek lexicons and Hebrew lexicons that potentially could vastly improve the quality of biblical exegesis.

In the next post, I will focus on the Analysis Window, especially new features to BibleWorks 10.



Syntax and Thinking in the Study of Language

Before I express my thoughts, I should provide my background. First of all, I haven’t had the opportunity to read much literature about linguistic theory. So, while I may be touching upon ideas present within linguistics, I am not aware of how I am doing so. Secondly, I have taken a year a biblical Hebrew. Third, I am actively learning Germany via Fluenz and Greek via Decker’s Reading Koine Greek (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2014). Greek, though, has been a struggle to keep up with because I’ve been so busy.

Anyway, as I worked through my German today, I began to consider the relationship between the syntax and how I actually think through information. For example, German places the infinitive verb at the end of the phrase:

German: Ich möchte eine rote Tasche kaufen.

English literal: I want a red bag to buy.

English: I want to buy a red bag.

Such differences intrigue me because the German sentence must be approached totally differently from how one would approach the English sentenced due to the syntax. That said, how might I prepare myself to not only read a different language and think in a different language, but to alter my approach to language all together?

After all, language is not a static entity; rather, language is living and dynamic, infiltrating every aspect of human life. Taking into account the issue of approach to language and dynamic nature of language, the vastness of human culture is illustrated. It is done so only by recognizing that language is, in many respects, defined by its own culture, that in which it is utilized.

With this understanding, biblical studies, my own especially, should always take into account that simple things, such as how a native American English speaker approaches Hebrew, Greek, or German, make huge differences as to how it is read and interpreted. When one takes the leap from Greek/Hebrew/Aramaic to an English translation, there are then two cultures to take into account.

Thoughts, questions, or advice? I’d love to hear your response!

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