Apocalypses are well represented in the Pseudepigrapha; those of the early Judaic period may date from the 3d cent. B.C. The Testament, the genre of the farewell discourse, is also frequently encountered in the Pseudepigrapha. Prayers and hymns are found both independently (e.g. Psalms of Solomon, Odes of Solomon, Prayer of Manasseh), as well as incorporated into other genres. Most of the works are anonymous; only the apocalypses are strictly speaking pseudepigrapha.
The Pseudepigrapha have been transmitted in Western, Eastern, Ethiopian, and Egyptian Coptic churches and are often extant only in the languages of those churches, i.e., Latin, Greek, Syriac, Georgian, Armenian, Coptic, and Ethiopic, though originally composed in Hebrew or Aramaic. Evidence of Christian interpolation and addition exists in some of these books. Some fragments of books included in the Pseudepigrapha have also been discovered among the Dead Sea Scrolls.
A large proportion of the Pseudepigrapha can be explained by reference to early Judaism's persistent readiness to interpret and expand biblical traditions, reapplying them to new situations and problems. Virtually all the theological themes of the Pseudepigrapha can be located in the Hebrew Scriptures. Thus, the 2d cent. B.C. Jubilees is basically a retelling of Genesis and the Moses narratives of Exodus, with various added details not found in the Bible. One such example of expansion is the novellike Joseph and Asenath, in which speculation concerning the marriage of Joseph to Asenath reaches expression. Another example is the farewell exhortations by each of the twelve sons of Jacob to their families, which expand upon the Blessings of Jacob in the Book of Genesis. And finally, the Life of Adam and Eve (1st cent. A.D.) expands the concise narratives provided in the Bible, though the work stresses the guilt of Eve while asserting the comparative innocence of Adam. This predilection for applying and expanding scripture manifests in early Judaism that adaptability which is the hallmark of a living religion. In this regard the New Testament shares the same attitude as the Hebrew Bible, the writers taking biblical traditions, exegeting them, and reapplying them in light of their experience of Jesus.
Future expectation plays a lesser role in the Pseudepigrapha than might be expected; although the apocalypses are interested in the future's determination, they more often stress the faithful standing strong while awaiting God's triumph. Messianic expectation is ambiguous; there is no agreed agenda and no universal expectation of a Messiah. Nevertheless, the expectation of two Messiahs—one of Aaron, who takes precedence, and one of David—are noted in the Pseudepigrapha. Psalms of Solomon 17 is one of the clearest statements before the life of Jesus concerning the coming Messiah. In the apocalyptic literature, as in the New Testament, the premise is that God will intervene on the behalf of his beleaguered people, translating them to God's place after destroying their enemies. The doctrine of rewards and punishments in the afterlife is axiomatic for the apocalypses. The earlier Pseudepigrapha can be examined for anticipations of the New Testament coordinates shaping eschatological life. The collective Pseudepigraphic works remain substantively informative regarding the theologies, tendencies, and conditions of those that lived in the ancient Judaic and early Christian eras.
See studies by G. W. E. Nickelsburg (1981), M. McNamara (1983), G. W. E. Nickelsburg and M. E. Stone, ed. (1983), H. F. D. Sparks, ed. (1983), J. H. Charlesworth, ed. (2 vol., 1983, 1985), and D. S. Russell (1987). See also bibliography under Apocrypha.
Pseudepigraphy covers the false ascription of names of authors to works, even to perfectly authentic works that make no such claim within their text. Thus a widely accepted but incorrect attribution of authorship may make a perfectly authentic text pseudepigraphical. Assessing the actual writer of a text brings questions of pseudepigraphical attributions within the discipline of literary criticism. In a parallel case, forgers have been known to improve the market value of a perfectly genuine 17th-century Dutch painting by adding a painted signature Rembrandt fecit.
On a related note, a famous name assumed by the author of a work is an allonym.
These are the basic and original meanings of the terms.
In Biblical studies, the Pseudepigrapha are Jewish religious works written c 200 BC to 200 AD, not all of which are literally pseudepigraphical. They are distinguished by Protestants from the Deuterocanonica (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 Deuterocanonica and all the other books, that are called Apocrypha, name that is used also for the Pseudepigrapha in the catholic usage.
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, 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 not accepted in either the Tanach or the New Testament.
But Protestants have also applied the word Apocrypha to texts found in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox scriptures which were not found in Hebrew manuscripts. Roman Catholics called those texts "deuterocanonical". Accordingly, there arose in some Protestant Biblical scholarship an extended use of the term pseudepigrapha for works that appeared as though they ought to be part of the Bibical canon, because of the authorship ascribed to them, but which stood outside both the Biblical canons recognized by Protestants and Catholics. These works were also outside the particular set of books that Roman Catholics called deuterocanonical and to which Protestants had generally applied the term Apocryphal. To confuse the matter even more, Orthodox Christians accept books as canonical that Roman Catholics and most Protestant denominations consider pseudepigraphical or at best of much less authority. There exist also churches that reject some of the books that Roman Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants accept. The same is true of some Jewish sects.
There is a tendency not to use the word pseudepigrapha when describing works later than about 300 AD when referring to Biblical matters. But the late-appearing Gospel of Barnabas, Apocalypse of Pseudo-Methodius, the Pseudo-Apuleius (author of a fifth-century herbal ascribed to Apuleius), and the author traditionally referred to as the "Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite", are classic examples of pseudepigraphy. In the fifth century the moralist Salvian published Contra avaritiam under the name of Timothy; the letter in which he explained to his former pupil, Bishop Salonius, his motives for so doing survives. There is also a category of modern pseudepigrapha.
Examples of Old Testament pseudepigrapha are the Ethiopian Book of Enoch, Jubilees (both of which are canonical in the Abyssinian Church of Ethiopia); the Life of Adam and Eve and the Pseudo-Philo. Examples of New Testament pseudepigrapha (but in these cases also likely to be called New Testament Apocrypha) are the Gospel of Peter and the attribution of the Epistle to the Laodiceans to Paul. Further examples of New Testament pseudepigrapha include the aforementioned Gospel of Barnabas, and the Gospel of Judas, which begins by presenting itself as "the secret account of the revelation that Jesus spoke in conversation with Judas Iscariot".
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