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Pseudo-Philo[1][2][3] is the name commonly used for a Jewish work in Latin, so called (false Philo) because it was transmitted along with Latin translations of the works of Philo of Alexandria, but is very obviously not written by Philo. Its more proper Latin title is Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum, a title sometimes translated into English as the Book of Biblical Antiquities. Parts of this work were brought back into Hebrew for the medieval Chronicles of Jerahmeel.


  • Estimated date of work 1
  • Original language and translational history 2
  • Short description of content 3
    • The work as source of legends 3.1
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • Bibliography and external links 6

Estimated date of work

The temple in Jerusalem is said to be still standing, which some scholars suggest indicates a date of composition before it was destroyed in 70 CE. Further, Daniel J. Harrington writes: 'A date prior to AD 70 (and perhaps around the time of Jesus) is suggested by the kind of Old Testament text used in the book, the free attitude towards the text, the interest in the sacrifices and other things pertaining to cult, and the silence about the destruction of the temple'.[4] Others disagree. Professor Howard Jacobson, for example, treats this view dismissively, stating that "Simply put, there are no particularly cogent arguments in support of a pre-70 date."[5] His conclusion is that it was not composed much later than the middle of the 2nd century CE, possibly during Hadrian's reign.[6]

Original language and translational history

It is believed to have been written in Hebrew and then translated into Greek and the Greek translated again into Latin, with the result that a large number of proper names not found in Biblical texts are garbled beyond restoration.

Short description of content

It chronicles biblical history from Adam to the death of Saul with omissions, modifications, and additions to the biblical texts. Many of its additions have parallels in other Jewish traditions.

Some scholars have reasoned that the fact that it ends with the death of Saul implies that there were further parts of the work which are now missing while others believe that it is complete.[7]

The work as source of legends

It is probably the earliest reference for many later legendary accretions to the Biblical texts, such as the casting of Abraham into the fire, Dinah's marriage to Job, and Moses born circumcised. It also contains several other embellishments which deviate quite substantially from the norm, such as Abraham leading a rebellion against the builders of the Tower of Babel (the reason for him being cast into the fire).

It includes a lament about the symbolic human sacrifice of Jephthah's daughter, with the daughter being the singer. Commentators have noted that the characterisation of the daughter is (like other female characterisations in Pseudo-Philo) much stronger and more positive than that of her biblical counterpart.[8] She has a name (Seila), and her role is as wise and willing, rather than passive and reluctant, participant. One commentator has observed that 'the author has done his utmost to put this woman on the same level as the patriarchs, in this case especially Isaac'.[9]

See also


  1. ^ Frederick James Murphy (1993). Pseudo-Philo: Rewriting the Bible. Oxford University Press.  
  2. ^ Howard Jacobson (1996). A Commentary on Pseudo-Philo's Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum: With Latin Text and English Translation. BRILL.  
  3. ^ Philo (30 June 2007). The Biblical Antiquities of Philo. Cosimo, Inc.  
  4. ^ Daniel J. Harrington, 'Outside the Old Testament' in Marinus de Jong (ed.) Outside the Old Testament (CUP, 1985), p. 8
  5. ^ Jacobson, Howard (1996). A Commentary on Pseudo-Philo's Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum, With Latin Text and English Translation. Brill Academic Publications. p. 201.  
  6. ^ Jacobson, Howard (1996). A Commentary on Pseudo-Philo's Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum, With Latin Text and English Translation. Brill Academic Publications. p. 209.  
  7. ^ Jacobson, Howard (1996). A Commentary on Pseudo-Philo's Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum, With Latin Text and English Translation. Brill Academic Publications. p. 254.  
  8. ^ See for example Philip Alexander's 1988 article 'Retelling the Old Testament' in It Is Written: Scripture Citing Scripture (Cambridge: CUP) [1] and Frederick Murphy's 1993 book Pseudo-Philo: Rewriting the Bible (New York: OUP) [2]
  9. ^ Van der Horst, Pieter (1989) 'Portraits of Biblical Women in Pseudo-Philo's Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum' , Journal for the Study of Pseudepigrapha 5, 29 - 46 (at 42)

Bibliography and external links

  • J. Cazeaus, C. Perrot, and P.-M Bogaert, Pseudo-Philon, Les Antiquités Bibliques. (SC 229–30;) Paris, 1976. (Critical text and French translation.) ISBN 2-204-01050-2
  • M. R. James, The Biblical Antiquities of Philo (Translations of Early Documents 1: Palestinian Jewish Texts) London, 1917. (English translation.)
  • "Pseudo-Philo (First Century A.D.)", translated by D. J. Harrington in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, edited by James H. Charlesworth, vol. 2, New York, 1985, 297-377. ISBN 0-385-19491-9
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