Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Apocalypse of Zephaniah

READING ACTS: What is the Apocalypse of Zephaniah?
Since the book refers to both Daniel 3 and the apocryphal Susanna, implying a date no earlier than 100 B.C. The author was a Jew living in a Greek speaking Diaspora community. The book appears to have been used in the Coptic Apocalypse of Paul, found in Upper Egypt. E. A. Budge includes this in his Miscellaneous Texts in the Dialect of Upper Egypt (London 1915) but carefully distinguishes this Apocalypse of Paul from the Nag Hammadi text of the same name. There is nothing uniquely Christian in the text, despite the fact Christians preserved the text.
Regarding the provenance: this is a book written in a Christian language, transmitted in a Christian manuscript tradition, used in Christian circles, and showing no distinctively Jewish features. What is the evidence that it is a Jewish text? I'm willing to be convinced, but I'd like to see some arguments. There being "nothing uniquely Christian" is not an argument. The text is written in the name of an Old Testament character and a Christian writer might well have left out obviously Christian ideas to avoid anachronism. Start with the cultural context of the manuscripts you actually have and work backwards to other origins only as required by positive evidence.

I've dealt with these issues at length in my book The Provenance of the Pseudepigrapha: Jewish, Christian, or Other? (Brill, 2005) and more briefly in an article in the Expository Times 117 (2005), pp. 53-57: The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha as Background to the New Testament. Or, for free, in my British New Testament Conference paper back in 2002: Jewish Pseudepigrapha and Christian Apocrypha: How Can We Tell Them Apart.

Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.