2.02.10: The Book of Jubilees Chapters 00.05 Versions and Original Language Section 05


The complete text of the Book is extant in an Ethiopic Version, which is also the most accurate that has survived. Four MSS. of it are known, and are preserved in European Libraries, the two most important in the National Library in Paris and in the British Museum respectively.

A critical edition of the text, based on all the known MSS., has been published by Dr. Charles (Oxford, 1895), which was preceded by an important one by Dillmann (published 1859).

Fragments of a Greek, Latin and (possibly) a Syriac version are also extant. The fragments of the Greek version are contained in numerous citations in Justin Martyr, Origen, Diodorus of Antioch, Isidore of Alexandria, Epiphanius, Syncellus and other writers. The Latin version, of -which about one-fourth has been preserved, is very valuable for the criticism of the text. The fragments that have survived were first published by Ceriani (in his Monumenta Sacra el Profana, 1861), and have been edited by Rönsch (1874), and more recently by Charles (in his edition of the Ethiopic text referred to above).

What may possibly be a fragment of a Syriac Version of our Book is contained in a British Museum MS. (Add. 12154, fol. 180) entitled “Names of the Wives of the Patriarchs according to the Hebrew Book called Jubilees.” But whether this p. xi is really part of a complete version is very doubtful (see Charles, op. cit., Appendix iii.).

It is generally agreed that both the Ethiopic and Latin versions were translated from the Greek which, it may be inferred from the large number of quotations scattered about in different writers over a wide period, must have been widely diffused. The fact that a Greek text underlies these versions is clear from such phenomena as the presence, in the Ethiopic, of transliterations of Greek words (e. g. ἡλίου, “of the sun,” in xxxiv. 11); proper names are transliterated as they appear in Greek, not in Hebrew; and certain textual corruptions can only be explained by reference to an underlying Greek text. Similar phenomena characterize the Latin version. Thus in xxxviii. 12, “timoris” = δειλίας, which is corrupt for δουλείας; and sometimes the Greek has been misunderstood, as e. g. in xxxviii. 13, “honorem” = τιμήν, which should have been rendered by “tributum.”

It is more difficult to determine whether a Semitic original underlies the Greek, and, if that be the case, whether the original Semitic text was Hebrew or Aramaic. It must be admitted that in a number of passages where the text of the canonical Genesis is cited the Ethiopic agrees with the LXX against all other authorities (see Charles’ Jubilees, p. xxxiv). But these cases are not, on the whole, either numerous or important.[1]fn2 They may be due to assimilation in the Greek Version with the LXX. On the other hand, the Ethiopic often agrees with the LXX, supported by other authorities (especially the Samaritan text and version) against the Masoretic Hebrew text, and there are other variations in the textual phenomena.

From a survey of these phenomena Charles deduces the conclusion, no doubt rightly, that “our book attests an independent form of the Hebrew text of the Pentateuch. . . . Our book represents some form of the Hebrew text of the Pentateuch midway between the forms presupposed by the LXX and the Syriac.”[2]fn3 Jubilees, p. xxxviii.  p. xii It agrees with the LXX, or with combinations into which the LXX enters, more often than with any other authority or group of authorities. On the other hand, it is often independent of the LXX, and in a considerable number of cases attests readings, with the support of MT and Sam., against the LXX, and manifestly superior to the latter.

It is noteworthy that it never agrees with M against all the other authorities. These phenomena suggest that the composition of Jubilees is to be assigned to “some period between 250 B.C. (LXX version of the Pentateuch) and A.D. 100 [when M was finally fixed], and at a time nearer the earlier date than the latter.”[3]fn4 Op. cit., p. xxxix.

A number of considerations may be adduced which suggest that the original language of Jubilees was Hebrew.

Thus mistranslations of Hebrew words occur, e. g. in xliii. 11, the word rendered (as corrected) “I pray thee,” is, in the Ethiopic, “in me”–a confusion of the Hebrew  = δέομαι (Gen. xliv. 18) with the Hebrew word (spelt in exactly the same way) which = “in me;” there are also numerous Hebraisms surviving in the Ethiopic and Latin versions,[4]fn5 Cf. e. g. xxii. 10, “eligere in te” = Heb. bāhar bĕ. as well as paronomasiae based upon Hebrew words.[5]fn6 See Charles, op. cit., p. xxxiii for details. It is noteworthy, also, that the author lays special stress upon the sacred character of Hebrew, which was originally the language of creation (cf. xii. 25-26; xliii. 15).

Moreover, he represents his work as having emanated from Moses, and a genuinely Mosaic work would naturally be written in Hebrew. Finally, certain parts of Jubilees, or of something remarkably like Jubilees, have survived in Hebrew form in certain Hebrew books, especially the Chronicles of Jerahmeel, and the Midrash Tadshe. It is not improbable, also, that a Hebrew form of Jubilees was known to the compiler of the Pirḳe de R. Eliezer (see Friedlander’s Introduction to the latter book, p. xxii).

The only ground for suggesting that the Semitic p. xiii original may have been Aramaic rather than Hebrew is the presence of certain Aramaizing forms of proper names (e. g. Filistin, with the termination n instead of m) in the Latin version. But in all these cases the Ethiopic transliteration has m (not n), and it seems probable that the Aramaizing forms in these cases are due to the Latin translator, who there is other ground for supposing was a Palestinian Jew. We may, therefore, safely conclude that the original language of our Book was Hebrew.

Original Source: sacred-texts.com


1 fn2 They may be due to assimilation in the Greek Version with the LXX.
2 fn3 Jubilees, p. xxxviii.
3 fn4 Op. cit., p. xxxix.
4 fn5 Cf. e. g. xxii. 10, “eligere in te” = Heb. bāhar bĕ.
5 fn6 See Charles, op. cit., p. xxxiii for details.

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