Readers may be familiar with the term Jubilee as it refers to the Year of Jubilee, an event in Israelite history that would take place after every 49 years. In the 50th year, the Israelites would rest, restored debts, and freed slaves.
The Book of Jubilees bears this 49-year cycle in mind, dividing history into “jubilees” or 49-year time frames. Because the number seven has extreme importance in Israelite history and number symbolism in the Bible, 7x7 years would’ve had special symbolic importance.
Known as the “Lesser Genesis” or “Little Genesis,” this book gives a similar account to what we see in Genesis, and includes some more details that we don’t see in the first book of the Old Testament such as “the names of Adam’s daughters:” Âwân, who Cain later supposedly marries, and Azûrâ. We also get details about the nature of the Nephilim, where fallen angels would sleep with human wives and have giant offspring.
We also see the text dive into classes of angels that we don’t often see in other parts of the canonical Bible: “Angels of the presence, angels of sanctifications, guardian angels over individuals, and angels presiding over the phenomena of nature.”
Or, in other words, archangels, the angel of the Lord (a possible Christology or theogony), guardian angels, and angels in charge of the natural world.
Does this book belong in the Old Testament canon? Is it part of the Apocrypha or Pseudepigrapha? And what do we actually know about this book? We’ll dive into these questions and more.
What Do We Truly Know about the Book of Jubilees?
The Book of Jubilees was most likely written by Pharisees in the second century BC, around 135-105 BC.
This book strongly advocates for something known as the Lunar Calendar: a year made up of 364 days. Seven-day weeks times 52 equals 364. Hence the strong tie to the number seven, since 364 and 49 are divisible by that number.
We also know that the manuscripts discovered were written in Ethiopian, but it is also believed the originals were written in Ancient Hebrew.
The book mostly features the character of Moses and the events from Exodus but contains the Genesis account as well as indicating that the Ten Commandments were already in place in Jewish culture before God imprinted them in stone (Exodus 20). The Book of Jubilees places a strong emphasis on the Jewish calendar and the law, otherwise known as Halakhah, hence why it would focus on Moses.
Those who wrote the Book of Jubilees likely did not intend to replace Genesis or Exodus, but rather, to supplement the importance of those books through the narrative of this one. Supposedly this book was a revelation given to Moses about the Jewish calendar.
Is the Book of Jubilees Part of the Bible?
This book undoubtedly failed the canonicity test and does not belong in the Bible. Although it played an important role in the culture of those in the Qumran region, Essenes who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Book of Jubilees does not come directly from God and does not belong in the Old Testament canon.
First, we have a problem with authorship. In other words, we don’t know who wrote the book. Because of its emphasis on the laws and practices of Jewish culture, we can assume it was someone of a Pharisaic or Essenic background. But aside from that, we don’t know who the author is. Furthermore, and more problematic, this book claims to be a revelation to Moses, but if Moses didn’t write the book, we can consider much of the information suspect.
This places the Book of Jubilees firmly in the Pseudepigrapha, a group of books written under a pen name. The author, assuming the authorship of Moses, was not actually Moses. Even though more than a dozen copies of this book were found amongst the Dead Sea Scrolls and given scriptural authority by the Ethiopic Church, most Christians and Jewish scholars have not placed this book in the Old Testament canon.
Second, we have a problem with the date it was written. Because it was written about 100 years before the time of Christ, the author wrote the events thousands of years after they had transpired, allowing for possible errors and exaggerations to seep into the text.
That’s why the New Testament canon is so outrageously accurate because the authors would have written the books a mere handful of decades after the events transpired (see The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel for more information on the accuracy of the gospels).
Third, we have to look at the agenda of the author. Did they have an ulterior motive for writing this book? With the heavy emphasis on the Lunar Calendar and the Jewish law, they might have created this book as supplementary material, but not with the same authority as the Old Testament itself.
Why Does This Matter?
Why does it matter that we know about the Book of Jubilees?
First, we have to exercise discernment when reading books that are pseudepigraphical or apocryphal in nature. Although these books can give us insight into Jewish history and can help us to speculate about who Adam’s daughters were, how Adam spread his seed through Cain (Cain married his sister, most likely), and the nature of the Nephilim, we can’t accept the authority of these books as much as we can the Bible. We must read everything with a grain of salt.
Second, authorship matters. This book serves as a foil to the intensely meticulous accuracy of the New Testament gospel writings. Instead of being written thousands of years after the events, under a false author name, the gospels were penned by eyewitnesses and written a couple of decades after the fact of the events, when they would’ve been fresh in the minds of the writers.
©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Volodymyr Zakharov
Hope Bolinger is an acquisitions editor at End Game Press, and the author of almost 30 books. More than 1500 of her works have been featured in various publications. Check out her books at hopebolinger.com for clean books in most genres, great for adults and kids.
The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Salem Web Network and Salem Media Group.
These verses serve as a source of renewal for the mind and restoration for the heart by reinforcing the notion that, while human weakness is inevitable, God's strength is always available to uplift, guide, and empower us.
Video stock video and music probided by SoundStripe