AN INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOKS OF THE APOCRYPHA. By W O E Oesterley D D Litt D. © W O E Oesterley 1935. First published S.P.C.K. 1935. - This edition prepared for katapi by Paul Ingram 2003.


I.   The Doctrine of God.
II.   The Law:
  i. Utterances of a general character concerning the Law.
  ii. Non-Pharisaic conceptions of the Law.
  iii. The Pharisaic standpoint regarding the Law.
III.   The Scriptures.
IV.   Sacrifices.
V.   The Doctrine of Sin.
VI.   The Doctrine of Works.
VII.   Messianism:
  i. Incidental references to the Messianic Age.
  ii. The Signs of the advent of the Messianic Age.
  iii. The Felicity of the Messianic Age.
  iv. The Messiah.
VIII.   The Hereafter:
  i.   The traditional Sheol-belief.
  ii.  The Intermediate State.
  iii. The Judgement.
  iv. The Resurrection.
IX.   Angelology:
  i.  Angelic activities on earth.
  ii. Angelic activities in the realms above.
X.   Demonology.

(It will be readily understood that the illustrations to be given are very far from being exhaustive.)


In the Apocrypha belief in God is identical with that of the Old Testament in its most highly developed form.
Here attention must first be drawn to the conception of God as One who reveals Himself.
Throughout the books of the Apocrypha the Old Testament doctrine of the self-revelation of God is fundamental and taken for granted;
but a difference is often observable in the former in so far as the revelation of the divine will is communicated through the agency of an angel.
This is by no means always the case,
but it occurs sufficiently often to show that the belief in the method of divine self-revelation was undergoing a change;
and it was a change that in later Jewish theology became more pronounced.
A fine passage in Ecclesiasticus describes the revelation of God in Nature (xlii.15-xliii.33).
In Wisd.x.1ff., and elsewhere God reveals Himself through Wisdom.
All through the book of Tobit the divine will is revealed by means of an angel (cp. also Sus. verse 59).
Speaking generally, there is a certain contrast between the two books of the Maccabees.
While the subject-matter of the first does not offer much scope for dealing with the doctrine of God,
here and there a passage occurs in which we see a direct approach to God to reveal His will (e.g. iii.50ff.);
but in II Maccabees intermediate agencies play an important part in indicating and fulfilling His purpose
(e.g. iii.22ff.; xi.8ff; on the other hand, see .41f).
In the visions in II Esdras the divine messages come to the Seer at times directly,
at other times through the medium of an angel;
indeed, the distinction is not always made.
In iii.3ff, e.g., the Seer addresses himself directly to God;
but when he concludes his words to the Almighty, he continues:

"And the angel that was sent me to..."

But all through the books of the Apocrypha there is the belief in God's self-revelation to men, whether it is directly, as normally in the Old Testament, or indirectly, through the medium of an angel.

In the next place, we have the constantly recurring emphasis on the Unity of God,
an affirmation that the true believer would love to express for his own satisfaction,
but which was also a necessary witness in the midst of a polytheistic environment.
There is no doubt, moreover, that it was at times specially called for owing to the weakening belief of some of the Jews in Gentile surroundings.
Thus, Ben-Sira prays:

 "Save me, O God of all,
and cast thy fear upon all nations...
That they may know, even as we know,
that there is none other God but thee."

(Ecclus. xxxvi.1-5 Hebr.; see also xlii.21).

Similarly in the Song of the Three Holy Children,
Azarias prays that the enemies of his people may know

"that thou art the Lord, the only God,
and glorious over the whole world."

(verse 22).

In Wisd..13 it is said:

"For neither is there any God but thee, who carest for all."

The Creative Activity of God is very often spoken of;
but the two outstanding passages, too long to quote, are
Ecclus.xlii.15-xliii.33, and
The Song of the Three Holy Children, verses 35-68 (the Benedicite).
In most of the other books God as Creator is commemorated:

"Lord of the Heavens and of the earth,
Creator of the waters,
King of all thy creation,
hear thou my prayer."


"For thou hast made heaven and earth,
and all the wondrous things that are beneath the heaven;
and thou art the Lord of all."

(Rest of Esther i.10, 11);
see also Wisd.i.1-9, II Esdr.iii.4ff, vi.1-6, 38-55; II Macc.i.24.

The Fatherhood of God is spoken of in Tob.i.4:

"He is our Lord,
and God is our Father for ever."

Ben-Sira prays:

"O Lord, Father, and Master of my life." (xi.1),

and elsewhere.

The Divine Attributes find expression again and again throughout the books;
we can do no more than merely enumerate them with one or two references in each case:


"Thou art the Lord the Eternal God."

see also xviii.1ff.; Benedicite 89, 90; Il Esdras viii.20).

(Tob.iii.11; Ecclus.iv.14, xi.9, etc.;) Bar.iv.22:

"Joy is come unto me from the Holy One."

Ben-Sira, after his description of the divine activity in Nature, concludes with:

"And the sum of our words is,
He is all"


In Jud.ix.14 it is said:

"And make every nation and tribe of thine to know that thou art God,
the God of all power and might..."

In the Rest of Esther i.9-11 there is this beautiful passage in Mordecai's prayer:

"O Lord, Lord, thou King Almighty;
For the whole world is in thy power,
And if it be thy will to save Israel,
There is no man that can gainsay thee;
For thou hast made heaven and earth,
And all the wondrous things that are beneath the heaven;
And thou art Lord of all,
And there is no man that can resist thee, which art the Lord."

The Divine Omniscience, again, is fully recognized;
Ben-Sira says:

"He searcheth out the deep, and the heart (of man),
and discerneth all their secrets.
For the Lord knoweth all knowledge,
and he looketh into the signs of the world,
declaring the things that are past and the things that shall be,
and revealing the traces of hidden things.
No knowledge is lacking to him,
and not a thing escapeth him."


see also Rest of Esther i.12, etc.

The frequency with which the Righteousness of God is proclaimed is a notable witness to the lasting influence of prophetical teaching on this sublime subject.
Thus, in Tob.iii.2, Tobit says:

"O Lord, thou art righteous, and all thy works are mercy and truth,
and thou judgest true and righteous judgement for ever."

Azarias praises God in the words:

"Blessed art thou, O Lord ...
For thou art righteous in all things that thou hast done;
Yea, true are all thy works,
And thy ways are right,
And all thy judgements true."

(Song vv.3-5).

Similarly in the Rest of Esther xiv.7; Sus.60.
And in Wisd..15 it is said:

"For being righteous,
thou rulest all things righteously;"

see also Bar.ii.18; II Esdr.viii.36, and often elsewhere.

The righteous Justice of God occurs, e.g. in the words:

" ... and our God and the Lord of our fathers,
which punisheth us according to our sins and the sins of our fathers ..."


Ben-Sira says:

"Delay not to turn unto him,
and put it not off from day to day;
For suddenly doth his indignation come forth,
and in the time of vengeance thou wilt perish."

(Ecclus.v.7; see also ix.12, 13, xvi.6ff.).

Among other passages where this is dealt with, see Tob.i.9; Bar.i.21ff.; II Macc.ix.5, 6; Wisd.xi.17-20; II Esdr.vii.3ff., etc. More frequent, however, is the mention of the Divine Mercy and Long suffering:

"Therefore is the Lord long suffering toward them,
and poureth out his mercy on them ...
the mercy of man is upon his neighbour,
but the mercy of the Lord is upon all flesh,
reproving, and chastening, and teaching,
and bringing back as a shepherd his flock.
He hath mercy on them that accept chastening
and that diligently seek after his judgements."


Among the many other passages of similar import reference may be made to; Wisd.xi.21f; Bar.ii.35, iii.12; iv.5-v.9; II Esdr.vii.132 ff., Prayer of Man.7, 8.

In the next place it is necessary to draw attention to another prophetical tenet in the doctrine of God, assimilated by the writers of these books, namely that God is the God of History.
Whatever difficulties may suggest themselves in regard to this - and with these we are not here concerned -
it is quite clear that the writers of these books shared the prophetical teaching.
Ben-Sira, in saying that "His indignation driveth out nations" (Ecclus.xxxix.23), implies, as the context shows, that just as all natural occurrences are the outcome of God's will, so the happenings in the world's history are ordained by Him. The same writer expressed this is in fuller detail in xxxvi.1-9 (in the Greek xxi.1-9):

"Save us, O God of all,
and cast thy fear upon all the nations.
Shake thine hand against the strange people,
that they may see thy power.
As thou hast sanctified thyself in us before their eyes,
so sanctify thyself in them before our eyes;
that they may know, as even we know,
that there is none other God but thee.
Renew the signs, repeat the wonders;
make glorious thy hand and thy right arm.
Awake wrath, and pour out indignation;
subdue the foe, and drive out the enemy."

Similarly in the prayer of Judas Maccabaeus (I Macc.iv.30-33):

"Blessed art thou, O Saviour of Israel,
who didst quell the onset of the mighty man by the hand of David,
and didst deliver the army of the strangers
into the hands of Jonathan, the son of Saul, and his armour-bearer.
Shut up this army in the hand of thy people Israel,
and let them be ashamed for their host and their horsemen.
Give them faintness of heart,
and cause the boldness of their strength to melt away,
and let them quake at their destruction.
Cast them down with the sword of them that love thee,
and let all that know thy name praise thee with thanksgiving."

Further quotations are unnecessary; in most of the books the same thought is either expressed or implied (e.g. Jud.xvi.3; II Esdr.iii.9ff; I Macc.i.64; iii.18, etc.).

An important element in the doctrine of God, though this does not apply to all the books, is the tendency to avoid the direct mention of God.
In Tob.iii.16, e.g. it is said:

"And the prayer of both was heard before the glory of the great" (i.e. God); .
12: "I did bring the memorial of your prayer before the Holy One"
(see also iii.11; viii.5; xi.14).

This is especially characteristic of I Maccabees,
in which the name of God is never directly mentioned.
The writer frequently uses instead the second or third person (ii.21; iii.22, 60; iv.10, 24);
sometimes "heaven" is used for the direct mention of God (iii.18, 19, 50, 60; iv.10, 24, 40, 55; v.31; ix.46; xvi.3).
This idiosyncrasy on the part of the writer must be owing to reverential reasons, for there is not a similar reticence in other books of this period.
But it may, on the other hand, point to the growth of the transcendental view of God, which existed in the last century BC.

It must be said, in conclusion,
that, in reading through this literature,
one cannot fail to be impressed by the reality, and sincerity, and depth of belief in God among these writers;
that belief is a part of their very being.
Their conviction that God is ever present, ever guiding, and ever active among those who are faithful to Him is very inspiring.
This alone should make the books of the Apocrypha dear to all.


As a whole, this literature represents the Pharisaic standpoint regarding the Law.
In some books this is more evident than in others.
Though in a few instances words are uttered which suggest that the writers did not feel themselves bound by the strict rules and outlook of the Pharisees.
But, speaking generally, it may be said that the Pharisaic conception of the Law predominates.

It will be instructive to discuss this subject under the three following heads:

I. Utterances of a general character concerning the Law.

The eternity of the Law from all time to all time, and that its observance is life, is thus expressed:

"This is the book of the commandments of God,
And the Law that endureth for ever;
All they that hold it fast (are appointed) to life;
But such as leave it shall die."

(Bar.iv.1, 2).

This identification of the Law, or Torah, with Wisdom re-echoes the opening words of the section:
[This is the theme of the whole section ii.9-iv.4.]

"Hear, O Israel, the commandments of life,
Give ear to understand Wisdom."


This conception of the Law finds full expression in Ecclesiasticus,
and both writers are likely to have been indebted for it to Prov.iv.1-9, viii.22-31.
Ben-Sira brings it out, e.g., in xxiv.23:

"All these things (i.e. utterances of Wisdom) are the book of the Covenant of God Most High,
the Law which Moses commande
d (as) an heritage for the assemblies of Jacob."
(see also xv.1; xix.20; xxi.11; xxxiv.8).

The eternity of the Law is expressed in II Esdr.ix.36, 37:

"For we that have received the Law shall perish by sin,
and our heart also which received it.
Notwithstanding, the law perisheth not,
but remaineth in its honour."

That men should die rather than be unfaithful to the Law appears in several places.
In I Macc.ii.29-38 it is told how many of the Jews, including women and children, suffered death rather than break the Law of keeping the Sabbath holy;

"Let us die all in our innocency.
Heaven and earth witness over us,
that ye put us to death without trial ... and they died,
they and their wives and their children, and their cattle,
to the number of a thousand souls."

Judas Maccabaeus, in a somewhat similar strain, exhorts his followers

"to contend nobly even unto death for laws, temple, city, country, commonwealth" (II Macc.i.14).

The seer, in II Esdr.vii.20 likewise exclaims:

"Yea, rather, let many that now live, perish,
than that the law of God that is set before them be despised."


II. Non-Pharisaic conceptions of the Law.

A few instances, and they are exceptional, of an attitude towards the Law that would not have met with Pharisaic approval, are worth mentioning.
For they illustrate the fact that there were circles of faithful Jews who were, nevertheless, not wholly orthodox in some particulars.
This would apply more especially to the Apocalyptists;
but there were also hellenistic Jews whose views were less restricted than those of the thoroughgoing Pharisees,
but who would have resented the imputation of unorthodoxy.
Of these latter we have a representative in the writer of the second part of the book of Wisdom.
In xviii.4 he says

"...through whom (i.e. the children of Israel) the incorruptible light of the Law was to be given to the world".

Here we have, in effect, the view that the Law was originally meant for the whole world, not merely for Israel.
This is more pointedly expressed by the apocalyptic writer in II Esdr.vii.20, 21,

"Yea, rather, let many that now live, perish,
than that the law of God that is set before them be despised.
For God straitly commanded such as came
(i.e. into the world),
when they came,
what they should do to live,
and what they should observe to avoid punishment."

It is clear that humanity in general is here contemplated, not Israel exclusively (cp. the preceding verses).
The traditional contention was that the Law was given to and for Israel alone.
But the universalistic attitude here taken up shows that this rigid particularism was giving way;
and this was doubtless due to the missionary activities of the Jews during the last two centuries BC onwards.

In later times, as Schechter has pointed out,
this idea that the Law was not originally intended to be Israel's exclusive possession was often insisted upon.
[See Aspects of Rabbinic Theology, pp.131 ff. (1909). See further, Volz, Die Eschatologie der judischen Gemeinde im neutestamentlichen Zeitalter, p.67 (1934).]

Another, and more directly un-Pharisaic, conception about the Law is its inadequacy to redeem the sinner:

"For we that have received the law shall perish by sin,
and our heart also which received it"

(II Esdr.ix.36, cp.iii.22).

It needs no words to show that such an idea of the impotency of the Law to save would not have commended itself to the Pharisees.
[The Pharisaic attitude to the Law may be gathered, e.g. by St. Paul's words in Rom.iii.20, viii.3, 4; and Gal.iii.]

Once more, quite un-Pharisaic is the teaching in II Esdras that

"it is the acceptance of the Law as the standard by which men must be judged at the last, not the observance of it.
It is true that on strict legal principles the Law, having once been given, ought to have been observed. But so far is this from being the case that very few, if any, even in Israel, have lived up to the divine requirements as set forth in the divinely given Law.

'For in truth there is none of the earth-born that has not dealt wickedly,
and among those that exist that has not sinned
(II Esdr.viii.35)

[Box, The Ezra-Apocalypse, p.xxxix (1912).]

These points show, then, that among the writers of the books of the Apocrypha were some who did not see eye to eye with the Pharisees.
This was worth drawing attention to;
but it was exceptional, as we shall now see.

III. The Pharisaic standpoint regarding the Law.

In his "Praise of the Fathers of old,"
Ben-Sira writes thus of Moses:

"And he (God) placed in his hand the commandment,
even the Law of life and discernment;
that he might teach statutes unto Jacob,
and his testimonies and judgements unto Israel."


In a similar strain it is said in Bar. ii. 27-29:

"Yet, O Lord our God, thou hast dealt with us after all thy kindness,
and according to all that great mercy of thine,
as thou spakest by thy servant Moses
in the day when thou didst command him to write thy Law before the children of Israel."

And, once more, in II Esdr.ix.29-31 the seer says:

"O Lord, thou didst show thyself among us,
unto our fathers in the wilderness ...
and thou didst say,
Hear me, thou Israel, and mark my words, O seed of Jacob.
For, behold, I sow my law in you,
and it shall bring forth fruit in you,
and ye shall be glorified in it for ever."

The orthodox doctrine of the divine origin of the Law, given through the hands of Moses, is thus expressed in the earliest and latest books of the Apocrypha, and is found directly asserted or implied in practically all the others.

Mention of the observance of the Law occurs very frequently:

"Let thy converse be with a man of understanding",
says Ben-Sira,
"and let thy discourse be in the law of the Most High God."
(Ecclus.ix.15, see also .11; xx.15-24, Sus.3, and often elsewhere).

The neglect of it is an act of sin.

"Woe unto you, ungodly men,
who have forsaken the law of the Most High God

 We have sinned before the Lord, and disobeyed him,
and have not hearkened unto the voice of the Lord our God,
to walk in the commandments of the Lord that he hath set before us."

(Bar.i.18, cp. II Macc.iv.17).
"For though ye were officers of his kingdom ye judged not rightly,
neither kept ye the law,
nor did ye walk according to the counsel of God."

"Heaven forbid that we should forsake the law and ordinances."
(I Macc.ii.21).
"It is the stay of man in view of death:
Remember corruption and death,
and abide in the commandments."


The love of Wisdom, identified with the Law, offers the certitude of immortality:

"... love for her is the observance of her laws,
and the heeding of her is the assurance of incorruption."

"They who turn to the Law may be assured of divine compassion."
(II Esdr.vii.133).

Detailed precepts of the Law are incidentally referred to again and again.
Most notable here is the book of Tobit:

"Give alms of thy substance;
and when thou givest alms,
let not thine eye be envious ...
alms delivereth from death,
and suffereth not to come into darkness.
Alms is a good gift in the sight of the Most High for all that give it."

(Tob.iv.7-11; see also i.3, 16).

Prayer, fasting, and alms are mentioned together, especially the latter, in Tob..8-10, cp. Jud.iv.13.
The paying of tithes is insisted on in Tob.i.7, Jud.xi.13.
The avoidance of eating with Gentiles is emphasized in Tob.i.10,11; Rest of Esther xiv.17;
and the need of purification after touching something unclean (Tob.ii.15);
also the keeping of the feasts, in Jud.viii.6; II Macc.i.8, 9, 18.

In all that has been said the references are merely isolated illustrations, but they reflect the general attitude towards the Law of all the writers of the books of the Apocrypha.
The book of Wisdom is, as would be expected, the only one in which the Law receives very scant notice.


The veneration for the Scriptures and their authoritative character are emphasized again and again in the books of the Apocrypha.
The Pentateuch, or Torah, naturally enough, stands foremost, as being not only Scripture, but also the Law.
[It is, however, necessary to remember that while the Pentateuch is often spoken of as the Torah (e.g. Ecclus.xv.i; xvii.11 and elsewhere) the term is used also in the sense of "instruction" or the like (e.g. Ecclus.xxxiv [xxxi], 8; xxxv. [xx.] i).
What Schechter says of later times applies here too:

"The term Law or Nomos is not a correct rendering of the Hebrew word Torah.
The legalistic element,
which might rightly be called the Law,
represents only one side of the Torah.
To the Jew the word Torah means a teaching or instruction of any kind.
It may be either a general principle or a specific injunction,
whether it be found in the Pentateuch
or in other parts of the Scriptures,
or even outside the Canon"

(op. cit., p.117)]

Nevertheless, the other parts of the Old Testament are also frequently referred to or quoted, and are regarded as of fundamental authority.
For example, in Tob.ii.6 the action of Tobit is said to be based on Am.viii.10, which is quoted.
A few other passages may be mentioned:
Tob.ix.12; xiv.8, 9; Jud.iv.14; viii.26;
and the whole of Jud.xvi is full of Scriptural reminiscences;
Sus.62, Bel and the Dragon.33ff;
Prayer of Man.1;
and very often elsewhere.
But the most striking illustrations are found in some of the other books.
In Ecclesiasticus, apart from the Prologue and numberless incidental references, there is in the great section of the "Praise of the Fathers of Old," a kind of summary of the history of Israel, in which the deeds of Israel's great ones are commemorated.
In the book of Wisdom, apart from viii.2-ix.18, where Solomon's wisdom and piety are spoken of, and which is full of Scripture references, there is the account of Wisdom's activity among the heroes of old and among Israel's forefathers (x.1-21).
And in xi.1-.27 the early history of the nation is recounted in order to show God's mercy and forbearance towards His own people, and His judgement upon the Egyptians.
In the early parts of Wisdom, too, there are constant references and quotations from Scripture.
The love and veneration of the Scriptures is graphically illustrated in I Macc.i.56, 57, 63.
At the command of Antiochus all copies of the Scriptures were to be burned,
and anyone found in possession of any book of the Scriptures was threatened with death;
but many died that they might not be faithless to the covenant.
Finally, in Il Esdras, there are also many allusions to the Scriptures as authoritative (e.g. vii.106ff, 127ff, 132ff), in addition to a great many incidental references.

There is only one passage in the Apocrypha in which the Scriptures are not held to be of the highest and final authority, i.e. in II Esdr.xiv.44-47.
Here it is commanded that seventy secret apocalypses are to be kept from ordinary men,
for whom the twenty-four books of the Scriptures are sufficient;
but the secret books are to be delivered to the wise among the people.
This, however, is wholly exceptional;
otherwise the entire Apocrypha is saturated with the spirit and teaching of the Scriptures;
they are the source of the religion and faith of all the writers.


The sacrificial system is taken for granted; but in some of the books it receives far more attention than in others.
Thus, in I Esdras, as is to be expected, sacrifices are frequently mentioned, i.1ff; v.47ff; vii.7ff; viii.65, 66, and the whole system is regarded as an integral part of Judaism.
In Tobit, on the other hand, in spite of its otherwise orthodox attitude, sacrifices are barely noticed (i.6 is an exception); the contents of the book, it is true, offer but little occasion for the subject to be mentioned.
It is in Ecclesiasticus that a full appreciation is found.
Ben-Sira's reverence for the Temple-worship is eloquently expressed in l.1-24, which is a panegyric on Simon the High priest. In vii.31 he says:

"Glorify God and honour his priests,
and give their portion as thou art commanded,
the food of the trespass-offering,
and the heave-offering of the hand,
the sacrifices of righteousness,
and the offerings of holy things."

(see also xxxv. (xx) 1-3, 8-13).

But while he thus extols material sacrifices, it is noteworthy that he expresses himself strongly both on the right attitude of the offerer and, more important still, on the efficacy of spiritual sacrifices.
In xxxiv.21-23 [xxxi.18-19] he says:

"The sacrifice of an unrighteous man is a mocking sacrifice,
and the oblations of the wicked are not acceptable.
The Most High hath no pleasure in the offerings of the ungodly,
neither is he pacified for sins by the multitude of sacrifices,"

see also xxxv.(xx.)14,15.

His view regarding spiritual sacrifices is expressed in xxxv.(xx.)1-5, a very important passage:

"He that keepeth the Law multiplieth offerings,
and he that giveth heed to the commandments offereth a peace-offering.

[Cp. Ps.cxl.1, 2.]
He that rendereth kindness [Cp. Matth.ix.13; .7.] offereth fine flour,
and he that giveth alms sacrificeth a thank-offering.
A pleasing thing unto the Lord it is to depart from wickedness,
and a propitiation it is to turn away from unrighteousness."

 The tendency here exhibited increased among certain circles of the people as time went on.

It is beyond doubt that within Judaism itself,
especially throughout the Diaspora,
tendencies were already abroad by which the temple cultus,
and primarily its element of bloody sacrifices, was regarded as unessential,
and even of doubtful validity....
With regard to the sacrificial system,
the right of abandoning the literal meaning had been clearly made out,
as that system had already become antiquated and depreciated in the eyes of large sections of the people.
[Harnack, The Mission & Expansion of Christianity, vol. I. pp.50, 54 (1908).]

This tendency is also to be discerned in the Song of the Three Children 15-17 (38-40):

"Neither is there at this time prince or prophet, or leader,
or burnt-offering, or sacrifice, or oblation, or incense,
or place to offer before thee,
and to find mercy.
Nevertheless, in a contrite heart and a humble spirit let us be accepted;
like as in burnt-offerings of rams and bullocks,
and like as in ten thousand of fat lambs;
so let our sacrifice be in thy sight this day..."

Apart from these passages, however, this tendency does not appear further in the books of the Apocrypha, unless it is to be inferred by the silence regarding sacrifices in some of the books (Jud., though passing references occur in iv.14; xi.1; xvi.16; Esther, Sus., Bel, Pr. of Manasses, Bar. once in i.10).
The system is fully recognized and honoured in I Macc., e.g. i.45, iii.51; iv.42ff, 52ff, and in II Macc., e.g. i.8, 9, 18, 26; x.3, 6, 7; i.23; xiv.31.

The same is true of II Esdr., e.g. iii.24; x.19ff, 46, although the sacrifices had ceased with the destruction of the Temple.
[It is, however, worth pointing out that a prayer in the Jewish Liturgy (the "Eighteen Benedictions") contains a petition that the sacrifices may be re-inaugurated.
This is still used in the daily services of the Synagogue; it contains pre-Christian elements.]



While the existence and wide prevalence of sin are recognized, more or less, in all our books (e.g. I Esdr.viii.74ff; Tob.iii.3; Song of the Three Children, 5, 6, 14; Jud.xi.11; Esther i.6; Wisd..I 0, 11; Bar.i.21, 22 ; ii.5, 12; Pr. of Manasses.9; but, owing to the nature of their contents, I, II Macc. cannot be expected to be occupied with the subject), a real doctrine of Sin is to be found only in Ecclesiasticus and II Esdras.
It is, therefore, with these two books that we shall deal almost exclusively, so far as this subject is concerned.

The writers of both these books deal with what they conceive to be the origin of Sin.
Both trace it to the beginning of the human race, but in different ways.
Ben-Sira says:

"From a woman was the beginning of sin;
and because of her we all die"

In thus tracing the origin of Sin back to the Fall, and as its result, death,
Ben-Sira differs in one respect from what the normal view of Jewish teachers was,
namely, that both sin and death originated with Adam.
But neither draws the conclusion that owing to the Fall sin was inherited by the whole human race.

Similarly, the writer of Wisd.ii.23, 24 says:

 "... Because God created man for incorruption,
and in the likeness of his own proper being made He him;
but by the envy of the devil death entered into the world ..."

Though not directly mentioned, Sin is obviously implied here.

It is not until we come to the later book of II Esdras that we meet with the idea that the transmission of sin to the whole human race resulted from Adam's sin;
in iii.21, 22 it is said:

"For the first Adam,
bearing a wicked heart, transgressed, and was overcome;
and not he only, but all they also that are born of him.
Thus disease was made permanent;
and the law was in the heart of the people
along with the wickedness of the root;
so the good departed away,
and that which was wicked abode still."

The seer evidently felt strongly on this, for he says elsewhere:

"For a grain of evil seed was sown in the heart of Adam from the beginning,
and how much wickedness hath it brought forth unto this time!
And how much shall it yet bring forth until the time of threshing come!
Ponder now by thyself, how great fruit of wickedness a grain of evil seed hath brought forth.
When the ears that are without number shall be sown, how great a floor shall they fill!"


And, once more, in vii.118 it is said:

"O thou Adam, what hast thou done?
For though it was thou that sinned,
the evil is not fallen on thee alone,
but upon all of us that come of thee."

On the idea of the transmission of Sin through the fall of Adam and the connexion between Sin and death, more will be said later. (See Chap.viii.)

At present we are concerned with the theories of the origin of Sin.
Ben-Sira sees the beginning of sin in Eve.
Wisdom holds that it originated with the devil.
And II Esdras, while maintaining that it is to be traced back to Adam, is inconsistent.
For he says, on the one hand, that Adam bore a wicked heart (iii.21) and therefore sinned (vii.118),
but on the other, he says that a grain of evil seed was sown in his heart (iv.30).
He does not say who sowed it, but obviously it must have existed before Adam,
and he cannot therefore have been responsible for its origin.
If this writer thought, with Wisdom, that this evil seed was sown by the devil,
he apparently did not realize, any more than Wisdom, the dualism involved.
If he thought on the other hand that it was sown by God (and iv.10, 11 might imply this),
then he was, in effect, in agreement with a second theory of the origin of Sin put forth by Ben-Sira, which is this.
In his day there were those who directly imputed the origin of evil to God, and this attitude is condemned by Ben-Sira in the words:

"Say not thou, It is through the Lord that I fell away,
for thou shalt not do the things he hateth.
Say not thou, It is he that causeth me to err,
for he hath no need of a sinful man."
(xv.11, 12).

But then he goes on to say:

"God created man from the beginning,
and placed him in the hand of his Yetzer"
- a technical term meaning the 'evil tendency'.
If thou so desirest, thou canst keep the commandment,
and it is wisdom to do his good pleasure."

(xv.14, 15),

That is to say, by the exercise of his free-will man has the power to resist the evil tendency of his nature.
But Ben-Sira does not seem to realize
that if, according to his own statement, God placed man in the hand of the Yetzer, which is part of his nature,
then the Yetzer must have been created by God;
thereby unconsciously imputing the origin of evil to God.
He says in another passage:

"O evil tendency (Yetzer), wherefore wast thou created,
to fill the face of the world with deceit?"

[Cp., the Hebrew & Greek texts.]

thus directly imputing its creation to God; and equally pointed is xxi.14, 15:

"Good is set over against evil,
and life over against death;
so is the sinner over against the godly.
And thus look upon all the works of the Most High;
two and two, one against another."

Though Ben-Sira combatted this doctrine of the evil Yetzer having been created by God, which the logic of his own argument forced him to admit, it is found in somewhat later times put forth authoritatively.
For in the Midrash Bereshith Rabba xxvii, which has preserved so much ancient material, it is definitely stated that God created the evil Yetzer.
In the Babylonian Talmud, too, Kiddushin 30b it is said:

"I created the evil Yetzer (Yetzer-ha-ra');
I created for man
(too) the Law as a means of healing.
If ye occupy yourselves with the Law,
ye will not fall into the power of it."
(i.e. the evil Yetzer).
[Quoted by Weber, Judische Theologie, p. 218 (1897).
Contrast this view with Isa.xlv.6,
where "
I create evil" means I originate physical evil as the instrument for the punishment of moral evil.]

It is small wonder that Ben-Sira, in his ponderings upon the great mystery, should have been dissatisfied with both these theories of the origin of evil.
He has, therefore, a third theory which, for the practical man that he was, may have set his mind at rest on the subject; he says:

"When the ungodly curseth Satan, he curseth his own soul.
The whisperer defileth his own soul,
and shall be hated whithersoever he goeth."
(xxi.27, 28).

The words "his own soul" mean "himself".
Here "Satan" is synonymous with evil and with the man himself;
and taking the two verses together they mean that evil is of man's own making,
he is not only responsible for his own sin,
but he is himself its seat.
In such a case it is not necessary to seek for any other origin of sin.
Again, in xvii.31 it is said:

"What is brighter than the sun?
Yet this faileth;
and an evil man will think on flesh and blood."

The Syriac Version (the Hebrew is unfortunately not extant) reads for the second clause:

"Even so man does not curb his inclination (=Yetzer),
for he is flesh and blood."

Tennant paraphrases the passage:

Even the sun darkens itself - the brightest thing in the world;
how much more, then, frail man?

and adds that if Ben-Sira offers any excuse for man's depravity

"it is that of his natural and essential frailty"
"never traced to an external cause."

[In the Journal of Theological Studies, Vol.II. p.212.]

The verse is undoubtedly a difficult one,
but it does seem to point to the belief that sin originated in man (by which is not meant Adam).
And that others held this belief is seen by such a passage as Enoch xcviii.4:

"I have sworn unto you, ye sinners,
as a mountain does not become a slave and will not,
nor a hill a handmaid of a woman,
even so sin hath not been sent upon earth,
and man of himself hath created it."

On the other hand, it is true that apparently Ben-Sira thinks of Sin as something external to man:

"The lion waiteth for its prey,
so sins for them that work iniquity"

"Flee from sin as from the face of a serpent,
for if thou draw near it will bite thee;
The teeth thereof are the teeth of a lion,
slaying the souls of men..."

(xxi.2, 3).

But the probability is that Ben-Sira is using "lion" and "serpent" as metaphors for temptation,
from which man must keep away if he would avoid sin.

On the subject of atonement for Sin it is again primarily to Ecclesiasticus that we must go.
For though every reference to Sacrifices (see above) necessarily implies atonement,
and though repentance, so prominent in the Prayer of Manasses, is a means of obliterating Sin,
no book in the Apocrypha, other than Ecclesiasticus, contains definite utterances on the subject.

The teaching of Ben-Sira may be briefly summarized thus:

Like every orthodox Jew he recognized the atoning efficacy of sacrifices;
he says, e.g., that God chose Aaron

"To bring near the burnt-offerings and the fat pieces,
and to burn a sweet savour and a memorial,
and to make atonement for the children of Israel."

(xlv.16, cp. xxxv.7).

But what is especially noteworthy in Ben-Sira is his emphasis on the right spirit in offering sacrifices and their uselessness if offered otherwise:

"The sacrifice of an unrighteous man is a mocking sacrifice..."

(see above, pp. 85 f. where this is quoted in full, and the other passages referred to).
Sacrifices, if rightly offered, are, according to Ben-Sira, the chief means of atoning for Sin;
there are others, but in considering these we come to the subject of the efficacy of works.


It is again in Ecclesiasticus and II Esdras that we get detailed information on this subject;
in the other books only incidental mention of it occurs.

On the doctrine of good works atoning for sin we have some striking illustrations in Ecclesiasticus:

"He that honoureth his father maketh atonement for sins" (iii.3)

similarly in iii.14, 15 it is said:

"Alms given to a father shall not be blotted out,
And it shall stand firm as a substitute for sin;
In the day of trouble it shall be remembered,
Obliterating thine iniquities as heat the hoarfrost."

In Hebrew the word for "alms" is "tzedakah" - "righteousness",
the two had become synonymous since almsgiving was regarded as righteousness par excellence;
so, too, in iii.30:

"A flaming fire doth water quench,
So doth almsgiving
(tzedakah) atone for sin."

In the same way it is said in Tob..9 that alms "purge away all sin."
But though almsgiving is the chief of works that atone for, or obliterate, sins, there are others that are also efficacious; among these is the forgiving of injuries; in Ecclus.xxviii.1-7 we have a beautiful section on forgiveness in which verse 2 runs:

"Forgive an injury (done) by thy neighbour,
And then when thou prayest,
thy sins will be forgiven."

At first this looks like a parallel to the petition in the Lord's Prayer;
but, in fact, there is a great difference.
In the context (verse 5) Ben-Sira, in reference to the man who does not forgive, says:

"He being flesh nourisheth wrath,
Who will make atonement for his sins?"

The point is that whoever who does not forgive, does not make atonement for his sins, the implication being that he who does forgive thereby makes atonement for sins (see verse 2).
The good work of forgiving atones for sins,
and it is a work that man can fulfil,
so that by his work his sins are atoned for.
But that is very different from sins being forgiven by God.
In the one case forgiveness of sin is effected by a work of man,
in the other forgiveness is granted by the mercy of God,
not in recognition of a work done by man,
but because the man has become worthy of God's mercy.
It is just the difference between human works and divine grace

("when ye shall have done all the things that are commanded you,
We are unprofitable servants,
we have done that which it was our duty to do,"

Luke xvii.9).

Forgiveness, according to Ben-Sira, therefore, is a work that atones for sin.
Another work of atoning efficacy is fasting;
in xxxiv.31 (26) reference is made to one who fasts "for his sins";
and in xviii.22 it is said, almost in so many words, that death atones for sins:

"Let nothing hinder thee from paying thy vows in due time,
And wait not till death to be justified."

This belief in death being an atonement for sins meets us elsewhere in Jewish literature, e.g. in Sifre 33a (a very early Midrash on Numbers and Deuteronomy) it is said:

"All who die are reconciled thereby."

It may also be added that in the Jewish liturgy in the service of "Confession on a deathbed," it is said:

"O may my death be an atonement for all my sins, iniquities, and transgressions
of which I have been guilty against thee."

[In the Sephardic Ritual this is more fully expressed.
Cp. also - "
For he that hath died is justified from sin."]

In II Esdr.viii.26-30 the idea is expressed of the sins of men being overlooked on account of the good works of the righteous; and in Ecclus.xlv.23 it is said:

"Moreover, Phinehas, the son of Eleazar,
Was glorious in might as the third,
(i.e. after Moses and Aaron)
In that he was jealous for the God of all,
And stood in the breach for his people,
While his heart prompted him,
And he made atonement for the children of Israel."

As against this idea we have in Bar.ii.19 the words:

"We do not present our supplications before thee,
O Lord, for the righteousness of our fathers, and of our kings."

Such a difference of opinion between different writers on the subject of the efficacy of the merits of others, we can well understand.
But the inconsistency that, we find in such a passage, as II Esdras viii.26-36 is more striking.
And it is also of great interest as showing how some thinkers were perplexed about the subject.
Thus, in verses 26-30 there is the thought of sins being pardoned because of the good works of the righteous.
In verses 31, 32 it is said that all men are sinners and have no good works to their credit, for which reason the divine mercy is appealed to.
In verse 33 the righteous, who have a treasury of good works laid up for them, can use them only for their own reward.
In verses 34, 35 it is said again that all men are sinners, and are not worthy of thought;
and in verse 36 God's mercy is again appealed to on behalf of those who have no good works to their credit.
It seems unnecessary to suppose that these inconsistencies arise owing to scribal interference with the text.
The difficulty of the subject is quite enough to explain the writer's feelings of uncertainty.

Apart from this, however, there is one other point worth referring to.
Good works, irrespective of their atoning efficacy, bring their own reward.
On the face of it, this is a rational, common sense attitude.
But there is an element here that must not be lost sight of.
The two conceptions of the divine transcendence, and the direct divine action in the affairs of the world, are by no means necessarily opposed.
But that at times one should be unduly stressed at the expense of the other, and vice versa, is not a thing to be wondered at.
To keep a sane balance in such things is not easy to most.
It can hardly be doubted that Ben-Sira, with his very practical mind, would be inclined to represent those who believed, perhaps in an exaggerated way, in the divine action in the affairs of men (see e.g. xxi.13).
This would, to some extent at least, affect men's estimate of the part they had to play in shaping their destinies.
If God's activity in the world was such as to minimize that of man, then there was the danger of an exaggerated quietism, as it were, leaving everything to God and, at the most, seeking to incline Him favourably by doing such good works as lay in man's power.
In other words, by inducing God, through acts prescribed by the Law, which were pleasing to Him, to grant prosperity. Good works would thus assume the nature of a bribe.
Not for itself, but what it can gain, would then be the motive power behind doing what was right.
In Ecclus.xvi.14-16:

"Every one that doeth righteousness shall receive his reward,
Yea, every man shall find it before him, according to his works.
The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh who knew him not,
Whose works were manifest under the heavens.
His mercies are seen by all his creation,
And his light and his darkness hath he apportioned unto the children of men."

The last four lines occur only in the Hebrew, not elsewhere, and it is possible that they are a later addition;
but even so, it would be quite in keeping with Ben-Sira's view as expressed elsewhere, e.g. xxix.11, 12:

"Lay up thy treasure according to the commandments of the Most High,
And it shall profit thee more than gold.
Store up alms in thy treasure-chambers,
And it shall deliver thee from all affliction."

All prosperity and affliction, according to an over-stressed emphasis of divine action among men, come from God;
good works deliver from affliction;
hence good works have a utilitarian purpose.
Similarly in Tob.iv.10: " Alms delivereth from death and suffereth not to come into darkness." (So too, .9).

There was, thus, clearly a danger of attributing to works an erroneous efficacy (cp. Matth.vii.21, 22).
On the other hand, it is only right to point out that Ben-Sira does here and there recognize the action of divine grace (e.g. ii.17, xxxix.6).

Something further will be said on the subject of works in Chap. VIII.


The doctrine of the Messiah and of the Messianic Age, with one notable exception, plays but a small part in the books of the Apocrypha.

That is not to be wondered at, for Messianic hopes and expectations, and all that is involved in these, came mainly within the prophetic sphere of teaching, and, in later days, in that of the Apocalyptists.

Apart from II Esdras, therefore, Messianism is hardly to be looked for in our body of literature;
but in II Esdras it is fully treated.
Elsewhere only incidental references occur; the belief, in varying form, was of course held, but it lay in the background.

It will be best to deal with the subject under the following heads:

I. Incidental References to the Messianic Age.

The thought of this Age was evidently in the mind of Ben-Sira in writing:

"Give the reward unto them that wait for thee,
That thy prophets may be shown to be faithful.
Hear the prayer of thy servants,
According to thy favour towards thy people;
That the ends of the earth may know
That thou art the eternal God."
(Ecclus.xxxvi.17 (22)).

It will be noticed that there is no mention of the Messiah here;
but that need not occasion surprise, for the prophets themselves often speak of the Messianic Age without mentioning the Messiah.
This is also the case in Tob.xiv.7:

"And all the nations shall bless the Lord,
and his people shall give thanks unto God,
and the Lord shall exalt his people;
and all they that love the Lord God
in truth and righteousness shall rejoice,
showing mercy to our brethren."

It is possible that in Tob.i.16-18 (cp. Isa.liv.11, 12) the thought of the Messianic Age may have been in the mind of the writer.

The Messianic hope seems to be implicit in several passages in Ecclesiasticus, e.g. in xlvii.22:

"He will not cut off the posterity of his chosen,
And the offspring of them that love him he will not destroy;
And he gave Jacob a remnant,
And to the House of David a root from him."

It is especially the last line that suggests the thought of the Messianic hope (see also xlvii.11 ; xlv.25).
In xlviii.24, 25, where the prophecies of Isaiah are spoken of,
Messianic hopes must have been in the mind of Ben-Sira:

"By a spirit of might he saw the last times (τὰ ἔσχατα),
And comforted the mourners of Zion.
Unto eternity he declared the things that shall be,
And hidden things before they came to pass."

(see also xlix.12 and cp. Hag.ii.7, 9);

and similarly in the Thanksgiving (which in the Hebrew comes after li.12):

"Give thanks unto him that causeth a horn to sprout for the house of David,
For his mercy endureth for ever."


II. The Signs of the Advent of the Messianic Age.

As is to be expected, it is in II Esdras that we get the most elaborate account,
common, in varied form, to all the apocalyptic writings,
of the weird and supernatural signs, which shall immediately precede the coming of the "times of the Messiah."
We get the most detailed account of these in II Esdr.iv.51-v.13.
This passage is too long to quote in full.

Some of these " Messianic Woes " are repeated in vi.20-24, and a brief summary occurs again in ix.3, with comments on them by the Seer in the verses that follow.

After these signs the inauguration of the Messianic Era is heralded by the destruction of the Gentiles (II Esdr.i.5, 8-11, 49; see also Ecclus.xxxvi.6-8).
But in Tob.i.11 they come rejoicing with gifts in their hands for the "King of Heaven," and in II Esdr.i.12, 13, too, this seems to be implied.
Such inconsistencies, even in one and the same writing, are not infrequently met with.
On the other hand, there is always agreement regarding the in gathering of Israel at this time (II, 26; Tob.i.5).

III. The felicity of the Messianic Age.

[We use this word in its widest sense without restricting it to a purely Jewish national conception.]

In II, in reference to what shall be when the "Messianic Woes" are past,
it is said:

"And it shall be that whosoever remaineth after all these things that I have told thee of,
he shall be saved, and shall see my salvation, and the end of my world.
And they shall see the men that have been taken up,
who have not tasted death from their birth

(.e. Enoch and Elijah, cp. Ecclus. xlviii.9; Wisd.iv.10, 11);
and the heart of the inhabitants of the world shall be changed
and shall be turned unto a different mind.
For evil shall be blotted out, and deceit shall be quenched;
and faithfulness shall flourish, and corruption shall be overcome,
and truth, which hath been so long without fruit, shall be made manifest."

In II Esdr.viii.52-54 that bright future is expressed thus:

"For unto you is Paradise opened, the tree of life is planted,
the time to come is prepared, plenteousness is made ready,
a city is builded, and rest is established,
goodness is perfected, wisdom being made perfect aforehand
[cp. I Cor.ii.7].
The root of evil is sealed up from you, weakness is done away from you, and death is hidden;
Hades is fled away, and corruption forgotten;
sorrows are passed away;
and in the end is manifested the treasure of immortality."

(see also ix.7ff).

In this passage the Messianic Age is eternal in Paradise.
But elsewhere it is conceived of as established on the earth, and will last for four hundred years (II Esdr.vii.28, see below), while in ix.8 it is placed in Palestine, "in my land, and within my border" (cp. .13, 34, 48).
The inconsistencies are due to the difference of authorship of the component parts of the book (see below, pp. 146 ff.), and also to the varieties of tradition that have been incorporated.

IV. The Messiah.

Here again, for the reasons just given, there are different conceptions.
In II Esdr.i.3 it is the heavenly Messiah that is thought of,

"who flew with the clouds of heaven,"
who sends out of his mouth
"a flood of fire, and out of his lips a flaming breath,
and out of his tongue he cast forth a storm of sparks"

(verse 10), wherewith his enemies are consumed.

His pre-existence is spoken of in i.32.
But elsewhere the Messiah is presented as human in so far as, like all men, he dies, but this is after a reign of four hundred years:

"For my son the Messiah shall be revealed with those that be with him,
and shall rejoice them that remain, four hundred years.
After these years shall my son the Messiah die,
and all that have the breath of life"

(vii.28, 29).

The earthly Messiah appears again in the "Eagle Vision" (II Esdr.xi. .);
here he is symbolized as a lion,
who destroys the eagle, symbolizing the Roman empire,
and brings peace and joy to his people;
the passage is worth quoting:

"And the lion, whom thou sawest rising up out of the wood, and roaring, and speaking to the eagle, and rebuking her for her unrighteousness
this is the anointed one, whom the Most High hath kept unto the end of days,
who shall spring up out of the seed of David,
and he shall come and speak unto them
and reprove them for their wickedness and their unrighteousness,
and shall set in order before them their contemptuous dealings.
For at the first he shall set them alive for his judgement,
and when he hath reproved them, he shall destroy them.
For the rest of my people shall he deliver with mercy,
those that have been preserved throughout my borders,
and he shall make them joyful until the coming of the end,
even the day of judgement."

These inconsistent conceptions regarding the Messianic Age and the Messiah are due, as we have said, partly to difference of authorship and partly to the incorporation of varying traditional material.
But that the final compiler of the book should have deliberately embodied writings containing this contradictory Messianic teaching may at first sight cause surprise.
It is, however, in reality highly significant.

It has been admirably pointed out by Volz that the value of the "Ezra Apocalypse" lies in the fact that it contains a twofold eschatological tradition.
[Die Eschatologie der judischen Gemeinde im neutestamentlichen Zeitalter, p.30 (1934).]

There is the Jewish national eschatology, and there is the later world-embracing eschatology, and the compiler, in incorporating both, has to attempt the task, of which there are signs in the book, of combining the two.
The compiler was living at a period during which the later, developed type of world-embracing eschatology was appropriate, nevertheless he utilizes the old traditional eschatology.
This was because he was faced with the twofold problem of the dire distress of his own people, and the universal state of sin and confusion in the world in general.
He finds the solution of the former in the hope of the Messiah and the ancient national expectation of the Messianic kingdom;
that of the latter in the later doctrine of the coming of a second world-age.
Hence the incorporation by the compiler of different documents representing this twofold problem;
hence also, to a large extent, the incongruities and inconsistencies found in his book.
But what demands special notice is that the compiler is more oppressed by the problem of the bigger issue,
i.e. the wickedness of the world, and its solution, than by that of his people's distress and its remedy.
For this reason it is the coming of a new world-order that he places in the forefront,
whereas the Messianic kingdom is relegated to a secondary position,
a kind of interim kingdom.
And he goes so far as to contemplate the death of the Messiah, as we have seen;
indeed, in one passage (vi.7-10) he eliminates a Messianic kingdom altogether.
All this shows that the whole traditional Messianic conception has, for our compiler, lost, to a great extent, its importance and significance.


Inasmuch as the period covered by the books of the Apocrypha is, roughly, 200BC-100AD, a period during which developments regarding the conceptions about the Hereafter took place, it is precisely what is to be expected when we find a great variety of ideas on this subject.

I. The Traditional Sheol-belief.

This ancient, normal, belief of the Old Testament regarding the Hereafter meets us fairly frequently in this literature.
Thus, in Tob.iii.6, where Tobit expresses his desire to die,
he prays:

"Command that I be now released from my distress, and go to the everlasting place".

That by this expression is meant Sheol (= Hades) is evident from iii.10, where it is said:

""... and I shall bring down his old age with sorrow to Hades" (cp. i.2).

Similarly Ben-Sira, in a somewhat Epicurean strain, says:

"Give and take, and indulge thy soul,
for in Sheol there is no seeking of luxury"

and elsewhere in speaking of death which soon overtakes sinners, he says:

"The way of sinners is made smooth, without stones,
And the end thereof is the pit of Hades"

(xxi.10, Hades = Sheol; the Hebrew of the passage is not extant).

The forlorn condition of the spirit, or rather "shade," of the departed in Sheol, quite in conformity with Old Testament belief, is expressed in xvii.28:

"Thanksgiving perisheth from the dead as from one that existeth not;"

see also x.11 ;
and in xli.4 Ben-Sira seems to take a certain comfort in the thought of Sheol,
for, as he says:

"In Sheol there are no reproaches concerning life."

And yet, in entire contradiction with the ordinary Sheol conception, he refers, thereby adopting the very ancient pre-Sheol belief, to the consulting of the departed spirit of Samuel:

"And even after his death he was enquired of,
And he declared to the king his fate;
And he lifted his voice from the earth ..."


But the normal Sheol conception occurs again in Bar.ii.17:

"... for the dead that are in Hades,
whose breath is taken from their bodies,
will give unto the Lord neither glory nor righteousness ".

So, too, in the Prayer of Manasses, verse 13:

"Be not angry with me for ever,
neither condemn me into the lower parts of the earth."


II. The Intermediate State.

In a few passages in II Esdras and II Maccabees the old Sheol conception undergoes a development in that it is described as a place of temporary abode of both the righteous and the wicked where they await the last judgement.
Each, respectively, experience a foretaste of what their final destiny will be.
The main passage here is II Esdr.vii.75-101, which may be summarized thus:
The seer says:

"O Lord, shew this also unto thy servant, whether after death, even now when every one of us giveth up his soul, we shall be kept in rest until those times come, in which thou shalt renew the creation, or whether we shall be tormented forthwith".

The answer is that the wicked

"shall wander and be in torments forthwith, ever grieving and sad".

Seven ways are then described in which they shall suffer;
among these is that they shall see the reward laid up for the righteous,

but shall also
"consider the torment laid up for themselves in the last days."
They will also see
"the glory of the Most High before whom they have sinned whilst living, and before whom they shall be judged in the last times."
The righteous, on the other hand, shall see with great joy
"the glory of him who taketh them up";
they will
"understand the rest which, being gathered in their chambers, they now enjoy with great quietness, guarded by angels, and the glory that awaiteth them in the last days."
It is also shown unto them how
"their face shall shine as the sun, and how they shall be made like unto the light of the stars, being henceforth incorruptible."

In II Esdr.iv.41, again, it is said that,

"the underworld (infernum) and the chambers of souls (cp. verse 35) are like the womb.
For like as a woman that travaileth maketh haste to escape the anguish of the travail,
even so do these places haste to deliver what hath been committed unto them from the beginning."

I.e., from all time these places have been prepared to receive the souls of the righteous pending their final destiny of bliss (see also xiv.9).
Once more, in II the martyr speaks of going to Hades;
as he is one of the righteous, Hades (Sheol) must here denote an intermediate state before the time of resurrection spoken of elsewhere in this book (see below).

Here it must be added that the earthly Paradise, mentioned in the preceding section in connexion with the earthly Messiah, is also in some sense an intermediate state, though only for the righteous.
The heavenly Paradise, on the other hand, is the place of eternal bliss, just as Gehenna is the place of eternal woe (Jud.xvi.17; II Esdr.vii.36; Wisd.iv.I9).

III. The Judgement.

A description of the Day of judgement is thus given in II Esdr.vii.39-44:

"This is a day that hath neither sun, nor moon, nor stars,
neither cloud, nor thunder, nor lightning,
neither wind, nor water, nor air,
neither darkness, nor evening, nor morning,
neither summer, nor spring, nor heat,
nor winter, neither frost, nor cold,
nor hail, nor rain, nor dew,
neither moon, nor night, nor dawn,
neither shining, nor brightness, nor light,
save only the splendour of the glory of the Most High,
whereby all shall see the things that are set before them;
for it shall endure as it were a week of years.
This is my judgement and its prescribed order"
(constitutio ejus).

This very extraordinary description of the Day of judgement, which is to last for a week of years (cp. Dan.ix.24, 25, where the seventy weeks = seventy weeks of years) is almost certainly derived from some traditional material, according to which the conditions at the end of the world will revert to what they were at the beginning:
[On the whole subject see Gunkel, Schopfung und Chaos in Urzeit und Endzeit (1895).]

"And the world shall be turned into the old silence seven days,
like as in the first beginning;
so that no man shall remain"

(II Esdr.vii.30;
and cp. Gen.i.2: "And the earth was waste and void").

Further, it may be conjectured that this traditional idea fell in with the writer's very pessimistic outlook;
the world was evil, therefore before the new world can be created, the old corrupt one must be obliterated (cp. Rev.xxi.1).
Thus, in II Esdr.vii.113, again, it is said:

"But the day of judgement shall be the end of this age,
and the beginning of the eternal age to come"

(futuri immortalis temporis,
the reference is to unending time,
not to the immortality of man, as suggested by the Revised Version):
 "wherein corruption is passed away. ..."

Another reference to the judgement, explaining why it must be held, occurs in II Esdr.vii.21-25, cp. verse 73.
The central Person, the judge, is spoken of in II Esdr.vii.33, 34:

"And the Most High shall be revealed upon the scat of judgement,
and compassion shall pass away,
and long suffering shall be withdrawn;
but judgement only shall remain ..."

According to Wisd.iii.7 the righteous will be joyous even in the Day of judgement:

"And in the time of their visitation they shall shine forth,
And as sparks among stubble shall they run to and fro;"
But the wicked shall have
"no consolation in the day of decision,"
i.e. the judgement (iii.18).


IV. The Resurrection.

We may note first a few passages in which a general belief in immortality occurs;
in Wisd.v.15 it is said:

"But the righteous shall live forever,
And in the Lord is their reward,
And the care of them is with the Most High"

(cp. viii.13, 17).

Similarly, in II Macc.ii.18:

"In God have we hope, that he will quickly have mercy on us,
and gather us together from under the heavens into the holy place."

A little doubtful, though worth quoting, is Tob.i.1. 2:

"Blessed is God that liveth forever,
And blessed is his kingdom;
For he scourgeth, and showeth mercy,
He leadeth down to Hades, and bringeth up again"

(cp. verse 14).

The last line may merely mean that God brings men near to the grave, but saves them from actual death.

The resurrection of the spirit is directly mentioned, or indirectly implied, in a number of passages in Wisdom;
the best-known instance is in iii.1ff:

"But the souls (ψυχαί) of the righteous are in the hands of God,
And there shall no torment touch them."

The Greek ψυχή- (psyche) is the equivalent of the Hebrew nephesh "soul,"
while the Greek πνεῦνα (pneuma, "spirit") is equivalent to the Hebrew ruah ("spirit");
it is necessary that we should be clear in regard to the meaning of these words.
The matter has been well set forth by Kautzsch in Hastings' Dict. of the Bible, Vol. V. p. 666,
and his words are well worth quoting:

The habit of putting upon the Old Testament a trichotomous view of human personality was due almost entirely to a false conception of the nephesh and its relation to the ruah.
This distinction between "soul" and "spirit" naturally caused the actually existing trichotomy of body (or flesh) and spirit of life, to be missed.
The real state of things is as follows:
As long as the divine breath of life is outside man, it can never be called nephesh, but only ruah (more completely, ruah hayyim, i.e. spirit, or breath, of life, in which sense we find also nishmath hayyim used, e.g. Gen.ii.7).
On the other hand, the breath of life that has entered man's body, and manifests its presence there may be called either ruah or nephesh.
The two alternate in poetical parallelism in such a way that the same functions are attributed at one time to the nephesh and at another to the ruah.

When, therefore, in the passage before us the "souls" of the righteous are spoken of,
it is the spirit, as we understand this, that is meant.
And the same applies to other passages in this book, in which the resurrection of the body is never taught, see ii.22-24; iv.13, 14; vi.17-20.

On the other hand, we meet with a number of passages in II Maccabees and II Esdras in which the resurrection of the body is clearly believed in.
Thus, in the account of the martyrdom of the mother's seven sons (chap. vii) one of them says:

"... but the King of the world shall raise up us who have died for his laws,
unto an eternal renewal of life."

That the body, in the most material sense, is meant comes out in the words of the next martyr:

"And when he was required,
he quickly put out his tongue and stretched forth his hands courageously,
and nobly said,
From heaven I possess these;
and for his laws' sake I contemn these,
and from him I hope to receive these back again"

(verses 10, 11; see also verses 22, 23, 29, 36).

Once more, in II Macc..43, 44:

"... he sent unto Jerusalem to offer a sacrifice for sin,
doing therein right well and honourably,
in that he took thought for a resurrection.
If he were not expecting that they that had fallen would rise again,
it were superfluous and idle to pray for the dead."

The same belief is expressed in II Esdr.vii.32:

 "And the earth shall restore those that are asleep in her,
and so shall the dust those that dwell therein in silence,
and the chambers shall restore those souls that were committed unto them;"

again in verse 37:

"And then shall the Most High say to the nations that are raised from the dead ..."

In this passage the wicked, i.e. the nations, partake in the resurrection, but are immediately consigned to punishment. In II Macc.vii.14, on the other hand, it is said:

"It is good to die at the hands of men,
and look for the hopes which are given by God,
that we shall be raised up again by him;
but as for thee
(i.e. the king, Antiochus iv),
thou shalt have no resurrection unto life."

There is not always consistency in the apocalyptic literature regarding this subject.


The frequent mention of angels in the books of the Apocrypha witnesses to a widespread belief in their activity.
But the angelology, which we meet with here, is almost entirely of a popular character; the more sober official doctrine receiving only moderate notice.

The subject may be conveniently divided into:

  1. angelic activity on this earth, and
  2. the functions of angels in the realms above;

corresponding roughly to the popular and official views.

I. Angelic Activities on Earth.

Naturally enough, as we are dealing with Jewish beliefs, whatever it is that angels accomplish on earth, they are always the instruments of God, sent to carry out His will (Tob.iii.17, .18; Ep.of; Bel and the Dragon, 34; II Macc.xi.6; II Esdr.iv.1).

The most elaborate picture of popular angelology occurs in the book of Tobit.

Here the angel is called Raphael:

"I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels ..." (.15);

but he is not known to be an angel (v.4),
and gives himself the name of Azarias (v.12).

He accompanies Tobias, the son of Tobit, on his journey to Media, and helps him in a variety of ways (v.4, 16, 21; vi.3ff; viii.2, 3; ix.1ff)

It must, of course, be remembered that Tobit is a folk-tale, and the quaint things that are said about the angel (vi.1-8, 10ff, ix.5) must be taken in this sense.
In fact, the writer himself makes the angel say, at the end of the story:

"All these days did I appear unto you;
and I did neither eat nor drink,
but ye saw a vision"

More fantastic is the story told about the angel in Bel and the Dragon 33-39, who carries the prophet Habakkuk from Palestine to Babylon, and back, by the hair in order that he might give his dinner to Daniel in the lions' den.

In Susanna, again, 59 ff., an angel with a drawn sword appears at the time when the two elders are pronounced guilty, and casts fire upon them.

But it is in II Maccabees that we find the most elaborate activity of angels in the affairs of men.
Here we have, first, the story of the attempt of Heliodorus, the chancellor of the Syrian king, to plunder the Temple treasury.
It is recounted how, on entering the treasury,

"The Sovereign of spirits and of all authority caused a great apparition,
so that all that had presumed to come in with him,
stricken with dismay at the power of God,
fainted and were sore afraid.
For there was seen by them a horse with a terrible rider upon him,
and adorned with beautiful trappings,
and he rushed fiercely and smote at Heliodorus with his forefeet;
and it seemed that he that sat upon the horse had complete armour of gold.
Two others also appeared unto him,
young men,
notable in their strength, and beautiful in their glory, and splendid in their apparel,
who stood by him on either side,
and scourged him unceasingly,
inflicting on him many sore stripes"


Heliodorus falls down in a faint, and all are filled with terror;
but Onias the High Priest brings a sacrifice for his recovery, whereupon the apparition again appears before Heliodorus, bidding him give thanks to Onias who by his act had saved his life.
Heliodorus then offers sacrifice to God, and, on his return home, proclaims what God had done for him (verses 27-36).

Another interesting illustration occurs in x.29-3 1, during the battle between Judas Maccabacus and Timotheus the Syrian general:

"When the battle waxed strong,
there appeared out of heaven unto their adversaries
five men on horses with bridles of gold, in splendid array,
leading on the Jews, and taking Maccabaeus in the midst of them,
and covering him with their own armour, guarded him from wounds,
while on the adversaries they shot forth arrows and thunderbolts;
by reason whereof they were blinded and thrown into confusion, and were cut to pieces,
filled with bewilderment..."

(see also xv.22-27).

In all these cases we have the idea of a national guardian angel, probably reflected already in Ecclus.xvii.17:

"For every nation he appointed a ruler,
But Israel is the Lord's portion."

In the Septuagint of Deut.xx.8, 9 it is said:

When the Most High divided the nations, when he scattered the sons of Adam, he set bounds of the nations according to the number of the angels of God.
And the Lord's portion was his people Jacob, the lot of his inheritance was Jacob.

In the Targum of pseudo-Jonathan to Gen.xi.7, 8 it is said that every nation has its own guardian angel who pleads the cause of the nation under his protection before God.
In Dan..1 it is said:

"And at that time shall Michael stand up,
the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people "

similarly Michael is said to be Israel's guardian angel in the Yalkut Shimeoni, Bereshith 132,

A different function of angelic activity on earth meets us all through II Esdr.iii-x (The "Ezra Apocalypse"),
where Uriel the archangel (iv.36) instructs the seer regarding his visions.

II. Angelic Activities in the Realms Above.

This subject receives far less attention in our books.

In II Esdr.vii.85, 95 angels are said to guard the righteous in the intermediate state.

Elsewhere it is in Heaven that their activities are referred to;
in Tob..15 it is said that they

"present the prayers of the saints,
and go in before the glory of the Holy One"
(cp. viii.15).

Ben-Sira, in praising the works of God, says:

The holy ones of God [i.e. the angels] have not the power
To recount the wondrous works of his might

See also II Esdr.viii.21 and the Prayer of Manasses 15, where the presence of the angels in Heaven is spoken of.


It is somewhat remarkable that in view of the deep-seated belief in demons and their baneful activities among men, there should be such an extremely small notice of the subject in the books of the Apocrypha which otherwise so often reflect popular conceptions.

But the fact is undeniable that demons are scarcely ever mentioned.

The outstanding exception is the book of Tobit.

Here Asmodaeus, the evil demon, plays a prominent and ominous part (iii.8, 9), though an end is put to his evil doings by the Angel (iii.7, vi.15), quaint as the means employed no doubt are (vi.16, 17; viii.2, 3). (See below, p.166.)

There is a passage in Ecclus.xxxix.28 ff., which in all probability implies demonic activity (knowing as we do from other sources (e.g. often in the Book of Enoch.) the beliefs about demons), though they are not actually mentioned [Cp. Test Patr.Levi.iii.2: " - And it [i.e. the lowest heaven] has fire, snow, and ice made ready for the day of judgement, in the righteous judgement of God; for in it are all the spirits of the retributions for vengeance on men."]:

"There are winds that are created for vengeance,
And in their wrath lay on their scourges heavily;
And in the time of the end they pour out their strength,
And appease the wrath of him that created them.
Fire and hail, famine and pestilence,
These also are created for judgement.
Beasts of prey, scorpions and vipers ..."

(Cp. Enoch liv.5, 6.)

It is exceedingly probable that we have here an echo of earlier Babylonian beliefs regarding demons, of which there are traces in the Old Testament.
was the demon who brought burning fever, there were special storm demons, and the pest demons were Labartu and Namtaru; there was also the demon of death, and many others.
In addition to Babylonian influence there is every reason to believe that both Persia and Egypt contributed their quota to belief in demons among the Jews.
The mention of Satan, moreover (Ecclus.xxi.27), and the devil (Wisd.ii.24) implies a belief in demons as his army of subordinates.
In Tob.iv.7 sacrifices to demons are mentioned (cp. Deut. xx. 17), and see also verse 35.

Thus, while it cannot be doubted that belief in the activity of demons was widespread, the references to them in our books are exceedingly scanty;
in fact, in most of the books they are not mentioned at all.