Was the Book of Jubilees well known during the period of and before the early church? In Stephen's speech in Acts, he makes a reference to the mediation of law through angels that while absent from the Pentateuch might find some origin in Jubilees. Of course, it could be that Jubilees merely reflects the popular belief of its day; but I'm wondering if its possible Jubilees at least helped popularize the belief.

What kind of reception did Jubilees have in first century Judaism? Was it well known? Was it regarded as good thinking? As scripture? Did it affect much other writers?

1 Answer 1


The status of Jubilees in early Judaism is difficult to assess. Most of the scholarly energy on this text has been expended in establishing its text and origins -- both are fraught and problematic, although some broad consensus has emerged on Hebrew as the original language and roughly mid- or early-2nd C. BCE as the likely time of origin.

To answer the question directly, the best I can do is to quote a few sentences from James Vanderkam:

Apart from the Qumran texts, it is more difficult to trace the influence of Jubilees on later literature. ... While Jubilees seems to have had little influence later in Judaism, there is some evidence that it was known and used, although that evidence comes form relatively late times.

(The Book of Jubilees (T&T Clark, 2001), pp. 146-7.) The list of about a dozen texts that Vanderkam provides all come from the 10th C. CE and up (e.g., Bereshit Rabbati, Midrash Aggadah, etc.).

For the period of interest, that leaves the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) themselves as about the sole body of evidence, and there again the evidence is slender although significant. Vanderkam points out that the roughly 14 copies attested from among the DSS suggests "more than a little attention" in that quarter. He doesn't leave it completely vague, though:

That attention is evident in several places and in fact a good case can be made that at Qumran Jubilees was considered an authoritative writing, much like the books that would later be recognized as components of the Hebrew canon of Scripture.

(Book of Jubilees, p. 144). It appears that the Damascus Document (CD) cites it as an authority, and several other texts parallel or follow its content. Perhaps most intriguing is the way in which it relates to the Temple Scroll (11Q19). Jubilees "rewrites" roughly the book of Genesis, plus Exodus 1-19. The Temple Scroll basically picks up at that point, and covers (in some measure) the rest of Exodus-Deuteronomy (not reflecting all that content, however - the connections to the Deuteronomic Code are especially important).

The inference, then, is that at least among some segments of late Second Temple Judaism, Jubilees enjoyed a prominent status. Beyond this, however, one is speculating on the basis of the somewhat tortuous transmission of this document, and in a period well beyond that of first century Judaism.

Further reading - in addition to Vanderkam's work linked above:

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.