Jashar (Yashar), Book of

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One of the last compositions of the Jewish haggadic literature, pretending to be the book of this name (now lost) that is mentioned in Jos 10.13 and 2 Sm 1.18 (the latter passage is misunderstood in the Vulgate and Douay Version). It is written in good Hebrew and covers the period from Adam to the Judges (see haggadah; midrashic literature). Most of the work is concerned with the pre-Mosaic era, a fifth of it with the Mosaic period, and only three pages with later history. In elaborating on the Biblical themes, the author introduces entire sections, which he inserts between the Biblical texts. For example, he invents a long explanation of Cain's murder of Abel, and he adds a lengthy genealogy of Noah's descendants. Abraham's life is narrated in an elaborate manner, including an apparition of a star to him, and other details such as his two visits to his son Ishmael. Many other similar legends are thus added to various parts of the Biblical text.

This haggadic retelling of the Biblical story contains, no doubt, many ancient elements, but no critical or literary study of it has yet been made. There are interesting parallels between it and the writings of Flavius josephus and philo judaeus, which it would be most useful to examine scientifically (see josippon). The author's acquaintance with Italian place names, such as Tuscany, Lombardy, and the Tiber, indicates Italian origin; Arabic names also point to southern Italy, which was strongly influenced by Arabic culture in the 11th-century.

Bibliography: m. seligsohn, The Jewish Encyclopedia, ed. j. singer (New York 190106) 7:74. s. oscher, ibid. 12:588589.

[a. brunot]