Philo (Pseudo-) Liber Antiquitatum Bibli-Carum

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PHILO (Pseudo- ) or LIBER ANTIQUITATUM BIBLI-CARUM , conventional ascription and title of a Latin translation of an early Jewish chronicle. With extensive omissions, modifications, and additions, the chronicle retells biblical history from Adam to Saul's death (the archetype has lost its ending and how much followed remains uncertain). The length of the work makes it impracticable to list its chief innovations; for an outline see L. Cohn and G. Kisch (see bibl.). The period until the Exodus is briefly treated; additions and omissions are so distinct from those of *Jubilees that it has been suggested that Pseudo-Philo was correcting and supplementing that book. Especially notable are the strangely sympathetic account of Balaam, Moses' apocalyptic testament, the revisions of Joshua 22:7ff. and Judges 17–21, the novel careers of the first judge (called Kenez, as in Josephus' Antiquities) and his successor Zebul, Phinehas' installation of Eli, his ascension (to return as Elijah), and additional prayers, speeches, and visions, etc. throughout.

The title Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum is probably a late assimilation of "Philo's" historical work to Josephus' Antiquities. The author (Jewish, not Christian) does not adopt any pseudepigraphical mask. He is probably from Palestine, not the Diaspora, and is totally devoid of classical allusions. The manuscript's ascription to Philo of Alexandria is impossible.

Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum is usually dated shortly after 70 c.e., the strongest argument being Moses' prediction (19:7) that the First Temple would be destroyed on the 17th of the 4th month; it is plausible, though not inevitable, that this presupposes the cessation of the Tamid ("the daily offering") on that date in 70. Such a date would suit the linguistic parallels with ii*Baruch and iv*Esdras, but the Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum is demonstrably the source from which the other two have borrowed. Pseudo-Philo's Hebrew biblical text, furthermore, suggests an earlier date for at least much of the material. A few Septuagintal, Proto-Lucianic, and Palestinian readings have been noted by earlier scholars, but their number is far greater. That the translator, influenced by some form of Greek Bible, substituted its text for that of Pseudo-Philo is impossible, as such readings occur in passing allusions as well as in long quotations. More probably, the author himself used a notably pre-Masoretic form of Hebrew text – how late could he have done this? Further indications of date are unusable until the chronological system is explained.

Pseudo-Philo appears to be supplementing Chronicles with a history principally about Israel's cultic and national leadership from the Exodus until David. His real purpose is unclear, especially since the end is missing. The work is usually taken as a haphazard aggadic collection, with some unspecified educational or pious purpose, and the fact that many additions have parallels elsewhere suggest that not all the aggadah was created de novo. Its importance lies in the fact that it is one of the oldest substantive midrashic works extant. A. Spiro expounds it as a systematic attempt to replace the canonical history of pre-Davidic times by a version apter for anti-Tobiad and anti-Samaritan polemic. The anti-Tobiadism may be imaginary; some anti-Samaritanism is certain (there are even intriguing parallels with later Samaritan chronicles), but whether this controls the whole composition is disputable and the reason for the omissions is not yet apparent.

The affinities in Pseudo-Philo's theology and vocabulary need study; "mystical Jewish Hellenism" and "Essene Gnosis" are not too helpful characterizations. A coincidence (23:2) with Jubilees-Qumran on the date of the Feast of Weeks could be important for identifying its background and praxis; but other analogous indicators have not yet been noted.

The work survives in whole or in part only in some 20 late Latin manuscripts, but is older, having been translated (second to fourth century c.e.) via Greek from Hebrew. No clear traces of either Greek or Hebrew survive; the Hebrew form in Chronicles of Jerahmeel was retroverted from an important lost Latin manuscript. Strangely enough the work appears to have been unknown to the *Church Fathers. After early printings, Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum was almost completely neglected until 1898. Among Jewish writers until this period it was known only to Azariah de *Rossi. The work of emendation, begun by M.R. James and L. Ginzberg (The Biblical Antiquities of Philo, 1970), can be systematically perfected and a critical text established. Much of the work (including chronological data and proper names presumably important for Pseudo-Philo's purposes) is as yet obscure, though it is not irremediably corrupt.


M.R. James (ed. and tr.), Biblical Antiquities of Philo (1917; reprinted 1971, with a lengthy prolegomena by L.H. Feldman correcting and supplementing James on many points); L. Cohn, in: jqr, 10 (1898), 277–332; G. Kisch (ed.), Pseudo-Philo's Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum (1949); Ginzberg, Legends, 7 (1938), 537–9; A. Spiro, in: paajr, 20 (1951), 279–355; L.H. Feldman, Scholarship on Philo and Josephus (1937–1962) (1963); M. Delcor, in: dbi, supplément 7 (1966), 1354–75.

[John Strugnell]