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Prophets, Lives of the


PROPHETS, LIVES OF THE , name given to one of the few examples of ancient Jewish hagiographic writings (another example being the "Martyrdom of Isaiah"). Although in its present form the book contains some Christian elements, there is a general consensus among scholars as to the antiquity and the basic Jewish character of the work. Many of the traditions, such as that of Isaiah's death at the hands of Manasseh, find echoes in Jewish apocryphal and rabbinic literature (see also Martyrdom of*Isaiah).

The primary text is preserved in Greek. The Greek version falls into four recensions, two attributed to Epiphanius of Cyprus (hence the title "Pseudo-Epiphanius" sometimes given to this work), one to Dorotheus, and one anonymous. The anonymous recension is to be found in Codex Morchalianus (Codex q of the Septuagint). It is generally considered to be the oldest extant form of the work. Certain of the other recensions, especially that attributed to Dorotheus, are much expanded, containing the lives of various New Testament figures, apostles, and so forth. The "Lives of the Prophets" is also known in a number of the Oriental Churches in translation. There are various Syriac forms of the book which all appear to be developments of a single original translation from Greek. Although it is attributed to Epiphanius, Nestle and Schermann were of the opinion that the form of the Syriac "Lives" contained in the Syrohexaplar Code represents a different translation, but this is denied by Torrey. The "Lives" are also extant in Armenian, in a number of forms, but little is known of this version. Most scholars consider the Greek to be original, although Torrey posited a Hebrew original for the book.

The recension of q contains the lives of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel, followed by the lives of the Twelve Minor Prophets. These are followed by the lives of Nathan, Ahijah, Joed (identified with the anonymous prophet who is mentioned in i Kings 13), Azariah (son of Oded – ii Chron. 15:1ff.), Zechariah b. Jehoiada (ii Chron. 24:20–22; cf. Matt. 23:35; Luke 11:51), Elijah, and Elisha. Some of these "Lives" are quite extensive, containing many traditions of extra-biblical character touching on the circumstances of birth, acts, or death of the prophet concerned. Others seem to be limited to the very barest of details of place of birth and death. The traditions contained in these brief narratives are of considerable interest. Some of them are found in other sources, others are extant only in the "Lives." It is plausible that the "Lives" preserve references to lost apocryphal documents or at least traditions in common with them. The popular character of many of the traditions also adds to their interest. The "Lives" abound with geographical names, not all of which can be identified.


E. Nestle, Marginalien und Materialien (1893), 1–64, 2nd pagination; T. Schermann, Propheten-und Apostellegenden (1907); idem, Prophetarum Vitae Fabulosae… (1907); C.C. Torrey, The Lives of the Prophets (Gr. and Eng. 1946).

[Michael E. Stone]

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