Bibliotheca Sacra 109 (Apr. 1952): 164-74.

         Copyright © 1952 by Dallas Theological Seminary. Cited with permission.    



                                                Department of

                        New Testament Greek and Literature



                         The Kingdom of God

    In the Jewish Apocryphal Literature: Pt. 2


                                       By George E. Ladd, Ph.D.

                 (Continued from the January-March Number, 1952)



            The book of Jubilees may be roughly but not inaccur-

ately described as a Jewish commentary on Genesis and

Exodus 1-12. It has often been called the "Little Genesis,"

the term "little" referring not to its size but to the detail

into which it enters. It consists of an interpretation of his-

tory from creation to Mount Sinai in the interests of later

Judaism. This history is organized artificially into jubilees,

periods of 49 years. Each jubilee consists of seven weeks

of years, or 49 years. The formal setting of the book is

that of an apocalypse or revelation, because it represents it-

self to be a revelation made to Moses on Mount Sinai of the

entire course of human history from creation to the new

creation (Jub. 1:4, 26). The book is sometimes called the

Apocalypse of Moses. The author rewrites history to suit

his own taste and to support the interests which he repre-

sents, omitting from the Old Testament record much that

is offensive to his views, changing other items, and adding

a great deal of traditional material.

            Numerous quotations from the book are found in the

church fathers from the second to the twelfth centuries,

when it was apparently lost sight of. In the mid-nineteenth

century, it was discovered by a Christian missionary in

Abyssinia in an Ethiopic version. Four Ethiopic manu-

scripts are now known, and scholarship is greatly indebted

to R. H. Charles for his work in the Ethiopic version.1


1Cf. R. H. Charles, The Ethiopic Version of the Hebrew Book of Jubilees

     (Oxford, 1895).



Kingdom of God in Jewish Apocryphal Literature         165


            About one-fourth of the book has been recovered in a

Latin version. Scholars agree that both the Ethiopic and

the Latin versions were translated from a lost Greek version

which appears in the quotations of the Greek fathers. The

Greek was probably derived from the original Semitic form.

            The date of the book has been vigorously debated, for

there are no fixed data by which a certain time may be

postulated. The most commonly accepted date is the second

half of the second century B.C., the times of the Maccabees,2

although scholars have dated it anywhere from the third or

fourth centuries B.C. to the first century A.D.

            The author is unknown, as is the case with most of these

writings, but he seems to have shared Pharisaic views. He

glorifies the Law and exalts especially the oral law. By this

means he gives divine authority to observances in Judaism

which were not contained in the written Law of the Old

Testament, the oral law being esteemed a part of the revela-

tion given to Moses on Mount Sinai. He emphasizes separa-

tion from the heathen, absolutely forbidding intermarriage

and table fellowship, and vigorously affirms circumcision and

Sabbath observance.

            The legalistic interest provides the key to the eschatology

of the book. The author anticipates the coming of the king-

dom of God,3 but it is to be attained by the power intrinsic

in the Law of God. Jubilees looks forward to the time when

"My [God's] sanctuary has been built among them for

all eternity. And the Lord will appear to the eyes of all, and

all will know that I am the God of Israel and the Father of

all the children of Jacob, and King on Mount Zion for all

eternity. And Zion and Jerusalem will be holy. . . . the

heavens and the earth shall be renewed and all their creation


2R. H. Charles, The Book of Jubilees (London, 1902), pp. lviii-lxvi; H. H.
     Rowley, The Relevance of Apocalyptic (2nd ed.; London, 1947), p. 60,

     and the excellent note on the date of jubilees, pp. 84-90.

3It is to be noted that in Jubilees, and in most of the apocalyptic literature,

     the phrase "kingdom of God" almost never appears. It is not of course

     the phrase that we are studying, but the concept which lies behind it;

     and the expectation of the time when God would fulfill His promises

     to His people and exalt them in His kingdom continually reappears.

166                                         Bibliotheca Sacra


according to the powers of the heaven, and according to all

the creation of the earth, until the sanctuary of the Lord

shall be made in Jerusalem on Mount Zion, and all the lumi-

naries be renewed for healing and for peace and for blessing

for all the elect of Israel, and that thus it may be from that

day and unto all the days of the earth" (1:27, 29).4

            Again, the author speaks of "Mount Zion [which] will

be sanctified in the new creation for a sanctification of the

earth; through it will the earth be sanctified from all [its]

guilt and its uncleanness throughout the generations of the

world" (4:26).

            The most extended passage is in chapter 23. The author

describes a time of deep trouble when evil is to dominate

everything; after this there will ensue the kingdom. "For

calamity followeth on calamity, and wound on wound, and

tribulation on tribulation, and evil tidings on evil tidings,

and illness on illness, and all evil judgments such as these,

one with another, illness and overthrow, and snow and frost

and ice, and fever, and chills, and torpor, and famine, and

death, and sword, and captivity, and all kinds of calamities

and pains. And all these will come on an evil generation

which transgresseth on the earth: their works are unclean-

ness and fornication, and pollution and abominations”

(23:13-14). "And they will strive one with another, the

young with the old, and the old with the young, the poor

with the rich, and the lowly with the great, and the beggar

with the prince, on account of the law and the covenant; for

they have forgotten commandment and covenant, and feasts,

and months, and Sabbaths, and jubilees, and all judg-

ments. And they will stand [with bows and] swords and

war to turn them back into the way; but they will not return

until much blood hath been shed on the earth, one by an-


4All quotations will be found in R. H. Charles, ed.: The Apocrypha and

     Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament (Oxford, 1913), Vol. II in loc.

     Cf. also the very convenient manual edition edited by G. H. Box, The

     Book of Jubilees (London, 1917) in the series Translations of Early

     Documents published by S.P.C.K. There does not exist a manual edi-

     tion of the books of the Pseudepigrapha, although it is greatly to be


Kingdom of God in Jewish Apocryphal Literature         167


other. And those who have escaped will not return from 

their wickedness to the ways of righteousness, but they will

all exalt themselves to deceit and wealth, that they may each

take all that is his neighbor's, and they will name the great          

name, but not in truth and not in righteousness, and they 

will defile the holy of holies with their uncleanness and the

corruption of their pollution. And a great punishment will

befall the deeds of this generation from the Lord, and He           

will give them over to the sword and to judgment and to

captivity, and to be plundered and devoured. And He will

wake up against them the sinners of the Gentiles, who have

neither mercy nor compassion, and who will respect the

person of none, neither old nor young, nor any one, for they

are more wicked and strong to do evil than all the children

of men.          

     And they will use violence against Israel and transgres-         

            sion against Jacob,

     And much blood will be shed upon the earth,

     And there will be none to gather and none to bury.

     In those days they will cry aloud,

     And call and pray that they may be saved from the hand

            of the sinners, the Gentiles;

     But none will be saved.

     And the heads of the children will be white with grey


     And a child of three weeks will appear old like a man of

            one hundred years,

     And their stature will be destroyed by tribulation and


     And in those days the children will begin to study the


     And to seek the commandments,
     And to return to the path of righteousness.

     And the days will begin to grow many and increase

            among those children of men,

     Till their days draw nigh to one thousand years,

     And to a greater number of years than [before] was the

            number of the days.


168                             Bibliotheca Sacra


     And there will be no old man

     Nor one who is not satisfied with his days,

     For all will be [as] children and youths.

     And all their days they will complete and live in peace

            and in joy,

     And there will be no Satan nor any evil destroyer;

     For all their days will be days of blessing and healing,

     And at that time the Lord will heal His servants,

     And they will rise up and see great peace,

     And drive out their adversaries.

     And the righteous will see and be thankful,

     And rejoice with joy for ever and ever,

     And will see all their judgments and all their curses on

            their enemies.

     And their bones will rest in the earth,

     And their spirits will have much joy,

     And they will know that it is the Lord who executeth


     And showeth mercy to hundreds and thousands and to

            all that love Him" (23:19-31).


            Jubilees, like many of the apocalypses, anticipates a period

of deep trouble before the inauguration of the blessedness of

the kingdom. This became a normal feature in Jewish escha-

tology and grows out of such Old Testament passages as

Isaiah 26:17, Jeremiah 22:23, Daniel 12:1, Hosea 13:13, and

Micah 4:9. In later rabbinic theology, these troubles came

to be known as the "woes of the Messiah." 5 If Jubilees was

written in the mid-second century B.C., it is possible that the

author is describing the evils of his own time and casting

the description into an apocalyptic mold, as it was customary


5While this phrase, "woes of the Messiah" or the "Messianic woes" is

     commonly applied to such descriptions as this in Jubilees, the word     

     "woes" applied to them seems to have been used first in our Gospels in

     Mark 13:8 and Matthew 24:8. Cf. for further description of these

     troubled times Emil Schürer, Geschichte des jüdischen Volkes im Zeit-

     alter Jesu Christi (4 Aufl.; Leipzig, 1907), II, 609-610; English trans-

     lation, A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ

      (E.T. of 2 ed.; New York: Scribner's, 1890), Vol. II, part ii, p. 154

     ff ; Paul Volz, Die Eschatologie der jüdischen Gemeinde (2 Aufl.

     Tübingen, 1934), pp. 147 ff.

Kingdom of God in Jewish Apocryphal Literature         169


for apocalyptists to do. We cannot be certain that this is

the case, but the parallelisms are indeed striking.6 In the

times of the Maccabees, there were strong Hellenizing influ-

ences among the Jews which led many to forsake the observ-

ance of the Law and the practice of their religious customs

in favor of Greek ways. This situation is depicted in I Mac-

cabees 1 and II Maccabees 4. The most important element

in the evil times to the author of Jubilees is the abandonment

of the Law (23:19); this is the reason for the evil character

of the times. It was this same apostasy which brought about

the Maccabean rebellion.

            These evil times are immediately to precede the coming

of the kingdom. This kingdom in Jubilees will see God take

His sanctuary in Jerusalem on Mount Zion (1:29) to dwell

forever among His people, Israel (1:27-8). Mount Zion will

be the means of purifying all the earth from all uncleanness

forever (4:26), and the heavens and the earth and all things

therein contained will be renewed. This expectation is based

upon such prophecies as Isaiah 65:17, 66:22. The character

of the kingdom is vividly pictured and is described largely         

in terms of physical well-being. The chief feature will be

longevity; men will begin to live for a thousand years and

to enjoy eternal youth. Evil will be purged, and the enemies

of Israel will suffer the curses which the righteous have

heaped upon them (23:30). It is clearly a kingdom of Israel;

the Gentiles are their adversaries whom they curse and who

will have no place in the kingdom, but are destined to

            The means of the inauguration of the kingdom is nothing

more or less than the Law. Evil times were to come upon           

Israel because God's people had forsaken the Law and

forgotten the commandment and covenant : but when the

children begin to study the laws and to seek the command-

ments and to return to the path of righteousness, a gradual

transformation ensues; and as the Law has its divine effect

upon human life, the ideal of the theocracy becomes fully


6Cf. H. H. Rowley, op. cit., pp. 89-90.

170                             Bibliotheca Sacra


realized in Israel and through Israel in all the physical world

There is no mention of a Messiah or of any Messianic

agency, other than the Law. It has the power resident within

itself to bring about the kingdom. Charles does, to be sure,

think that he detects the anticipation of a Messiah in


     "And to Judah he [Isaac] said :

     May the Lord give thee strength and power

     To tread down all that hate thee;

     A prince shalt thou be, thou and one of thy sons, over

            the sons of Jacob ;

     May thy name and the name of thy sons go forth and

            traverse every land and region.

     Then will the Gentiles fear before thy face,

     And all the nations will quake.

     In thee shall be the help of Jacob,

     And in thee be found the salvation of Israel."

In this Rowley concurs.8 The two most exhaustive studies

in Jewish eschatology9 make no mention of this verse, and we

must conclude therefore that Volz and Bousset fail to recog-

nize any messianic significance here. If this has messianic

reference, it is a rather vaguely expressed hope.10 Probably

the author here refers to the historical David rather than to

the Messiah.

            Even if the passage is messianic it must be admitted, as

indeed Charles does,11 that the Messiah has no role to play

in the coming of the kingdom. We must conclude that, to

the author of Jubilees, no Messiah was necessary to bring

the kingdom. If Israel would obey the Law the kingdom

would come.

            The duration of the kingdom is clearly everlasting, and

its scene is the earth. But Charles feels that the kingdom


7R. H. Charles, The Book of Jubilees, pp. lxxxvii, 188.

8H. H. Rowley, op. cit., p. 62.

9Paul Volz, op. cit.; and Wilhelm Bousset, Die Religion des Judentums

im späthellenistischen Zeitalter (3 Aufl. by Hugo Gressmann; Tübingen,


10Cf. G. H. Box, The Book of Jubilees, pp. xxvi, 160.

11R. H. Charles, loc. cit.

Kingdom of God in Jewish Apocryphal Literature         171


must be temporary12 because several references throughout

the book anticipate a day of judgment,13 and there is no

possible room for a judgment before the kingdom, which

comes itself by a gradual transformation and not by sudden

catastrophic events. This judgment must therefore come at

the close of the kingdom; and this order of events leads to

the conclusion that the kingdom is to be of temporal duration.

            This reasoning is logically persuasive, but still not exeget-

ically sound. The extended description of the kingdom in

chapter 23 makes it clear that the Law is to transform both

God's people and their environment into a state of blessed-

ness which is, to last forever, and beyond which no greater

blessings could be anticipated. The references to a day of

judgment throughout the book may be accounted for by the

fact that this was a common concept in the Old Testament         

which came, to permeate Jewish thought, so that it was an

intrinsic part of the eschatological vocabulary. The author

of Jubilees uses the words even though he has no logical

place in his anticipation of the future where a day of judg-

ment could actually take place.

            One final eschatological feature remains to be noted. As

the kingdom is inaugurated on the earth and as the Jews

who will then be alive begin to experience the full effect of the

Law, the author says that the righteous will behold this sal-

vation and will rejoice when they see their enemies suffering

the curses which apparently they had themselves heaped upon

them. Jubilees then says, "And their bones will rest in the

earth, and their spirits will have much joy" (12:31). This

is an unusual note in Jewish eschatology, particularly in a

book which reflects the Pharisaic viewpoint to the extent of

Jubilees. Almost uniformly, the full blessings of God in the

future life can be experienced only in a resurrected body.

Sometimes this resurrection is portrayed in the crudest of

physical terminology.14


12R. H. Charles, op. cit., p. 150.

134:19, 24; 5:10-16; 9:15; 10:8, 17, 22; 22:21; 23:11; 24:28; 36:10.

14Cf. II Maccabees 7:11-12, 14:46.

172                             Bibliotheca Sacra


            Bodily, physical resurrection is a normal doctrine in

Palestinian Jewish literature. In some areas, the influences

of Hellenistic thought are detected, especially in books which

are thought to have originated in Alexandria. The Wisdom

of Solomon teaches the doctrine of the preexistence of the

soul and its immortality15; and IV Maccabees envisages

a blessed immortality with no bodily resurrection.16 Jubilees,
however, does not elsewhere manifest the influences of Hel-

lenistic thought, and it is difficult therefore to attribute this

concept of a happy immortality to Greek influences. Jubilees

expressly denies a resurrection for the "righteous," but af,

firms a state of blessedness for their spirits after death. In

a similar vein, the wicked pass into condemnation in Sheol

at death.

     "And there will not be left any man that eateth blood.

     Or that sheddeth the blood of man on earth,

     Nor will there be left to him any seed or descendants

            living under heaven;

     For into Sheol will they go,

     And into the place of condemnation will they descend.

     And into the darkness of the deep will they all be re-

            moved by a violent death" (7:29).

     "And as for all the worshippers of idols and the profane

     There will be no hope for them in the land of the living;

     And there will be no remembrance of them on earth;

     For they will descend into Sheol,

     And into the place of condemnation will they go"


            It is quite true that, in other places, Jubilees speaks of

death as the "eternal sleep"17 with no mention of life after

death for them. Volz concludes therefore that the "righteous"

in 23:30 cannot be the Old Testament saints, and they clearly

are not to be identified with those who enter the kingdom

and who live a thousand years and who then, presumably,


15Wisdom of Solomon 8:20, 2:22-3:4.

16IV Maccabees 5:36, 16:13, 18:23.

17Cf. 36:1, 18; 23:1, 45:15.

Kingdom of God in Jewish Apocryphal Literature         173


die; for this blessing of the "righteous" is experienced at

the beginning of the kingdom, not at its close. Volz feels

compelled to conclude that the "righteous" must be martyrs

who have been put to death by their enemies, whose tortured

bones now find rest in the earth but whose spirits are led

into blessedness.18    

            This seems like forced exegesis. It is easier to assume that

the author is a man who ordinarily speaks in the Old Testa-

terminology of death19 and the day of judgment, but

who at this point mixes in his own expectations of the future,

to the confusion of any distinct eschatological system or

order of events. We shall see in later articles that the doctrine  

of the intermediate state experienced considerable amplifica-

tion in these Jewish writings.20 In Jubilees, the intermediate

state becomes the place of final blessing for both the righteous

and the wicked.21 However it is to be explained, the picture

of a state of blessedness without a resurrection of the body

is clear.

            In conclusion, it should be re-emphasized that the author

is primarily interested in the Law. He is not concerned with

eschatology as such; he is concerned with the relation of

God's people to God's Law. When they forsake it, evil in-

creases; but when they obey it, righteousness prevails to the

extent that the very world itself is transformed. When the

Law can achieve this, any other messianic agency or person-

age to inaugurate the kingdom is unnecessary. The author
does not make it his purpose to answer various questions

which might be asked about the resurrection and the future

life. Indeed he seems to be rather confused in his own think-


18Paul Volz, op. cit., p. 29.

19Cf. Ecclesiastes 12:5, Jeremiah 51:39, 57

20Cf. especially Enoch 22, where the intermediate state is portrayed as a

     place both of punishment and blessing. This portion of Enoch is usual-

     ly dated 168-100 B.C.

21Cf. Psalms of Solomon 3:13, 14; 14:6; 15:11-15 and Enoch 53, 54, 67,

     where Sheol appears to be the place of permanent punishment of the


174                             Bibliotheca Sacra


ing. That the Law can bring God's people on earth into king-

dom blessings of a perfect life is enough for him. In this

fact, even the dead saints rejoice.

Pasadena, California


            (To be continued in the July-September Number, 1952)


            "The New Testament very frequently quotes, and much

more frequently contains, incidental allusions to the Old. The

Pentateuch, the prophetic books, the Psalms and other parts

of the sacred volume of the Hebrews were continually on

the minds of the writers, and flowed out in all their sayings

and writings as if welling up from the depths of their

innermost religious consciousness. But in all these quotations

and allusions we look in vain for a reference to any of

the Apocryphal books. Though there are many places where

incidents of the Apocryphal writings would afford illustra-

tions exceedingly apt and beautiful, yet no such illustrations

are ever found. If the writers of the New Testament were

acquainted with any of these books (and it is scarcely pos-

sible to doubt that they had seen some of them), most care-

fully must they have abstained from alluding to them in

their canonical writings. They sanctioned the whole Hebrew

canon as it existed in their time, but they sanctioned none

of the Apocryphal books; for they never quote them, and

these books never formed a part of the Hebrew canon. We

speak of the ancient Apocryphal books which are printed in

the Vulgate Bible, and not of the more recent ones such as

the Book of Enoch, the Ascension of Moses, etc. These, it is

true, sometimes borrow from the New Testament (cf. 2 Tim.

3:8, Jude 9, 14); but the New Testament never from them,

since it is itself more ancient than they are, or at least more

ancient than the probably interpolated passages on which the

stress is laid."—Bibliotheca Sacra, April, 1854




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