Bible Review 3:2, Summer 1987

Don’t Let Pseudepigrapha Scare You

By Hershel Shanks

You can’t understand Christian origins unless you understand the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. So says Professor James H. Charlesworth of Princeton Theological Seminary, and he is clearly riding the crest of modern scholarship.

Nobody understands the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha better than Charlesworth. He is indeed Mr. Pseudepigrapha—the editor of a massive two-volume collection of these documents published in 1983 and 1985 under the title The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (TOTP). The reviewer for Biblical Archaeology Review called TOTP a “classic” from the day it was published. Volume I was the winner of a 1984 Biblical Archaeology Society publication award; Volume II won a special recognition from the judges for the 1986 BAS publication awards.

Nothing is easy about the Pseudepigrapha, however. Even defining the word can be tricky. According to Charlesworth, the definition given in the distinguished 1971 Encyclopaedia Judaica is “misleading and uninformed … anachronistic and distorted.” I believe him.

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