Bible Review 8:6, December 1992


How it rewrote the Bible

By James C. VanderKam

The book of Jubilees belongs to a category of literature that contemporary scholars designate by the pleasantly vague tag “the Rewritten Bible.”1 The author of the book, like a number of other ancient Jewish writers, found it convenient to convey his message through an annotated presentation of the older text. In this way he could show that his views arose from the authoritative account and would guide his readers into a proper understanding of it.

Jubilees presents itself as a divine revelation that God communicated to Moses through an angel on Mt. Sinai. The book recounts biblical history from creation to the arrival of the Israelites at Mt. Sinai. The author often reproduces the scriptural text word for word, but he also transforms it at numerous points by means of omissions and especially additions, giving the reader what he takes to be the proper interpretation of Genesis-Exodus and applying their teachings to the issues of his own day. It begins with a chapter that describes the setting and predicts Israel’s apostasy and final return to the way of the Lord.

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