Eternal Hope – Part 20

Eternal Hope – Part 20

Eternal Hope
Part 20

In this issue we will finish the Apocrypha and start our study of the Pseudepigrapha. The closer we move to the New Testament, the more prevalent the references to an eternal hope, and the more elaborate and detailed the understanding.

Reflection on The Additions to Esther

The Additions are six in number (A-F), totaling 107 verses. Although not found in the Hebrew text, they were inserted in the LXX[1] as of amplification of the book of Esther. Many differences exist between the ‘Additions’ and the book of Esther: God is mentioned in the former and not the latter, and the former is contradicted by the latter in several places, such as the king decreeing that the feast of Purim be kept by all the people and not just the Jews.

The six parts are as follows: A – A dream of Mordecai followed by his discovery of the plot two eunuchs have to kill the king. B – The letter of Artaxerxes exalting Haman. C – Mordecai’s prayer to God followed by Esther’s prayer. D – Esther appears before the king, and it looks as though he will not accept her. E. – Artaxerxes letter/decree countering the letter in section ‘B’. F – The interpretation of Mordecai’s dream. Gregg feels that we cannot date the work more closely than sometime between 125 B.C. and 90 A.D. [2]

“There is no mention of the Law or of a future life; the temple and the altar are only mentioned metaphorically (D 20). There is one reference to angels (D 13).”[3] I can find no mention of the eternal or an eternal hope.

Introduction to the Pseudepigrapha

The Pseudepigrapha (false writings) differ from the Apocrypha in two important ways: First, they are called “Pseudepigrapha” because the authors are all pseudonymous (false names), having borrowed the names of their books from famous Old Testament characters, ostensibly to give them added authority. Second, they are apocalyptic in nature, dealing with the end times. For the most part, the Apocrypha is not apocalyptic. In the New Testament, the only apocalyptic book is The Apocalypse of John, otherwise known as Revelation.

Apocalyptic writers were similar to the Old Testament prophets, in that both predicted the future and referenced the coming Messiah. They differed in that the prophets were primarily preachers of righteousness, using promised judgment as both a threat lest the people fail to repent, and as authentication of the prophet’s calling. For the apocalyptist, a call to righteousness was not his goal; he sought to spell out the events surrounding the time when God will bring to an end the world system.

R.H. Charles[4], in his introduction to the Pseudepigrapha, says, “The apocalyptic and legalistic sides of pre-Christian Pharisaism – starting originally from the same source – developed into Christianity and Talmudic Judaism.” During the inter-testamentary period, there was no distinction between these two strains of Judaism. “To all Jewish apocalyptic writers, the Law was of eternal validity, but they also clung fast to the validity of the prophetic teaching as the source of new truth ….Jewish scholars in the past, and to a considerable extent in the present, have denied to apocalyptic[5] its place in the faith of pre-Christian orthodox Judaism.” Charles notes that this denial appears irrational, in that both Judaism and Christianity have always been indebted to this prophetic/apocalyptic emphasis in Scripture.

When Christianity embraced this apocalyptic emphasis, as seen in various passages throughout the New Testament and especially in Revelation, Judaism abandoned the apocalyptic and majored on the Law. Charles argues that this was due to a Jewish desire to pull away from anything remotely Christian. “The Judaism that survived the destruction of the Temple, being almost wholly bereft of the apocalyptic wing which had passed over into Christianity, was not the same as the Judaism of an earlier date. Before A.D. 70 Judaism was a Church with many parties: after A.D. 70 the…party (emphasizing the Law) succeeded in suppressing its rivals, and so Judaism became in its essentials a Sect. In modern times Judaism is striving to recover the liberty of prophesying.

The writers of this apocalyptic literature, in order to gain acceptance with their readers, used well-known Old Testament men in the titles of their work – like The Assumption of Moses. “Jewish apocalyptic has been always pseudonymous from the third century B.C. onwards. This pseudonymity due to the absolute supremacy of the Law …left no room for prophecy. The prophetic spirit cannot openly declare itself in Judaism save by a breach with Talmudic Judaism…in Christianity, for the first century B.C. at any rate, apocalyptic ceased to be pseudonymous, and the seer came forward in his own person.”[6] At the same time (from the third century B.C.) that Jewish apocalyptic became pseudonymous, the Law came to be understood as the final, supreme revelation of God. “When once this idea of an inspired Law – adequate, infallible, and valid for all time – had become an accepted dogma of Judaism, as it became in the post-Exilic period, there was no longer room for independent representatives of God appearing before men, such as the pre-Exilic prophets…The prophet who issued a prophecy under his own name after the time of Ezra and Nehemiah could not expect a hearing unless his prophecy had the imprimatur of the Law. Nay more, according to Zech. xiii. 1-5…if a man declared himself to be a prophet his father and his mother were to put him to death…when once the prophetic Canon was closed, no book of a prophetic character could gain canonization as such.”[7] This Canon was considered closed by 200 B.C. “Moreover, all the great Jewish apocalypses which were written before A.D. 10, and which carried on the mystical and spiritual side of religion as opposed to [emphasizing the Law], Judaism dropped and banned after its breach with Christianity, just as it dropped and banned the Greek translation of the Old Testament.”[8] From this time forward, the Law became the determining characteristic of Judaism.

A clear link can be seen between apocalyptic, accountability, and the need for hope. During tribulation, people cling to their hope in God’s deliverance, and thus they turn to apocalyptic writers. If the people did not believe in a future judgment when God will apply the scales of justice to the affairs of man, they would despair and fall away. For this reason, apocalyptic literature has always been ethical in nature; future judgment ensures accountability for present behavior. “Prophecy has always been recognized as the greatest ethical force in the ancient world…The ethical element is the fundamental element in the chief books of this literature. What else but an inexpugnable sense of truth and duty to truth inspire the refusal of the three children in Daniel to fall down and worship the image that the king had set up?”[9] This link between apocalyptic, accountability, and the need for hope exists on the individual rather than the national level. In the Old Testament prophetic writings, God promises repeatedly a future restoration for the nation. In the Pseudepigrapha we find expressed an eternal hope for the individual who remains faithful in his walk with God.

God’s promise to Israel that He would send Messiah was linked to a material recreation of the world[10] where He would rule the nations in righteousness and justice. As Jewish eschatology evolved to a belief in a personal immortality and the resurrection of the body, especially in the first century BC, this world came to be regarded as unfit for the manifestation of His kingdom. It wasn’t until the coming of Christ and the teaching of the New Testament that the synthesis of these conflicting ideas was fused together.

Addressing the extra-biblical writings of the first century AD, Charles adds, “Thus the breach which had set in between the eschatologies of the individual and of the nation in the preceding century has been still further widened in this century, and the differences in the two eschatologies developed to their utmost limits. Either the nation has no blessed future at all, or at best only one of temporary duration. With this the individual has no essential concern. His interest centers round his own lot in the after-life. Thus Judaism has surrendered in despair the thought of the divine kingdom, which was the bequest of the Old Testament prophets.”[11]


Part of the reason the eternal appears muted in the Old Testament may be due to God’s emphasis on the nation rather than the individual. Old Testament Israel is a picture of God’s grace. God shows through Israel how He deals with His elect; He may chastise and send her into captivity, but He will never forsake her. Thus, the judgment pronounced upon the nation must, by its nature, be temporal.

Grateful for Redemption,


[1] Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Old Testament
[2] Op cit., Charles, The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, Gregg, vol. I, p. 669
[3] Ibid, p. 670
[4] The most recognized authority on the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha in his day, and possibly in any era.
[5] The word “apocalyptic,” meaning “end times,” refers to God’ prophetic utterances of
[6] Charles, R.H., general editor, The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, Oxford at The Clarendon Press, 1979, vol. II, pp. vii, viii. (First published in 1913.)
[7] Ibid, pages viii, ix.
[8] Ibid, page ix.
[9] Ibid, page ix.
[10] Cf., e.g., Isaiah 65:17ff.
[11] Charles, R.H., A Critical History of the Doctrine of a Future Life in Israel, in Judaism, and in Christianity, Adam and Charles Black, London, 1899, pp. 2-3