For further studies of Abraham’s character, see the following articles in BR: Lippman Bodoff, “God Tests Abraham—Abraham Tests God,” BR 09:05; Jacob Milgrom, “Bible Versus Babel,” BR 11:02; Philip R. Davies, “Abraham & Yahweh—A Case of Male Bonding,” BR 11:04; Larry R. Helyer, “Abraham’s Eight Crises: The Bumpy Road to Fulfilling God’s Promise of an Heir,” BR 11:05.


See Hershel Shanks, “Don’t Let Pseudepigrapha Scare You,” BR 03:02.


See James VanderKam, “Jubilees: How It Rewrote the Bible,” BR 08:06.



For a broader survey of legendary expansions and clarifications of the stories of characters from both testaments, see David A. deSilva and Victor H. Matthews, Untold Stories of the Bible (Lincolnwood, IL: Publications International, 1998). The author would like to express gratitude to Publications International for permission to incorporate material from Untold Stories in this article.

For a magisterial treatment of early Jewish and Christian expansions of Pentateuchal material, see James Kugel, The Bible as It Was (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1997).


An excellent introduction, translation and textual apparatus can be found in James H. Charlesworth, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (OTP), 2 vols. (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1983–1985), vol. 2, pp. 35–142. The quotations found throughout this article are from Charlesworth’s edition.


This same defection is recounted in the apocryphal books 1 Maccabees 1 and 2 Maccabees 3–6. Jubilees was probably written between 161 and 140 B.C.


The Apocalypse of Abraham, translated and introduced by R. Rubinkiewicz, can be found in Charlesworth, OTP, vol. 1, pp. 681–705. The text comes down to us only in an Old Slavonic translation and several Russian editions, which are now housed in museums in Moscow and St. Petersburg.


Philo, “On Abraham,” 68–70.


Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 1.7.1.


Josephus, Antiquities 1.7.1.


A similar tradition is found in the much earlier Book of Judith, where Achior the Ammonite begins his account of the Jewish people by telling of their ancestors’ departure from the religious beliefs of the Chaldeans and their expulsion from their homeland on that account (Judith 5:5–9).


See, for example, Tacitus’s complaint that gentile converts to Judaism are first taught to “despise all gods” (Historiae 5.5) and Dio Cassius’s account of Domitian’s prosecution of proselytism as “atheism” (Roman History 67.14.1–2).


See the translation and introduction by Daniel J. Harrington in Charlesworth, OTP, vol 2, pp. 297–377.


Other stories exist, such as 3 Maccabees, that bear witness to the gentile rulers’ confusion when Jews refused to engage in enterprises praised by the Greek world or to seek goals prized by their gentile neighbors. There, too, the Jews’ dedication to the one God prevents their full participation in their society on Greek terms and brings them into conflict. For ancient witnesses to anti-Jewish slander concerning “hatred of outsiders,” see Tacitus, Historiae 5.5; Diodorus of Sicily, Library of History 34.1–4, 40.3.4; Juvenal, Satirae 14.100–104; Josephus, Contra Apion 2.121; 3 Maccabees 3:3–7.