United Grand Lodge of England, UK/Bridgeman Art Library, London/New York

“Sun, stand still in Gibeon!” Joshua commands so that he can complete his battle with the Caananites, as depicted in this 19th-century painting by John Martin. In making this command (Joshua 10:12–13), Joshua quotes an ancient incantation from the Book of Jashar, one of a number of books referred to in the Bible that have long since disappeared. The text quoted in the Bible is poorly preserved, indicating the antiquity of the Book of Jashar.

Although there are 54 references to lost books in the Bible, most scholars believe that these citations refer only to about half a dozen books. Some of these books were probably simply lists of information instead of narrative works. The references to several other books are now too cryptic to allow scholars to determine their origins. But Duane Christensen suggests that two books, the Book of Jashar and the Book of the Wars of Yahweh, may have been ancient anthologies of epic poetry celebrating Israel’s heroic past.