A number of “appearances” of the mysterious and now lost Book of Jashar have been recorded, the most famous of which is a literary forgery popularized by the Rosicrucians, an esoteric order and secret society that claims to have existed since the days of ancient Egypt. Most scholars, however, trace modern Rosicrucianism only to the 17th century. The Rosicrucians still publish the text of a book purporting to be the Book of Jashar.
In this version, the Book of Jashar is said to have been found by Alcuin, a church official and advisor to Charlemagne. Born in Anglo-Saxon Northumbria, Alcuin was an influential educator who served as master of the cathedral school at York and abbot of Tours. He died in 804. (A portrait of Alcuin, from a ninth-century illuminated Bible, appears above)
In the Rosicrucian edition of the Book of Jashar, Alcuin is elevated to Bishop of Canterbury.
This edition describes Alcuin discovering the Book of Jashar in the city of Gazna, in Persia, on a “Pilgrimage into the Holy Land, and Persia.” The task of translating the text into English took Alcuin nearly a year and a half. Purporting to quote Alcuin, the Rosicrucian edition tells us: “The paper on which (the original Book of Jashar) is written is for thickness the eighth of an inch. To the touch it seemed as soft as velvet, and to the eye as white as snow.” The paper formed a roll 9 feet long and 2 feet 9 inches wide. “It was written in large Hebrew characters of the earliest form.” It had been “preserved in the original ark of gopher wood, adorned with Mosaic work, though in a state of decay, from the injuries of time.”
According to the Rosicrucian book, a copy of Alcuin’s translation was discovered in 1721 by an unnamed “gentleman in a journey through the North of England. It lay by him for several years, until, in 1750, there was a rumour of a new translation of the Bible, when he laid it before a noble Earl. On perusal, he highly approved of it, as a work of great sincerity, plainness, and truth. His lordship’s opinion was, that it should have been placed in the Bible, before the book of Joshua.”
The Rosicrucians also claim that they have reproduced “a truly photographic reproduction of each page of the translation of the original book by Alcuin.” What follows is a printed edition in the general format of the authorized King James Version of the Bible—including chapter headings, chapter and verse divisions—as well as the King James grammar and marginal notes (including dates a.m. [anno mundi]). Since Alcuin died more than six centuries before the invention of the printing press, it seems clear that something is wrong.
Finally, the Rosicrucian edition of the Book of Jashar refers to “writing on the outside of the manuscript…Signed WICKLIFFE, which reads: ‘I have read the Book of Jasher twice over; and I much approve of it, as a piece of great antiquity and curiosity; but I cannot assert, that it should be made a part of the Canon of Scripture.’”
In this version of the Book of Jashar, Jashar is presented as the son of Caleb and the person to whom the rod of Moses was entrusted. The book opens with a brief account of the creation of the world. It continues through the patriarchs, Moses and the Exodus from Egypt and the conquest of Canaan. There are some relatively minor variations and omissions, but no great secrets. Curiously, the poetic lines on the sun standing still at Gibeon, which, according to Joshua 10:12–13, were taken from the Book of Jashar, are passed over here with a simple statement: “And Joshua said, Sun, be thou silent upon Gibeon: and thou, moon, shine thou on the valley of Ajalon” (30:11). Caleb is presented as Joshua’s successor, who “ruled in Israel after Joshua was dead, twelve years” (34:22–24). Jashar is named to succeed his father Caleb, “and Jasher judged Israel in Shiloh” (35:6).
Jezer, the younger son of Jashar, asks permission to “build him a city, after his name…the same is the habitation of the Jasherites, unto this day” (35:7–10).
At this point in the narrative, Azuba, the mother of Jashar, delivers a brief prophetic discourse on future apostasy (35:11–13).
The book concludes with an account of the Children of Israel building “little tabernacles (identified as synagogues in the heading at the beginning of the chapter) in every city; and in every town,” where the priests would read before the people “the law, and the statutes,” rehearsing “the mighty works that were done in Egypt, and in the wilderness” and they “kept the Passover, and the feasts; as Moses had appointed” (37:1–5).
After a concluding speech, Jashar calls “unto him Jazer, his eldest son, and he said unto him, ‘Build now an ark, that I may put therein this testimony: and do thou lay it up in the city of Jezer. And Jazer builded an ark of Gopher-wood, and he brought it unto his father, and Jasher put therein the book, which he had written. And Jazer laid it up in the city of Jezer” (37:30–32).
There in the city of Gazna, many years later, Alcuin discovered and translated this marvelous text into English.