The Literary Relationship between the Genesis Apocryphon and Jubilees: The Chronology of Abram and Sarai’s Descent to Egypt

in Aramaic Studies
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Scholars have long noted the affinity of the Genesis Apocryphon and Jubilees. However, there is still no consensus regarding the direction of the relationship between them. This study approaches this question by analysing their shared chronology surrounding the patriarchs’ descent to Egypt. It is demonstrated that 1QapGen’s chronology results from considerations of biblical interpretation. Interestingly, Jubilees’ chronological framework is problematic at exactly this point. It is suggested that this confusion is the result of the conflation of the Apocryphon’s chronology with an alternative interpretation of Gen. 16.3. Jubilees therefore reflects a later stage in the development of these traditions than the Apocryphon.

The Literary Relationship between the Genesis Apocryphon and Jubilees: The Chronology of Abram and Sarai’s Descent to Egypt

in Aramaic Studies




See e.g. Avigad and YadinA Genesis Apocryphon p. 38; Ben Zion Wacholder ‘How Long Did Abram Stay in Egypt? A Study in Hellenistic Qumran a Rabbinic Chronography’ HUCA 35 (1964) pp. 43–56 esp. 52–53; Pierre Grelot Review of J.A. Fitzmyer The Genesis Apocryphon of Qumran Cave 1RevB 74 (1967) pp. 102–105 esp. 103; Cana Werman ‘Qumran and the Book of Noah’ in Esther G. Chazon and Michael E. Stone (eds.) Pseudepigraphic Perspectives: The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha in Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls: Proceedings of the International Symposium of the Orion Center for the Study of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Associated Literature 12–14 January 1997 (STDJ 31; Leiden: Brill 1999) pp. 171–181 esp. 172–177.


See e.g. Joseph A. FitzmyerThe Genesis Apocryphon of Qumran Cave 1 (1Q20): A Commentary (Rome: Editrice Pontificio Istituto Biblico, 3rd edn2004) pp. 20–21 (and especially the list of reviews in n. 38 critical of Avigad and Yadin’s conclusion); Louis F. Hartman Review of J.A. Fitzmyer The Genesis Apocryphon of Qumran Cave 1CBQ 28 (1966) pp. 495–498 esp. 497–498; Craig A. Evans ‘The Genesis Apocryphon and the Rewritten Bible’ RevQ 13 (1988) pp. 153–165 esp. 162. Most recently in a lecture entitled ‘Which Is Older Jubilees or the Genesis Apocryphon? An Exegetical Approach’ delivered at a conference at the Israel Museum (Jerusalem) celebrating the 60th anniversary of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls James Kugel suggested that based upon a comparison of the exegetical motifs present in the parallel passages in Jubilees and the Genesis Apocryphon one can demonstrate that Jubilees was unaware of the exegetical motifs of the Apocryphon and therefore cannot be dependent upon it. Furthermore in one instance Kugel posited that the Apocryphon has (mis)interpreted Jubilees and thus it can be shown to have used it as a source; for a discussion of this final claim see below. I would like to thank Prof. Kugel for allowing me to read a pre-publication version of his paper.


Cana Werman‘The Book of Jubilees in Hellenistic Context’Zion 66 (2001) pp. 275–296 [Hebrew] esp. 277–281; Machiela Dead Sea Genesis Apocryphon pp. 85–130.


Wacholder‘How Long’ pp. 52–53. To further support the argument he noted that in the Apocryphon the chronology of ten years found in column XXII lines 27–29 is presented as a divine pronouncement (as opposed to the more neutral chronological framework in Jubilees) which he interpreted to be an authority-conferring strategy. However this argument fails for two reasons: (1) the ten-year pronouncement appears at the beginning of the Covenant between the Pieces (parallel to Gen. 15) in the Apocryphon which opens in the biblical story with God’s revelation to Abram. The divine nature of the pronouncement is therefore not a function of the chronology but of the biblical story that has been rewritten; (2) The chronological framework in Jubilees itself is presented as having been divinely established and determined from the beginning of time (cf. Segal The Book of Jubilees pp. 7–8). Therefore the chronology is of divine origin in both compositions.


See Avigdor Shinan and Yair ZakovitchAbram and Sarai in Egypt: Gen. 10:10–20 in the Bible the Old Versions and the Ancient Jewish Literature (Research Projects of the Institute of Jewish Studies Monograph Series, 2; Jerusalem: Hebrew University1983) p. 7 [Hebrew]; Bernstein ‘Re-arrangement’ p. 48; Fitzmyer The Genesis Apocryphon p. 182.


FitzmyerThe Genesis Apocryphon p. 206. Note especially the combination of elements from the Daniel narratives into the rewritten story from Genesis and particularly the inclusion of magicians (‮אשפיא‬) amongst the wise men (cf. Dan. 2.10 27; 4.4; 5.7 11 15).


See Avigad and YadinA Genesis Apocryphon pp. 24–25; Fitzmyer The Genesis Apocryphon p. 181; Shinan and Zakovitch Abram and Sarai p. 61; Bernstein ‘Re-arrangement’ p. 45. This connection was of course recognized earlier in the history of Jubilees scholarship e.g. by Charles The Book of Jubilees pp. 98–99.


See Ernest Wiesenberg‘The Jubilee of Jubilees’RevQ 3 (1961) pp. 3–40 esp. 31–36; James C. VanderKam ‘Studies in the Chronology of the Book of Jubilees’ in James C. VanderKam (ed.) From Revelation to Canon: Studies in the Hebrew Bible and Second Temple Literature (Supplements to the Journal for the Study of Judaism 62; Leiden: Brill 2000) pp. 522–544 esp. 532–540; trans. of ‘Das chronologische Konzept des Jubiläenbuches’ ZAW 107 (1995) pp. 80–100.


VanderKam‘Studies in the Chronology’ pp. 536–537.


CharlesThe Book of Jubilees pp. 105–106 115 119 137. See VanderKam’s criticism of the particular solution proposed by Charles in VanderKam The Book of Jubilees 2 pp. 87 97.


VanderKam‘Studies in the Chronology’ pp. 538–540.


Wiesenberg‘The Jubilee of Jubilees’ pp. 30–37.


VanderKam‘Studies in the Chronology’ pp. 538–540.


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