10 Ancient Religious Texts Not Included in the Bible

10 Ancient Religious Texts Not Included in the Bible

By Larry Holzwarth

Those who believe that the Bible is the Word of God and as such is the infallible source of the history of humanity and God’s will need to be more clear. Which Bible? Do they refer to the ancient scrolls containing the scriptures which would have been read by Jesus and his followers? Do they refer to the Bible as it was decided by the early Christian Church, which became the Roman Catholic Church? Do they refer to the version ordered by King James, which differs somewhat from other versions? One thing is sure, they believe whichever version of the Bible which suits their other beliefs, usually with very little knowledge of how whichever translation they prefer came into being.

There are few if any books, or rather compendiums of books, which have as complicated a history as the Bible, whichever version is considered. The reasons for the inclusion of some texts and the exclusion of others are varied, based on scriptural, political, and ethnic considerations. There are some texts included in all versions of the Bible, others in but a few. The true author of many of the texts included is frequently the result of speculation yet often cited as the cause of exclusion for others. Some look at the Bible and its contents with open minds, others view it with minds closed to anything but verbatim acceptance.

A Gutenberg Bible in the United States Library of Congress. Wikimedia

Here are ten ancient texts which were omitted or removed from the book we know of today as the Bible.

An Ethiopian Biblical Manuscript. The Book of Jubilees figures prominently in the Ethiopian Biblical tradition. Hill Museum

The Book of Jubilees

The Book of Jubilees tells the history of humanity, dividing it in 49 year divisions which are called jubilees, as dictated to Moses on Mount Sinai. It provides greater detail than Genesis, filling in the gaps as it were, and as such answers many questions often asked today. For example, it details incestuous relationships among the descendants of Adam and Eve, such as Cain marrying his sister. It describes the fallen angels mating with women, producing a race of giants which were destroyed by the Great Flood. It also postulates Hebrew as the language spoken by those dwelling in heaven, and that the beasts of the earth also spoke Hebrew, only losing the ability after Adam and Eve were evicted from Paradise.

The Book of Jubilees was probably written about 100 – 150 years BCE, as evidenced by the Dead Sea Scrolls and its references to other ancient literature. It was clearly a widely read piece of ancient scripture, also evidenced by the sheer number of copies found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. Fifteen complete copies were found, an indication that the book was in wide use among the scholars at Qumran. Only five Old Testament books were found to be in a greater number of copies.

It was widely used by early Christians as well, as indicated by quotations found in their writings, and references to the text. It also describes the tablets upon which God’s words are inscribed, revealed to a prophet by an angel, a revelation that parallels the beginning of Islam. The description of the life and activities of Abraham in Jubilees is similar to that of Abraham in the Quran. The Sanhedrin did not include Jubilees in the canon it established near the end of the first century, but the fact that it was widely read and studied prior to that clearly indicates that it influenced the Jews with which Jesus interacted.

The term pseudepigrapha refers to works which are considered to be falsely attributed in that the claimed author is not the real writer of the work, or that it is falsely attributed by its author to another real figure of the past. Judaism, Roman Catholicism, and Protestantism all consider the Book of Jubilees to fall into this category. Some branches of Judaism and Christianity do however accept the book as biblical canon, such as Beta Israel for example. Because it was left out of the Jewish canon by the Sanhedrin it was similarly omitted from the Christian Old Testament. It is accepted in the Canon of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

Its authorship is uncertain, as is a precise dating of its origin, but its popularity as a scriptural and historical text in its day and for several centuries is not. It is possible that its recording of dates, based on a seven day week, a 364 day year, and Jubilees of 49 years, may have had as much to do with its demise as any of its spiritual recounting. It is not the only ancient work which describes animals once possessing the power of speech, and if the account of all humanity descending from a single marriage is true than incestuous relationships are of course a requirement for the survival of the race.