Hebrew Voices #33 – The Lost Book of Jasher

The Lost Book of Jasher - Page ImageThis is a special preview of an upcoming Hebrew Voices episode on The Lost Book of Jasher. The Tanakh mentions a book called Sepher Ha-Yashar, which seemingly disappeared off the face of the Earth thousands of years ago. An English translation of Jasher then showed up in 1840 claiming to be this lost Biblical book. If this is the original Jasher mentioned in Joshua and 2 Samuel, it would be more important than the Dead Sea Scrolls! I tracked down the world's foremost expert on the Book of Jasher, Joseph Dan, a retired professor from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Prof. Dan is a winner of the Israel Prize, the equivalent of the Noble Prize for Jewish Studies. If you ever wondered about the lost Book of Jasher mentioned in the Bible, you will want to listen to my interview with Professor Dan. Please leave your comments below.

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Related Posts:
The Book of Jasher Exposed
Enoch Walking with Angels
Nephilim and Demons in the Book of Enoch
The Origin of Sin

Show Notes:

The original cover page of Sepher HaYashar, published by Samuel the Little of Fez in Venice 1625 reads: "The Book of Yashar, an ancient book written in ancient times… [which includes] many stories not mentioned in the legends of our Sages. And perhaps this is the Book of Yashar mentioned in Scripture."

Original (uncensored) title page of Sepher HaYashar, Venice 1625

Original (uncensored) title page of Sepher HaYashar, Venice 1625

Yehudah Arye of Modena censored Sepher HaYashar, forcing Samuel the Little of Fez to change the cover title of the 1625 edition to read: "The Book of Yashar, which includes some stories and legends of our Sages…"

Censored title page of Sepher HaYashar, Venice 1625.

Censored title page of Sepher HaYashar, Venice 1625.

"Some events do take place but are not true; other are--although they never occurred." Elie Wiesel

"In literature... certain things are true though they didn't happen, while others are not, even if they did." Elie Wiesel

34 thoughts on “Hebrew Voices #33 – The Lost Book of Jasher

  1. In ancient Egypt there was fiction but it usually contained an historical element. Midrashim are legends, but how is one to be sure where they do not contain the truth? For instance, the Book of Jasher claims that Moses was a king in the land of Kush in the 55th year of the king of Egypt. Few pharaohs reigned that long but one, Thutmose III, did reign almost exactly that long. As I point out in my book, “Manetho Demystified”, Pseudo-Dionysius wrote: “In the Year 490, the king of Egypt died and Cencheres reigned for sixteen years. This was he who waged a contest with Moses with the help of Jannes and Jambres the magicians. It was about him that Moses said: He drowned Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea.”

    One can see by the year given by Pseudo-Dionysius that he is following the number stated in the Book of Exodus for the sojourn of the Hebrews―430 years from the promise to Abraham―which is actually supposed to be the time when Moses fled from Egypt. So Pseudo-Dionysius is observing the same reckoning as Eusebius but supplies the year of the return of the lawgiver in order to confront a new pharaoh. According to the math of Eusebius, reckoning backwards from the reign of a Roman emperor, Moses left Egypt in 1510 BCE–in the Year 430. The Year 490, then, is 1450 BCE, the precise year that Thutmose III died after 54 years on the throne and Amenhotep II succeeded. The latter’s throne name was “Aakheperure” and he is the “Cencheres” of Pseudo-Dionysius for linguistic reasons I explain in my book. Marianne Luban

  2. Yes, this was a great episode! I am going back to listen for the third time. I am trying to relay these truths to my fellow brethren!

  3. This teaching interview was simply awesome. Just awesome. So many need to hear this and listen to it. I will be sharing this. I have told my readers to tune in. I will make that point again with this teaching.

    Great job, great interview and perfect timing. Thank you Nehemiah.

  4. Nice posts Nehemia. Got a question. The book Letters Beyond The Sambatyon is subtitled The Myth of the 10 Lost Tribes. It was edited by Simcha Shtull-Trauring. Its subtitle refers to myths. Prof Dan suggests that there were no “myths” but actually myths abounded. Is it they just didn’t have a word for “myth”? Was this because the were so convinced that the Hebrew tongue was so scared?

  5. I do have a question referring to the book of Jasher and the commentaries of Rashi.

    Shlomo Yitzchaki (Hebrew: רבי שלמה יצחקי‎‎; 22 February 1040 – 13 July 1105), in Latin: Salomon Isaacides, and today generally known by the acronym Rashi (Hebrew: רש”י‎, RAbbi SHlomo Itzhaki), was a medieval French rabbi and author of a comprehensive commentary on the Talmudand commentary on the Tanakh.

    A modern translation of Rashi’s commentary on the Chumash, published by Artscroll

    My question is why are the commentaries of Rashi in the published Artscroll Tanakh, word for word exactly like the stories found in the Book of Jasher?

    I could take pictures and do a side by side comparison. And it’s the same!

      • This is easy to say on both sides, so how do you know this that the author of Jasher used Rashi and not the other way around ? And where can we find any evidence of your statement?

        • I’m glad you acknowledge that the parallels between Jasher and Rashi (as well as the Midrash) prove nothing about the age of Jasher! The original, now lost, Sepher HaYashar is mentioned in Joshua so it must be from his period or earlier, i.e. around 1400 BCE. It’s quite clear that the Book of Jasher known from the Middle Ages is not from the time of Joshua or earlier. I go into great detail with proofs in part 2 entitled “The Book of Jasher Exposed“. The evidence includes:

          1) Tribes and their associated geographical locations that post-date Joshua by over 1,500 years, such as the Hungarians on the Danube and the Franks in Paris.
          2) Historical figures and places that post-date Joshua by centuries, such as Hannibal Barca, Rome, Carthage, etc.
          3) Legends that post-date Joshua such as Aeneas and the Rape of the Sabine Women.
          4) Greek and Latin words, such as “Africa” and “Aver” (air).
          5) Anachronistic impossible things such as an aquaduct that crosses the Mediterranean Sea.

          • I am looking forward to reviewing your part 2… Ok then this brings me to my second question based on your first statement that the 16 century Author of Jasher took from Rashi and other sources. So just how much sources from Rashi / others did he take? Are these sources of Rashi valid and what sources were invented in the book of Jasher that are not valid?

    • Nehemia Gordon How did Saul (Paul) in 2 Timothy 3:8-9 know the names of the two magicians who withstood Moses? Exodus 7:8-13 The Tanakh never mentioned the names! But one of the names are given in the Book of Jasher.

      • These magicians are mentioned in many sources such as the the Roman authors Pliny the Elder and Apuleius. There is also a separate Apocryphon of Jannes and Jambres and their names appear three times in Targum Pseudo-Jonathan:

        Ex. 1:15 And Pharaoh said that while sleeping he saw in his dream,”And behold all the land of Egypt was on one scale of a balance, and a young lamb was on the other scale of the balance, and the scale of the balance of the lamb was tipping down.” Immediately he sent and called all the magicians of Egypt and told them his dream. Immediately Jannes and Jambres, the heads of the magicians, opened their mouth and said to Pharaoh, “A son is about to be born among the congregation of Israel by whose hands all the land of Egypt is about to be destroyed.” Therefore, Pharaoh king of Egypt took counsel and ordered the Jewish midwifes, the name of the one was Shifra and the name of the second was Puah (she is Miriam her daughter),
        Ex. 7:11 But Pharaoh also summoned the wise men and the magicians, and they did so also, Jannes and Jambres, the magicians of Egypt, with their magic spells.
        Num. 22:22 Then the anger of the Lord grew strong because he was going to curse them, so the angel of the Lord stationed himself on the path to be hostile to him while he was riding on his she-donkey with his two servants, Jannes and Jambres.

  6. I always enjoy listening to you and your guests Nehemia, but I must say this is one is one of my favourites:). Thank you both for taking the time to share and teach such wonderful information; I do look forward to hearing you and Prof Dan speak more after you’v read his book(s):)

  7. Speaking of authorial styles, I remember the time reading the book of Jonah in seminary from a Critical perspective, and having a sudden strong sense that it seemed to be purposely written as a theatrical farce – in no way detracting from its truth. How often I also realize that it seems that all biblical truth seems to be paradoxical – I call this principle “Holy Paradox”.

  8. so insightful! Loved this episode, Thank you professor Dan. I appreciate your honesty and your research. Great job, once again, Nehemia! Blessed memory of Elie Wesel.

  9. Something I’ve been wondering about for some time, thank you for addressing it! Look forward to the follow-ups.

  10. That interview was so amazing on many levels. One of your best. Can’t wait for the next interview with him. Would love to have the messiah book translated into English……

  11. Great interview! Thank you Nehemia for not only being the watchman on the wall, but also being a “Faith Detective”, investigating and uncovering the truth about the pertinent issues regarding our faith; as in Dragnet’s Detective Friday’s famous words, “Just the facts ma’am.” I look forward to the rest of your study on this subject. Please do the study on the “vav.”

  12. I felt so privileged to hear this! Wow! Real sources! Thank you for doing this one, I know it helps keep “sources” in perspective when speaking with other believers. It’s funny that even way back when it was published the author didn’t expect anyone to take it seriously as Scripture. We all have SO much to learn. The longer I go in this walk of faith with Yehovah the less I have to say out of my own mouth. I think there is a proverb about wisdom and keeping silent. ? I’m looking forward to your conversation with him about the messiah in the “modern” age. Can’t wait!

  13. Wow – what a delightful interview. I just have to pinch myself sometimes, that I have these amazing opportunities to learn from elite and more every-day sources within the Jewish community through your faithful heart, Nehemia. It would be fascinating to hear what Kabala is from him, and then your own thoughts later, too. Raw stream of Torah-consciosness. Hope it arrives early!

  14. …what a personable man! (you too Nehemiah) I think the best line in this interview is when Prof. Dan said, “You’ll always have people who like to tell stories”! I laughed so hard that I had to go back and listen again to the parts I missed… Great interview!!!

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