Prayer of Manasses
MANASSES, PRAYER OF mə nă’ ses (προσευχὴ Μανασση̂). The spelling Manasses in the KJV follows the Gr.; Manasseh, found in RSV, follows the Heb. spelling. It is a relatively brief (fifteen verses) penitential prayer which constitutes a separate book of the Apocrypha.
Of exceptional beauty and poignancy, this prayer embodies the best of Jewish piety and is attributed (but only in the title) to Manasseh, the king whose reign was the longest (696-642 b.c., but prior to 686 as co-regent with Hezekiah) and one of the most regrettable in the history of Judah. Manasseh, according to the OT account (
Author and date.
The author of the prayer is unknown. That he lived much later than the time of Manasseh seems probable from the form, content, and language of the prayer. The form follows a liturgical pattern which was common during the three or four centuries before the coming of Christ. Despite the fact that the author has specifically attempted to relate the content of the prayer to the situation of Manasseh (cf. the reference to the setting up of abominations and the iron fetters in
The author follows a well-defined pattern in formulating the prayer. He begins with an ascription of sovereignty and glory to the Creator who by virtue of His incomparable greatness is unapproachable, yet who has promised mercy and forgiveness having “appointed repentance for sinners, that they may be saved” (
Purpose and theology.
If the prayer may correctly be placed in the Maccabean age, the purpose in the author’s mind is readily apparent. Presumably it was written to fill the void caused by the unavailability of the documents which originally contained the prayer. The author, however, wrote not merely to satisfy this deficiency but also to speak a word to those of his own generation who had made the mistake of lapsing into idolatry. If there had been hope for the wicked Manasseh, the implied argument runs, how much more was there hope for the writer’s own contemporaries. A number of the theological ideas of the prayer although not impossible in an earlier period, fit well what is known of postexilic Judaism. This is particularly true of the emphasis upon God as “the God of those who repent” (
Canonicity and text.
Although the prayer appears among the Apoc., it is not included among those finally accepted as canonical by the Roman Catholic Church in the deliberations of the. It was not a part of the original Vul. (Jerome appears not to have known of it) nor was it originally to be found in the LXX. The earliest literary evidence concerning the prayer is its presence in the 3rd cent. Syr. Didascalia (II, 21), from which it was also taken up into the 4th cent. . (The lateness of this evidence has caused some scholars to date the prayer in the Christian era unnecessarily.) The prayer is found in Codex A (5th cent.) among the collection of Odes appended to the Psalms. Only in some later MSS was the prayer ever associated with 2 Chronicles, and after the Council of Trent the work was customarily relegated to an appendix.
The Gr. text is available in some eds. of the LXX (e.g., Rahlfs, as Ode 12). In Eng. tr. it is available in the Protestant Apoc. where it has held a place in the main editions of the Eng. Bible since its initial appearance in the Bible of Thomas Matthew (1537).
H. E. Ryle in R. H. Charles, APOT, I (1913), 612-624; W. O. E. Oesterley, The Books of the Apocrypha (1915), 404-410; E. J. Goodspeed, The Story of the Apocrypha (1939), 52-56; R. H. Pfeiffer, History ofTimes with an Introduction to the Apocrypha (1949), 457-460; B. M. Metzger, An Introduction to the Apocrypha (1957), 123-128; L. H. Brockington, A Critical Introduction to the Apocrypha (1961), 100, 101; O. Eissfeldt, The : An Introduction (1965), 588.