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Prayer of Joseph

JOSEPH, PRAYER OF. An OT pseudepigraphal work no longer extant. The knowledge of this work is based largely upon the many quotations in Gr. from it in the writings of Origen. In the so-called Stichometry of Necephorus is a list of the OT ἀπόκρυφα, as well as the canonical books of the Bible, together with the number of vv. in each book. The Prayer of Joseph is number 3 in this list, and the number of verses given is 1,100. The passages quoted by Origen have to do mainly with Jacob who describes, among other things, a meeting with Uriel whom he met on a journey from Mesopotamia. Uriel wrestled with him claiming that he was the greatest of the angels. Although Abraham and Isaac were great, Jacob is “the first-born of all living beings,” in fact, the head of all the angels. This has been interpreted by some scholars to be a reflection of an anti-Christian bias, appearing to revere the patriarchs above Christ. Origen, however, speaks of the book as, “a writing not to be despised,” making this improbable. Origen holds the book in high regard, and says it was used by the Jews, which indicates it was of Jewish origin. Nothing is known about the authorship of the book.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

An Old Testament pseudepigraph, number 3 in the Stichometry of Nicephorus (Westcott, Canon of the New Testament(7), 571), with the length given as 1,100 lines, and number 5 in the List of Sixty Books (Westcott, 568). The work is lost, and the only quotations are in Origen (In Joan., ii.25, English in Ante-Nicene Fathers, IX, 341; In Gen., iii.9, 12). Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are said to have been created before every work, but Jacob-Israel is the greatest, "the firstborn of every living creature," the "first minister in God’s presence," greater than the angel with whom he wrestled. The purport may be anti-Christian, the patriarchs exalted in place of Christ; compare, perhaps, Enoch 71 (but not so in Charles’ 1912 text), but Origen’s favorable opinion of the book proves that the polemic could not have been very direct.


GJV, 4th edition, III, 359-60; Dillmann in PRE, 2nd edition, XII, 362; compare Beer in 3rd edition, XVI, 256; Fabricius, Codex pseudep. Vet. Test., I, 761-71.