I have not been as excited reading extra-biblical scriptures since I read The Assembly of the Gods.
The Book of Jubilees, or Little Genesis, at first glance is like a lot of Biblical fan fiction. Famous characters return (in this case Adam through Moses), details are expanded upon (like some extra kids for Adam and Eve), and more time is given to the Biblical stories we know and love. It even incorporates some of them — adventures in The Book of Enoch such as the Watchers and the Giants are mentioned.
Except, it has a few pointed innovations.
And it is the literary basis of the Qur’an.
A Brief Introduction
Jubilees is interesting to me in how it sets the literary basis for the Qur’an. The angelic “We,” the narration of history and theology to a Prophet, the written nature of the Logos, and the intentional changes from the Biblical text are all similar to the Qur’an. Before that, though, a few words from the Catholic Encyclopedia on it. In this case, while the Encyclopedia is unfriendly to Jubilees, it is also accurate:
An apocryphal writing, so called from the fact that the narratives and stories contained in it are arranged throughout in a fanciful chronological system of jubilee-periods of forty-nine years each; each event is recorded as having taken place in such a week of such a month of such a Jubilee year. The author assumes an impossible solar year of 364 days (i.e. twelve months of thirty days each, and four intercalary days) to which the Jewish ecclesiastical year of thirteen months of twenty-eight days each exactly corresponds. The whole chronology, for which the author claims heavenly authority, is based upon the number seven.
Except for the fact the author seems to be a supporter of the Maccabees, using the Maccabeen phrase “God Most High” regularly, it’s hard to really understand the author’s motives.
It is somewhat difficult to determine the particular Judaistic school its author belonged to; he openly denies the resurrection of the body; he does not believe in the written tradition; he does not reprobate animal sacrifices, etc. . . . and the fact that he wrote in Hebrew excludes the hypothesis of his Hellenistic tendencies. Equally untenable is the hypothesis advanced by Beer, that he was a Samaritan, for he excludes Mount Garizim, the sacred mount of the Samaritans from the list of the four places of God upon earth, viz. the Garden of Eden, the Mount of the East, Mount Sinai, and Mount Sion.
The Royal We
Jubilees narrated by a mysterious “We”…
And thereupon we saw His works , and praised Him, and lauded before Him on account of all His works; for seven great works did He create on the first day.
as is the Qur’an
… who turns out to be a collection of Angels…
He hath bidden us to keep the Sabbath with Him in heaven and on earth. And He said unto us: ‘Behold, I will separate unto Myself a people from among all the peoples, and these shall keep the Sabbath day, and I will sanctify them unto Myself as My people, and will bless them; as I have sanctified the Sabbath day an do sanctify unto Myself, even so will I bless them, and they shall be My people and I will be their God. And I have chosen the seed of Jacob from amongst all that I have seen, and have written him down as My first-born son, and have sanctified him unto Myself for ever and ever; and I will teach them the Sabbath day, that they may keep the Sabbath thereon from all work.
Presumably these angels are intended to be the same audience God spoke to elsewhere when discussing our species
But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And the Lord said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.”
The Prophetic Hearer
Jubilees is narrated to a prophet, Moses, in the past tense, with changes both small
Amram thy father taught thee writing, and after thou hadst completed three weeks they brought thee into the royal court. And thou wast three weeks of years at court until the time when thou didst go forth from the royal court and didst see an Egyptian smiting thy friend who was of the children of Israel, and though didst slay him and hide him in the sand.
Parts of the Qur’an also seem to be narrated to Moses, though the identity of the hearer is fluid
When we delivered you from Pharaoh’s clan who inflicted a terrible torment on you, and slaughtered your sons and spared your women, in that there was a great test from your Lord.
And when We parted the sea with you, and We delivered you and drowned Pharaoh’s clan as you looked on.
And when We made an appointment with Moses for forty nights, you took up the Calf in his absence, and you were wrongdoers.
Then We excused you after that so you might give thanks.
The Heifer 49-52
An age of 21 makes more sense than 40 for a crime of rage, but it indicates either a different tradition of exegesis than that held by the author of Acts of the Apostles, or at least an intentional change from it:
“Now when he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren, the children of Israel. And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended and avenged him who was oppressed, and struck down the Egyptian.”
Whatever the details, Jubilees is clearly supposed to be spoken to Moses. The Qur’an likewise a spoken to a prophet — possibly the reader, and at times possibly Moses.
The Written Logos
Jubilees focuses on a celestial Logos, the Tablets of Heaven:
And the judgment of all is ordained and written on the heavenly tablets in righteousness — even all who depart from the path which is ordained for them to walk in; and if they walk not therein, judgment is written down fore every feature and for every kind. And there is nothing in heaven or on earth, or in light or in darkness, or in Sheol or in the depth, or in the place of darkness; and all their judges are ordained and written and engraved.
These Tablets seem to be the Book the Qur’an mentions:
This is the Book, there is no doubt in it, a guidance to the God-wary, who believe in the Unseen, maintain their prayer, and spend out of what We have provided for them; and who believe in what has been sent down and what was sent before, and are certain of the Hereafter.
The Heifer 2-5
The Tablets records specific sins and is itself the law by which sin is judged
And for this reason the commandment is written on the heavenly tablets in regard to her that gives birth: if she bears a male, she shall remain in her uncleanliness seven days according to the first week of days, ad thirty and three days shall she remain in the blood of her purifying, and she shall not touch any hallowed thing, nor enter into the sanctuary, until she accomplishes these days which in the case of a male child. But in the case of a female child she shall remain in her uncleanness two weeks of days, according to the first two weeks, and sixty-six days in the blood of her purification, and they will be in all eighty days.
as well as the future itself. The heavenly Tablets, the Logos of this world, are the beginning and end of all things.
And Sarah laughed, for she heard that we had spoken these words with Abraham, and we admonished her and she became afraid and denied that she had laughed on account of these words. And we told her the name of her son, and his name is ordained and written in the heavenly tablets, Isaac, and when we returned to her at a set time, she would have conceived a son.
that have been given to humans multiple times
God — there is no god except Him — is the Living One, the All-sustainer. He has sent down to you the Book with the truth, confirming what was before it, and He had sent down the Torah and the Evangel before as guidance for mankind, and He has send down the Criterion. Indeed, there is a severe punishment for those who deny the signs of God, and God is all-mighty, avenger.
The Family of Amram 2-4
This is all in opposition to the Christian idea, that the logos is not a creation of God, but God Himself:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
Jubilees and the Qur’an both point to written document in heaven of which all Scriptures are an incarnation.
Jubilees changes the Biblical narratives, as for example of Jacob killing Esau!
And after that Judah spake to Jacob, his father, and said unto him: “Bend they bow, father, and send forth thy arrows and cast down the adversary and slay the enemy, and mayst thou have the power, for we shall not slay thy brother, for he is such as thou, and he is like thee let us give him honor. Then Jacob bent his bow and sent forth the arrow and struck Esau his brother, and slew him.
instead of the Biblical narrative of a heart-felt reconciliation
But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept. 5 And he lifted his eyes and saw the women and children, and said, “Who are these with you?” …
And Jacob said, “No, please, if I have now found favor in your sight, then receive my present from my hand, inasmuch as I have seen your face as though I had seen the face of God, and you were pleased with me. 11 Please, take my blessing that is brought to you, because God has dealt graciously with me, and because I have [a]enough.” So he urged him, and he took it.
Then Esau said, “Let us take our journey; let us go, and I will go before you.”
(The Qur’an also changes this by omission — though Jacob called Israel appears many times in the Qur’an, his brother Esau is never mentioned.)
These same traits — the scripture narrated by “We, the prophet, the Book in heaven, the changes — are are attributes of the Qur’an. To give just one example, in Jubilees names the animal:
On the the six days of the second week we brought, according to the word of God, unto Adam all the breasts, and all the cattle, and all the birds, and everything that moves on the earth, and everything that moves in the water, according to their kinds, and according to their types: the beasts on the first day; the cattle on the second day; the birds on the third day; and all that which moves on the earth on the fourth day; and that which moves in the water on the fifth day. And Adan named them all by their respective names, and as he called them, so was their name.
As Adam does in the Bible:
Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him.
But in Qur’an he is told the names:
When your Lord said to the angels, ‘I am indeed going to set a viceroy on the earth, they said, ‘Will You set in it someone who will cause corruption it it and shed blood, while we celebrate Your praise and proclaim Your sanctity?’ He said,’Indeed, I know what you do not know.’
And he taught Adam the Names, all of them; the presented them to the angels and said, ‘Tell me the names of these, if you are truthful.’
They said, ‘Immaculate are You! We have no knowledge except what You have taught us. Indeed, You are the All-knowing, the All-wise!
He said, ‘O Adam, inform them of their names and when he had informed them of their names, He said, “Did I not tell you that I know the Unseen of the heavens and the earth, and that I know whatever you disclose and whatever you conceal?’
The Heifer 30-33
The changes are striking and thought-provoking if one has already read Genesis. But I do not know if Jubilees was supposedly to be in opposition to Genesis, or to replace it.
I was as excited reading The Book of Jubilees as The Assembly of the Gods. Here is why. Assembly was the first time I read the stories of ancient Canaan. Reading it I understood the world of the early prophets and the patriarchs, What those stories from ancient Canaan were to the Old Testament, Jubilees is to the Qur’an. The rhetorical strategies adopted by the writer of the Qur’an are the same as the writer of Jubilees. I assume the author of the Qur’an read Jubilees.
To understand the texts of the Old and New Testaments, one needs to read of Ba’al, Asarte, Lady Anat, Old Judge River, and El.
To understand the text of the Qur’an, and how the Scriptures are extended and modified into Qur’anic religion, one needs to read the Book of Jubilees.
I read the Book of Jubilees in the Kindle edition.