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What is the Genesis Apocryphon?

Genesis Apocryphon

The Genesis Apocryphon is one of the first Dead Sea Scrolls discovered in 1947. It is an expansion of the book of Genesis meant to give further details. This kind of biblical expansion was often done to promote a particular theology or moral perspective. Due to deterioration in the scroll, the beginning and ending of the book are missing, and there are some (literal) holes in the body of the text as well. Only one copy of the scroll has been found to date.

The scroll containing the Genesis Apocryphon has three major sections, which are referred to as “The Book of Lamech,” “The Book of Noah,” and “The Book of Abraham.” Each section is written from the viewpoint of the title character. The writing is pseudepigraphal, which means it was written in the voice of the main character but was not actually written by that person. In the case of the Apocryphon of Genesis, it seems that it was not the intention of the author to “fool” anyone into thinking that the book had actually been written by Lamech, Noah, and Abraham; rather, the Genesis Apocryphon followed a common literary style of teaching and explanation. The effect, however, is that words and ideas not contained in the original text of Genesis were added.

The first section of Genesis Apocryphon, “The Book of Lamech” is intended to be the words of Noah’s father, Lamech. Lamech is concerned that one of his children may have actually been fathered by one of the Nephilim. He goes to his father Methuselah, who goes to his father, Enoch, for answers. Enoch explains that the son is indeed Lamech’s. There are a lot of gaps in the text.

Then the story switches to the words of Noah. In “The Book of Noah” section of the Genesis Apocryphon, Noah explains that he is righteous because of all his good deeds and obedience to God even from birth. After that, much of the text is missing, so most of the story of the flood is skipped. After the flood, Noah surveys the land and divides territory among his sons. Again, there are so many holes in the text that it is difficult to piece together a coherent narrative.

Finally, the story switches to Abram (Abraham). Much of the text of “The Book of Abraham” portion of the Genesis Apocryphon is the same as the narrative found in Genesis. One significant addition is that Abraham learns in a dream that Pharaoh will seek to kill him and take his wife while he is in Egypt. (This may be an attempt to justify Abram’s actions in Genesis 12.) Abraham keeps Sarai from Pharaoh’s sight for five years, but then Pharaoh finally sees and takes her, thinking she is Abram’s sister. As a result, Pharaoh’s household is afflicted for the next two years. Finally, Sarai is returned to Abram, and Abram returns to Canaan. The story ends with his parting from Lot.

In addition to the book of Genesis, the Genesis Apocryphon relies on the extra-biblical books of Enoch and Jubilees, which are from the second temple period. The book itself seems to be from about the first century BC.

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This page last updated: August 16, 2022