paul uses extra-Biblical sources

2Ti 3:8 Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith;

Paul, in 2 Timothy, mentions two individuals who are not named anywhere else in the Bible. He links these individuals to Moses and informs the reader they “resisted Moses”. Tellingly, Paul was expecting his readers, or reader (Timothy), to know who these individuals were, although not being named in the Bible.

On the face value, we do not know from Paul who these men were. Moses was resisted time and time again in his life. Were these individuals Hebrews (though with Egyptian names)? Where they shepherds who Moses fought off in Exodus 2? Where they part of Pharaoh’s court? Or maybe they were individuals from an unwritten event? The Bible is not clear.

Origen appears to shed some light on this. I say appears because the reference is from a Latin text of Origen’s commentary on Matthew. I have not found a full text of the translation, as there are for the Greek translations. The best source for Origen’s quote is “The Apocryphon of Jannes and Jambres the Magicians” on google books.

In this Latin text, Origen claims that there was a book of “Jannes and Jambres”. He also mentions a few contemporaries discredit 2 Timothy as a book of the Bible due to the fact it quotes “Jannes and Jambres”.

To those who claim that Paul was given the names Jannes and Jambres as divine revelation, it would be odd that the names line up with other Egyptian magician name (only Jannes) used by Pliny the Elder and later by Origen. Not the mention the fragments of texts bearing their names.

With all that in mind, if appears very likely Paul is using an extra-Biblical source. He accepts this source as accurate enough to use as an illustration for Timothy. Whether Paul believed the text to be an allegory or history is a different question altogether.

About christopher fisher

The blog is meant for educational/entertainment purposes. All material can be used and reproduced in any length for any purpose as long as I am cited as the source.
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