Lives of the Prophets

Ancient account of the lives of the prophets from the Tanakh, surviving in Greek, Latin, Syriac, Armenian, and Arabic manuscripts

The Lives of the Prophets is an ancient apocryphal account of the lives of the prophets from the Old Testament. It is not regarded as scripture by any Jewish or Christian denomination. The work may have been known by the author of some of the Pauline Epistles, as there are similarities in the descriptions of the fates of the prophets, although without naming the individuals concerned.

The work survives only in Christian manuscripts. There are two groups of Greek manuscripts: the first group includes many versions, well known in the past centuries, with heavy Christian additions. Some of these versions were attributed to Epiphanius of Salamis,[1] others to Dorotheus of Tyre.[2] The other group of Greek manuscripts is more stable and free from the interpolations found in the previous group: the best codex is a 6th-century CE manuscript[3] usually referred to as Q or as anonymous recension. There is also a Latin version with a text near to Q used by Isidore of Seville (before 636 CE). There are also versions in Syriac, Armenian, and Arabic.

There is not consensus among scholars about the original language.[4] Torrey[5] proposed Hebrew, other authors proposed Aramaic.[6] The preferred use of quotations from the Septuagint suggests a Greek original with semitic coloring.[7]

Authenticating the dating is highly problematic due to the Christian transmission and presumed expansions. Most scholars consider this work to be of Jewish origin dating the 1st century CE.[citation needed] Torrey[5] suggests a date before 106 CE. Hare[7] the first quarter of the 1st century CE. Satran[8] proposes an early Byzantine origin in the 4th-5th century on previous materials. But the date must be before the 5th century, as Torrey writes in his Introduction that the Lives "exists in several different rescensions. Of these, the most familiar is the one which appears in the works of Epiphanius, Bishop of Salamis in Cyprus (fourth century)".[5]

The names of the prophets, and where they are from, and where they died and how, and where they lie

The Lives of the Prophets includes the lives of the 23 prophets. Some lives are extremely short, only the most basic information is given, while for the others there are details and stories. The main facts indicated in the Lives are the following:

Since the work is found in Christian manuscripts, some New Testament prophets are typically appended, specifically Zachariah, Symeon, and John the Baptist. Symeon is reported as dying of old age, while Zachariah is said to have been killed by Herod "between the temple and the altar," per Jesus' words in Matthew 23:35 and Luke 11:51.[13]

The author of the Lives of the Prophets seems to have been more interested in miracles, intercessions and predictions of the prophets than in their ethical teaching. One of the more typical themes of the Lives of the Prophets is the interest of the author for the burial places of the prophets. Jeremias[6] in his study examines both the archaeological and the literary evidence, in particular the Herod architectural activity and the attestations of Matthew 23:29 and Luke 11:47, and considers the Lives as a witness of popular devotion in the 1st century. The theme of prophets as intercessors for people long after the prophet's death is also present. A major theme is martyrdom of the prophets: six prophets are said to have been martyred.[14]