Are ancient writings unreliable because the Book of Jasher differs from the Bible?


Just a comment for your consideration.

Jasher Chapter 81  - here is an extract about Pharaoh.

"And the Lord manifested to the children of Israel his wonders in Egypt and in the sea by the hand of Moses and Aaron. And when the children of Israel had entered the sea, the Egyptians came after them, and the waters of the sea resumed upon them, and they all sank in the water, and not one man was left excepting Pharaoh, who gave thanks to the Lord and believed in him, therefore the Lord did not cause him to perish at that time with the Egyptians. And the Lord ordered an angel to take him from amongst the Egyptians, who cast him upon the land of Ninevah and he reigned over it for a long time." (Book of Jasher 81:39-41).

The Psalms you quote says otherwise:

"But overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red sea: for his mercy endureth for ever." (Psalms 136:15).

It's odd that the Psalmist did not know about this. Does this say that the writings of these ancients were unreliable?


I find it odd that you put a version of the Book of Jasher on equal footing with the Bible. There are a number of books claiming to be "The Book of Jasher," each one different. The one you refer to has on its title page: "The Book of Jasher Referred to in Joshua and Second Samuel. Faithfully Translated from the Original Hebrew into English Salt Lake City: Published by J. H. Parry & Company, 1887."

Origins of the Book of Jasher, 1840 Edition

According to Modern Apocrypha, Famous "Biblical" Hoaxes by Edgar J. Goodspeed (The Beacon Press, Boston, 1956), there are three sources for the Books of Jasher in existence:

  1. A 1391 version by Rabbi Shabbatai Carmuz Levita, preserved in a Vatican manuscript.
  2. A book used as the introduction to the Hexateuch probably written by a Spanish Jew in the 13th century and published in Venice in 1625.
  3. A treatise on Jewish ritual written by Rabbi Tham who died in 1171; it was printed in Italy in 1544.

The second of these (the 13th century version) was translated into English by a Mr. Samuel of Liverpool and published in 1840 in New York by Nash and Gould.

[John Baskette, "The Book of Jasher", Answers in Action]

Regarding this second manuscript, Jim Collins, who believes this particular manuscript is ancient, includes this interesting admission:

"Jacqueline-Lise Genot-Bismuth was director of a team from the Seminaire sur le Sefer Hayashar de le Centre de Recherches sur la Culture Rabbinique which produced an introductory tome to their reprint of the 1625 Venice Hebrew edition of Sefer Yashar which was published by des Publications Universite de la Sorbonne Nouvelle in 1986. Their work argues that the lack of any evidence of the text between antiquity and 1625 is a primary argument for their suggestion that the text was actually "une fiction d'humaniste juif"."

[Jim Collins, The Book of Jasher, the Kairites and the Spanish background to the transmission of Sefer Hayashar (SY)]

In other words, there is no proof that this manuscript existed before 1625 (though Mr. Collins tries to argue otherwise). The conclusion of the examination was that the manuscript was "humanist Jewish fiction." Moses Samuel was a respected translator of Hebrew in the 1800's and translated this particular manuscript.

"Samuel also translated into English the pseudo-biblical Book of Jasher, a supposedly ancient Hebrew text which Samuel convinced himself was authentic. After failing to persuade the Royal Asiatic Society to publish it, he sold his translation for £150 in 1839 to the American Jewish newspaper-owner and philanthropist Mordecai M. Noah. It appeared in New York the following year but with Noah's name and not Samuel's on the title page. "I did not put my name to it as my Patron and myself differed about its authenticity", Samuel later explained. This was odd since Noah seems to have had a lower opinion of the work's authenticity than Samuel. The translation was accepted as accurate, but the publication provoked criticism by scholars who rejected the claims made on behalf of the text. It won acceptance, however, by the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith."

[Bernard Wasserstein, "Moses Samuel, Liverpool Hebraist," Transactions of the Jewish Historical Society of England Vol. XXXV, page 2]

So the story moves on to Mordecai Noah:

"Mordecai Noah was not unaware of the Mormon activities in building a temporary city of refuge at Kirtland in the 1830s. In a late 1835 issue of his Evening Star, Noah protested the Mormons' calling their nearly finished house of worship at Kirtland the "Temple of the Lord." The Jewish editor and would-be American Zionist seemingly had no patience with what he termed the Mormons' "unhallowed purposes" in gathering around a "heathen temple." The Mormons never quite lost sight of Mordecai Noah's work, though they have long since forgotten his name. In 1840 the Jewish scholar obtained an English translation and published the extracanonical Book of Jasher. The Mormons became fascinated with the book and have kept it in print and circulation wherever they congregate. The first of their reprintings of this strange volume was published by J. H. Parry & Co. of Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1887 and modern printings are generally kept in stock at the LDS Church's Deseret Book Stores."

["Transcriber's Comments," 1831 Evangelical Inquirer, Solomon Spaulding Studies]

None of the three versions of The Book of Jasher are ancient writings. Each is a relatively modern hoax.

Accuracy of the Book of Jasher, 1840 Edition

Is this Book of Jasher real? The problem is that it contains anachronisms - things mentioned which at the time of the supposed writing did not exist. John Pratt, another supporter of this version of the Book of Jasher admits:

"There seems to be no doubt in anyone's mind that the book contains many authentic Hebrew traditions. It is definitely not a forgery in the sense of being a modern fiction, as was the 1751 book of the same name. Ginzberg in his landmark collection Legends of the Jews quotes from it freely and it is listed in Jewish encyclopedias as an authentic source. But all of these sources agree that the Book of Jasher most likely was written in Spain about the twelfth century AD. It is thought to have been composed by an author compiling many old Jewish traditions (called Midrash) dating back to around the time of Christ and fabricating a few of his own. So how is it known that Jasher is quoting Midrash rather than Midrash quoting the real Book of Jasher also quoted in the Old Testament? It is deduced principally from the chapter describing where the descendants of Noah settled, because European names from many centuries after Christ are included (Jasher 10)."

[John P. Pratt, "How Did the Book of Jasher Know?", Meridan Magazine, Jan. 7, 2002]

The real problem is that it contains contradictions to the Bible. The one you pointed out is one of the milder ones. The following is not even close to an exhaustive list of problems:

  • The Book of Jasher also claims that Sarai was Abram's niece: "And Sarai, the daughter of Haran, Abram's wife" (Book of Jasher 16:23). Haran is Abram's brother. But the Bible says: "But indeed she is truly my sister. She is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife" (Genesis 20:12).
  • The Book of Jasher claims Abram left Haran at the age of 50: "Arise now, take thy wife and all belonging to thee and go to the land of Canaan and remain there, and I will there be unto thee for a God, and I will bless thee. And Abram rose and took his wife and all belonging to him, and he went to the land of Canaan as the Lord had told him; and Abram was fifty years old when he went from Haran" (Book of Jasher 13:5). The Bible says Abram was 75: "So Abram departed as the LORD had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran" (Genesis 12:4).
  • The Book of Jasher claims that Jacob fled to Eber's home: "And Jacob was very much afraid of his brother Esau, and he rose up and fled to the house of Eber the son of Shem, and he concealed himself there on account of his brother, and Jacob was sixty-three years old when he went forth from the land of Canaan from Hebron, and Jacob was concealed in Eber's house fourteen years on account of his brother Esau, and he there continued to learn the ways of the Lord and his commandments" (Book of Jasher 29:11). The Bible says he went to the home of Laban: "So Isaac sent Jacob away, and he went to Padan Aram, to Laban the son of Bethuel the Syrian, the brother of Rebekah, the mother of Jacob and Esau" (Genesis 28:5).
  • The Book of Jasher claims Simeon could not be bound: "And Joseph went out from them and came into the chamber, and wept a great weeping, for his pity was excited for them, and he washed his face and returned to them again, and he took Simeon from them and ordered him to be bound, but Simeon was not willing to be done so, for he was a very powerful man and they could not bind him" (Book of Jasher 51:37). The Bible says otherwise: "And he turned himself away from them and wept. Then he returned to them again, and talked with them. And he took Simeon from them and bound him before their eyes" (Genesis 42:24).
  • The Book of Jasher lists 15 plagues on the Egyptians (Book of Jasher 80:2-51). The Bible says there were 10 plagues (Exodus 7-12).
  • "Chapter 71 of Jasher states that Moses was 18 years old when he left Egypt. (Could this be Rabbinical tradition?) He didn't go to Midian but to Cush and becomes king (72:34-36) and is king over Cush for forty years (73:2), then he goes to Midian where Reuel puts him in prison for 10 years because Reuel thinks Moses is wanted by the Cushites. In the book of Acts (7:23-30) Stephen, inspired by the Holy Spirit, stated the Moses was in Egypt for 40 Years before going to Midian for another 40 years." [Deane Schaub, An Overview of the Book of Jasher, Logos Resource Pages].
  • The Book of Jasher claims the waters of the Red Sea were divided into 12 parts: "And the waters of the sea were divided into twelve parts, and the children of Israel passed through on foot, with shoes, as a man would pass through a prepared road." (Book of Jasher 81:38). The Bible says the sea was divided into two: "So the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea on the dry ground, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left" (Exodus 14:22).

Both the Book of Jasher and the Bible cannot both be from God. God does not lie (Titus 1:2) and does not contradict Himself (I Corinthians 14:33). The evidence for the truth of the Bible is abundant. There is no evidence for the Book of Jasher's origin or imaginative claims. The only time the Book of Jasher appears to get things right is when it manages to follow the Bible, but like most works of men people have trouble leaving the truth alone and so errors are introduced.


I appreciate all these notes on Jasher. No, I don't put Jasher on equal footing as the Bible, which is God's inspired word. Jasher chapter 50 says that Joseph was 34 when Manasseh and Ephraim were born. When the brothers came down from Caanan looking for food during the famine, Manasseh would have been between 2 and 5 years old. I cannot see a child of 4 years old hitting a grown man like Simeon on the back of the neck with his fist and subduing him. What do you make of the dates in Jasher? Jasher would say Abram was born when Terah was 70 and that Terah was at Isaac's weaning party and was over in Caanan rejoicing with Abram that a son was born.

Isaac’s age when Joseph was sold into slavery

You wrote:

The Book of Jasher has Isaac dying after Joseph went into slavery (Book of Jasher 43:35; 47:3, 9). The Bible mentions that Isaac died before Joseph went into slavery (Genesis 35:2937:2).

I cannot find where the Bible says Isaac was dead before Joseph was sold into slavery. All we can do is work it out.

Jasher says: "And the whole household of Jacob rose up and mourned a great mourning on account of Joseph and their father's trouble, and the intelligence reached Isaac, the son of Abraham, the father of Jacob, and he wept bitterly on account of Joseph, he and all his household, and he went from the place where he dwelt in Hebron, and his men with him, and he comforted Jacob his son, and he refused to be comforted" (Book of Jasher 43:35).

Before or after the selling of Joseph did Isaac die is the question. Is Jasher’s statement a possibility?

Let's look at this: "And the days of Isaac were an hundred and fourscore years. And Isaac gave up the ghost, and died, and was gathered unto his people, being old and full of days: and his sons Esau and Jacob buried him" (Genesis 35:28-29). Isaac was 180 when he died. "And after that came his brother out, and his hand took hold on Esau's heel; and his name was called Jacob: and Isaac was threescore years old when she bare them.  So Rebekah was barren for 20 years" (Genesis 25:26). This scripture gets us Jacob in relation to Isaac agewise.  He was 60 when Jacob was born.

The date when Joseph was sold. "These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren; and the lad was with the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives: and Joseph brought unto his father their evil report" (Genesis 37:2). It was in the next year of his life that he was sold.

At the beginning of the 7 years of plenty, Joseph was 30. "And Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh, and went throughout all the land of Egypt" (Genesis 41:46).

9 years later, (7 years plenty and 2 years famine) after Joseph is 39 at this point is when Israel and his sons come to Egypt. "For these two years hath the famine been in the land: and yet there are five years, in the which there shall neither be earing nor harvest" (Genesis 45:6). When Jacob stood before Pharaoh he was 130 years old and Joseph was 39. Jacob was 91 when Joseph was born. He would be 109 when Joseph was 18, the selling date. He had 21 sorrowful years. "And Jacob said unto Pharaoh, The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage" (Genesis 47:9).

What age then was Isaac when Jacob was 109? Isaac was 60 when Jacob was born so he would be 169 when Joseph was sold into slavery. The old grandparent would have 11 years before him to mourn for Joseph as he died when he was 180. The old man died that way for when he was 180 Joseph was 29 and Jacob 120. If it had been the year after, the old man would have died happy.

I think Jasher is right this time. I think you come to the wrong conclusion due to the order of the chapters. Was it a man named Ussher who chaptered the Bible and worked out the chronology?

We have a weekly Bible study. Someone reads the passage and expounds a few verses and then we discuss the passage among ourselves. We are in Acts 7 and what a chapter that is. This got me involved with the chronology and this old Jewish stuff called Antiquities by Josephus and Jasher. When I saw Salt Lake City I was wary as I knew the Mormons had a printing place there. These characters are fairly careful about dates but there's a lot of the stuff that is hard to believe happened. If the dates can be worked out and found to be in agreement with Scripture that’s ok, but some of the stories are just not sensible. Will go now. Be in touch. Hope you had a good Lord’s day.


I'm glad I misunderstood your view of the Book of Jasher. As I mentioned, it isn't even an ancient document. However, you are correct. I overlooked the change in records, "This is the history of Jacob" in Genesis 37:2 indicates the end of Jacob's historical account and the beginning of another. There are eleven of these in Genesis and these changes of viewpoints also have a jump backward in time. Your analysis is correct and I'll be removing that point from my answer -- not that there aren't plenty of other mistakes in Jasher anyway.

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