Moses throws down

A new entry in the list of extra-biblical traditions in the New Testament.

“Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith.” – 2 Timothy 3:8

“And Mosheh and Aharon went in unto Pharoh, and did as the Lord had commanded. And Aharon threw down the rod before the sight of Pharoh, and before the sight of his servants, and it became a basilisk. But Pharoh called the hachems and magicians; and they also, Janis and Jamberes, magicians of Mizraim, did the same by their burnings of divination. They threw down each man his rod, and they became basilisks; but were forthwith changed to be what they were at first; and the rod of Aharon swallowed up their rods.” – Targum Pseudo-Jonathan on Exodus 7:10-12

Although the story of Pharaoh’s magicians trying to show up Moses and Aaron is record in Scripture (Exodus 7:10-12), the names of the magicians are not. St. Paul here draws on Jewish oral tradition as the source for the two names, Jannes and Jambres, and he clearly expects his readers to be familiar with not only the Biblical story but the extra-biblical names as well. According to Origen (in his Commentary on Matthew 27:8), St. Paul was quoting from an extra-biblical work called the Book of Jannes and Jambres. Origen and other ancient authors were familiar with this work, but, unfortunately, no copy has survived to us today.


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