Genesis Apocryphon

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The Genesis Apocryphon, originally called the Apocalypse of Lamech and labeled 1QapGen, is one of the original seven Dead Sea Scrolls discovered in Cave 1 near Qumran, a city in the Northwest corner of the Dead Sea. Composed in Aramaic, this document consists of four sheets of leather, and is the least well preserved document of the original seven.[1] The document records a pseudepigraphal conversation between the biblical figure Lamech, son of Methuselah, and his son, Noah, as well as first and third person narratives associated with Abraham. It is thought to possibly serve as an example of an expanded and rewritten biblical story. A range of compositional dates for the work have been suggested from the third century BCE to first century CE.[2] Palaeography and Carbon-14 Dating were used to identify the age of the documents.[3]

This document was discovered in 1946 by Bedouin shepherds. It is one of many non-Biblical texts found in the scrolls.[3] This was written on parchment, which is calf, goat or sheep skin.[3] It is 13 inches in length and 2.75 inches in width at its widest point in the middle.[4]

Discovery and State of the Document[edit]

The Genesis Apocryphon was one of the seven major scrolls found at Qumran in Cave 1. It is one of the collection in the Dead Sea Scrolls, which has over 800 documents in fragmentary form. All documents have been found in various states of preservation in eleven caves of the cliffs that parallel the northwest shore the Dead Sea and in the general location of Qumran.[4] The scroll was found in the Spring of 1947 by Bedouin shepherds, after throwing a rock into a cave while looking for their lost sheep.

Along with the Isaiah Scroll, the commentary on Habakkuk, and the Manual of Discipline, this document was sold by the Bedouin who discovered it to Mar Athanasius Yeshue Samuel, the superior at the St. Mark's Monastery in Jerusalem.[4] The four scrolls were transferred from Jerusalem to Syria and to Lebanon under certain political conditions in the area. There were plans made to transfer the scrolls to the United States but permission was later retracted because it was insisted that a high price could be asked for the scrolls if they remained unrolled and unraveled.[4] The four scrolls were then announced for sale in the Wall Street Journal for $250,000,000 and were purchased by Israel on February 13, 1955.[4] The Genesis Apocryphon joined the Isaiah Scrolls, War Scroll and the Thanksgiving Psalms, which had been purchased from Bedouins by Eleazar Sukenik of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.[4] The seven main scrolls found in Cave 1 at Qumran, though found in Palestinian territory at the time, came to be housed in the Shrine of the Book in West Jerusalem.

J. Biberkraut was called upon to conduct the unrolling of the Genesis Apocryphon. When it was opened, it was found to lack the beginning and the end of the text.[4] What is called Column 1, the inner most end of the scroll shows traces and signs that another piece of skin had originally been there.[4] Moreover, the last line on Column 22 ends in the middle of a sentence, showing that there is text missing.

In 1968, The Jerusalem Post reported that a change in the humidity of the Shrine of the Book had affected the condition of the Genesis Apocryphon.[4] The change was allegedly caused by the opening of a wall during construction and renovations. This resulted in the wrinkling of the parchment on some of the Dead Sea Scrolls documents, and the document most affected was the Genesis Apocrypon.[4]


The Genesis Apocryphon is a retelling of the stories of the patriarchs in an embellished fashion.[4] It can be separated into books; the Book of Lamech, the Book of Enoch, the Book of Noah and the Book of Abraham.[4] The Genesis Apocryphon is largely based upon 1 Enoch,the Book of Jubilees and Genesis and therefore was most likely written after them. Most of the stories are told in first person, written in middle Aramaic,[2] and based on biblical narratives but include other subjects and details previously unknown.[4] Although the material is typically a free reworking of biblical material, occasionally there is word-for-word translation or paraphrasing from Genesis.

Two noteworthy passages added to the account of Genesis is the story of Sarai’s extraordinary beauty and Abram’s exploration of the Promised Land through a dream. Sarai’s beauty is praised greatly, using language similar to the Song of Songs, by Egyptian courtiers who have visited Abram, so much so that the Pharaoh abducts Sarai to be his wife. Abram’s exploration of the Promised land describes thoroughly the geographical large extent of the Promised land.[5]

The text also details an exasperated Lamech, who questions whether the child being borne by his wife, Bath-Enosh, is his own, or belongs to one of the holy Watchers (Heb: 'iyryn) or Nephilim. A portion of column 2 states:

She said to me, "O my master and [brother, recall for yourself] my pregnancy. I swear to you by the Great Holy One, by the Ruler of Hea[ven] that this seed is yours, that this pregnancy is from you, that from you is the planting of [this] fruit [and that it is] not from any alien, or from any of the Watchers, or from any heavenly bein[g.] - trans. by Reeves

Due to the scrolls close proximity to Qumran, the date of composition and the relationship between 1 Enoch and the Book of Jubilees scholars believe the Essenes might be the authors of The Genesis Apocryphon. Since there have been no other copies found in the 820 fragments at Qumran, R. de Vaux suggests that it could be the original autograph.[4] Although the scroll does not present any Essene theology or exegetical, doctrinal meditations demonstrating a clear author,[5] the references to Enoch 1 and the Book of Jubilees suggest that it was accepted and used at Qumran.


There are three issues of study concerning the Genesis Apocryphon are these three things:

  1. Literary Genre
  2. Relationship to Genesis
  3. Relationship to other ancient Jewish works

The literary genre of the Genesis Apocryphon lies within the "rewritten bible" category which can be closely compared to the targum, misdrash and parabliblical genres.[6] The "rewritten bible" category is the result of extending scripture which was a somewhat common practice during the Second Temple period.[6] The relationship between Genesis and the Genesis Apocryphon is that the Genesis Apocryphon is a retelling or a form of rewriting of the book of Genesis.


The Genesis Apocryphon was the most damaged out of the first four scrolls found in Cave 1 making the publication history difficult, lengthy yet interesting. The scrolls is dated palaeographical to 25 BCE through 50 BC but has not been subjected to radiocarbon dating.[5] Due to its fragile condition the Genesis Apocryphon was the last to be identified. In April of 1949 New Jersey, the scroll was partially unrolled for the scroll to be identified by John C. Trever.[6] The portion read was identified as the previously lost "Book of Lamech". June 1, 1954, due to the growing controversy over the Scrolls Samuel Marr placed the famous Wall Street Journal ad to sell the four Dead Sea Scrolls.[6] The State of Israel bought the four scrolls and brought them to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem to be translated. In time, (1955), eight small fragments were excavated from Cave 1 believed to be apart of the fourth scroll. J. T. Milik edited the fragments and published them under the name Apocalypse de Lamech[5] based on Trever’s previous identification; the fragments were given the publication number 20. All other texts related were added to this number 1Q20.

Avigad and Yadin led the initial major publication of the Genesis Apocryphon in 1956.[6] It dealt mostly with the last three columns that were very well preserved.[5] The publication included very meticulous transcriptions and translations that stood well against later re-readings and photographic technology.[6] The Genesis Apocryphon was renamed at this time due to the additional reading about other patriarchs. Greenfield, Qimron, Morgenstern and Sivan published the rest of the unpublished columns in 1995.[6] In between this time a German translation by Beyer and a two commentaries by Fitzmyer was also published. Also, in 1991, Wise and Zuckerman arranged the eight fragments of 1Q20 and the Trever Fragment into a more coherent order. More recently a 3rd Edition of Fitzmyer’s commentary was published containing the newly publish columns. Martin Abegg and Michael Wise collaborated in 2005 to create an English translation of the Genesis Apocryphon and this is the most recent completed edition of the text. These publications and commentaries are not a complete list of translations and commentaries related to the Genesis Apocryphon but are the most significant.[6]


The Genesis Apocryphon before being unrolled.

The Genesis Apocryphon is in poor condition and thus there are limited amounts of public photographs and videos released showing exactly what the scroll contains. Machiela describes the scroll in this way: "almost completely unreadable", "Unfortunately, the continued corrosion of the scroll –especially its script—makes it unlikely that future technological advances in photography will help salvage more of the Genesis Apocryphon’ text. Consequently, we must rely primarily on the sets of photographs that have already been taken."[6]


An online translation of the Genesis Apocryphon has been made available by the University of North Carolina, Charlotte Blumenthal Professor of Judaic Studies John C. Reeves.


  1. ^ Davies, Philip R., George J. Brooke, and Phillip R. Callaway, The Complete World of the Dead Sea Scrolls (London: Thames & Hudson, 2002), 100.
  2. ^ a b "Genesis Apocryphon (1QapGen)". Retrieved 2015-10-07. 
  3. ^ a b c "Genesis Apocryphon (1QapGen)". Retrieved 2015-11-17. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Fitzmyer, Joseph A. (2004). The Genesis Apocryphon of Qumran Cave 1 (1Q20): A Commentary. Roma: Editrice Pontificio Istituto Bilico. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Schiffman, Lawrence H. (2000). Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls. New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i Machiela, Daniel A. (2009). The Dead Sea Genesis Apocryphon a New Text and Translation with Introduction and Special Treatment of Columns 13-17. Leiden: Brill. 


  • Fitzmyer, Joseph A., The Genesis Apocryphon of Qumran Cave 1 (1Q20): A Commentary, 3rd ed., Biblica et orientalia 18B, Roma: Editrice Pontificio Istituto Biblico, 2004.
  • García Martinez, F., and E.J.C. Tigchelaar (ed.) The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition, 2 vols. (Leiden: Brill, 1997-98) 1.26-48.
  • Greenfield, Jonas C., and Elisha Qimron, "The Genesis Apocryphon Col. XII," Abr-Nahrain Supplement 3 (1992) 70-77
  • Jongeling, B., C.J. Labuschagne, and A.S. van der Woude, Aramaic Texts from Qumran, Semitic Study Series 4 (Leiden: Brill, 1976) 77-119.
  • Machiela, Daniel A., The Dead Sea Genesis Apocryphon: A New Text and Translation with Introduction and Special Treatment of Columns 13-17, Studies on the Texts of the Desert of Judah 79, Boston: Brill, 2009.
  • Morgenstern, M., E. Qimron, and D. Sivan, "The Hitherto Unpublished Columns of the Genesis Apocryphon," Abr-Nahrain 33 (1995) 30-54.
  • Qimron, Elisha, "Toward a New Edition of 1QGenesis Apocryphon." Pages 106-09 in The Provo International Conference on the Dead Sea Scrolls: Technological Innovations, New Texts, and Reformulated Issues. Edited by Donald W. Parry and Eugene Ulrich, Leiden: Brill, 1999.