Lives of the Prophets
The Lives of the Prophets is an ancient apocryphal account of the lives of the prophets of 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, others to Dorotheus of Tyre. 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 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.
Original language and date
There is not consensus among scholars about the original language. Torrey proposed Hebrew, other authors proposed Aramaic. The preferred use of quotations from the Septuagint suggests a Greek original with semitic coloring.
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 to the 1st century CE. Torrey suggests a date before 106 CE. Hare the first quarter of the 1st century CE. Satran 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)".
It begins with an account of what it is attempting to contain:
- 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:
- Isaiah: said to be of Jerusalem, suffered martyrdom by being sawn in two by Manasseh (in agreement with the Martyrdom of Isaiah), buried near a place usually identified by scholars as the Pool of Siloam.
- Jeremiah: said to be of Anathoth (Jeremiah 1:1), suffered martyrdom by stoning at Tahpanhes in Ancient Egypt where he was also buried. It is said that who prayed with faith over the seer's grave is healed from asps bites. His remains were later moved to Alexandria. Before the First Temple was destroyed, Jeremiah hid miraculously in the rock the Ark of the Covenant.
- Ezekiel: said to be of Arira and to be of a priesthood family. He suffered martyrdom in the land of the Chaldeans and was buried in the grave of Shem and Arpachshad. A description of the grave is given. Same stories of Ezekiel in the Babylonian captivity are then narrated.
- Daniel: said to be of the Tribe of Judah and born at Beth Horon. He is described as a man devoted to fast and prayer, and the story, full of miraculous details, of Nebuchadrezzar's conversion is narrated.
- Hosea: said to be of the Tribe of Issachar and born at Belemot where he was buried.
- Micah: said to be of the Tribe of Ephraim. He suffered martyrdom by Jehoram and buried in his land near the cemetery of the Anakim.
- Amos: said to be born in Tekoa (Amos 1:1), tortured by Amaziah (the priest of Beth-el of Amos 7:10) and martyred by the son of this one. He laid in his birth-land.
- Joel: said to be of the Tribe of Reuben, born and buried in Bethomoron.
- Obadiah: said to be born in Beth-acharam in the land of Sichem.
- Jonah: said to be born in the land of Kariathmos near the Greek town of Azotus. After his predication in Nineveh he went to live with his mother in Sur. He returned in Judea, died, and was buried in the cave of Kenaz (the one referred to in Genesis 36:11).
- Nahum: said to be of Elkesi (Nahum 1:1), in front of Isbergabin  of the Tribe of Simeon. He died in peace and was buried in his land.
- Habakkuk: said to be from the land of Bethzuchar and of the Tribe of Simeon. After the fall of Jerusalem he went to live in the land of Ishmael and then returned to help the Hebrews who remained. He later went in Babylonia during the Babylonian captivity where he met Daniel. He died two years before the end of the captivity and was buried in his land.
- Zephaniah: said to be from the land of Sabaratha and of the Tribe of Simeon. He was buried in his land.
- Haggai: said to come in Jerusalem from Babylonia when he was young, and he saw the reconstruction of the Temple. He was buried near the graves of the priests (probably in the Kidron Valley).
- Zechariah: said to come in Jerusalem from Babylonia when already old. He blessed both Jozadak (the father of Joshua) and Zerubbabel. He died old and was buried near Haggai.
- Malachi: said to be born in Sofa. He died young and was buried with his fathers.
- Nathan: said to be from Gaba. He taught the Torah to David. Beliar caused he couldn't stop David to kill Bathsheba's husband. He died very old and was buried in his land.
- Ahijah the Shilonite (1 Kings 11:29): said to be from Shiloh. He was buried near the oak of Shiloh.
- Joad or Ioad (named Jadon in Antiquities of the Jews VIII,8,5 and referred to as the man of God in 1 Kings 13:1): said to be of Samareim and was buried as told in 2 Kings 23:18.
- Azariah (2 Chronicles 15:1): said to be from the land of Subatha. He was buried in his land.
- Elijah the Tishbite: is said to be from the land of the Arabs, of the tribe of Aaron that was in Gilead. The birth of Elijah was miraculous: when he was to be delivered, his father Sobacha saw white figures of man who greeted him, wrapped him up and fed him with flames.
- Elisha: is said to be of Abelmaul (1 Kings 19:16) in the land of Reuben. When he was born a calf of gold screamed so loudly it was heard in Jerusalem. He was buried in Samaria.
- Zechariah ben Jehoiada (2 Chronicles 24:20–22): said to be of Jerusalem, he was killed by Jehoash near the altar of the Temple. He was buried near his father Jehoiada. After his death, the priests of the Temple could no more, as before, see the apparitions of the angels of the Lord, nor could make divinations with the Ephod, nor give responses from the Debir.
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.
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 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.
- Codex Paris gr 1115 (dated 1276, said E1 or Epiphanius Prior, published in the 16th century) and Codex Coisl. 120 (10th century, said E2 or Epiphanius Alter)
- referred to as D or Dorotheus and included in the Chronicon Paschale, 7th century
- Codex Marchalianus, Vatican Library gr.2125
- The work survives only in Christian manuscripts
- Torrey, C.C. The Lives of the Prophets (SBLMS 1), Philadelphia 1946
- J. Jeremias Heiligengräber in Jesu Umwelt (Mt 23,29; Lk 11,47). Eine Untersuchung zur Volksreligion der Zeit Jesu, Göttingen 1958
- D.R.A. Hare The Lives of the Prophets in ed. James Charlesworth The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha 2 pp. 379-400 ISBN 0-385-18813-7(1985)
- Stuckenbruck, Loren T.; Gurtner, Daniel M. T & T Clark encyclopedia of Second Temple Judaism. London. p. 445. ISBN 978-0-567-65811-1. OCLC 1003204298.
- D.Satran Biblical Prophets in Byzantine Palestine. Reassessing the Lives of the Prophets (SVTP 11) Leiden 1995 pag 121-128
- place not identified
- Data about Micah are quite certainly wrong due probably to a confusion with the Micaiah of 1 Kings 22
- usually identified as Beth-meon of Jermiah 48:23
- There is not agreement among scholars about the location of this place
- See the recension ascribed to Epiphanius of Salamis in J.-P. Migne, ed., Patrologia Graeca, Volume 43 (Paris: J.-P. Migne, 1864), p. 414. Some New Testament manuscripts specify that Jesus is referring here to Zechariah, son of Berechiah, but this clarification is not present in all.
- D. A.Carson, P.T. O'Brien, M.A. Seifrid Justification and Variegated Nomism: A Fresh Appraisal of Paul and Second Temple Judaism ISBN 3-16-146994-1 (2001) pag 69-71
- D.R.A. Hare The Lives of the Prophets in ed. James Charlesworth The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha 2 pp. 379–400 ISBN 0-385-18813-7(1985)
- Emil Schürer, G.Vermes, F.Millar The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ ISBN 0-567-09373-5 (1973) pag 783-786
- G. Lusini Vite dei Profeti in ed. P.Sacchi Apocrifi dell'Antico Testamento Vol 4 ISBN 88-394-0587-9 (2000)