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Prayer of Manasseh

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The Prayer of Manasseh is a short, penitential prayer attributed to king Manasseh of Judah.

The majority of scholars believe that the Prayer of Manasseh was written in Greek (while a minority argues for a Semitic original) in the second or first century BC.[1][2] It is recognised that it could also have been written in the first half of the 1st century AD, but in any case before the Destruction of the Second Temple in 70 AD.[2] Another work by the same title, written in Hebrew, was found among the Dead Sea Scrolls (4Q381:17).[1]


Manasseh is recorded in the Bible as one of the most idolatrous kings of Judah (2 Kings 21:1–18; 2 Chronicles 33:1–9). The second Book of Chronicles, but not the second Book of Kings, records that Manasseh was taken captive by the Assyrians (2 Chronicles 33:11–13). While a prisoner, Manasseh prayed for mercy, and upon being freed and restored to the throne turned from his idolatrous ways (2 Chronicles 33:15–17). A reference to a penitential prayer, but not the prayer itself, is made in 2 Chronicles 33:19, which says that the prayer is written in "the annals of the kings of Israel".


The prayer's canonicity is disputed. It appears in ancient Syriac,[3][4][5] Old Slavonic, Ethiopic, and Armenian translations.[6][7] In the Ethiopian Bible, the prayer is found in 2 Chronicles. The earliest Greek text is the fifth-century Codex Alexandrinus.[3] A Hebrew manuscript of the prayer was found in Cairo Geniza.[8] It is considered apocryphal by Jews, Catholics and Protestants. It was placed at the end of 2 Chronicles in the late 4th-century Vulgate. Over a millennium later, Martin Luther included the prayer in his 74-book translation of the Bible into German. It was part of the 1537 Matthew Bible, and the 1599 Geneva Bible. It also appears in the Apocrypha of the King James Bible and of the original 1609/1610 Douai-Rheims Bible. Pope Clement VIII included the prayer in an appendix to the Vulgate.

The prayer is included in some editions of the Greek Septuagint. For example, the 5th century Codex Alexandrinus includes the prayer among fourteen Odes appearing just after the Psalms.[6] It is accepted as a deuterocanonical book by Orthodox Christians.[9]

Liturgical use[edit]

The prayer is chanted during the Eastern Orthodox Christian and Byzantine Catholic service of Great Compline. It is used in the Roman Rite as part of the Responsory after the first reading in the Office of Readings on the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time (along with Psalm 51). In the Extraordinary Form, in the Roman Rite Breviary; in the corpus of responsories sung with the readings from the books of Kings between Trinity Sunday and August, the seventh cites the Prayer of Manasseh, together with verses of Psalm 50, the penitential Psalm par excellence.[10] It is used also as a canticle in the Daily Office of the 1979 U.S. Book of Common Prayer used by the Episcopal Church in the United States of America, and as Canticle 52 in Common Worship: Daily Prayer of the Church of England.


  1. ^ a b James D. G. Dunn (19 November 2003). Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. p. 859. ISBN 978-0-8028-3711-0.
  2. ^ a b Charlesworth, James H. (2010). The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers. pp. 625–627. ISBN 9781598564907. Retrieved 5 January 2021.
  3. ^ a b J. H. Charlesworth, The Prayer of Manasseh (Second Century B.C.-First Century A.D.). A New Translation and Introduction, in James H. Charlesworth (1985), The Old Testament Pseudoepigrapha, Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company Inc., Volume 2, ISBN 0-385-09630-5 (Vol. 1), ISBN 0-385-18813-7 (Vol. 2), p. 625.
  4. ^ Syriac manuscripts are preserved in the Mediceo-Laurenziana Library in Florence, Italy (9aI) and in the Syriac manuscripts of the Didascalia Apostolorum (especially 10DI and 13 DI). There exist also a tenth-century Syriac manuscript in the Saltykov-Shchedrin State Public Library in Leningrad; it is Syr. MS, New Series 19, and is abbreviated 10tI.
  5. ^ Ariel Gutman and Wido van Peursen. The Two Syriac Versions of the Prayer of Manasseh. Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press.
  6. ^ a b NET Bible
  7. ^ The shorter books of the Apocrypha: Tobit, Judith, Rest of Esther, Baruch, Letter of Jeremiah, additions to Daniel and Prayer of Manasseh. Commentary by J. C. Dancy, with contributions by W. J. Fuerst and R. J. Hammer. Cambridge [Eng.] University Press, 1972. ISBN 978-0-521-09729-1
  8. ^ Leicht, Reimund (1996). "A Newly Discovered Hebrew Version of the Apocryphal "Prayer of Manasseh"". Jewish Studies Quarterly. 3 (4): 359–373. ISSN 0944-5706.
  9. ^ Coogan, Michael D.; et al., eds. (2018). "The Canons of the Bible". The New Oxford Annotated Bible: New Revised Standard Version: An Ecumenical Study Bible (5th ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 1839, 1841. ISBN 978-0-19-027605-8. OCLC 1032375119.
  10. ^ Gregory Dipipo (2017). "Actual Apocrypha in the Liturgy" New Liturgical Movement (blog).

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