The Book of Jasher is an enigma.
It is also controversial.
Taught by some to be an inspired and reliable text referenced in the Old Testament, yet viewed by others as flawed, the text yet remains important for students of the Bible and Biblical history. Whether taught or not, there are several reasons why it should be read and understood, as it gives breadth and depth to scholarly study and reflection.
Scholars indicate that there are no versions of this non-canonical text dated prior to 100 A.D. There are some indications that the earliest manuscripts available resulted from the Council of Jamnia, whose members worked to reproduce foundation copies of text lost in 70 A.D. when the Temple and Jerusalem were destroyed.
The manuscripts available are written using modern Hebrew characters, which differ greatly in style than earlier writing. The 19th-century version of the book is used commonly today, as it was translated from the modern Hebrew into English. The Book of Jasher exists as several works, but there are three primary translations studied today:
- The Book of the Upright (Hebrew: sēfer hayyāšār)
- The Book of the Just Man (Greek and Latin)
- The Book of Jasher (King James Bible of 1611)
The book is referenced two times in the Bible:
The narrative is about Joshua commanding the sun to remain still while the battle rages against the five kings. There are 52 bible translations which include this event, and refer to its writing in the
Book of Jasher.
This event also is recorded very similarly in Jasher, Chapter 88, in verses 63 to 65.
2.2 Samuel 1:18
This narrative is about David’s command that the Children of Judah be taught the Song of the Bow. There are 51 bible translations which refer to the use of the bow, the song of the bow, or the lament of the bow as written in the book of Jasher.
This event is also recorded in Jasher, Chapter 56, Verse 9, but the account in Jasher differs greatly from the account in 2 Samuel. Jasher refers to the use of the bow as a weapon of war and fighting battles to rule over enemies. 2 Samuel refers to the way weapons of war perish and how the mighty waging war have fallen.
Since the two Biblical narratives do not completely conform to their references in Jasher, why consider it worthy of study? The book includes a narrative which encompasses the Biblical history beginning with the world’s creation and continuing to the time of Moses’ death. Scholars note that the writing shows influences from Jewish textual sources and Rabbinical oral traditions.
The original text of the Book of Jasher referenced in the Bible was lost, and the author unknown. But reading this re-telling of the original text allows Christians a glimpse of the devotional Jewish world. The piety which interpreted and shaped the scriptures is present in this book. The Judaism of Jesus and early Christianity were imprinted with these historic events and human experiences of devotion to God. The Book of Jasher ultimately provides opportunities for theological reflection about the relationship between God and His creation, viewed through the lens of faith inherited by the early church.