Pre-Existence in the Pseudepigrapha
NCW 75, April-June 2002
Q. Is there any traditional Jewish belief of a human pre-mortal life or pre-existence in Jewish literature outside the Bible?
A. Most definitely. The Book of Jubilees, considered by many scholars to be the most important of all pseudepigraphical scriptures and written somewhere between 135 and 105 B.C, was a well known and advanced pre-Christian midrash written from a Pharisaic standpoint and is even quoted in the New Testament (e.g. Jude 6; 2 Pet.2:4 cp. Jub.4:15). Quite possibly it formed the basis of the contemporary belief of the apostles and of Jews in general that it was quite possible to sin before this life which would in part account for the circumstances we find ourselves in in mortality. Hence the disciples' question about the blind man (John 9:1ff). Notice that Yah'shua (Jesus) did not correct their implied doctrine of pre-existence but simply said that this was not the cause of the man's blindness in this particular case, which was to bring glory to Yahweh through the performance of a miracle.
The Book of Jubilees states:
"And the angel of the presence spake to Moses according to the word of the Lord (Yahweh), saying: Write the complete history of the creation, how in six days the Lord God (Yahweh-Elohim) finished all His works and all that He created, and kept Sabbath on the seventh day and hallowed it for all ages, and appointed it as a sign for all His works. For on the first day He created the heavens which are above and the earth and the waters and all the spirits which serve before him - the angels of the presence, and the angels of sanctification, and the angels [of the spirit of fire and the angels] of the spirit of the winds, and the angels of the spirit of the clouds, and of darkness, and of snow and of hail and of hoar frost, and the angels of the voices and of the thunder and of the lightning, and the angels of the spirits of cold and of heat, and of winter and of spring and of autumn and of summer and of all the spirits of his creatures which are in the heavens and on the earth, (He created) the abysses and the darkness, eventide (and night), and the light, dawn and day, which He hath prepared in the knowledge of his heart." (Jubilees 2:1-3)
Note that "on the first day..." God created the "spirits of ALL his creatures" which would include human spirits. So, according to the Book of Jubilees, human spirits were created on the first day and human bodies were created on the 6th day and didn't have life in them until the pre-existent spirit entered them (Gen 2:7).
Whether this is precisely "how it happened" is open to question. What it does show, however, is that belief in a pre-existence was commonly known and understood and that when Yah'shua's (Jesus') disciples raised the matter, He did not correct it as false doctrine.
This page was created on 15 June 2004
Last updated on 15 June 2004
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