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Jannes and Jambres and the Cepher of Yashar (Jasher)


When searching the canonized 66 books, we are confronted with a singular verse identifying two individuals, namely, Jannes and Jambres, which we at the Eth Cepher have transliterated as Iannes and Iambres.

Timotheus Sheniy (2 Timothy) 3:1-8
THIS know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. 2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, 4 Traitors, heady, high minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of Yah; 5 Having a form of regard for Yah, but denying the power of Yahuah: from such turn away. 6 For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with diverse lusts, 7 Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the Truth. 8 Now as Iannes and Iambres withstood Mosheh, so do these also resist the Truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the belief.

So where did Pa’al come up with these names? Let’s see what the Encyclopedia of the Bible has to say.

First, they assert the premise that the names are the “traditional” names of Egyptian sorcerers who opposed Moses before Pharaoh.  Their singular source text for this proposition, is, at first glance, 2 Tim 3:8.

The Encyclopedia in reliance on this singular verse then concludes that Pa’al’s reference is to “unnamed magicians in the OT – in particular, Shemoth (Exodus 7:11, 12, 22).  In fact, based only on the verse cited above, the Encyclopedia tells us that “Moses performed authenticating miracles, such as making his rod a serpent, which the sorcerers with their magic also did” citing Shemoth (Exodus) 7:10-12, 20-22; 8:5-7, 17, 18 for this proposition. It begs credulity to discover how this was determined to be the series of events which Pa’al was referencing in 2 Timothy 3:8.

The Encyclopedia does admit that “these two names are mentioned only in 2 Timothy 3:8,” but then concludes that they “are evidently connected with Jewish tradition.” Once reaching this conclusion, the Encyclopedia then names a post-Paulian work which had the title Jamnes et Mambres (note the Latin construction), as mentioned by Origen (Tract 35 in Matt) and in the Decretum Gelasii (again a Latin work) (Credner, p. 220).

However, the Encyclopedia identifies Schürer (HJP, sec. div., III, p. 149) reference to a Jewish apocryphal work bearing both of these names, but which had disappeared. Such an apocryphal book, written in the Ivriyt, is of course, the Cepher Yashar, the book of Jasher, which disappeared just before the destruction of Herod’s Temple in 70 A.D.    

The Encyclopedia references the Aramaic Targum of Jonathan as a source for the names, and the Talmud, although citations are not given. Would Pa’al have relied on the Aramaic reference found in the Targum of Jonathan to bring forth those two names? Highly unlikely. 

Pliny the Elder (1st Century A.D.) in his Historia Natural 30, 1, 11 and Apuleius (2nd Century A.D.) in his Apologia (or De Magia) ch. 90, refer to Jannes.

However, the neo-Platonist Numenius of Apamea (2nd Century A.D.) referred to in Eusebius, Praeparatio Evangelica 9, 8, 1, was acquainted with both Jannes and Jambres, calling them holy scribes and magicians of Egypt.

Would Pa’al have relied on a Greek scholar from the 2nd Century (who would live after Pa’al’s death) to yield the names Jannes and Jambres?  The short answer is: not possible. It is further impossible that Pa’al would rely on 2nd and 3rd Century Latin texts for these names.

While the Encyclopedia claims that “Paul mentions these “traditional names” (appearing only once in all scripture and not at all in the Tanakh) because he was acquainted with “current Jewish tradition”, the Encyclopedia is nonetheless forced to admit that the “Jewish tradition about Jannes and Jambres is confused as shown by Eusebius’ statement in the Praeparatio Evangelica 9, 8) that these two men were sons of Ba`aliym but yet teachers of Mosheh (Moses) and then his opponents, who then died with the Mitsriym (Egyptian) army in the Red Sea.”

Bibliography E. Schürer, A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ, 2nd rev. ed., sec div., vol. 3 (1891), 149-151; W. Hendriksen, Exposition of the Pastoral Epistles (1965), 287, 288.

Let’s see what they missed:

Yashar (Jasher) 79:27
And when they had gone Phar`oh sent for Bil`am the magician and to Iannes and Iambres his sons, and to all the magicians and conjurors and counselors which belonged to the king, and they all came and sat before the king.

So, was Eusibeus confused? Or did he have access to the Cepher Yashar even in the 3rd Century A.D.? When it comes to the Cepher Yashar, the opinions of Eusebius, and the words of Pa’al, there is no confusion.

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