Typology of anonymous and pseudepigraphic Jewish literature in antiquity, c. 200 BCE to c. 700 CE

This four-year project (2007-2011) took place as a collaboration between researchers at The University of Manchester and Durham University, funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

The project aimed to describe the literary characteristics of a large number of ancient documents important for the development of ancient Judaism and early Christianity.

Inventory of structurally important literary features

The Inventory of structurally important literary features is now available online and in PDF format. This Inventory is a systematically organized list of all structurally important literary features we have identified as occurring in the corpus of anonymous and pseudepigraphic Jewish literature of antiquity. The corpus is largely co-extensive with the four groups of texts usually known as Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, Apocrypha of the Old Testament, the Dead Sea Scrolls (but only those that are nearly complete), and rabbinic literature up to the end of the Talmudic period.

The Inventory lists every literary feature that occurs at least once in the project corpus. Each point is defined in its own terms, but stands in systematic relationship to neighbouring points (of the same level of generality or not). The Inventory is the basis for a "profiling" of the literary surface of hundreds of texts, to be published separately as an online database. 

Inventory of structurally important literary features

Inventory of structurally important literary features in the anonymous and pseudepigraphic Jewish literatures of antiquity

A corpus-based list of generically defined literary features occurring in at least one text of the Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, the Apocrypha of the Old Testament, the near-complete large Dead Sea Scrolls, or Rabbinic literature

Version Zero (4/11/2012). Please cite information from this document as A. Samely, P. Alexander, R. Bernasconi, R. Hayward, "Inventory of Structurally Important Literary Features in Ancient Jewish Literature (Version Zero)

The Inventory is part of the outcomes of the Project Typology of Anonymous and Pseudepigraphic Jewish Literature of Antiquity (TAPJLA) Manchester-Durham 2007-2011, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (UK).

Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Workshop

Lecturers, post-docs and research students from around the world attended a workshop on "The Literary Structure of Ancient Jewish Literature" at The University of Manchester from 11-12 July 2011.

The workshop offered an opportunity to discuss how methods of literary analysis can be applied to the texts of ancient Judaism, asking: How does one determine the overall voice of the text? What can one say about that voice's "perspective"? What does it mean if a text does not acknowledge its own "existence" at all, and what role do secondary titles play? What status should be assigned to manifest internal differences ("sources") in the context of a literary analysis of the whole? Does "synchronic" analysis mean one has to justify the text's unity? What conceptual tools are available for understanding the difference between narrative and discourse, or the fusion of the two, in ancient Jewish literature? What role do small recurrent literary forms play in discourse and in narrative? How is explicit commentary on Bible different from implicit commentary? These and similar questions were discussed with reference to real examples from the ancient Jewish sources. Participants were invited to make suggestions, before and during the workshop, on what texts or literary puzzles they would like to see discussed in more detail.

The context of the workshop is an AHRC Project on the literary structures of the anonymous and pseudepigraphic literature of Jewish antiquity. This includes the "Old Testament" Pseudepigrapha and Apocrypha, the Dead Sea Scrolls and rabbinic literature. However, the discussion made forays into biblical texts (both OT and NT) and "authored" texts, such as Philo and Josephus. The Project has a strong comparative dimension.

The workshop began with an introduction to two new tools: first, the project's "Inventory of Structurally Important Literary Features"; and second, the "Database of literary profiles of anonymous and pseudepigraphic texts". Participants had pre-publication access to the database for the duration of the event, and were able to apply these tools to specific texts and to raise problems of literary structures relevant to their own research.

Alex Samely led the workshop, supported by other members of the project team - Philip Alexander, Rocco Bernasconi, Hedva Abel and Aron Sterk.

Further information

The question we wish to answer

Most texts from Jewish antiquity are not by individual authors, or by authors who wish to identify themselves. They either remain anonymous, or they speak in the voice of a hero known from earlier, biblical texts — what modern scholarship calls pseudepigraphy.

Many of these texts pose grave problems to modern scholarship when it comes to understanding their purpose, original audience, literary genre or internal unity. A considerable number of them consist of episodes (when they are narratives), or appear to deal with disparate themes (when they are devoted to law or Bible interpretation).

This has led to confusion in modern scholarship's terminology for the literary genres of these documents. Terms such as "apocalypse", "wisdom", "law", "anthology", "Midrash", "rewritten Bible", "parabiblical texts", and many more either have no clearly defined or no agreed meaning. Yet they inevitably channel the scholarly work in particular directions.

The overall purpose of our project is to place our understanding of the literary features of these documents on a new basis. This involves an empirical investigation of all complete documents without making too many assumptions as to their genre (as labelled so far), historical context, or purpose. At the same time we address directly the questions that create difficulties for the modern reader: the sources' tacit reliance on unmentioned information, their apparent lack of order, and their weak coherence. 

How we went about it

The early stages

The first nine months of the project were devoted to developing the conceptual framework of the typology. This framework will continue to change and develop during the subsequent three years of the project.

We developed the framework by discussing four to six documents in detail in monthly meetings. We started from an initial set of points of description which resulted from our intuitive familiarity with many of the project documents, and from a number of theoretical assumptions. Each team member prepared one or two original documents, providing an initial analysis of its perspective, overall shape, unity, and small forms, as well as identifying the special conceptual problems it poses.

After about four months of this work some of the larger groupings of features now characterising our typology emerged. We kept putting more documents into the mix, and the framework became more organised and explicit, as well as more comprehensive and complex. Each new set of documents, as discussed at the meetings, fed into a new version of the Typology.

Developing the inventory of structurally important literary features

A draft typology document emerged in July 2008. It contained 12 main headings (see sections of the inventory below) and several hundred subordinate literary features which a text might have (although no text will have all of them). By the same time 40 text descriptions had been created, most of them reflecting earlier versions of the Typology and standing in need of revision. 

List of texts discussed, July 2008: 4QMMT, mBerakhot, 1Macc, Sefer Yetsirah, mTamid, mMiddot, mPesahim, mAvot, tBerakhot, Visions of Ezekiel, Seder Olam Rabba, LevRabbah, Massekhet Kutim, Psalms of Solomon, 1QS, Massekhet Gerim, Pesher Habbakuk, bMegillah, Sibylline, Oracles, RuthRabbah, LamRabbah, mHagigah, tHagigah, mAZar, tAZar, mBetsah, tBetsah, mBikkurin, tBikkurin, mYoma, tYoma, Tobit, Pesher Nahum, mHorayot, tHorayot, Testament of Job, tMegillah, Sifra, Massekhet Zitzit, Judith, bTamid, mParah, tParah.

This mutual feedback -- between the empirical investigation of specific documents on the one hand and the conceptual framework on the other -- continued throughout the duration of the project. In 2011 the Typology had developed into a more refined document, the Inventory of Structurally Important Literary Features in the Anonymous and Pseudepigraphic Jewish Literatures of Antiquity.

Developing the database

Between 2008 and 2011, the project entered a new phase. This consisted of the creation of a database which 1) stores the structure of the typology and 2) uses the structure as a prompt for the creation of new document profiles by the team researchers. The final online version of this database will be made available to the public without restrictions as soon as the document profiles are completed (in early 2012).

Sections of the inventory, April 2011

  • The self-presentation of the text
  • The perspective and knowledge presuppositions of the governing voice(s)
  • Formation of the text's body by poetic or communicative-rhetorical forms
  • Narrative coherence and narrative aggregation
  • Thematic coherence or aggregation in discourse or description
  • Meta-linguistic structuring of a text according to another text
  • Correspondences and wording overlap between texts
  • Characteristic small forms on the level of the governing voice
  • Characteristic small-scale coherence and aggregation between adjacent text parts in thematic or lemmatic texts, or thematic parts of narrative texts
  • Compounds of juxtaposed part-texts (cp. also 9.11)
  • Dominant contents
  • Sampling of scholarly genre labels

Achievements and publications

Project achievements

The first aim of our project

To work out a new terminological framework for the analysis of ancient Jewish literature. This Inventory gathers together all the basic literary options available to ancient Jewish text makers and puts them into a systematic order. This framework - the "Inventory of Structurally Important Literary Features in the Anonymous and Pseudepigraphic Jewish Literatures of Antiquity" - has now been published in PDF and web-based formats.

The Inventory identifies literary structures found in any one of the anonymous or pseudepigraphic works of ancient Judaism. The corpus on which the Inventory is based includes the Pseudepigrapha, the Apocrypha, the Dead Sea Scrolls (only near-complete texts are included), and rabbinic literature to the end of the Babylonian Talmud. Each feature is illustrated by one or more ancient text containing it.

The categories reflect insights drawn from a large variety of modern disciplines, including philology, literary studies, text linguistics, discourse analysis, narratology and post-structuralism.

The Inventory will also lead to a new "typology" of anonymous and pseudepigraphic ancient Jewish literature, and will be explained in a book to be published after 2011.

The second aim

To create a short literary profile of every document from antiquity which is Jewish, survives intact (so that we can judge its overall shape), and is anonymous or pseudepigraphic. This excludes authored works such as those of Philo and Josephus. It covers the period roughly from 200 BCE to 700 CE. The project documents consist of four corpora of sources which are essential for understanding ancient Judaism as well as the milieu of emergent Christianity: the pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, the apocrypha of the Old Testament, the Qumran Dead Sea Scrolls (insofar as they are complete), and rabbinic literature to the end of the Talmud, including Mishnah, Tosefta, Talmud and Midrash. This makes an estimated total of about 375 works, if the Tractates of the Mishnah, Tosefta, and Talmuds are counted separately. The literary profiles will be published in a database and made openly accessible on the Internet from 2011. The documents themselves are all well known to scholarship, and are available, in original and translation through scholarly publications and increasingly also online. Only their literary profiles, not their texts, will be part of our database.

The third aim

To contextualise the genres of ancient Jewish literature by comparing them to other cultures of antiquity with which Jews were in close contact. We were joined by experts in Graeco-Roman literature and ancient near Eastern documents at a Symposium devoted to this purpose in Manchester on 19-21 January 2009. The papers from that Symposium will be published in due course. Furthermore, in July 2011 we held an International Workshop on "The Literary Structures of Ancient Jewish Literature".

The fourth aim

To provide a criticism of some of the dominant genre labels used in current scholarship on the ancient Jewish sources. This will be part of the book devoted to the first aim (explained above), or published separately.

Project publications

Aramaic Studies Summer 2011 Issue

We are pleased to announce the publication of an issue of Aramaic Studies devoted to the use of the Inventory of Literary Features in profiling ancient Jewish texts.

The issue runs to almost 250 pages, and contains articles by Alex Samely, Philip Alexander, Robert Hayward and Rocco Bernasconi, each of which explores different aspects of the text profiles. The issue also features a number of database profiles, the latest draft of the Inventory and an introduction to the project and the Inventory’s usage.

The issue is available through the ingentaconnect website

Some articles are also available for download as PDFs here:


Who we are

The team consists of three academics involved in both research and teaching, and one post-doctoral full-time researcher:

Philip Alexander FBA

Philip Alexander FBA is Professor of Post-Biblical Jewish Studies at The University of Manchester. He began his academic career as a Classicist, then switched to the study of Hebrew and Semitic languages, but has retained a fundamental interest in the problem of how to contextualize Rabbinic Judaism in the Graeco-Roman world of late antiquity. From 1992-95 he was President of the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies.

Robert Hayward

Robert Hayward is Professor in the Department of Theology and Religion at Durham University. His main research interests lie in Aramaic Targums, Jews and Church Fathers, Post-Biblical Judaism, and Talmud and Midrash.

Alex Samely

Alex Samely is Professor of Jewish Thought at The University of Manchester. His research focuses on literary structures of Rabbinic literature, Rabbinic Exegesis, Spinoza and Hebrew Manuscripts. He recently published Forms of Rabbinic Literature and Thought: An Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007).

Rocco Bernasconi

Rocco Bernasconi is an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Research Associate to the project. Having previously completed study in Bologna and Manchester, his PhD thesis in Bologna and the Paris École Pratique des Hautes Etudes (Sorbonne) was on Amei ha-aretz and Kutim in the Discourse of Mishnah and Tosefta.

PhD students and projects associated with TAPJLA research

  • Aron Sterk
  • Hedva Abel
  • Katharina Keim
  • Maria Haralambakis

Aron Sterk MA BSc

Thesis title: The Epistola Anne ad Senecam in its literary and historical context
Supervisors: Prof Philip Alexander and Prof Alexander Samely
Project began: January 2009
Project completed: March 2012

Summary of thesis

The Epistola Anne ad Senecam was first published in 1984. This so-called ‘Letter of Annas to Seneca’ is incomplete, but nonetheless a substantial portion of it survives, amounting to some ninety lines of printed Latin text, sufficient for substantial conclusions to be drawn as to its date and place of origin. Though the manuscript dates to the first third of the ninth century, Bischoff argued that the original Epistola was composed by a learned Jew in Rome in the fourth century, and that it is a piece of Jewish apologetic missionary literature, which has not only a pagan, but also, possibly, a Christian audience in mind. If this is correct, then the Epistola is a rare and precious piece of evidence which lifts the veil on the intellectual life of the Jews of Rome in late antiquity, and indeed more broadly in the Latin-speaking West. Bischoff’s views have been broadly endorsed by Momigliano, Feldmann, and Rutgers, and seem on the face of it highly persuasive. However his views have been questioned by Hilhorst, Jacobi and Ramelli, all of whom claim the text as Christian on methodologically shaky grounds. The purpose of this research is to re-examine the text, to produce a revised edition of the text itself, and to subject the Epistola Anne ad Senecam to a thoroughgoing analysis, which places it in the widest possible linguistic, literary, and historical context and attempts to establish more precisely the probability of Bischoff’s claim. Bischoff’s initial intuition that this is a Jewish text, whilst not un-contestable, nevertheless, with some modifications as to the date and author, yields a very plausible, consistent, and fruitful reading of the Epistola, as the work of a highly literate and philosophically informed Latin-speaking Jew engaged in dialogue with the aristocratic paganism of late Antiquity.

Academic publications

  • [forthcoming 2012] "Annas to Seneca: the Epistola Anne ad Senecam, a late antique Jewish protreptic in dialogue with Roman paganism", in Sarah Pearce (ed.), The image and the prohibition of the image in ancient Judaism, Journal of Jewish Studies Supplement Series 2, (Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies: Oxford) (accepted for publication; in press)
  • [forthcoming 2012] "Latino-Romaniotes: The Continuity of Jewish Communities in the Western Diaspora, 400-700 CE.", Melilah, Manchester Journal of Jewish Studies (accepted for publication; in press)

Academic presentations

  • July 2010, "The Epistola Anne ad Senecam: an early fifth century Latin Jewish protreptic in dialogue with pagan monotheism?" at the Conference of the European Association of Jewish Studies Ravenna, Italy)
  • Sept. 2010, "The Epistola Anne ad Senecam: an early fifth century Latin Jewish critique of idolatry in dialogue with late pagan philosophy" at the Conference of the British Association of Jewish Studies, University of Southampton
  • July 2011, "Revisiting Blondheim: Judeo-Latin or Latinophone Jews in Antiquity?" at the Conference of the British Association of Jewish Studies, Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, Yarnton Manor
  • Forthcoming: "Berakhot 9.2 and Stoic Meteorology", Conference of the British Association of Jewish Studies, UCL, London (27-29 June 2012)

Teaching areas

  • Jewish History

Research interests

  • Jewish History in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle ages
  • Judeo-Latin and Judeo-Romance literature and linguistics
  • Spanish and Portuguese Jewish Heritage

Maria Haralambakis

Thesis title: The Testament of Job: Text, Narrative and Reception
Supervisors: George Brooke and Philip Alexander
Project began: January 2006
Project completed: submitted December 2009; viva April 2010, graduation July 2010

Summary of thesis

My PhD on the Testament of Job (TJob) develops a multifaceted approach to this composition, dealing with textual criticism, structure and genre, narratology and reception history. I emphasise the continuity of what has traditionally be separated into lower and higher criticism. I draw attention to the value of each manuscript and challenge approaches that focus exclusively on the reconstruction of a hypothetical ‘original text’ and ‘historical setting’. Instead I approach the TJob as a work of literature with a complicated reception history. I present a detailed explanation of the structure which informs my discussion of its literary genre, a narratologial analysis to highlight ‘how the story works’, and a comparative study of the TJob with a selection of vitae, to support the suggestion that the TJob came to be perceived as a story similar to a saints’ life during its reception history. My thesis constitutes the first comprehensive study of the TJob, dealing with the Coptic, Greek and Slavonic witnesses. I contribute especially to the study of the Slavonic tradition, including several Slavonic manuscripts which were previously unknown to western scholarship. I provide descriptions of all manuscripts, a translation and two samples of the Slavonic text.



  • The Testament of Job: Text, Narrative and Reception. Library of Second Temple Studies. London: T&T Clark/Continuum [in press for 2012].


  • “The Testament of Job in Slavonic: an Introduction to the Manuscripts and an Edition of Chapters 1–5.” in Slavic Biblical Traditions and Cyrillo-Methodian Sources, edited by A. Kulik, C.M. MacRobert, S. Nikolova, M. Taube and C. Vakareliyska. Studia Judeoslavica. Leiden: Brill [in press for 2012].
  • “The Fate of the Poetry and Prose in the Reception of Literature about Job.” in Scripta & E-Scripta 10 [in press for 2012].
  • “’I am not Afraid of Anybody, I am the Ruler of this Land’: the Portrayal of Job as Man in Charge in the Testament of Job.” Pages 127–145 in Representations of Masculinity in the Hebrew Bible and Beyond, edited by Ovidiu Creanga, Sheffield: Phoenix Press, 2010.
  • “A Tale about Job in Manuscript 747 of the National Library of Sofia.” Scripta & E-Scripta 8-9 (2010): 461¬–73.
  • “The ‘Testament of Job’: From Testament to Vita.” Pages 55–96 in Spirituality in Late Byzantium: Essays Presenting New Research by International Scholars, edited by Eugenia Russell, Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2009.

Invited papers and seminars

  • “The Significance of Moses Gaster (1856–1939): His Collection at the John Rylands University Library, Manchester”. David Patterson Seminar, Oxford Institute of Hebrew and Jewish Studies, Yarnton Manor, University of Oxford (8 Feb 2012).
  • “The Testament of Job in Coptic, Greek and Slavonic: the Fate of the Poetry”. 22nd International Byzantine Congress, Sofia, Bulgaria (22–27 August 2011), Round Table “Slavonic and Oriental Translations of Byzantine Texts”.
  • “The Study of the Provenance of the Testament of Job”. International Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, London (3–7 July 2011); panel on the provenance of the Pseudepigrapha.
  • “Positioning Place in the Testament of Job”. Ehrhardt Seminar, Centre for Biblical Studies, University of Manchester (20 November 2009) [45 minute paper, 45 minute discussion]. 
  • “The Slavonic Translation of the Testament of Job”. Slavic Biblical Traditions and Cyrillo-Methodian Sources, Varna, Bulgaria (11–14 September 2009)

Conference papers

  • “Is the Testament of Job a Midrash?” International Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, Tartu, Estonia (26–29 July 2010).
  • “Textual criticism and the Slavonic Testament of Job”. Postgraduate Conference on Ancient Linguistics, University of Manchester (25 January 2008).
  • “Is the Testament of Job a Midrash?” International Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, Tartu, Estonia (26–29 July 2010).
  • “The Testament of Job: Testament and Vita”. Conference of the International Organisation for the Study of the Old Testament, Ljubljana, Slovenia (12–20 July 2007) and Colloquium “Spirituality in Late Byzantium”, University College London (18 June 2007).
  • “Revelations Compared: Job and Moses”. International Symposium “the Significance of Sinai”, Durham University (3-6 July 2007).
  • “The Conversion of a Literary Text: the Case of the Testament of Job.” Post Graduate Workshop Conversion and Liberation: religious identities and relations of power in comparative Context, University of Manchester (27 June 2007).

Teaching areas

  • Biblical studies
  • Jewish Studies

Courses taught:

  • At the University of Chester (visiting lecturer, 2010): “Hebrew Bible: Story and History”, and “Introduction to Judaism”.
  • At the University of Manchester (GTA, 2006-2010): “Introduction to Biblical Hebrew”, “Introduction to the Study of Religion and Theology”, “Rise of Christianity”, “New Testament Texts and Context”

Research interests

My area of research is Jewish and Christian literature from the Second Temple period to the Middle Ages. This includes apocrypha and pseudepigrapha, Hebrew Bible, folklore, and the reception of biblical and apocryphal texts, especially in Medieval Slavonic contexts. For my current postdoctoral research I engage these interests through an assessment of the scholarship and collection of Moses Gaster (1856-1939).

Symposium and conferences

International symposium, January 2009

The project hosted an international symposium at The University of Manchester from 19-21 January 2009, entitled "Forms of Ancient Jewish Literature in its Graeco-Roman and Ancient Near Eastern Setting". This was an opportunity to gain, from some of the world's leading academics, a wide range of perspectives on the Project's core research question. Contributors included Duncan Kennedy (Bristol), Sydney Aufrere (Aix-en-Provence), Alan Millard (Liverpool), Roy Gibson (Manchester), Loveday Alexander (Manchester), John Collins (Yale), Armin Lange (Vienna), Diana Lipton (London), Avraham Walfish (Bar Ilan), Chaim Milikowsky (Bar Ilan), Sacha Stern (London), Rivka Ulmer (Bucknell), as well as all four members of the Project's research team.


In 2010, team members gave papers on various aspects of the Project at the European Association for Jewish Studies, Ravenna (25-29 July 2010); the International Organization for Targum Studies/International Organization for the Study of the Old Testament, Helsinki (4-6 August 2010); the International Society of Biblical Literature, Tartu, Estonia, (25-29 July 2010); and a symposium on the transmission of the Hebrew Bible at the Madrid Centre for the Human and Social Sciences (CSIC) (20-21 September 2010).

In 2009, team members presented papers related to the Project at the Rome International Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature (30 June-4 July 2009); the World Union of Jewish Studies 15 Congress in Jerusalem (2-6 August 2009); and the Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting.


A project workshop took place in July 2011 at The University of Manchester. A similar workshop is also planned for September 2012 at St John's College, University of Durham.

Inventory archive

Inventory of structurally important literary features in the anonymous and pseudepigraphic Jewish literatures of antiquity


Here you can find an archive of selected older versions of the Inventory as PDFs, allowing you to see the development of the document over time.