The canon of Scripture is a settled issue, isn’t it? You’ve got your 66 books total, 39 in the Old Testament (24 by the Jewish counting) and 27 in the New Testament. However, when you do the research, things are not so simple. There are many “other” books claiming to be Scripture, a number of them accepted by various denominations and/or included in various Bibles over the years. Are they Scripture? Or just heretical additions?
In The Canon of Scripture, Part 1: The Apocrypha I established that the books of the Apocrypha are inspired Scripture, which I subsequently established for Enoch and Jubilees. Now we move on to the Book of Jasher.
Jasher is mentioned twice in the Bible, and was clearly highly esteemed:
And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day. (Joshua 10:13, KJV)
(Also he bade them teach the children of Judah the use of the bow: behold, it is written in the book of Jasher.) (1 Samuel 1:18, KJV)
The author of Joshua seems to state that the account of Joshua’s long day must be true because it is written in the Book of Jasher. Note that “Book of Jasher” in Hebrew is Sefer ha’Yasher, meaning “Book of the Upright” (the “ha” – meaning “the” – rules out it being a personal name). The Book of Yasher/Jasher/The Upright was clearly considered a book of inspired Scripture.
Unfortunately, this book is currently lost. Meaning we have not yet found an authentic copy. Some will argue that this means it isn’t Scripture, outright declaring it to be “forever lost”. This is ludicrous. For one, one can never know if a book/manuscript has been “forever lost” because, to parody what Answers in Genesis said about a different topic, it would require complete knowledge of what was happening on every single centimetre of surface of the earth – both above and below the ground – at that very moment. It’s insane.
And the argument that it can’t be Scripture because we haven’t yet found it is similarly ludicrous, for it similarly means that the entire Torah (first 5 books of the Bible – actually 6, as Jubilees was between Exodus and Leviticus) must be thrown out because it was lost for a time, being rediscovered in the Temple walls in the days of Josiah (2 Kings 22). Similarly, Enoch and Jubilees must be thrown out (which many gladly do anyway) because, even though we have found and published and translated them, they were lost for a period of time, being rediscovered in the 18th and 19th centuries, respectively. Answers in Genesis says of Jasher’s current lost status, “…this loss would itself seem to underline that it is not an inspired, canonical book.” By their own argument (which they will never dare take to its full logical conclusion), the temporary loss of the Torah would seem to “underline that it is not an inspired, canonical book”. Absolute bloody nonsense. Heresy, actually.
You might be thinking, Hang on, we’ve got published copies of Jasher today. What about them?
Yes, it is true that there have been at least 3 manuscripts published claiming to be of Jasher. The first is a Gnostic text published in the early 2nd millennium AD, which is obviously a hoax.
The second was published in 1751 by Jacob Ilive. Derick Coetzee explains:
The first [of the two English “Jashers”], known as the 1751 Version, was published in that year by Jacob Ilive, a printer and Rationalist (early humanists). It claims to be ‘translated into English by Flaccus Albinus Alcuinus, of Britain, Abbot of Canterbury, who went on a pilgrimage into the Holy Land and Persia, where he discovered this volume in the city of Gazna’ as the title page claims. The original, of course, stayed in Gazna, and was conveniently lost.
“However, Flaccus Albinus Alcuinus lived in the 8th century AD, 800 years before the Renaissance English (English of Shakespeare and the King James Bible) used in the publication, which claims to be the original which the abbot wrote in the 8th century AD. This is, of course, completely impossible, and immediately alerted scholars that they were dealing with a possible fraud. Further proof of this was that the famous reformation theologian John Wycliffe (1330-1384 AD) allegedly endorsed it, signing his name as “Wickliffe”, the only known instance where it was spelled as such, the norm being “Wycliff” or “Wyclif”. This edition was discredited and seemingly forgotten until a New Age-metaphysics research order called the “Ancient Mystical Order of the Rosae Crucis” (also the “one universal Rosicrucian Order”) reprinted it in 1934. Since then, only this order and New Age Gnostics have even bothered with it, as it is filled with anti religious views, such as that Adam and Eve did not sin, God did not Create the Universe but was formed on the same day as Humans by natural evolutionary processes and Noah only invented shipping. Jacob Ilive was sentenced to three years imprisonment for committing fraud and for heresy, after writing the book, and several accompanying pamphlets.
An obvious hoax.
The other one – which is widely accepted as the “real” Jasher – was published in 1625. Derick Coetzee explains about this one:
The second, more authentic, Book of Jasher actually has a Hebrew Text, called Sefer haYashar Midrash. This midrash (Jewish commentary on the biblical text to enlighten and broaden the Biblical Narrative) was first printed in Naples in 1552, and has a traceable history from there. Before that it was claimed that its original source book came from Jerusalem in AD 70, where a Roman officer named Sidrus allegedly discovered a Hebrew scholar hiding in a hidden library which he was supposed to destroy as part of Jerusalem. This he didn’t do and he reportedly took the scholar and all the books safely back to his estates in Hispalis (modern-day Seville). The manuscript was then transferred or sold to the Jewish college in Cordova sometime during the Islamic Period (8th Century – 1492AD) of Spain’s history. The manuscript somehow ended up in Naples where it was first copied and printed in 1552, then to Venice, where it was printed in 1625, still in Hebrew.
There is no support for this story, and to quote a Venetian Rabbi, Leon Modena at the time of its printing: “Behold, it [the Zohar] is like Sefer ha-Yashar, which they printed (without my knowledge and without the knowledge of the sages here in Venice, about twenty years ago). Although I removed the fantasies and falsehoods from it, [eg,] that it is the Sefer ha-Yashar mentioned in Scripture, there are still those who claim that it was discovered during the time of the destruction [of the temple]. But who can stop those who imagine in their minds whatever they wish.” (Ari Nohem, before 1648) Modena was a scholar who proved the Zohar (basis of the Kabbalah Teachings) as a fraudulent fiction of the human imagination and not fit for spiritual scholarship, including this particular manuscript in that discussion. In addition to this, modern scholars, such as Joseph Dan (Professor of Kabbalah at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem), have analysed the language of the printed piece, and found that it fits the Hebrew of Naples at that time. As early as 1840 the Hebrew was recognised as being “composed in the purest Rabbinical Hebrew, with a large intermixture of the Biblical idiom”(Samuel H. Turner, General Theological Seminary)
This 1625 Hebrew version was translated by Moses Samuel and published in 1840 under Mordecai Manuel Noah’s publication firm and name, and it is this manuscript that is known as “the Book of Jasher” today. In actual fact, the real book of Jasher mentioned in the bible has never been found, and the 1840 version has been proven now to be a commentary and Midrash written in Europe in the late 15th Century containing Jewish popular tales which enrich the Bible, whilst being historically unprovable or incorrect. This is further borne out by the fact that European locations are given in there contemporary names, such as Franza, Lombardi and Italia (Jasher Chapter 10) which was definitely not the ancient names of these places.
The real Jasher remains lost, and if found will have to stand up to rigorous testing and proving in the wake of these two frauds.  [Note that he is also skeptical of Enoch and Jubilees.]
The fraud of the Hebrew forgery is proven by the repeated and blatant contradictions with real Scripture. The following are some examples:
The Bible says (Genesis 6:3) that Noah spent 120 years building the Ark. Specifically, the He warned Noah to build the Ark because of a Flood, remarking on the 120 years remaining.
Then the Lord said, My Spirit shall not forever dwell and strive with man, for he also is flesh; but his days shall yet be 120 years. (AMP)
Jasher (which I will now call Pseudo-Jasher), on the other hand, claims that Noah only spent five years building the Ark:
In his five hundred and ninety-fifth year Noah commenced to make the ark, and he made the ark in five years, as the Lord had commanded. (Pseudo-Jasher 5:34, J.H. Parry translation)
The Bible says that Pharaoh increased the Israelite workload – requiring them to find their own straw – after Moses and Aaron first came before him:
Afterwards Moses and Aaron went in and told Pharaoh, Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, Let My people go, that they may hold a feast to Me in the wilderness. But Pharaoh said, … You shall no more give the people straw to make brick; let them go and gather straw for themselves. But the number of the bricks which they made before you shall still require of them; you shall not diminish it in the least. For they are idle; that is why they cry, Let us go and sacrifice to our God. (Exodus 5:1-2, 7-8, AMP)
Pseudo-Jasher, on the other hand, claims that Pharaoh made this command before Moses left Midian (!?):
And he ordered a proclamation to be made in Egypt, saying, Give no more straw to the people to make bricks with, let them go and gather themselves straw as they can find it. Also the tale of bricks which they shall make let them give each day, and diminish nothing from them, for they are idle in their work. … And in those days Moses was feeding the flock of Reuel the Midianite his father-in-law… (Pseudo-Jasher 78:12-13, 79:1, J.H. Parry)
The Bible says that Moses was about 40 when he fled Egypt into Midian, and it was about 40 years later – when he was 80 – that he returned (confirmed in Jubilees):
And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Yisra’el [Israel]. And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed, and smote the Mitsriy [Egyptian]…. Then fled Mosheh [Moses] at this saying, and was a stranger in the land of Midyan [Midian], where he begat two sons. (Acts 7:23-24, 29, Eth Cepher)
Whereas Pseudo-Jasher claims that Moses was 18 (!?) when he killed the Egyptian and fled, not straight to Midian, but first to Ethiopia (where he supposedly became king) and then to Midian:
And when Moses was eighteen years old, he desired to see his father and mother and he went to them in Goshen, and when Moses had come near Goshen, he came to the place where the children of Israel were engaged in work, and he observed their burdens, and he saw an Egyptian smiting one of his Hebrew brethren. … his [Moses’] anger was kindled against the Egyptian, and he turned this way and the other, and when he saw there was no man there he smote the Egyptian and hid him in the sand, and delivered the Hebrew from the hand of him that smote him. (Pseudo-Jasher 71:1, 3, Parry)
The Bible makes it clear that the Pharaoh of the Exodus drowned in the Red Sea:
And the Mitsriym [Egyptians] pursued, and went in after them to the midst of the sea, even all Phar’oh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen. … And YAHUAH said unto Mosheh [Moses], Stretch out your hand over the sea, that the waters may come again upon the Mitsriym, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen. And Mosheh stretched forth his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to his strength when the morning appeared; and the Mitsriym fled against it; and YAHUAH overthrew the Mitsriym in the midst of the sea. And the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, and all the host of Phar’oh that came into the sea after them; there remained not so much as one of them. (Exodus 14:23, 26-28, Eth Cepher)
Slightly further on, a more explicit statement is given:
For the horse of Phar’oh went in with his chariots and with his horsemen into the sea, and YAHUAH brought again the waters of the sea upon them; but the children of Yisra’el went on dry land in the midst of the sea. (Exodus 15:19, Eth Cepher)
That’s pretty clear. But no, Pseudo-Jasher has to muddy it:
And when the children of Yisra’el had entered the sea, the Mitsriym came after them, and the waters of the sea resumed upon them, and they all sank in teh water, and not one man was left excepting Pharaoh, who gave thanks to YAHUAH and believed in him, therefore YAHUAH did not cause him to perish at that time with the Mitsriym. And YAHUAH ordered an angel to take him from amongst the Mitsriym, who cast him upon the land of Niyneveh [Nineveh] and he reigned over it for a long time. (Pseudo-Jasher 81:40-41, Eth Cepher)
This was actually the inspiration for Pharaoh’s (Yul Brynner’s) survival of the Red Sea in the movie The Ten Commandments, and subsequent movies based on the Exodus. But it simply contradicts the true Scriptures.
There are numerous other examples of contradictions; for example, Pseudo-Jasher and Jubilees disagree as to who the patriarchs (Adam-Terah) married, how Haran died (the Biblical account in Jubilees says that he died trying to save idols from a burning temple; pseudo-Jasher claims that some king – it may have been Nimrod, I’ve forgotten – threw Haran and Abraham into a fiery furnace, which Abraham survived and Haran didn’t; Jubilees’ chronology makes it very clear that Nimrod’s rule and the Tower of Babel occurred at least a century or more before Abraham’s birth, whereas pseudo-Jasher claims it occurred during Abraham’s lifetime; pseudo-Jasher confuses Enos son of Seth with Enoch son of Jared; and so forth), but it is getting late (9:30 PM), and I really should be heading off to bed. I encourage the reader (if interested in finding more contradictions) to do their own research.
I think it is safe to say that while the original Jasher is a Book of Inspired Scripture (that YAH/God is temporary keeping locked away), none of the published versions are authentic, and are uninspired forgeries.
Here is the 1751 forgery:
And here is the Jewish forgery: