Jannes and Jambres


Reading Acts

The text of Jannes and Jambres is fragmentary and lacking in solid historical allusions, making it doubly difficult to date. Origen appears to refer to the book when commenting on 2 Timothy (Contra Celsus, IV. 51.)  The fragments in Chester Beatty papyri XVI date to the third century A.D. The book could be either Jewish or Christian since the Jannes and Jambres traditions are found in both streams.

The Damascus Document is the first reference to one of the magicians by the name, suggesting a tradition which predates 100 B.C.: “For in earlier times Moses and Aaron arose with the help of the Prince of Lights, while Belial raised up Jannes and his brother in his cunning, when Israel was saved the first time” (CD–A Col. v:18, trans. Davies, 245). In his commentary on Matthew, Origin indicated the reference to the Jannes and Jambres in 2 Timothy came…

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