Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar. [Proverbs 30:5-6 (NIV)]
Both 2 Samuel 1 and Joshua 10 mention stories that could be found in The Book of Jashar (sometimes translated as Book of the Upright One or Book of the Just Ones). Biblical scholars speculate The Book of Jashar was a collection of Hebrew poems and songs praising Israel’s heroes and victorious battles. Scripture tells us it existed at one time but we’ll never know what was in it because it vanished more than 2,000 years ago.
Although The Book of Jashar can’t be found in our Bibles, nearly a dozen versions can be found on Amazon and elsewhere. Saying they’re the lost book referenced in Scripture and written by Jashar, “son of Caleb,” they claim to cover Hebrew history from creation through Joshua’s day. In spite of their claims, these books are works of fiction and none date further back than the 1600s. Confusing the issue, there is a genuine collection of Jewish legends called Sefer ha Yashar (or The Book of Righteousness) Written in the 1100s and first printed in Italy in 1544, it doesn’t claim to be history or written by Jashar. Nevertheless, this Hebrew title can be found as part of some of the fictional works purporting to be Jashar’s!
I enjoy reading fiction; my problem is with fiction that claims to be truth, most especially with fiction claiming to be on a par with the Bible! When reading reviews of the Jashar books on Amazon, it was disturbing to see that many people—people who should know better—believed this fiction was God’s truth. One woman (identifying herself as a Christian) wrote how wonderful it was to read the same words Jesus read in the Temple. She also asserted that The Book of Jasher was removed from our Bibles 200 years ago. Jashar never was in our Bibles and Jesus couldn’t have read those words because the book was lost by His time!
Another reviewer, thrilled to have a “deeper understanding of the people of the Bible,” was delighted to learn the reason Esau was so weary the day he sold his birthright was that he’d just killed Nimrod. Another reader cited the book’s explanation that it was God’s anger at man for having made an herbal concoction used as birth control that brought about the flood. Creative writing but not Biblical truth!
Fiction masquerading as truth can be found in fake gospels, as well. The Gospel of Thomas is a collection of 114 alleged sayings of Jesus, some of which are contrary to the rest of Scripture. Alleging a physical relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene, the Gospel of Philip also explains that the world is imperfect because God made a mistake and “fell short of attaining his desire.” The Gospel of Barnabas has Jesus predicting the Prophet Muhammad and claims that Judas was mistakenly crucified in Jesus’s place. Judas is rehabilitated in the Gospel of Judas which asserts that Jesus taught one message to eleven of the disciples but a special one to Judas. According to it, Judas served our Lord honorably because Jesus asked Judas to “betray” Him. Written in the second to fourth centuries, these “gospels” have no connection with any of the disciples, no historical support, and show no understanding of 1st century Judaism. They are nonsense!
Let us be cautious and discerning in our use of extra-biblical writings. While these works of fiction make interesting reading, we must never mistake them for God’s word. Unlike them, the 66 books of the accepted canon are not myths, legends, or filled with contradictions and errors. In Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code, Dr. Tebring calls the Bible “a product of man.” Tebring had it wrong. The Da Vinci Code, The Book of Jashar, and the various “missing” gospels are all products of man. The Bible, however, is God-breathed and merely transcribed by man! Let us never confuse the two.