Sunday, July 29, 2012

Jasher: the Lost book of the Bible, as foreseen by Swedenborg

Recently I published the complete works of Emanuel Swedenborg on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, so that the revelations given would be more easily accessible.  All 32 volumes are available in the work The Divine Revelation of the New Jerusalem.  In this bundled set I decided to include the book of Jasher, a lost book of the Bible.  For those who are not familiar with Swedenborg, or the book of Jasher, I have decided to republish the preface to this work in this blog, as the book of Jasher contains an astronomoical reference to the year 1953 B.C. for the birth of Abraham which I had mentioned in a previous post.  Here is the complete preface:

The Divine Revelation of the New Jerusalem is the complete set (thirty-two volumes) of the published theological works and revelations of Emanuel Swedenborg, a respected scientist of the 18th century who experienced heavenly visions for a period of over 25 years. This bundled edition contains the following works: Heavenly Arcana (20 volumes), Heaven and Hell, The Final Judgment, The Final Judgment Continued, The White Horse, Earths in the Universe, Summary Exposition, Doctrine concerning the Lord, Doctrine concerning Sacred Scripture, Doctrine concerning Life, Doctrine concerning Faith, New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrines, Divine Love and Wisdom, Divine Providence, Intercourse between the Soul and Body, Apocalypse Revealed (3 volumes), Marriage Love, and True Christian Religion (3 volumes). All of Swedenborg's extensive references have been hyperlinked in this digital version. Also included in this bundled set is the book of Jasher, a work translated from a Hebrew manuscript which Swedenborg may have described in his visions (see below).

Much of the content provides correction and enlightenment concerning Christianity, and his most extensive work, Heavenly Arcana (Arcana Coelestia), is a systematic method for proving that the Bible is Divinely inspired. Concerning the visions described in these writings Swedenborg wrote the following:
"I foresee that many who read the Relations annexed to the chapters will believe that they are inventions of imagination. But I assert in truth that they are not inventions, but were truly seen and heard; not seen and heard in any state of sleep, but in full wakefulness. For it has pleased the Lord to manifest Himself to me, and to send me to teach those things which will be of His New Church, which is meant by the New Jerusalem in the Apocalypse. For this purpose he has opened the interiors of my mind or spirit, whereby it has been given me to be in the spiritual world with angels, and at the same time in the natural world with men, and this now for twenty-seven years." (True Christian Religion, n. 849)
The accounts Swedenborg provides concerning the spiritual world can not be easily dismissed as fantasies or products of the imagination, for on multiple occasions Swedenborg demonstrated clairvoyant abilities. The most famous of these took place in July 1759: while at a dinner among other guests in Gothenburg he became noticably disturbed and told them that a fire in Stockholm broke out, which threatened to burn down his house and with it his writings. He described in detail when and where it started, and a couple of hours later told them with relief it had been safely put out. When news of the fire arrived several days later, the reports confirmed Swedenborg's account of the event, down to the exact time in which Swedenborg reported his vision. The event became so well known that it was investigated in detail by the German philosopher Immanuel Kant. Kant had asked a friend travelling to Sweden to confirm the matter, who not only spoke to several witnesses concerning the event, but had the chance to meet Swedenborg himself. Kant wrote that "Swedenborg is a reasonable, polite, and open-hearted man: he also is a man of learning."[*]

A thorough examination of these writings will show that the doctrines are rational and self-consistent, and once known and accepted the reader will find that it is no longer necessary to suspend one's thinking to accept matters that are called "mysteries of faith." Enlightenment concerning the truth can open the mind to spiritual growth. Swedenborg himself realized that although much was revealed, many would not believe. He wrote:
"Forasmuch as at this day in the church in the case of most persons there is no faith concerning a life after death, and scarce any faith concerning heaven, or the Lord that He is the God of heaven and earth, therefore my interiors of the spirit have been opened by the Lord, in order that I might be able while I am in the body to be together with angels in heaven, and not only to speak with them, but also to see stupendous things there, and to describe the same, so that perchance hereafter they shall not also say, Who has come from heaven to us, and told us that it exists and what there is there? But I know that they who have heretofore in heart denied a heaven and a hell and a life after death, will even still obstinately oppose these things, and will deny them; for it is easier to make a raven white than to cause those to believe who have once in heart rejected faith. But let the things which have thus far been shown concerning heaven and hell and life after death, be for the use of the few who have faith. That others, however, may be brought to something of acknowledgment, it is granted me to relate such things as delight and attract the man who is desirous of knowledge." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 9439).
Among the wonderful things that Swedenborg reported seeing in the other life is that the heaven of the angels is lighted by a spiritual Sun, at the center of which dwells the Lord (Heaven and Hell, n. 116-118). God is seen according to how one receives Him:
"Since the Lord is seen in heaven as the Sun, from the Divine Love which is in Him and from Him, all in the heavens turn constantly to Him, those in the celestial heaven as to the Sun, and those in the spiritual heaven as to the Moon. But those who are in hell turn to the darkness and obscurity which are in the opposite direction, thus backward from the Lord; for the reason that all who are in the hells are in the love of self and the world, thus opposed to the Lord" (ibid, n. 123).
At one point Swedenborg was allowed to experience what is was like to die and enter the spiritual world: "there was a pulling and drawing forth, as it were, of the interiors of my mind, thus of my spirit, from the body" (ibid, n. 449) and afterwards his spiritual sight was slowly exposed to see some light. After death man does not only have a full spiritual body (ibid, n. 461), but has his full memory, so such an extent that everyone's internal thoughts and deeds can be made known to all as in the full light of day (ibid., n. 462, 507). A person's eternal life is determined by the internal thoughts and intentions, rather than how one appeared to others (ibid., n. 495-496).
All who have lived in good in the world and have acted from conscience, who are those that have acknowledged the Divine and have loved Divine truths, especially those who have applied them to life, appear to themselves when let into the state of their interiors, like those who are awakened out of sleep, and like those who from shade enter into light" (ibid., n. 506).
During his time, Swedenborg was a lone witness providing a description of the afterlife. That changed in the 20th century with the rediscovery of the "Near Death Experience" by the medical community. With advances in medical technology, more and more people were being revived after having come close to death. The term "Near Death Experience" was coined by Raymond A. Moody, M.D., a psychologist and medical doctor who initially interviewed over a hundred people who had nearly died, and discovered a common process that was experienced by different individuals. Those who have died have often reported hearing themselves pronounced dead by the doctor, or hovering over their body seeing doctors attempting to revive them. During this first stage of dying, many report events they could not have known through normal means, an element that is often ignored by those seeking a medical explanation for the NDE. In the second stage, some experience going through a tunnel, at the end of which people encounter people of light, departed relatives, and finally a "Supreme Being of Light." With this Being of Light people then experience a panoramic life review, in which they see how their actions have affected others. Those who have had this experience state that there is one purpose in life: love. Ultimately, a decision is made to return back to the body, some willingly to complete unfinished goals, others reluctantly, as death was just a passage into a beautiful other worldly experience. This was reported by Moody in his famous book, Life After Life, in which he devotes an entire section comparing the Near Death Experience to what was stated by Swedenborg. Those who study NDEs are seeing but small glimpses of a reality that Swedenborg reported to have experienced over a period of many years.

A controversial point Swedenborg made is that among the departed spirits he met in the spiritual world he encountered some which did not originate from our planet earth. Given the knowledge at the time, from this information he falsely concluded that the planets in our solar system were inhabited. How should these accounts be understood? Should we immediately reject everything Swedenborg had to say? It should be noted here that Swedenborg admitted that in the spiritual world, elements of the physical world can not be seen. Everything is a representation or correspondence. Thus he wrote: "It is to be known that the sun of the world does not appear at all to any spirit, nor any of its light" (Earths in the Universe, n. 42), and "no earth is anywhere seen by those who are in the spiritual world, but only the spirits and angels who are from it" (ibid., n. 47). In heaven, the various angels are arranged into innumerable societies (Heaven and Hell, n. 41-50). When viewing the societies of these spirits from other worlds, they appeared in fixed positions relative to the societies of spirits from the planet earth (Earths in the Universe, n. 42). What is remarkable, Swedenborg stated that all the different societies of angels in heaven taken together formed the image of a human form on a grand scale (Heaven and Hell, n. 68-72). If a society was deficient in form, spirits from other societies would come to fill the gap:
"To constitute that Greatest Man, spirits are required from many earths, those who come from our earth into heaven not being sufficient, being comparatively few; and it is provided by the Lord that whenever and wherever there is a deficiency in the quality or quantity of correspondence, those are summoned at once from another earth who may supply the deficiency, so that the proportion may be preserved, and thus heaven be kept in due form." (Earths in the Universe, n. 9).
The societies described from other worlds thus represent general deficiencies that are not being filled by those that come from earth. As for extraterrestrial life, our scientific knowledge in this area has increased immensely in the past few years. It is now known that there is water on Mars, and so many solar systems have been discovered to have planets that it is estimated that the Milky Way galaxy alone contains billions of them. Those who study the phenomenon of UFOs may be surprised to learn that among the societies Swedenborg reported, one in particular was allowed to wander about among the societies of different solar systems, gathering immense knowledge (Earths in the Universe, n. 6). I will point out here that Swedenborg stated that the functions of angels and spirits in the spiritual world tend to correspond to the uses that one performed while living (Heaven and Hell, n. 394). For those who would wish to research this area further, I can recommend the book The Day After Roswell by Colonel Philip J. Corso, and information and witness testimony gathered by The Disclosure Project, a nonprofit research project to fully disclose facts about UFOs.

The main purpose of the writings of Swedenborg is to show how and why certain books of the Bible are Divinely inspired. Sacred scripture is inspired because hidden behind the literal sense there is a deeper spiritual sense, based on universal symbols or correspondences. Swedenborg states that through the reading of the Word communication is opened between the mind and angels of heaven. To better understand this statement, comparison can be made to dreams which often contain these universal symbols, which Carl Jung called "archetypes." Thus for some, understanding the symbolism presented in his writings can be useful for dream interpretation. In his massive work, Heavenly Arcana, Swedenborg goes word by word through the books of Genesis and Exodus, unveiling the symbolism to the smallest of details, typically by referencing other passages. To make it easier for readers to follow the train of thought, I decided to convert the writings into digital books and provide a hyperlink for each and every reference. Without these keys, much of the Bible will remain a closed book. As for which books of the Bible are Divinely inspired, Swedenborg states the following:
"The books of the Word are all those which have an internal sense; and those which have not an internal sense are not the Word. The books of the Word in the Old Testament are the five books of Moses, the book of Joshua, the book of Judges, the two books of Samuel, the two books of the Kings, the Psalms of David, the Prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah including the Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi; and in the New Testament the four Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John; and the Apocalypse" (Heavenly Arcana, n. 10325 and 2606).
For the Old Testament this is largely in agreement with the Jewish canon, which assigns the first five books to the Law or Torah, and the others to the Prophets or Nevi'im. The other books that are not mentioned by Swedenborg were assigned by the Jews to the "Writings" or Ketuvim, and were believed to have less authority than that of the Law and Prophets. Currently two books are included in the Ketuvim which Swedenborg assigns to scripture: Daniel and Lamentations. The Jewish division of scripture was recognized by Jesus when he said, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me (Luke xxiv. 44). As for the New Testament, the letters of the apostles are not written in a symbolic series and are thus not Divinely inspired, but similar to the Ketuvim were included as they are useful for teaching the doctrines of the church to a wider audience.

In addition to these books, Swedenborg mentions a book of Jasher that was extant among an ancient church that existed before the Israelitish Word:
"Besides these, a prophetic book of the ancient Word, called the Book of Jasher, or the Book of the Upright, is mentioned by David and by Joshua. By David: David lamented over Saul and over Jonathan, and made the inscription, To teach the sons of Judah the bow; behold it is written in the Book of Jasher (2 Sam. i. 17, 18). And by Joshua: Joshua said, Sun, rest not in Gibeon, and Moon in the valley of Ajalon; is not this written in the Book of Jasher? (Josh. x. 12.) Moreover, it has been told me that the first seven chapters of Genesis are in that ancient Word, and that not even a little word is wanting" (Doctrine of Sacred Scripture, n. 103).
In his visions Swedenborg was shown that this book of Jasher was still preserved among those in Tartary. He wrote, "Seek for this Word in China, and perhaps you will find it there among the Tartars" (see Apocalypse Revealed, n. 11, True Christian Religion, n. 265-266, 279).

What should one make of Swedenborg's account concerning the book of Jasher? In the Jewish Talmud there is speculation concerning this book, but it has been presumed to have been lost by most. However a Hebrew manuscript claiming to be the book of Jasher was published in Naples in 1552, then in Venice in 1613, and was later translated into English in 1840. There are two opinions concerning this work: it is either a Hebrew midrash composed in medieval times, or it is in fact the book of Jasher containing later Rabbinical interpolations. In favor of a late date is the list of nations in Jasher x., which mentions some medieval nations of Europe. Although its chronology generally follows that of the Masoretic Hebrew text, the text does contain some scribal errors for some of the numbers, indicating that the Hebrew text was a copy of an earlier manuscript. For example, Jasher ii. 37 states that Jared lived 62 years when the number should be 162. This exact scribal error appears in the Samaritan Pentateuch, which was not known to the western world until after the book of Jasher was published. The Samaritan Pentateuch represents an ancient textual tradition, as some of its readings have been found in the Dead Sea scrolls. From the book of Jasher it is known that the name of the two magicians who opposed Moses were named Jannes and Jambres (Jasher lxxix. 27). These names appear in a letter of the apostle Paul: Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth (2 Tim. iii. 8). The names Jannes and Jambres as the two magicians also appear in Pliny the Elder's Natural History of the first century A.D. and in Jewish targums. These names do not appear in scripture, what is the source of this tradition? Could these references have originated from the book of Jasher, or is Jasher a later midrash repeating the same tradition?

In the book of Jasher there are references to the names of pagan gods of other nations. The Pharoah of Egypt is called "Oswiris the son of Anom" (Jasher xiv. 2), a reference to the Egyptian god Osirus. Anom is either a corruption of the name for the Egyptian god Amun or perhaps the god Atum. Nimrod's son is named "Mardon" (Jasher vii. 47), a variant of the Babylonian god Marduk. But one particular name caught my attention: "Anuki", an advisor to king Nimrod (Jasher xii. 52). This is probably based on the Sumerian sky-god Anu, or based on "Anunnaki" (or "Anunnaku" or "Ananaki") a group of Mesopotamian deities which appear in the Babylonian creation epic, Enuma Elish. The name Anunnaki means "those of royal blood" or "princely offspring." In later Assyrian and Babylonian myth, the Anunnaki were said to be the sons of Anu ("heaven") and his consort Ki ("earth") — again, a possible derivation for the name Anuki. The names of these Sumerian gods were forgotten until they were rediscovered on cuneiform tablets in the nineteenth century. Anyone composing a midrash in medieval times would have no knowledge of this.

Another piece of evidence that indicates that the book of Jasher is indeed quite ancient is contained in the account of the birth of Abraham. On the day he was born, the book of Jasher reports the following:
"And it was in the night that Abram was born, that all the servants of Terah, and all the wise men of Nimrod, and his conjurors came and ate and drank in the house of Terah, and they rejoiced with him on that night. And when all the wise men and conjurors went out from the house of Terah, they lifted up their eyes toward heaven that night to look at the stars, and they saw, and behold one very large star came from the east and ran in the heavens, and he swallowed up the four stars from the four sides of the heavens. And all the wise men of the king and his conjurors were astonished at the sight, and the sages understood this matter, and they knew its import. And they said to each other, this only betokens the child that has been born to Terah this night, who will grow up and be fruitful, and multiply, and possess all the earth, he and his children for ever, and he and his seed will slay great kings, and inherit their lands" (Jasher viii. 1-4).
When I first discovered the book of Jasher, my primary interest in it was to verify Biblical chronology and correlate it with other chronologies of the ancient Middle East. From the research I had gathered, I determined that Abraham was born in 1953 B.C. Later, using the astronomy program Dance of the Planets, I realized that the year 1953 B.C. was the year of a grand conjunction between all five planets. The event was so momentous that it was noted by Chinese astrologers, and the year became the start date of the ancient Chinese calendar. The enigma of the start date of the ancient Chinese calendar was solved by the astronomers of Kevin Pang of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and John Bangert of the Naval Observatory as recently as 1993. In ancient times the planets were known as "wandering stars," so the description of one star overtaking four other stars is describing the conjunction between the five planets. This is not something that would have been known to Jews composing a midrash in medieval times: the Jewish calendar which assigns year numbers beginning with the creation of Adam is inaccurate and assigns the wrong year for the birth of Abraham — it is not based on the latest historical research. It is from this evidence that I regarded the book of Jasher with more value.

So just how old is the book of Jasher, and is it Divinely inspired? Concerning the book of Jasher, Swedenborg wrote that it was among the source material that Moses used to compose the book of Genesis:
"I have further heard from angels that the first chapters of Genesis, which treat of creation, of Adam and Eve, of the garden of Eden, and of their sons and posterity down to the flood, and also of Noah and his sons, are also in that Word; and were so transcribed from it by Moses" (True Christian Religion n. 279).
In other words, Genesis was not used to compose Jasher. It is the other way around: Jasher was used to compose Genesis. However should the text of the book of Jasher have a late date, it could be confused to be a midrash by conservative scholars. As stated by Swedenborg, the account of Genesis can be found in the first chapters of the book of Jasher. Concerning this point, Swedenborg also wrote:
"Moreover, it has been told me that the first seven chapters of Genesis are in that ancient Word, and that not even a little word is wanting" (Doctrine of Sacred Scripture, n. 103).
The book of Jasher does not contain the first chapter of Genesis, which concerns the seven days of creation. Apparently the comparison begins from Genesis ii. 4 which marks the beginning of the book of Jasher, where it is called the generations of the heavens and of the earth. Counting seven chapters from that point, it can be seen that Jasher contains a full account of the story of Genesis in seven chapters from chapter 2 through chapter 8. Beyond these first seven chapters, Genesis 9 contains an account of God's covenant with Noah, and Noah becoming drunk from wine and cursing Canaan. Whereas much of Jasher contains an expanded story of Genesis, it is completely missing the story of Genesis 9. Swedenborg's information is remarkably accurate. But what of his information that this book is preserved among the people of Tartary? Perhaps another version of the book is yet to be found. I would like to note here that the medieval kingdom of the Khazars had converted to Judaism, which occupied portions of Tartary and was at the crossroads between Europe and China.

As the work Heavenly Arcana discusses Genesis and Exodus in detail, and the book of Jasher covers the same material, I have included the 1840 translation of the book of Jasher in this edition of Swedenborg's works. Although there is enough evidence that indicates that Jasher is much older than a medieval midrash, caution should be used as the present work of Jasher does contain later interpolations, and reviews of the original Hebrew manuscript shows that this translation missed some minor phrasing. The two works complement each other, as those who are familiar with Heavenly Arcana will have a better appreciation for Jasher. Swedenborg's writings disclose that the spiritual meaning in the stories Abraham, Isaac and Jacob concern the different psychological stages in the life of Jesus, with Abraham representing his early childhood (Heavenly Arcana, n. 1401). Thus the story of the birth of Abraham in the book of Jasher becomes more significant: the star seen in the sky, and the death of an innocent child in the place of Abraham foretells the story of the star of Bethlehem and the slaughter of the innocents at the time of the birth of Jesus. Another point of interest is that the book of Jasher contains a version of the first chapter of the book of Job (Jasher xxii. 46). According to Swedenborg, like Jasher the book of Job was also a book of the ancient Church (Heavenly Arcana, n. 1756(2), 3540(4), 9942(5).

What I have included in this preface are for those seeking confirmation concerning these writings. There is much here that can take up a lifetime of study, but throughout there are two basic principles: that the Lord God is One, Who is life and love itself, and the second is, eternal life is dependant on refraining from evil and living according to God's commandments. If I were to select one statement from Swedenborg's writings which I would consider to be the most important, it would be this:
"The Faith of the New Heaven and New Church in the universal form, is this: — That the Lord from eternity, who is Jehovah, came into the world, to subjugate the hells and glorify His Human; and that without this no mortal could have been saved; and that they are saved who believe in Him" (True Christian Religion n. 2).
Theodore D. Webber, June 25, 2012.


  1. wow, you did a really great job conveying this post about Lost books of the holy bible.

    1. Just published your comment, which unfortunately got stuck in the Spam folder.


Comments, questions, corrections and opinions welcome...