The presentation centers on R. H. Charles, the pioneer scholar of Jewish apocalypses and pseudepigrapha in the English-speaking world. After a short biography of Charles, I offer a survey of his career and publications, followed by an explanation of how he and his contemporaries saw themselves as standing at a pivotal time in the history of interpreting the Bible. A listing of some examples from Charles's work illustrates the point. The address concludes with several comparisons between biblical studies as practiced a century ago and today and with an imaginative look at what Charles might have thought had he been able to attend a twenty-first century Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature.



The book is under contract to be published by Oxford University Press.


R. H. Charles, Forgiveness and Other Sermons (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, 1887).


Much of this information about Charles's life can be found in C. F. D'Arcy, “A Brief Memoir,” in R. H. Charles, Courage, Truth, Purity (Oxford: Blackwell, 1931), xiii–xxxv.


R. H. Charles, “The Ethiopic Manuscripts of Enoch in the British Museum,” ExpTim 3 (1891): 135; Charles, “The New Greek Fragment of Enoch,” The Academy 42 (1892): 484.


He had already published a translation of Jubilees serially in JQR 5 (1893): 703–8; 6 (1894): 184–217, 710–45; 7 (1895): 297–328. The books were Maṣḥafa Kufālē, or the Ethiopic Version of the Hebrew Book of Jubilees Otherwise Known among the Greeks as Hē leptē Genesis, Anecdota Oxoniensia: Semitic Series 8 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1895); and The Book of Jubilees: or, The Little Genesis (London: Black, 1902).


R. H. Charles, The Ethiopic Version of the Book of Enoch, Anecdota Oxoniensia: Semitic Series 11 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1906); and The Book of Enoch, or 1 Enoch: Translated from the Editor's Ethiopic Text [. . .] (Oxford: Clarendon, 1912).


R. H. Charles, The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs: Translated from the Editor's Greek Text and Edited, with Introduction, Notes, and Indices (London: Black, 1908); and The Greek Versions of the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs (Oxford: Clarendon, 1908).


R. H. Charles, The Book of the Secrets of Enoch (Oxford: Clarendon, 1896); The Apocalypse of Baruch: Translated from the Syriac [. . .] (London: Black, 1896); The Assumption of Moses (London: Black, 1897); The Ascension of Isaiah (London: Black, 1900); and Fragments of a Zadokite Work (Oxford: Clarendon, 1912).


R. H. Charles, A Critical History of the Doctrine of a Future Life: In Israel, in Judaism, and in Christianity; or, Hebrew, Jewish, and Christian Eschatology from Pre-prophetic Times till the Close of the New Testament Canon, Jowett Lectures 1898–1899 (London: Black, 1899; 2nd ed., 1913); and Immortality: The Drew Lecture Delivered October 11, 1912 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1912).


R. H. Charles, The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament in English, 2 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1913); The Book of Daniel: Introduction, Revised Version with Notes, Index and Map, NCB (New York: H. Frowde, Oxford University Press; Edinburgh: T. C. & E. C. Jack, 1913); Studies in the Apocalypse, Being Lectures Delivered before the University of London (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1913).


R. H. Charles, Religious Development between the Old and New Testaments, Home University Library of Modern Knowledge 88 (New York: Henry Holt; London: Williams & Norgate, 1914).


R. H. Charles, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Revelation of St. John, 2 vols., ICC (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1920); Lectures on the Apocalypse, Schweich Lectures 1919 (London: Oxford University Press, 1922); The Decalogue, Being the Warburton Lectures Delivered in Lincoln's Inn and Westminster Abbey, 1919–1923 (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1923; 2nd ed., 1926); A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Daniel (Oxford: Clarendon, 1929).


R. H. Charles, The Chronicle of John, Bishop of Nikiu, Text and Translations Society, Series 3 (London: Williams & Norgate, 1916).


R. H. Charles, Sermons Preached in Westminster Abbey (London: Macmillan, 1917); The Adventure into the Unknown and Other Sermons Preached in Westminster Abbey (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1923); The Resurrection of Man and Other Sermons Preached in Westminster Abbey (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1929); and Courage, Truth, Purity.


R. H. Charles, The Teaching of the New Testament on Divorce (London: Williams & Norgate, 1921); Divorce and the Roman Doctrine of Nullity (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1927); Gambling and Betting (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1924).


To cite just one example, his article “Eschatology,” in Encyclopaedia Biblica, ed. T. K. Cheyne and J. Sutherland Black (London: Black, 1901), vol. 2, cols. 1335–92, occupies fifty-eight pages of small print.


F. C. Burkitt, “Robert Henry Charles 1855–1931,” PBA 17 (1931): 438.


Charles, Studies in the Apocalypse, 44.


Ibid., 77.


Charles, Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Revelation of St. John, 1:l (that is, p. 50 of the Introduction; italics original).


Ibid., 1:lv.


For example, he coauthored, with Arthur Ernest Cowley, “An Early Source of the Testaments of the Patriarchs [sic],” JQR 19 (1907): 566–83.


See, e.g., J. W. Hunkin, “The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs,” JTS 16 (1914): 80–97.


Charles, Adventure into the Unknown, 259.


Ibid., 142.


Charles, Decalogue, 152.


H. D. A. Major, English Modernism: Its Origin, Methods, Aims (Cambridge: Harvard University Press; London: Humphrey Milford, 1927).


Ibid., 74.


Ibid., 8


D'Arcy, “Brief Memoir,” xxvii.


Solomon Schechter, Fragments of a Zadokite Work, Documents of Jewish Sectaries 1 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1910).


See Schechter's essay “Reply to Dr. Büchler's Review of Schechter's ‘Jewish Sectaries,’” JQR NS 4 (1913–1914): 449–74, esp. 474, where he mentions Charles; and Alex P. Jassen, “The Early Study of Jewish Law in the Damascus Document: Solomon Schechter and Louis Ginzberg in Conversation and Conflict,” in From Scrolls to Traditions: A Festschrift Honoring Lawrence H. Schiffman, ed. Stuart S. Miller et al., Brill Reference Library of Judaism 63 (Leiden: Brill, 2020), 204–6, for Schechter's revisions to what he originally wrote.


Charles, Fragments of a Zadokite Work, xv.


Schechter, Fragments of a Zadokite Work, xiii n. 6.


Charles, “Apocalyptic Literature,” in Cheyne and Black, Encyclopaedia Biblica, vol. 1, cols. 213–50.


Charles, Book of Enoch (1893), vii–viii.


Burkitt, “Robert Henry Charles 1855–1931,” 443.


The translation is from my Jubilees: The Hermeneia Translation (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2020).


See already his 1895 Maṣḥafa Kufālē, or the Ethiopic Version of the Hebrew Book of Jubilees, 9 n. 47 to Ethiopic, n. 7 to Greek.


Charles, Book of Jubilees (1902), 18 n. to v. 23 (italics original); see also §11 (xxxix–xli) in the introduction to the commentary, where he deals with this and the other lacunae he hypothesized in the text of Jubilees.

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