1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Manasses, Prayer of

MANASSES, PRAYER OF, an apocryphal book of the Old Testament. This writing, which since the Council of Trent has been relegated by the Church of Rome to the position of an appendix to the Vulgate, was placed by Luther and the translators of the English Bible among the apocryphal books. In some MSS. of the Septuagint it is the eighth among the canticles appended to the Psalter, though in many Greek psalters, which include the canticles, it is not found at all. In Swete’s Old Testament in Greek, iii. 802 sqq., A is printed with the variants of T (Psalterium turicense).[1] From the statements in 2 Chron. xxxiii. 12, 13, 18, 19, it follows that the Old Testament chronicler found a prayer attributed to Manasseh in his Hebrew sources, The History of the Kings of Israel and The History of the Seers. Naturally the question arose, had the existing Prayer of Manasses any direct connexion with the prayer referred to by the chronicler? Ewald was of opinion that the Greek was an actual translation of the lost Hebrew; but Ball more wisely takes it as a free rendering of a lost Haggadic narrative founded on the older document from which the chronicler drew his information. This view he supports by showing that there was once a considerable literature in circulation regarding Manasseh’s later history. On the other hand most scholars take the Prayer to have been written in Greek, e.g. Fritzsche, Schürer and Ryssel (Kautzsch, Apok. u. Pseud. i. 165-168).

This fine penitential prayer seems to have been modelled after the penitential psalms. It exhibits considerable unity of thought, and the style is, in the main, dignified and simple.

As regards the date, Fritzsche, Ball and Ryssel agree in assigning this psalm to the Maccabean period. Its eschatology and doctrine of “divine forgiveness” may point to an earlier date.

The best short account of the book is given by Ball (Speaker’s Apocrypha, ii. 361-371); see also Porter in Hastings’s Dict. Bible, iii. 232-233.  (R. H. C.) 

  1. Nestle (Septuaginta Studien III.) contends that the text of A and T is derived from the Apost. Const. ii. 22, or from its original, and not from a MS. of the Septuagint.