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Writing fan fiction is not a modern phenomenon. Ancient authors created works that can be considered fan fiction. The Heroides of Ovid, Virgil’s Aeneid, and much of Greek tragedy were creative elaborations of an original source.

The Bible’s rich cast of characters and stories is an inviting gold mine for later Jewish and Christian writers who crafted their own fanciful tales from the scriptural canon. In many instances, they supplied more details than we can find in the condensed biblical narratives. This list looks at ten ancient texts that give a new spin on the familiar Sunday school stories.

Related: 10 Historical Discoveries That Corroborate with the Bible

10 The Life of Adam and Eve

“And all the time that Adam lived came to nine hundred and thirty years, and he died.” — Genesis 5:5

That’s a pretty long life. Yet, beyond informing us that after being driven from Eden, Adam and Eve bore children of which only three are named —Cain, Abel, and Seth. The Bible says nothing more about them. A book originally written in Hebrew or Aramaic in the first century gives us the details of the first couple’s struggles amid the harsh and hostile world outside Paradise. The work has multiple versions, a Greek version known as The Apocalypse of Moses and another more commonly known simply as the Life of Adam and Eve.

In the book, God commands his angels to worship Adam as the image of God upon his creation, but Satan refuses and is expelled from heaven. For this, he hates the first humans and, through Eve, causes the fall. After their banishment, Eden is sealed off by a sea of ice. Adam and Eve’s first night—their first experience of darkness—is pure terror. They are afraid to touch the unfamiliar food and weakened by hunger; they realize the gravity of sin and its consequences. Adam atones by fasting for 40 days while standing up to his neck in the waters of the river Gihon, while Eve bathes in the Tigris.

After their repentance, the twins Cain and Abel are born. After Abel’s murder, Seth is born to replace his dead brother. God has cursed Adam with 72 ailments, and when he is 930 years old and dying, he sends Seth and Eve back to Eden to procure the oil of healing. But the archangel Michael refuses, saying Adam will die within a week. Upon his death, Adam’s soul is taken up to the third heaven while his body is buried with great honors in Paradise to await resurrection. After the six days of mourning are over, Eve also dies and is buried beside Adam.[1]

9 The Book of Enoch

“And he [Enoch] walked with God, and was seen no more: because God took him.” — Genesis 5:24

Enoch is a mysterious and intriguing figure in the Bible, the only one of the two people ( the other being Elijah) who avoided death by being taken up to heaven alive. Scripture says he “walked with God,” which was taken to mean that he received special revelations, but on what they were exactly, the Bible is silent. The first- or second-century texts collectively called the Book of Enoch supplies us with the details of the patriarch’s visions as he journeys across heaven and earth accompanied by angelic guides.

Enoch describes first the fall and punishment of the Watchers, angelic beings who mated with humans to produce a race of giants, a story briefly related in Genesis. Enoch tries in vain to intercede for them, and they are bound and thrown into the underworld. Their giant offspring destroy each other, and the survivors perish in the Flood. Then Enoch is shown the secrets of heaven and its denizens, prophecies about the history of Israel and the Messiah, and the resurrection.

The most interesting part of the Enoch texts is the section where he tours outer space accompanied by the angel Uriel and sees the celestial realm as no other human had. Enoch describes the motions of heavenly bodies, particularly the moon. He sees geographical features and meteorological phenomena as if from a great height. Though primarily a religious text, this part of Enoch may be regarded as the earliest Jewish scientific work.

Early Christians must have considered the Book of Enoch authoritative, as it is quoted in the New Testament epistle of Jude, verses 14-15.[2]

8 The Apocalypse of Abraham

“And the Lord said to Abram: Go forth out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and out of thy father’s house, and come into the land which I shall shew thee.” — Genesis 12:1

Abram, renamed Abraham, was from Ur in Mesopotamia, born into a polytheistic society. The Bible does not say why the one God chose this man to be the father of his people. The backstory can be found in the Apocalypse of Abraham, the original text of which dates to the late first century.

In it, Abraham’s father, Terah, is a maker of idols, and Abraham is his assistant. Abraham is a devotee of the idol Merumat, but when some of his statues are destroyed, he begins to doubt their power. Abraham tries to persuade his father of the truth he has discovered, to no avail. That was when he heard the true God command him to leave his father’s house. Abraham obeys, and as soon as he departs, a fire consumes Terah and his household.

The angel Yahoel leads Abraham to Mount Horeb to offer sacrifices to God. Azazel, or Satan, in the form of an unclean bird, tempts Abraham to desist. But Abraham rejects him, and Yahoel gives the celestial garments the fallen angel once wore to him. A dove then takes Abraham up to outer space, where, like Enoch, he sees the vast panoramic view of Earth below.

Abraham witnesses new angels coming into being daily, only to vanish once they have sung their hymn. He is shown what the future holds for Israel, their suffering and the destruction of their Temple as a result of sin, and their ultimate redemption in the Messianic Age.[3]

7 Joseph and Asenath

“And he [Pharaoh] gave him [Josep] to wife Aseneth the daughter of Putiphare priest of Heliopolis.” — Genesis 41:45

Later Jewish writers were bothered by Joseph’s marriage to Asenath. As the daughter of a pagan Egyptian priest, Asenath most likely was a worshipper of Egyptian gods herself. Nothing in the Bible indicates that she was a monotheist like her husband. Yet she was the mother of Ephraim and Manasseh, two leading tribes of Israel.

This situation needed explanation. A Hellenistic Jewish text from Egypt written in Greek around 100 BC to AD 100, Joseph and Asenath reads like the Greek romance novels of the period to supply details missing from the Bible.

The story begins with Joseph, as a government official, touring the country and storing grain in preparation for a famine. He arrives at Putiphare’s estate in Heliopolis, where, impressed by Joseph’s admirable virtues, the priest immediately arranges a marriage between him and his daughter Asenath.

The beautiful Asenath is desired by many men, but she secludes herself atop a high tower. Asenath isn’t keen on Joseph, either, and reminds her father that Joseph is a foreigner and an ex-con at that. But when she finally meets Joseph, she finds him irresistibly attractive. But it is Joseph who is not interested, knowing that Asenath is a devotee of Egyptian gods.

To gain Joseph’s love and trust, Asenath renounces the worship of Egyptian gods, destroys her idols, and weeps and fasts in repentance. God accepts her conversion by sending an angel so Joseph can be free to marry her. But Pharaoh’s son wants Asenath for himself and conspires with Joseph’s brothers, Simeon and Levi, to kill Joseph and kidnap Asenath. The brothers refuse, but the prince convinces Joseph’s other brothers—Dan, Gad, Naphtali, and Asher—that Joseph intends to take revenge on them for having sold him into slavery.

However, another brother, Benjamin, remains loyal to Joseph and thwarts the ambush prepared for him. The prince is wounded and rendered unconscious while Dan and his renegade brothers flee. Chancing upon Asenath, they attempt to kill her, but she is miraculously protected. Benjamin, meanwhile, tries to finish off the prince, but Levi holds him back from taking revenge. The prince dies anyway, and Pharaoh also dies of grief.

Since Pharaoh gave the diadem to Joseph, he reigned over Egypt for 48 years.[4]

6 Apocryphon of Jannes and Jambres

“And Aaron took the rod before Pharao, and his servants, and it was turned into a serpent. And Pharao called the wise men and the magicians: and they also by Egyptian enchantments and certain secrets did in like manner. And they every one cast down their rods, and they were turned into serpents: but Aaron’s rod devoured their rods.” — Exodus 7:10-12

The pseudo-Pauline author of 2 Timothy 3:8 compares the false teachers of his day to Pharaoh’s magicians. “Now as Jannes and Mambres resisted Moses, so these also resist the truth…” This has mystified many casual readers. Where did the writer get the names Jannes and Jambres?

Exodus never informs us. Legends and tradition made the story of the two brother magicians familiar in Jewish, Christian, and even Gentile circles early on. The difficulty with the Apocryphon of Jannes and Jambres is that the Greek text only survives in fragments (apocryphon means “secret writing”). It contains only part of the story. But we can piece it together by turning to other traditions and texts.

Jannes and Jambres are sons of Balaam who predict the birth of Moses, “the destroyer of the land of Egypt.” They advise Pharaoh to kill the baby, but Moses escapes. Another legend says their counsel is not heeded, so they flee to Ethiopia but eventually return to Egypt.

The Apocryphon itself relates how their mother is given a premonition of the disasters about to fall on the country and how four mysterious figures come to take Jannes away to Hades. One of the entities, however, takes pity on Jannes and allows him a reprieve. But when summoned to the palace to oppose Moses and Aaron, he obeys. In the middle of the magical contest, he is struck down by disease. Jannes acknowledges the divine power active in Moses.

Knowing he is dying, Jannes retreats to his estate in Memphis and warns Jambres against participating in Pharaoh’s pursuit of the Hebrews. Jambres is thus spared from the destruction of the Egyptian army in the Red Sea. Jannes appoints Jambres as his successor and dies. After a time and at a loss for what to do, Jambres calls up Jannes’s spirit from the grave. The ghost of Jannes admits his sins and describes the torments of Hades, admonishing his brother to repent.[5]

5 The Testament of Moses

“And Moses the servant of the Lord died there, in the land of Moab, by the commandment of the Lord: And he buried him in the valley of the land of Moab over against Phogor: and no man hath known of his sepulchre until this present day.” — Deuteronomy 34:5-6

In a work called the Testament of Moses or the Assumption of Moses , surviving only as a 5th-century Latin text, it is revealed that before dying, Moses gave his successor Joshua secret prophecies concerning Israel. Joshua is told that after leading the people into the promised land, they will fall into idolatry. A king from the east will invade Israel, take Jerusalem, and lead the people away in captivity for 77 years.

A few will be restored to their land, but a succession of evil kings and priests will reign, one particular tyrant having power for 34 years. In the increasing chaos and lawlessness, a man named Taxo will choose death rather than disobey the law. In the end, God will step in to rescue Israel and punish the Gentiles.

The book is missing the fragment, known to church father Origen, that tells the story of Moses’ assumption to heaven, which has the episode of the archangel Michael having a dispute with Satan over the body of Moses. It may be because Satan is opposing Moses’ bodily assumption since Moses had murdered an Egyptian and disobeyed God at Meribah, and therefore unworthy of eternal life.

The Epistle of Jude, verse 9, references this event, suggesting that early Christians considered the Testament reliable.[6]

4 The Ascension of Isaiah

“Because I came down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him that sent me.” — John 6:38

Believe it or not, there is a text that details Christ’s actual journey from heaven to earth.

The Ascension of Isaiah is the story of the prophet Isaiah’s flight through the seven heavens while in a coma. He sees each heaven progressively getting more glorious as he ascends and meets their angelic inhabitants. Upon reaching the seventh heaven where God dwells, Isaiah hears, in a vision of the future, the Highest command for Christ to descend the heavens to the firmament above the Earth where Satan and his demons dwell, then proceed to Sheol.

As Christ enters each heaven on the way down, he disguises himself to look like its inhabitants so they don’t recognize him. He gives each gatekeeper the correct password. Reaching the firmament and earthly airspace, Christ transforms himself to look like a fleshly human being. Not recognizing the intruder, the demons crucify him to a tree.

Christ thus descends to Sheol, the abode of the dead. Satan doesn’t realize it is all part of the plan to break their power. Jesus triumphantly ascends back, this time in his own glorious form for all angels to see. He brings with him all the righteous he has freed from Sheol. The demons realize that they have been defeated and death has been conquered. Satan is angered that Isaiah has been given these prophetic visions and moves the evil King Manasseh to saw Isaiah in half, which is alluded to in Hebrews 11:37.[7]

3 History of Joseph the Carpenter

“And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.” — Matthew 1:16

The Bible tells us precious little else about Joseph, considering the great responsibility he carried as the human father of Jesus. In the History of Joseph the Carpenter, a 4th-century document, Jesus reminiscences about his father and lets us in on more details.

Joseph comes from a family in Bethlehem and is a priest in the Temple. Besides that, he is also a skilled carpenter. He marries and has four sons and two daughters. When Joseph’s wife dies, the other priests entrust into his care the 12-year-old Mary, whose parents had offered her to the Temple since she was three.

Knowing his piousness, the priests have Joseph keep Mary chaste until marriage. He takes her to his own house, and Mary lived there for two years when the annunciation of Jesus’ birth comes through the angel Gabriel.

Jesus recounts the familiar Nativity story up to the return to Nazareth after Herod’s death. For the rest of his life, Joseph plies his trade diligently and honestly. Even as he grows old, he never loses his vigor and vitality. But as it is appointed to men once to die, Joseph, at age 111, is informed by an angel of his impending death. After praying in the Temple in preparation, Joseph is seized by the same disease that killed his first wife and dies in the presence of Jesus and Mary.[8]

2 Infancy Gospel of Thomas

“And the child [Jesus] grew, and waxed strong, full of wisdom; and the grace of God was in him.” —Luke 2:40

The next we hear of Jesus, he is already a 12-year-old teaching in the Temple. Early Christians were curious: How was Jesus as a child? In the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, a 2nd-century work, we behold a seemingly ordinary, playful child—only this one has superpowers.

Jesus animates dried fish and clay sparrows. He carries water in his cloak when he accidentally breaks a jar. He stretches a piece of short wood to help Joseph finish a project. He heals an injured man and saves his brother James from a snake bite. Most spectacularly, Jesus raises the dead—a friend who fell to his death from a roof, a man killed in another accident, and a child who died from illness.

But Jesus also has a dark side. He curses a boy dead and also kills another boy with a curse and blinds the parents. This angers Joseph, but Jesus lashes back at him. No wonder he is accused of pushing his playmate off a roof. This is a violent, petulant child whose tantrums can be literally murderous. What happened to Jesus being meek and mild? Needless to say, this portrayal of their Savior assured that the Infancy Gospel would be relegated to the trash bin of rejected scriptures.[9]

1 The Acts of Paul and Thecla

“Salute Andronicus and Junias, my kinsmen and fellow prisoners: who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.” — Romans 16:7

With the addition of a single letter, scribes performed a sex-change operation on the female Junia and transformed her into the male Junias. The male hierarchy of the church hated the idea of a female apostle. But erasing Junia from the record doesn’t alter the fact that the apostle Paul had many women followers. Understandably, the Bible downplays their role in the early church.

In The Acts of Paul and Thecla, a 2nd-century writer imagines what it might have been like to be one of Paul’s women disciples. Thecla is a young lady who is converted by Paul’s preaching on celibacy and chastity in Iconium. She is imprisoned and condemned to be burned at the stake, but she is saved by a miraculous downpour.

Thecla joins Paul, and they journey to Antioch. Paul leaves her there to await baptism. Alone, Thecla is nearly raped by a nobleman and is jailed and sentenced to death again for defending herself. Thrown into the arena with wild beasts, a lioness protects her, and she jumps into a pool of seals, thereby baptizing herself, after which fire from heaven kills the animals.

Dressing herself as a man, Thecla goes in search of Paul and finds him at Myra. She takes a vow of celibacy and becomes a missionary, urging other women to forsake marriage and converting many. Thecla spends the rest of her life as a hermit, praying, preaching, and doing miracles. After 72 years, she leaves for Rome, hoping to be reunited with Paul. Thecla is too late—Paul has been executed, and she lies down by his grave.[10]

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