Ladder of Jacob

For other uses, see Jacob's Ladder (disambiguation).

The Ladder of Jacob (Hebrew: Sulam Yaakov סולם יעקב) is a pseudepigraphic writing (a text whose claimed authorship is unfounded) of the Old Testament. It is usually considered to be part of the Apocalyptic literature. The text has been preserved only in Slavonic, and it is clearly a translation from a now lost Greek version.[1] It is not regarded as scripture by Jews or any Christian group.

Manuscript tradition

The text of the Ladder of Jacob has been preserved only in Old Church Slavonic; it occurs in the Tolkovaja Paleja, a compendium of various Old Testament texts and comments which preserved also the Apocalypse of Abraham. The Tolkovaja Paleja is a compilation of texts assembled in the 8th or 9th century in Greek and later translated in Slavonic, the only translation that is survived. Some plays on words in the Ladder of Jacob suggest an original Hebrew text or a Greek text intended for readers with at least some knowledge of Hebrew.

Two recensions of the Ladder of Jacob have been identified:[2] a longer one, usually denoted A, which survives in three manuscripts,[3] and a shorter one, usually called B, which is represented by the majority of the manuscript tradition.[4] The chief difference between these is that the shorter recension reduces drastically the prayer of Jacob and omits the name of the angel Sariel (2:2-5:1).

Date and origin

The date and origin of the Ladder of Jacob are uncertain. It is possible to infer at least three stages: an original work written in a Jewish context after the Destruction of the Temple, the use in early Byzantine world and the final translation in Slavonic on about the ninth century. In the Christian stages the text was interpolated to form an anti-Jewish polemic, by adding some comments here and there, omitting some sentences and adding a Christian conclusion: chapter seven has Christian origin. The expectation of a delayed warrior Messiah and the similarities with 2 Baruch, Apocalypse of Abraham and other apocalyptic literature suggest the original text may have been written in the first half of the second century CE.


The Ladder of Jacob is based on the Biblical dream of Jacob in (Genesis 28:11-19).


The Ladder of Jacob, as well as the Apocalypse of Abraham, interprets the experience of Patriarchs in the context of merkabah mysticism.[5] The Ladder of Jacob takes a stand on the main debated issues in the apocalyptic literature: the role of the Messiah is limited to be a warrior, the final victory against the evil and the last judgment are carried out directly by God himself, it is possible to repent in the last day.

See also


  1. James L. Kugel The Ladder of Jacob: Ancient Interpretations of the Biblical Story of Jacob and His Children Princeton University Press, 2006 ISBN 0-691-12122-2, pag 24
  2. H.F.D. Sparks The Apocryphal Old Testament ISBN 0-19-826177-2 (1984)
  3. Paleja dated 1477, Sin 210, ff 100v-106v, State Historical Museum Moscow, published in 1893. Paleja dated 1494 Rum. 455 ff76-83 Lenin Library Moscow, published in 1862
  4. for example: Paleja of Kolomna dated 1406, Tr.Serg. 38, ff 77-79, Lenin Library Moscow, published in 1863
  5. Timo Eskola Messiah and the Throne: Jewish Merkabah Mysticism and Early Christian Exaltation Discourse ISBN 3-16-147641-7 (2001) pag 107


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