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Prayer of Manasseh

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The Prayer of Manasseh is not in the Jewish, Protestant, or Catholic canons. But it was included in later manuscripts of the Vulgate in an appendix, and it is counted among the "Apocrypha" in the King James Version and Revised Standard Version. Some Orthodox churches accept it.

James King West writes: "In II Chronicles 33:10-20 we are given an account of how the wicked king Manasseh, after being taken captive to Babylon by the Assyrians, repented and was restored to his kingdom, where he proceeded to undo much of the mischief he had done in his apostate days. Special mention is made in verses 18 and 19 of Manasseh's prayer. Since the prayer. Since the prayer was not recorded by the Chronicler, an unknown writer of uncommon skill and piety has undertaken to supply the lack by means of this prayer." (Introduction to the Old Testament, pp. 470-471)

Daniel J. Harrington writes: "What were the words of Manasseh's prayer? Inquiring minds wanted to know. According to 2 Chronicles 33:18-19 the words were preserved in 'the Annals of the Kings of Israel' and in 'the records of the seers.' But neither of these books has been preserved. The Prayer of Manasseh represents what an anonymous author imagined that Manasseh should have said or would have said in his prayer. It was most likely composed in Greek and reflects the language and style of the Septuagint. It is included in some Septuagint manuscripts in a special section called 'Odes.' The most important versions are in Latin and Syriac, and it is included in church manuals from the third and fourth centuries C.E. (Apostolic Constitutions and Didaskalia). The earliest evidence for the work's existence comes from the third century C.E., so it could have originated at any time between the composition of 2 Chronicles and then. It was probably written by a Greek-speaking Jew outside the land of Israel, though Christian authorship is not impossible." (Invitation to the Apocrypha, pp. 166-167)

Raymond E. Brown writes: "The piety is that of late Judaism, and the deuterocanonical prayer of Azariah (Dn 3:24-90) offers some interesting parallels. The Prayer of Manasseh was originally composed in Greek by a Jew in the 1st or 2nd cent. AD. It was promptly translated from Greek into Syriac, and thus our earliest extant form of the Prayer is in a 3rd-cent. Christian Syr work, the Didascalia. Although the prayer did not appear in early Vg mss., it is found in medieval mss. The Sixto-Clementine Vg printed it as a supplement (after Trent failed to list it as canonical). Protestants count it as one of 'the Apocrypha.'" (The Jerome Biblical Commentary, vol. 1, p. 541)

Daniel J. Harrington writes: "The Prayer of Manasseh purports to be the prayer uttered by Manasseh according to 2 Chron. 33:12-13 and preserved in two chronicles. Since the earliest evidence for the present text comes from the third century A.D., and the prayer was probably composed in Greek, we are most likely dealing with a pseudepigraphical work produced under Manasseh's name many centuries after his death. Since there are no discernable Christian elements, it was probably composed by a Greek-speaking Jew. It is not impossible, however, that a Christian author putting himself in Manasseh's position could have written this Jewish prayer. The author's use of phrases from the LXX suggests a date for the original composition around the turn of the era, though there is no further precision on this matter." (Harper's Bible Commentary, p. 872)

David A. deSilva writes: "The petition for forgiveness (vv. 11-13) begins with a beautiful image of humility of heart: 'I bend the knee of my heart.' This stands in marked contrast with the hubris that Manasseh displayed in his earlier disregard for God's prohibition of idolatry. Another acknowledgement of sin, 'I have sinned, O Lord, I have sinned,' is poetically balanced by the supplication 'Forgive me, O Lord, forgive me' (vv. 12-13). The petition concludes by identifying God as the 'God of those who repent' (v. 13), which is an original way of describing God, a fine counterpoint to the 'God of the righteous' (v. 8) and an expression of the conviction that the God of all does not cease to be God of those who fail to walk in God's way. As their Creator and as the One who stands ready to forgive and restore those who humble themselves and turn aside from sinful ways, God remains 'their God.'" (Introducing the Apocrypha, p. 299)

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