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PRAYER OF MANASSES

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Originally appearing in Volume V17, Page 541 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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PRAYER OF MANASSES, a}1 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. 8o2 sqq., A is printed with the variants of T (Psalterium turicense).2 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, Schurer and Ryssel (Kautzsch, Apok. u. -Pseud. i. 165–168). " Political " verse or metre is the name given to a kind of verse found as early as the 6th century in proverbs, and characteristic of Byzantine and modern Greek poetry. It takes no account of the quantity of syllables; the scansion depends tin accent, and there is always an accent on the last syllable but one. It is specially used of an iambic verse with fifteen syllables, i.e. seven feet and an unaccented syllable over. Byron compares (" A captain bold of Halifax who lived in country quarters." Such facile metres are called " political," in the sense of "commonplace," "of the city." Cf. Gibbon's Decline and Fall (ed. Bury, 1898), vi. 108; Du Cange, Gloss. med. et infin. lat. (vi. 395), who has an interesting quotation from Leo Allatius. Leo explains " political " as implying that the verses are " scorta et meretrices, quod omnibus sunt obsequiosae et peculiares, et servitutem publicam serviunt." 2 Nestle (Septuaginta Studien III.) contends that the text of A and T is derived from the A post. Const. ii. 22, or from its original, and not from a MS. of the Septuagint. 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.)
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