MANASSEH, PRAYER OF


MANASSEH, PRAYER OF, brief penitential psalm incorporated among the books of the *Apocrypha. According to II Chronicles 33:11ff. Manasseh, king of Judah, repented his sins when he was taken to Babylonia in fetters (cf. also II Baruch 64:8). Shortly before the beginning of the Christian Era, an unknown author drew up a prayer appropriate for the occasion. Its style is comparatively simple and clear, concise and expressive, breathing throughout a spirit of deep and genuine religious piety. Its contents may be summarized as follows: O, God whose might and mercy are immeasurable (verses 3–7a), Thou hast promised forgiveness not for the righteous but for sinners (verses 7b–8). I have committed many iniquities and am now weighed down with sin. Therefore I confess my transgressions, and implore forgiveness (verses 11–13). Thou wilt save me in Thy mercy, and I will praise thee continually. For all the host of heaven sings thy praise, and thine is the glory for ever. Amen (verses 14–25). It is disputed whether the prayer was composed in Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek. The theology and literary style of the prayer appear to be more in accord with the teachings of Palestinian than of Hellenistic Judaism. The two main ideas that permeate the prayer are the infinite mercy of God, and the efficacy of true repentance.

The position of this ancient prayer in biblical texts varies considerably. Its first appearance in literary history is in the Didascalia Apostolorum. In several Greek manuscripts (including codex B, 5th century C.E.) it is included among the 14 odes appended to the Psalter. In medieval manuscripts of the Vulgate it often follows II Chronicles. Several Syriac, Armenian, Ethiopic, and Old Slavonic manuscripts have the prayer, some at the close of the Psalter, some at the end of II Chronicles. Among printed Bibles its position varies. In editions of the Vulgate printed before the Council of Trent, the prayer stands after II Chronicles; in official printings of the Vulgate after the Council, it is placed in an appendix after the New Testament. In Luther's German Bible it stands at the close of the Apocrypha. Among English versions it usually stands among the Apocrypha before I Maccabees, although in the Geneva Bible (1560), widely used by the Puritans, it is included among the canonical books, following II Chronicles. The Roman Catholic Douai Bible of 1609–10 places it in an appendix after II Maccabees.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Schuerer, Gesch, 3 (19094), 458–60; Ryle, in: Charles, Apocrypha, 1 (1913), 612–24; R.H. Pfeiffer, History of New Testament Times (1949), 457–60; B.M. Metzger, Introduction to the Apocrypha (1957), 123–8.

[Bruce M. Metzger]


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.