To those hungry for more knowledge about the great men of God of the Old Testament, the Lives of the Prophets provides fascinating tidbits of information not found in the biblical text. Several new prophecies are reported, a number of new legends related, and the manner and place of the deaths of the prophets are detailed. Here, and not in the Old Testament text itself, we discover the basis for the expressions in the New Testament to the effect that the rulers and people of Israel not only rejected the prophets' messages, but also killed the messengers on many occasions, including Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Micah, and Amos.
Whether these reports are factual or not, in a sense, is beside the point. Apparently many Jews, especially the early Jewish Christians of the first century C.E., believed the reports to be true. Thus, the New Testament quotes Jesus as weeping over Jerusalem, which "kills the prophets;" Saint Paul speaks of the Jews likewise killing the prophets; and Saint Stephen asks, "Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute?" Sadly, these attitudes took on even more condemnatory tones by the beginning of the second century, when Christians began to think of the Jews as an accursed people whom God had rejected because of their persecution of the prophets and killing of the Messiah of whom the prophets spoke.
The Lives of the Prophets
, in reporting the apocryphal biographies of the prophets for which people rightfully hungered, thus unwittingly contributed to the tragic division of Jews and Christians, and ultimately to the hateful brand of Christian Anti-Judaism which characterized so much of the history of the last 2,000 years. We do not know how much of the information provided by the Lives
is accurate, but we can say for certain that hateful attitudes which it unintentionally engendered were tragic.