JANNES AND JAMBRES. Paul speaks of certain false and morally dangerous
teachers as resisting the truth as ‘Jannes and Jambres’ resisted Moses
(2 Tim. 3:6-8). These names do not occur in OT, but extra-biblical
allusions show that the Egyp. magicians of Ex. 7-8 are intended. Like
them, the teachers played on superstitious susceptibilities with a
plausibly presented parody of the truth.
The names, of unknown age,
occur in various forms. The so-called ‘Zadokite Work’, now known to
belong with the Qumran literature, has Belial raising up ‘Yoḥaneh and
his brother’ against Moses and Aaron (7.19 in R. H. Charles,
Pseudepigrapha, 1913; 5.19 in C. Rabin, The Zadokite Documents2, 1958,
p. 21); the Babylonian Talmud ’Yoḥanē and Mamre’ (Menaḥoth 85a; cf.
the spelling ‘Mambres’ in most Lat. and some Gk. mss of 2 Tim. 3:8).
Jewish legend made much of them, even attributing their paternity to
Balaam. Pagan sources refer, not always perspicuously, to one or both
(cf. Pliny, NH 30. 1. 11; Apuleius, Apology 90; Numenius of Apamea in
Eusebius, Praep. Ev. 9. 8. 1), reflecting the story’s celebrity.
Origen knew a book on the subject (Comm. in Mt. 23:37; 27:9), and the
Gelasian Decree a Penitence of Jannes and Jambres, of which M. R.
James identified a fragment in a Saxon ms (JTS 2, 1901, pp. 572ff.).
It is improbable, however, that Paul is alluding to the book: he would
employ the names simply as being then in common use, with Ex. 7-8
alone in mind.
Wood, D. R. W. ; Marshall, I. Howard: New Bible Dictionary. 3rd ed. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill. : InterVarsity Press, 1996, S. 543
(Jan′nes). A resister of Moses with whom Paul compares apostates who
resist the truth. (2Ti 3:8, 9) Jannes and Jambres, whose ‘madness
became plain to all,’ are not identified in the Hebrew Scriptures, but
it is generally agreed that they were two of the leading men in
Pharaoh’s court, perhaps the magic-practicing priests who resisted
Moses and Aaron on their numerous appearances there. (Ex 7:11, 12, 22;
8:17-19; 9:11) The amount of tradition that agrees with this greatly
outweighs what little there is to the contrary. Non-Christian sources,
such as Numenius, Pliny the Elder, Lucius Apuleius, a Qumran writing,
the Targum of Jonathan, and several apocryphal writings all mention
one or both of these men.
Insight on the Scriptures Vol. 1 pp. 1254-1255 Jannes
JANNES AND JAMBRES Two of Pharaoh’s magicians, who opposed Moses and
tried to show that they were as effective as he at working miracles
(Ex 7–9). Jewish legend regarded Jannes and Jambres (somewhat
improbably) as sons of Balaam, the Midianite prophet of Numbers 22–24.
Curiously, the Exodus chapters do not identify them by name. The only
biblical reference to them appears in the NT. The apostle Paul saw
similarity between Jannes and Jambres and the false teachers of
debased intellect who were enemies of the truth in his day (2 Tm
Much speculation has arisen about the two names. They are
apparently Semitic, but their precise derivation is unclear. They are
referred to in the Qumran documents and in late Jewish, pagan, and
early Christian literature. Variations include “Yohanneh and his
brother” (Qumran), “Yohane and Mamre” (Babylonian Talmud), and
“Mambres” (the translation in most Latin and some Greek manuscripts of
2 Tm 3:8). The names appear also in the writings of Pliny (first
century ad) and of Apuleius and Numenius (both second century), though
both names are not always cited.
Origen, an Alexandrian church father,
twice referred to an apocryphal work entitled The Book of Jannes and
Jambres, suggesting that it was the source of Paul’s words in 2
Timothy. A Latin church document called the Gelasian Decree (fifth or
sixth century?) mentions Penitence of Jannes and Jambres, possibly the
work mentioned by Origen.
Elwell, Walter A. ; Comfort, Philip Wesley: Tyndale Bible Dictionary. Wheaton, Ill. : Tyndale House Publishers, 2001 (Tyndale Reference Library), S. 669