The “Book of Ehud” – a modern apocryphon?

As we consider Salvian’s letter 9, discussing why his Ad Ecclesiam was written under the name of Timothy, let us also include the following item, taken from the Private Eye Annual 2009, ed. Ian Hislop.  Private Eye is a British satirical magazine, and the “Book of Ehud” is an item that appears in very similar form whenever it feels the need to comment on Israeli affairs.


OCR’d this gives the following text:

The Book of Ehud.

Chapter 94

  1. And, lo, it came to pass that the days were accomplished that the ceasefire should end between the children of Israel and the Hamas-ites, they that dwelt in the land of Gaza.
  2. And thus, as was foretold, the Hamas-ites once again sent forth into the land of Israel many rockets that are called Qassam and Faj-3 and BM-21 Grad, even unto the cities of Askelon, Ashdod and Beersheba.
  3. Then Ehud that is called Olmert waxed wroth, and summoned unto him Ehud that is called Barak, who waxed even wrother.
  4. And he also called Tzipi, the daughter of Livni, who waxed even wrother still.
  5. And they said among thmselves, “The hour is upon us. Now is the time for smiting, as we have done so many times before, to bring peace to the land of Israel.”
  6. And they wagged their heads wisely, saying, “Yea, as it worked before in the land of Lebanon, when we smote the Hezboll-ites, so it will worketh again.
  7. “Furthermore,” they muttereth privily, “there is an election coming up, and the children of Israel tendeth to choose the ones who do the most smiting.”
  8. And so it came to pass that, while the Gaza-ites were watching their televisions by night, behold, the skies were filled with a heavenly host raining bombs on them and singing “No peace on earth, ill will to men.”
  9. And, as the fire and brimstone decended on the Gaza-ites, they were slain in their hundreds, even men, women and children.
  10. And in the streets of the city of Gaza there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth.
  11. And Ehud cried aloud, saying, “Verily, that will teach you Hamas-ites to launch your rockets at the land of Israel.”
  12. And the Hamas-ites laughed him to scorn, and launched more rockets into the land of Israel where the people were also slain but not in quite the same numbers.
  13. If thou wouldst not know the score, looketh away now.
  14. Which is what most of the world did.
  15. The score was as follows: Gaza-ites – 400; Israel-ites – 4.
  16. Which is an good result.
  17. And Ehud said, “Behold, this showeth that the smiting is working. Never again will we see the rockets of the Hamas- ites darkening the skies of Israel… hangeth on, what is that falling from the heavens… ?”
  18. And as he spake there was an mighty boom, like unto the thunder that fills even the mighty Leviathan with dread as he slumbereth off the coast of Eilat (which currently offereth three weeks for the price of one, hurry, hurry, hurry, while Israel lasts).
  19. Then, as the smoke cleareth, Ehud saith, “Right. That’s done it. There is only one way to stop this kind of thing. More smiting!” And the children of Israel rejoiced, saying, “Too true, Ehud. For there be-eth only one language that these people of Gaza understandeth.”
  20. So Ehud sent forth a mighty army and tanks, even an hundredfold, to carry out the next round of smiting that would finally bring lasting peace to the land of Israel.
  21. Just as it hath done so many times before.
  22. And, lo, the war continued, even unto the twenty-second day.
  23. And Ehud looked upon it and saw that it was good.
  24. Then said Ehud, son of Olmert, “Let us now declare an cease-fire.
  25. “For, lo, we have achieved our objective.
  26. “Which was to get a quick war in before Obama cometh.
  27. “For Barack, son of Obama, may not looketh so kindly on our smiting as did Dubya, that is called the Burning Bush.”
  28. And so it came to pass that the smiting ceased.
  29. And the children of Israel said to themselves, “Great is Ehud for he hath prevailed over the Hamas-ites.”
  30. But the Hamas-ites, as ye mighteth expect, said to themselves, “Great is Hamas for we have prevailed over the might of Israel.”
  31. And all the nations of the world talketh amongst themselves, saying, “Something must be done – though quite what, we knoweth not what it is.”

(To be continued)

I trust that it is unnecessary to add that this is not an ancient text.  It is not intended to be part of the Old Testament.  It is not an apocryphon.  I believe that the authors of it never had the slightest intention to deceive their readers, or to lead them to suppose that it was really part of the Old Testament.

They had, as we may readily see, other motives.  The object in this case is satire, and a rather unworthy sneer at Israeli efforts at self-defence.

Whether all this would be entirely obvious — to a dull man — in 1,500 years I do not know.  I suggest that it is the contemporary nature of the events described that make all this clear to us now.

But when we come to look at Salvian’s Ad Ecclesiam, and the allegations of Bart Ehrman about it, it will be useful to have this current example to hand.