According to Josephus (Book 1, Chapter 2, 68-71), the family of Seth, the third son of Adam, was noted for constructing a particularly long-lasting edifice or monument.

...Now this Seth...did leave children behind him who imitated his virtues.... They also were the inventors of that peculiar sort of wisdom which is concerned with the heavenly bodies, and their order. And that their inventions might not be lost before they were sufficiently known, upon Adam's prediction that the world was to be destroyed at one time by the force of fire, and at another time by the violence and quantity of water, they made two pillars; the one of brick, the other of stone: they inscribed their discoveries on them both, that in case the pillar of brick should be destroyed by the flood, the pillar of stone might remain, and exhibit those discoveries to mankind; and also inform them that there was another pillar of brick erected by them. Now this remains in the land of Siriad to this day.

Source: Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, trans. William Whiston, Wordsworth Editions, 2006.

What is known about the fate of and/or contents of this pillar of stone according to Judaism? For example, does it still exist? If it has since been destroyed, when was it destroyed and do any copies of the wisdom inscribed thereupon still exist? If the pillar never actually existed and Josephus was lying and/or mistaken on this point, that is, of course, an answer!

As suggested by @mevaqesh, I am looking for any Jewish sources that discuss the idea that the family of Seth constructed a monument of stone to preserve pre-Flood knowledge for the benefit of those living after the Flood. A source could be a commentary on Josephus, but could also be an independent source that discusses the concept or idea or even an older source that Josephus summarized in his book.

I am aware that this passage is sometimes cited by fringe archaeologists and fringe historians as evidence of their theories, but I am interested in how Judaism understands or has understood this.

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    The "family of Seth" Josephus might have been referring to could possibly be Enoch, whose books written in his name much later attributed astronomical knowledge to him, and his preservation of knowledge in different ways, but not those specific pillars. The Dead Sea Scrolls' version of the astronomical part of the Book of Enoch is much more developed than later translations' versions. The Ethiopian translation of The Book of Adam and Eve attributed similar things to Enoch, but not Seth..but he was a descendent and therefore "of his family".
    – Gary
    May 15, 2017 at 4:36
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    As the Dead Sea Scrolls show, there were an awful lot of non-canonical books circulating back then. Josephus could have gotten his info from one of them that's no longer extant.
    – Gary
    May 15, 2017 at 4:42

2 Answers 2


There are a couple of questions here to respond to:

  1. Regarding the fate of the tablets, as you cited from Josephus, it "remains in the land of Siriad to this day." To my limited knowledge we don't have other testimony to its fate. In Louis Ginzberg's reference of this quote (Legends Of The Jews, vol. V p.150) he paraphrases that "these tablets with their Hebrew characters could still be seen on some island in India in the time of Alexander the Great." The latter may have been referring to Surat ("בארץ סיריד"?)*.
  2. On the face of things one would not suspect Josephus of "lying and/or mistaken on this point" since the legend of a fiery deluge, which occasioned the erection of the tablets, was also reported by his slightly younger contemporary, Philo (The Life Of Moses, Part II Ch. 48) as well as in the (contemporaneous) Vita Adæ et Evæ (Ch. 59 with some differences in the legend; for a description of the book see here). However, after a close and critical analysis of the sources Prof. Louis Ginzberg demonstrates (Mabul Shel Eshh, HaGoren 1912, reprinted in Al Halachah VeAggadah, Tel Aviv 1960, 205ff.) that Josephus conflated two legends, the inscribing of the tablets & the fire deluge, thence details were tweaked to fit the storyline and ultimately assumed a Jewish identity.

*The legend about the tablets Ginzberg traces to the chronicle of Berossus the Chaldean. In the latter's version of the event, it is stated that after the flood the tablets were found "בעיר סיפרא", the same place where they were instructed beforehand to be buried at.

  • "slightly younger contemporary" - actually Philo was a generation older than Josephus. He represented the Jewish community of Alexandria at an audience with Caligula in 40 CE, when Josephus was only two or three years old.
    – Meir
    Jan 24 at 1:06

Could Isaiah 19:19-20 be related to this pillar? Pyramids are also called pillars and trees (which are books). Giza means border. Great Pyramid of Giza has unacknowledged builder as it was pre-flood of Noah. Probably Enoch and/or his sons according to C. Staniland Wake in his Great Pyramid book from 1880's. It is also said (think it was Plato? Or maybe Mad Arab?) that there were once writings on the lower outer white limestone casing stones (now gone) and that a learned man of 110 (or maybe 120?) came from Canaan and taught them the meaning of the words on the pyramid because it was his family's language. Abram, a wandering Aramian, visited Egypt seeking a city at this same age. I'm commenting from memory of books read over many years so hope this will lead to others filling in the details.

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    – mbloch
    Jan 24 at 3:48

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