(2 Tim. 3:8-9) Who were Jannes and Jambres?

CLAIM: Paul refers to “Jannes and Jambres” who “opposed Moses” (2 Tim. 3:8). However, the OT never refers to either of these men. Who were they?

RESPONSE: While these two men are not recorded in the OT, they are mentioned in the Targum of Jonathan and Pliny’s Natural History (AD 77).[1] According to the Targum of Jonathan (an Aramaic paraphrase), these two men were thought to be magicians in Pharaoh’s court in Exodus 7:11. Here, Paul is comparing their rejection of Moses with how the current false teacher’s “oppose the truth” (2 Tim. 3:8). While these two figures were not mentioned in the OT, NT authors are permitted to quote extra-biblical sources under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (for additional comments on this subject, see Jude 9).

[1] Earle, R. 1 Timothy. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 11: Ephesians through Philemon (F. E. Gaebelein, Ed.) Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House. 1981. 407-408.