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Jannes and Jambres, or sometimes Johanai and Mamre, or Iannes and Mambres, or Janis and Jamberes, are names given to the magicians who contended with Moses and Aaron and were discomfited by the Hebrew leaders in the Hebrew Bible Book of Exodus. These names were not given in the book of Exodus itself, but they appear in 2 Timothy 3:8 in the New Testament. Origen says that there was an apocryphal book called The Book of Jannes and Jambres, containing details of their exploits, and that St Paul's epistle was quoting from it. This book has not been rediscovered. Jannes and Jambres are mentioned in the Old Testament Targum Jonathan Exodus 7:11-8:19.[1]

They also appear in Pliny the Elder's Natural History, together with Moses, as famous magicians of antiquity; Pliny's citation is also referred to in Apuleius. Numerius, a Pythagorean philosopher, calls them sacred Egyptian scribes.

Jewish traditions in the Targums preserve other half-legendary lore about the pair. They are called the sons of Balaam, the unwitting prophet of Peor. It was also claimed that they converted to Judaism, and that they left Egypt at the Exodus to accompany Moses and the Israelites; however, they perished on the way, either at the Red Sea, or the destruction of the Golden Calf, or at the slaughter of Korah and his followers.

Apart from their opposition to Moses there are other legends about these two Egyptian sorcerers; it was said that during the end of their days they had necessary occult knowledge to embark on a journey to the Judeo-Christian heavens. They were not welcomed and the angels of the first few heavens fought them vigorously but they could not evict them due to the potent talismans that were worn by the wizards. As they entered the fourth heaven they were met by Michael and Gabriel, the battle legend says was very evenly balanced, but in the end it was the angels who had to fall back. Upon entering the fifth heaven they were met by none other than Metatron, who did not come at them with defiance or anger, but appeared accommodating, considering the circumstances; after conversing for a short time the angel was successful in convincing Jannes and Jambres to remove their talismans, leaving them thus vulnerable. Metatron was quick to act and threw them out of heaven with a wave of his hand. It is said that they lost all memory of the event after that.

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