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Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

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Introductory.-The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs consists of a series of discourses assigned to the twelve sons of Jacob, varying in theme and style, but all more or less on the same general plan-(i.) some personal reminiscences; (ii.) some moral advice or psychological discussion; and (iii.) some predictions, usually including a warning to submit to the headship of Levi and Judah. The third section is invariably interpolated with Christian additions, which seldom occur in the other parts. The main theme in each Testament varies greatly; in one the interest may be moral, in another ceremonial and religious, in another military and political, in another psychological. In all except two Joseph is held up as an example of chastity or forgiveness. The references in Test. Naph. v. 7, vi. 6 are to the history of the Northern Kingdom but are quite free from the hostile comments passed on it in the Hebrew Test. Naph. i. 8, etc.

The work survives in a Greek primary version, valuable attestation being afforded by the secondary Armenian version, which towards the end of the book is remarkably free from Christian interpolations. The original work was written in Hebrew in the later years of John Hyrcanus, probably 109-106 b.c. The author was no doubt a Pharisee. He believes in the Resurrection and in angels, and lays great stress on prayer, almsgiving, and fasting. Visions are mentioned six times.

The work is remarkable for its high ethical teaching, in which it approaches nearer the NT than any other Jewish pseudepigraph, and for its expectation of a Messiah from the tribe of Levi. In the Resurrection life, however, the figure of the Messiah vanishes and in the reconstituted nation each tribe is ruled by its ancestor.

There are a number of Jewish interpolations of the 1st cent. b.c., some of which are as bitter in their attacks on the Hasmonaeans as the original Testaments were fervent in their praises.

The Christian interpolations, which were somewhat limited in scope by their assumed context, reveal no great reflexion and an absence of developed theology. The Incarnation is crudely expressed, and there is one instance of Patripassian phraseology. Though there are several references to Baptism, there is not one to the Eucharist.

1. Contents

The Testament of Reuben (‘concerning thoughts,’ β).-He implores his brethren and children to avoid fornication; for his own sin he was smitten with a sore disease for seven months, and would have perished but for the prayer of his father Jacob. On recovery he repented with abstinence from flesh and wine for seven years. In this period he received revelations concerning the seven spirits of deceit (i. 1-iii. 6, ii. 3-iii. 2 but is an interpolation, with Stoic affinities, describing the seven bodily senses). He bids his hearers beware of women, and confesses how he fell; advises them to set their mind on good works, study, and their flocks; impresses upon them the deadliness of fornication (iii. 8-iv. 7); reminds them of how Joseph conquered temptation (iv. 8-11), how women tempt; he cites the fall of the Watchers; he deprecates the meeting of men and women (v. 1-vi. 4); commands his sons to submit to Levi and bow down before his seed (vi. 5-12). Reuben dies and is ultimately buried in Hebron (vii. 1, 2).

The Testament of Simeon (‘concerning envy,’ β).-He tells how strong and fearless he was, yet he was jealous of Joseph and plotted his death, because the prince of deceit sent forth the spirit of jealousy and blinded his mind; but God’s angel delivered Joseph, as Simeon was away when Joseph came. In punishment for his wrath, Simeon’s right hand was half-withered for seven days, whereupon he repented and besought the Lord (i. 1-ii. 14). He warns against the spirit of deceit and envy; it wears away the envier and prompts to murder. After two years’ fasting he learnt the remedy-to flee to the Lord; then the evil spirit flees, the envier’s mind is lightened, and he sympathizes with the object of his envy (iii. 1-6). He recalls Joseph’s forgiving treatment of his brethren; ‘he was a good man, and had the Spirit of God within him.’ Love expels envy with all its distracting power (iv. 1-v. 2). Simeon’s descendants shall be few and divided, and not have sovereignty, as they shall be guilty of impurity, and resistance to Levi (v. 3-6). Still, if they forswear envy and stiff-neckedness, Simeon shall flourish and spread far in the persons of his posterity (vi. 1, 2). Canaan, Amalek, Cappadocia, the Hittites, and Ham shall perish. Shem shall be glorified, and the Lord Himself will appear, and save men; evil spirits shall be trodden under foot, and Simeon shall arise (from the dead) (vi. 3-7). He enjoins obedience to Levi and Judah; from whom will arise the salvation of God: from the one God will raise a High Priest, from the other a King (vii. 1-3). Simeon dies and is ultimately buried in Hebron (viii. 1-ix. 2).

The Testament of Levi (‘concerning the priesthood,’ β).-At twenty he avenged Dinah. He describes his vision in Abel-Maul, following on his sudden realization of the world’s sin. He enters into each of the three (‘seven,’ β) heavens, which are briefly described (i. 1-iii. 10). He foretells the Judgment (iv. 1). Levi is to be freed from iniquity, and to become to God ‘a son, and a servant, and a minister of His presence,’ and light up in Jacob the light of knowledge [‘until the Lord shall visit all the Gentiles in His tender mercies for ever’] (iv. 2-6). He beholds the heavenly temple, and the Most High, and receives the priesthood from Him (v. 1, 2). The angel who intercedes (so β) for Israel brings him back to earth, and arms him, and bids him execute vengeance on Shechem (v. 3-7). He and Simeon destroy the Shechemites; he had opposed (so c) their being circumcised. He speaks of their outrageous behaviour in general, and declares that ‘the wrath of the Lord came upon them to the uttermost’ (vi. 1-11). He foretells Jacob’s conquest of the Canaanites (vii. 1-3). He describes his second vision; seven angels consecrate him and put on him the high-priestly robes; they foretell his descendants’ three-fold offices (i.e. Moses, the Aaronite priesthood, the Maccabaean kings); the third portion shall be called by a new name, and shall establish a new priesthood, and hold a prophetic office (viii. 1-19). At Bethel Jacob is told in vision that Levi is to be priest; he pays tithes to God through him (ix. 1-4). At Hebron Isaac teaches Levi the law of the priesthood (ix. 5-14). [The future captivity of Israel and desolation of Jerusalem, owing to the sins of Levi’s posterity (x. 1-5).]* [Note: The passages in square brackets are Jewish interpolations.] Levi speaks of his marriage and sons (xi. 1-xii. 7). He commands his children to fear God, study the Law, and keep it; wisdom is the only inalienable possession (xiii. 1-9). [His descendants are intended to be the lights of Israel, and of the Gentiles; but they will abrogate the Law, and be guilty of sacrilege, profanity, and impurity. The Temple will be laid waste, and, but for the merits of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, all Israel would perish. For ‘seventy weeks’ they will go astray and profane the priesthood, and murder ‘a man who reneweth the law in the power of the Most High’ (xiv. 1-xvi. 5).] [A fragment in which seven jubilee periods are apparently described (xvii. 1-9).] [Another obscure fragment, referring to a fifth week (Ezra and the Return) and a seventh (marked by corruption of the priesthood in pre-Maccabaean times) (xvii. 10, 11).] He foretells the failure of the priesthood, and the rise of a new priest, as a king inaugurating a period of Messianic bliss (xviii. 1-5). [‘The heavens shall be opened, and from the temple of glory shall come upon him sanctification, with the Father’s voice.… And the spirit of understanding and sanctification shall rest upon him’; the Gentiles shall be enlightened, sin shall cease; ‘he (or rather ‘He’; see § 8) shall open the gates of paradise,’ and give the saints to eat from the tree of life, and Beliar shall be bound by him (xviii. 6-14).] Levi’s sons take an oath to keep the Law (xix. 1-3).

The Testament of Judah (‘concerning courage,’ β).-Judah was an obedient son. His father blessed him and foretold his kingship (i. 1-6). He performed feats of strength, and slew Canaanite kings at Shechem and Hazor (ii. 1-iv. 3). He describes the storming of various Canaanite towns (v. 1-vii. 11); he speaks of his marriage with Bathshua (viii. 1-3), the war with Esau, who is slain by Jacob, the capture of the Edomite stronghold (ix. 1-8), Er and Onan’s sin and death, the evil result of his [Judah’s] Canaanite marriage (x. 1-xi. 5, xiii. 1-8). He recounts his own fall (xii. 1-12). Wine leads to fornication, which strips even a king of his kingship. In repentance he took no wine or flesh till his old age. The fear of God is the only safeguard in drinking wine (xiv. 1-xvi. 5). He warns against the love of money and gazing on women: they harm soul and body, and hinder the service of God. Avarice is connected with idolatry. God had mercy on him because he had acted in ignorance (xvii. 1-xix. 4). Two spirits attend man, that of truth [i.e. conscience] and that of deceit; the mind [i.e. will] is free to incline to either (xx. 1-5). He bids his sons love Levi; the priesthood is superior to the kingship (xxi. 1-5). [He foretells the sins of the (Maccabaean) kings, and the fall of the kingdom, till the appearing of God Himself. His sons will commit all manner of sins, be enslaved, repent, and be restored (xxi. 6-xxiii. 5).] The Messiah and His Kingdom shall then come (xxiv. 1-6). The patriarchs shall rise from the dead, and the twelve sons of Jacob shall reign-Levi first, Judah second, etc. He draws a picture of future Messianic bliss (xxv. 1-5). Judah dies (xxvi. 1-4).

The Testament of Issachar (‘concerning simplicity,’ β).-He begins with Rachel and Leah’s dispute about the mandrakes. Rachel’s continency is rewarded: she offers the mandrakes to the Lord (i. 1-ii. 5). Issachar was a man of upright character, a husbandman, and generous to the poor and oppressed. He dwells on the peace and power of the single heart. Levi is to have the priesthood and Judah the kingdom; he bids his sons obey both (iii. 1-v. 8). He prophesies the apostasy of his posterity (vi. 1-4). He is not conscious of sin (‘unto death,’ β). He bids his sons follow his chastity, abstinence, and truthfulness. He dies (vii. 1-9).

The Testament of Zebulun (‘concerning compassion and mercy,’ β).-He is not conscious of sin, except his suppression of the truth about Joseph. He gives details of the selling of Joseph: his price is spent on sandals by eight of the brethren; his [Zebulun’s] grief is described (i. 1-iv. 13). He was compassionate towards man and beast, hence his preservation from sickness and drowning (v. 1-5). He first made a boat to sail, and caught fish; thus he supplied all who had need (vi. 1-8). [He once stole a garment from home to clothe the naked; he showed pity at all times (vii. 1-viii. 3)-in 3 Manuscripts only.] He exhorts to unity; disunion will ruin his posterity (viii. 4-ix. 6); but they will repent, and will finally return on God’s appearing. He assures his sons of his own resurrection-he will be their ruler. He dies (ix. 7-x. 7).

The Testament of Dan (‘concerning anger and lying,’ β).-He confesses his jealousy against Joseph. Anger blinds a man, and masters him body and soul (i. 1-iv. 4). Vexation of soul makes the Lord depart. He bids his sons avoid lying, and love the Lord and one another (iv. 5-v. 3). His sons will fall away and oppose Levi and Judah, but in vain; [their prince is Satan, and they will join Levi and Judah in sin (v. 6, 7)]; he foretells their captivity and return; salvation will arise from Judah and Levi; Beliar will be overthrown; ‘the saints shall rest in Eden, and in the New Jerusalem shall the righteous rejoice’ (v. 4-13). He bids his sons draw near to God and the angel that intercedes for them, ‘for he is a mediator between God and man.’ On the day on which Israel repents, the enemy’s kingdom shall end. The Lord will transform Israel into an obedient nation, superior to the angels (vi. 1-6). He dies (vii. 1-3).

The Testament of Naphtali (‘concerning natural goodness,’ β).-He speaks of his birth and his mother’s family. He was swift of foot, and his body corresponded with his spirit; bodily organs and their several functions are described (i. 1-ii. 10). He warns his sons not to go against nature and the law of God, as did the Gentiles, Sodom, and the Watchers (iii. 1-5). He prophesies his posterity’s apostasy, and restoration, when a man shall come’ working righteousness’ (iv. 1-5). He gives an account or his vision on the Mount of Olives: Levi obtains the sun, Judah the moon, and Joseph ascends on a winged bull. In a second vision-that of the Ship of Jacob in a storm-Joseph flees in a boat, Levi and Judah keep together; at Levi’s prayer they reach land (v. 1-vi. 9). Jacob on hearing these dreams concludes that Joseph is alive (vii. 1-4). Naphtali foretells that from Levi and Judah shall salvation come. He contrasts the consequences of good and evil actions. He dies (viii. 1-ix. 3).

The Testament of Gad (‘concerning hatred,’ β).-Misjudged by Joseph, he hates him (i. 1-ii. 5). Hatred recognizes no good, however good a man may be; it disregards God’s law; and, while love would fain quicken the dead, hatred would in all things work for death (iii. 1-iv. 7). Hatred leads to lying, and poisons the life; the remedy is to be just and humble. ‘True repentance after a godly sort’ enlightens a man and ‘leads the mind to salvation’ (v. 1-9). Gad’s sickness proved that ‘by what things a man transgresses, by the same also is he punished.’ Heart and will must be freed from hatred. One should love from the heart and forgive, whether a man repents or not; and pray for him who prospers more than oneself (v. 10-vii. 7). He bids his sons honour Judah and Levi. His posterity will fall away (viii. 1-5).

The Testament of Asher (‘concerning the two faces of vice and virtue,’ β).-He speaks of the two-foldness of things: if the soul is set on good, it does all well; but, if on evil, it does all ill. He deals with cases of good deeds with ill motives, and cases of the reverse. He warns his sons of the nearness of pleasures to their excesses or opposites (i. 1-v. 4). He emphasizes the importance of sincerity and unity of purpose. The peaceful soul at death is met by the angel of peace, the troubled by the evil spirit it has served (vi. 1-vii. 3). [He foretells the future sin and dispersion of his tribe, as also those of Gad and Dan; but they will finally be gathered again by God’s mercy and for the sake of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (vii. 4-7).] He dies (viii. 1, 2).

The Testament of Joseph (‘concerning self-control,’ β).-In all troubles, God was with him-his brethren hated him but God loved him, he was enslaved and God freed him, sick and the Lord visited him, in prison and his God showed him favour (i. 1-7). God helped him in all his (ten) temptations (ii. 1-7). He resisted his mistress’s wiles by strict fasting and abstinence, and prayers for himself and her. In prison he thanked God for deliverance from her (iii. 1-ix. 5). God exalts as well as delivers the humble and pure (x. 1-6). He told an untruth to the merchants and again to the Egyptian officer, even when examined by scourging, to save his brethren’s honour; the Egyptian woman intervened to rescue and purchase him (xi. 1-xvi. 6). He exhorts his sons to do well even to those who seek their hurt (xvii. 1-xviii. 4). He recounts his two-fold vision: (1) of twelve harts, of which three remained and became lambs, then all were restored as twelve sheep; (2) of twelve bulls-then of a lamb which overcame all the beasts who attacked him (xix. 1-10). He bids them honour Levi and Judah; from them shall come Israel’s salvation; his own kingdom would be transitory (xix. 11-12). He gives a dying charge concerning his bones and those of his wife (a) (xx. 1-6).

The Testament of Benjamin (‘concerning a pure mind,’ β).-He narrates the story of his birth. Joseph tells him in Egypt what his brethren did. He bids his sons fear God and love their neighbour, then they need not fear Beliar, man, or beast (i. 1-iii. 5). He speaks of Jacob’s prediction that in Joseph should be fulfilled the prophecy of heaven-that the sinless should die for ungodly men (iii. 6-8). The good man overcomes evil with good (iv. 1-v. 5). His will is guided by the angel of peace; he desires nothing overmuch, riches, pleasure, or honour; and is sincere and single-minded (vi. 1-7). He warns them against Beliar and his sword of seven-fold evil, evidenced in the case of Cain (vii. 1-5). The pure mind like the sun cleanses away pollutions, itself undefiled (viii. 1-3). He foresees the impurity of his descendants; yet they shall have God’s temple in their portion, and there shall the twelve tribes and the Gentiles meet (ix. 1, 2). He tells how he had a vision of Joseph in his absence (x. 1). He charges them to keep the Law; foretells the resurrection of all the patriarchs: each shall rule over his tribe. Israel shall be convicted by the chosen Gentiles (x. 2-11). In the latter days one beloved of the Lord [belonging to Benjamin’s seed, i.e. Paul, β text] shall arise, to enlighten the Gentiles (xi. 1-5). Benjamin dies and is buried (xii. 1-4).

2. Title.-The title of the whole work, if it ever had one, is far from clear. The Stichometry of Nicephorus and the Synopsis of Athanasius refer to the book under the simple title Πατριάρχαι. But the earliest and indeed the only instance we possess of the use of the word ‘patriarch’ with special reference to the twelve sons of Jacob is in Stephen’s speech in Acts 7:8-9. The reference would not be clear enough, in the absence of any context, to serve as the title of a book. There is less difficulty with regard to the fuller title ‘The Testaments of the (Twelve [?]) Patriarchs or [in Hebrew] Fathers.’ The use of the word διαθήκη in our present Greek text does not, as was once thought, imply a late date and a conception borrowed from Roman law. It is true that in the Septuagint it is always the equivalent of בְּדִית, ‘covenant.’ But in the (late?) Hebrew Testament of Naphtali (see § 6) we have the simple title, ‘The Biddings of Naphtali the son of Jacob’ (צוואח נפחלי בן). The title of the individual Testament was no doubt in this form. For the use of צִוָה to denote a ‘testamentary disposition,’ or a ‘dying charge,’ cf. Isaiah 38:1. The Greek Manuscripts differ greatly, but tend to amplify the title, the secondary (β) recension and the Armenian adding the main theme of each Testament thus, διαθήκη Ῥουβὴμ περὶ ἐννοιῶν.

3. Date.-The text supplies several indications of the date of the original work. It was earlier than the Roman domination, as the list of foreign conquerors in Test. Naph. v. 8 ends with the Syrians (Seleucidae). It was during the rule of the Maccabaean princes,* [Note: Burkitt points out in his Jewish and Christian Apocalypses, p. 35, that ‘the political conditions of the reign of John Hyrcanus give point to the choice to the Twelve Patriarchs as the speakers in the book.’ In a sense the ten non-Judaic tribes were represented by the inhabitants of Galilee, Samaria, and Peraea, who were incorporated in the new Israelite kingdom of the Maccabees. In their case the ethical teaching was especially in point.] as the military prowess of Judah and Levi, and more particularly the lists of cities stormed [e.g. Tappuah and Hazor; see Charles on Jubilees, xxxiv. 4), reflect the exploits of Judas and his brothers. The details of that great struggle are still fresh in the writer’s mind. Further, a Maccabaean king of unique powers and position was reigning, a descendant of Levi, who was not only a warrior king (Test. Reub. vi. 10, 11), and a priest known by the ‘new name’ [i.e. ‘priest of the Most High God’), apparently first assumed by Simon, but also ‘a prophet of the Most High’ (Test. Levi, viii. 14, 15). This designation is appropriate only to John Hyrcanus, 137-105 b.c. Further, as the Pharisaic author speaks of him in the highest terms, the date must be earlier than the tragic breach between Hyrcanus and the Pharisees, which occurred probably in 107 b.c. Charles finds an additional indication of date in the references to the overthrow of Shechem. Shechem itself fell to Hyrcanus about 132 b.c., but the allusion may be to the total destruction of Samaria in 120 b.c., the ancient Shechem being intended as an equivalent for the later Samaritan people.

4. Original language.-Until the last few years it was generally agreed that the Testaments, as we now have them, were not a, translation but were originally written in Greet. Charles, however, preceded by two Jewish scholars, Kohler [JQR [Note: QR Jewish Quarterly Review.] v. [1893] 400-406) and Gaster (PSBA [Note: SBA Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archaeology.] xvi. 33-49, 109-117), has put forward an unanswerable case for a Hebrew original (see his Greek Versions of the Testaments, pp. xxiii-xxxii). The text abounds in Hebrew constructions and expressions, e.g. ἐν στήθει ὀστέων αὐτοῦ (Test. Jud. xx. 4), and in curious mistranslations like ἔξαρχοι σκήπτρων for ἔξαρχοι φυλῶν (שבטים, xxv. 1), and ἡ τρυφή for ‘Eden’ (עֵדָן, xxv. 2). The naming of the mountain ‘Aspis’ from the shield (ἄσπις) found by Levi (Test. Levi, vi. 1) is no proof that the original was in Greek, as the reference appears to be to שׂריון (Sirion) and שׁדיון (‘body armour’)-a word (occurring in the parallel passage in Hebrew in the Midrash Wajjissau), which is more properly rendered θώραξ; in Test. Jud. iii. 5. In any case, no mountain is known named Aspis. If we add the ditto-graphs and the numerous paronomasiae which are explicable or evident on retranslation in Hebrew, not to mention obscure or unintelligible passages which can be cleared up only by the same means, no doubt can remain that the work as a whole was composed in Hebrew. The related Hebrew and Aramaic fragments and narratives (see § 6) are a further proof of this fact. On the other hand, the Christian interpolations naturally show no trace of Hebrew phrasing or constructions.

5. Critical structure.-The prevailing view until quite recently was that the work emanated from a Jewish Christian or even a Gentile Christian source. This was made possible only by taking the work as it stands as the uninterpolated production of a single writer. But even so there remained insoluble problems. We should then be faced with a unique combination of Psilanthropism and Patripassianism, with an equally unique combination not only of the highest moral teaching with the primitive war spirit so evident, e.g., in Test. Jud., but of explicit (if unguarded) Christian theology with a very Judaic glorying in deeds of physical prowess. A decisive argument against any Christian origin, however, is to be found in the remarkable expectation of a Messiah from the tribe of Levi. All Christians from the first must have rejected this curious by-product of the Maccabaean golden age.* [Note: On the other hand, there exists a curious fragment attributed to Irenaeus in which Christ is represented as descended from Levi and Judah (ed. W. W. Harvey, Cambridge, 1857, ii. 487): ἐξ ὧν ὁ Χριστὸς προετυπώθη καὶ ἐπεγνώσθη καὶ ἐγεννήθη. ἐν μὲν γὰρ τῷ Ἰωσὴφ προετυπώθη· ἐκ δὲ τοῦ Λευὶ καὶ τοῦ Ἰούδα τὸ κατὰ σάρκα ὡς βασιλεὺς καὶ ιερεὐς ἐγεννήθη, κτλ. These ideas may have been suggested by the Testaments. At the same time the fact remains that our Lord’s kinsman John the Baptist was of the priestly tribe, and a quite early tradition connects the Blessed Virgin with the Temple.]

The fact is that the frank recognition of the composite nature of the text alone explains all the problems which are presented. We must first remove the Christian interpolations. In the main these are obvious (see below, § 8). There remain a number of other passages quite foreign to their context or contradicting the whole teaching of the book. Such are the interpolation after Test. Reub. ii. 2 of the passage dealing with the senses quite in the Stoic manner, and the violent anti-Maccabaean invective in Test. Levi, xiv-xvi and Test. Jud. xxi. 6-xxiii. Charles regards as 1st cent. b.c. additions Test. Levi, x., xiv-xvi., Test. Jud. xvii. 2-xviii. 1 (?), xxi. 6-xxiii., xxiv. 4-6, Test. Zeb. ix., Test. Dan, v. 6, 7, vii. 3 (?), Test. Naph. iv, Test. Gad, viii. 2, Test. Asher, vii. 4-7. They have as a common feature the frequent citation of the Book of Enoch. They refer not merely to a second great apostasy, but to a second destruction of the Temple and a second captivity and a final restoration wrought by God directly or through the Messiah. Charles regards these as genuine predictions. In Test. Levi, xvii. 1-9 there is a curious interpolation, which employs the jubilee system of chronology. Test. Jos. x. 5-xviii is quite different in style and theme from the rest of that Testament. Test. Zeb. has two short sections on almsgiving (vi. 4-6, vii-viii. 3) which occur in only three Manuscripts and interrupt the narrative (see, further, Charles’s edition, pp. lvii-lxi and notes).

6. Text.-The Hebrew original is not extant, but we have valuable evidence available towards the restoration of corrupt and difficult passages in kindred literature:

i. The Aramaic and Greek fragments of what appears to have been a Hebrew source both of the Testament of Levi and of the Book of Jubilees. For the discovery of these fragments and their mutual relation see Charles, Greek Versions of the Testaments, pp. liii-lvii. His conclusions are disputed by Conybeare, in Review of Theol. and Philos. iv. [1908-09] 373-382, who regards the Greek text preserved in the fragment as the source of our present Test. Levi, but his reasons are not convincing.

ii. The Hebrew Testament of Naphtali, which Gaster (PSBA [Note: SBA Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archaeology.] xvi.) regarded as the source of our present Test. Naphtali. Charles rightly denies this view, and demonstrates the wide diversity between them, but perhaps wrongly assigns it to a late date.

iii. Various passages in Jewish literature, in particular the Midrash Wajjissau, which is very useful in regard to the war-passages in Test. Judah.* [Note: For all these documents see Charles, Greek Versions of the Testaments, pp. li-lvii, 235-256.]

The work now exists in (a) Greek, (b) Armenian, (c) Slavonic, and many mediaeval and modern versions.

(a) The primary authority now extant for the text is the Greek version, which Charles divides into two main divisions, the α text and the β text. The latter has its best representative in the famous Cambridgemanuscript b (10th cent.), used by Grosseteste for his Latin version and by Sinker (who cites it as C) for what was till recently the standard work on the Testaments. Charles prefers the a text, represented by three Manuscripts , the earliest c being of the 13th cent., which he uses as the basis of his text. For a spirited attack on his position see J. W. Hunkin in Journal of Theological Studies xvi. 80-97. The variations in the 9 Greek Manuscripts are beyond number, and present a most intricate problem to the critical student. A glance at Charles’s Greek Versions shows at times one to half a dozen variations at almost every word.

(b) The Armenian version exists in 12 Manuscripts , and falls into two main divisions, one recension being current in biblical Manuscripts (corresponding roughly to the Greek β text), and the other in non-biblical Manuscripts . The Armenian version is of special value in that it omits, or presents in a shorter form, several of the Christian interpolations (see § 8). It also alone preserves Test. Jos. xix. 3-7, without which the whole chapter is unintelligible.

(c) The Slavonic version is derived from the so-called Palea, historical narratives and chronicles based on various sources, and it is extant in a long and a short recension. This version represents a late form of text, and is not critically of much value.

7. Influence on the NT

(a) Diction.-The influence of the Testaments on the Gospels is very clearly dealt with in Charles’s edition, pp. lxxviii-xcix. In the rest of the NT two of the most remarkable passages are those which Charles adduces to prove that St. Paul used the Testaments in the Greek translation and in the α not the β recension (ib. lxxxv). Conybeare in his review (Rev. of Theol. and Philos. iv. 373-382) has shown how difficult it is to accept the latter statement.

The first instance is 1 Thessalonians 2:16. The words ἔφθασεν δὲ ἐπʼ αὐτοὺς ἡ ὀργὴ (τοῦ θεοῦ, D, etc.) εἰς τέλος are difficult to explain on the accepted view of the early date of the Epistle. In Test. Levi, vi. 11, on the other hand, the reference is obvious and appropriate. It presupposes a slightly different text in Genesis 30:5, וינע חמח instead of ויהי הטת. There is a curious resemblance to the phrase in Wisdom of Solomon 19:1, but both there and in Psalms 78:31 the words and the reference are different. In Test. Levi, vi. 11 the β texts read Κυρίου, and the α texts τοῦ Θεοῦ. (In 1 Thessalonians 2:16 the Western text alone contains the latter.) On the other hand, aaef read ἔφθασε δὲ αὐτούς, not ἐπʼ αὐτούς, so that the balance of evidence is against Charles’s view that the a text was followed. St. Paul appears to be quoting, with grim irony, the description of the Shechemites’ doom in the Testaments (or some earlier work), with the application changed to the doom of the exclusive Jews, who would fain imitate the violent deed of Levi.

The second instance is Romans 1:32 : οὐ μόνον αὐτὰ ποιοῦσιν ἀλλὰ καὶ συνευδοκοῦσιν τοῖς πράσσουσιν (ποιοῦντεςσυνευδοκοῦντες, B Clem. Rom. [?], also, with οὐκ ἐνόησαν earlier, D, Lat. Vers. etc.). Here the parallel in the Testaments-Test. Asher, vi. 2, καὶ πράσσουσι τὸ κακόν, καὶ συνευδοκοῦσι τοῖς πράσσουσιν-is less appropriate to its context, and is omitted by A (Arm. version) as well as bg. But four other Manuscripts of the β text support the α text here. It is not a clear case of quotation by St. Paul.

Other noteworthy parallels are- 2 Corinthians 6:14-15, τίς κοινωνία φωτὶ πρὸς σκότος; τίς δὲ συμφώνησις Χριστοῦ πρὸς Βελίαρ; || Test. Levi, xix. 1, ‘Choose for yourselves either the light or the darkness, either the law of the Lord or the works of Beliar.’ Also Romans 12:1, ‘present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable (spiritual) service (worship)’ || Test. Levi, iii. 6, ‘offering to the Lord a sweet-smelling savour, a reasonable (λογικήν) and bloodless sacrifice’ (‘offering,’ β). Romans 12:21, νίκα ἐν τῷ ἀγαθῷ τὸ κακόν || Test. Benj. iv. 3, οὗτος τὸ ἀγαθὸν ποιῶν νικᾷ τὸ κακόν. 1 Corinthians 13:5, (ἡ ἀγάπη) οὐ λογίζεται τὸ κακόν || Test. Zeb. viii. 5, ἀγαπᾶτε ἀλλήλους, καὶ μὴ λογίζεσθε ἕκαστος κακίαν πρὸς τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ. 2 Corinthians 7:10, ἡ γὰρ κατὰ Θεὸν λύπη μετάνοιαν εἰς σωτηρίανἐργάζεται || Test. Gad, v. 7, ἡ γὰρ κατὰ Θεὸν ἀληθὴς μετάνοιαἁδηγεῖ τὸ διαβούλιον πρὸς σωτηρίαν. Philippians 2:15, ‘among whom ye are seen (or ‘shine ye’) as lights (φωστῆρες) in the world’ || Test. Levi, xiv. 3, ‘so also ye are (or ‘be ye’) the lights (φωστῆρες) of Israel.’ In 1 and 2 Tim. Charles notes four almost exact parallels: 1 Timothy 1:13, ‘I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly’ || Test. Jud. xix. 3; 1 Timothy 2:5, μεσίτης θεοῦ καὶ ἁνθρώπων = Test. Dan, vi. 2; 2 Timothy 2:16, ‘they will proceed further in ungodliness’ || Test. Jud. xxi. 8; 2 Timothy 4:8, ‘the crown of righteousness’ = Test. Levi, viii. 2 (for ‘crown of glory,’ 1 Peter 5:4, cf. Test. Benj. iv. 1). James 4:7, ‘the devil … will flee from you’ = Test. Naph. viii. 4; Revelation 3:12, ‘new (καινή) Jerusalem’ || Test. Dan, v. 12 (νέα). In Acts Charles notes five instances. Two worth noting, though not decisive, are: Acts 7:10 || Test. Reub. iv. 8, 10, ‘found favour in the sight of God and men.… God delivered him from every evil (‘seen,’ β) and hidden death’ (both passages refer to Joseph), and Acts 12:11 || Test. Sim. ii. 8, ‘God sent forth His angel and delivered him out of my hands.’ Also in Acts 8:23 the meaning of χολὴ πικρίας is illustrated by the function assigned to the χολή in Test. Naph. ii. 8, χολή πρὸς πικρίαν.

In the difficult passage Judges 1:22-23 Charles suggests the insertion of μὴ before διακρινόμενοι (better διακρινομένους), on the basis of Test. Zeb. vii. 2: ἀδιακρίτως πάνταςἐλεᾶτε, but this phrase hardly seems to bear on the passage, nor does it really aid in the problem of text or interpretation.

(b) Ideas.-The Pauline (and Johannine) metaphor of light and darkness, Romans 1:21; Romans 13:12, Ephesians 4:18; Ephesians 5:6; Ephesians 5:9, 2 Corinthians 6:14, is found in Test. Reub. iii. 8, ‘darkening his mind’ (cf. Test. Gad, vi. 2), Test. Naph. ii. 10, ‘neither while ye are in darkness can ye do the works of light,’ Test. Levi, xix. 1, ‘Choose for yourselves either the light or the darkness, either the law of the Lord or the works of Beliar,’ xiv. 4, ‘the light of the law which was given to lighten every man’ (cf. John 1:9, where the ‘light’ is the ever-existing Word). The equation of covetousness and idolatry in Ephesians 5:5, Colossians 3:5 appears as a connexion of cause and effect in Test. Jud. xix. 1, ‘the love of money leadeth to idolatry (‘idols,’ β); because, when led astray through money, men name as gods those who are not gods.’ James 3:10 is similar in idea to Test. Benj. vi. 5, ‘the good mind hath not two tongues, of blessing and cursing.’

The prohibition of feminine adornment in 1 Peter 3:3-5, 1 Timothy 2:9 is found also in Test. Reub. v. 5, and the reason given in v. 6, ‘for thus they allured the Watchers who were before the flood,’ helps to explain the obscure statement of St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:10, ‘for this cause ought the woman to have (a sign of?) authority on her head, because of the angels.’ In the Book of Enoch the invention of adornment was not previous but subsequent to the fall of the Watchers, who themselves were the first teachers of the art [Note: rt article.] .

Reservation for judgment, asserted of the angels in 2 Peter 2:4, Judges 1:6, is predicated also of women who adorn themselves in Test. Reub. v. 5 and of the unrepentant in Test. Gad, vii. 5. The juxtaposition of the fallen Watchers and the men of Sodom in Judges 1:6-7 is paralleled by Test. Naph. iii. 4, 5. Both alike acted against their appointed nature (probably the Authorized Version rendering, ‘which kept not their first estate’ [ἀρχή], is correct, as Test. Naph. iii. 5 has ἐνήλλαξαν τάξιν φύσεως αὐτῶν).

That self-judgment averts external judgment is a thought common to 1 Corinthians 11:31-32 and Test. Benj. vi. 7, Test. Gad, v. 3; and the idea of self-condemnation is vividly expressed alike in Romans 2:15 and in Test. Jud. xx. 5, while in 1 Corinthians 4:4 St. Paul seems to quote but immediately to condemn the self-satisfaction of Test. Iss. vii. 1, ‘I am not conscious of committing any sin’ (+ ‘unto death,’ β), and Test. Zeb. 1:4.

(c) Theology.-God is referred to twice (in passages which have been modified by Christian influence) as Father-‘the Holy Father’ in Test. Jud. xxiv. 2, and, in connexion with the Bath Qol, ‘with the Father’s voice as from Abraham to (or ‘the father of’) Isaac,’ in Test. Levi, xviii. 6; as the ‘God of peace’ in iii. 4 (cf. 1 En. xiv. 20, cii. 3). Other titles are not noteworthy.

How far the expected theophany in Test. Sim. vi. 5, Test. Levi, ii. 11, v. 2, etc., was conceived in the original text as mediated through a Messianic personage we cannot say. The present writer’s view is that an unmediated theophany was the only one mentioned in the pre-Christian work (see § 8).

The Spirit of God is referred to in Test. Sim. iv. 4, where it is said that ‘Joseph was a good man and had the spirit of God within him.’ Elsewhere the ‘spirit’ appears to be merely one of the constituents of man’s nature imparted to him at creation or birth, and practically identical with the ‘good will’ or ‘inclination,’ as in Test. Jud. xx. 1, 5, where the ‘spirit of truth’ = the Yetzer ha Tob. The Hebrew Test. Naph. x. 9* [Note: ‘Blessed is the man who does not defile the holy spirit of God which hath been put and breathed into him, and blessed is he who returns it to its Creator as pure as it was on the day when He entrusted it (to him).’] is nearer the thought of St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 1 Corinthians 6:19. The Apostle, however, regards the Spirit as a subsequent not an original gift. The two passages [Test. Jud. xiv. 2, 3, Test. Levi, xviii. 7) which deal with the gift of the Holy Spirit on a specific occasion, the present writer regards as Christian.

The Priesthood of Christ, an idea so fully developed in the Epistle to the Hebrews, was until recently a conception the development of which could not be explained except as the synthesis of the thought of Christ as the perfect offering for sin with the thought of Him as the Divinely appointed and perfect Agent of the Father. The conception, however, receives new light from recent research into the theological views of the Maccabaean period, when a priestly family ruled and were so highly gifted as to come to be regarded in the person of one or two kings as the embodiment of the Messianic idea. Psalms 110 has a new appropriateness in view of this unprecedented situation. There the Messianic victor King is addressed, ‘Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek’; hence the continual emphasis-in Test. Reub. vi. 7-12, Test. Levi, xviii., Test. Jud. xxv. 1, 2, Test. Jos. xix. 11 (a)-on the preeminence of Levi. The most astonishing passage, however, is Test. Jud. xxi. 1-5: ‘I command you, love Levi, that ye may abide, and exalt not yourselves against him, lest ye be utterly destroyed. For to me [Judah] the Lord gave the kingdom, and to him the priesthood, and He set the kingdom beneath the priesthood. To me He gave the things upon the earth; to him the things in the heavens, etc.

The striking prerogatives and powers which Charles (Testaments, p. xcviii) regards as ascribed to the Messiah tend to diminish seriously on a careful examination of the text (see § 8). Possibly there remain his freedom from sin, new priesthood, and prophetic office.

More important, because more reliable, is the light thrown by the angelology of the Testaments on the NT doctrine of Christ, especially as the unique and only Heavenly Intercessor. In Test. Levi, iii. 5f. the angels of the presence ‘minister and make propitiation to the Lord for all the sins of ignorance of the righteous. And they offer to the Lord a sweet-smelling savour, a reasonable (λογικήν) and bloodless sacrifice’ (‘offering,’ β). In Test. Levi, v. 6 an angel (Michael or the angel of peace) ‘intercedeth (β) for the nation of Israel that they may not be smitten utterly (cf. Test. Dan, vi. 5), for every evil spirit attacketh it.’ In Test. Dan, vi. 2 prayer to this angel is commanded-‘draw near unto God and to the angel that intercedeth (β) for you, for he is a mediator between God and man,’ etc. It is just this Jewish doctrine that is combated in 1 Timothy 2:5, Hebrews 1:4-14, etc.

The ‘angel of peace’ has a national and a personal function. He ‘shall strengthen Israel, that it fall not into the extremity of evil’ (Test. Dan, vi. 5); he guides the soul of the good man (Test. Benj. vi. 1), and at death meets his soul and leads him into (‘eternal,’ α) life (Test. Asher, vi. 7).

Angels are divided in Test. Levi, iii. 5-8 into ‘angels of the presence’ (β), or ‘archangels’ (α), and, in a lower heaven, ‘thrones and dominions’ (cf. Colossians 1:16, Ephesians 1:21), but the angelology of the book is far less developed than that of 1 Enoch.

The text of Test. Levi, ii. 7-iii. 8 has undergone a great deal of alteration, but in ii. 7-9 the α text clearly speaks of three heavens only, the older view, while the β text in ii. 9 and both texts in iii. 1-8 now speak of seven. St. Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:2 seems to regard the third as the highest heaven.

The doctrine of sin is very full and varied. In the main it is traced to the action of the spirits of error, and their head, Beliar (see Test. Reub. iii. 3-6, Test. Sim. ii. 7, iv. 9, Test. Jud. xix. 4, etc.). Each sin has its own particular spirit, and several are attached to various organs of the body. Sin is also traced to man’s free will, which can exclude all evil desire (Test. Reub. iv. 9), need not be in the power of any evil spirit (Test. Benj. vi. 1; cf. iii. 3, 4), and is free to choose good and evil (Test. Jud. xx. 2, ‘in the midst is the spirit of the understanding of the mind, to which it belongeth to turn whithersoever it will’). The will determines the quality of the action (Test. Asher, i. 6, ‘if the soul take pleasure in the good, all its actions are in righteousness’). Inasmuch, however, as two inclinations appear to be born with a man, the evil as well as the good, the problem of freewill is not consistently or thoroughly faced. Thus God knows the inclination (Test. Naph. ii. 5), yet tries it by temptation (Test. Jos. ii. 6). Sin blinds the inclination (Test. Jud. xviii. 3), which in turn blinds the mind (xi. 1). The (evil) inclination can be destroyed by good works (Test. Asher, iii. 2).

Sin entails physical punishment (sickness, Test. Reub. i. 7, Test. Sim. ii. 12, Test. Gad, v. 9; cf. 1 Corinthians 5:5; 1 Corinthians 11:30), and spiritual (Test. Reub. iii. 8; cf. Romans 1:21) and eternal (Test. Zeb. x. 3, Test. Gad, vii. 5) penalties. Sin is finally to be destroyed and Beliar cast into the fire for ever (Test. Jud. xv. 3).

Repentance is a very prominent feature in the Testaments. In Reuben’s case it includes lifelong penitence (Test. Reub. iv. 3) and seven years’ penance in the way of strict abstinence from flesh and wine (i. 10); in Simeon’s case prayer and weeping (Test. Sim. ii. 13) and two years fasting (iii. 4; in Judah’s case abstinence from flesh and wine and all enjoyment till old age (Test. Jud. xv. 4). Repentance includes a moral change and attainment of higher insight, ‘for true repentance after a godly sort destroyeth ignorance, and driveth aw ay the darkness, and enlighteneth the eyes, and giveth knowledge to the soul, and leadeth the mind to salvation’ (Test. Gad, v. 7; cf. 2 Corinthians 7:10). National repentance will make possible national restoration-‘on the day on which Israel shall repent, the kingdom of the enemy

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hdn/​t/testaments-of-the-twelve-patriarchs.html. 1906-1918.
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