the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26
Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, the
Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
is one of the seventy-two Apocryphal books of the Old Test. which were at one time in circulation, and, according to Epiphanius (Lib. de Mensuris et Ponderibus, § 10), it formed one of the twenty-two canonical books sent by the Jews to Ptolemy, king of Egypt. (See APOCRYPHA).
I. Author of the Work and his Object. — There can be no dispute that the writer's main object and purpose was the conversion of the Jewish nation to the Christian faith. To gain his object his appeal is based not on the authority of Moses or the law of Sinai, but is referred back to the earlier period of the patriarchs, where, underlying the simple covenant between God and man, were latent the first germs of Christianity. From this it has been inferred that the writer-himself was a Jew. Grabe, the first who treated at length of the Testaments, thought that the writing in question was the work of a Jew shortly before the Christian era; and to account for the presence of passages which no Jew could possibly have written, he had recourse to the theory of interpolation. This opinion, however, has found but little favor, and critics have generally agreed to the conclusions of Nitzsch, who definitely attributed the work to a Judaeo-Christian writer, an opinion adopted now even by Ritschl, who in 1850 maintained that author was a Christian of Pauline tendencies. Without entering upon the different views advanced on this point, we pass on to the
II. Time of Composition. — That it was not composed before A.D. 70 we may infer from the author's allusion to the destruction of Jerusalem, which assigns to the Testaments a date subsequent to this event. On the other hand, it is already quoted by Tertullian (Adv. Marc. 5, 1; Scorp. c. 13) and Origen (Horn. in Joshua 15 :c. 6); and thus we may safely infer, without quoting the different opinions, that the most probable date for its composition is 80-110 or 120 of our era.
III. Language in which the Work was Written. — The Testaments, as we have it now, was no doubt written in the Hellenistic Greek, in which we now possess the work. Grabe maintained that it was originally written in Hebrew and was translated into Greek with the canonical books of the Old Test. But against this view it has been argued that already the title of the book, αἱδιαθῆκαι τῶν ιβ Πατριαρχῶν, indicates its Greek original, because the Hebrew בַּרְבּוֹת or עֵדוֹת would have been presented by the Greek εύλογίαι, ἐντολαί, or μαρτύρια . We also find a number of instances of paronomasia, hardly possible on the hypothesis of a Hebrew original. Such are ἀθετεῖν ...νουθετεῖν, ἀφαίρεσις ..ἀναίρεσις (Test. Judah, note 23), λιμὸς ...λοιμός (ibid.); ἐν τάξει ...ἄτακτον (Napht. note 2), τάξις ... ἀταξία (ibid. 3). We find various expressions pertaining to the Greek philosophy, as διάθεσις, αἴσθησις, φύσις τέλος, διαβούλιον, συμβουλεῦειν τινί . Taking all in all, we are led to the supposition that it was originally written in Greek (see Nitzsch, De Test. XII Patr. [Wittemb. 1810], p. 16; Vorstman, Disquis. de Testam. XII Patriarch. p. 8 sq.).
IV. Contents of the Testaments: — The work professes to be, as its name implies, the utterances of the dying patriarchs, the sons of Jacob, to their children. In these are given, more or less briefly, the narrative of their lives, with some particulars not to be found in the scriptural account, and there are built thereon various moral precepts for the guidance of their descendants, who may thereby be preserved from the sires into which their fathers fell. "Still," says Vorstman, "all the patriarchs are convinced that their children will deal wickedly, falling away from God, defiling themselves with the sins of every nation. They therefore prophesy what is to come; they foretell the troubles impending on: their children. But they venture to raise more joyous strains than these. God himself is to put an end to their troubles; he will visit his people; he will break the power of sin. Prophecies of a Messiah are brought forward by the patriarchs. With such hopes they die. Their discourses, therefore, may justly be called Testaments when at the point of death they speak to their children their last words. They leave to them nothing save injunctions and prophecies. The words of Benljamin (c. 10) will apply equally to all: ταῦτα γὰρ ἀντὶ πάσης κληρονομίας ὑμᾶς διδάσκω ."
V. Messianic Ideas of the Book. — The Messianic views are strongly. tinged by national feeling. The Messiah, combining in himself the functions of high-priest and of king, is to arise from the tribe of Levi as well as from the tribe of Judah. Still there is a tendency throughout which aims at teaching that' his high-priestly office is greater than his kingly one. The Messianic passages having reference to the promised Messiah of Israel may be divided into such as speak of him as divine-as God coming into the world in the likeness of man-and into such as refer to him as man alone. Of the latter we read in Test. Levi, c. 16. "And the man (ἄνδρα ) who reneweth the law by the power of the Most High shall ye call a deceiver; and at last as ye suppose, ye will slay him, not knowing his resurrection (ἀνάστημα ), wickedly taking the innocent blood upon your own heads. And because of him shall your holy places be desolate." . . . Judah (c. 24) says, "And after these things a star shall arise to you out of Jacob in peace, and a man (ἄνθρωπος ) shall rise up of my seed, as a sun of righteousness, walking with the sons of men in meekness and righteousness, and no sin ‘ shall be found in him." Naphtali says (c. 4), "Until the compassion (σπλάγχνον ) of the Lord shall come, a man (ἄνθρωπος ) working righteousness and showing mercy to all that are afar off and to those that are near."
Such are the only passages which dwell merely on the human nature of the Messiah. Let us look at those which refer to his divine nature. Thus the patriarch Dan (c. 6) bids his children "draw near to God and to the angel that intercedeth for you (τῷ Θεῷ καὶ τῷ ἀγγέλῳ τῷ παραιτουμένῳ ὑμᾶς ). He is called "the mediator between God and men" (ουτός ἐστι μεσίτης Θεοῦ καὶ ἀνθρώπων ). "His name shall be in every place in Israel, and among the Gentiles, Saviour" (τὸ δὲ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ ἔσται ἐν παντὶτόπῳ Ι᾿σραὴλ καὶ ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσι Σωτρή ). Levi (c. 4) speaks of the Messiah as υἱὸς Κυρίου . Simeon (c. 6) speaks of "the Lord, the ῥ Great God of Israel, who shall appear upon the earth as man, and who shall save all the Gentiles and the race of Israel." Judah (c. 22) tells his children, "Among the Gentiles shall my kingdom be consummated, until the salvation shall have come to Israel; until the appearing of the God of righteousness to give quietness in peace to Jacob and all nations." Asher (c. 7) tells his children that they should be dispersed throughout the world until "the Most High should visit the earth, himself coming as a man (ἄνθρωπος ), eating and drinking with men.... He shall save Israel and all the Gentiles; God speaking in the person of man" (Θεὸς εἰς ἄνδρα ὑποκρινόμενος ). Joseph (c. 19) says to his children, "And I saw that from Judah was born a virgin wearing a linen garment, and from her went forth a lamb without spot" (ἀμνὸς ἄμωμος ). That reference is here made to the sinlessness of the Messiah there can be no doubt. Hagenbach (in his Dogmengeschichte, p. 143, ed. 3) refers to Hippolytus as furnishing the first instance of the application of the word "spotless" to our Lord, but we have here an earlier example. Thus Benjamin (c. 3) speaks of "the Lamb of God and the Savior of the world," that "spotless he shall be delivered up for the wicked, and sinless shall he die for the ungodly." Levi tells his children that they shall slay the Messiah and "wickedly take the innocent (ἀθῷος ) blood upon their heads." Judah (c. 24) says, "No sin shall be found in him."
As to the office of the Messiah, he is continually spoken of both as king and high-priest (Sim. c. 7; Gad, c. 8; Dan, c. 5; Jos. c. 19). As king springing from the tribe of Judah (Sim. c. 7), he is to wage war and to triumph over Beliar, the personification of the kingdom of evil (Levi, c. 18; Dan, c. 5, 6; Benj. c. 3). As high-priest he was to have no successor (Levi, c. 18), i.e. with him the offering of sacrifices was to come to an enj. The Messiah is a Savior; Levi is bidden to "proclaim concerning him who shall redeem Israel" (c. 2; Dan, c. 5; Jos. c. 19; Benj. c. 3); and another patriarch adds, "He that believes in him shall reign in truth in the "heavens" (Dan, c. 5). The Messiah was to suffer: "Thy sons shall lay hands upon him to crucify him" (Levi, c. 4); "and he shall enter into the front of the Temple (τὸν πρῶτον ναόν ), and there shall the Lord be treated with outrage and he shall be lifted up upon a tree (Benj. c. 9; see also Levi, c. 10,14,16). The rending of the Temple vail is alluded to as the act in which the Spirit of God went over to the Gentiles: "‘ The vail of the Temple shall be rent," says Benjamin (c. 9), "and the Spirit of God shall be removed unto the Gentiles as fire poured forth." Levi (c. 10) says, "The vail of the Temple shall be rent, that it shall not cover your shame." As to the Messiah's ascension and triumphant reception into heaven, see Levi, c. 18; Benj. c. 9. That he was to return to future judgment, comp. Levi, c. 16.
VI. Dogmatical and Ethical Ideas. — The salvation of the Messiah is to be obtained by faith as the means of justification with God: The kingdom of evil is to come to an end "on the day on which Israel shall believe" (Dan, c. 6). "As many as have believed in him on earth shall rejoice with him when all shall rise again, some to glory and some to shame" (Benj. c. 10). Allusion is made to the importance of baptism for this end. Thus Levi (c. 16) tells his children the punishment that shall befall them for their treatment of the Messiah: "Ye shall be a curse among the Gentiles and shall be scattered abroad until he shall again visit you and in pity shall take you to himself ἐν πίστει καὶ ὕδατι ." The same patriarch (c. 18) again says of the Messiah, "In water shall he himself give the glory of the Lord of his sons in truth forever." Both the righteous and the wicked shall rise again; the former to rejoice with the Messiah, the latter to weep and lament and to be destroyed forever (comp. Judah, c. 25; Sim. c. 6; Levi, c. 18; Zeb. c. 10). Benjamin declares (c. 10), ‘"Then shall ye behold Enoch, Noah, Shem, and Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, arising on the right hand in joy; then shall we also arise, each one in our tribe, and worship the king of heaven.... And as many as believed on him upon earth shall rejoice with him when all shall arise, some to glory and some to contempt. And the Lord shall judge Israel first, even for the wrong they did to him; for when he came as a deliverer, God in the flesh, they believed him not. And then shall he judge all the nations, as many as believed him not when he appeared upon earth."
Man, who has been formed in the image of God (Napht. c. 2), is composed of two parts, body and spirit, conformable to each other. To man seven spirits were given at his creation by God, in themselves not necessarily either good or bad, referring, as they do, mainly to external sensations. These spirits were ζωή (i.e. the נפש, the mere animal life), ὅρασις, ἀκοή, ὄσφρησις, λαλιά, γεῦσις, and σπορά, all of which, as ζωή, refer exclusively to the mere animal life of man, as does also a supplementary eighth spirit, that of ὕπνος . Superadded to these are seven other spirits, given to man by Beliar, representing seven principal evil tendencies (Reub. c. 2, 3). The latter, which are spoken of generally as τὰ πνεύματα τῆς πληάνης, are wholly bad, and represent different evil tendencies of humanity. They are the spirits of πορνεία, ἀπληστία, μάχη, ἀρεσκεία or μαγγανεία, ὑπερηφανία, ψεῦδος, and ἀδικία. Within man war is waged by his two selves. Judah speaks of the two spirits that "attend (σχολάζουσι ) upon man, the spirit of truth and the spirit of error; and in the midst is the spirit of the understanding of the mind," which may turn to either side it will (c. 20). The spirit of truth seems to be almost equivalent to conscience, for it is added, "The spirit of truth testifieth all things, and accuseth all." Reuben, too, speaks, of his conscience (συνείδησις ) troubling him all his life long for his crime of incest. Man has a free will to choose between the two ways that God has given to him. He can choose either "the darkness or the light, either the law of the Lord or the works of Beliar" (Levi, c. 19); and, though man is weak and ever prone to error, yet if he'persevere in his attempts to do right, "every spirit of Beliar will fly" (Sim. c. 2, 5; Judah, c. 18,19, 21; Issach. c. 7; Zeb. c. 9; Gad, c. 4) from him.
Sin, therefore, being especially regarded as proceeding from τὰ πνεύματα τῆς πλάνης, is constantly spoken of as ἄγνοια, τύφλωσις, and the like, for which pardon is readily granted by God. Ignorance, however, though affording a plea for pardon, cannot of itself be accounted an excuse for the sin; the appeal is still to be made to the mercy of God. But as from sins ignorantly committed man passes on to those done against light and knowledge, so is there a deeper cast of sins than ἄγνοια . Thus it was ἄγνοια on the part of Zebulon (c. 1; comp. Dan, c. l; Gad, c. 2) not to reveal to his father his brethren's crime of selling Joseph; that crime, however, was ἀνομία on their part. And this is alike true for a sin actually committed and for one as yet in embryo in the thoughts of the heart; ‘ for Simeon (c. 2), whose hatred for Joseph had led him to contemplate the sin of murder, is accounted in God's sight guilty of that crime, and therefore punished. We see here the doctrine of the apostle endorsed: "He that hateth his brother is a murderer."
The doctrine of God's retributive justice is fully believed in. Sin brings its own punishment in this world (comp. Reub. c. 1; Sim. c. 2; Gad, c. 5), therefore man should follow God's laws (comp. Reub. c. 4; Sim. c. 4; Levi, c. 13' Benj. c. 3; Zeb. c. 8). The fear of God appears as the chief motive for the fulfillment: of righteousness (comp. Reub. c. 4, πορεύεσθε ἐν ἁπλότητι καρδαίς ἐν φόβῳ Κυρίου; Simn. c. 3, ἡ λύσις τοῦ φθόνου διὰ φόβου Κυρίου γινεται; Gad, c. 5, ὁ φόβος τοῦ θεοῦ νικᾶ '/ τὸ μῖσος; Benj. c. 3, γὰρ φοβούμενος τὸν θεόν, καὶ ὰγαπῶν τὸν πλησίον αὐτοῦ, ὑπὸ τοῦ ἀερίπυ πνεύματος τοῦ Βελιὰρ οὐ δύναται πληγῆναι; Jos. c. 11; Levi, c. 13). It is also, worthy of remark that most of the patriarchs dwell more especially on some one particular form of vice to be shunned, ordinarily that vice wherein each severally had succumbed to temptation. Thus the system of ethics which prevails throughout, the Testaments presents a very high and noble code of morals to us, not unworthy of a teacher who sought to win over his countrymen to the Christian faith.
VII. Sources. — Having given, in the main, an outline of the most important points contained in the Testaments, the question as to the sources for the work cannot be superfluous. From the work itself we infer that the book of Enoch must have been known to the author. Thus seven Testaments out of twelve allude to it as γραφὴ Ε᾿νώχ, βίβλος (βιβλίον, βιβλαί, λόγοιΕ᾿νώχ τοῦ δικαίου), γραφὴ νόμου Ε᾿νώχ (see Sim. c. 5; Levi, c. 9,10,14 16; Napht. c. 4; Judah, c. 18; Dan, c. 5; Benj. c. 9), and other similar expressions. Zebulon refers to the γραφὴ πατέρων (c. 9), and Levi (c. 5) and Asher (c. 7) refer to αἱ πλακὲς τῶν οὐρανῶν, "heavenly tablets." As to the latter, whether they were a book containing what is foreknown and foreordained in heaven as to the course of the future, and were appealed to when some oracular declaration of weighty import was needed, or whether the y were something else, we are at a loss to state, although they are often quoted in the book of Enoch, and Jubilees. Besides the works mentioned, there can be no doubt that the author of the Testaments knew the book of Jubilees, since the amount of coincidence between the two writings is very great (comp. e.g. Reub. c. 3 with Jubilees, c. 33; Levi, c. 2,4, 5,8 with Jubilees, c. 32; Levi, c. 9 with c. 31; c. 11 with c. 34; Judah, c. 3-7 with c. 34,38; c. 9 with c. 37; c. 10 with c. 41; c. 19 with c. 41; Reub. c. 7, Sim. c. 8, Levi, c. 19, Judah, c. 26, Zeb. c. 10, Dan, c. 7, Napht. c. 9, Gad, c. 8, Asher, c. 8, Betj. c. 12 with Jubilees, c. 46, etc.). He also made use of the Targums, Josephus, the Midrashim, and the like. Of greater importance is it to know that the author also made use of the New Test., and for the latter fact we refer to the elaborate article of Warfield, The Apologetical Value of the Testaments of the XII Patriarchs, in the (N. Y.) Presbyterian Review, Jan. 1880, p. 57 sq.
VIII. History of the Work. — Habent sua fata libelli." It is remarkable that this work, which was known to Tertullian (Adv. Marcionem, 5, 1; Scorpiace, c. 13) and Origen (Horn. in Josuam 15 c. 6), became first known to the world at large through the Latin version of Robert Grosseteste, or Greathead, bishop of Lincoln, of the 13th century. This version soon spread over Europe, and, in the course of time, translations into a large number of languages were made from it into English, French, German, Dutch, Flemish, Danish, Bohemian, and Armenian. More than four centuries had passed since Grosseteste's Latin version, when at last the Greek text was for the first time published by Grabe, in his Spicilegium Patrum et Haereticorum (Oxford, 1698), from a MS. in the university library of Cambridge, collated with one at Oxford. In 1713 Fabricitls published the Greek text in his Codex Pseudepigraphus V.T. (Hamburg), adding but slightly to the criticism of the text. In 1714 Grabe published a second edition, relating the true text in several passages, but in many places altering Grosseteste's Latin version, which witnessed to the true reading, to suit Grabe's incorrect text. Fabricius also published a second edition in 1722, on the whole less accurate than his first. Afterwards the text and notes as given in Grabe's second edition were reprinted, with but few additions, by Galland, in his Bibliotheca Veterum Patruni (Venice, 1765), i, 193 sq. In 1869 Robert Sinker published an accurate transcript of the Cambridge MS., carefully collated with the Oxford, to which he added, in 1879, a collation made from two other MSS., viz. a Roman MS. in the Vatican Library (Cod. Grsec. 731), and a Patmos MS. in the library of the Monastery of St. John the Evangelist (Cod. 411).
IX. Versions. — As already indicated, there existed versions in different languages before the Greek text was published. The editions of the Latin version are numerous. That which is presumably the edilio princeps bears neither date, printer's name, nor place of printing, The title is Testamenti duodecim I Patriarcharul Filiorutm Jacob. I e Greco in Latini versa Roberato Linconiensi I Episcopo Interprete. From this was taken the edition printed at Hageniau in 1532 by John Secerius, at the instance of Menrad Molther. The work of Julianus Pomerius Contra Judaeos is published in the same volume. Besides the separate editions, the Testaments is published in the Bibliotheca Patrum.
In English there exist at least three independent translations one from the Latin, the others from the Greek. The translation from the Latin first appeared in 1577, and was often reprinted, especially in the 17th century. The first edition is of great rarity, and there exists no copy of it even in the British Museum. The second edition, of 1581, of which there is a copy in the British Museum, has the following title-page:
"The Testamentes of the Twelue Patriarches, the Sonnes of Jacob: translated out of Greeke into Latine by Robert Grosthed, sometime Bishop of Lincolne, and out of hys copy into French and Dutch by others: Now englished by A.G. To the credit whereof an auncient Greeke copye written in parchment, is kept in the Vninersity Library of Cambridge. At London Printed by John Daye, dwelling ouer Aldersgate. 1581. Cum priulegio Regiae Maiestatis."
There are about forty other English editions printed after the year 1581. A translation was made directly from the Greek (of Grabe and Fabricius) by Whiston in his Collection of Authentic Records belonging to the Old and New Testament (Lond. 1727), i, 294 sq. In Clark's Ante-Nicene Christian Library (vol. 22), Mr. Sinker published a translation from his edition of the Greek text. It may be mentioned here that the Muggletonians (q.v.) in England receive the Testaments of the XII Patriarchs as inspired, together with the Old and New Tests., the book of Enoch, and the works of Reeve and Muggleton. From the English a Welsh version was published at Carnarvon (1822), Testament y deuddeg Patriarch, sef Meibion Jacob....
There are at least two translations in French, both taken from the Latin. One was published in 1548 at Paris, another in 1713. The latter was also republished in Migne's Encyklopè die Theologique, vol. 23 (Dict. des Apocryphes, vol. 1), coll. 854 sq. In Germany the testaments have evidently been very popular, as may be inferred from the number of editions that have appeared. The oldest German translation is the one published in 1559 at Basel: Das Testament der zwolf Patriarchen der Sunen Jacobs; the latest the one published at Tü bingen in 1857 Aechte apocryphische Bucher der Heiligen Schrift… (2) Das T.d. zwolf Patriarchen.
The Dutch and Flemish editions are also very numerous. There are two editions without any date, but which must have appeared before 1544, since an edition was published in that same year. Altogether there exist about fourteen editions in Dutch and Flemish, the last published in 1679.
The Testaments was translated into Danish by Hans Mogensson, and four editions of his translation, were published, the first in 1580, the last in 1701.
In the Icelandic there exist some MS. translations; but whether one or the other has ever been printed we are at a loss to state.
The Bohemian version can claim to be the first of the translations from the Latin, having been made long before the invention of printing. It is referred to by Thomas Stitny about the year 1376. There exists a MS. at Breslau, in the library of the Dominicans at St. Adalbert, dated 1491, and another in the university library at Prague (17, B. 15, No. 6) dated 1465. The oldest printed translation bears the date 1545. Only two copies, each of a different edition, are extant-one in the library of the National Museum at Prague, and the other in the university library there.
An Armenian version exists in MS., dated 837, i.e. A.D. 1388, in the library of the Mechitarists at Vienna, which appears not to have been printed.
X. Literature. — Besides Grabe, see Vorstman, Disquisitio de Testamentorum XII Patriarchaurm Origine et Pretio (Rotterdam, 1857)'; Nitzsch, Commentatio Critica de Testamentis XII Patriarcharum, Libro V. T. Pseudepigrapho (Wittenb. 1810); Ritschl, Die Entstehung der altkatholischen Kirche (Bonn, 1850); Kayser, in Reuss und Cunitz's Beitrdgge zu den theol. Wissenschaften (Jena, 1851), p. 107-140; Wieseler, Die 70 Wochen und die 63 Jahrwochen des Propheten Daniel (Gott. 1839); Langen, Das Judenthum in Paldstina zur Zeit Christi (Freiburg, 1866), p. 140 sq.; Geiger, Jü dische Zeitschrift jü r Wissenschajt und Leben (Bresl. 1869), p. 116 sq.; Warfield, The Apologetical Value of the Testaments of the XII Patriarchs, in the (N. Y.) Presbyterian Review, Jan. 1880, p. 57 sq.; but, above all, Sinker, Testamenta XII Patriarcharum (Camb. and Lond. 1869); and his Appendix (ibid. 1879). (B. P.)
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, the'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​t/testaments-of-the-twelve-patriarchs-the.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.