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Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs
The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia
Title of twelve connected documents which purport to record the last words and exhortations of the twelve sons of Jacob. They also bear in several of the manuscripts subtitles indicating the virtues inculcated or the vices condemned by each of these patriarchs in turn. Thus Reuben discourses of evil motives and desires, especially as regards women; Simeon, of envy; Levi, of priesthood and pride; Judah, of courage, avarice, and fornication; Issachar, of simple-mindedness; Zebulun, of compassion and pity; Dan, of anger and falsehood; Naphtali, of natural goodness; Gad, of hatred; Asher, of the two characters of vice and virtue; Joseph, of temperance and chastity; Benjamin, of purity of heart.
In each testament the patriarch first narrates his own life, dwelling on his virtues or his sins. Next he exhorts his descendants to emulate the one and to avoid the other. Lastly, he launches out into prophetic visions of their futures. In these apocalyptic passages the writings of Enoch are often appealed to and cited, though the citations are seldom found in the Ethiopic or Slavonic Enoch. In the biographies the writer follows the Old Testament, adding many details from Jewish tradition.
Many prophetic passages are apparently of Christian origin, and foretell the incarnation, the sanctification by water (e., baptism), and the crucifixion of the Highest. In them Jesus is often identified with God. It is easy to detect and detach these Christian passages; and the manuscripts and versions assist one in doing so. Notably a eulogy of Paul (in which, however, his name is not mentioned), found in the Greek text of the Testament of Benjamin, is absent from the old Armenian version. Tertullian ("Adversus Marcionem," 5:1) seems to allude to this passage. If so, it was interpolated at least as early as the second century. However, Tertullian's allusion is not certain.
There is little external testimony regarding the Testaments. Besides the doubtful allusion of Tertullian (c. 200), a mention of them by name occurs in Origen ("Homilia, XV. in Josuam," ch. ). There are doubtful references also in Jerome and Procopius, as well as specific mention in the "Synopsis Sacræ Scripturæ" wrongly ascribed to Athanasius, and in the "Stichometria" of Nicephorus. The Testaments are not again heard of until Matthew Paris relates in his chronicle (ed. London, 1571, p. 801), under the year 1242, that Robert Grosseteste, Bishop of Lincoln, translated them into Latin, a certain John of Basingstoke having brought them from Athens. This translation was rendered into most modern languages, as a weapon serviceable against the Jews. It was frequently printed before Grabe in 1698 edited the Greek text in his "Spicilegium."
Apart from Christian interpolations, these Testaments are Jewish documents, originally written in Aramaic or Hebrew; and in the genizah of old Cairo, fragments of the original Semitic text have been discovered by M. Gaster, H. L. Pass, and A. Cowley. Dr. Gaster's Hebrew fragment ("Proc. Soc. Bibl. Arch." vol. ) answers to a part of Naphtali; but it is probably a late Jewish paraphrase of an older Aramaic text. The other fragments are Aramaic, and closer to the Greek text. They belong together and answer to parts of Levi. Pass, assisted by J. Arendzen, published his fragment in "J. Q. R." (3:651-661). Cowley's awaits publication. An old Syriac fragment (noticed by Sinker) in Brit. Mus. Codex Add. 17,193 (of the year 874) is nearly identical verbally with the Aramaic fragment.
These discoveries confirm the previous conjectures of such scholars as Grabe, Kayser, Schürer, and Schnapp, and explain the many Semitisms of the Greek text. They prove that the latter is a paraphrase of an old Aramaic midrash, interpolated by generations of Christians.
The only critical edition is that of R. Sinker (Cambridge, 1869), who takes a tenth-century Cambridge manuscript as the basis of his text, adding a collation of four more. A collation of a twelfth-century manuscript in the Vatican (No. 1238) has been published by the present writer ("J. Q. R." , ), as well as a collation of the old Armenian. An old Slavonic version also exists, and has been published by Tichonrawow. An old Georgian version also exists.
The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs are usually included in Armenian codices of the Bible; the Vatican codex mentioned above as containing them is a Septuagint, and entitles them "Lepté Genesis" or "Parva Genesis." A new critical edition, taking account of the recovered Semitic texts, of the Greek codices in Athos, Patmos, Paris, and Rome, and of the ancient Armenian and Slavonic versions, is being prepared by Professor R. H. Charles.
- Besides the works mentioned above see the references given under Apocalypse and Apocrypha.
The Hebrew Original and Its Haggadic Character.
Owing in part to its Christological interpolations, and in part to the similarity of many of its teachings and utterances to those of the New Testament, the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs was regarded as a Christian work until by critical analysis Grabe, in his "Spicilegium Patrum" (Oxford, 1714), arrived at the conclusion that the basis of the work is Jewish, though there are many Christological interpolations. Nevertheless, the old view prevailed, and the work was ascribed to a Judæo-Christian (see, e.g., Sinker, in his edition of the Testaments, Cambridge, 1869). Schnapp, however, in his "Die Testamente der Zwölf Patriarchen Untersucht" (Halle, 1884), revived Grabe's view and elaborated it, proving the spurious character of the Christian passages and also distinguishing two different Jewish sources in the main work. Schnapp's results were approved by Schürer ("Gesch." 3d ed., 3:252-262) as far as the Jewish origin of the book is concerned, while the Armenian version brought to light by Conybeare ("J. Q. R." 5:375-378; 8:260-268,471-485) shows the gradual growth of Christian interpolations. New light was thrown on the book by "The Pre-Talmudic Haggadah" of Kohler (ib. 5:400-414), who found direct allusions to the Testaments in Sifre, Num. 12; Soṭah 7b, and Yer. Soṭah16d, where "early writings" ("ketubim rishonim") are mentioned containing haggadic matters concerning the relations of Reuben with Bilhah and of Judah and his relations with Tamar. In the same article it was shown that the king and priest with prophetic powers described in the Testament of Levi is none other than John Hyrcanus, and that the campaigns of the sons of Jacob recounted in the Testament of Judah correspond exactly with the Maccabean wars.
The various spellings of the names in Test. Patr., Joseph, 1-9 and 10-18 led Sinker to postulate a double authorship for this section of the work, although two different tendencies are distinctly visible throughout the book, especially in the Testaments of Levi and Joseph, thus indicating two different writers, one Hasidæan and the other Maccabean. The monition to respect the priestly tribe of Levi is shown by closer investigation to be a mere addition to the main part of the book, which is ethical in character and may have been used in the Temple like one of the Hagiographa. The apocalyptic portion in Test. Patr., Levi, 14 seems to refer to the orgies of Alexander Jannæus (Josephus, "B. J." 1:4, § 6), but there are no allusions to Rome, thus disproving the hypothesis of Bousset, who dates the work in the time of Pompey. The original language of the Testaments of the Patriarchs was Hebrew, as is shown by the etymologies of the names (Test. Patr., Simeon, 2; Levi, 11; Judah, 1; et passim), by the Hebrew parallelism of poetry, and especially by many mistranslations of Hebrew words, such as "King Zur" and "King Tapuah" for "King of Hazor" and "King of Tappuah."
Contents of the Book.
Omitting the Christian interpolations altogether, the following summary may be given of the twelve sections in which each of the twelve sons of Jacob delivers a farewell address giving an account of such of his experiences as offer some lesson, either warning against sin that he had committed or exhorting to virtues that he had practised.
Testament of Reuben.
Reuben relates (ch. 1:3-4) how, inflamed with passion at the sight of Bilhah, he had committed an incestuous crime in Edar near Beth-lehem (Genesis 35:21-22). Stricken with sorrow and shame, he had suffered for seven months from disease of the loins, owing his recovery only to his father's prayer. He then became a life-long penitent. Seven months he fasted, abstaining from wine and meat and pleasant bread (comp. Daniel 10:3; and for Reuben's repentance see Pesiḳ. 159b; Gen. R. 82:12, 84:18). He accordingly warns his children against looking on women with lustful eyes (comp. Matthew 5:28; Sifre, Num. 115; Ber. 12b, 14a; Ned. 20b; B. B. 57b; 'Ab. Zarah 20a, b), against being alone with a married woman (comp. Sanh. 21a) or meddling with the affairs of women (Ḳid. 70a, 80b; Ab. 1:5), and against every lustful thought (Ber. 12a; Yoma 29a), since it is the imagination, when man is filled with the spirit of see BELIAL, which works iniquity. Ch. , on the seven evil spirits, seems a later interpolation. The fall of the angels in the legend of Enoch, on the other hand, is used (ch. -a; comp. Enoch , 16:3; Jubilees 7:21; 'Ab. Zarah 20b; Targ. Yer. to Genesis 6:2; 1 Corinthians 11:10) to warn women against captivating men by their adornments of head and face. Even the longing for licentiousness ("zenut") is destructive (comp. Job 31:1; Proverbs 7:26-27), to say nothing of licentious conduct. Joseph, however, was protected against lustful thought in the hour of temptation by his singleness of heart in the fear of God.
This section is followed, with no connecting-link except the word "ḳin'ah" (= "jealousy") in ch. a, by a warning against any jealousy of the tribe of Levi, who was the priest that gave instruction in the Law, and the judge that offered up the sacrifices for Israel, blessed the people whom he ruled with Judah, and gave his life for them in wars visible and invisible, thus reestablishing the kingdom for all time (comp. Targ. Yer. to Deuteronomy 33:11 with reference to John Hyrcanus).
Testament of Simeon.
In the first four chapters of his Testament, Simeon dwells on the spirit of jealousy with which Satan, the "sar ha-mastemah" of the Jubilees, had filled him so that he had hated his brother Joseph and had plotted his murder, being prevented only by Judah, who had sold Joseph as a slave while Simeon was absent. The lameness of his right hand for a week showed him God's punitive justice in view of his own five months' wrath, and for two years he had repented and fasted. In like manner, he looked upon his imprisonment in Egypt by Joseph as a punishment which he indeed deserved (comp. Targ. Yer. to Genesis 37:19, 42:24; Gen. R. 91:6). He accordingly warns his children against jealousy, which destroys both him that is envied and him that envies, and he exhorts them (ch. -) to emulate Joseph, who loved his brothers, though they had hated him; and who was good to look upon, since there was no wickedness in him, nor had the evil eye any power over him (comp. Targ. Yer. to Genesis 49:22; Soṭah 36b). "You also," he says in conclusion (ch. ), "will flourish after all envy has been removed from your hearts, and your holy ones will multiply, and their branches will spread afar, and the seed of Canaan, Amalek, Caphtor [Cappadocia]. Kittim [Macedonia], and Ham [= Egypt] will be destroyed for the triumph of Shem and the establishment of the kingdom of the God of Israel, before whom all the spirits of deceit [idolatry] will vanish forever."
The Testament closes with a warning against a war of rebellion against the Maccabean dynasty represented by the priestly tribe of Levi and by the victorious royal leader from the midst of Judah. In the concluding words the bones of Simeon are described as placed in a coffin of incorruptible wood.
Levi: The Priesthood and Pride.
Hasidæan Testament of Levi.
The Testament of Levi, which is incomplete at the beginning and at the close, contains two different accounts of his election to the priesthood, the Hasidæn version being spiritual in character, and the Maccabean political. According to the former (ch. -), Levi, when a youth of twenty, was filled with sorrow for the iniquity and corruption of men, whereupon God answered his prayer for salvation bysending him an angel who showed him the throne of the Most High in the third heaven. He was also told that he should stand in the presence of the Lord, and serve Him, and be His son; that he should be a light of knowledge and a sun to Israel; and that he should be given understanding and counsel to instruct his sons concerning God. In another vision (ch. ) the seven insignia of priesthood were conferred upon him by seven angels, who anointed him with pure oil and consecrated him, since his seed was to be divided into the three kingdoms of the priests, the judges and scribes, and the guardians of the sanctuary. Thereupon, in accordance with a vision, Levi's father, Jacob, made him priest over his house, while his grandfather, Isaac (comp. Jubilees 31:9-32), instructed him in all the laws concerning priesthood, sacrifice, and purification. Levi is particularly warned against (Samaritan) pollution of his seed by marrying a foreign (Philistine) or Gentile (Amorite) wife; and he accordingly married his kinswoman Milkah, who bore him three sons, among whom Kehat, the ancestor of Aaron and Moses, stood forth in his vision as "one amid the haughty of the assembly." In ch. Levi admonishes his children to walk in the way of the Law in all simplicity of heart and in the fear of God, and warns them never to cease to study it, lest they should fail to give their children knowledge which should win them honor and friends. "Perform righteousness on earth that ye may find treasures in heaven [comp. Luke 12:21]; sow good works in your souls that ye may reap them in life." This exhortation is followed by a eulogy of wisdom, and the address closes with the words: "If a man teach these things and do them, he shall sit upon a throne with the king, as did our brother Joseph."
Maccabean Testament of Levi.
According to the other version (comp. Jubilees 30:17-23), Levi's act of vengeance upon Shechem fitted him for the priesthood (ch. - and part of ch. ), for Michael, "the angel who intercedeth for the race of Israel," bestowed upon him a shield and a sword with which he should wreak vengeance on Shechem for Dinah; and though the Shechemites were circumcised, he acted in accordance with the will of God, despite his father's curse (Genesis 49:7), and exterminated the city of "the foolish" (comp. = "folly," Genesis 34:7; Ecclus. [Sirach] 26). The "three kingdoms" that were to spring from Levi were, accordingly, distinct from the three classes mentioned above, being Moses, who was "faithful" (Numbers 12:7), Aaron, and John Hyrcanus, the royal priest who, like Melchizedek (Psalms 110:4), was to manifest his prophetic power (comp. Josephus, "B. J." 1:2, § 8; Tosef., Soṭah, 13:5). Ch. and -, devoted to the fearful corruption and depravity of the priesthood under Alexander Jannæus, which is mentioned also in the Psalms of Solomon, disclose the last experiences of the Maccabean writer. The Messianic prophecy in ch. seems to belong to the older Hasidæan document, and its Messiah opens the gates of paradise to the saints while he overcomes Belial with his hosts. In the closing chapter Levi bids his children, who, are themselves represented as speaking, to choose between the Lord and Belial, whereupon they swear allegiance to God.
Judah: Courage, Avarice, and Fornication.
Testament of Judah.
Judah narrates to his children (ch. -, ) the feats of strength which he, who was, like David, destined to be a king, had displayed in his youth. He also tells them of the swiftness, courage, and power which he had shown in his wondrous combats with all kinds of wild beasts that assailed his flock and with the Canaanitish kings of Hazor and Tappuah and their men, besides describing how he surpassed his brothers in the war with the Amorites and the sons of Esau (comp. Jubilees 34:1-9; Midr. Wayissa'u, ed. Jellinek, "B. H." 3:1-5 and Introduction; Kohler, c.). A boast of immaculate youth which he made to Reuben caused him, like David (Sanh. 107a), to be ensnared by a woman (ch. 8:10-14). At a feast given him by Barsua', the King of Adullam, he became drunk, and in that state he fell in love with the princess Bat Sua', who was presented to him decked with gold and pearls. He married her, but the children of the union were wicked (Genesis 38:3-10). Bat Sua' hated Tamar because she was related to Abraham, being the daughter of Shem, according to Gen. R. 85:11; Targ. Yer. to Genesis 38:6, and refused to allow her sons to marry her. Even when Tamar contrived to be united with Judah in a levirate marriage, he was again deceived by drunkenness, due to the feast he celebrated at the waters of Kezib (ch. -). Judah accordingly warns his children against excessive pride, covetousness, and licentiousness, but most of all against indulgence in wine, since it reveals all the secrets of God and leads to sin. Ch. is an interpolated midrash on Genesis 38:18 (comp. Gen. R. 85:10). His monition concludes with the statement (ch. ) that Satan is the cause of sin, wherefore they must choose between the Lord, the Spirit of Truth, who sees each act of man written on his breast, and the Spirit of Error. The address closes (ch. 22:24-25) with a Messianic prophecy which emphasizes Judah's lasting claim to the resurrection of the saints, the triumph of the poor and the martyrs, and the burning of Belial and all his hosts. A denunciation of the royal custom of embalming, which was antagonistic to the doctrine of the resurrection, ends the Testament.
In sharp contrast to this Judaic or Davidic prophecy stand the accentuation of the Levitic or Maccabean royalty (ch. ) and the references to its hero (ch. ). These are obviously interpolations by the Maccabean reviser, and ch. is a still later insertion.
Testament of Issachar.
Issachar, whose name is explained at length in accordance with Genesis 30:14-18, represents himself to his children as one who walked all his life in simplicity (ch. ). Being a husbandman, he never failed to give the priest the first-fruits of his lands, sharing the residue with his father and with the poor and afflicted, so that he was greatly blessed. He spoke ill of no one, nor did he meddle in the affairs of others; he harbored no lustful thoughts in his heart and was happy with his wife and his field. He accordingly admonisheshis children (ch. -) to walk in simplicity, and to refrain from envy and all lustful thoughts, prying into no secrets, but loving God and man, and filled with compassion for the poor and feeble. He urges them, moreover, to find contentment in husbandry and to seek the divine blessing in the fruit of the soil, for abandonment of agricultural life would, in his view, lead them in the latter days to transgression and dispersion among the Gentiles. This denunciation of mercantile pursuits, which were the chief occupations of the Jews in the Diaspora, indicates the period at which the original Testaments were written. With a glance at the Epicurean life of the Sadducees, Issachar concludes with the words: "I am 120 years old, and have known no mortal sin. Except my wife, I have known no woman, nor have I gone a-whoring with the lifting up of mine eyes; I have drunk no wine to lead me astray, nor have I desired the desire of my neighbor. Craft hath not been in my heart, nor hath falsehood come through my lips. I sighed with every one that was troubled, and I gave my bread to the poor. I ate not alone; I broke no oath; I wrought piety and truth all my days. I have loved the Lord with all my might, and I have loved every man even as my children. Do ye these things, my children, and every spirit of Belial will flee from you, and no deed of evil men will have power over you; and ye shall subdue every wild beast, having with you the God of heaven, that walketh with men in simplicity of heart." In this picture of the ideal Ḥasid, who dies "at a good old age and with his strength unabated," the passage in ch. , which emphasizes the supremacy of Levi and Judah as priest and ruler, contains no indication of late Maccabean influence (comp. Targ. Yer. to Genesis 49:14-15; Gen. R. 99:11).
Zebulun: Compassion and Pity.
Testament of Zebulun.
Unlike the rabbinical conception of Zebulun, which is that of the merchant who supports Issachar while he devotes his life to the study of the Torah (see Targ. Yer. to Deuteronomy 33:18), Zebulun in the Testaments Ḥasidically typifies the fisherman who supplies the household with fish and gives of his store to the stranger, the sick, the aged, and the needy that he may be blessed by God for his compassion (ch. ). He tells his children, moreover, that it was his deep compassion for Joseph which restrained Simeon and Gad from bloodshed, for he had joined his youngest brother in an appeal to their sympathy and had adjured them with tears not to commit the crime, thus anticipating even Reuben, who made the proposal to cast Joseph into the pit to save the young lad's life. When the other brothers took the twenty pieces of silver for which they sold Joseph and used them to buy sandals (Pirḳe R. El.; Targ. Yer. to Genesis 37:28, based on Amos 2:6), Zebulun, like Reuben, refused to share in the money. Whenever he saw a person unclad he used to cover him with garments of his own, and he was accordingly blessed by God, nor did any sickness befall his house, for "as man showeth compassion on his fellow beings, so doth God show compassion on him" (Sifre, Deut. 96; Shab. 151b).
Zebulun therefore admonishes his children to show mercy to every man, and to bear neither grudge nor malice toward any, but to love one another, taking Joseph for their model. The address closes (ch. ) with a warning against dissensions in Israel, since they would lead to a division of the kingdom and to dispersion among the Gentiles, and with an expression of his longing for the Messianic period, when Belial and his hosts should be trodden under foot and God alone should reign in Jerusalem as the sun of righteousness with the healing of compassion on its wings. The closing chapter expresses the hope of resurrection as forming part of the final judgment in which Zebulun, one of the twelve judges, will appear as the ruler of his tribe. The name of Levi does not occur in this Testament.
Dan: Anger and Falsehood.
Testament of Dan.
Dan, the black sheep among the tribes of Israel (DAN), tells his children (ch. ) that, under the influence of Belial, he had been filled with anger against Joseph and that, "eager to devour him as a leopard devours a kid," he had planned to kill him that he might supplant him in the heart of his father. Dan accordingly warns his children (ch. -a) against anger, since it heeds neither parent, nor brother, nor prophet, nor righteous man, nor friend. Ch. and other interpolated passages add a warning against lying which is scarcely a genuine part of the Testament. Anger may be roused by words only, yet it leads to action. Therefore his children are exhorted to refrain from anger either at spoken words or at misfortunes, lest they should be overcome by Belial and the Lord should depart from them, the lesson of the Testament being that they should flee from wrath and love God and man in order that the Lord might dwell among them and Belial be driven from them. The last sentence of the Testament is obviously a Jewish interpolation.
Naphtali: Natural Goodness.
Testament of Naphtali.
Naphtali, who died in perfect health at the age of 132, relates to his children that he resembled Joseph since he was born on Rachel's knees. The explanation of the names of Naphtali (comp. Gen. R. 89:22; Num, R. 14:23; Epstein, "Mi-Ḳadmoniyyot ha-Yehudim," p. 74), Bilhah, and Zilpah are curious haggadic remnants. Swift of foot as a deer (Genesis 49:21; comp. Pirḳe R. El.; Soṭah 13a), Naphtali served his father, Jacob, as a messenger; and in the father's grief at the loss of Joseph he was comforted by Naphtali, who told him of two dreams in which the future greatness of Levi, Judah, and Joseph had been revealed to him (ch. -). The text is extremely corrupt, and must be corrected on the basis of the Hebrew "Testament of Naphtali" discovered by Gaster in the "Chronicles of Jerahmeel" and reproduced in a German translation by Schnapp, in Kautzsch, "Apocryphen," 2:489-492. According to this document, which is decidedly better preserved than the Greek version, Naphtali speaks of the pleasant land that fell to the lot of his tribe (Deuteronomy 33:23) and then warns his children not to become overbearing in their prosperity. The monition to observe the law of God and to refrain from such corruptions as had been practisedby the men of Sodom, the idolatrous nations, and the fallen angels in the days of Enoch is preceded by the lesson that, in accordance with Deuteronomy 32:8-9 (comp. Targ. Yer. ad loc.), each of the seventy nations worships its own guardian angel as a deity, while Abraham chose on behalf of his descendants the only one God and Creator of the world as Guide and Protector, since Michael, the guardian angel of Israel, had taught him the Hebrew language, thus enabling him to learn the true order of things and the wisdom of creation. As sun, moon, and stars change not their order, so should the children of Naphtali not change the order of things. This section is followed by the apocalyptic part, in which Maccabean elements referring to the supremacy of Levi seem again to be mingled with Hasidæan tenets.
Testament of Gad.
Gad tells his children that in his strength he had been accustomed to guard the flock at night, and to kill every wild beast that assailed it. Joseph, however, was too delicate to stay with the flock in the heat of the day and went home to his father, whom he informed that Gad and the other sons of the two concubines were eating lambs that had been torn by wild beasts and had not been slaughtered either by Judah or by Reuben according to the prescribed rule (comp. Targ. Yer. to Genesis 37:2; Pirḳe R. El.; Gen. R. 84:7). This so provoked Gad that be hated Joseph, and, like Simeon, wished to kill him, being eager "to devour him as the calf devours the grass." His hatred finally brought upon him a disease of the heart which lasted for eleven months, the length of time that he entertained this feeling of enmity before he repented and his father's prayers saved him from death (ch. -2:5). He therefore warns his children against the spirit of hatred which fills the heart with poison, and allies itself with Satan and with every evil, leading to all manner of impiety and death, while love effects the salvation of man. "Love ye one another in act, and word, and thought. . . . If one sin against thee, tell him in peace, removing the poison of hate, and foster not guile in thy soul [comp. Leviticus 19:17; Matthew 18:15]. And if he confess and repent, forgive him [Yoma 87a; Luke 17:3] . . . and if he deny it, strive not with him lest he swear and thou sin doubly. . . . But give the vengeance unto God" (Deuteronomy 32:35; Romans 12:19). "Envy not the prosperous, for the poor man who is free from envy is rich "(ch. -). As its concluding words this Testament contains a totally irrelevant passage concerning Judah and Levi.
Asher: The Two Characters of Vice and Virtue.
Testament of Asher.
It is possible that the Testament of Asher is defective, since the only reference to his own personal experience is found in ch. , where he says that he observed life and sought out the commandments of God, only to find that the two ways of light and darkness, of good and evil, and of truth and error must ever be kept distinct, for doublefacedness serves not God but Belial (ch. ). The allusions in ch. to unclean animals, such as swine, which appear half clean but in reality are unclean, and the reference in ch. to clean animals, such as stags and hinds, which appear unclean in a wild state but are actually clean, are indicative of such concepts as are expressed in the Letter of Aristeas, §§ 153-169. The moral of the Testament may be summed up in the words: "Follow the truth with singleness of face and hate the spirits of error, . . . distinguishing the angels of the Lord and of Satan" (ch.; comp. 2 Corinthians 11:14), and it closes with a brief apocalyptic passage predicting the exile and the restoration.
Testament of Joseph.
The Testament of Joseph presents Joseph in two different aspects. In the first part (ch. -a) he speaks as the same type of chastity in which he is presented by the rabbinic Haggadah (Targ. Yer. to Genesis 49:22; Soṭah 36b; Pirḳe R. El. ). In the second part (ch. b-) he appears as the model of brotherly love. In the former, Potiphar's wife is termed "the Egyptian"; in the latter "the Memphian." The first portion of the Testament is written in forcible poetic style; the latter, which chronologically is the earlier, is in simple prose, so that the whole is evidently the work of two different authors.
Joseph begins by declaring that his trust in God brought him rescue and exaltation through all the time that he was envied and hated, sold and slandered. It is, accordingly, the picture of a Ḥasid, the persecuted saint, that is exhibited in the first two chapters. During his stay of seven years with "the shameless woman," he proved another Daniel, even his fasting lending greater beauty to his face. He gave his food to the poor, and wept and prayed for the conversion of Potiphar's wife, even after his prayer had obtained for her, in her childless state, a son. He wished to instruct her in the way of righteousness, while she attempted to capture him by means of witchcraft (ch. -); and finally, when all her contrivances failed and he was cast into prison because of her slander, he sang songs of thanks-giving to God for his escape from the allurements of her shameless attitudes (ch. -; the last sentence is misplaced). "God loveth the chaste who endureth in his den of darkness. . . . If, therefore, ye follow after chastity and holiness in patience and humility of heart, the Lord will dwell among you, . . . and exalt you, and bless you with all good things even as He blessed me" (ch. -).
In the second part (ch. b-) Joseph dwells on the fact that, lest he should put his brothers to shame, he never revealed his birthplace and his family either to the merchants, who had bought him as a slave, or to Potiphar, whose wife had fallen in love with the beautiful lad at sight of him, or to any of the eunuchs of Pharaoh, who stripped and beat him to wrest from him the confession that he was the son of a mighty man in Canaan (comp. Gen. 15). "Therefore," said he to his children, "love one another, and with long-suffering hide each other's faults, for God delighteth in the unity of brethren" (ch. ).
The apocalyptic passage, preserved in longer form in the Armenian version, but obviously curtailed and interpolated by Christian hands, describes the captivity and downfall of the kingdom of Joseph and the permanence of the kingdom of Judah, The reference to Levi is a Maccabean insertion.
Benjamin: Purity of Heart.
Testament of Benjamin.
Benjamin, who is represented both by the Testament which bears his name and by rabbinic literature as the one who clings lovingly to his brother Joseph (see Gen. R. 94:7), typifies affectionate regard for the righteous. The hero himself, whose name is explained in ch. as "the child of old age," dwells on the nobility of Joseph, but since he would not impute an evil act to his brothers, he construed the story of the coat in their favor (ch. ), and besought his father to pray to God that He should not impute to them the evil they had devised against him (ch. ). Benjamin accordingly admonishes his children ever to direct their mind toward the good and pure, for the good man has no "evil eye," but sympathy for all, and mercy to the poor (ch. ), thus having a good influence even on the evil (ch. ). The spirit of Belial will have no power over him, nor will he look with lust upon woman. Cain, the evil brother, had to suffer for seven hundred years, but Joseph could be defiled by sin no more than is the sun by shining over dung and mire. The whole monition (ch. ii-), however, is in great disorder. The apocalyptic portion (ch. -), based partly upon Genesis 49:27 and partly upon Deuteronomy 33:12, is so interpolated by Christian writers that any analysis of it is extremely difficult.
In the New Testament.
Charles (c.) has already called attention to the frequent use of the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs by Paul and other writers of the New Testament. 1 Thessalonians 2:16 is a quotation of Test. Patr., Levi, 6, 10; Romans 12:19 of Gad, 6, 10; Romans 12:21 of Benjamin, 6, 3; 2 Corinthians 7:10 of Gad, 5, 7; and Ephes. 5:6 of Naphtali, 3, 1. As has been indicated above, the New Testament teaching of forgiveness, of love even for enemies, of chastity in thought, and of similar matters is clearly presented in these far older Essene utterances of the patriarchs Gad, Issachar, Joseph, Benjamin, and others. The dualistic psychology and cosmology, as well as the eschatology, are the same in both, and the Testaments belong to the same class of literature and age as the DIDACHE and DIDASCALIA, being Jewish works appropriated and remodeled by the Church.
- Edition by Sinker, Cambridge, 1869;
- translated by the same scholar on the basis of this text in the Anti-Nicene Library, Edinburgh, 1890.
- For the literature see Schürer, Gesch. 3d ed., 3:252-262, and Bousset in Zeit. für Neutestamentliche Wissenschaft, 1900, pp. 141-209;
- Charles, in Hibbert Journal, 1905, pp. 558-573.
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Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tje/​t/testaments-of-the-twelve-patriarchs.html. 1901.