Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs Introduction

Twelve Patriarchs Introduction p. 220 

The following twelve books are biographies written between 107 and 137 B.C. They are a forceful exposition, showing how a Pharisee with a rare gift of writing secured publicity by using the names of the greatest men of ancient times. “There were intellectual giants in those days” and the Twelve Patriarchs were the Intellectual Giants!

Each is here made to tell his life story. When he is on his deathbed he calls all his children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren about him, and proceeds without reservation to lay bare his experiences for the moral guidance of his hearers. If he fell into sin he tells all about it and then counsels them not to err as he did. If he was virtuous, he shows what rewards were his.

When you look beyond the unvarnished–almost brutally frank–passages of the text, you will discern a remarkable attestation of the expectations of the Messiah which existed a hundred years before Christ. And there is another element of rare value in this strange series. As Dr. R. H. Charles says in his scholarly work on the Pseudepigrapha: its ethical teaching “has achieved a real immortality by influencing the thought and diction of the writers of the New Testament, and even those of our Lord. This ethical teaching, which is very much higher and purer than that of the Old Testament, is yet its true spiritual child and helps to bridge the chasm that divides the ethics of the Old and New Testaments.”

The instances of the influence of these writings on the New Testament are notable in the Sermon on the Mount which reflects the spirit and even uses phrases from these Testaments. St. Paul appears to have borrowed so freely that it seems as though he must have carried a copy of the Testaments with him on his travels.

Thus, the reader has before him in these pages what is at once striking for its blunt primitive style and valuable as some of the actual source books of the Bible.

Source: sacred-texts.com

The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs is a constituent of the apocryphal scriptures connected with the Bible. It is a pseudepigraphical work comprising the dying commands of the twelve sons of Jacob. It is part of the Oskan Armenian Orthodox Bible of 1666. Fragments of similar writings were found at Qumran, but opinions are divided as to whether these are the same texts. It is considered apocalyptic literature.

The Testaments were written in Hebrew or Greek, and reached their final form in the 2nd century CE. In the 13th century they were introduced into the West through the agency of Robert Grosseteste, Bishop of Lincoln, whose Latin translation of the work immediately became popular. He believed that it was a genuine work of the twelve sons of Jacob, and that the Christian interpolations were a genuine product of Jewish prophecy; he accused Jews of concealing the Testaments “on account of the prophecies of the Saviour contained in them.”

With the critical methods of the 16th century, Grosseteste’s view of the Testaments was rejected, and the book was disparaged as a mere Christian forgery for nearly four centuries. Presently, scholarly opinions are still divided as to whether it is an originally Jewish document that has been retouched by Christians, or a Christian document written originally in Greek but based on some earlier Semitic-language material. Scholarship tends to focus on this book as a Christian work, whether or not it has a Jewish predecessor (Vorlage).

Source: en. wikipedia.org

References in Origen (Hom. in Joshua. 15.6) and Jerome (Tractatus de Psalmo 15) show that the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs existed in some form in the second century CE.

There are several passages with Christian content, but these are assumed to come from Christian redaction of an originally Jewish document. Marinus de Jonge comments on the attempts to determine the development of the document (The Anchor Bible Dictionary, v. 5, p. 183):

At the beginning of the 20th century, R. H. Charles distinguished between a 2d-century B.C. pro-Hasmonean original to which extensive anti-Hasmonean passages (advocating a Messiah from Judah) were added in the 1st century B.C. In 1970 J. Becker assumed a Hellenistic-Jewish “Grundschrift,” stemming from Wisdom circles dated around 200-175 B.C. This formed the nucleus of the present writing that took shape in the subsequent centuries by the addition of Hellenistic-Jewish homilies, apocalyptic visions, midrashic expositions, etc. In 1977 A. Hultgard, in an analysis of the apocalyptic passages, found first an anti-Hasmonean stage with the expectation of an ideal Levi and an ideal Judah; later, in the beginning of the 1st century B.C., the emphasis was on intervention by God himself, on the expectation of a Davidic messiah and on the hope of the resurrection and last judgment. In the 1st century A.D. there was a new redaction, introducing a central eschatological figure called the ‘priest-savior,’ the result of the merger of different traditions.

Marinus (Rien) de Jonge, Professor of New Testament Exegesis and Early Christian Literature at. Leiden University from 1966 to 1990, passed away on 26 December 2016

De Jonge his his own theory on the matter (op. cit., p. 183):

A different approach has also been advocated (de Jonge 1953). There is no doubt that T. 12 P. are Christian in their present form and must have received that form sometime in the second half of the 2d century A.D. One first has to establish the meaning of the present T. 12 P. (allowing, of course, for possible alterations in the period between their origin and the origin of the archetype of our manuscript tradition) for a Christian audience around A.D. 200. Because the Christian passages cannot be removed without damaging the fabric of large sections of the work, we must assume at least a thoroughgoing Christian redaction. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to establish the exact contents of this “original” (pre-Christian) Jewish document, let alone to detect different stages in the redaction of that document. It is, in fact, uncertain whether one should speak of a Christian redaction of an existing Jewish T. 12 P. or of a Christian composition.

Marinus (Rien) de Jonge, Professor of New Testament Exegesis and Early Christian Literature at. Leiden University from 1966 to 1990, passed away on 26 December 2016

Source: Earlychristianwritings.com

Original Source: Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs.[1]see http://www.sacred-texts.com/bib/fbe/index.htm#section_008 | sacred-texts.com


1 see http://www.sacred-texts.com/bib/fbe/index.htm#section_008

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