Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs


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Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs,

an early Jewish work, with some Christian interpolations, reckoned among the Old Testament PseudepigraphaPseudepigrapha
[Gr.,=things falsely ascribed], a collection of early Jewish and some Jewish-Christian writings composed between c.200 B.C. and c.A.D. 200, not found in the Bible or rabbinic writings.
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. The work may have been written as early as 1st cent. B.C. It purports to be the final sayings ("Testaments") of the 12 patriarchs, i.e., the 12 sons of Jacob, to their respective families. They each reflect on the meaning of life and the sins which they have committed. Many of the Testaments espouse apocalyptic theology, teaching an ethical dualism similar to the Dead Sea ScrollsDead Sea Scrolls,
ancient leather and papyrus scrolls first discovered in 1947 in caves on the NW shore of the Dead Sea. Most of the documents were written or copied between the 1st cent. B.C. and the first half of the 1st cent. A.D.
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.

Bibliography

See J. H. Charlesworth, ed., The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (Vol. I, 1983).

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The actual texts included are too numerous to mention here, but among them are the Septuagint; the Book of Jubilees; Pseudo-Philo's Book of Biblical Antiquities; generous selections of the writings of Philo and Josephus; various testaments, including the Testament of Abraham and the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs; wisdom literature, such as the Wisdom of Solomon and the Wisdom of Ben Sira; stories set in biblical and early post-biblical times, such as Joseph and Asenath, Judith, and Tobit; historical writings from post-biblical times, including 1 and 2 Maccabees; and numerous sectarian texts found at Qumran, such as the Rule of the Community and the Temple Scroll.
Part 5, "Apocalyptic Literature and Testaments," includes chapters by Matthias Henze, "The Use of Scripture in the Book of Daniel"; Hindy Najman (with Itamar Manoff and Eva Mroczek), "How to Make Sense of Pseudonymous Attribution: The Case of 4 Ezra and 2 Baruch."-, and Robert Kugler, "The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs: A Not-So-Ambiguous Witness to Early Jewish Interpretive Practices." Hentze analyzes the biblical interpretation in Daniel, which is appropriate since Daniel was a late addition to the biblical canon.
Loader points out that the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs in the form that we have them are Christian revisions of earlier Jewish writings, so they provide evidence of early Christian reflection on sexuality.
The case that Jehovah destroyed Sodom because of inhospitality can indeed be plausibly deduced from the Hebrew scriptures, but that interpretation was certainly abandoned during the intertestamental period (that is, between the canonization of the Old Testament around 200 BCE and that of the New Testament, around 200 CE), in such texts as the Book of Jubilees, the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, and the Secrets of Enoch.
He spends considerable effort in demonstrating the unity of 3:13-4:10 under the theme of envy, drawing connections to Hellenistic literature and especially the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, but I wonder if it is worth the effort.
Much more unexpected, at least to many, will be the contention that both Trinity and Incarnation are to be detected in pre-Christian Judaism, for instance in Philo, in 1 Enoch, and in the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs. In the last case, he rejects the view that they contain Christian interpolations and/or glosses.
Many "apocalyptic" works were written in the two centuries before and after the turn of the era, books such as 1 Enoch, The Book of Jubilees, The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs. Analysis of these works is extremely difficult not only because of their inherent difficulty but because of confusion in scholarly terminology and lack of consensus on the proper classification of the books and their genres, and on their provenance.
The analyzed prayers come from additions to Esther, Judith, Jubilees, Susanna, Tobit, Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum, Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, the Testament of Job, Joseph and Asenath, Third Maccabees, the works of Philo of Alexandria, Fourth Maccabees, Second Baruch, Fourth Ezra, Sibylline Oracles, and the Writings of Josephus.
Missing too from Qumran are the Similitudes and the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, which Boccaccini, unlike M.
44: 16 (Hebrew) and several of the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs.
Merging two fragments of six and seven lines respectively--and there are never more than ten to twelve letters per line!--Puech fills in the gaps that remain to produce nearly seven full lines of reconstructed text which he relates closely to Testament of Joseph 15-16 in the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs. While his reconstruction is ingenious, it must be noted that it begins with the smallest of hints that the scroll may be related to the Testament of Joseph, brings the two fragments together on that basis, and then fills in the gaps in the joined fragments from what one knows of the Greek testament itself.
In the Judaeo-Christian tradition there was a whole series of writings bearing this name, the best known example being the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs.(16) It is not clear, however, whether or not we are in fact dealing here with a distinct literary genre.(17) If so, then according to the comprehensive study by Eckehard von Nordheim, it derives from Israelitic wisdom and its main purpose is ethical teaching and admonition.