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II. Opinions about the Testaments

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The Testaments of the twelve Patriarchs
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1 I. Introduction
2 II. Opinions about the Testaments
3 III. Critical Observations on the Nature and Discovery of the Testaments
4 IV. The Original Forefathers and Jacob's Twelve Sons
5 V. Prophecy in the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs
6 Notes and References


II. Opinions about the Testaments

Scholars have spent an enormous amount of time studying, analyzing and translating these priceless documents; and they are now available to almost everyone. Below are a few scholarly opinions.

A. Cleveland Coxe, D.D., in his preface to The Writings of the Fathers Down to A.D. 325...Vol. 8, gives commentary regarding the author, stating, "how much he [author]owes, under God, to these "guides, philosophers, and friends," "these Fathers of old time, and to their Father and our Father, their God and our God! What love is due from all who love Christ, for the words they [Patriarchs] have spoken, and the deeds they have done, to assure us that the Everlasting Word is He to whom alone we can go for the words of life eternal!" He further states in his preface, "The author of this book was anxious to show that the twelve patriarchs were twelve believers in the Paschal Lamb, and that they died in Christian penitence and faith". He says about the work itself, "It is a cheering token, that, while the superficial popular mind may even be disposed to regard this collection as a mere museum of fossils, having little or no connection with anything that interests our age, there is a twofold movement towards a fresh investigation of the past, which it seems providentially designed to meet" [1]


Cox also offers his own view of Joseph based on how the "author" of the Testament of Joseph depicted him in his translation. Cox says, "Surely Joseph was a type of Christ in this as in other particulars, and our author merely enables us to understand the “fiery darts” which he was wont to hurl back at the tempter. I own (reluctantly, because I dislike this form of teaching) that for me the superlative ode of the dying Jacob receives a reflected lustre from this curious book, especially in the splendid eulogy with which the old patriarch blesses his beloved Joseph. He likewise speaks of the effusion of the Holy Spirit upon the Messiah, attended with a voice from heaven; His unrighteous treatment by the Jews; their desolations and the destruction of the Temple upon that account; the call of the Gentiles; the illuminating them generally with new light; the effusion of the Spirit upon believers, but especially, and in a more abundant measure, upon the Gentiles." [2]

Michael E. Stone, in the preface to his book, The Testament of Levi: A First Study of the Armenian Mss. of the Testaments of the XII Patriarchs in the Convent of St. James Jerusalem [St. James Press, 1969. 203 pgs.] , has this to say: "The recent recovery of some fragments of the Semitic originals of various of these works among the Dead Sea manuscripts has served to accentuate the importance of the investigation of their traditional text and transmission. It has, moreover, revived interest in this rich literature and led to a general movement towards the re-evaluation of its contribution to the understanding of the spiritual life of the Second Jewish Commonwealth. Yet, the study of the oriental versions of the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha is still largely neglected, even in those cases, like The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, where those versions have been in the past the subject of extensive scholarly discussion. Indeed, it becomes apparent that, although lively, and at times fierce, debate has been aroused by the Armenian version of T. Patr., the basis of the text around which these discussions raged was pitifully narrow. As with the other Armenian apocrypha, the text known to Western scholars was founded primarily upon the manuscripts of the library of the Mechitarist Fathers of San Lazzaro in Venice. To these were added a number of manuscripts in private and public libraries in Europe. The manuscript copies of the book in the largest single collection of manuscripts, in Erevan, and of the second largest such collection, in Jerusalem, have never been examined, much less published." [3]


Robert Sinker, editor of The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, says, "But as to the work itself, seeing it exists, I must acknowledge that it seems to me a valuable relic of antiquity, and an interesting specimen of the feelings and convictions of those believers over whom St. James presided in Jerusalem: 'Israelites indeed,' but 'zealous of the law.'" In another passage he states, "They were now convinced that Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, with Moses and all the prophets, looked for the Messiah who had appeared in Jesus of Nazareth." [4].

The Jewish encyclopedia contends that the Testaments are filled with "generations of Christian interpolations." The writer goes on to say, "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 'three kingdoms' that were to spring from Levi were, accordingly, distinct from the three classes mentioned above, being Moses, who was 'faithful' (Num. xii. 7), Aaron, and John Hyrcanus, the royal priest who, like Melchizedek (Ps. cx. 4), was to manifest his prophetic power (comp. Josephus, "B. J." i. 2, § 8; Tosef., Soṭah, xiii. 5)." The commentator later writes, "Ch. x. and xiv.-xvii., 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." [5]

Jdgray 13:49, 5 November 2008 (UTC)




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