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The Testaments of the twelve Patriarchs
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

I. Introduction

The ancient text, known as "The Testaments of the 12 Patriarchs [of Israel]," was restored to life in the 13th century when Matthew Paris, a Benedictine Monk, brought it to the attention of John Grosseteste, Bishop of Lincoln, who then translated it from Greek into Latin, making it available to Western Europe and eventually to the rest of the world. In fact, this text, though kept out of circulation for centuries, had been housed in various institutions around the world until their late discovery by certain scholars. Such institutions were found to be in Israel [Jerusalem], Greece, Armenia, Africa and elsewhere. This "valuable relic of antiquity" [Sinker] was confirmed by many to be the last words [testaments] of the 12 sons of Jacob [Israel] spoken to their own sons in order to prepare them for life in this world by making known to them the will of God, and to inform them of future events in the lives of their offspring. The Testaments were also meant, as believed by Christians, to make known to their sons, the glorious advent of the Messiah whom the Christians know as Jesus Christ.

Although history proves that this document existed long before Grossesteste's translation of it into Latin in 1268 AD, evidence has shown that the Testaments were indeed first written in Hebrew, then translated into Aramaic no later than the first century a.d. They were then translated into Greek at some very early but unknown date.[1]

The messianic prophesy inherent in the [translations of the]Testaments, trace the lineage of the Messiah back to Levi, Jacob's third son and progenitor of the priestly class in ancient Israel; and to Judah, Jacob's fourth son and progenitor of the kingly lineage. Interestingly, the ancient prophecies made by Israel's patriarchs and prophets such as Isaiah, about the Christ and His redeeming sacrifice on earth [2] [3], strongly supports the Christian belief that the Messiah is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth; yet some scholars differ with this assertion. [4] Many Jews, in fact, express the belief that the references made to the Messiah in this text, were either Christian interpolations, were references to John Hyrcannus of the Hasmonean dynasty. [5]

There exists, however, in the Old Testament book of Genesis, a Messianic verse that supports the existence of the Messiah in the Testaments by providing a direct link to apocryphal Testament of Jacob. In this verse, Jacob tells his son Judah that the Messiah Christ will come through his lineage. He says, "(8)Judah, your brothers will praise you; your hand will be on the neck of your enemies; your father's sons will bow down to you. 9 You are a lion's cub, O Judah; you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness—who dares to rouse him? 10 The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his. 11 He will tether his donkey to a vine, his colt to the choicest branch; he will wash his garments in wine, his robes in the blood of grapes. 12 His eyes will be darker than wine, his teeth whiter than milk." [6].

Writer, Michael E. Stone, in the introduction to his book, Selected Studies in Pseudepigrapha and Apocryphy with Special Reference to the Armenian Tradition, mentions some very intriguing observations in his study of the Testament of Jacob, and says concerning its existence, "It appears that the existence of the Testament of Jacob is witnessed by a number of different sources in various languages," and that all (these) various texts "are based on the last chapters of Genesis." [7] [8]

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