Testament of Asher

Asher is missing the historical expansion found in previous testaments. He begins with a moral exhortation concerning the “two ways.” This ethic is found throughout this literature, but is clearly the main theme here. OTP 1:816, note a comments this “two way” theme is based on Deut 30:15 and Josh 24:15 (cf., Jer 21:8-14, Sirach 15:11-1, 2 Enoch 30:15 and in the Christian writings Barnabas 17, Didache 1, Clementine Homilies 5.7, Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 5.5).

Image result for asher son of jacobThere are two ways are called mind-sets, lines of action, models, and goals (1:3). The ways are “good” or “evil.” If one is taken over by Beliar and “disposed” toward evil, then even good which is attempted will be for the bad (1:9). Chapter 2 describes this pervasiveness of evil. Even if a man is trying to do good but there is evil in the act, the whole act is evil. Therefore Asher urges his children not be two-faced (chapter 3). The two-faced man is not of God but is enslaved by evil. The good person is single minded (4:1) and therefore righteous before God. This principle can be applied to any activity (i.e., vice / virtue, see chapter 5).

There is a muted apocalyptic section in Asher. In 6:4-5 we are told the ultimate end of the two-faced man is harassment by the evil spirits of Beliar. Chapter 7 begins with a warning not to be like Sodom who did not recognize judgment was upon them. The people will sin and be delivered into the hands of enemies, but God will re-gather them from the four corners of the earth (7:2-3). In dispersion, the people will be worthless until the Most High visits the earth (There is a Christian interpolation at this point making the visitation the ministry of Jesus.)

This whole testament is not unlike Romans 6:15-23, perhaps the closest Paul gets to the “two ways” theology of the Testaments. In Romans 6 Paul says the natural man is a slave to wickedness but the believer is a slave to righteousness and ought to yield himself as a slave of God so as to gain the harvest of eternal life. Paul deals with a hypothetical objection is that one might argue that since the Law has no meaning to the believer, he is free to sin. If all of the moral code of the law is not to be applied to the believer in Christ, he has no law and can do whatever pleases him. His answer to this objection is to use an analogy drawn from the slave market.

For Paul, all people are slaves and are divided into two groups: Those that are slaves to wickedness (the unsaved) and those that are slaves to righteousness (the saved). Just as a person yielded himself totally to his master when he served sin, the believer ought to yield himself totally to his new master, righteousness. The benefits of this are seen in the “wages” that each master pays his servant.

The slave to wickedness will be given death while the servant of righteousness will be given eternal life. The book of Galatians makes a similar point – one either walks by the flesh or by the Spirit. It is unlikely Paul is using Asher (or the whole of the Twelve Patriarchs for that matter), but the idea of “two ways” is clearly in Paul’s mind in Romans and Galatians. It seems to be an idea which was common in Judaism in the first century which Paul takes up and “christianizes.” Instead of “Law versus Beliar,” Paul has “Spirit versus Flesh.”

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