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The historical expansion section of Benjamin concerns an apocryphal story about Joseph in his trip down to Egypt (chapters 1-2). Joseph is a model of a pious man who loved the Lord his God, feared him and loved his neighbor (chapter 3). There is a Christian interpolation at 3:8 which connects Joseph to the Lamb of God who comes to take way the sins of the world (cf. T.Jos 19:8).

Image result for Benjamin Joseph bibleThe ethical section of this testament describe the “goal of a good man” (chapters 4-6). A good man is to be an imitator of good (4:1). Imitation is a common component of ethical training in the Hellenistic world and is found frequent in Paul’s letters (1 Thess 1:6, 2:14; Col 4:16; 1 Cor 11:1; Eph 5:1; Phil 3:17, 4:9).

Another similarity to the Pauline ethic is Benjamin’s advice to the good man to “set his mind on what is good” (5:1, cf. Phil 4:9; Col 3:1-4; 2 Cor 4:18). Chapters 7-8 develop the familiar theme of fleeing evil, Beliar, etc. (7:1, 8:1, “run from corruption, cling to what is good”). This especially includes sexual sin, the writer cites 1 Enoch and the Sodomites as examples. Beliar offers his children seven “swords” of moral sins. The result of these sins is direct punishment by God. Benjamin uses the example of Cain, who was “handed over by God for seven punishments, for in every hundredth year the Lord brought upon him one plague” (7:3).

Chapters 9-11 are a mini-apocalypse, although it is the most muted of all the Testaments. The future temple will exceed the glory of the first and the twelve tribes will be gathered together. At that time, “Most High shall send forth his salvation through the ministration of the unique prophet” (9:2, cf., Deut 18:15). Chapter 9 also includes one of the most obvious Christian interpolations in the Testaments of the Twelve.

T.Benjamin 9:3 He shall enter the first temple, and there the Lord will be abused and will be raised up on wood. And the temple curtain shall be torn, and the spirit of God will move on to all the nations as a fire is poured out. And he shall ascend from Hades and shall pass on from earth to heaven. I understand how humble he will be on the earth, and how splendid in heaven.”

In chapter 10 Benjamin is given a vision of Joseph after praying earnestly to see him. In chapter 11 there is a reference to resurrection, since if one keeps the commandments of God they will see Enoch, Seth, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob “being raised at the right hand of joy” (10:5-6). All will be raised and changed, and all will be destined for either glory or dishonor (10:7). This is remarkably similar to Paul in 1 Cor. 15:51 in another clear resurrection context. A “beloved of the Lord” will raise up from Judah and Levi who will do God’s will and enlighten the nations (11:2).

Joseph has a lengthy historical expansion which covers the entire book. Joseph describes his initial imprisonment (chapter 1) and spends chapters 2-9 describing the traps set by the “Egyptian woman” trying to coax him in a sexual affair. She uses promises (3:2-3), flattery (4:1), threats (5:1), and food “mixed with enchantments (6:1). Joseph deals with these temptations through prayer and fasting (3:6, 4:7-8, 6:7-8). When Joseph is arrested he is put in chains and is whipped, yet he glorifies God and praises him (cf. Acts 16, Paul and Silas praise God from the Philippian prison).

This would have been of interest for the early church, since Joseph goes joyfully to his persecution and possible martyrdom. Joseph is a model of how to be a good Christian martyr. Even in prison the woman still harasses him, promising to get him out of prison if he sleeps with her (chapter 9). Chapter 10 is a moral exhortation based on this long sequence to practice patience, prayer and fasting. God loves self-control (10:2); everyone that honors the Law of the Lord is honored by him (11:1).

Chapters 12-16 tell an apocryphal story concerning how Joseph was sold into slavery in the first place. He is beaten harshly by the Ishmaelites who do not know if he is a slave or a freeman. Joseph endures this treatment, it appears, so as not to get his brothers into trouble for selling him into slavery. He is bought by a trader who treats him harshly, but the man’s wife talks her husband into treating Joseph with respect. The story is used in chapters 17-19 to show that if one endures suffering, especially so as to protect others, then the Lord is “delighted” and will protect him and prosper him (18:1-4). Even when Joseph had the opportunity to get revenge on his brothers, he did not take it (17:4-8). Joseph is presented as an archetypical righteous man in this Old Testament expansion. His extraordinary godliness will be the subject of Joseph and Asenath, another Old Testament expansion.

Chapter 19 is a mini-apocalypse which has been heavily edited by a Christian hand (Verse 3-7 are preserved only in Armenian, and the Armenian 8-12 is very different than the Greek, OTP 1:824, note b). In 19:1-2 Joseph has a vision of twelve stags grazing. Nine of these were “scattered” over the whole earth, as were the other three. This is obviously a reference to the twelve tribe of Israel in dispersion; the three tribes which separate are likely Judah, Benjamin and Levi.

Skipping to verse 8-12, a virgin is born from Judah, from whom comes a spotless lamb. The lamb conquers and destroys his enemies (verses 8-9). Verses 10-12 are very much as we have read in the rest of the testaments, honor Judah and Levi since from them will arise, not just “salvation for Israel,” but the Lamb of God who will take away the sins of the world (cf. John 1:29). The kingdom this lamb establishes will never end. The Armenian adds verses 3-7, an apocalyptic vision with various animals which represent political or historical elements. It is possible this is the original form of the text and these animals are intended to represent Maccabean rulers (OTP 1:824, note c).

The death notice in chapter 20 includes a prediction that the Egyptians will oppress the Jews and a request to buy Asenath near Rachel at the hippodrome. This is an indication the author was familiar with the LXX, since in Genesis 48:7 MT Rachel is buried on the way to Ephrath, but in the LXX it is “hippodromes.”

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.”

Like most of this collection, the Testament of Gad begins with an expansion of the Joseph story. Although there is virtually nothing about Gad known from the Hebrew Bible other than a notice he was Bilhah’s son (Gen 30:11). Although his name means “good fortune,” he describes himself as a brave warrior who was able to pursue and crush any wild animal (1:3), perhaps an allusion to David as a shepherd who killed a lion and a bear. The content of the Testament does not focus on bravery, but rather hatred.

Image result for david kills a lionThe young Joseph tells his father the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah are eating the best animals from the flock against the advice of Judah and Reuben. Gad claims the animal he ate had been rescued from a bear, and as going to die anyway.  He held a grudge against Joseph for this and wanted to kill him (chapter 2).  God punished Gad for his hatred and he developed a disease of his liver because of his hatred and might have died if Jacob had not prayed for him (5:9-11).

Gad uses this to teach his children to show justice and mercy to all and never to hate (chapters 2-3). Hatred is the real evil since it makes man a slave (4:4).  Hatred collaborates with envy, causing a man to desire to kill (4:5-6).

Testament of Gad 5:1-2 Hatred is evil, since it continually consorts with lying, speaking against the truth; it makes small things big, turns light into darkness, says that the sweet is bitter, teaches slander, conflict, violence, and all manner of greed; it fills the heart with diabolical venom. I tell you this, my children, from experience, so that you might escape hatred and cling to love of the Lord.

Hatred, Gad says, teaches all manner of sin (5:1). The antidote for hatred is love (chapter 6).   One must love in “deed, word, and inward thought” (6:1).  This idea of sincerity of love is similar to Romans 12:9.  This parallel is made even more clear with a condemnation of vengeance (6:6-7, 7:1-7, cf. Rom. 12:17-21). One is to pray for the one that prospers more (7:1), even if that prosperity comes via an evil scheme (7:4). Gad alludes to Esau as an example of this, although it is not clear from Genesis that Esau became wealthy by “being evil.” Since Jacob did scheme and manipulate in order to become wealthy, this is an example of a scriptural expansion which glorifies the patriarch of Israel (Jacob) while vilifying the outsider (Esau).

There is no mini-apocalypse in this testament, only a brief line in 8:1 which commands the children to honor Judah and Levi since through God will “raise up a savior” (cf. T.Naph 8:2).

Like most of these testaments, the author has expanded on very minimal information about Naphtali to create the final words of this son of Jacob. Other Second Temple texts expanded Naphtali’s story as well. For example in Joseph and Asenath 25.5-7, Dan and Gad want to assist the son of the Pharaoh as he attacks Aseneth, Naphtali and Asher refuse to participate in this plot. Kugler suggests the “curious structure” of this testament is “no doubt results from the authors’ typical use of every available source” (71). There is a fragmentary document from Qumran which may be an early version of this testament (4QTNaph 1.2–5, 4Q215).

Image result for NaphtaliNaphtali says he was “light on his feet” so Jacob made him the messenger for the family (chapter 2). Targum Pseudo-Jonathan claims it was Naphtali who delivered the good news to Jacob that Joseph was still alive in Egypt (49.21). The first five verses of the chapter describe the wonders of the human body and notes that God has made man according to his own image. He then makes the distinction between light and dark, the law of the Lord and the ways of Beliar (the “two ways.”) People exist for a good purpose, therefore nothing ought to be done in a disorderly manner (2:9-10).

T.Naphtali 2:8 God made all things good in their order: the five senses in the head; to the head he attached the neck, in addition to the hair for the enhancement of appearance; then the heart for prudence; the belly for excretion from the stomach; the windpipe for health; the liver for anger; the gallbladder for bitterness; the spleen for laughter; the kidneys for craftiness; the loins for power; the lungs for the chest; the hips for strength and so on.

The essence of sin then is a departure from nature’s order. Even the Watchers departed from their natural order and the Lord pronounced a curse on them (3:5). This is a clear allusion to the Book of the Watchers (1 Enoch 1-36)

The mini-apocalypse in this Testament begins in chapter 5. When Naphtali was forty, he was on the Mount of Olives and saw the sun and moon stand still. Whoever seized the sun and moon would own them – Levi got the sun and Judah got the moon. He then saw a great bull on the earth with the names of nations written on it. These are the nations which will have a share in the captivity of Israel (5:8). Naphtali had a second dream seven months later in which an unpiloted ship came near the shore at Jamnia with the name “Ship of Jacob” (chapter 6). Jacob tells the family to embark and they go out to sea only to be met by a violent windstorm. The family was dispersed to “the outer limits” on ten planks, a reference to the Diaspora.

Judah and Levi were on the same plank and Joseph escaped in a light boat. Naphtali reports these visions to his father who interprets the dream as meaning Joseph is still alive (chapter 7). Naphtali commands his children be unified to Judah and Levi since it is through Judah that salvation for Israel will come. God will appear through kingly power to save Israel (8:3) he will gather them from the nations and a time of peace will begin – the devil will flee, animals will be afraid of the nation, angels will stand by them, etc. (8:4).

There are two commandments which will leave one open to the greatest sin if they are not performed in the correct order (8:9-10). The writer does not tell us, however, what these commands are! It is possible these are the “two greatest commandments” found in the New Testament (love God and love Man.)

Dan begins with a confession that he rejoiced over the death what he thought was the death of Joseph. He so hated his brother that he desired to suck the blood of Joseph (1:9)! This, he claims, was the spirit of Beliar at work within him. Anger is therefore the moral exhortation of this testament. Anger causes blindness (2:2) and darkness of understanding (2:4). It is evil (3:1), and the one who is angry, if he is powerful, has triple strength because of his anger (3:4). Anger is senseless (4:1) even though it seems pleasant at first (4:4). “Anger and falsehood together are a double-edged evil” (4:7). Once again there are two ways, the Law of the Lord or the ways of Beliar (5:1-3).

Image result for viper snakeThe apocalyptic section is brief (5:4-13). In the last days people will defect from the Lord, be offended by Levi and revolt against Judah. Notice the importance of Levi (the priesthood) and Judah (the king); this develops into a double-messiah in some Qumran literature, one in the line of Aaron (a priest) and one in the line of David (a king).

Citing the Book of Enoch, people in those days will devote themselves to their prince Satan. OTP 809 note b states there is no text in the Enoch literature which supports this statement. It is possible the writer refers to another, unknown Enoch or he is placing the teaching in the mouth of Enoch. The people of God will undergo persecution and punishment which are compared to the ten plagues (5:8, there may be a parallel here between the plagues and Revelation 8), but after they turn back to the Lord they will be lead back to the holy place by the Lord (5:9). From both the tribe of Judah and the tribe of Levi the Lord’s salvation will come and he (the “Lord’s Salvation”) will make war against Beliar and will take from Beliar the captive souls of the saints. This might be a reference to resurrection, if the saints are captive in Sheol, but if Beliar is to be understood as Rome (cf. T. Issachar 6), then this is a much more revolutionary statement.

After the Lord’s salvation comes, the hearts of the people will turn back to their God and he will “grant eternal peace to all who call upon him” (5:11). This will be a time when the Holy One of Israel will rule over the people (5:12).  In chapter 6 Dan exhorts his children to draw near to the Lord and “cast aside every anger and lie” and cling to the righteousness of God (6:9-11).

The book ends with a cryptic notice that Dan prophesied to his sons that they would do astray from God’s law and they would be estranged from their inheritance (7:1-3). This may refer to the idolatry of Dan in the book of Judges or in the period of the divided kingdom, when Dan was a cult-center for Jeroboam (1 Kings 2:25-33). It is possible there is a tradition here which is reflected in the tribal list of Revelation 7 where the name Dan is missing.

This testament is fragmentary in Armenian and Slavonic versions and several Greek manuscripts are mission 6.4-8.3 (Kugler, 64). Kugler suggest the text was shortened by later scribes to limit the extravagant claims of compassion made by Zebulon.

The Testament of Zebulon begins with an expansion on the story of Joseph from Genesis 37. Like his brother Issachar, Zebulon claims to have done no wrong other than to participate in harming Joseph, although he claims to have done this in ignorance. In fact, he claims to have been “a good gift to my parents” (1:3). He shifts the blame to Simeon and Gad for the plot to kill Joseph. Zebulon had stayed with Joseph while he was weeping and tried to comfort him (chapter 2), refused a share in the price received for Joseph (3:1). He and Judah refused to eat for two days afterwards (4:1-2). He did not take a share in the proceeds of selling Joseph (chapter 3), but Simeon and Gad took shares and bought themselves shoes (cf., Ruth). It was Dan’s idea to give Jacob the bloody coat (chapter 5).

Chapters 6 and 7 claim Zebulon was a fisherman based on Genesis 49:13, Jacob’s prediction that he would live beside the sea. It was the Lord that gave him the wisdom to build a boat and rudder. He fished for five year while the Lord gave him abundant catches, which he shared with everyone. Zebulon also clothed those who were without anything, showing compassion on everyone.

Compassion is at the heart of the ethical teaching of T.Zebulon. In chapter 8 he tells his children to be compassionate (εὐσπλαγχνία) since the Lord will be compassionate to you in the measure. This is not unlike Matthew 7:2, although Jesus’ point concerns judging others (cf. Mark 4:24). Zebulon tells his children to “provide for every person with a kind heart” even if this causes you trouble. In fact, he claims to have stolen from his own family to provide for a needy man:

Testament of Zebulon 7:1 I saw a man suffering from nakedness in the wintertime and I had compassion on him: I stole a garment secretly from my own household and gave it to the man in difficulty.

In 8:5 the writer says “love one another (ἀγαπᾶτε ἀλλήλους), and do not calculate the wrong done by each to his brothers.” This is reminiscent of Jesus in John 15:17 (using the same phrase, cf., 1 John 3:11, 23; 4:7, 11; 2 John 5, although the phrase appears in the subjunctive rather than the imperative). The second phrase (καὶ μὴ λογίζεσθε ἕκαστος τὴν κακίαν τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ αὐτοῦ) calls to mind 1 Corinthians 13:5 (οὐ λογίζεται τὸ κακόν). Both texts describe “loving one another” as “not calculating wrongs.”  The reason brothers ought to love one another is because doing otherwise would shatter unity and scatter all kinship. Chapter 9 returns to the theme loyalty and unity. One must either follow the Law of the Lord or the ways of Beliar. “Do not be divided into two heads” Zebulon warns (9:2), which is then developed into a warning against the split kingdom after Solomon, leading to the exile (9:5-6)

There is very little eschatology in this testament. Zebulon says he has read the “writing of the fathers” and learned “in the last days you shall defect from the Lord” (9:5), but after a time of suffering “the Lord himself will arise upon you, the light of righteousness with healing and compassion in his wings” (9:8). Those who follow the way of Beliar will be trampled down, and the Lord “will turn all nations to being zealous for him.”

This brief Testament begins with an expansion of the birth of Issachar drawn from Genesis 30:1-24. Unlike the biblical story, there is more dialogue between Rachel and Leah. Rachel accuses Leah of stealing Jacob as husband because Leah gave up her mandrake roots for a night with Jacob. (Mandrake roots were a well-known aphrodisiac in the ancient world, called “love apples” by the Greeks.) She was allowed to only bear six sons, the other two who might have born were given to Rachel (chapter 2).

Image result for mandrakeIt seems odd, however, that Rachel is rewarded for “despising intercourse with her husband” and offering the mandrakes at the house of the Lord instead of eating them herself. Perhaps this is a part of the “women are evil” theme sounded in the early testaments. Rachel is not evil because she wanted to sleep with her husband for the purpose of children, not sexual gratification (2:4).

Issachar describes himself as a quiet farmer who did not meddle in the affairs of others (ch. 3) who has “integrity of heart.” His integrity is blessed by the Lord and is the basis of the moral exhortation of this Testament. The “man of integrity” is described in chapter 4. He does not desire gold or defraud his neighbor; he does not desire fancy foods or wear fine clothes. He does not plan to live a long life but rather waits on the plan of God. “Bend your back in farming, perform the tasks of the soil in every kind of agriculture, offering gifts to the Lord gratefully” (5:3).

He claims never to have committed adultery or even looked promiscuously at another woman (7:2); he was never drunk (7:3); never coveted (7:3); never lied (7:4); always shared his bread (7:5); and always acted piously (7:6). He commends his children do the same, and the “spirits of Beliar will flee from you (7:7; cf., James 4:7). Like Judah, he is buried in Hebron (7:8-9). There is a “simple life” ethic in this testament: work hard and mind your own business. We encounter a similar ethic in 1 Thessalonians 4:11, where Paul urges his readers to lead a quiet life and to work with their hands. This theme is repeated in 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15 in more stern language.

Chapter 6 is a mini-apocalypse, although it is very brief. In the last times people will abandon the way of life Issachar has described and they will abandon agriculture for “their own evil schemes.” This is described as following Beliar, not the Lord (6:2-3).

Perhaps this is a reflection of the growing tension between rural areas of Palestine and the Greco-Roman cities such as Sepphoris and Tiberias. These cities were established as commercial centers, not farming villages and likely drew some of the youthful population to work in industry rather than the family farm. The famous prodigal son of Luke 15 was a young man who sold his inheritance (of farm land) and went to the city to find his fortune.

Image result for "Iron scepter"Testament of Judah chapters 20-25 are a mini-apocalypse. The reader is first commanded to love Levi because the priesthood is superior to anything on earth (21:2-3). Reflecting the later history of the priesthood and monarchy, Levi was given heavenly matters and Judah was given earthly matters. If the T.Judah has a Maccabean period origin, these words could to be taken as anti-Hasmonean (Kugler, 59).

In the times to come the people will be taken captive (21:6-8) and false prophets will come (21:9); there will be factions among the priests of Israel (22:1-3) until the time of salvation finally comes. Since this book is written well after the events of the biblical histories of Samuel and Kings, the writer predicts apostasy, exile and restoration.

Testament of Judah 22 The Lord will instigate among them factions set against each other and conflicts will persist in Israel. My rule shall be terminated by men of alien race, until the salvation of Israel comes, until the coming of the God of righteousness, so that Jacob may enjoy tranquility and peace, as well as all the nations. He shall preserve the power of my kingdom forever. With an oath the Lord swore to me that the rule would not cease for my posterity.

The people will become increasingly wicked (chapter 23 is a “sin list” which results in judgment of God.) After this time the Star will rise from Jacob and one of Judah’s descendants will be like the sun of righteousness. The “star from Jacob” is found in the Balaam oracles, Numbers 24:17. Note the connection between the Star and the Scepter; in a Testament context, Gen 49:10, we are told the scepter will not depart from Judah. Both the Star and the Scepter are messianic images in the Hebrew Bible.

This future ruler will be gentle, sinless, with a spirit of blessing from his Holy Father. An outpouring of the spirit of God in the eschatological age was expected: Isa 11:1, 621:11, Joel 3:1 (MT). He is the “Shoot of God Most High” and a fountain of life for all humanity. The “shoot” is a messianic title drawn from Isaiah 11:1, Jer 23:5, 33:15, Zech 3:8, 6:12, CD 1:7.

This is by far the most messianic section in the T.Judah. While some might be tempted to find Christian interpolations in the chapter, it is very much part of the fabric of Old Testament messianic prophecy. This persecution – rescue – messianic age pattern is well known in the apocalyptic literature as well, especially 1 Enoch. In short, there is no reason to see this section as anything other than a reflection of typical messianic expectations in the century or so before Christ.

Chapter 25 connects the resurrection of Old Testament “saints” to the coming messianic age. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all twelve of the sons will be raised to life and “wield the scepter” in Israel. During the period after this resurrection there “one people of the Lord” who will speak a single language. The power of Beliar will be no more because he will be thrown into the everlasting fires (25:3, cf. Rev. 2:1-3). Most significantly, “And those who died in sorrow shall be raised in joy; and those who died in poverty for the Lord’s sake shall be made rich; those who died on account of the Lord shall be wakened to life” (25:4). The first two of these lines are similar to Jesus’s beatitudes (Matthew 5:3, the poor will received the kingdom; 5:4, mourners will be comforted). The third tracks with Matthew 5:10 and Revelation 20, the ones who have lost their life for Jesus’s sake will be raised.

It is possible this section has been influenced by Revelation 20 (resurrection of dead saints and suppression of the power of evil), but Judah and the other sons of Jacob rule over this “one people of God.” But there is no explicit statement that the coming Star from Jacob will rule for a period after the resurrection. And unlike Revelation, there is no time-frame given for the new age.

The first twelve chapters of the Testament of Judah recount the military adventures of Judah. This section is laced with legendary elements pitting Judah against the “two armor-clad kings of the Canaanites” In 4:7 Jacob killed a giant twelve cubits tall named Belisath. This is obviously influenced by David and Goliath in 1 Sam 21, probably because David was from the tribe of Judah. Later, Judah admits to a sexual relationship with Anan, one manuscript reads Bathshua (cf. Gen. 38:12) but the name sounds enough like Bathsheba to suggest a connection. In 17:1 Judah says he was led astray by Bathshua the Canaanite, likely alluding to his famous ancestor’s sin with Bathsheba.

Jacob never feared for Judah’s life because he had a vision of an angel who watched over Judah in battle (3:10). There are other legendary expansions on the biblical story of Jacob in these opening chapters, such as Judah attacking the sons of Esau and forces them to pay tribute (ch. 9) and an expansion on Judah’s sin with Tamar (ch. 9-10, cf. Gen. 38). Judah claims he spent seventy years in Egpyt (12:11), an allusion to the seventy years of Judah’s exile in Babylon.

The second half of the book deals with ethical commands (chapters 12-20). Lust (12), drunkenness (13, 16), promiscuity (14), and the love of money (17, 19 although lust is the main topic even here) are specifically mentioned. These issues are often tied to the biblical story of Judah and Tamar. Occasionally the author cites the Book of Enoch, although it possible he did not actually know the book (18:1). Chapter 20 puts the issue of ethical living in terms of black-and-white, as did the T.Levi. One either follows the spirit of truth or the spirit of error.

Most of the ethical material is similar to other Jewish wisdom literature and there are parallels in the New Testament. For example love of money leads to idolatry, as in Eph. 5:5 and Col. 3:5. In T.Judah 14:1 the author tells his children to not get drunk since it clouds the mind. Paul’s admonition in Ephesians 5:18 used the same words (μὴ μεθύσκεσθε οἴνῳ), and in T.Judah 16:1 wine is associated with debauchery, using ἀσωτία, the same work Paul used in the Ephesians passage.

T.Judah 14:1 Do not be drunk with wine, because wine perverts the mind from the truth, arouses the impulses of desire, and leads the eyes into the path of error.

T.Judah 16:1 Take care to be temperate with wine, my children; for there are in it four evil spirits: desire, heated passion, debauchery, and sordid greed.

Since Judah was well-known for his sin with Tamar, he tells his children to live prudently and avoid drunkenness because it leads to sexual immorality. In fact, Judah says “I command you not to love money or to gaze on the beauty of women” (17:1). The “love of money” (φιλαργυρίας) is found in the New Testament only in 1 Tim 6:10, a text with affinities to the Testament of Judah.

In T.Judah 20 the author develops a “two ways” ethic reminiscent of Paul or 1 John. There are “two spirits await an opportunity with humanity: the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” Paul uses the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5, and 1 John uses the exact same words as T.Judah 20:1, τὸ πνεῦμα τῆς ἀληθείας καὶ τὸ πνεῦμα τῆς πλάνης. It is certainly possible John knew the Testament of Judah, but it is more likely this simply reflects the common ethical “two ways” theology based on the Law and Psalm 1. It is not insignificant that the choice between life and death in Deuteronomy 30:11 is set in the context of Moses’s final words to Israel. Joshua made a similar speech in Joshua 23-24, calling all Israel to choose to follow the covenant God made with Moses.

These high ethical demands are likely the reason Christians copied and read books like the Testament of Judah.

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My book Jesus the Bridegroom is now available from Amazon in paperback or Kindle

Christian Theology

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