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One of my favorite movies when I was a kid was Day of the Triffids. In this 1963 British film, the earth experiences an unusual meteor shower. Everyone who watched the meteors were struck blind, and for reasons not sufficiently explained in the film a rare type of plant (a “triffid”) mutated into a shambling stalk of killer asparagus. The star of the film, Howard Keel, was recovering from eye surgery at the time, so he was left to survive in post-apocalyptic England, dodging escaped prisoners and killer vegetables. Not one of the great plot lines in film history, but it made me wary of watching meteor showers when I was eight years old. In fact, a meteor shower cannot really strike you blind.

The Day of the Triffids PosterLike the imaginary Day of the Triffids, the coming “Great American Eclipse” has generated more weirdness than I would have expected. For example, officials in South Carolina are concerned about “possible ‘Lizard Man,’ ‘Bigfoot’ sightings in during eclipse.” There is even a “Total Eclipse Safety Tips” page recommending residents “Fill your car up with gas and buy groceries before the weekend.” To be fair, the reason is not particularly apocalyptic; officials are worried about a huge influx of visitors for Eclipse Day. Even more fringe, the eclipse will “reveals exact date Nibiru will destroy Earth” (spoiler: September 23, 2017).

Prophecy-obsessed Christians have latched onto the eclipse as well. Anne Graham Lotz, for example, speculates the solar eclipse is a sign of impending judgment on America. She starts her brief comments by citing Joel 2:31. In that text the sun is darkened before the great day of the Lord. Along with the blood-moon delusions of a few years ago, this obsession with regular astronomical phenomenon is the result of a combination of poor biblical exegesis and a lack of understanding of science.

First, a solar eclipse is a normal and predictable event. There is nothing about this even which is unusual or supernatural. Simply put, the moon blocks light from the sun. This is a very predictable event. There was a solar eclipse March 8/9, 2016 visible in Indonesia (no apocalyptic judgment happened), and there will be another solar eclipse July 2, 2019 visible in South America. You can visit Time and Date to find out dates for lunar or solar eclipse in your area.

Second, any biblical text which mentions the “sun darkened” is not talking about a regular, normal eclipse. I mention here only two examples. In the Joel 2:31 passage Lotz cites, the sun is darkened as a part of apocalyptic events associated with the Day of the Lord. In the immediate context Joel refers to the Holy Spirit as “poured out” on all people. This is a standard way of referring to the New Covenant (for example, Isaiah 35; Jer 33:31-33). The “darkening of the sun” could refer (literally) to the sun darkened during God’s wrath on Jerusalem in 586 B.C., or (more figuratively) to the abasement of the sun and moon as spiritual forces, gods, etc. Either way, it is not a natural, predictable phenomenon.

A second example of unnatural darkness is the three hours of darkness during the crucifixion (Mark 15:33). This cannot be an eclipse since it lasts far too long and is localized to “the land,” probably just Jerusalem or Judea. Although the darkness can be explained theologically in several different ways, it is not a natural, predictable phenomenon.

Sit back and just relax!

Third, the Bible must be read in its cultural context. The ancient world did not fully understand what an eclipse was and often thought they were signs from the gods. For example, according to Herodotus an eclipse occurred during a war between the Medes and the Lydians; both sides were so terrified by the sign they immediately signed a peace treaty (Hist. 1.73-74). The eclipse was allegedly predicted Thales of Miletus.

Similarly, in 1503 Columbus accurately predicted a lunar eclipse and the red moon and used this prediction to pacify the local Jamaican islanders. Thucydides 1.23.3, a listed eclipses along with earthquakes, droughts, famines, and pestilence affected the Athenians during the Peloponnesian War. David Aune included a lengthy excursus on Roman prodigies in his commentary on Revelation. Eclipses were among the “unnatural or extraordinary occurrence or phenomenon understood as a sign warning of divine anger” in Roman culture (Revelation, 2:402).

This means a writer living in 500 B.C. or A.D. 90 who wanted to describe strange apocalyptic signs would naturally include eclipses in their list of cosmic signs. But the word in this context has to mean an unpredicted, unnatural darkness rather than a natural and predictable solar eclipse.

Conclusion. If you live in America, enjoy your eclipse. But do not worry about it as a sign from God ushering in his judgment. Honestly, God has plenty of good reasons to smite America and he does not need to warn us with an eclipse.

 

 

After interviewing the demons, Solomon is visited by the Queen of Sheba, who is a witch in the Testament of Solomon 19. The Queen of Sheba visits Solomon in 1 Kings 10 and marvels at the glory of the Temple and Jerusalem and she is certainly not a witch. Testament of Solomon says she came before Solomon with “much arrogance” and was humbled before the king. Since the chapter is unrelated to the next, it is possible this is an insertion into the manuscripts.

Later, the queen tours the temple, including the innermost parts of the Temple. She sees the altar, including the cherubim and seraphim over the mercy seat. She contributed a great deal to the building of the temple (ten thousand copper shekels, in 1 Kings 10:10 she gave 120 talents of gold, a great quantity of spices and precious stones). This paragraph serves as brief summary of Solomon’s building activities in 1 Kings 7:13-51.

In chapter 20 Solomon demonstrates his wisdom in a variation of the biblical narrative in 1 Kings 3:16-28. Two men bring a case to Solomon an elderly son and his violent son.  The demon Ornias is laughing and explains to Solomon that the old man wants to kill the son. Solomon sends them away for three days, after which time the old man “has become childless.” The interesting element of this story is the source of the demon’s information. When Solomon asks him how he knew wha the father intended, Ornias explains that demons go up into the firmament of heaven, “among the stars,” and they hear the decisions of God concerning men.

Solomon then receives a request from the king of Arabia to deal with an evil spirit afflicting his kingdom (chs. 23-25). After seven days, Solomon sends a servant boy with a leather flask to entrap the Arabian wind demon, Ephippas. He is interrogated and placed in the “immovable cornerstone” of the Temple. Solomon asks the demon what he can do for him, in the service of the temple. He promises to raise a pillar of air from the Red Sea and set it wherever Solomon should ask. Ephippas does what he promised, and delivers the pillar to the temple, an enormous stone pillar which is floating in the air “to this day.”

The book returns to Solomon’s interrogation of demons in chapter 25. This final demon is called Abezethibou and came out of the Red Sea as a great pillar. This demon once sat in the first heaven and was responsible for hardening Pharaoh’s heart and the rebellion of Jannes and Jambres. Like Paul in Romans 9:16-17, this the presence of a demon absolves God of the guilt of hardening Pharaoh’s heart (cf. Romans 9:16-17. The tradition of two magicians in Egypt is found in 2 Tim 3:6-9. Although Exodus 7:11-13 mentions magicians, there are no names in the text. There are several rabbinic sources for Jannes and Jambres (b.Men., 85a; Exodus rabba, 7 on 7:11) and in Targum. Ps.-Jonathan. on Exod 1:15. This demon was engulfed in the waters to the crossing of the Red Sea and has been there ever since.

The final chapter of the Testament recounts Solomon’s many wives, especially his great love for a Shummanite woman. It is possible this is an allusion to Abishag, David;s concubine who was a Shummmanite, or to the woman in Song of Solomon 6:13 (a “maid of Shulam”). But the story more likely alludes to Samson’s demand for a Philistine wife in Judges 14. The woman’s parents require Solomon to worship the gods Raphan and Molech, but he refuses. They threaten their daughter with violence if Solomon does not marry her and worship these gods, so Solomon relents because he so loves the girl and does not want harm to come to her. As a result of Solomon’s compromise, the glory of the Lord departs from him.

This story provides an explanation for Solomon’s idolatry in 1 Kings 11. The canonical text indicates Solomon’s heart was not completely devoted to the Lord and he worship the gods of his wives. Here in the Testament of Solomon, Solomon is more or less forced to worship these gods in order to save his beloved from abuse and death. Nevertheless, Solomon describes himself as a “wretched man” who has become a laughingstock of demons. The phrase “wretched man” is similar to Paul’s in Romans 7, a man who knows what is right and chooses the evil instead.

The Testament of Solomon begins with the story of a demon named Ornias who stole wages from a worker building the Temple and then sucked the thumb of a man’s son, sapping his strength. Solomon interrogates the boy and discovers the demon’s activities. Solomon prays to the Lord for help, and Michael gives him a ring through which he can imprison demons. He gives the ring to the boy and traps the demon. The boy turns the demon over to Solomon. The demon is brought to the throne of Solomon. Solomon asks him where he lives and he answers with a reference to the zodiac. He mentions he was once thwarted by the archangel Ouriel. Solomon prays to this angel, who comes and commands the demon to cut stones to help finish the temple. Ornias is given the ring and told to bring the prince of demons to Solomon.

The rest of the book is a series of interrogations. Ornias brings a demon before Solomon, the demon is named, briefly described and then gives the way he might be thwarted. This usually involves invoking a powerful name, such as an angel or Jesus.

Image result for Catalog Solomon demonsOrnias goes to Beelzeboul and captures him with the ring. Solomon questions the prince of demons closely. Solomon asks Beelzeboul if there are female demons. He shows one to Solomon, Onoskelis, a beautiful woman who had the legs of a mule. Solomon questions here about her origin and activities and then commands her to spin hemp into ropes.

Chapter 5: Solomon commands Asmodeus to be brought to him, whom he also questions. He explains his origins and activities (marring the beauty of virgins and causing murders), and he explains that the angel Raphael caused him to go away by burning the liver and gall of a sheatfish (a large catfish, cf. Tobit 6:2 for this method of exorcism). Asmodeus is command to mold clay into vessels for the temple.

Chapter 6: Solomon begins to question Beelzeboul again. Beelzeboul “holds in his power the race of those bound by me in Tartarus. He is being nurtured in the Red Sea; when he is ready, he will come in triumph.” He tells Solomon he can be thwarted by several names, Eloi-I causes him to tremble and disappear. Solomon commanded this demon to cut marble for the temple.

Chapter 7: Solomon interrogates Lix Tetrax, the demon of the winds. The name Lix Tetrax appears on a tablet from Crete and is associated with Ephesian magical texts. This is a “blast demons” sometimes found Aramaic incantation texts. The demon explains his origins and activities (whirlwinds and divisions), and tells Solomon three names which will cast him out (including the name of the archangel Azael). He is forced to raise stones for the Temple.

Chapter 8: Solomon interrogates the seven stars of heaven, Deception, Strife, Fate, Distress, Error, Power, and “The Worst.” Their activities are fairly self-explanitory, but Error says “I am Error, King Solomon, and I am leading you into error, and I led you into error when I made you kill your brothers.” This refers to Solomon’s execution of his brother Adonijah (1 Kings 2:25).  Solomon commanded them to dig the foundation of the Temple.

Chapter 9: Solomon interrogates a demon called Murder, who is all limbs and no head. He claims “When infants are ten days old, and if one cries during the night, I become a spirit and I rush in and attack (the infant) through his voice” (9.5). He can only be stopped by a flash of lighting.

Chapter 10: Solomon interrogates a demon called Scepter, who was in the form of a gigantic dog.  This demon says “I deceive men who follow my star closely and I lead (them) into stupidity.” This demon helps Solomon obtain an emerald for the Temple.

Image result for Lion-Shaped DemonChapter 11: Solomon interrogates a demon called “the Lion-Shaped Demon” who has a legion of demons under him. This demon “who sneaks in and watches over all who are lying ill with a disease and I make it impossible for man to recover from his taint” (11.2).

Chapter 12: Solomon interrogates a three-headed dragon demon who can be thwarted by the “place of the skull,” an allusion to the crucifixion. He is ordered to make bricks for the temple.

Chapter 13: Solomon interrogates Obyzouth, a female demon with disheveled hair. Disheveled hair evokes Medusa, guardian goddess of Aphrodite, but demons with wild hair also appears in Revelation 9:8. Obyzouth travels all night looking for women giving birth in order to make them strangle their baby. The angel Raphael thwarts her by writing her name on a papyri.

Chapter 14: Solomon interrogates a demon called “the so-called Winged Demon.” This demon performs perverse acts in the night and sometimes copulates with beautiful women “through their buttocks.” He is countered by an angel in the second heaven named Bazazath, a name only appearing here in the pseudepigrapha. He is forced to cut marble for the temple.

Chapter 15: Solomon interrogates a demon called Enepsigos. This female demon has countless names and can be conjured in many forms (including Kronos). The angel Rathanael can thwart her, but the Temple cannot hold her. Solomon inquires of the angel Rathanael and he is told he needs to use the seal of God. This angel prophesies to Solomon that his kingdom will be divided and the Temple will be destroyed until the Son of God comes and is stretched out on the cross.

Chapter 16: Solomon interrogates a demon called Kunopegos, a spirit in the shape of a horse in front and a fish in back (a sea-horse?).  He can change himself into a man and causes seasickness. In order to thwart this demon, one must go through a complicated ritual involving bowls and hemp ropes. Solomon sealed him with his ring and stored the demon away in the temple.

Chapter 17: Solomon interrogates a shadowy demon with gleaming eyes. He has no name, he only identifies himself as a “lecherous” demon. He is thwarted if the name of the savior is written on his head.

Chapter 18: Solomon interrogates thirty-six heavenly bodies with heads like formless dogs. Their names are listed with their activity (headaches, sore throats and other physical ailments) and the way to cast them out. This lengthy (and obtuse) listing ends the “interview” section of the book.

As can be seen from this catalog, demons were associated with a wide variety of afflictions, from “perverse acts in the night” to Kourtael, who “sends forth colics into the bowels” (18.13). The interview section of the book is more or less a manual on casting out demons: match an affliction with the demon and then follow the instruction given in the text. This is the sort of thing the Sons of Sceva attempted in Acts 19, although they failed. The Testament also gives evidence of the association of illness and demonic activity.

D. C. Duling argues at length that this Solomonic magical text was written in Greek, likely from Alexandria in the third century A.D. (OTP 1:940-943), although earlier scholarship argued for a much later date. There is no clear evidence of an earlier Hebrew version. As Duling concludes, “native language of the writer of the Testament of Solomon as a testament was Koine Greek” (OTP 1:939). Although the Testament is clearly a fantasy, the Greek Dialogue of Timothy and Aquila (c. 400 A.D.) quoted it as authentic. Despite the late date, McCown argued in his extensive study of the Testament that it “comes to be of assistance in reconstructing the thought world of the Palestinian Jew in the first century of our era” (McCown, Testament, 3).

Image result for testament of solomon demonsThe format of the bulk of the book is a series of “interviews” with demons. They are forced to tell Solomon their name, where they live, and their activities, along with the way in which they can be “thwarted,” or cast out, captured, imprisoned, etc. Many times this can be done only by invoking an angel whose role it is to deal with that specific demon.

The book is really a catalog of afflictions – one may have looked up their particular suffering and they would find a remedy, or at least an angel to invoke who may have a remedy. The “form” of these descriptions is fairly consistent. First, the demon is forced to give a description of its origin and zodiac information along with the malady it causes. Then the method of expulsion is given. Solomon then commands the demon to participate in the building of the temple in some supernatural way (cutting stones, moving pillars, etc.)

The book is a valuable source for the understanding of magic and demons, although it is very difficult to know how much of this material goes back to the first century. Certainly there are several elements in the book which are parallel to the New Testament, especially in the use of so-called power words and incantations. Jesus does not use anything like Solomon does in this text, nor do the apostles when they cast out demons in the name of Jesus.

However, when the sons of Sceva attempt to use the name of Jesus and Paul as a power word to control a demon, they are soundly beaten by the possessed man (Acts 19:13-16). In the same context, those who practiced sorcery burnt their valuable scrolls (19:17-20). In Acts 19:17 we are told the name of Jesus was held in high honor – perhaps a reference to Jesus becoming associated with the miraculous.

The Testament of Solomon does NOT reflect actual hidden knowledge about real demons and should not be read as a manual for casting out demons. Despite the misunderstandings of this book published by esoteric teachers (especially in blogs and YouTube), the Testament of Solomon reflects the worldview of the first century, not actual reality.

The first few fragmentary verses set the context for the testament.  Moses called Joshua and commanded him to go forth in the strength of the Lord. Moses tells Joshua he was prepared by the Lord to be the mediator of the covenant and now he is about to die.  Moses must pass along to Joshua some knowledge and books which he is to preserve. Moses tells Joshua will lead the people into the land, but some of the tribes will violate the covenant and commit idolatry.

Chapter 3-4 “predicts” the fall Jerusalem in 586 B.C., the exile and the return from exile. Moses predicts they will be captives in the east for seventy-seven years (rather than expected seventy years). A prophet-like character will pray to the Lord on behalf of the nation, as does Daniel in Dan. 9:4-19. God will remember his covenant and return two of the tribes to the land, the other ten will spread out through the nations.

Image result for Testament Of MosesChapter 5-6 is prophetic speech concerning the Maccabean period.  People will worship idols and “play the harlot,” a reference to Hellenism.  Priests who are not truly priests will be active (the non-Zadokite high priests of the Hasmoneans). The prophecy into the reign of Herod the great (thirty four years in power, a wanton and rash man, killing both young and old).

Chapter 7-8 is fragmentary but appears to describe “the time of the end” when people please only themselves and commit criminal deeds. Moses describes a great persecution, including torture and Jews forced to undergo reversal of the circumcision (8.3).

Chapter 9 – This is by far the most difficult text in the book.  A man from the tribe of Levi named Taxo will appear with seven sons. Cf. 1 Maccabees 6, the story of the martyrdom of Eleazar, 2 Maccabees 7:20f, seven sons martyred, parallel to 4 Maccabees 15. Tobias, in his final testament, has seven sons (Tobit 14:3).We cannot be sure what it is this Taxo does because the text is corrupt, but it appears he leads in a resistance against evil which leads to martyrdom.

The poetic section is the high point in the book (ch. 10), drawing together numerous Old Testament apocalyptic themes and texts. It describes a kingdom during which time the devil will be at an end.  The heavenly one will arise from his kingly throne and will cause the earth to tremble and make the valleys low.

The book concludes with Joshua writing out the words of Moses as a testament. He then falls at Moses feet, weeping and mourning. He desires to know where the tomb of Moses will be, but the question is never answered.  He continues to ask how he will lead the people in Moses’ absence. Moses encourages Joshua by telling him God has created everything and has foreseen all things, all things are “under the ring of his hand.”

Unfortunately, the text breaks off at this point.

This book is called The Assumption of Moses in Charles, although the Testament and the Assumption may be two separate books. The only extant copy of the Testament of Moses is a Latin palimpsest dating to the sixth century A.D.  This manuscript is missing a section and in other places it is illegible (OTP 1:919-920). Most Christian interest is due to the allusion in Jude to this book.

Image result for Testamentof MosesThe book may have been written in Greek since there are a few words which are simply transliteration of Greek words.  Priest notes, however, that the consensus opinion is that the book was originally written in Hebrew (OTP 1:920). Dates range from the time of the Maccabean revolt to the second century A.D.   There seem to be clear references to the Herodians in chapter 6, although this may be the result of a revision of a Maccabean text.  Some have tried to connect the book to the Qumran community, although there is no exact representative of the sort of Judaism found in the book even at Qumran (OTP 1:921). Knibb argues that the history of Israel ends in 6:8-9 with an allusion to Varus, just after the death of Herod.  He therefore dates the book “fairly precisely to just after 4 B.C.E.”

The Testament of Moses comes from another pietist group of anti-Hasmoneans but is more focused on Herod, “an insolent king” who mistreats the people for thirty-four years (6:2-5). The reign of Herod is a terrible time, but one which was foreseen by God from the beginning of creation to the smallest detail (12:4).  This view of “fate” corresponds to Josephus’ description of the view ascribed to the Essenes and Pharisees.  There is less to work with in the Testament of Moses so we cannot know if the writer also held some sort of view of free will.  Like the Psalms of Solomon, there is an expectation of a final consummation, although the details are confused.

According to this book, a Levite named Taxo will arise and lead his sons to a cave where they will die rather than break the commands of God. A similar attitude is demonstrated by 1 Mac 2:29-38, the martyrs who refused to fight on the Sabbath. While this event took place nearly 200 years before Testament of Moses was written, the Maccabean martyrs were revered as patriots even in the first century. According to John Collins, R. H. Charles identified him as Taxo as Daniel “for no good reason,” Tromp thought he was Ezra, and S. Mowinckel took the name to mean “orderer”, as in “one who is over them” ((The Apocalyptic Imagination, 130 notes 54 and 55).

There may be material missing which explains why Taxo does this, but the point is very much in line with the various stories we have encountered of pietist groups willing to die for the cause (Pharisees and Sicarii for example.)  In the later chapters of the book, God is described as appearing to punish the Gentiles and to exalt Israel “in heaven above the stars.” (N. T. Wright thinks this passage is dependent on Daniel 12:1-3, Resurrection of the Son of God, 157, so also Collins, The Apocalyptic Imagination, 131). This is not an end of the world, but rather a defeat of Israel’s enemies parallel to their exaltation.  There are now details of this exaltation, however (a re-gathering of the nation, a messiah, a new temple, etc.)

 

Bibliography. M. Knibb, “The Exile in the Intertestamental Period,” Heythrop Journal 17 (1976): 253-72, reprinted in M. Knibb, Essays in the Book of Enoch and Other Early Jewish Texts and Traditions (SVTP 22; Leiden: Brill, 2009), 191-212; 200 n. 33.

This testament is a Christian work with a Trinitarian introduction (the exact same words as the Testament of Isaac). The writer refers the reader to the Old Testament to learn the rest of the history (7.2). The work is known primarily from an Arabic text, but is preserved in Coptic and Ethiopic as well (OTP 1:913). In 7.12, the writer comments that the patriarchs are “the ones whom the Arabs have designated as the holy fathers.” The ethical section seems to allude to Jesus’s teaching when the writer encourages the reader to “Clothe the poor person who is naked on the earth, so that God may clothe you with the apparel of glory in the kingdom of heaven, and you will be the sons of our holy fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in heaven forever.” Finally, the book ends with a reference to the Virgin Mary as the “mistress of intercessions, the source of purity, generosity, and blessings, the mother of salvation.”

As with the other two patriarchal testaments, the Lord sends Michael to bring the soul of Jacob to heaven. He is told to order this household, and he says “let the will of the Lord be done.” He goes to his son Joseph and blesses him. Jacob is visited by an angel, but he thinks it is his son Jacob (also similar to the Testament of Isaac. The angel blesses Jacob and reviews his history – this angel has protected Jacob all throughout his life. After the angel ascends back into heaven Jacob is surrounded by his family and they weep over him. He prophesies that the Lord will make the people great in the land of Egypt.

Chapter 4 recounts Genesis 48, Jacob’s blessing on the two sons of Joseph. This is remarkably accurate with very little expansion on the canonical story. Chapter 5 is similar to Genesis 49, the biblical “testament” of Jacob. After a short moral exhortation, Jacob is taken into heaven. The Arabic text is missing this ascension, the Boharic describes the Lord himself coming with Michael and Gabriel to take Jacob’s soul to heaven.

Chapter 6 expands the canonical story to explain how Joseph kept his promise to return Jacob to Egypt. After Joseph completes his mourning for his father he worships God before the Pharaoh. In fact, all the elders of Egypt mourned Jacob attended the body when it was delivered to the tomb in Canaan.

The author of the book steps forward and recommends the reader consult what Moses wrote in the Old Testament for further information about Jacob. The author gives a moral exhortation to be diligent in prayer and fasting in order to drive away demons, to avoid sin (a sin list is given). In 7.21 we are encouraged to honor the saints because they intercede for us. As with the Testament of Isaac, the twenty-eighth day of Misri is to be honored.

Originally written in Greek, this testament is only know in translation. The book is dependent on the Testament of Abraham and therefore must be dated after the first century. While Stinespring dates the book to the second century A.D., he also notes the popularity of the book among Coptic Christians and speculates the book may have had an origin in the Coptic Christian church, requiring a much later date. In the end he settles for an original form in Greek, written by an Egyptian Jew which has been Christianized at a much later date (OTP 1:903-904). If the book can be dated to the second century, then it would contain a very early Trinitarian statements such as the opening verse (Father, Son and Holy Spirit in apposition with “One God”).

Image result for Isaac Bible BanquetAfter a two-verse introduction we read that Isaac has called his family together in testament-like fashion. He tells his family the one who has a pure heart and faith in God will be an inheritor of the kingdom of God. God is compassionate and has received thieves and tax-collectors to himself (the thief on the cross and Matthew, Zacchaeus, presumably.) This is an example of the obvious “christianizing” of the text.

Just as in the Testament of Abraham, chapter 2 begins with Michael the archangel dispatched from heaven to visit Isaac before he dies. Isaac thinks the angel is his father Abraham, but eventually he figures out this is an angel. Isaac is concerned for his son Jacob since this appears to be after Jacob has offended him. The angel responds that Jacob will be protected by the Supreme God as well as the Son and the Holy Spirit (a rather Trinitarian thing for a Jew to say!) He does not want Jacob to hear the news he is about to die.

Jacob comes to his father and is ignorant of his impending death (ch. 3). Jacob wants to go with his father, but Isaac explains he is about to die and cannot change the decree. In verses 17-19 there is an odd bit of prophecy of twelve giants, then Jesus the Messiah will come from a virgin named Mary. God will be incarnate in him until the completion of a hundred years. This is a very odd text indeed since we cannot really know what we are to make of the “giants.” If these are “kings,” then we would have a typical run of Roman emperors, but there were clearly not twelve prior to the incarnation. Nor is there a convenient run of twelve kings among the Herodians, Hasmoneans, or earlier kings. That God will be incarnate is obviously Christian, but the period of a hundred years cannot be a reference to the life of Jesus unless the author was ignorant of the facts of Jesus’ life.

When people begin to gather when they hear a man of God has visited, Jacob asks Isaac to begin a discourse to comfort him (ch. 4). The rest of this lengthy chapter is a moral exhortation which in some ways is Jewish (“do not present an offering when you are not ritually clean”) yet in other ways distinctly Christian (“guard your body, it is the temple of the Holy Spirit,” similar to 1 Cor. 6). This blending may be the result of an incomplete “Christianizing” of a Jewish document.

While crowds are impressed with Isaac’s speech, an angel comes and takes him up into heaven. Isaac has a short “heavenly journey” including a river of fire and the “overseer of punishment” of Hell. This journey section continues as Isaac ascends into heaven to see Abraham. Isaac is brought before the throne of God and he worships along with Abraham. The Lord commands Isaac to not profane the body since it is in the image of God. The Lord takes Isaac’s soul from his body, which is snow white, and he places it on his holy chariot and they ascend into the heavens.

According to chapter 8, the day this happened was the twenty-eighth day of Misri, a day the writer still commemorates. The one that keeps this day will be blessed and will be present at the millennial banquet. This is clearly a Christian gloss, since the writer describes the kingdom as the kingdom of “our God and our King and our Savior, Jesus the Messiah.”

Testament of Isaac 8.6 Whatever person has manifested mercy in the name of my beloved Isaac, behold I will give him to you in the kingdom of heaven and he shall be present with them at the first moment of the millennial banquet to celebrate with them in the everlasting light in the kingdom of our Master and our God and our King and our Savior, Jesus the Messiah.

Many apocalyptic texts include a heaven journey. For example, in the Book of the Watchers Enoch passes through the heavens and sees various locations. He sees the “high places” and storehouses of the earth where the rains and snows are kept. In Chapter 18 he sees the storehouse of the wind, the cornerstone of the earth, and the pillars of heaven. He also sees a “dark pit” with heavenly fire, described as a “desolate and terrible place.” Second Enoch also has a heavenly journey in which he sees the orderliness of the universe.

Image result for Abraham Bible visionIn chapter 10 Abraham’s “heavenly tour” begins. He sees various things happening all over the world, including many sinners (robbers, immorality, etc.) He asks the Lord to open the earth and swallow them up, which it does. This sort of thing reoccurs several times. We are told Abraham has never sinned, therefore he has no mercy on sinners. Michael then takes Abraham to a place where he can see two ways, a narrow way and a broad and spacious way (ch. 11). There are two gates here, one leading to the broad way, which is destruction and the other to the narrow way, which leads to life. This motif of “two ways” is common in the testament literature.

Abraham sees two terrible angels appear and drive people with fiery lashes who have entered through the broad gate. Within the broad gate Abraham sees a terrifying throne and the books open for judgment (cf. Rev 20). Abraham asks who the judge and angels are. The one seated on the throne is the “Son of Adam” – Abel, the first formed. This is an interesting use of a phrase which might be taken as “son of man” which does not refer to a messianic figure in quite the same way as 2 Baruch. At the time of the Parousia every person will be judged by the twelve tribes of Israel and will receive a judgment which cannot be changed. This eschatological outline is familiar from other apocalyptic in the pseudepigrapha, but also from the New Testament.  On either side is an angel who records either good or bad deeds.

An archangel, Purouel, holds a balance in his hand to test the works of those being judged. This angel, we are told, is in charge of the fire by which he tests the works of men. C. W. Fishburne has argued that Paul was aware of T.Abraham in his description of judgment in 1 Corinthians. The verbal parallels noted by Fishburne are fairly general and may be a reflection of a similar topic rather than Paul’s knowledge (and use) of T. Abraham.

Abraham asks about the soul in the hand of the angel in the middle of the scene (ch. 14). It is lacking one righteous deed more than its sin in order to be saved. Abraham prays for the soul, and it is saved as a result. Perhaps this added to the popularity of the Testament of Abraham in the medieval period since it implies the prayers of the righteous are effective for the dead.

 

The Lord tells Michael it is time for Abraham to return to his home so that he can make arrangements for his death. Abraham refuses to follow the angel even though he has fulfilled his request to see the whole world. Michael is forbidden to touch Abraham because he is a friend of God. The Lord calls on Death to go and collect Abraham. This “dazzling” personification of Death goes to Abraham at Mamre and tells him that he is the “bitter cup of death.” Death is so “dazzling” that Abraham does not believe him. He eventually understands this fantastic person is death, and refuses to follow him. Death is silenced by this refusal.

Image result for Abraham tentsAbraham goes back into his house and Death follows him; he lays down on his bed and Death sits at his feet. Abraham asks him again if he is Death, although he does not believe him because he is so glorious. Death tells Abraham he could not stand to see him as he really is. Abraham asks to see him, so Death obliges. Abraham is terrified to see a fiery seven-headed dragon with various frightening faces. Seven thousand servants died as a result of this display.

In chapter 18 Abraham begs death to hide himself with beauty once again. He agrees to go with Death if the servants are restored. Death agrees and (finally) Abraham rises from the earth and goes up into heaven. Abraham speaks with Death about Hades and the terrors of death.

Testament of Abraham 19.7 And Death said, “Hear, righteous Abraham, for seven ages I ravage the world and I lead everyone down into Hades—kings and rulers, rich and poor, slaves and free I send into the depth of Hades. And on this account I showed you the seven heads of the dragons. And I showed you the face of fire, since many will die burned by fire, and through the face of fire they see death.

In chapter 20 Abraham and Death discuss the possibility of an unexpected death. While there are seventy-two types of death, death always happens at the appropriate hour. Abraham bargains for more time and asks to be encircled by his family.  Isaac comes and weeps at his father’s feet. Death tells Abraham to kiss his hand and he will have a bit more strength. Death lied, as it turns out, and Abraham immediately dies and his carried by Michael and the other angels into glory.

Testament of Abraham 20.14 “Take, then, my friend Abraham into Paradise, where there are the tents of my righteous ones and (where) the mansions of my holy ones, Isaac and Jacob, are in his bosom, where there is no toil, no grief, no moaning, but peace and exultation and endless life.”

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Christian Theology

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