The Testament of Job

Chapter 1 is a brief introduction to the book; Job gathers his family to listen to his final words. In this section we learn the names of the children of Job and that his second wife is the daughter of Dinah, making the children of Jacob. This is critical for the Jewish reader since Job is a pagan at the beginning of the story who “converts” to Judaism. “Conversion” of a great Jewish hero is a motif is a part of the Apocalypse of Abraham and Joseph and Asenath.  Chapters 2-5 describe the conversion of Job from paganism to a belief in God. The Apocalypse of Abraham, Job worships idols but wonders if they are real or not. The Lord speaks to Job and informs him he will learn great mysteries after he purges the temple of Satan. He levels the temple of the idol then returns home and bolts the door.

Image result for job william blakeIn chapters 6-8 Satan disguises himself as a beggar and comes to Job’s door. Job gives him a burnt loaf, insulting him as an enemy. This lack of hospitality toward Satan is the direct cause of Job’s torments (rather than God’s boasting, as in the biblical story) and stands in contrast to Job’s reputation for generosity (chapters 9-15 describe Job’s various kindnesses). This section also describes Job as an exceptionally talented musician (chapter 14). This is based on Job 21:12, but may also an appeal to the Hellenistic reader. As in the biblical book of Job, he loses his possessions and family. Satan is given authority to test Job (although the source of the authority is not explicit in 16:1). Chapters 16-20 expand the details of each of Job’s losses greatly.

Unlike the biblical story, we read a great deal more about Job’s wife as Sitis (chapters 21-26). This section is not unlike the book of apocryphal book of Tobit. There, Tobit is a righteous Jew living in the Assyrian captivity who is struck blind and his wife Anna is forced to work to provide for the family. In the Testament of Job, Job mourns for his loses by sitting on a dung heap for 48 years while his wife is driven by poverty to become a slave. This drives Job back to his senses, but eleven years later Sitis is still begging daily bread for Job. Satan disguises himself as a bread seller and tells Sitis that she deserved the evil which had befallen her. She sells the hair of her head for three loaves, and Satan begins to lead her heart astray.

In chapters 24 and 26 she begins to accuse Job, chapter 25 is a lament for Job’s wife. OTP 1:850 suggests this is an interpolation since it is similar to 2 Cor 6:9-11 and Titus 3:3-7 in content. It is also possible this is intended something like a Greek chorus, commenting on the attitude of Sitis. Job sees the devil standing behind his wife “unsettling her reason” for the purpose of tempting him. Job accuses the devil and he can no longer hide behind the woman. Satan was so ashamed that he leaves Job alone for three years (chapter 27).

Job is visited by three “kings” who have heard of his affliction (chapters 28-38). Like the canonical book, they are astonished at Job’s suffering and attempt to explain the reasons why he has had to endure such things. There is a great deal of lamenting alongside Job’s responses in this section, although the way in which the visitors speak is considerably different than the biblical characters. For example, Baldad closely questions Job wondering if he is “emotionally disturbed” (36:6), something which Job denies (38:1).

Sophar offers to let Job use the physicians from the three kingdoms (38:2-7). Sitis laments her children, falls on the ground in worship, and dies (chapters 39-40). We find out that Elihu was inspired by Satan (41:6) and the three kings are only forgiven for what they have said by Job’s intercessory prayer (chapter 42), although Eliphas takes the time to curse Elihu (chapter 43). Job is restored in the end and returns to the doing of good works for the poor (chapters 44-45).

As mentioned in the introduction, chapters 46-52 appear to be a later addition by a Christian editor. This section concerns Job’s three daughters who received cords or sashes from their father as an inheritance (chapters 46-47).  As each of the daughters puts on her sash, they no longer care for earthly things and they have a visionary experience. The first speaks in an angelic dialect (48:3), the second speaks in the dialect of the archons (49:2-3), and the third spoke ecstatically in the dialect of “those on high,” the cherubim (50:2-3). They all three sang hymns in these unusual languages.

Nereus, the brother of Job, wrote out these hymns (chapter 51), and afterwards Job falls ill and dies (chapter 52). When an angelic chariot descends to take Job to heaven, the three daughters greet the one in the chariot (chapter 52). The final chapter of the book is the Lament of Nereus for his dead brother (chapter 53).  While the evidence is thin, it is possible Spittler’s proposal of a Montanist addition is correct given the extreme interest in “heavenly language.” It is certainly in contrast to the sentiment of Paul who desired to speak five words in an understandable language that a ten thousand in a heavenly tongue (1 Cor. 14:18).

The Testament of Reuben

T.Reuben deals with the problem of sexual promiscuity. In the Hebrew Bible, all we are told is Reuben “defiled his father’s bed” by sleeping with Bilhah, his father’s concubine (Gen 35:22). The writer of the Testament of Reuben uses this story to admonish his readers despite the fact the text of Genesis devotes but a single line to his sin! T.Reuben 3:11-15 expands on the biblical story: Reuben sees Bilhah bathing and he became consumed with lust and was “not able to sleep until he performed this revolting act” (obviously alluding to David adultery with Bathsheba, 2 Samuel 11). For this sin at the age of thirty he was struck with an illness which kept him on the brink of death for seven months (1:7-10).

Reuben’s repentance lasted seven years, during which time he did not eat meat nor drink wine. Chapter 2 describes the seven “spirits of man” (life, seeing, hearing, smell, speech, taste and procreation). Procreation is last because it can lead a young person “over a cliff.” Each of these spirits can be mixed with error, Reuben himself is a witness to the last spirit leading him astray (chapter 3).

The mixing of a good thing with error is reminiscent of Greek ethics, especially Aristotle’s Golden Mean and the idea of “all things in moderation.” Taste, for example, is the enjoyment of food a drink. In excess it is gluttony and drunkenness, both are vices. But to take too little food and wine would be, in Aristotle’s ethic, also a vice (something like the modern “eating disorders”). Chapters 4-6 repeat this theme to avoid promiscuity and devote one’s self to “integrity of heart in the fear of the Lord (4:1). Reuben continues to have guilt for his sin despite his age (4:4).

The main problem for modern readers of this Testament is the blame it puts on women for promiscuity. In 5:1 women are evil, they are enchanting (5:2) but they are an incurable disease and a plague from Beliar (6:3). Women contrive in their hearts against men and “deck themselves out” in order to lead men astray (5:3). A man should not let his wife or daughter adorn their heads since it will “deceive men’s minds (5:5). Even the Watchers were “charmed” by women when they fell (5:6). A man must guard his mind against women in order to stay pure (6:1).

Testament of Reuben 5:1-3 “For women are evil, my children, and by reason of their lacking authority or power over man, they scheme treacherously how they might entice him to themselves by means of their looks. And whomever they cannot enchant by their appearance they conquer by a stratagem. Indeed, the angel of the Lord told me and instructed me that women are more easily overcome by the spirit of promiscuity than are men. They contrive in their hearts against men, then by decking themselves out they lead men’s minds astray, by a look they implant their poison, and finally in the act itself they take them captive.

There are several similar statements made in the New Testament, although they are less harsh than T. Ruben. For example, in 1 Timothy 2:9-10 Paul makes a statement against women braiding their hair and wearing expensive clothes and excessive adornments (cf. 1 Peter 3:3-5). In 1 Timothy 2:11 Paul makes the highly controversial statement concerning women exercising authority over men. Following this line, Paul comes very close to the occasional statement in the pseudepigrapha that Eve is to blame for the fall (2:13-15).

Has anyone commented on the potential use of the Testament of Reuben for reading 1 Timothy 2? It is less likely because the Greco-Roman background of first century Ephesus is considered the primary background for the Pastorals. The Jewish background for 1 Timothy may be muted because scholars assume the letter to be a later Pseudepigraphic work with a Greco-Roman background. But if the setting of the Pastorals is more Jewish than is often recognized, then the use of the Testament of Reuben as shedding some light on attitudes toward women is merited.