The work thus named has a special interest for Englishmen, as having been first made known in this country, in the middle of the thirteenth century, by the celebrated Grosseteste or Greathead, Bishop of Lincoln, who, with the aid of a clerk of St. Albans, translated it from Greek into Latin. It had been brought to his notice by one John de Basingstokes, Archdeacon of Leicester, who, while studying at Athens, had lighted upon this treatise, and thought so highly of it that he induced the bishop to obtain a copy of it from Greece. The credulous Matthew Paris, who supplies these particulars, asserts roundly that the document formed part of the sacred canon, but had been suppressed by the Jews on account of the evident prophecies of Christ contained therein. This, of course, is a mistake. What is certain is, that it was well known in the early Church, was honoured and quoted by early Christian writers, and was named in some catalogues of sacred books. In the synopsis of Sacred Scripture which is found among the writings of Athanasius it is mentioned as one of the Apocrypha in conjunction with the Book of Enoch, the Assumption of Moses, and some others; and it is referred to in the Stichometria of Nicephorus of Constantinople. It is also probably named in the Acts of one or two minor Councils held in Rome and Spain in the fifth and sixth centuries. But there is no doubt that Tertullian and Origen knew and quoted the book. Thus the former writes: |For to my mind Paul was promised even in Genesis. Among the tropes and prophetical benedictions on his sons, Jacob, turning to Benjamin, said, Benjamin, a ravening wolf in the morning shall devour, and in the evening shall give victual.' For he foresaw that from the tribe of Benjamin would some day arise Paul, a ravening wolf in the morning devouring, -- that is, at first laying waste the Lord's flock, as a persecutor of the Church, and afterwards giving victual at evening, -- that is, as time declined feeding the sheep of Christ as the Teacher of the nations.| This is evidently a reproduction of the idea of a passage in the Testaments, where Benjamin thus addresses his children: |I shall no longer be called a ravening wolf on account of your ravages, but a worker of the Lord, distributing food to them that work what is good. And one shall rise up from my seed in the latter times, beloved of the Lord, hearing His voice, enlightening with new knowledge all the Gentiles, bursting in upon Israel for salvation with the light of knowledge, tearing it away from it like a wolf, and giving it to the synagogue of the Gentiles; and until the consummation of the ages shall he be in the synagogue of the Gentiles and among their rulers as a strain of music in the mouth of all. And he shall be inscribed in the holy books, both his work and his word, and he shall be a chosen one of God for ever; and because of him my father Jacob instructed me saying, He shall fill up that which lacketh of thy tribe.| Similarly in another place Tertullian says: |Paul, from a persecutor becoming an apostle, who first shed the blood of the Church, and afterwards changing his sword for a pen, and turning his falchion into a plough, even Benjamin, a ravening wolf, then himself bringing victual, according to Jacob, he commendeth martyrdom and what he deems desirable.| Origen cites the book by name. |Nay,| he says, |but in a certain little book, which is called the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, although it is not contained in the canon, we find the thought that by individual sinners we ought to understand individual Satans.| This idea occurs in the Testament of Reuben (chaps. ii. and iii.), who warns his sons that all sins are the embodiment of the seven spirits of evil which he specifies. There is possibly, too, an allusion to our work in Jerome, who writes: |And if so it please you, you may read the fictitious revelations of all the patriarchs and prophets; and when you have, studied them, go and sing in the women's weaving shops.| It is possible that the notion of Christ's descent from the tribes of Levi and Judah, found first in Irenaeus, may have been derived from our book, where it occurs frequently. The passage alluded to is found in Iren. Fragm. xvii. (ed. Harvey, ii.487): |From them Christ was foreshadowed and acknowledged and born; for in Joseph He was foreshadowed; from Levi and Judah He was born according to the flesh as king and priest; and through Simeon He was acknowledged in the temple.| These are nearly all the references to the book which occur. For many centuries it fell completely out of sight, and, indeed, nothing was heard of it till, as mentioned above, the Bishop of Lincoln took it in hand. But the Greek text did not profit by the invention of printing in its early stage, nor was it till quite the end of the seventeenth century that it was published in an available form. In 1698 Grabe printed the Greek text entire in his Spicilegium Patrum et Hæreticorum from a MS. left to the University Library of Cambridge by Archbishop Parker, and containing that prelate's autograph. This is probably the original from which Grosseteste's version was made. It was reprinted by Fabricius in his Codex Pseudepigraphus, and by Gallandi in the first volume of the Bibliotheca Veterum Patrum, and later by Migne in his Patrologia Græca. There is only one other Greek MS. of the Testaments existing in England, and that is one in the Bodleian Library at Oxford -- a paper quarto of the fourteenth century, presented to the University by its then Chancellor, the Earl of Pembroke, in 1629. Quite lately two other MSS. have been examined, one in the Vatican Library, of the thirteenth century, and one in a monastery at Patmos, belonging to the sixteenth century, which has been noticed by Tischendorf. A careful collation of these MSS., and of some transcripts made from them, has been published by the Rev. Robert Sinker, and in his hands the text has assumed as great an accuracy as is likely to be attained till other aids are supplied from continental sources. Of versions, especially in the Latin language, there are numerous specimens. Mr. Sinker mentions no less than forty MSS. of the Latin version, and numerous published editions dating from 1510-1520. The work has been translated into most modern languages, including French, German, Dutch, Icelandic, etc. The first English version was printed by John Daye in 1577, long before the Greek text was published, the earliest Latin translation having appeared some sixty years previously. This English edition was the work of A. G., the initials probably of Arthur Golding, and was continually reproduced in subsequent years. Another version, rendered from the text of Grabe and Fabricius, was put forth by W. Whitson in his Collection of Authentical Records, belonging to the O. and N. Testaments, 1727. Of late years a new version has appeared in the second volume of Clark's Ante-Nicene Christian Library. This translation is the work of Mr. Sinker.
The language of the original work was certainly Greek; that is, the writing which we now possess is probably that which came from the hand of the author. It is at the same time quite possible that a Hebrew document may have existed on which the present was more or less based. But of this no trace has ever been found; nor does the present writing bear any of the characteristics of a version, though it is thoroughly impregnated with Hebrew thought. In it we find an employment of the Septuagint: and there are certain paronomasias which could not have been derived from a Hebrew original, and many expressions which appertain to Greek philosophy, and have no equivalent in the Hebrew. We may conclude that the work as we have it is essentially Greek, and can be traced to no other source.
Having thus sketched the literary history of the Testaments, we may next glance at its contents, and shall then be able to consider its origin and date, and to mention some of the features most noteworthy in points of history and doctrine. The name indicates the nature of the treatise. The twelve sons of Jacob herein give their final instructions to their children. With the account more or less extended of their lives, wherein are often contained facts not found in the canonical Scriptures, they combine moral injunctions for the guidance of their descendants, forecasts of future backslidings, and revelations concerning the coming of Messiah's kingdom, which shall triumph over sin, and bring universal peace and happiness. Thus in each section three elements are distinguishable, Haggadean history, appropriate exhortations, and predictions of the future. Each Testament is supposed to embrace some chief topic, more or less apposite to the particular patriarch's life and character. Thus that of Reuben is concerning Thoughts, Simeon concerning Envy, Levi concerning Priesthood and Arrogance, and so on, through the whole twelve. But let us take the sections in the order in which they occur, and give a short statement of the subjects contained in each Testament. Further details will be presented when we come to analyse these contents.
Reuben -- Concerning Thoughts.
Reuben, before he died in the 125th year of his life, two years after Joseph's death, gathering his children and grandchildren around him, gives his last instructions. He confesses his great sin, and urges them to avoid his error, for which he had been sorely punished. Man has seven spirits given him wherewith to carry on his work in the world, viz. life, sight, hearing, smell, taste, speech, reproduction, and an eighth, sleep. With these Beliar (Satan) has intermingled seven spirits of error, which are these: fornication, greediness, fighting, fraud, arrogance, lying, injustice, and sleep, which belongs to both classes. In forcible language the patriarch denounces fornication. Women from the first have been seducers; they caused the fall of the Watchers (egregoroi) before the Flood; it behoves men to be wary in their converse with them. He ends by commanding his children to give heed to Levi, to whom with Judah is entrusted the chieftainship. For Levi shall know the law of the Lord, and shall judge Israel and offer sacrifices, until the consummation of the times of Christ the High Priest whom the Lord hath declared.
Simeon -- Concerning Envy.
He was fierce and unfeeling, and the most inimical to Joseph of all the brethren; but Joseph bore no malice. His example should be followed, and brotherly love cherished. The writing of Enoch foretold that the Simeonites should corrupt themselves, and attempt to injure Levi; but they shall not prevail. If they repent, they shall flourish and blossom like the rose. The Canaanites, Philistines (Kappadokes), and Hittites shall perish; peace shall be established, Shem shall be glorified, because Messiah shall come. |Obey, Levi!| he concluded, |and in Judah ye shall be redeemed; for from these two tribes salvation shall arise.|
Levi -- Concerning Priesthood and Arrogance.
This is the most important of all the Testaments, professing to tell all that shall happen to the tribe till the day of judgment. Other patriarchs indulge freely in moral and religious warnings; here the apocalyptic element is much more conspicuous. Levi narrates how that the Lord showed him two visions; first of the heavens, seven in number, which he was privileged to see, because he was appointed to minister in sacred things, and to announce the coming of Him who was to redeem Israel. It was at this time that he was enjoined to take vengeance on the Shechemites. In the second vision he is invested by seven angels with the insignia of the priesthood. The first angel presents him with the holy oil and the rod of judgment; the second washed him with pure water, and gave him bread and wine, the holy of holies, and clothed him in glorious robes; the third indued him with a linen ephod; the fourth with a purple girdle; the fifth gave him an olive branch; the sixth put a crown on his head; the seventh gave him a diadem and incense. And it was announced that his seed should be divided into three powers, which are obscurely explained. Jacob, knowing by revelation the office of Levi, taught him much lore concerning sacrifice, tithe, first-fruits, etc. He foretells the rejection of the Messiah, and the consequent dispersion of the nation. Levi then sketches his own family history, mentioning among other facts that Amram married his daughter Jochabed. He deduces from the prophecy of Enoch that the active iniquity of the people will last seventy weeks, and their punishment shall continue |until He Himself shall again visit you, and pitying, shall receive you in faith and water.|
Judah -- Concerning Fortitude, Avarice, and Fornication.
He was keen and bold when young, loving and obedient to his parents, and won the favour of the Lord. His heroic deeds are recounted, many details being given which are not found in Scripture. He urges his children to avoid drunkenness and uncleanness, sins of which he had been guilty in the matter of Tamar; and covetousness, which is pernicious. |Love ye Levi,| he enjoins, |that ye may live long. To me the Lord hath given the kingdom, and to him the priesthood; and He hath subjected the kingdom to the priesthood. On me He bestowed things of earth, on him things of heaven. For as the heaven is above the earth, so is the priesthood above every earthly kingdom. And the Lord hath chosen him above thee to come near unto Himself, and to eat of His table and the first-fruits of the dainties of the children of Israel.| He predicts wars and commotions which shall last till Messiah comes. After this the patriarchs shall rise again, and they that suffered on earth shall be recompensed by a happy life.
Issachar -- Concerning Simpicity.
He begins by narrating the story of the mandrakes, amplifying the briefer account of Gen. xxx., and then sketches his own character and life. He was a husbandman, simple, quiet, industrious, faithful, scrupulous in payment of tithes and offerings. He enjoins his sons to practise agriculture and to be simple in their lives, so that Beliar may not seduce them to luxury and irreligion.
Zebulon -- Concerning Compassion and Mercy.
This patriarch asserts that he has no sin to recall but that against his father when he connived with his brethren in concealing from him the fate of Joseph, though he grieved bitterly for it. He gives a long account of the transaction, and as a lesson from this incident, urges his sons to be kind and merciful, not only to brethren, but even to irrational animals, remembering that as a man deals with his neighbours, so the Lord will deal with him. He was the first to make a boat and go a-fishing, and with the produce to feed the poor. He admonishes concerning the duty of forgiveness of injuries, and love and unity; and he concludes by predicting the evils which dissension and unbelief will bring upon them, and which will only be terminated when the Lord, the light of righteousness, shall Himself appear among them, and he, Zebulon, should some day rise again.
Dan -- Concerning Anger and Lying.
He had tried all his life long to avoid anger and lying, and to please God; but was guilty of envy and malice in the case of Joseph. Let his sons beware of these sins, or they will bring on themselves destruction. In the last days, he knows that they will oppose Levi and Judah, and be grievously punished for it. But a time will come when from these tribes the salvation of the Lord will arise, and wage victorious war against Beliar; and the saints shall rest in Eden, and the righteous shall rejoice in the new Jerusalem, which shall be unto the glory of God for ever and ever! |Therefore draw ye nigh unto God and to the angel that intercedeth for you to paraitoumeno humas), for He is the Mediator between God and man for the peace of Israel.|
Naphtali -- Concerning Natural Goodness.
He was the son of Bilhah, daughter of Rutheus, brother of Deborah, Rebecca's nurse. Rutheus himself was a Chaldaean of Abraham's kindred, a worshipper of God, who had been carried away as a captive and bought by Laban. Naphtali, being remarkably active, was his father's messenger. When forty years old he saw a vision on the Mount of Olives, towards the east of Jerusalem. The sun and moon stood still; Isaac called his sons to run and seize them; Levi laid hold of the sun, Judah of the moon, and both were raised aloft with them. Levi received twelve palm branches, Judah had twelve rays beneath his feet. Then appeared a bull with two horns, and on its back the wings of an eagle. All tried to seize it, but Joseph alone was successful, and was carried up on high. And the holy writing came in sight which spake of the captivity of Israel. In a second vision Naphtali sees Jacob and his sons standing by the Sea of Jamnia; and, lo! a ship appeared full of dried flesh, inscribed The Ship of Jacob, but without crew or pilot. Jacob and his sons embark, a tempest arises and carries away the father; the ship is almost engulphed, and finally dashed to pieces. Levi prays, and the twelve are saved on pieces of wreck, and, reaching home, find their father safe and sound. The usual prediction concerning the punishment of sinners and the advent of Messiah closes the Testament.
Gad -- Concerning Hatred.
He boasts of his courage in defending the flocks from wild beasts, and tells how he was incensed with Joseph for repeating to his father the evil deeds of the brethren, and desired his death. He and Judah sold him for thirty pieces of gold, but kept ten for themselves, concealing the real amount received. He confesses his sorrow for this sin, and urges his children to beware of hatred and covetousness, on which subjects he dilates at considerable length. |For,| he says, |as love wishes even to revive the dead, and to recall those who are sentenced to death; so hatred would like to slay the living, and desires the destruction even of those who have but little erred. The spirit of hatred by reason of faintheartedness (oligopsuchias,? hastiness of spirit) co-operateth with Satan in all things unto the death of men; but the spirit of love co-operateth with the law of God unto men's salvation.| As the other patriarchs, he enjoins his sons to honour Judah and Levi, because from them the Lord shall raise up a Saviour for Israel.
Asher -- Concerning two Faces of Vice and Virtue.
He begins in much the same way as the Didachè: |Two ways hath God given to the sons of men;| and he proceeds in words which recall the dictum of Ben-Sira: |All things are two, one over against the other. There are two ways, of good and evil, and withal two counsels in our breasts distinguishing these paths.| He admonishes his sons to be single-minded, and not to wear two faces; and he gives various examples of double-mindedness, and shows how hateful such a character is in God's eyes. He terminates his advice by uttering the warnings and predictions in the same strain as his predecessors.
Joseph -- On Moderation.
He recounts his life, summing it up at first almost in the words of the Gospel (Matt. xxv.): |I was an hungered,| etc., and then narrating the circumstances twice over at much length, with the addition of many legendary particulars. |See, then, my children,| he continues, |how much may be effected by patience and prayer with fasting; for God loveth sobriety, and always helpeth the continent and self-controlling.| He tells of a vision which he saw. There arose in Judah a virgin, clad in a linen robe, and from her came forth a lamb unspotted, and on his left there was, as it were, a lion. Against him all the beasts of the earth contended, but prevailed nothing; and the lamb trode them under foot, to the great joy of angels and men. |Do ye, my sons, observe the commandments of the Lord, and honour Judah and Levi, for from out of them shall arise the Lamb of God, by grace saving all the nations and Israel.|
Benjamin -- Concerning a pure Mind.
Benjamin tells that his mother Rachel was twelve years barren, and then, fasting and praying for twelve days, she conceived, and in due time bore him; and he was therefore called Benjamin, |son of days.| He gives much good advice concerning the direction of the thoughts, and simplicity of heart, and rectitude of conduct; in the course of his admonition he recounts this prophecy of Jacob: |In thee shall be fulfilled the prophecy of heaven touching the Lamb of God and the Saviour of the world; for He, the undefiled (amomos) shall be delivered up in behalf of sinners; and He, the sinless (anamartetos) shall die for the impious, by the blood of the covenant, for the salvation of Gentiles and Israel, and shall destroy Beliar and his servants.| There is much that is beautiful and edifying in this Testament. Here is a thought with which we are all familiar, though we scarcely expected to meet with it here: As the sun, shining on what is filthy and noxious, is not defiled thereby, but rather purifies it and removes its ill savour; so the pure mind, mingling amid the pollutions of earth, dwelleth safely there and suffers no defilement.|
Such, in brief, are the contents of our book. We must glance at the writer or writers, and attempt to estimate the date of the production.
Of course, in this, as in all such literature, the author's personality is veiled and unknown. But we can form an estimate of his views, and see to what sect or party he belonged. And here we must at once protest against the free use made by some critics of the theory of interpolation. These scientists form certain opinions concerning the age, author, objects, tendencies of a work; and when any paragraph or expression coincides not with their conception, they arbitrarily put it aside as a later addition inserted by some unscrupulous scribe or editor. If the criminated passage were evidently foisted into the original text without any connection with the context, if it were plainly the work of some clumsy glosser, if it differed from the style of the rest of the document and contained language or ideas not found elsewhere, the theory of interpolation becomes reasonable. But where, as in the present case, none of these suppositions can be verified, where the disputed paragraphs are in full keeping and tone with the rest of the work, and there is no substantial variation in MSS. or versions, the notion of unauthorised additions falls to the ground, and we may take the text as genuine without further disquieting ourselves about baseless criticism. At the same time it is, of course, possible, and, indeed, probable, that the work would exhibit traces of editing and revision, and that words or passages might have been inserted in the course of time by scribes or redactors. But these additions, if they do exist, would not affect the general tone of the book, and we found our view on this, and not upon isolated expressions. Now we gather from a careful perusal of the document that the writer was a Jewish Christian, of views not in all respects orthodox, addressing his own countrymen. To none other would the utterances of the patriarchs have been of any value or weight; to none other would the future destiny of Israel have been of any importance. And the object which he had in view was the conversion of his auditors to Christianity. He desires to show how the old Law led up to this consummation, and how the evil times upon which his contemporaries had fallen were a discipline to drive them to acknowledge the true Messiah. He holds that the New Testament was always hidden in the old covenant, and existed in germ in the patriarchal dispensation, so that Christianity is merely a continuation and development of the more ancient religion.
There were, as is well known, two parties in the primitive Church who held opposite views upon the subject of the duty of Christians with respect to the Jewish ceremonial law. While one would impose this routine on all Gentile converts as necessary to salvation, thus narrowing the merits of Christ's sacrifice and ignoring the new covenant, the other held that the Mosaic law was not of eternal obligation, and that Gentile converts must not be compelled to observe it. The former developed into Ebionites, the latter into Nazarenes. Of the heretical tendencies of the Ebionites there can be no question; not only on the question of circumcision did they separate from the orthodox as represented by St. Paul, but more especially in regard to the person and nature of Christ. The Nazarenes, on the other hand, accepting and recognising the Pauline view of the duty of Gentile converts, and seeking to be themselves altogether Christians while retaining their own nationality, had a very imperfect conception of the eternal generation of Christ, dating the hypostasis of the Divine nature in Him either from His birth or His baptism. To this sect our author seems to have belonged, for in his utterances we can trace the opinions which have been mentioned, erroneous tenets on the nature of Christ, generous appreciation of the great Apostle of the Gentiles, faithful adherence to the old ritual, and liberal views with regard to converts from heathendom. It has been also remarked that there is much in the ethics of the book which corresponds with the known tenets of the Nazarenes. Thus it advocates voluntary fasting, abstinence from flesh and wine, not only in order to avoid temptation, but also as an atonement for past excesses; it enjoins peaceableness, kindness to men and animals, benevolence, compassion, the avoidance of female seductions; it inveighs against covetousness, and sets a high value on poverty. All these points seem to suit the modified asceticism of the Nazarenes. It is asserted that no one author could have enunciated the views which are found in our book. No Jewish Christian, it is said, could ever have characterised the tribes of Levi and Judah as those which were to guide Israel, or exhorted his countrymen to submit to their authority; while it is certain that official Judaism, represented by those tribes, was most active in rejecting the gospel. To this it may be answered that the author is thinking of Levi and Judah in their ideal character, not as they had exhibited themselves during later events. Christ as Priest, Christ as King, takes His descent from the two; and it is the truth which this descent teaches that the writer wishes to enforce.
Concerning the date when the book was written, we have certain facts to guide us. Being quoted by Tertullian and Origen, it must have been extant in the second century A.D. To the same conclusion we are led by the writer's evident acquaintance with the Book of Enoch, a great part of which, as we have determined in our account of that production, was probably composed in the age of John Hyrcanus, about 110 B.C. In the Testaments we find this work continually alluded to under the titles of |the writing (graphe) of Enoch;| |the book, books, or words of Enoch the Righteous,| |the Scripture of the law of Enoch,| and so forth; and there are many expressions borrowed, and facts employed, without special acknowledgment. It is true that most of these citations are not now found in the book as it has come into our hands; but that this work has been sadly mutilated, and originally contained much material no longer existing, is certain; and many of the passages which cannot be traced are probably rather appeals to the general tone and scope of the prophecy than actual quotations. But there are other criteria by which to judge of the age of our work. In it reference is made to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, it was therefore written after A.D.70. Also, according to the words of Benjamin (chap. xi.), the writings of the New Testament, especially the Acts and the Epistles of St. Paul, had been collected into a volume. At the same time, the Jewish priesthood is spoken of as if still existing, which could not have been the case after Hadrian's demolition of Jerusalem in punishment of the revolt of Bar-Cocheba, A.D.135. We have therefore these limits between which our book could have been produced, A.D.70-130; and we shall not be far wrong if we assign it to the end of the first or the earliest portion of the second hristian century.
We have now to notice some points of interest which are found in our book touching on history, Christology, and doctrinal, critical, and ethical questions. And first, let us look to the historical element. Here, as in the Book of Jubilees, and generally in Haggadistic literature, we meet with additions to, or amplifications of facts recorded in the Old Testament, some doubtless derived from tradition or from documents no longer extant, others which are owed to the inventive faculty of the writer. It is almost impossible in most cases to say where truth ends and fiction steps in; the probability is that generally there is some ground for the detail added, and that the author is dealing with material ready to his hand. In his chronology, and in no few of his legends, he is indebted to the Book of Jubilees and the Book of Enoch; many of his statements have been repeated in the Targum, the Midrashim, and Josephus, being obtained by them from independent sources. This is a further argument for the authenticity of our history.
As additions to the Biblical record, we may note the following. The treacherous attack on the Shechemites at the hands of Simeon and Levi is justified by the violent conduct of these Canaanites in former time, when they persecuted Abraham; plundered his flocks, and even attempted to outrage Sarah; and by a special communication from heaven, which directed vengeance to be taken upon them. During Jacob's sojourn at Hebron he waged successful war with the Canaanites, Judah taking the foremost place, and performing prodigies of valour, his acts being related at some length. Likewise many particulars are added in connection with Judah's marriage with the Hamite Shuah, and the episode with his daughter-in-law Tamar. Esau, who at first had peaceable relations with his brother, after an interval of eighteen years came against him with a large force; but Jacob slew him; and his sons attacked his chief city, and reduced the Edomites to tribute. Joseph's greatest enemy among his brethren was Simeon, who quarrelled with Judah for sparing his life; and his envy was punished by the paralysis of his right hand, which was only healed on his repentance and prayers. Zebulun tells us that he felt deeply for Joseph but feared his brothers too much to attempt his deliverance, though he refused to share in the price of their crime. The evil report which Joseph brought to his father concerning the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah referred to their killing the best of the flock and eating them. The story of Joseph's sojourn in Egypt is related at considerable length, the account being apparently derived from two distinct documents, not worked together into one narrative. The youth concealed his identity, pretending to be a slave; but the Ishmaelites, who had bought him, were not content with this account of himself, and thinking that he was the son of some great personage, detained him in the house of their agent till they should determine what should be done with him. While he was thus placed, Potiphar's wife happened to see him, and induced her husband to interfere in his behalf, and in the end purchased him as a slave, Joseph all the time quietly submitting to be thus treated that he might not bring his brethren to shame. Potiphar, who is called archimageiros, chief cook, entrusts his whole establishment to him, and greatly prospers. Then follows a detailed account of the seduction employed by his shameless mistress, and his chaste resistance to her words, caresses, and love potions: His wife Asenath, who brought him an enormous fortune as her dower, belonged to the same family as Potiphar. It is especially noted that all the patriarchs were buried in the cave of Machpelah, the bodies of many of them being previously placed in coffins. The transmission of these bodies to Hebron was conducted with much secrecy, as the Egyptians kept careful watch over the corpse of Joseph, it having been predicted that the removal of his bones would be accompanied with signal plagues on the land and people. The opportunity for the undisturbed conveyance of the patriarch's remains to Canaan was afforded by the attention of the natives being occupied by certain warlike operations in which they were engaged.
Such are the chief additions to the Biblical narrative found in our book. Of the elaborate chronological details we cannot speak at length. These regard generally the dates of the births of the several patriarchs and the chief events in their lives; they are based almost wholly on the Book of Jubilees, and differ scarcely in any particulars from the statements in that work, though they give some few facts not found therein, e.g. the marriages and deaths of the patriarchs.
The writer's views on the nature and person of Christ are to be gathered rather from incidental statements than found definitely expressed in formal enunciations of dogma. In the absence of any authoritative creed, containing definitions and limitations and doctrinal pronouncements, an early writer, producing a treatise for popular use, was not constrained to put forward his opinions with logical precision, or to formulate a system of theology. Hence we find a certain haziness in our author's conception on this great subject, and it is somewhat what difficult to arrive at his real sentiments. His ideas concerning the Messiah are, of course, essentially Jewish, and differ considerably from what we have learned to consider the orthodox Christian tenet. The straightforward simplicity of the Nicene doctrine is unknown to him, and he fluctuates between the notions of Christ as Divine and Christ as sanctified man, at one time regarding Him as God incarnate, at another seeming to speak of Him as human and nothing more. The passages which bear on the latter assumption are only three in number, and are these: in the Testament of Levi (chap. xvi.) we read, |the man who reneweth (andra anakainopoiounta) the law in the power of the Most High ye shall call Deceiver, and at last, as ye think, ye shall kill Him, not knowing His resurrection (anastema), wickedly taking the innocent blood upon your heads. On account of Him your holy places shall be desolate.| Judah, borrowing his language from Balaam's prophecy, proclaims (chap. xxiv.): |After these things a star shall arise to you from Jacob in peace, and a man (anthropos) shall stand up from my seed, as a sun of righteousness, walking with the sons of men in meekness and righteousness, and no sin shall be found in Him.| Naphtali warns his children of the fate that shall befall their descendants in punishment of their transgressions (chap. iv.): |The Lord shall scatter them over the face of all the earth, until the compassion of the Lord (splanknon Kuriou) shall come, even a man (anthropos) working righteousness, and showing mercy unto all those that are far off and those that are near.| These passages regard purely the human nature of Christ, and taken by themselves might show that the writer did not believe in His Divinity. But other expressions modify this conclusion. Thus the passage above quoted from Judah proceeds: |The heavens shall be opened upon Him to pour forth the spirit and blessing of the holy Father; and He Himself shall pour forth upon you the spirit of grace. . . . This is the scion (blastos) of the Most High God, and this is the fountain unto life of all flesh.| Levi (chap. xviii.) refers to the baptism of Messiah in these words: |The heavens shall be opened, and from the temple of glory shall come upon Him consecration (agiasma) with the voice of the Father (al. of the Spirit), as from Abraham, father of Isaac.| This is explained to mean that the relation of Christ to the Father is as close as that of a human son to his father. But the expression is obscure. We have, however, much more definite statements to produce. The pre-existence of the Messiah is fully allowed. Before He comes to perform His special work on earth He is called the Angel that intercedes for Israel, a mediator between God and man. This is probably a term derived from the Old Testament idea of the Angel of Jehovah, or the Angel of the Presence, who adumbrated Christ. Benjamin (chap. ix.) speaks of Him as the |Only-begotten;| Levi (chap. iv.), as |Son of the Lord;| Simeon tells (chap. vi.) how |the Lord, the great God of Israel, shall appear upon the earth as man, and shall save man (Adam) in Him.| . . . |Then,| he adds, |I shall arise in gladness, and shall bless the Highest for His marvellous works, because God having taken a body, and eating with men, saved man;| and he proceeds (chap. vii.): |Do not lift up yourselves against Levi and Judah, for from them shall arise unto you the salvation of God. For the Lord shall raise up from Levi as it were a Priest, and from Judah as it were a King, God and Man. Thus shall He save all the nations and the race of Israel| In another place Levi appears to enunciate the heresy of Patripassianism, with which the Nazarenes were more or less infected. |Now, know ye that the Lord will take vengeance on the sons of men, because, when the rocks were rent, and the sun quenched, and the waters dried up, and fire cowered, and all creation was confounded . . . at the passion of the Most High, men unbelieving continued in their iniquities:| Judah (chap. xxii.) speaks thus: |The Lord shall bring upon them dissensions one with another, and there shall be in Israel continual wars, and among the Gentiles shall my kingdom be accomplished, until the salvation of Israel shall have come, until the appearing (eos parousias) of the God of Righteousness to give rest in peace to Jacob and all the nations.| From certain expressions in the Testament of Zebulun we should gather the writer's opinions to be that the man Christ was deified by union with the Godhead, a modified form of the Cerinthian heresy. We read (chap. ix.): |Ye shall see God in the form of man, whom the Lord shall choose; Jerusalem is His name.| In many other places it is stated that God, the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, shall dwell among men, and be worshipped, and shall judge the nations. Not to multiply examples to the same effect, we must infer that the author himself held somewhat indistinct views concerning the two natures of Christ and His relation to God, at one time identifying Him with God, at another plainly distinguishing Him from God. From two paragraphs which refer to Christ's baptism, it would seem that it was not till that event that the man Christ became participant of the indwelling of God in the highest sense. That He was to be born of a virgin we have seen in our quotation from the Testament of Joseph, where the linen robe in which she is dressed implies a connection with the priesthood. And His spotless character is gathered from the epithets which occur in the Testaments, e.g. guiltless, sinless, true, long-suffering, gentle, lowly. Schnapp, followed by Schürer and others, would regard all such passages as Christian interpolations foisted into a Jewish work; and, of course, such a theory would explain their appearance in the places where they are found. But the opinion which we have adopted equally well accounts for such paragraphs; and the large extent of these Christian passages makes the opposite theory unlikely and difficult of acceptance. It may also be said that a later Christian would have had more definite views than those intimated herein.
The view taken of the office of Messiah is indicated by the continual reference to His origin from the tribes of Levi and Judah. He is Priest as well as King, and under the former aspect is supreme. But little is said of His death, and its connection with the Priesthood of Messiah is ignored; the teaching of the Epistle to the Hebrews has not been studied, and we are not told that Christ, by His own blood, bath entered once for all into the holy places, having obtained eternal redemption for men. But it is believed that sins are blotted out through the priesthood, though how this is exercised is not distinctly stated. As King, Messiah wars against evil, and crushes the power of Beliar; and this victory shall be finally accomplished when Israel has learned the lesson of faith. Of Christ's ascension and session in heaven some little is said; but of His return to judgment nothing definite can be found expressed. The author certainly holds that the just shall rise again, and be rewarded for all their sufferings on earth, and share in Messiah's kingdom; but he is very indistinct concerning the fate of the wicked, and has nothing to say of Messiah's part as Judge.
The indefiniteness of the writer appears conspicuously in the view which He takes of the Holy Spirit. Nowhere is He spoken of as God. He is called the Spirit of Sanctification, the Spirit of Understanding, and He is said to rest on Messiah; but no hint of His equality with the Father and the Son is given. Nor can we discover that our author believed in His distinct. personality; but he seems to have regarded Him merely as an operation or manifestation of the Godhead.
For the criticism of the New Testament the book affords some assistance, as it contains quotations or allusions which show familiarity with most of our early Christian documents. References to the writings of St. John are not infrequent. Thus Dan (chap. xiv.) speaks of |the light of the world, which was given among you for the enlightenment of every man,| which recalls chap. i.9 and viii.12; Benjamin (chap. iii.) and Joseph (chap. xix.) call the Saviour of the world |the Lamb of God.| Issachar (chap. vii.) has the phrase, |a sin unto death.| Levi (chap. xviii.) says that Messiah |shall give unto the saints to eat of the tree of life;| Dan (chap. v.) makes mention of |the new Jerusalem.| Traces of acquaintance with most of the other books of the New Testament may be found scattered throughout the work. Levi (chap. xviii.) tells of the Father's voice that came upon Christ in the water, and of Him |who should redeem Israel.| We have allusions to the holy books, and the work and word of Paul, which would imply that the Acts and Pauline Epistles were known to the writer. |The Spirit of God,| says Benjamin (chap. ix.), |shall come upon the Gentiles, as fire poured forth.| Reuben (chap. v.) admonishes, like St. Paul and St. Peter, |Flee fornication; and bid your women not to adorn their heads and faces.| Levi (chap. vi.) repeats St. Paul's difficult phrase in 1 Thess. ii.16: |The wrath of God is come upon them to the uttermost,| ephthasen ep' autous . . . eis telos. |The God of peace,| and |God in the form of man,| are Pauline terms. Levi (chap. x.) and Benjamin (chap. xi.) adopt this phrase, |the consummation of the ages,| from Heb. ix.26 As bearing on the canonicity of disputed books, we may add that Reuben's (chap. v.) utterance, that the woman who is a deceiver |is reserved unto eternal punishment,| seems to be a quotation from 2 Pet. ii.4, 9 and Jude 6.
In De la Bigne's Magna Bibliotheca, where Grosseteste's Latin version is printed, the following verdict concerning our book is given: |Liber hic apocryphus est pseudepigraphus, fabulosus et indignus plane qui legatur; multa enim continet partim erronea, partim vana et mendacia, nullo auctore aut fundamento subnixa, quæ facile lector et discernet et repudiabit.| A careful student of the work would not nowadays assent to this conclusion. Far from being unworthy of perusal, it may justly claim the most attentive consideration, as the product of an important era too little understood, and embodying the views of a party which has left the scantiest literature. Whether it was composed at Pella, as Mr. Sinker supposes, we have no ground for deciding; but that it emanated from a Nazarene, at a time when dogma was still fluctuating and no authoritative decree had fixed the truth on doubtful questions, is obvious. We have here a glimpse of early Christian doctrine and ethics which is almost unique. The large-minded utterances of the Patriarchs are very notable. The author has accepted the Messiah as He really appeared, though His guise was far different from what was expected: and he aims at making his unbelieving countrymen see with his eyes, and recognise in the Jesus whom they slew the Messiah long promised and foretold, who should bring salvation, not to the Jews only, but to those who were far off, even unto the ends of the earth.