I beleive the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated, copied, and interpreted correctly. In the course of my studies of the Bible, I've discovered that it has a long and convoluted history. So, these are my discoveries and my musings of Christian history and doctrines.

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Location: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, United States

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, Part 3

In reading Roberts and Donaldson's introduction to their modern English translation of the Patriarchs, it turns out that the version of the Twelve Patriarchs discovered in the Dead Sea Scrolls is not the only version in existence. Scholars know that at least some Christians used it because it is thought that Tertullian quoted (1) from it and Origen (2) mentions it specifically by name. That is why some think that it was written before the end of the 2nd century A.D.. After that, however, not much is known or mentioned about it. It just seems to have disappeared off the radar. There are some suspected references to it as late as the 500's A.D., but it is not known with absolute certainty.

Then in the 13th century, over 1,000 years after Origen's days, the book mysteriously resurfaces in Greece. Roberts and Donaldson quote an obscure document that states that a man by the name of Master John de Basingstokes, Archdeacon of Leicester, talked to another man by the name of Robert Grosseteste, Bishop of Lincoln, and told the Bishop of some discoveries he made while on a visit to Greece. John says:


"that when he was studying at Athens he had seen and heard from learned Greek doctors certain things unknown to the Latins. Among these he found the Testaments of the XII. Patriarchs, that is to say, of the sons of Jacob. Now it is plain that these really form part of the sacred volume, but have been long hidden through the jealousy of the Jews, on account of the evident prophecies about Christ which are clearly seen in them." (3)


Roberts and Donaldson then quote some Matthew Paris as writing:
"At this same time, Robert, Bishop of Lincoln, a man most deeply versed in Latin and Greek, accurately translated the Testaments of the XII. Patriarchs from Greek into Latin. These had been for a long time unknown and hidden through the jealousy of the Jews, on account of the prophecies of the Saviour contained in them. The Greeks, however, the most unwearied investigators of all writings, were the first to come to a knowledge of this document, and translated it from Hebrew into Greek, and have kept it to themselves till our times. And neither in the time of the blessed Jerome nor of any other holy interpreter could the Christians gain an acquaintance with it, through the malice of the ancient Jews. This glorious treatise, then, the aforesaid bishop (with the help of Master Nicolaus, a Greek, and a clerk of the Abbey of St. Alban's) translated fully and clearly, and word for word, from Greek into Latin, to the strengthening of the Christian faith, and to the greater confusion of the Jews." (4)

This information raises some questions in my mind.
1. If Christians in the earlier second century A.D. actually were the ones who wrote or doctored up The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, then why were the non-Christian Jews in possession of it all those centuries? Shouldn't the Christians have been in possession of it and not the non-believing Jews?

2. If the non-believing Jews were so afraid of letting people know about it, why did they preserve it for so long? Wouldn't they have destroyed it if they didn't want anybody to know about the prophesies of Christ in the document? Or why didn't they remove the material in question?

3. How did these learned Greek doctors come into possession of it? Why didn't they share it with the rest of the Christian community?


4. What were the other "certain things unknown to the Latins" among which existed with the Patriarchs book?


1. Adv. Marcionem, v. I; Scorpiace, 13; cf. Benj. 11.

2. Hom. in Josuam, xv. 6; cf. Reub. 2, 3.

3. Historia Anglorum, a.d. 1252, p. 1112
, ed. London, 1571.
4. Historia Anglorum, a.d. 1242, p. 801.

1 Comments:

Blogger Mary A said...

Interesting questions you raise, Scott! It's fascinating to learn about these things, and also to try to figure out how likely the writings are to be authentic. And if they are authentic, were they "edited" somewhere along the line or left intact?

I'm enjoying your blog. :>)

5:48 AM  

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