TESTAMENT OF ABRAHAM (1st-2nd century) Questions

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.
Post Reply
User avatar
Posts: 1143
Joined: Mon Nov 23, 2015 8:07 pm
Location: USA

TESTAMENT OF ABRAHAM (1st-2nd century) Questions

Post by rakovsky » Fri Feb 15, 2019 1:09 pm

You can find a full text in Charlesworth's book:
https://books.google.com/books?id=TNdeo ... an&f=false

(Question) Was the Testament of Abraham (A) a non-Christian Jewish document interpolated by a Christian, or (B) a Christian document with a Rescension that is not excplicitly Christian? Are there some other cases of Christians "Christianizing" Jewish nonChristian texts as per (A)?

(Option A) An interpolated non-Christian Jewish text

Wikipedia's entry on the "Testament of Abraham" notes:
Kohler[14] on the other hand has given adequate grounds for regarding this apocryph as in the main an independent work of Jewish origin subsequently enlarged by a few Christian additions, and it is Kohler's stance that most scholars follow today.
Charlesworth writes in "Old Testament Pseudepigrapha" that in the shorter version of Testament of Abraham, Testament version B,
There are also fewer late words and fewer places where Christian influence is probable...

B lacks most of the late words of A in its present form, some of which are not evidenced before the fifth century AD and B lacks most of A's evidence of Christian influence. The story itself is not substantially Christianized. .... The present form of A however does show some instances of Christian editing, such as a a few berbal dependences on the New Testament, and these are almost entirely absent from B.
The later copyists were presumably Christians, with the result that some Christian phraseology crept into A and a Christian doxology was added to both recensions. Different manuscripts and versions were Christianized to different degrees...
Jewish Encyclopedia tries to make the argument it is not Christian:
apart from some late Christological additions made in a few manuscripts by copyists, there is not a single Christian interpolation found in the whole book. In claiming a Christian origin for the Testament of Abraham, James erroneously points (p. 50) to Luke, i. 19, where the position of chief angel that stands "in the presence of God" is intentionally assigned to Gabriel; while ancient Jewish angelology ascribes it to Michael, the heavenly chieftain of Israel. Neither is the idea of the "two ways" and the "two gates" taken from Matt. vii. 13. Aside from the fact that the "Two Ways" is originally a Jewish work (see Didache), the conception is known to Johanan b. Zakkai (Ber. 28b), and is found also in the Greek allegorical work, "Tabula Cebetis," by the Theban philosopher Cebes, a pupil of Socrates. Dr. James has failed to observe that Luke, xxii. 30, presents the Christianized view of the Jewish doctrine concerning "the future judgment of the world by the twelve tribes of Israel," referred to in chap. xiii. of the Testament of Abraham, and also expressed in Yalḳ., Dan. § 1065, thus: "In the time to come the Lord will sit in judgment, and the great of Israel will sit on thrones prepared by the angels and judge the heathen nations alongside of the Lord." Luke, as a Pauline writer transformed the twelve tribal representative judges of Israel into the twelve tribes of Israel being judged. The very spirit of this passage is decidedly non-Christian. ... All these facts, together with the view of the world's creation by one word instead of ten words (see Ginzberg, "Die Haggada bei den Kirchenvätern" in "Monatsschrift," 1899, p. 410),point to a very early date for the Testament of Abraham.

http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/artic ... stament-of
The Encylclopedia also notes:
The expression "thrice holy" (chap. xx.) has nothing to do with the Christian Trinity, as Dr. James thinks(p. 50), but is the translation of the rabbinical term, shillush ḳedushah, for the angelic song (Isa. vi. 3, Tanna debe Eliyahu R. vi.).
(Option B) A Jewish-themed Christian document, with Rescension B being not explicitly Christian
Charlesworth wrote:
The language of A cannot always be considered later than that of B and room for conjecture as to the original wording will remain.
If Rescenscion A is not necessarily later than B (the version that is not explicitly Christian), it's hard to say that B (the possibly non-Christian rescension) is necessarily original. One might suppose, for example, that explicit Christian references were taken out of the Testament of Abraham to make it look more pre-Christian in creating Rescension B.

Philip Schaff writes:
The tone of the work is perhaps rather Jewish than Christian, but as phrases and conceptions of a New Testament character appear in it, especially in the judgment scene, it is most probably to be assigned to a Jewish Christian, who for the substance of it drew partly on older legends, and partly on his own imagination. Some of its features are very striking, and a few of them do not seem to occur elsewhere in literature of this class; it is possible that some of these do not go further back than the medieval editors of the text.

http://biblehub.com/library/unknown/the ... uction.htm
To make a counterargument to the Jewish Encyclopedia's entry, I could say that although the ideas in Rescension B might overlap in both Christian and Jewish writings (eg. the Two Ways doctrine), the fact that they were emphasized in early Christianity and came together in Rescension B suggests more than the combination being just a coincidence, but rather points to the document coming out of the Christian-Jewish mileau of the 1st-2nd century. That is, these ideas might have more emphasis in early Christianity, and therefore seeing them come together in a document could tend to suggest the document being Christian. To give another example, the "thrice holy hymn" (Holy Holy Holy) that is found in the Testament of Abraham is an important song in Eastern Orthodox hymnography and Tradition going back to the 5th century. So even if it's found in Judaism (eg. in Isaiah), its appearance in Testament of Abraham could be another sign that could tend to suggest Christian origin when combined with other such possible signs in the document.

My research on the prophecies of the Messiah's resurrection: http://rakovskii.livejournal.com

Post Reply