Arguments that the Testament was originally a non-Christian work:
1. Rescension B could be the original, nonChristian version because
1A. It is shorter (although it could be a shortened version of Rescension A)
1B. Charlesworth writes: "There are also fewer late words" in it. "B lacks most of the late words of A in its present form, some of which are not evidenced before the fifth century AD". Robert Kraft refers to two examples of late forms in Recension A and 1 example (the word ἄς) in Recension B:
James gives two examples of "late forms and constructions" in the longer ,recension" of TAbr -- εἰπεῖν τινά (rather than τινί or πρὸς τινά), and ἀπό plus accusative (rather than genitive).
He adds that "the neo-Greek particle ἄς" (contraction of ἄφες -- "permit that," "in order that") appears in the l4th century MS B of the shorter form at 5.4. Lampe's Patristic Lexicon lists only one example of ἄς, from the seventh century; it also occurs in chs. 26-27 of the Apocalype of the Holy God-Bearer (Mary) which M. R. James edited from an eleventh century MS (Apocrypha Anecdota 1, 1893).
Liddell-Scott\9 includes ἀπό + accusative as a construction found "in later Greek" and refers to a fourth/fifth century papyrus; Lampe also lists two sixth century church fathers as examples of this phenomenon (assuming that the extant MSS accurately preserve sixth century usage). The εἶπεν τινά ("he told him") construction is not normal in TAbr (πρὸς τινά is most frequent) but does appear in chs. 1, 4, 15. It is frequent in the "Apocalypse of Sedrach" (ed. James in Apocrypha Anecdota 1, from a l5th century MS) and occurs at least once (2.24) in the closely related Greek Apocalypse of Esdras... (Source: http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/rak//publics/ ... sions.html
1C. Charlesworth writes that it has "fewer places where Christian influence is probable."
1D. But Charlesworth also 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.
1E. Robert Kraft writes:
Another sub-group is not known from Greek MSS but is preserved in the closely interrelated Coptic-Arabic-Ethiopic versions, and seems to be represented already by a fragmentary fifth century Sahidic MS. ... Thus the oldest preserved attestation is for the Coptic-Arabic-Ethiopic shorter form, which seems to have been in circulation already in fifth century Egypt.
*But note: even if Recension B is earlier, one might suppose that explicit Christian references were taken out of the Testament of Abraham to make it look more pre-Christian in creating Rescension B.
2. The twelve tribes judging the world is a Jewish theme, although a Christian writer could have taken it from Jewish views. The Jewish Encyclopedia says:
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."
Nancy Calvert writes in "Abraham Traditions in Middle Jewish Literature": "the judgment of all people by the twelve tribes is one of the few distinctively Jewish elements in the work..."
*But: Dale Allison writes in his book Testament of Abraham:
One nonetheless cannot establish the non-Christian origin of a text by showing how full of Jewish elements it is... Christian compositions do not always wear their faith on their sleeves. The Epistle of James and the Sentences of Sextus are Christian texts, yet they are nearly void of plainly Christian elements.
3.A. Allison considers it to have a non-Christian "Urtext" underlining the two recensions because of the soteriology in
places that have no Christian parallels and indeed clash with what we otherwise know of Christian beliefs. The soteriological optimism that evidently characterized an earlier form of our work does not seem at home in the church-which is presumably why the recensions have countered it... Even universalists such as Origen and Gregory of Nyssa... would have had trouble with a prayer that brings unbaptized sinners into eternal life in an instant, without some purgation through post-mortem suffering.
I agree, but apocryphal Christian comedies could be broad enough to entertain such ideas. The prayer bringing unbaptised sinners to heaven could be explained in that Abraham was living in a time before the advent of Christian baptism, and in the Bible Christ preached to those already dead in Hades to bring them out of it, so conceivably Abraham's prayer could be considered an impetus in the process. Most importantly, this passage is in the Long Recension, which is certainly Christian, rather than the Short Recension.
3.B. Allison notes another soteriological issue, noting:
One further fails to find any Christian parallel for the idea, expressed in 14:15, that retribution in this life can cancel retribution in the next. Some Jews, by contrast, did teach that earthly suffering atones and brings redemption in the world to come.
Allison is referring to the Testament's quoting of the heavenly voice:
Abraham, Abraham, I have hearkened to thy voice and thy prayer, and forgive thee thy sin, and those whom thou thinkest that I destroyed I have called up and brought them into life by my exceeding kindness, because for a season I have requited them in judgment, and those whom I destroy living upon earth, I will not requite in death.
But since we are dealing with an apocryphal comedy, it seems that conceivably an author could imagine this kind of judgment system. If people are rewarded or punished in the afterlife based on their experience in life, then conceivably they could receive that punishment in their current life instead of in the afterlife. Plus, if the author is a Jewish Christian, he could have picked up this idea from other Jews and carried it into his thought after his conversion. As with the earlier passage, this one is in the Long Recension, which is certainly Christian, rather than the Short Recension.
4. Meredith Warren writes in "Human and Divine Justice in the Testament of Abraham":
the received texts are Christian and were preserved and edited by Christians, and yet do not show any clear indications of Christian theology;12 the idea of Christ as eschatological judge is absent from the narrative. It is therefore very difficult to say anything of certainty about whether and in what way the text reflects ancient Jewish or ancient Christian ideas about divine justice.
K. Kohler writes in "The Pre-Talmudic Haggada. II. C.":
Christ has no place there [ie. in the narrative], neither as a judge in the nether world, as the first Christians took him to be, nor as an atoning high priest who obtains mercy for the sinner by his vicarious sacrifice.
But this does not necessarily disprove a version of a Christian ideology for the judgment. In the NT, the disciples serve as judges over the twelve tribes (Matt. 19:28), and Christ is a Person of the Lord God, so the Testament's declaration that the world's judgment will be done by the 12 tribes, ie. others than Christ, and by God is not in conflict. Further, even the idea of the 12 tribes judging the world is not in conflict, since the NT says that the disciples will judge the 12 tribes, but doesn't discount those twelve tribes judging the rest of the world in an analogous way.
Arguments that the Testament was originally Christian.
1. Both recensions end with Christian doxologies. Version 2 ends with:
But God returned and removed the soul of Abraham as in a dream, and the archangel Michael took it up into the heavens. And Isaac buried his father beside his mother Sarah, glorifying and praising God, for to him is due glory, honor and worship, of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, now and always and to all eternity. Amen.
In this part, the Christian Doxology is put together with the story's ending, which naturally includes the removal of Abraham's soul and his burial. The fact that the burial is a normal part of the story and the way that the Doxology is combined in the same sentence as the burial make it less likely that the Doxology is an interpolation.
But Charlesworth theorizes: "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."
2. It has some seemingly Christian ideas:
2A. The Two Ways doctrine in Recension A, which shows up in Matt. 7:13, Luke 13, and the endings of the Didache and Epistle of Barnabas. In Matthew and Luke, the Two Ways concept is particularly connected to the desired narrow gate and the destructive broad gate, which are part of the Two Ways discussion in the Testament of Abraham's Chapter 11.
Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. - Matthew 7:13-14
Strive to enter by the narrow gate; for many, I say to you, shall seek to enter, and shall not be able.
- Luke 13:24
The Jewish Encyclopedia objects:
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.
But in fact, Ber. 28b doesn't go into the narrow gate vs broad gate theme like Rec. A. and the Gospels do. (Ber. 28b, https://halakhah.com/berakoth/berakoth_28.html
On the other hand, if the Testament of Abraham was a Jewish work predating Jesus' c. 30 AD preaching, then conceivably Jesus and the Christians could have been familiar with this idea in the Testament.
2B. The angel Michael sitting next to God resembles Gabriel sitting next to God in Luke 1, although the Jewish Encyclopedia comments:
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.
2C. The phrase "Holy holy holy" in the Long Recension. Dale Allison notes: "agios, agios, agios + o + characterization of God appears in Rev 4:8 and later Christian texts". He notes on page 114 of his book that "Holy holy holy" shows up in Jewish writings like Isaiah 6:1-5 (Holy holy holy Lord Sabaoth) as well as Christian ones. He notes that
The closest parallel to TA's variation is Rev 4:8, which opens with agios agios agios kirios, followes with o, and then continues with a characterization. The construction appears to be rare, but it does occur also in [the Christian writers] Ps.-Ephraem... Oecumenius,... and John of Damascus...
In contrast, the Jewish Encyclopedia 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.).
2D. Although the ideas in 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 the Testament 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.
2. E. Abel, his judgment, and his coming are described in ways reminicient of Christ's. In the Testament, there are three judgments. The first one is Abel's judgment that happens before his "Second Coming", whereupon the 12 Tribes of Israel judge the world, followed by the Lord God judging the world. The description of Abel, as one compared to a "Son of God" and having a "Great and Glorious Second Coming" is reminiscient of descriptions of Christ:
So we also went along with the angels, and came within that broad gate, and between the two gates stood a throne terrible of aspect, of terrible crystal, gleaming as fire, and upon it sat a wondrous man bright as the sun, like to the Son of God. Before him stood a table like crystal, all of gold and fine linen, and upon the table there was lying a book, the thickness of it six cubits, and the breadth of it ten cubits, and on the right and left of it stood two angels holding paper and ink and pen. Before the table sat an angel of light, holding in his hand a balance, and on his left sat an angel all fiery, pitiless, and severe, holding in his hand a trumpet, having within it p. 194 all-consuming fire with which to try the sinners. The wondrous man who sat upon the throne himself judged and sentenced the souls, and the two angels on the right and on the left wrote down, the one on the right the righteousness and the one on the left the wickedness. The one before the table, who held the balance, weighed the souls, and the fiery angel, who held the fire, tried the souls.
This is the son of the first created Adam, who is called Abel, whom the wicked Cain killed, and he sits thus to judge all creation, and examines righteous men and sinners. For God has said, I shall not judge you, but every man born of man shall be judged. Therefore he has given to him judgment, to judge the world until his great and glorious coming, and then, O righteous Abraham, is the perfect judgment and recompense, eternal and unchangeable, which no one can alter. For every man has come from the first-created, and therefore they are first judged here by his son, and at the second coming they shall be judged by the twelve tribes of Israel, p. 195 every breath and every creature. But the third time they shall be judged by the Lord God of all, and then, indeed, the end of that judgment is near, and the sentence terrible, and there is none to deliver. And now by three tribunals the judgment of the world and the recompense is made, and for this reason a matter is not finally confirmed by one or two witnesses, but by three witnesses shall everything be established. (https://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/ecf/009/0090083.htm
Here, Abel's judgment and Second Coming can serve as a foreshadowing of Christ's, as his blood foreshadows Christ's blood in Hebrews 12:24. While the passage above refers to Abel's "great and glorious second coming", Acts 2:20 in one modern translation uses the phrase "great and glorious coming day of the Lord" to refer to Christ's second Coming. The KJV refers instead to "the great and notable day of the Lord" in Acts 2:20.
2.F. Dale Allison notes that ancient Hebrew almost never used "Amen" in a prefatory or introductory way, which it does in the Testament of Abraham and on a 7th century BC potsherd. He writes that in ancient literature,
"With the exception of the Jesus tradition and maybe Rev 7:12 and 22:20, 'amen' is otherwise used responsively, as in 20:15;... LXX Deut 27:15; Neh 8:6, Ps 106:48; etc. It follows thatTA is in this particular probably under Christian influence.
2G. On pages 16-20, Allison gives a long list of typical Christian expressions found in Recension A and not in B (the short recension). For instance, he writes that "deutera paraousia", sometimes translated as the "second coming", "has no Jewish parallel but is popular in Christian writers". He concludes:
One cannot delete a line or two here and there and suppose the remainder to be Jewish. THere are indeed chapters, 11 and 20 for instance, where the Christian influence is so thoroughgoing that one has little hope of precisely reconstructing a Jewish original.
3. A. Jared Ludlow in "Humor and Paradox in the Characterization of Abraham in the Testament of Abraham" in the anthology Ancient Fiction: The Matrix of Early Christian and Jewish Narrative
argues that Recension A is older and that Recension B took comic elements out of Recension A because a comic image of Abraham resisting God's will implied a negative view of him. Ludlow writes:
"The use of humor in Abraham's characterization within Recension A fits with the comic nature of the recension as a whole. Recension B, in contrast, appears to be an adaptation of the longer recension where most of its comic elements were removed and deliberate ambiguities clarified.
In particular, Ludlow refers to Abraham's rather comical attempts to delay obeying God's behests that Abraham accept death. He writes that
Recension B... carries over many plot events that become incoherent in a less comical context.
3. B. Ludlow notes that M.R. James' conclusion was that Recension A has an earlier narrative ordering and that B has earlier vocabulary. James wrote: "B preserves the greatest proportion of the original language, A the greatest proportion of the original story" (M.R. James, The Testament of Abraham).
3.C. Dale Allison notes that
While Abraham's request to see the whole world is part of a delaying tactic in RecLng., it has no motivation in RecShrt. And whereas in RecLng the soul singled out in chap. 11, with its good and evil deeds balanced, becomes an opportunity to teach Abraham a lesson about mercy, in RecShrt. the soul enters and exits the story without contributing to the wider plot... Again, in RecLng. it is precisely Abraham's refusal to follow Michael that leds to God sending Death. In RecShrt., where Abraham does not resist Michael, Death's advent has no rhyme or reason. RecShrt., then, seems to presuppose something like RecLng., where Death comes because Michael fails.
3.D. Allison gives a long list of passages whereby those in Recension B appears secondary to those in Recension A on pages 20-23 of his book Testament of Abraham
). For instance, he writes:
Abraham's refusal in 7:12 and elsewhere to accept death must be original; RecShrt., in which the patriarch does not resist God's decree, depicts a more conventional Abraham better suited to pious emulation. RecLng. along explains why, in both recensions, Abraham fails to set his house in order or make his testament, as God orders him to do at the beginning...
4. Kraft explains that in James' view, "TAbr is a 'popular' Christian work composed in second century Egypt (incorporating some earlier legends) by a 'Jewish Christian' (at least for the apocalyptic portion; p. 23)".
5. Dale Allison notes:
The book... fails to take a defensive stand over against pagan society... It neither indicts idolatry nor teaches the superiority of Judaism. Despite its focus on Abraham, the book has almost nothing to say, even directly, about the Jewish people. Apart from 13:6, which may be from a Christian hand, Israel plays no role. Indeed, the reformulation of God's foundational promise in Gen 22:17 has no reference to the land; nor do the stars and sand represent the number of Abraham's descendants...
6. Rec.Shrt has more Semitisms than Rec.Long, but that also has them. Allison gives a list of Semitisms in Rec. Long on page 15 of his book Testament of Abraham
. Turner concludes that TA was composed in "Semitizing Greek" rather than in a Semitic original, because its Semitisms come from classical Biblical Hebrew.
7. Allison writes: "The depiction of Death has its closest parallels in Christian writings from Egypt."
Miscellaneous Evidence not pointing one way or the other:
* Note that there apparently is a relationship between the two recensions, as Allison writes:
Although the two recensions typically recount the same events with different words, there is enough overlap in vocabulary to show that they go back to the same Greek exemplar. They cannot represent independent translations of a Semitic TA...