The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs is a collection of ancient Hebrew manuscripts that are believed to have been written by a Pharisee during the Hasmonean (Maccabean) high priesthood of John Hyrcanus. According to Irish theologian and bible scholar R.H. Charles, the Testaments were authored by this Pharisee sometime between 137 and 107 BCE.
There are several translations of these writings — in Greek, Armenian, Slavonic, and Hebrew — with some Christian additions. Classified as pseudepigraphal literature, the Testaments are presented as death bed confessions of the 12 sons of Jacob. According to Charles, the order of these testimonies are not chronological as to birth. Instead, they are grouped according to their respective mothers:
- Sons of Leah (Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun)
- Sons of Bilhah (Dan, Naphtali)
- Sons of Zilpah (Gad, Asher)
- Sons of Rachel (Joseph, Benjamin)
Why Is Reading “The Testaments” Important?
As believers in Messiah and students of Scripture, we all bear a personal responsibility in learning all we can about the Father’s plan for our ultimate redemption through our High Priest Yeshua. It is our duty to study to show ourselves approved as we learn how to rightly divide the word. This includes reading “scary” Revelation and ancient books that the religious gatekeepers have told us were off limits — assigning them labels such as apocryphal or pseudepigraphal.
In order to truly work out our salvation this side of eternity, we should all be willing to challenge ourselves and the religious establishment.
Our Father wants us to know more about this walk than what we were taught in church. This conclusion is based on a conversation between the scribe Ezra and Yahuah, recorded in 2 Esdras. In this exchange, Ezra is told to write 204 books in forty days, but keep 70 aside for the wise among the people.
In forty days they wrote two hundred and four books. And it came to pass, when the forty days were filled, that the Highest spake, saying, “The first that thou hast written publish openly, that the worthy and unworthy may read it: but keep the seventy last, that thou mayest deliver them only to such as be wise among the people. For in them is the spring of understanding, the fountain of wisdom, and the stream of knowledge.” So during forty days, ninety-four books were written. And when the forty days were ended, the Most High spoke to me, saying, “Make public the twenty-four books that you wrote first, and let the worthy and the unworthy read them, but keep the seventy that were written last, in order to give them to the wise among your people.”2 Esdras 14:44-47 KJV (Published in the original 1611 KJV but removed in subsequent printings)
In addition to The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, so-called apocryphal and pseudepigraphal literature such as Enoch, Jubilees, Sirach, 3 & 4 Esdras, 1 & 2 Baruch, and more deserve our attention. In most cases, when read with an open mind and examined in the context of the Bible canon of sixty six books, your Bible study will be enriched in ways you never imagined possible.
According to Charles, the Testaments’ influence of the New Testament is extensive. He asserts that the Sermon on Mount1, the Gospels2, and Paul’s writings3 echo themes of forgiveness, the coming Messiah, the Commandments, the Resurrection of believers and the coming of Antichrist.
If you haven’t read The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, they will be presented here as voiceover narration. It is my prayer that you will visit this page often. As usual, test all things.
The Testament of Reuben
The Testament of Simeon
1 Matthew 5-7
2 Matthew, Mark, Luke, John
3 Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Timothy, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Titus, Philemon
Brenda Ross is a co-author of the book, “The Gospel Worth Dying For.” She is a former major market radio and television broadcaster who has served as Single’s Ministry Director at one of Houston’s Memorial Drive-area churches, a Jews for Jesus staff volunteer, and participated in mission outreach activities in Costa Rica, Mexico, and China. Urban mission experience includes volunteer work for Habitat for Humanity and catering to the homeless in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district.