Pseudepigrapha Saturday: The Testament of Moses

*I apologize for the delay in Pseudepigrapha Saturday. With Christmas, I was too busy. For those who actively read, please comment and let me know if you would appreciate and/or find it interesting if I expanded Pseudepigrapha Saturday to some more like Source Saturday. Source Saturday would draw from the Pseudepigrapha and other ancient literature.

The Testament of Moses:

The Testament of Moses (henceforth TMos) was composed during the Herodian period, most likely within a Palestinian locale. In short, it is a farewell address by Moses to Israel. Chapter Eleven narrates Joshua’s response, who claims that the Israel’s enemies will likely attack now when Moses is dead. Moses replies with confidence that God will allow Israel to succeed in accordance with his covenant promises. Unfortunately the only extant text is cut off in the middle of Chapter Twelve.

History, Literature, and Imagery:

In an article on TMos, part of Kenneth Atkinson’s argument is that it was composed in the Herodian period. Consequently TMos is a valuable source for understanding the cognitive environment in which people understood characters like Jesus and Moses. At the end of his article, he writes that “the Testament of Moses, once dated to the Herodian period, provides a valuable, yet largely neglected, source for understanding these NT doctrines as well as the roles of other intermediary figures during the Second Temple period” (476).

For New Testament studies, one valuable contribution of Atkinson’s analysis is that it places within Jesus’ life, and outside of New Testament literature, “that many Jews during the Second Temple period believed that a righteous figure must be completely pure and without sin in order to fulfill God’s eschatological plan”. In other words, it elucidates the ideas which authors of the New Testament and early Christianity may have held.

Bibliography:

Atkinson, Kenneth. 2006. “Taxo’s Martyrdom and the Role of the Nuntius in the “testament of Moses”: Implications for Understanding the Role of Other Intermediary Figures”. Journal of Biblical Literature 125 (3). The Society of Biblical Literature: 453–76.

Priest, J. “Testament of Moses”. J. H. Charlesworth, editor. Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, volume I. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1983.

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