Tuesday, June 06, 2017

T. Simeon

READING ACTS: The Testament of Simeon. The major ethical theme in the Testament of Simeon is the avoidance of envy. This Testament is also one of the ones that claims to know a book of Enoch. It is unclear whether this book actually existed. There is no reference to anything in any of the Enochic books we know, but we don't necessarily know all the ones that existed. There will be a chapter on citations of lost and dubious books in the forthcoming second volume of Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures.

Then there's this:
Perhaps the most tantalizing lines in the Testament are 7:1-2. The section begins with an exhortation to “be obedient to Levi and to Judah. Do not exalt yourselves above these two tribes, [because from them will arise the Savior come from God].” The problem is the status of the last phrase, is this a Christian adaptation of a Jewish original, or wholly Christian? The idea that two messiahs will come to Israel is found in the Dead Sea Scrolls (a messiah of David and Aaron). This reflects a coming military savior (like David, from the tribe of Judah) but also a messiah who functions in some ways like priest, from the tribe of Levi.
All this is true, but in fact some Christians did believe that Jesus was born from both the tribe of Judah and the tribe of Levi. There is no need to bracket the final phrase as a "Christian interpolation." (In general, one should be very cautious about this kind of atomistic literary criticism.) This belief about Jesus' lineage appears elsewhere in Christian Apocrypha. I will have more to say about it later this week.