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The Apocryphal Old Testament Collection of the most important non-canonical Old Testament books designed for general use.

The Testament of Job - Introduction

If the ‘liber qui appellatur Testamentum Job, apocryphus’ mentioned in the Gelasian Decree refers to our Testament, there would seem to have been a Latin version of it circulating in the West in the fifth and sixth centuries. But apart from this possibility, there is no reference to the Testament, or certain quotation from it, anywhere in antiquity.

The Testament was first introduced to the modern world by A. Mai, who in 1833 printed a Greek text in the seventh volume of his Scriptorum Veterum Nova Collectio. Mai did not disclose the source of his text, since identified as the 13th century Vatican MS Vat. gr. 1238. In 1890 M. R. James ‘was able to examine a MS of the Testament at Paris’: this was B.N. gr. 2658 (11th century), containing also the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs as well as the well-known ‘Interpretation of Hebrew Names’ and the ‘Questions and Answers’ attributed to Anastasius of Sinai; and it was this MS that was used by James as the foundation of his edition in 1897 , the variants of Mai's text, which are often considerable, being set out in full in the apparatus. The only other MS known to James was Paris B.N. gr. 938 (16th century), which was obviously a transcript of B.N. gr. 2658 and therefore negligible. In 1911 the collation of a fourth MS (Messina San Salvatore 29; AD 1307), made against James's text, was published by A. Mancini. 1 A. Mancini, ‘Per la critica del “Testamentum Iob” (= Rendiconti della Reale Accademia dei Lincei, Ser. V, xx (1911), pp. 479–502).

Meanwhile, the existence of a version in Slavonic had been brought to light. In 1878 S. Novaković published the first text of this version from a MS in Belgrade; and thirteen years later Gj. Polívka produced a critical edition, printing the text of a Šafařík MS as his basic text and adding the variants of the Belgrade MS and another from Moscow in his apparatus. For text-critical purposes, however, the Slavonic version has not proved of much assistance; it is exceedingly periphrastic and there are many (obviously deliberate) abbreviations and expansions.

The Greek text in S. P. Brock's edition of 1967 , as in James's edition, is basically that of the Paris MS (= P); though where P is manifestly corrupt preference is given to the readings of either the Vatican MS (= V), or the San Salvatore MS (= S), or both. Because of its internal complications reference is made in the apparatus to the Slavonic version only when it clearly confirms a Greek variant.

The American Society of Biblical Literature Pseudepigraha Group edition, which was published seven years after Brock under the editorship of R. A. Kraft, had of necessity to rely on the same Greek MSS. However, as might be expected in an attempt at what was described as ‘a step towards an eclectic text’, P assumes rather less prominence than previously. Moreover, the traditional verse divisions were not a little modified.

About the origin and date of the Testament nothing whatever is known. Nevetheless, several widely differing opinions have been expressed. For example, Kohler, in the introduction to his translation, published in 1897 , declared himself in favour of an Essene origin for the work and a pre-Christian date. On the other hand, James, in the introduction to his edition, published in the same year, maintained that the author was ‘a Jew by birth, a Christian by faith’, and that he lived in Egypt in the second or third century AD. Subsequently, Kohler seems to have modified his views somewhat, for in his Jewish Encyclopaedia article of 1904 there is no mention of the Essenes, and he refers simply to the Testament being ‘one of the most remarkable productions of the pre-Christian era, explicable only when viewed in the light of ancient Hasidean practise’. Another strong supporter of the Testament's Jewish origin was Torrey, who characteristically saw beneath the extant Greek ‘texts’ an underlying original in Aramaic, which he dated to the first century BC.

What is indisputable, however, is that the author of the Testament as it now stands knew and used the canonical Job in the Greek Septuagint version and not in the Hebrew original or any other version: this means that he wrote in Greek and that he was not translating from Aramaic or anything else – the Septuagint words and phrases are throughout so much part of the texture of the work that they could not possibly be due to a translator. In other words, the Testament is a Hellenistic work through and through. Hence Philonenko, for instance, looked to Egypt and went on to suggest a possible origin among the Therapeutae there during the first century AD.

Further, there is much to be said for the view that the author was familiar with the New Testament as well as with the Old – such expressions as ἀπϱοσωπόληπτός ἐστιν [ὁΚύϱιος], ἀποδιδοὺς ἑκάστῳ (iv. 8: cp. 1 Pet. i. 17; Rom. ii. 6 …), σκωληκόβϱωτος (xx. 8: cp. Acts xii. 23), and εἰς τὸ διηνεκές (xxxiii. 7: cp. Heb. vii. 3, x. 1, 12, 14 ) tell strongly in favour of it; and it may also be argued that the ‘patience’ or ‘endurance’ of Job (i. 5 ) and his final vindication (lii–liii) are presented as a type of the sufferings and ‘end’ of Christ (cp. James v. 11 ). If this be so the author must have been a Christian, although he seems to have made no conscious attempt to ‘Christianize’ the details of his material, and his contacts with the New Testament look much more like unconscious reminiscences than deliberate allusions.

Beyond this it is difficult to go. He may have known a Hebrew Midrash on Job or an Aramaic Targum: he may have been familiar with stories about Job from contemporary Jewish folk-lore; or he may have been dependent on his own creative imagination, except in so far as it was inspired by the contents of the canonical Job in the Septuagint, and modified by such scraps of Jewish tradition as that Job's wife was named Dinah – a tradition which appears both in the Targum to Job and in Pseudo-Philo (who clearly identified her with the daughter of Jacob 2 Pseudo-Philo, Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum, viii. 8. ), although it is to be observed that in the Testament Job marries twice and Dinah is his second wife (i. 6). In any case, the Septuagint Job emerges as the only ‘source’ that can be certainly identified.

Finally, if the author was a Christian and familiar with the New Testament, he cannot have written before the second century. His vocabulary contains some ‘late’ words – ‘late’ either in occurrence or in the meaning he attaches to them; and this fact should make us pause before assigning the earliest possible date to the Testament.

Our translation is based on Brock's edition and for the most part follows his text.

Notes:

1 A. Mancini, ‘Per la critica del “Testamentum Iob” (= Rendiconti della Reale Accademia dei Lincei, Ser. V, xx (1911), pp. 479–502).

2 Pseudo-Philo, Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum, viii. 8.

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