The Testament of Naphtali

The Dead Sea Scrolls

A Hebrew fragment of a Testament of Naphtali was identified among the Dead Sea Scrolls. It seems that this work was one of the sources of the Jewish Greek Pseudepigrapha, the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs. The Hebrew fragment deals with the genealogy of Bilhah and is longer than the parallel passage in the Greek text. A Testament of Naphtali in medieval Hebrew is preserved in two versions, the second, published by Wertheimer, being a secondary elaboration of the first one. The medieval Hebrew Testament, which is not identical with the text discovered in Qumran – it does not contain a genealogy of Bilhah – nor with the Greek Testament of Naphtali in the Testament of the Patriarchs, is a translation from a non-Hebrew source, probably Greek. This source was composed in the same trend as the Testament of the Patriarchs and shows clear affinities with the extant Greek Testament of Naphtali.

The ethical teaching of the medieval Hebrew Testament is based on fear of God and the golden rule (in the negative form). The stress on the importance of Levi and Judah is common to this text, the Greek Testament of the Patriarchs, and the Book of Jubilees; behind this idea lies, apparently, the Qumran concept of the two Messiahs, Messiah b. David, the anointed of Judah, and Messiah, the anointed of Aaron. In the text a dream of Naphtali is narrated which is similar to that in the Greek text (Naphtali 5:1–3). In both versions of the dream, Levi is identified with the sun and Judah with the moon. This passage, as indeed the whole work, shows a polemical tendency against Joseph and his descendants, in sharp opposition to the very positive appreciation of Joseph in the Testament of the Patriarchs. The second dream also has a parallel in chapter 6 of the Greek Testament of Naphtali, and it also shows the same polemical attitude toward Joseph. It is an interesting fact that the text praises the Hebrew language, which is in accordance with the ideology of the whole major religious trend exemplified in the Testament of the Patriarchs and the Dead Sea Scrolls. The treatise ends with the blessing of the man “who does not defile the Holy Spirit of God which hath been put and breathed into him,” a theologoumenon which has its exact parallel in the Damascus Document.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.

T. Gaster, Studies and Texts, 1 (1925–28), 69–91; 3 (1925–28), 22–30; R.H. Charles, The Greek Version of the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs (1908); idem, The Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs (1908), lxvi–lxviii, 221–7; A.J. Wertheimer, Battei Midrashot, 1 (1950), 193–203; Milik, Dix ans découvertes dans le Désert de Juda (1957), 320.

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