Testament of Adam

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The Testament of Adam is a Christian pseudepigraphical text in two (or three) sections. No major denominations of Christianity accept any part of the text as canon.

I read this book to become more familiar with the Christian pseudepigrapha. To me, it appears to be the work of an early Christian committing pious fraud by altering an existing ancient manuscript to try and convince Jews to become Christians.

Authorship and Dating

The manuscript implies that it was written by Adam, which, if he existed, would make the work several thousand years old, but there is no historical evidence to suggest this.

The first section may have been written as early as 100 CE, but the Christian portion probably wasn't written until around 250 CE because it mentions Christian ideals that weren't established until Christianity was a couple centuries old. The version we read today is assumed to have been finalized around 550 CE, but the oldest surviving manuscript is a Syriac text dated to around 850 CE. The original language is still unknown, but historians suggest that the 550 CE version was also Syrian. The third section probably wasn't written until long after the second since so few manuscripts include it.

Because each section of the text has a different style and theology, historians assume that each was written by a different author. The first section, which appears to be in harmony with Jewish theology, may have been written by a Jewish author, the second overtly Christian section would have a Christian author, and the third, which describes the Christian angel hierarchy would also be a Christian author, but most likely a different author than the second section since such a large time gap probably occurred.

Content

In the first section, Adam describes to his son Seth how everything worships Yahweh at various hours of the day during morning and night.

In the second section, the author shamelessly injects Christianity into Judaism. Yahweh tells Adam that he will one day be born through Adam as a human child through the virgin Mary, get baptized, perform assorted miracles, get crucified, resurrection, and finally forgive Adam. He even mentions the Holy Ghost and several non-canonical topics. It ends with Yahweh warning Seth about the impending flood, and, eventually, Armageddon. Strangely, Yahweh even says that he will turn Adam into a god.

A third section exists on only one of the extent Syrian manuscripts (not the oldest). In it, the author describes the Christian hierarchy of angels.

Status

I do not own a copy of this manuscript, but I have read translations made by S. E. Robinson and E. A. Wallis Budge.

Review

Good

  • Although there is nothing beneficial in the content of the text, the fact that most historians agree the work is fraudulent helps to undermine those faith believers who think scripture is impervious to fraud.

Bad

  • The whole first section describes how all manner of living things, celestial beings, and even some non-living things like fire and water, worship Yahweh. Boring.
  • The text includes the same magical understanding of medicine as other ancient books. Disease are thought to be cured, not by a god revealing a recipe for medicine, but by holy ointments and magic water.
  • The author claims that the use of a 24-hour day, and dividing it into two 12-hour halves, is not the result of a human culture, but of Yahweh himself!
  • In the text, Yahweh warns Seth that he's going to destroy the earth in a flood, but this is pointless because Seth dies before the flood, and Yahweh tells Noah anyway.
  • Several new aspects of the Adam and Eve tale are added in this story including a daughter of Adam and Eve named Lebuda (different than the Book of Jubilees), Cain's lust for Lebuda which caused him to murder Abel, personal seals of Adam, Eve, and Seth which they had in the Garden of Eden (amazingly, they had personal seals even though nobody else existed, and letter writing hadn't been invented yet!), and that the gifts of the magi were taken from Adam's tomb, the Cave of Treasures.
  • In the third section, the sixth order of angels, who are more important than those who control nature, keep the stars in the heavens, and prevent demons from destroying the earth, help humans win wars. The authors really felt human wars were extremely important!

Ugly

  • The text not only fraudulently claims to be the work of Adam, but specifically foretells the messiah being born of a virgin named Mary and performing various miracles. Of course, the miracle birth itself is probably the result of a mistranslation.
  • In the text, Yahweh explains that, in five and a half days, he will be born like a child through Adam, and he will happily be baptized and executed on a cross, and only then will Yahweh show Adam mercy and compassion. Of course, none of this was mentioned anywhere in the Book of Genesis or any other book prior to the first century CE.

Sources

  • "The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha" edited by James H. Charlesworth p. 989-995. [1]

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