Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote a paper on the subject: "The Ethics of Late Judaism as Evidenced in the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs".

The writings consist of the last words and exhortations of the twelve sons of Jacob to their Children. Each testament indicates the virtues inculcated or the vices condemned by each of these patriarchs in turn.

However, it seems the main text of the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs was written during the intertestamental period, and then subjected to heavy editing during the first and second centuries.

I would like to know what Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant denominations make of these writings and whether they are considered to be authentic and reliable.

I honestly don't know which tags to apply to this question, so I welcome any helpful suggestions.

1 Answer 1


Just from a cursory examination of the subject it appears that none of the bodies which gathered to consider the canon of scripture - the Catholic gathering at the Council of Trent in 1546, the Church of England's convocation resulting in the thirty-nine articles in 1563 and again resulting in the Westminster Confession of Faith in 1647, and the Orthodox counsels at the Synod of Jerusalem in 1672 - none of these even considered, it would seem, the supposed 'testaments' of the twelve patriarchs.

This would indicate either that there was general agreement that the documents did not deserve consideration to be added to the canon of scripture, or else that the documents did not then exist (in whatever is their present form) until after the seventeenth century.

Since neither Jesus Christ nor any of the apostles' validated writings quote from the documents, or make reference to the documents as such (in the way in which evident reference is made to the Septuagint and to the 'law and the prophets' and to Isaiah and so forth) this would again point towards either rejection of their authenticity (or value) or to their non-existence at the time of the apostolic writings, in the form in which they have now been presented.

  • Although the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs claims to be the final words of each of Jacob’s sons, the main text seems to have been written during the intertestamental period, then edited thereafter. There is no evidence to support the idea that the original authors were the twelve sons of Jacob.
    – Lesley
    Apr 16, 2019 at 14:14
  • @Lesley That was my own supposition, as well.
    – Nigel J
    Apr 16, 2019 at 19:42

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .