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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 Asher, About the Two Aspects 1 of Vice and Virtue

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Text Commentary

I.

1A copy of the Testament of Asher, which he gave 1 Lit. ‘spoke’. to his sons in the hundred and twenty-sixth 2 So II: b ‘hundred and twentieth’. year of his life.

2While he was still in good health he said to them, Listen, children of Asher, to your father, and I will tell you everything that is right in the sight of God. 3Two ways has God appointed for mankind, and two impulses, and two kinds of action, and two courses, 3 So II: b ‘places’. and two ends. 4Thus, all things are in twos, one over against the other. 5There are two ways, of good and evil, and along with these are the two impulses in our breasts that make the distinctions between them. 6So, if the soul is well disposed to what is good, its every action is in righteousness, and, if it sins, it 7repents at once; for when a man's thoughts are set on things that are righteous and he rejects what is wicked, he upsets what is evil immediately and uproots what is sinful. 8But if the soul inclines the impulse to wickedness, its every action is in wickedness: having spurned what is good, such a man takes to himself what is evil, and under Beliar's control, even if he does anything good, he turns it to 4 Lit. ‘in’. 9wickedness; for whenever he begins as though to do good, the end of his action spurs him on to doing evil, 5 Or ‘he forces the end of his action into doing evil’. since the treasure-house of the impulse 6 So II: b ‘of the devil’. is filled with the poison of an evil spirit.

II.

1Someone, then, may say what is good 1 Lit. ‘There is, then, a soul saying the good’. (he said) for the sake of evil, and the end of what he does leads to evil. 2A man may 2 Lit. ‘There is a man’ – and so subsequently. 〈…〉, 3 Comparison with verse 3 suggests that a clause is missing here. because he shows no compassion for his accomplice in evil: this indeed has two aspects, but the whole is evil. 3A man may love a knave: 4 Lit. ‘the wicked-doer’. he is just as much involved in wickedness as the other man, because he would be willing even to die in evil because of him; and here too it is clear that there are two aspects, but the result as a whole is evil. 4Though it is love, it is wickedness, 5 So b: II ‘it is in wickedness’. for it conceals what is evil: it may look good nominally, 6 So II: b is corrupt. but the end tends to evil. 5Another man is a thief, a scoundrel, a robber, and a cheat, and yet has pity on the poor: this case also has two aspects, but the whole is evil. 6By cheating his neighbour, he 7 So b: II ‘He who cheats his neighbour…’. angers God and swears falsely against the Most High, yet he pities the poor: the Lord, who commands the law, he flouts and treats with contempt, and yet to the poor man he gives relief. 7He defiles the soul and makes the body glamorous: he destroys many and pities a few; and this also as two aspects, but the whole is evil. 8 So II: b om. ‘but…evil’. 8Another man commits adultery and fornicates, yet abstains from food: while he fasts he does evil, and by his power and wealth drags down many others with him, and yet in spite of his excessive wickedness he does what is commanded: this also has two aspects, but the whole is evil. 9Such men are like pigs or hares; for they are half clean, but in truth are unclean. 10For God has said so in the heavenly tablets.

III.

1So do not be like them, my children, men of two aspects, one good and the other evil; but cling to goodness only, for God 1 So b: II ‘for even God’. makes his home in it and men strive after it. 2Turn away from evil and, destroy the devil by your good works; for those of two aspects do not serve God, but their own lusts, in order to please Beliar and men like themselves.

IV.

1For good men and those of a single aspect, though they may be thought sinners by those of two aspects, are righteous in God's eyes. 2For many who kill the wicked do two things – a good thing through an evil one; 1 So II-g: b g ‘an evil thing through a good one’. but the whole is good because whoever does it has uprooted and destroyed what is evil. 3A man may hate the man who pities the poor and is unrighteous, and the man who commits adultery and fasts: 2 So II: b, through corruption, has a slightly different text here with a completely different (and impossible) meaning. this also has two aspects, but the thing as a whole is good, because he follows the Lord's example in not accepting what seems good together with what is in truth evil. 4Another man will not keep a festival 3 Lit. ‘will not see a good day’ (cp. Esther viii. 17; ix. 19, 22: also 1 Sam. xxv. 8 ). with profligates, in case he may defile his mouth 4 So b: II ‘his body’. and pollute his soul: this also has two aspects, but the whole is good. 5For 5 So b: II om. such men are like stags and hinds because just like wild animals they seem to be unclean, but they are altogether clean because they live their lives full of zeal for God: in so far as they abstain from what God hates too, and forbids by his commandments, they keep what is evil away from what is good.

V.

1So you see, my children, how there are two in all things, the one over against the other, and the one is hidden by the other. 1 This short text is found in b g: k and l are lacking; dm eaf chi have various additional clauses. Originally the (probably secondary) longer text may have read ‘by the other: in a judgement is hidden partiality, in ownership greed, in feasting drunkenness, in laughter sorrow, in marriage self-indulgence’. 2Death succeeds to life, dishonour to glory, night to day, and darkness to light; but all things are under the day, and the things that are righteous under life (that is why eternal life has to wait for 2 Lit. ‘eternal life waits for’. death). 3And it cannot be said that truth is a lie, nor right wrong; for all truth is under the light, just as all things are under God. 4All this have I proved in my life, and I have not strayed from the path of truth which the Lord marked out; 3 Lit. ‘I have not wandered from the truth of the Lord’. and I have examined the commandments of the Most High and lived, so far as I could, with a single aspect directed to what is good.

VI.

1Observe then, my children, the commandments of the Lord yourselves, and follow the truth with a single aspect. 2For men of two aspects receive a two-fold punishment. 1 Again dm eaf ch have an obviously secondary addition, ‘for they both do what is evil and applaud those that do it’: subsequently eaf ch read ‘following the example of’ instead of ‘Hate’. Hate the spirits of error that contend against men. 3Keep the law of the Lord, and do not look on evil as if it were good; but concentrate your attention on what is really good, and persevere in it along with 2 Lit. ‘and keep it in’. all the Lord's commandments, and settle yourselves down in it 3 So II: b ‘in him’. and take your rest in it. 3 So II: b ‘in him’. 4For men's ends reveal their progress in righteousness, when they make the acquaintance of the angels of the Lord and the angels of Satan. 5For if the soul departs from the body troubled, it is tormented by the evil spirit that it served in lusts and evil deeds. 6But if it departs quietly and with joy, that man has already become acquainted with the angel of peace that will comfort him with 4 Lit. ‘in’. life.

VII.

1Do not, children, 1 So b: II om. be like Sodom, which did not recognize the Lord's angels and perished for ever. 2For I know that you will sin and be handed over to your enemies, and your land will be desolated and your holy places destroyed, 2 So II: b om. ‘and your holy places destroyed’. and you will be scattered to the four corners of the earth and be dispersed and despised like water that is useless, until the Most High looks with favour on the earth. 3And he will come himself as a man, eating and drinking with men and quietly breaking the head of the dragon through water: in this way he will save Israel and all the Gentiles – God playing the part of man. 4Tell this, then, to your children, so that they do not disbelieve him. 5For I have read in the heavenly tablets that you certainly will disbelieve him and you will undoubtedly treat him shamefully, and pay no attention to the law of God but only to the commands of men. 3 So b l a: gde add ‘carried away by wickedness of single aspect’, a reading that probably underlies the variants in f and chi. 6Because of this you will be scattered like my brothers Gad and Dan, who will forget their own lands and tribe and tongue. 7But the Lord will gather you together in faith because of the hope of his compassion for you, for Abraham and Isaac and Jacob's sake.

VIII.

1And when he had finished speaking to them he gave them instructions, saying, Bury me in Hebron. And he died and slept the perfect sleep. 1 Lit. ‘And he died, having fallen asleep with a good sleep’. 2And afterwards his sons did as he had instructed them and carried him up and buried him with his fathers.

Notes:

1 Lit. ‘faces’ – and so throughout this Testament.

1 Lit. ‘spoke’.

2 So II: b ‘hundred and twentieth’.

3 So II: b ‘places’.

4 Lit. ‘in’.

5 Or ‘he forces the end of his action into doing evil’.

6 So II: b ‘of the devil’.

1 Lit. ‘There is, then, a soul saying the good’.

2 Lit. ‘There is a man’ – and so subsequently.

3 Comparison with verse 3 suggests that a clause is missing here.

4 Lit. ‘the wicked-doer’.

5 So b: II ‘it is in wickedness’.

6 So II: b is corrupt.

7 So b: II ‘He who cheats his neighbour…’.

8 So II: b om. ‘but…evil’.

1 So b: II ‘for even God’.

1 So II-g: b g ‘an evil thing through a good one’.

2 So II: b, through corruption, has a slightly different text here with a completely different (and impossible) meaning.

3 Lit. ‘will not see a good day’ (cp. Esther viii. 17; ix. 19, 22: also 1 Sam. xxv. 8 ).

4 So b: II ‘his body’.

5 So b: II om.

1 This short text is found in b g: k and l are lacking; dm eaf chi have various additional clauses. Originally the (probably secondary) longer text may have read ‘by the other: in a judgement is hidden partiality, in ownership greed, in feasting drunkenness, in laughter sorrow, in marriage self-indulgence’.

2 Lit. ‘eternal life waits for’.

3 Lit. ‘I have not wandered from the truth of the Lord’.

1 Again dm eaf ch have an obviously secondary addition, ‘for they both do what is evil and applaud those that do it’: subsequently eaf ch read ‘following the example of’ instead of ‘Hate’.

2 Lit. ‘and keep it in’.

3 So II: b ‘in him’.

4 Lit. ‘in’.

1 So b: II om.

2 So II: b om. ‘and your holy places destroyed’.

3 So b l a: gde add ‘carried away by wickedness of single aspect’, a reading that probably underlies the variants in f and chi.

1 Lit. ‘And he died, having fallen asleep with a good sleep’.

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