Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Testaments of the Twelve Patriachs - Asher

Story Summary

In the Testament of Asher, who was the tenth son of Jacob/Israel, Asher expounds upon dualism and the coming Salvation, in this, the shortest and my favorite of the twelve Testaments.

While still perfectly healthy at the age of one hundred and twenty-five, Asher gathered together his sons to impart his life lessons (1:1-2).

God  designed dualism, where man can be inclined towards either good or evil.  If a good man does evil, he repents right away.  If an evil man does good, it is ultimately to serve an evil purpose (1:3-8).

An evil man may speak kindly, love, conceal his evil, pity the poor, fast, etc., but his more-typical actions will reveal the truth of his evil inclinations.  Such men are like rabbits, who appear clean but are not (ref. Leviticus 11:6) (1:9-19).

Asher advises his progeny to be single-faced and pursue goodness, unlike two-faced, evil men (1:20-21).

Sometimes it can appear that a good man is sinful.  If a good man kills a wicked man, in that action is both good and evil, but overall it is good.  Likewise, several other actions may appear sinful, but God is only concerned with what is genuinely good or sinful.  Such men are like stags or hinds, which may appear unclean but are actually clean.  They are zealous for God (1:22-26).

There is a duality in all things, but one is superior to the other (1:27-29).  As Asher had walked with singleness in focus of obeying God, so too he recommends that path to his progeny, because double-faced, evil people sin twice over by both committing the sin and taking pleasure in those who sin (1:30-32).  They should seek what is really good and obey God's Law, because eternal life or eternal torment await them based on their inclinations (1:33-36).

Asher advises his progeny not to be like Sodom, even still he knows that they will sin, their holy places will be destroyed, and they will be exiled until God comes to earth eating, drinking, and speaking as a Man, "breaking the head of the dragon in the water," and bringing Salvation to the Jews and Gentiles (1:37-41).  They should obey this Man, but Asher knows that they will be disobedient, obeying commands of men instead of God's Law.  So they will be scattered, and would be completely wiped out if not for the sake of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob/Israel (1:42-45).

Then Asher died (1:46-48).

Christian Parallels

Asher's Testament contains the heart of Christian dualism and some rather blatant prophesies for Jesus.

The Asher 1:3-26 explanation of Christian dualism parallels Jesus' explanations, such as in Matthew 7:16-18, Matthew 12:22-28, Matthew 12:33-37, Mark 3:22-26, Luke 6:43-45, and Luke 11:14-20.  However, where Jesus simply presents it in true binary form, Asher delves into the realm of appearances, explaining how an evil person may seemingly do good and a good person appear to do evil, providing a more realistic perspective.

However, that was not Jesus' only position.  Like how Asher 1:24 and Asher 1:33 suggests that we should be concerned with what is actually good or evil as opposed to what only appears to be good or evil, Jesus' words in Matthew 12:9-14, Matthew 23:28, Mark 3:1-6, Luke 6:6-11, Luke 12:57, and John 7:24 echo that same sentiment.

Asher 1:28 suggests that eternal life awaits death.

Asher 1:34-36 presents an image whereby men will be tormented or receive eternal life according to their unrighteousness or righteousness, like what we see in John 5:28-29.

Asher 1:40-41 is pregnant with Christianity, stating God will come to earth as a Man, eating and drinking (Matthew 11:19, Matthew 26:26-29, Mark 14:22-25, Luke 7:34, and Luke 22:17-20), to break the head of the dragon in the water (Christianity uniquely ties the snake in the Garden of Eden to Satan - Genesis 3:15, Revelation 13:1).  Furthermore, this Man will bring Salvation to both the Jews and the Gentiles.

Asher 1:42-44 states that Asher's progeny will disobey the Savior, following the commands of men instead of God's Law (Matthew 15:1-6, Mark 7:1-13), and so be scattered (as what happened in 70 AD). 

Finally, Beliar (Belial) is mentioned in Asher 1:8 and Asher 1:21, cast as opposite to God similar to the way in which Christianity claims Satan is opposite to God.  Asher 1:34 uses the name Satan in that same manner, but that verse refers more directly to what awaits people in the afterlife.

Memorable Quotes

"Two ways hath God given to the sons of men, and two inclinations, and two kinds of action, and two modes of action, and two issues." - Asher 1:3

"Therefore if the soul take pleasure in the good inclination, all its actions are in righteousness; and if it sin it straightway repenteth." - Asher 1:6

"But if it incline to the evil inclination, all its actions are in wickedness, and it driveth away the good, and cleaveth to the evil, and is ruled by Beliar (Belial); even though it work what is good, he perverteth it to evil." - Asher 1:8

"A person then may with words help the good for the sake of the evil, yet the issue of the action leadeth to mischief." - Asher 1:10 (Shakespeare's Iago is a good example.)

"Though indeed he have love, yet is he wicked who concealeth what is evil for the sake of the good name, but the end of the action tendeth unto evil." - Asher 1:13

"He defileth the soul, and maketh gay the body; he killeth many, and pitieth a few: this, too, bath a twofold aspect, but the whole is evil." - Asher 1:16 (Couldn't this same thing be said about God here...)

"Such men are hares; clean,--like those that divide the hoof, but in very deed are unclean." - Asher 1:18 (interesting reference to unclean animals, considering that the New Testament would make all animals clean, ref. Acts 10:9-16)

"For many in killing the wicked do two works, of good and evil; but the whole is good, because he hath uprooted and destroyed that which is evil." - Asher 1:23 (a seed of "righteous" violence)

"One man hateth the merciful and unjust man, and the man who committeth adultery and fasteth: this, too, hath a twofold aspect, but the whole work is good, because he followeth the Lord's example, in that he accepteth not the seeming good as the genuine good." - Asher 1:24

"Ye see, my children, how that there are two in all things, one against the other, and the one is hidden by the other: in wealth is hidden covetousness, in conviviality drunkenness, in laughter grief, in wedlock profligacy." - Asher 1:27

"Death succeedeth to life, dishonour to glory, night to day, and darkness to light; and all things are under the day, just things under life, unjust things under death; wherefore also eternal life awaiteth death." - Asher 1:28

"For they that are double-faced are guilty of a twofold sin; for they both do the evil thing and they have pleasure in them that do it, following the example of the spirits of deceit, and striving against mankind." - Asher 1:32

"Do ye, therefore, my children, keep the law of the Lord, and give not heed unto evil as unto good; but look unto the thing that is really good, and keep it in all commandments of the Lord, having your conversation therein, and resting therein." - Asher 1:33 (reference to God's Law hundreds of years before it would be Biblically given)

"For the latter ends of men do show their righteousness or unrighteousness, when they meet the angels of the Lord and of Satan.  For when the soul departs troubled, it is tormented by the evil spirit which also it served in lusts and evil works.  But if he is peaceful with joy he meeteth the angel of peace, and he leadeth him into eternal life." - Asher 1:34-36

"Until the Most High shall visit the earth, coming Himself as man, with men eating and drinking, and breaking the head of the dragon in the water." - Asher 1:40

"He shall save Israel and all the Gentiles, God speaking in the person of man." - Asher 1:41


  1. When was the Testament of Asher written?

  2. That's tough to say with certainty. I discuss it in slightly more detail in the "introduction" post about the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs. They probably originated in ~200-100 BC, but there is little extant to prove all twelve were created then (only parts of Levi and Naphtali were found with the Dead Sea Scrolls). The forms which we now know them are written in Greek, probably around 100-200 AD, but whether or not these were inventions of that time or merely translations from other texts is unknown.