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Reviewed by:
  • Joseph’s Bible Notes (Hypomnestikon)
  • Seán P. Kealy C.S.Sp.
Robert M. Grant and G. W. Menzies Joseph’s Bible Notes (Hypomnestikon). Introduction, Translation and Notes, SBL Texts and Translations 41 Early Christian Series 9 Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1996 Pp. xi + 372. $44.95.

The author’s name, Joseph, is derived from the brief poem which is found at the end of the book—if this poem is the work of the author and not a scribal colophon. Apart from a few brief abstracts found in commentaries and catenae, the Greek text, with the rare title Hypomnestikon, is found only in one manuscript, the tenth century Codex Ff.1.24 of Cambridge University library. [End Page 314] This somewhat notorious codex, containing the best extant text of The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, was probably brought to England from Athens about 1241 c.e. by Robert Grosseteste. The heart of this rather miscellaneous manuscript consists in moral lessons from the patriarchal and post-patriarchal times. The first modern edition was produced in 1723 by J. A. Fabricius the famous polymath and a later version, found in Migne PG 10ff, was edited by Giovanni Batista Gallicciolli. Although previously translated into Latin and German, this is the first English translation. It is not a theological treatise but rather a medieval Book of Lists or Trivia Pursuit, a pastiche of biblical-historical questions drawn from different writers, especially the Jewish historian Josephus, and occasionally developed with the help of the New Testament. It answers such questions as “Which of the saints became blind and died?” “Who survived and did not die?” “Who died and lived again?” (127) “What are the stations of the people on the way from Egypt?” It described five ‘heresies’ (sects) among the Jews (307):

1) Pharisees (‘separated’), concerned with phylacteries, cleansings of the body and washing of cups and plates. 2) Sadducees (‘just’) deny the resurrection, angels, Holy Spirit, spirits of the dead, judgement. 3) Essenes are ‘precise’ about the laws and abstain from marriage and procreation and from dealings and meetings due to blind chance. 4) Another order of Essenes ‘who similarly observe the laws yet do not reject marriage and procreation but despise the others because they cut off the succession of the race.’ 5) A fifth sect of Judas the Galilean ‘allowing them to call no man Lord or Master and prohibiting them to accept the census that took place under Quirinius.’ Among the Samaritans, who were originally colonists of the Persians, are four sects, Gorothenes, Sebouaeans, Essenes and Dositheans (307).

In their careful introduction Grant and Menzies deal in turn with the Manuscript, relation to the Greek OT, Josephus, Hippolytus, Eusebius, Epiphanius and the Epitome, other Greek Literature, Function, Date, Authorship, Provenience, Manner of Composition, Translations, Contents.

The remark that Anthropomorphitism began at Eleutheropolis fits in with what we know of the Anthropomorphite controversy in the 390s and provides the authors with a key terminus post quem of 393 c.e. (20). Other evidence, such as the inordinate attention to the high priests and the Jerusalem Temple which is unusual in a Christian document, points to emperor Julian’s expensive plan to rebuild the temple and restore the high priests and to an early fifth century date when the memory would still be alive. The language according to Diekamp (24) suggests that the author held an Alexandrian Christology.

This edition, which includes a critical edition of the Greek text by Menzies and extensive notes identifying sources and parallels, helps to fill an important gap especially among English scholarly sources. The editors are to be complimented on an excellent production. The hope is that many others will be likewise inspired.

Seán P. Kealy C.S.Sp.
Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA

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