Isaac, Testament of

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ISAAC, TESTAMENT OF , pseudepigraphical work. There is no reference to an apocryphal book of Isaac in the ancient lists of *apocrypha, such as that of Nicephorus. The Apostolicae Constitutiones 6, 16 may, however, refer to it by its mention of the "apocryphal books of the three Patriarchs." A text entitled The Testament of Isaac was published in an English translation from the Arabic by M.R. James. Ethiopic and Coptic texts of the work also exist (see S. Gaselee in bibliography). The book opens with a homiletic preface which is followed by the story of how an angel, resembling Abraham, announces to Isaac his imminent death and commands him to instruct his sons. The instruction that follows is similar in tone to that encountered in some parts of the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, such as those relating Isaac's instructions to Jacob (Test. Patr., Levi, ch. 9). Jubilees 21 also contains similar materials, as do the Greek fragments of the Testament of *Levi and other associated texts. This section of moral instruction is followed by an apocalyptic vision which features the punishments of hell, and in particular the river of fire which can distinguish between the righteous and the wicked. The text concludes with an exhortation for the commemoration of Isaac. It seems that older material may be embedded in the moral instruction, but in its present form the work is probably a late imitation of the Testament of Abraham.


M.R. James, Testament of Abraham (1892), 140–51, 155–61; S. Gaselee, in: G.H. Box, Testament of Abraham (1927); J.-B. Frey, in: dbi, Suppl. 1 (1928), 38.

[Michael E. Stone]