Levi, Testament of

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LEVI, TESTAMENT OF , an ancient Jewish pseudepigraphical work written in Aramaic, probably before 100 c.e.; the work referred to in the the Twelve *Patriarchs. A source of the Testament of Levi is the Testaments of Damascus Document of the Dead Sea sect (4:15). Prior to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, large fragments of a medieval manuscript, containing the Aramaic original, were found in the Cairo Genizah and published. New Aramaic fragments, not all of which have been published, were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. In a Greek tenth-century manuscript of the Testament of the Patriarchs from Mt. Athos, two larger interpolations in the Testament of Levi can be identified as parts of a Greek translation of the present work; a small Syriac fragment also exists. The Aramaic Testament of Levi is put in the mouth of Levi, the son of Jacob, and represents probably his last speech to his descendants. In the extant fragments, Levi talks about his previous life, and about his function as high priest at Beth-El when he was consecrated by angels. The work contains prescriptions about offerings. These moral and ritual prescriptions are explained to Levi by Isaac his grandfather. Levi's prayer is an important document for the history of Jewish prayers.

This work, abbreviated and rewritten, formed a central source of the Greek Testament of Levi. It is ultimately related to Jubilees chapters 20–22. The Aramaic Testament of Levi contained ideas similar to the Book of Jubilees, the Testaments of the Patriarchs, and the Dead Sea sect. Common to all is the idea, expressed in one fragment of the present work from Qumran, that "priesthood is greater than kingdom," i.e., that Levi is superior to Judah. The Aramaic Testament of Leviwas produced within a broader movement in ancient Judaism, from which the Dead Sea sect arose.


H.L. Pass and J. Arendzen, in: jqr, 12 (1900), 651–61; R.H. Charles and A. Cowley, ibid., 19 (1907), 566–83; R.H. Charles, Greek Versions of the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs (1908); P. Grelot, in: rej, 114 (1955), 91–99; D. Barthélemy and J.T. Milik, Discoveries in the Judaean Desert, 1 (1955), 87–91; J.T. Milik, Ten Years of Discovery in the Wilderness of Judaea (1959), 34; idem, in: rb, 62 (1955), 398–406; D. Flusser, in: iej, 16 (1966), 194–205.

[David Flusser]