Page:LostApocryphaOfTheOldTestamentMRJames.djvu/35

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17
THE OLD TESTAMENT

spoilt, and that it was not Abraham's soul, but another, about whom the angels disputed.

Passing from these three references to extant literature, we find two Abraham books, one called an Apocalypse, the other a Testament, of Abraham. The Apocalypse exists only in Slavonic: it is accessible in a translation recently issued by the S.P.C.K., and is of considerable antiquity and great interest. The Testament exists in Greek, Coptic, Arabic, Ethiopic, Slavonic, Roumanian, and was edited by me in 1892.[1] All the texts of it have been more or less tampered with. The plurality of versions and revisions is in favour of the book's antiquity, and it does contain an episode which might be identified with that of Origen's quotation. The Apocalypse does not. We have seen, moreoever, that books of the Three Patriarchs are mentioned in the fourth century: and the Testaments of Isaac and Jacob, especially that of Isaac, have undoubtedly quite ancient elements. With them this, of Abraham, is found in Coptic, Arabic and Ethiopic.

So I think the Testament represents an early book, and am sure that the Apocalypse is early. Which of them is the text meant in the lists I will not undertake to say. They do not differ in length so much that we can decide from the stichometry.


Melchizedek

Connected with Abraham is Melchizedek. This mysterious figure interested many early thinkers, as it did the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, and a sect who identified him with the Holy Spirit was either christened or christened itself Melchizedekian. Legend, both Jewish and Christian, was busy with him, identifying him sometimes with Shem, sometimes with a son of Shem, and sometimes finding other pedigrees for him. Though we do not hear from other writers of books specially concerned with him, we have two

  1. A translation of the Coptic of the Testaments of the Three Patriarchs is promised by Mr. Gaselee for the present series.