Apocalypses: Testament of Levi 1–5


Time Period

250–150 BCE, with some later Christian interpolations.


The ‘testament’ genre is closely related to the apocalyptic genre, where each author purports to be a famous figure of the past dispensing wisdom and knowledge on their deathbed.

A copy of the words of Levi: the things that he decreed to his sons concerning all they were to do, and the things that would happen to them until the day of judgment.

Angelic Guide

Levi’s deathbed testament is that he secretly ascended to heaven for his lineage to be appointed as God’s priesthood. An angel leads him through heaven.

And behold the heavens were opened, and an angel of the Lord spoke to me: ‘Levi, Levi, enter!’


Levi briefly sees the earth’s weather stored in heaven, albeit reserved for judgment.

‘The lowest [heaven] is dark for this reason: It sees all the injustices of humankind and contains fire, snow, and ice, ready for the day determined by God’s righteous judgment.’

Primordial Events


Historical Review


After-the-fact Prophecy

Levi predicts the rise of Israel’s priesthood descended from him.

‘The Most High has given heed to your prayer that you be delivered from wrongdoing, that you should become a son to him, as minister and priest in his presence.’



Social Upheaval





Levi is informed of the judgments waiting evil humans and evil spirits.

‘In the second are the armies arrayed for the day of judgment to work vengeance on the spirits of error and of Beliar.’

New Creation



A Hellenized Judean wrote the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, who may have had a connection to the Qumran sect.

A Christian interpolated the book in the early second century.


1: Introduction to Levi’s testament.

2: Levi ascends to heaven. An angel declares he will become God’s priest.

3: Levi surveys heaven and is told about God’s throne and the angels.

4: An angel declares Levi’s descendants will be God’s priesthood.

5: Levi sees God’s throne. His priesthood is reconfirmed. He is assigned to destroy Shechem.