The Testaments, as we know them, are a collection of the 'last words' of the twelve sons of Jacob. In the form in which they have been transmitted to us they are clearly the work of a single author or editor, inasmuch as each individual testament is constructed according to the same overall pattern. First, the patriarch gives his immediate family, assembled round his death-bed, details about his own early life and experiences: next he discourses at some length either on a particular virtue they should cultivate or on a particular vice they should avoid, charging them meanwhile to keep 'the law of the Lord' and live in obedience to 'the commands of the Most High': then he warns them (not infrequently on the basis of what he has read in 'the writing of Enoch') of the evils that will come upon them as a result of their moral deterioration, though he can usually assure them that 'in the last times' God will bring 'salvation', not only to Israel, but also to the Gentiles; and then, finally, he asks to be buried, not in Egypt, but in Canaan, at the family burial-place in Hebron - and it is recorded in each instance that this was done.
The earliest explicit reference to the existence of the Testaments in anything like their present form is in Rufinus's translation of Origen Homilies on Joshua:1 here Origen seems to be referring to the passage about 'the seven spirits of error' in T. Reub. ii and iii: he calls the work in which the passage occurs (according to Rufinus) 'a certain little book which is called The Testament (sic) of the Twelve Patriarchs'; and he notes that it is extra-canonical. Similarly, Jerome knew a 'Book of the Patriarchs', and adds that it is apocryphal:2 he says he found in it a statement which is most naturally understood as a free quotation from T. Naph. ii. 8; so there can hardly be any doubt that it is to our Testaments he is referring. Later on, the 'Patriarchs' occur among the recognized____________________