“The Seven Spirits of Deceit” – an Excerpt from the Testament of Twelve Patriarchs (First Century BCE/First Century CE), a Jewish text originally authored in Hebrew, translated to Greek and improved upon by Christian scribes around 2nd Century CE.

A copy of the testament of Reuben: the things which he commanded to his sons before he died in the one hundred twenty-fifth year of his life… And when he was raised up he kissed them and said to them, “Listen, my brothers and my sons; give heed to the things which I, Reuben, your father, command you. See here, I call the God of heaven to bear witness to you this day, so that you will not behave yourselves in the ignorant ways of youth and sexual promiscuity in which I indulged myself and defiled the marriage bed of my father, Jacob… And now give heed to me, my children, concerning the things which I saw during my time of penitence, concerning the seven spirits of deceit. For seven spirits are established against mankind, and they are the sources of the deeds of youth. And seven other spirits are given to man at creation so that by them every human deed (is done).

First is the spirit of life, with which man is created as a composite being. The second is the spirit of seeing, with which comes desire. The third is the spirit of hearing, with which comes instruction. The fourth is the spirit of smell, with which is given taste for drawing air and breath. The fifth is the spirit of speech, with which comes knowledge. The sixth is the spirit of taste for consuming food and drink; by it comes strength, because in food is the substance of strength. The seventh is the spirit of procreation and intercourse, with which come sins through fondness for pleasure. For this reason, it was the last in the creation and the first in youth, because it is filled with ignorance; it leads the young person like a blind man into a ditch and like an animal over a cliff. In addition to all is an eighth spirit: sleep, with which is created the ecstasy of nature and the image of death. With these are commingled the spirits of error. (Testament of Reuben 1-3.2)

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21 COMMENTS

  1. Why do you use books that are not in the Bible and seem to give them the same authority as books that are in the Bible.
    for example, Reubin

    • Vince, I post excerpts from “ancient Jewish literature” outside of the Bible and give you references and dates when these works were composed. Is that wrong? I have an extensive library at home, well beyond one book and I read many books besides the Bible. What gave you an idea I give these other books “the same authority”?

  2. have read the portion of the 7 spirits realy intresting i like to lear more will i have access to a more understanding throug the videos and will i be able to speak with the proffesor if i have a problem understanding to clearfy

  3. Good day

    1) I would love to enroll in the full courses. I am in South Africa. How do I go about?

    2) Is the payment once or monthly?

    3) Is there physical material, or is everything via internet?

    4) Can I download material unto my computer for personal use?

    5) I am busy writing Hebrew. How do I start reading and speaking?

    Sorry for all the questions. Thank you for the bits of knowledge to make us want more.

    Kind regards
    Nico Henning

  4. Dear Prof. I can totally accept that other documents of the period be worthy of study and contemplation in tandem, but certainly not equal, to the Bible. We are not always privy to such documents which adds to the value your articles provide. If I may, are any of these spirits of deceit implied / mentioned / noted either explicitly or implicitly in the Bible? Any confirmation thereof, I suspect, would add immense value to the piece you’ve written.
    As a fellow academic I appreciate the ethics you apply in some of the comments I have observed.

    God Bless. Riaan

    • Seven spirits are mentioned in Revelation. Most Christians can’t make sense of what that means and why the author says what he says.

  5. This is good stuff. Transferring spirit of taste for example, to taste and see that the Lord is good. Strength not in food but the joy of the Lord. Coming out of natural to be truly led of the Spirit. Thanks for the nibble. Good food for application

  6. Hi, thanks for all the information that has been shared. My one question on this article is why is life considered a spirit of deceit.
    If my understanding of the article is flawed, I humbly apologise.
    Keep up the good work. God bless.
    Thank you.

    John B.

  7. Great insight! I joy and rejoice for Reuben’s repentance and instruction to his children that they don’t fall in the same trap and pit.

    • Well, you know the document was not really written by Reuben. It was written by another Jew at a much later date. Perhaps this is something that Reuben would have said if we had his words.

  8. After you have written this text what would you say about the warning, admonition that are in verses 18 and 19 of the last chapter? “Revelation 22:18 I testify to all who hear the words of the prophecy of this book: If any man shall add unto them, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: 19 And if any man take anything from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share of the tree of life and the Holy City which are written in this book. “

  9. Thank you for this article! It does help explain, as you said in one of your comments above, the reference to the seven fold spirit in Revelation. Since, besides being inspired by the Holy Spirit, Scripture speaks in the context of the time it was written. Didn’t Paul also make reference to the Twelve Patriarchs? Possibly in Romans 12?

    • I am glad to hear you liked the excerpt. In general, Lois, people do knot know that ancient literature refers to angels as “spirits” sometimes…

  10. Strange. I was contemplating the fruit, eating, wisdom, naked
    Of Genesis. There are spirits which seem to follow this sequence
    Interesting….? 🤦‍♀️

  11. Thank you for the article on “The Seven Spirits of Deceit” because the information quickens my understanding of the power of the human senses.

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