From “The Apocryphal New Testament”M.R. James-Translation and NotesOxford: Clarendon Press, 1924
IT WAS LONG THOUGHT that this must be an episode from the old Acts of Andrew: but Flamion’s study of that book has finally made it clear that there is no place for the tale in those Acts: and that our story is an early member of that which we call the Egyptian cycle: it is a tale of wonder with no doctrinal purpose.
1 At that time all the apostles were gathered together and divided the countries among themselves, casting lots. And it fell to Matthias to go to the land of the anthropophagi. Now the men of that city ate no bread nor drank wine, but ate the flesh and drank the blood of men; and every stranger who landed there they took, and put out his eyes, and gave him a magic drink which took away his understanding.
2 So when Matthias arrived he was so treated; but the drink had no effect on him, and he remained praying for help in the prison.
3 And a light came and a voice: Matthias, my beloved, receive sight. And he saw. And the voice continued: I will not forsake thee: abide twenty-seven days, and I will send Andrew to deliver thee and all the rest. And the Saviour went up into heaven. Matthias remained singing praises; when the executioners came to take victims, he kept his eyes closed. They came and looked at the ticket on his hand and said: Three days more and we will slay him. For every victim had a ticket tied on his hand to show the date when his thirty days would be fulfilled.
From “The Apocryphal New Testament”M.R. James-Translation and NotesOxford: Clarendon Press, 1924
THE LENGTH OF THIS BOOK is given in the Stichometry of Nicephorus as 2,500 lines: the same number as for St. Matthew’s Gospel. We have large portions of it in the original, and a Latin version (purged, it is important to note, of all traces of unorthodoxy) of some lost episodes, besides a few scattered fragments. These will be fitted together in what seems the most probable order.
The best edition of the Greek remains is in Bonnet, Acta Apost. Apocr. 11.1, 1898: the Latin is in Book V of the Historia Apostolica of Abdias (Fabricius, Cod. Apoer. N. T.: there is no modern edition).
The beginning of the book is lost. It probably related in some form a trial, and banishment of John to Patmos. A distinctly late Greek text printed by Bonnet (in two forms) as cc. 1-17 of his work tells how Domitian, on his accession, persecuted the Jews. They accused the Christians in a letter to him: he accordingly persecuted the Christians. He heard of John’s teaching in Ephesus and sent for him: his ascetic habits on the voyage impressed his captors.
From “The Apocryphal New Testament”M. R. James-Translation and NotesOxford: Clarendon Press, 1924
THIS BOOK, TERTULLIAN TELLS US, was composed shortly before his time in honour of Paul by a presbyter of Asia, who was convicted of the imposture and degraded from his office. The date of it may therefore be about A.D. 160. The author was an orthodox Christian.
Our authorities for it are:
1. The sadly mutilated Coptic MS. at Heidelberg, of the sixth century at latest.
2. The Acts of Paul and Thecla, a single episode which has been preserved complete in Greek and many versions: parts of it exist in the Coptic.
3. The correspondence with the Corinthians, partly preserved in the Coptic, and current separately in Armenian and Latin.
4. The Martyrdom, the concluding episode of the Acts, preserved separately (as in the case of John and others) in Greek and other versions.
5.Detached fragments or quotations.
The length of the whole book is given as 8,600 lines (Stichometry of Nicephorus), or 8,560 (Stichometry of the Codex Claromontanus): the Canonical Acts are given by the same two authorities respectively as 2,800 and 2,600. We have, perhaps, 1,800 lines of the Acts of Paul. The text of the Coptic MS. is miserably defective, and the restoration of it, in the episodes which are preserved in it alone, is a most difficult process: Professor Carl Schmidt has done practically all that can be expected, with infinite labour and great acuteness. In treating the defective episodes I shall follow him closely, but shall not attempt to represent all the broken lines.
WRITTEN, PROBABLY BY A RESIDENT IN ASIA MINOR (he does not know much about Rome), not later than A. D. 200, in Greek. The author has read the Acts of John very carefully, and modelled his language upon them. However, he was not so unorthodox as Leucius, though his language about the Person of our Lord (ch. xx) has rather suspicious resemblances to that of the Acts of John.
The length of the book as given by the Stichometry of Nicephorus was 2,750 lines-fifty lines less than the canonical Acts. The portions we have may be about the length of St. Mark’s Gospel; and about 1,000 lines may be wanting. Such is Zaha’s estimate.
1. A short episode in Coptic.
2. A large portion in Latin preserved in a single manuscript of the seventh century at Vercelli: often called the Vercelli Acts. It includes the martyrdom.
3. The martyrdom, preserved separately, in two good Greek copies, in Latin, and in many versions-Coptic, Slavonic, Syriac, Armenian, Arabic, Ethiopic.
One or two important quotations from lost portions; a small fragment of the original in a papyrus; certain passages-speeches of Peter- transferred by an unscrupulous writer to the Life of St. Abercius of Hierapolis.
A Latin paraphrase of the martyrdom, attributed to Linus, Peter’s successor in the bishopric of Rome, was made from the Greek, and is occasionally useful.
[A continuation of the Acts of Andrew and Matthias (Mathew)]
1 When Andrew left the city of the man-eaters, a cloud of light took him up and carried him to the mountain where Peter and Matthias and Alexander and Rufus were sitting. And Peter said: Have you prospered? Yes, he said, but they did me much hurt. Come then, said Peter, and rest awhile from your labours.
2 And Jesus appeared in the form of a little child and greeted them, and told them to go to the city of the barbarians, and prornised to be with them, and left them.
3 So the four set out. And when they were near the city Andrew asked Peter: Do many troubles await us here? ‘I do not know, but here is an old man sowing. Let us ask him for bread; if he gives it us, we shall know that we are not to be troubled but if he says, I have none, troubles await us.’ They greeted him and asked accordingly. He said: If you will look after my plough and oxen I will fetch you bread . . . . ‘ Are they your oxen?’ ‘No, I have hired them.’ And he went off.
4 Peter took off his cloak and garment and said: It is no time for us to be idle, especially as the old man is working for us; and he took the plough and began to sow. Andrew protested and took it from him and sowed, and blessed the seed as he sowed. And Rufus and Alexander and Matthias going on the right, said; Let the sweet dew and the fair wind come and rest on this field. And the seed sprang up and the corn ripened.
5 When the farmer returned with the bread and saw the ripe corn he worshipped them as gods. But they told him who they were, and Peter gave him the Commandments . . . . He said: I will leave all and follow you. ‘ Not so, but go to the city, return your oxen to the owner, and tell your wife and children and prepare us a lodging;
NO SUCH SUSPICION OF UNORTHODOXY AS RIGHTLY OR WRONGLY ATTACHES TO FOUR OUT OF THE FIVE ACTS, affects the Acts of Philip. If grotesque, it is yet a Catholic novel. In form it follows Thomas, for it is divided into separate Acts, of which the manuscripts mention fifteen: we have Acts i-ix and from xv to the end, including the Martyrdom, which last, as usual, was current separately and exists in many recessions.
One Act -the second- and the Martyrdom were first edited by Tischendorf. Batiffol printed the remainder in 1890, and Bonnet using more manuscripts, gives the final edition in his Acta Apost. Apocr. ii. 1. Besides the Greek text, there is a single Act extant only in Syriac, edited by Wright, which, so far as its general character goes, might well have formed part of the Greek Acts: but it is difficult to fit it into the framework.
An analysis, with translations of the more interesting passages, will suffice for these Acts, and for the rest of their class.
I. When he came out of Galilee and raised the dead man.
1 When he was come out of Galilee, a widow was carrying out her only son to burial. Philip asked her about her grief: I have spent in vain much money on the gods, Ares, Apollo, Hermes, Artemis, Zeus, Athena, the Sun and Moon, and I think they are asleep as far as I am concerned. And
Chapter I consulted a diviner to no purpose.
2 The apostle said: Thou hast suffered nothing strange, mother, for thus doth the devil deceive men. Assuage thy grief and I will raise thy son in the name of Jesus.
ABOUT that time Matthew, the holy apostle and evangelist of Christ, was abiding in the mountain resting, and praying in his tunic and apostolic robes without sandals; and, behold, Jesus came to Matthew in the likeness of the infants who sing in paradise, and said to him: Peace to thee, Matthew!
And Matthew having gazed upon Him, and not known who He was, said: Grace to thee, and peace, O child highly favoured! And why hast thou come hither to me, having left those who sing in paradise, and the delights there?
Because here the place is desert; and what sort of a table I shall lay for thee, O child, I know not, because I have no bread nor oil in a jar. Moreover, even the winds are at rest, so as not to cast down from the trees to the ground anything for food; because, for the accomplishing of my fast of forty days, I, partaking only of the fruits falling by the movement of the winds, am glorifying my Jesus.
Now, therefore, what shall I bring thee, beautiful boy? There is not even water near, that I may wash thy feet. And the child said: Why sayest thou, O Matthew? Understand and know that good discourse is better than a calf, and words of meekness better than every herb of the field, and a sweet saying as the perfume of love, and cheerfulness of countenance better that feeding, and a pleasant look is as the appearance of sweetness.
Understand, Matthew, and know that I am paradise, that I am the comforter, I am the power of the powers above, I the strength of those that restrain themselves, I the crown of the virgins, I the self-control of the once married, I the boast of the widowed, I the defence of the infants, I the foundation of the Church, I the kingdom of the bishops, I the glory of the presbyters, I the praise of the deacons.
Note: What is sometimes called 5 Ezra (chapters 1-2), 4 Ezra (chapters 3-14), and 6 Ezra (chapters 15-16)
1. The book of the prophet Ezra son of Seraiah, son of Azariah, son of Hilkiah, son of Shallum, son of Zadok, son of Ahitub,
2 son of Ahijah, son of Phinehas, son of Eli, son of Amariah, son of Azariah, son of Meraimoth, son of Arna, son of Uzzi, son of Borith, son of Abishua, son of Phinehas, son of Eleazar,
3 son of Aaron, of the tribe of Levi, who was a captive in the country of the Medes in the reign of Artaxerxes, king of the Persians.
4 The word of the Lord came to me, saying,
5 “Go, declare to my people their evil deeds, and to their children the iniquities that they have committed against me, so that they may tell their children’s children
6 that the sins of their parents have increased in them, for they have forgotten me and have offered sacrifices to strange gods.
7 Was it not I who brought them out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage? But they have angered me and despised my counsels.
8 Now you, pull out the hair of your head and hurl all evils upon them, for they have not obeyed my law—they are a rebellious people.
9 How long shall I endure them, on whom I have bestowed such great benefits?
10 For their sake I have overthrown many kings; I struck down Pharaoh with his servants and all his army.
IGNATIUS, THE MARTYR OF ANTIOCH, is regarded as the most important and most successful ecclesiastical representative in the second-century struggle against heresy prior to Justin. He is an organization man whose significance H. Lietzmann recently characterized thus: “In Ignatius we already find that the monarchial episcopate is an accomplished fact and is applicable to both Syria and western Asia Minor.” I think that with a man like Ignatius who, in his exuberance, time and again loses all sense of proportion, one must be especially careful in evaluating the accuracy of his statements.
Indeed, he even speaks of communities such as Magnesia and Tralles, whose situation he knows primarily from the descriptions of their “bishops,” who had no reason to place themselves and their influence in an unfavourable light. That Ignatius is less concerned with depicting the actual situation than with portraying the ideal is already suggested by the fact that, for the most part, his approach takes the form of admonition rather than of description.
What is it that makes the monarchial episcopacy seem so attractive to a man like Ignatius? First of all, he does not begin from a position in which he sees a plurality of ecclesiastical bodies of officials who for practical reasons may be governed by one particular office which, nevertheless, is not necessarily superior. No, for him the first and foremost figure is the bishop, who is like God or Christ in whose place he stands.
In this brief essay I would like to present two ideas to you. Firstly that the story of Joseph and Aseneth contains apocalyptic imagery, mostly similar to that used in the book of Revelation. However, the second theory, which Kraemer puts forward, is very different, and it is that the story of Aseneth and her visitation of an angel shows nothing of what we would see as apocalyptic in style, but solely that she was adjuring (or ordering) an angel to come and tell her the future, which was, in fact, a practice in the Greco-Roman world.
However, we begin with the first theory and this includes the references to apocalyptic imagery, especially with regards to the book of Revelation. I would like to examine the language used in this text. It is used, interestingly enough, only up to Chapter 18, and so it is the first 18 chapters that I will focus upon.
First of all, I would like to define the word apocalyptic. The term is derived from the Greek word which means revelation or uncovering (hence the name of the last book of the New Testament). Apocalyptic writings are usually concerned with the end times and the symbols and stories about this time are usually communicated by an angel or by other divine means. The eschatology works on a “personal as well as a cosmic dimension” (J.J. Collins, page 299, The New Jerome Biblical Commentary). This is an important distinction to remember; I will come back to it at the end. In the story of Aseneth, therefore, we can see that there is more of a personal level and not so much a level of talking of the end times. However, despite the apparent lack of direct talk of the end times its imagery is very similar to that found in Revelation and so, perhaps, it speaks in hidden language about heaven and God’s purposes for His Church.
Aseneth appears just three times in the Hebrew Bible, in Genesis 41 and 46:
41. 41. And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Behold, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.” 42. Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand, and arrayed him in garments of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck; and he made him to ride in his second chariot; and they cried before him, “Bow the knee!” Thus he set him over all the land of Egypt. 44. Moreover Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I am Pharaoh, and without your consent no man shall lift up hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.” 45. And Pharaoh called Joseph’s name Zaph’enath-pane’ah; and he gave him in marriage Aseneth, the daughter of Poti’phera priest of On. So Joseph went out over the land of Egypt . . .
50. Before the year of famine came, Joseph had two sons, whom Aseneth, the daughter of Poti’phera priest of On, bore to him. 51. Joseph called the name of the first-born Manas’seh, “For,” he said, “God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.” 52. The name of the second he called E’phraim, “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.”
46. 20. And to Joseph in the land of Egypt were born Manas’seh and E’phraim, whom Aseneth, the daughter of Poti’phera the priest of On, bore to him.
This information is tantalisingly brief. Who was this woman? How did Joseph come to meet and marry her? How could he, an upstanding Israelite, the son of Jacob, have married this pagan daughter of an Egyptian priest? Had he not struggled, only two chapters earlier, to avoid the lures of Potiphar’s wife? Where the Biblical narrative provided only hints, later interpreters became fascinated with these problems. Looking to fill in the gaps, they inferred what they thought must have happened. As they reflected on the few clues available, the story of Aseneth began to construct itself.
OF THE AUTHOR OF ‘THE BOOK OF THE BEE,’ the bishop Shelêmôn or Solomon, but very little is known. He was a native of Khilât or Akhlât (in Armenia, at the western end of lake Vân), and by religious profession a Nestorian. He became metropolitan bishop of al-Basra (in al-`Irâk, on the right bank of the united streams of the Tigris and Euphrates) about A.D. 1222, in which year he was present at the consecration of the catholicus or Nestorian patriarch Sabr-îshô` (Hope-in-Jesus) (see Assemânî, Bibl. Orient., t. ii, p. 453, no. 75; Bar-hebraeus, Chron. Eccl., t. ii, p. 371). In the Catalogue of Ecclesiastical Works compiled by `Ebêd-yêshû` or `Abd-îshô` (the-Servant-of-Jesus) he is stated to have written, besides ‘the Bee,’ a treatise on the figure of the heavens and the earth, and sundry short discourses and prayers (see Assemânî, Bibl. Orient., t. Iii, pt. i, p. 309, where there is a lengthy analysis of the contents of ‘the Bee’). A Latin translation of ‘the Bee’ by Dr. J. M. Schoenfelder appeared at Bamberg in 1866; it is based upon the Munich MS. only, and is faulty in many places.
The text of ‘the Bee,’ as contained in this volume, is edited from four MSS., indicated respectively by the letters A, B, C and D.
The MS. A belongs to the Library of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland. It is dated A.Gr. 1880 = A.D. 1569, and consists of 188 paper leaves, measuring about 8 in. by 5¾. Each page is occupied by one column of writing, generally containing 25 lines. This MS. is so stained and damaged by water in parts that some of the writing is illegible. The quires are twenty-one in number and, excepting the last two, are signed with letters. Leaves are wanting after folios 6, 21, 49, 125, 166 and 172; and in several pages there are lacunae of one, two and more lines. The volume is written in a good Nestorian hand, with numerous vowel-points. Originally it was the property of the priest Wardâ, son of the deacon Moses, who was prior of the convent of Mâr Ezekiel. Later on, it belonged to one Mâr John of Enzelli (near Resht, on the south shore of the Caspian Sea). In the year A. Gr. 1916 = A.D. 1605 it was bound by a person whose name has been erased.
The Book of the Bee occupies foll. 26 a to 92 b, and the colophon runs: ‘By the help of our Lord and our God, this Book of the Bee was completed on the 16th day of the month of Tammuz, on the Saturday that ushers in the Sunday which is called Nûsârdêl. in the year 1880 of the blessed Greeks, by the hands of the sinful servant the faulty Elias. Amen.’
The MS. B is on paper, and is numbered Add. 25,875 in the British Museum. See Wright’s Catal., p. 1064, no. dccccxxii, ff. 81 b-158 a. It is written in a good Nestorian hand, with numerous vowel-points, etc., and is dated A.Gr. 2020 = A.D. 1709. The colophon runs:–
‘It was finished in the year 2020 of the Greeks, on Friday the 22nd of the blessed month Tammûz, by the wretched sinner, the deacon Hômô of Alkôsh. I entreat you to pray for him that perchance he may obtain mercy with those upon whom mercy is freely shewn in the day of judgment, Amen. And to Jah be the glory, Amen.
THERE IS CONVINCING EVIDENCE FROM HIGHLY CREDIBLE SOURCES THAT BRITAIN RECEIVED THE GOOD NEWS OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD direct from Palestine within a few years of the Crucifixion. Some of the apostles — Paul in particular — visited Britain. The antiquity of the ancient British Church, never in any degree subordinate to Rome, has been established beyond doubt. The firm Glastonbury tradition that Joseph of Arimathea and his companions formed there the first Christian community in Britain is substantially supported.
The Sonnini Manuscript, translated from the Greek by C.S. Sonnini from an original manuscript found in the archives of Constantinople, was presented to him by the Sultan Abdoul Achmet.
Sonnini was travelling in the Middle East during the reign of Louis XVI — who held the French throne from 1774 to 1793. He published his travels, in French, between those two dates and after his discovery of the manuscript. The manuscript itself was translated into English and published sometime late in 1799 and was available — at the earliest — sometime around 1800.
The manuscript was found interleaved in a copy of Sonnini’s Travels in Turkey and Greece, and purchased at the sale of the library and effects of the late Right Hon. Sir John Newport, in Ireland, whose family arms are engraved on the cover of the book. This book had been in the possession of the family for more than thirty years — along with a copy of the firman of the Sultan of Turkey, granting to CS. Sonnini permission to travel in all parts of the Ottoman dominions.