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Apocalypse of Paul (Visio Pauli)

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Estimated Range of Dating: 250-400 A.D.

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Information on the Apocalypse of Paul

Hugo Duensing, as revised by Aurelio de Santos Otero, writes concerning the citations of this text (New Testament Apocrypha, vol. 2., pp. 712-713):

In his Nomocanon (VII 9) Barhebraeus introduces a quotation from Origen according to which the Apocalypse of Paul, with other apocalypses and also other early Christian writings enumerated there, was accepted by the Church. If this quotation is not altered, with Zahn, to read Peter instead of Paul, and so is accepted as genuine as it stands, then one might also assume acquaintance at least with the material of our apocalypse in his Homil. in Psalmos (ed. Lommatzsch XII. 233), where he gives a description of the destiny of souls after death which is closely related with chs. 13ff. of the Apocalypse of Paul. That he cannot in any case have had our recension before him follows not only on grounds of content but also from Sozomen (Hist. eccl. VII 19, ed. Bidez-Hansen, GCS 50, 1960, 331) who says of the Apocalypse of Paul that none of the ancients knew it; rather it was allegedly found under the emperor of the time, by which he alludes to the story of its discovery which it contains, but after inquiry from an ancient presbyter in Tarsus it turned out to be a fraud. If Origen knew a document of the same title, it could not have beenthe apocalypse in the form in which we now have it. We find a more reliable witness to its existence in Augustine (In Ioh. tract. 98.8, ed. R. Willems, CChrSL 36, 1954, 581), who says that some have concocted an Apocalypse of Paul which the true church does not accept. And when in the Enchiridion (112-113, CChrSL 46, 109f.) he discusses the idea of the relaxation of the lot of the damned souls on the day of the Lord, he will have drawn that from our document; for at almost the same time (around 402) Prudentius produces this conception in his Cathemerinon (V. 125ff., ed. J. Bergman, CSEl 61, 1926, 30). In the Decretum Gelasianum the Apocalypse of Paul appears among the apocryphal books which are not accepted (ed. v. Dobschütz, TU 38.4, 1912, 12). Later testimonies only evidence continued knowledge of this apocryphon and the eventual exstension of its influence.

The internal evidence may be taken to suggest a late fourth century date (New Testament Apocrypha, vol. 2, p. 713):

in 2 Cor. 12 Paul tells of being caught up into Paradise and this gave someone who was familiar with the apocalyptic tradition the opportunity of putting in Paul's mouth what he himself knew or thought about the next world. He gets over the difficulty that Paul had described what he heard as unutterable by distinguishing between some things which Paul could not tell and others which he was permitted to relate (cf. ch. 21). The introductory report of the discovery of these important revelations serves to explain how it happened that they were not made public earlier, possibly even in the time of Paul himself. If this account comes form the (first) author himself the date of the work is fixed as the end of the 4th or beginning of the 5th century. In any case the recension which we have must date from that period.

So might the allusions made to other texts in the Apocalypse of Paul (New Testament Apocrypha, vol. 2, p. 715):

It is clear that he knew the contents of the Apocalypse of Peter; this is seen above all in the description of the places of punishment and especially in that for those gulity of abortion; this conclusion would be quite incontrovertible if the Coptic has preserved the original ending, in which after his heavenly journey Paul returns to the circle of the apostles gathered on the Mount of Olives. The author would then understandably have altered his source only in so far as he replaces Clement, as in the Apocalypse of Peter, by Paul's disciples Mark and Timothy as those who wrote down what Paul saw. Other borrowings are Lake Acherusia (cf. supra), the encounter with the Patriarchs, the fiery stream, the angel Tartaruchus or Temeluchus. The ferrying over Lake Acherusia occurs also in the Apocalypse of Zephaniah (G. Steindorff, TU 17.3a, 1899); in it we have also the recording angel with the manuscript (chirographon - agreeing in the Greek expression!) and the encounter with all the righteous in the heavenly world, in particular with the Patriarchs, Enoch, Elijah and David. There is a striking contact with the Apocalypse of Elijah (TU 17.3a) at the very beginning in ch. 3, where with very little variation the sentence is repeated 'The word of the Lord came to me thus: 'O son of man, say to this people, "why do you heap sin on sin and anger God the Lord, who made you?".'" (Steindorff, 155; Schrage, 231) If the additional material at the end of the Coptic is original, then the author copied from the Apocalypse of Zephaniah, where it says, "Be strong that you may conquer and be mighty that you may overcome the accuser and come up out of the underworld." (Steindorff, 170; cf. ibid. p. 55, ch. 12, lines 12ff. of the Apocalypse of Elijah, and p.l 153: "Be triumphant and strong, for you are strong and are overcoming the accuser and coming up out of the underworld and the abyss." Cf. also the last four lines on the same page.) Casey (pp. 22ff.) draws attention to an agreement with Slavonic Enoch, chs. 8-9 (Morfil-Charles, pp. 7-9), in the description of Paradise; James (P. 552 n. 1) likewise draws attention to a contact with the Testament of Job. It is impossible to say from where the author may have drawn his fantastic representation of the colossal fruitfulness of eternity (ch. 22), which corresponds with the description of Papias (in Irenaeus, V 33. 3f.). All these borrowings render a later date probable.

This text has no connection to the Coptic Apocalypse of Paul discovered at Nag Hammadi.

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Kirby, Peter. "The Apocalypse of Paul." Early Christian Writings. <>.