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Coptic Apocalypse of Elijah

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Estimated Range of Dating: 250-350 A.D.

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Information on the Coptic Apocalypse of Elijah

Wilhelm Schneemelcher makes these comments (New Testament Apocrypha, vol. 2, p. 693):

Since 1885 the text of an Apoc. El. has gradually become known through some Coptic manuscripts. Since the publication of the Chester Beatty Papyrus 2018 this work is now accessible almost complete (cf. Schrage, op. cit. 198ff). The Coptic (Sahidic and Achmimic) versions go back to a Greek original text, of which we possess a papyrus fragment with six lines; but with this nothing much can be done. The papyri were written in the 4th or 5th century.

The Coptic Apoc. El. presents admonitions, predictions of the terrors of the endtime, a description of the Antichrist and his annihilation, etc.; it ends with the creation of a new heaven and a new earth and the thousand-year reign of Christ. Many elements of the older Apocalyptic are lacking, but on the other hand ancient conceptual material is abundantly used. The work is a typical example of later apocalypses: a Christian description of the end-time (to some extent with contemporary references) has been created on a Jewish foundation.

The dating of the Coptic Apoc. El. is difficult. There is much to be said for the view that the Jewish basic document originated in the second half of the 3rd century, and was taken over and reworked by Christians at the beginning of the 4th century (cf. Schrage, op. cit. 220ff.).

Concerning the external attestation for this text, Schneemelcher writes, "An Apocalypse of Elijah (Apoc. El.) is rejected in the Catalogue of the Sixty Books and probably also in the Stichometry of Nicephorus (cf. vol. 1, pp. 41f.). An apocryphon of Elijah is frequently mentioned in early Church literature, mostly in connection with the saying in 1 Cor. 2:9, of which Origen already affirms that it comes from an apocryphon of Elijah (cf. Schrage, op. cit. 195). Now on the one hand this saying is evidently a logion which frequently crops up (cf. Gos. Thom. log. 17; on this see H.-Ch. Puech in NTApo I, 217). On the other hand this logion does not occur in the extant Elijah apocrypha." (New Testament Apocrpyha, vol. 2, p. 692)

This text has "nothing to do with" an apocryphal Letter of Titus which quotes words of Elias the prophet from an unclear source "in which the punishments of Hell are described" (New Testament Apocrypha, vol. 2, p. 692). There is also mention of "an Elijah apocyphon 'On the Antichrist'" in "a Greek fragment," but this does not have "any connection with the extant Elijah texts" (New Testament Apocrypha, vol. 2, p. 692). The Coptic Apocalypse of Elijah must be also distinguished from the Hebrew Apocalypse of Elijah, "a Jewish writing from the 3rd century A.D.; there are no connections with the Coptic Apoc. El." (New Testament Apocrypha, vol. 2, p. 692)

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