The “Acts of Mark” and the “Martyrdom of Mark” – an unnecessary confusion

There is a certain confusion in online resources between two late apocryphal texts, the so-called Acts of Mark and the Martyrdom of Mark; and that there is a connection from this material to a spurious Encomium in XII Apostolos attributed to Severian of Gabala.

This I discovered in response to an enquiry about the Encomium; and then discovered that confusion even extends to the excellent NASSCAL site which tries to index the apocrypha.  This is all caused by a certain D. Callahan who, writing about or editing or translating the Martyrdom, proceeded to entitle his several publications Acts of Mark.[1]  (My thanks to Dean Furlong, who made the enquiry, and supplied several useful documents for this article.)

Fortunately Schneemelcher’s classic tome, New Testament Apocrypha, vol. 2, does not share this confusion.  Let’s discuss these two obscure texts, neither of which was familiar to me before today.  Most of this is summarised from Schneemelcher, of course.

Before we do so, a warning.  Neither of these should really be considered as New Testament Apocrypha.  They are really hagiographical works, “Christian novels” as a recent publication called such things.

The Martyrdom of Mark / Martyrium Marci / Martyrion tou agiou apostolou kai evangelistou Markou (NTA 2, p.461 f.)

The story is in 14 chapters and inter alia relates to Mark’s disciple, Anianus.

This work is preserved in a number of Greek witnesses, two of which have been printed, and are clearly related (BHG II, 1035-1036).

  •  Codex Vaticanus gr. 866.  This text was printed in the Acta Sanctorum, April vol. III, Antwerp 1675, XLVI-VII.
  •  Codex Parisinus gr. 881.  This text was printed in the Patrologia Graeca 115, cols. 164-9.  Note that although the PG prints the text among work of Simeon Metaphrastes, it has no connection with him.  Many of the translations into other languages seem related to this text.  English translation from the PG by A.D.Callahan, The Acts (sic) of Mark, diss. Harvard, 1992, appendix (p.119 f.)

The story must have been translated into Latin early, as a version is embedded in Prudentius (end of 4th c.).  A number of Latin versions of the story do exist (BHL 5276-5280).  An example is printed in the Acta Sanctorum (April III, Antwerp 1675, 347-349).

A Coptic version or versions also exist.

  • The Amherst Morgan 15 papyrus (7th century) is online here.  This was printed and translated in W. Crum, Theological Texts from Coptic Papyri, Oxford 1913, 65-68, also online here.  Schneemelcher lists a couple of other papyri.
  •  The Morgan Coptic Codex 635, fol. 24r-33v, contains an episode from the same narrative as part of a series of homilies or encomia.  These are the Encomia in XII Apostolos mentioned among the spuria of Severian of Gabala by the Clavis Patrum Graecorum, as CPG 4281.  This material has been published in the CSCO, and even translated into English (CSCO 545, 1992, homily 4, starting p.65), where it is headed “On St Peter and St Paul”. The homily or encomium is intended for the feast which marks the martyrdom of these two saints and the twelve apostles.  Being delivered in Egypt, it naturally devotes space to St Mark, the evangelist of Egypt.
  •  There is also a publication which I have not seen, A.D.Callahan “The Acts of Saint Mark: an introduction and translation.” Coptic Church Review 14 (Spr 1993), pp. 3-10.

There are also at least two Arabic versions.  The first (BHO 597) was published by Agnes Smith Lewis in Horae Semiticae III-IV, London 1904, 126-9, 147-151.  Another heavily reworked version (BHO 598) is incorporated in the History of the Patriarchs of Alexandria.  I have not seen it, but there is also A. D. Callahan “The Acts of Mark: tradition, transmission, and translation of the Arabic version.” In: F. Bovon (ed), Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles, Harvard, 1999, pp. 63-85.  This I assume again relates to the Martyrdom, not the Acts.

Several copies of an Ethiopic version have reached us; and there is an Old Slavonic version.

Acts of Mark / Acta Marci / Praxeis kai Thaumata kai martyrion tou agiou evangelistou Markou (Schneemelcher, p.464)

This work in 35 chapters is a massively expanded reworking and paraphrase of the Martyrdom, drawing on material about St Mark from all sides, including the Acta Barnabae.  The text is preserved in Greek in a 13th century manuscript from the Stavronikita monastery on Mt Athos, Codex Athonensi Stauronicetae 18, fol. 175v-189. (BHG II, 1036m).  It was edited by F. Halkin, Analecta Bollandiana 87, 1969, 346-371.  An English translation is in progress by Mark A. House.  A draft of 5 chapters can be found in Salm’s paper, although 9 have now been translated.

A similar attempt to expand the Martyrdom can be found in the History of the Patriarchs of Alexandria, prefaced to the Arabic version of the Martyrdom.  It was edited with English translation by B. Evetts, Patrologia Orientalis 1, 1904, 134-40.

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The relation between these two works is now a lot clearer to me.  Let’s finish by giving Dr Callahan’s translation of the Martyrdom of Mark, as few will have access to it.

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Translated from Par. Gr. 881 = Paris Greek 881, entitled “Martyrdom of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist Mark of Alexandria,” in Patrologia Graeca 115, cols. 164-69.


Section 1: Saint Mark’s Lot to Preach in Egypt

At that time when the apostles were being dispersed throughout the inhabited world, it was the lot of the most holy Mark to go into the environs of Egypt by the will of God, where also the blessed canons of the holy and apostolic Church decreed that he be the first evangelist in the entire region of Egypt, Libya and Marmarice, Ammaniace and Pentapolis to preach the gospel of the visitation (epidemias) of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Section 2: The Idolatry of the Inhabitants

For throughout the land were people uncircumcised in heart, idolaters, full of every uncleanness and worshippers of unclean spirits. For they furnished consecrated enclosures and sacred precincts for every house and street and province; and fortunes as well as magic, and every angelic power. Moreover, demonic [power] was among them, which the visitation of our Lord Jesus Christ arrested and destroyed.

Section 3: The Evangelist in Pentapolis

Then, after the oracularly announced evangelist Mark arrived in Cyrene and Pentapolis, speaking the word of the ruling power of Christ, and performing stunning miracles among them (healing the infirm, cleansing lepers, exorcizing fierce spirits by the word of his grace), many people, believing in our Lord Jesus Christ through him, threw their idols to the ground, were enlightened and were baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Section 4: The Call to Alexandria

It was then revealed to him there by the Holy Spirit to go up to the Alexandrian lighthouse [lit., Pharite] and spread the good seed of God. The blessed evangelist Mark, eagerly stepped up to the contest like a brave athlete and, greeting the brethren, said, “The Lord has told me to go to the city of Alexandria.” And the brethem escorted him to the boat. And after tasting his bread they sent him forth saying, “May the Lord Jesus Christ make your way go well.”

Section 5: St. Mark Arrives in Alexandria

And the blessed Mark arrived in Alexandria on the second day, and after disembarking from his boat came to a place called Mendion. Entering the gate of the city, immediately his sandal broke. But learning [this], the blessed apostle said, “Indeed, the way is well resolved.”

Section 6: The Evangelist Heals a Cobbler

And seeing a cobbler, he handed over the sandal to him. The needle in the hole pierced his right hand and he said [lit., says], “God is one!” And the blessed Mark, hearing “God is one,” said to himself with a laugh,” The Lord has made my way go well.” And he spit on the ground and made clay from the spittle and anointed the hand of the man, saying, “In the name of Jesus Christ, the son of the eternal living God, be well.” And immediately the man’s hand was healed.

Section 7: The Cobbler Invites St. Mark to His Home

The cobbler, having become acquainted with the power of the man and the efficacy of his word and ascetical appearance (or, “attire”), he said to him, “I beg you, 0 man of God, come, lodge today in the house of your servant and let us eat a morsel of bread together, and have mercy on me today.” But the blessed Mark said with glee, “May the Lord give you living bread.” And the man prevailed upon the apostle, and joyfully brought him into his house.

Section 8: At the Cobbler’s Home

The blessed Mark entered the house and said, “The blessing of the Lord [be upon] this place. Let us pray, brethren.” And they prayed together, and after the prayer they were summoned. As they made merry, the man said, “0 father, what is your name? Who are you, and whence this powerful word in you?” The holy Mark said, “I am a slave of the Lord Jesus Christ the Son of God.” The man said, “I wish to see him.” And Mark the holy martyr of Christ said, “I am showing him to you.”

Section 9: Anianus, His Family, and Others are Converted

And the holy Mark began to relate [lit., ‘perform’] the gospel of Jesus Christ, Son of God, son of Abraham, and showed to them the matters concerning his prophets. But the man said, “I beg you, lord, I have not once heard of the writings of which you speak, but [only] the llliad and the Odyssey, and such things as make wise the children of the Egyptians.” Then the holy Mark [began: supply exate] to proclaim Christ to him and to demonstrate to him that the wisdom of this world is foolishness according to God. And the man believed in God because of the signs and wonders mentioned by Mark, and he and his entire household were enlightened along with a great multitude in that place. And the name of the man was Ananias.

Section 10: The Evangelist Ordains Clergy

As there came to be a multitude of those believing on the Lord, the people of the city heard that some Galilean had come there and was overturning the sacrifices of the gods and hindering their worship, and hatching plots against him they sought to kill him. But perceiving their designs, the holy Mark, after selecting Ananias as bishop and three presbyters Milaios, Sabinus and Kerdon, and seven deacons, i.e., eleven others for service to the church, fled and departed again for Pentapolis.

Section 11: St. Mark Returns to Alexandria

And after spending two years there, establishing the brethren and appointing bishops and clergy for each region of the countryside, he returned to Alexandria and found the brethren growing in the grace and discipline of God. And they built a church for themselves called the [places of the] Boukalou by the sea, beneath the steep banks. And the righteous one rejoiced greatly, and on bended knee glorified God.

Section 12: The Jealousy of the Pagans

But as enough time passed, the Christians multiplied, laughing the idols to scorn and ridiculing the Greeks. The Greeks learned that the saint and evangelist Mark had returned, and hearing of the wonderful deeds he was performing they were filled with jealousy. For he healed the infirm, cleansed the lepers, proclaimed the gospel to the deaf, and bestowed sight to many of the blind.

Section 13: The Pagans Seek to Capture the Evangelist

And they sought to capture him and could not find him. And they gnashed their teeth against him, and in the festive processions of their idols they shouted at him saying, “Many [are the] powers of the sorcerer!”

Section 14: St. Mark Arrested During the Passover

But it happened [that] our blessed feast of Passover fell on the holy Sunday, Pharmouthi 29th, from the eighth Kalend of May, i.e., April 24th, which coincided with the festive procession of Serapis. Finding such an opportune moment, they deployed spies; they fell upon him saying prayers of the divine offering. And seizing him, they threw a mooring rope around his neck and dragged him, saying, “Let us drag the antelope to [the places of the] Boukalou.”

Section 15: The Evangelist is Tortured

But while the holy Mark was being dragged along, he offered up thankgiving to the savior Christ, saying, “I thank you, Lord Jesus Christ, that I have been counted worthy to suffer these things on behalf of your name.” And his flesh was falling to the ground, and the stones were stained with his blood.

Section 16: St. Mark is Incarcerated

When evening had fallen, they threw him in prison, and deliberated upon the manner of death by which they should destroy him. But in the middle of the night, after the doors had been shut and the guards stationed at the doors, behold, a great earthquake occurred. For an angel of the Lord, coming from heaven, touched him saying, “O Mark, slave of God, chief of the saints in Egypt, behold your name has been inscribed in a book of eternal life and counted along with the holy apostles. Behold, your memorial shall never be forsaken. You have become a companion of the powers above in heaven. Archangels shall receive you and your remains on earth shall not perish.”

Section 17: The Lord Appears to the Evangelist

Having seen this vision, the blessed Mark, his hands outstretched, said, “I thank you, my Lord Jesus Christ, that you did not desert me, but you have numbered me with your saints. I beseech you, O Lord Jesus Christ, to welcome my soul and not reject me from your grace.” And after he said these things, the Lord Jesus appeared to him in the form [that he bore] when he was with his disciples, the very form [he bore] before his suffering and entombment, and said [lit., ‘says’] to him, “Peace to you, our own Mark, my evangelist.” And Mark said, “Peace to you, my Lord Jesus Christ.”

Section 18: St. Mark is Tortured to Death

But early in the morning, the multitude of the city returned and removed him from the prison. They again threw the rope around his neck and dragged [him about], saying, “Let us drag the antelope to [the places of the] Boukolou.” But the blessed Mark again offered up thanks to the creator of all, the Lord Jesus Christ, saying, “Into your hands, Lord, I commit my spirit.” And after he said this he surrendered his spirit.

Section 19: The Pagans Attempt to Burn His Remains

But the multitude of impious Greeks kindled a fire in the so-called Angels, and incinerated the remains of the righteous [one]. Then, by the foreknowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, a squall arose, and a great windstorm came along, and the sun ceased shining, and there was a great roar of thunder and heavy rain with lightening until evening, so as to knock down many dwellings and kill many. Afraid, they released the corpse of the saint and fled. But others sneered and said, “How their thrice-blessed Serapis made a visitation to the man on account of his birthday festival!”

Section 20: The Evangelist is Buried

Then devout persons came and wrapped up the body of the righteous one from the ashes and bore it to where they finished their prayers and hymn-singing, and dressed him [i.e., his body, for burial] according to the custom of the city, and laid him out in a place that had been splendidly hewn. They completed his memorial prayerfully and decorously; they valued him as the first treasure in Alexandria. They laid him to rest in the eastern section [of the city].

Section 21:Conclusion

The blessed Mark, the Evangelist and first martyr of our Lord Jesus Christ was laid to rest in Alexandria in the Egyptian month of Pharmouthi 30th, but according to the Romans before the Kalends of May; according to the Hebrews the 17th of Nisan, during the reign of Gaius Tiberius Caesar, but according to us the Christians during the reign of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and power forever and ever. Amen.

  1. [1]This I learned from independent scholar Rene Salm, The Acts of Mark: An important discovery, online at here.

Alin Suciu on the Berlin-Strasbourg Apocryphon or “Gospel of the Savior”

It’s taken four years, but Alin Suciu’s magnificent thesis on the so-called “Gospel of the Savior” has now appeared in book form from Mohr Siebeck, although at a huge price.  The abstract is as follows:

The Berlin-Strasbourg Apocryphon – A Coptic Apostolic Memoir

The present volume offers a new edition, English translation, and interpretation of the Berlin-Strasbourg Apocryphon , previously known as the Gospel of the Savior . An apocryphal story about Jesus probably transpiring shortly before the Crucifixion, the Berlin-Strasbourg Apocryphon claims to recount the narrative as told by the apostles themselves. The text also includes a long hymn sung by Christ to the cross on which he will soon be crucified.

The Berlin Strasbourg-Apocryphon is exclusively preserved in Coptic by two fragmentary manuscripts, Papyrus Berolinensis 22220 and Strasbourg Copte 5-7. Additionally, a Coptic manuscript discovered at Qasr el-Wizz in Christian Nubia contains a short version of the Hymn of the Cross.

Until now, it has been almost unanimously accepted that the Berlin Strasbourg-Apocryphon is an ancient Christian gospel – probably datable to the second century CE – which was bypassed in the formation of the Christian canon. Approaching the text from the angle of Coptic literature, Alin Suciu rejects this early dating, showing instead that its composition must be located following the Council of Chalcedon (451 CE), whose theological deliberations gradually alienated Egypt from the Byzantine world. The author argues that the Berlin-Strasbourg Apocryphon is one of numerous ‘apostolic memoirs,’ a peculiar genre of Coptic literature, which consists of writings allegedly written by the apostles, often embedded in sermons attributed to famous church fathers.

The PDF is the same as the printed book, which is cheeky.

Interesting to see a Coptologist’s perspective.  We all know that there are masses of apocrypha in Coptic, running into the medieval period.


The letter of Tiberius to Pilate (Epistola Tiberii ad Pilatum)

A little while ago I wrote a post on the apocryphal Letter of Pilate to Tiberius, which is a Latin text of the renaissance period.  Perhaps it was written as a composition exercise, or something, but it is not ancient.

A correspondent asked me about the date of another item in the same bunch of apocryphal texts, the so-called Letter of Tiberius to Pilate (Epistola Tiberii ad Pilatum).

This item is a Greek text, which has been dated on linguistic grounds to no earlier than the 11th century AD.[1]  The Greek text itself was printed by M.R. James in Texts and Studies 5 (1893), 78-81, with an introduction on p.xl-l; these were reprinted with the same page numbers as Apocrypha Anecdota. The introduction begins as follows:

A very much later effort of the ecclesiastical romancer is the Letter of Tiberius to Pilate. This has been twice printed, and both  times very badly, by Birch and Fleck. I think it is just worth while—seeing that both the editions are rather uncommon books— to give here a text which I have constructed from a comparison of the two.

“Birch” is A. Birch, Auctarium Codicis Apocryphi N. T. Fabricani, Fasc. i, Havniae (1804), p.172; and the text is printed from Codex Vindobonensis 246.  “Fleck” is F.F. Fleck, Wissenschaftliche Reise, Band ii, Abth. ii, Leipzig (1837), p.145; and he prints the text from Codex Taurinensis Regius Graecus C. ii. 5 (no. cccii).  It is likely that each just printed the manuscript as it was before him – ah, how easy to do this, when you don’t have to give a facing translation! – and so James’ otherwise odd proceeding does have scholarly value.

J.K. Elliot, The Apocryphal New Testament, p.224 states:

Although this is a Greek text, it has a typically Western view of Pilate regarding him as a criminal. The Eastern churches, and the Coptic in particular, regarded him as a saint and martyr. It is late in date (possibly from the eleventh century), and has affinities with the Acta Pilati (Greek B).

Although Tischendorf knew the text of the letter in two separate manuscripts (Vindobon.-Nessel 246 and Paris 1771) according to his introduction to Evangelia Apocrypha (pp. lxxix f.), he chose not to include it.

From this we learn of a better shelfmark for the Vienna manuscript, and of a Paris copy.  I wonder whether the Turin manuscript still exists, however, after the fire of 1904?

An abbreviated translation of the work is given again by M.R. James in his Apocryphal New Testament (1924), p.156-7.  There is an introduction and translation in Bart Ehrman and Zlatko Plese, The Other Gospels: Accounts of Jesus from Outside the New Testament, OUP (2014), 285-8.[2], which is apparently a subset of his Apocryphal Gospels: Texts and Translations, 2011, p.529.  The translation is as follows:

The Letter of Tiberius to Pilate

This is the reply of Caesar Augustus and sent to Pilate Pontius, who holds the rule in the eastern part of the kingdom. He also wrote his judicial decision and sent it with the courier Rahab, to whom he gave two thousand soldiers as well.

“Because you condemned Jesus of Nazareth to a violent death that was completely unjust, and before condemning him to death you handed him over to the insatiably furious Jews, and you showed no sympathy for this righteous man, but dipping your pen you delivered a disastrous judicial decision, and having him flogged you handed him over to be crucified, without cause, and you received gifts for condemning him to death, sympathizing with him in what you said, but in your heart handing him over to the lawless Jews—or all this you will be brought to me as a prisoner to defend yourself and render to me an account of what you have done, on behalf of this one whom you handed over to death without cause. Oh your shamelessness and hardness! When I heard about this in a report, I was moved in my soul and cut to the core. For a certain woman has come to me, calling herself a disciple of this man; she is Mary Magdalene, from whom others testify that he had cast out seven demons. She has testified that this one performed great healings: he made the blind see, the lame walk, and the deaf hear; he cleansed lepers and, to put it simply, as she herself testified, he performed these healings by a word alone. How could you permit him to be crucified without cause? Even if you did not receive him as a god, at least you should have sympathized with him as a physician. But even from your own treacherous writing that has come to me you have pronounced your penalty, since you write that he is greater even than the gods that we worship. How could you deliver him over to death? But just as you condemned this one unjustly and delivered him to death, I in turn will deliver you to death justly. And not only you, but also all your councillors and companions, from whom you received the gifts for his death.”

As he gave the letter to the letter carriers, Augustus’s judicial sentence was also given them in a written order, that they were to kill the entire race of the Jews with the sword, and that Pilate was to be brought to Rome as a condemned prisoner, along with the leaders of the Jews, those who were then the rulers of the region, Archaelaus, the son of the despised Herod, and his companion Philip, and those who were their chief priests, both Caiaphas and his father-in-law, Annas, and all the leaders of the Jews. When Rahab went forth with the soldiers, he did as he was commanded, and slew the entire male race of the Jews with the sword, and the gentiles sexually defiled their profane wives; and the loathsome posterity of their father, Satan, came to life and rose up. The courier took Pilate, Archaelaus, and also Philip, Annas, and Caiaphas, and all the leaders of the Jews, and led them as prisoners to Rome. But it came about that while they were passing through a certain island named Crete, Caiaphas was miserably and violently severed from life. When they took him in order to bury him, the ground would not receive him at all, but cast him out. Seeing this, the entire multitude took stones with their own hands and cast them on him, and so buried him. But the others came to anchor near Rome.

Now there was a custom among the ancient rulers that if someone was condemned to death but should happen to see their face, he would be spared from his condemnation. And so Caesar ordered that Pilate not see him, so that he might not be saved from death. Because of this command, they bricked him up in a certain cave, and left him there. But they rolled Annas up in the skin of an ox, and as the leather dried out under the sun, he was pressed tightly in it, so that his intestines came out through his mouth, and it violently tore away his wretched life. But all the other Jews who were given over to him he delivered to death. They killed these by the sword. But Archelaus, son of the despised Herod, and his companion Philip, he ordered to be impaled.

One day the king went out to hunt and was pursuing a certain deer. The deer came to the opening of the cave and stood there. Now Pilate was about to be killed by the hand of Caesar. That the inevitable might be fulfilled, Pilate moved forward to see the ruler, while the deer was standing in front of him. Caesar placed an arrow on his bow to shoot the deer, and the arrow passed through the opening and killed Pilate.

All who believe in Christ, our true God and savior, give him glory and greatness. For to him is due the glory, honor, and worship, with his Father who is without beginning, and the Spirit who is of his same nature, now and always, even unto the ages. Amen.

The text is, in other words, a medieval fiction.  It is part of the numberless medieval folk-stories with supernatural elements which are so alien to the modern western mind, but so typical of the medieval imagination.

  1. [1]R. Gounelle, “Rapport de Pilate, réponse de Tibère à Pilate, comparution de Pilate,” in: P. Geoltrain & J.-D. Kaestli, Écrits apocryphes chrétiens, vol. 2, Paris: Gallimard (2005) pp. 304-7. Via here.
  2. [2]A title that would have irritated M. R. James, who would have found it annoying that any professional scholar would propagate a work under such a title.  It is calculated to suggest to the unwary reader that these texts are somehow equivalent in age and status to the New Testament but merely not included in it by its compilers.  James patiently explains over several pages why William Hone and his Apocryphal New Testament – which attempted the same trick – is misleading, and adds, “The point is this, that when Hone or any one else speaks in terms which suggest that our New Testament is the result of a selection made by a council of the Church or any similar body, from among a number of competing books which might just as well have been included in it as not, he is very much astray.”

Coptic Acts of Andrew and Paul now online in English

Anthony Alcock has continued his programme of translations with the first English translation of two Coptic fragments from a Vatican manuscript, which have been given the title of the Acts of Andrew and Paul.  The two were printed, with French translation, by X. Jacques, “Les deux fragments conservés des ‘Actes d’André et Paul'”, in Orientalia 38 (1969), p.187-213.

Here is the translation:

In addition I have OCR’d the French introductory material, which is here:

What do we know about this material?  I thought that I would translate some of the introduction into English for those who do not read it.  I’ve included a few (but by no means all) of the bibliographic footnotes.

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The two fragments preserved of the ‘Acts of Andrew and Paul’ (Ms. Vatican Borgia Coptic 109, fascicle. 132)

Fascicle 132 of the manuscript Borg. Copt. 109, in the Vatican, consists of 11 folios.  Zoega, who made them known in 1811, gave them the pagination 115-126, 131-136, 139-142, and labelled them “Fragmenta duo de rebus SS. Andreae et Pauli; duo pariter de rebus S. Bartholomaei” (Two fragments about the doings of St Andrew and St Paul; likewise two about the doings of St. Bartholomew).  He then summarised the first two fragments (115-126, 131-136) and edited the first one (115-126). [1]

In 1835, Dulaurier translated a part of the first fragment into French (end of 117 to start of 123), using Zoega’s text.  He changed Zoega’s vague title, given, he felt, with little thought, into “the Acts of St. Andrew and St Paul.”[2]

Under this title, the text entered the general works devoted to the apocrypha.  Tischendorf transcribed the Latin summary of Zoega and added part of Dulaurier’s translation in a footnote.  Migne published large extracts of the same translation in his Dictionnaire des légendes du christianisme (Dictionary of Christian Legends) in the articles Judas Iscariot and Paul, and mentioned it in his Dictionnaire des Apo­cryphes.[3]  Lipsius mentioned it, in the context of the Acts of Andrew, translated freely the summary of Zoega, and added some reflections on the nature and origin of the text.[4]

In 1887 Guidi edited the second of these “frammenti relativi alla leggenda di s. Paolo e s. Andrea” (131-133 col. 1), and in the following year supplied an Italian translation.  Lipsius signalled it, in his complementary volume, and Schmidt reproduced this information in Harnack’s history of Christian literature.  Hennecke, on the other hand, in the first two editions of his work, made no mention of these fragments.

However, in 1894, Steindorff inserted the fragment published by Zoega in the selection of readings accompanying his grammar, and did the same with some extracts in his abridged grammar.  Guidi followed his example in publishing an extract of the same fragment in his Eléments.  M.R. James summarised the two fragments without translating them.[5]

The first English translation – but only of Steindorff’s extracts, minus the last lines of the second fragment – was offered by Hallock to the readers of the Journal of the Society of Oriental Research, in 1929[6] (J. Worrell, in 1945, citing the apology of Judas as an example of Coptic literature of the 4-5th century, gave a new translation of this fragment, based on Zoega’s Coptic text).[7]

Finally in 1964 Schneemelcher, in redoing the work of Hennecke, introduced a short notice on these two fragments.[8]  Erbetta translated the summary by James.

But the authors of general works were not the only ones interested in these fragments.  By 1890 von Lemm connected three passages of the fragment published by Zoega with other apocrypha, and he gave a German translation of them.  In 1911 Flamion attempted to situate the “Acts of Paul and Andrew” somewhere in his study of the Acts of Andrew.  Haase, with a broader perspective, reproduced the summary of Zoega among the sources of his enquiry, summarised himself the summary of Lipsius in the paragraph devoted to Andrew.  At this point he said nothing of the long narrative about Judas, nor, even more oddly, in the paragraph which he devoted to that apostle.

In the volume of magical texts published by Lexa, three passages of Zoega’s fragment are translated into French.[9]  The author relates to them some other passages in his collection.  …

In a note, published in 1947, Morenz suggests, on very fragile grounds, to see in the person of Andrew, as it appears in these fragments, a new Serapis.[10]  In 1955 an article by J. Zandee, devoted to the descent into Hell among the Copts, was the occasion for him to translate for his readers the extracts published by Steindorff…  In 1957 Godron proposed to place the bird labelled in our text among the Ardeidae.

Peterson, studying the history and legends concerning Andrew, summarised the two fragments.  They are often referred to in the work of Zandee, written in Dutch but published in English in 1960, on  ancient Egyptian ideas about death.[11]  …

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Jacques also states that Zoega’s text departs from the manuscript in 16 places, sometimes affecting the meaning.  But curiously he does not indicate the age of the manuscript, nor of the text.

Schneemelcher (vol. 2, p.450), adds the following:

It was only the contribution of X. Jacques, ‘Les deux fragments conserves des Actes d’Andre et de Paul’ (Orientalia N.S. 38, 1969, 187-213), with a complete and critical edition of the original text and a translation, also in French (reprinted a year later in Recherches de Science Religieuse 58,1970,289-296), bibliography and commentary, that finally replaced the earlier partial editions and translations.

Particular interest was aroused among scholars by the passage in which it is narrated that ‘Andrew with a beaker of sweet water put asunder the salt sea-water and so made it possible for Paul to ascend again from Hell.’ This motif has been associated inter alia with ancient Egyptian magical texts: so for example F. Lexa, La magie dans l’Egypte antique I, Paris 1925, 150-151 and A.M. Kropp, Ausgewahlte koptische Zaubertexte III, Brussels 1930, 61-62. S. Morenz (ThLZ 79, 1947, cols. 295-297) considers such explanations questionable, and suggests comparing the miracle of the dividing of the waters accomplished by Andrew with an act ascribed by Aelius Aristides to the hellenistic-Egyptian god Sarapis, according to which ‘in the midst of the sea he called forth drinkable water’. On this view we should here have before us a syncretistic text in which – in Morenz’ words – the apostle Andrew would appear as νέος Σάραπις. That this conclusion is not valid is already clear from the fact that the alleged parallelism between the two motifs is at least just as imperfect as others which might be drawn from the Egyptian magical texts previously mentioned, or even from biblical sources (e.g. Exod. 15:22ff., the bitter water at Mara). There appears to be a clearer analogy with an episode in the Prochorus Acts (= Zahn 5421569), which speaks of a transformation of sea-water into drinking-water. The motif of the dividing of the waters seems however to be deeply rooted in Egypt, and could – with the inclusion of other circumstances in the tradition – be taken as a sign that our present document originated in Egypt. For other indications in this direction, see Jacques, art. cit. passim.

A striking feature of these ‘Acts’ is the hybrid character of their contents: this is chiefly a matter of an alleged episode of the Acts of Andrew (i.e. the raising-up of a child through the apostle’s intercession, as in the Acta Andreae et Philemonis; see below, 5.5) into which the apocalyptic interlude of Paul’s journey to Hell is interwoven (with great reliance on the known Apocalypse of Paul [BHGII,1460] and the Gospel of Bartholomew [BHG 1,228]). This is without doubt an indication of a late time of origin. For adetailed analysis of the contents cf. Lipsius (Die apokr. Apostelgeschichten 1,616-617; Erganzungsheft 96), James, 472-475 and Moraldi II, 1616-1617.

Which gives us something, if not the data we want.

All the same, the material is now in English!

  1. [1]G. Zoega, Catalogus codicum copticorum manu scriptorum qui in Museo Borgiano Velitris adservantur (Romae 1810) 230-235.
  2. [2]É. Dulaurier, Fragment des Révélations apocryphes de saint Barthé­lemy et de l’Histoire des communautés religieuses fondées par saint Pakhome (Paris 1835) 30-35. The title of this work relates to two unpublished fragments of which the author gives the text and translation.  He added to these the three very short texts already published by Zoega, from cod. Borgia CII, CXXI et CXXXII. Of this last, which is of interest to us, he only published a fragment: 50-144 (these numbers, like those which follow, refer to the lines of our edition).
  3. [3]J. de Douhet, Dictionnaire des légendes du christianisme (Troisième et dernière encyclopédie théologique 14; Petit-Montrouge 1855) col. 720- 722 et 1040-1042. — Migne, Dictionnaire des Apocryphes. I (Paris 1856) col. 1102.
  4. [4]R. A. Lipsius, Die Apokryphen Apostelgeschichten und Apostel­legenden. I (Braunschweig 1883) 616-617.
  5. [5]M. R. James, The Apocryphal New Testament (Oxford 1924, reprinted 1926, 1945, 1950) 472-475.
  6. [6]P. H. Hallock, “An Apocalypse of SS. Andrew and Paul”, JSOR 13 (1929) 190-194. He suppressed 144-146.
  7. [7]W. H. Worrell, A Short Account of the Copts (Ann Arbor 1945) 21-22 et 53. Fragment translated: 72-129.
  8. [8]E. Hennecke-W. Schneemelcher, Neutestamentliche Apokryphen in deutscher Übersetzung3. II (Tübingen 1964) 403. English Trans. (London 1965) 576.
  9. [9]P. Lexa, La magie dans l’Egypte antique, de l’Ancien Empire jusqu’à l’époque copte. II (Paris 1925) 223-225. Passages translated: 50-64; 152-171; 179-205.
  10. [10]S. Morenz, “Der Apostel Andréas als νέος Σάραπις”, TLZ 72 (1947) col. 295-297.
  11. [11]J. Zandee, Death as an Enemy, according to Ancient Egyptian Conceptions (Studies in the History of Religions, Supplements to Numen 5; Leiden 1960).

Alin Suciu on the Berlin-Strasbourg Apocryphon / ‘Gospel of the Savior’

Alin Suciu notes on his blog that he has successfully defended his PhD thesis.  The content of it is very interesting indeed, and thankfully he has made it available online here:

Apocryphon Berolinense/Argentoratense (Previously Known as the Gospel of the Savior). Reedition of P. Berol. 22220, Strasbourg Copte 5-7 and Qasr el-Wizz Codex ff. 12v-17r with Introduction and Commentary.

He notes:

My thesis is about a Coptic text which is largely known as the “Gospel” of the Savior. Although this titles suggests that the text is an uncanonical apocryphal gospel, literary evidences which I document in my thesis firmly indicate that the text does not belong to this genre, but it is rather one of the numerous “memoirs” of the apostles and disciples, which were composed in Coptic, most likely after the Council of Chalcedon (451 CE). Sometimes, the pseudo-apostolic memoirs were incorporated into sermons attributed to the Fathers of the Coptic Church.

The fact that the text belongs to a well-defined genre, formed mostly of homilies with apocryphal insertions, has caused me to eschew the label “gospel,” which I find unsatisfactory and misleading. Instead, I have chosen to call the text the Apocryphon Berolinense/Argentoratense (ApoBA), after the location of the two main manuscripts. In fact, the label “apocryphon” is larger and more generous than “apocryphal gospel.”

The publication of the Berlin papyrus 22220, under the title of the “Gospel of the Savior” (by Paul Mirecki and Charles Hedrick) took place in 1999, and some notes upon it prior to that time, probably in 1998, were among my earliest online endeavours.  Those notes may be found here.

Rather foolishly the editors and/or their publisher decided to engage in a bit of Christian baiting in the press.  This must certainly have alienated a good many of those who might otherwise have purchased their book.  Papyrology owes its existence to massive public funding, raised for the purpose of discovering new words of Jesus at Oxyrhynchus, more than a century ago.  For papyrologists to indulge in religious animosity is to cut their own throats, and the discipline remains chronically underfunded.

Thankfully the serious Coptic scholars have come to the rescue of the text.  Few of us, after all, have a proper knowledge of Coptic literature; it is, indeed, hard to acquire in the absence of a decent handbook.   Alin Suciu’s knowledge of Coptic literature is already wide, and he has done excellent work on fragments.  The thesis that the work is an original Coptic composition of the 5-6th century, is one that few will rush to disagree with, or be equipped to do so.

It seems entirely sensible to use the neutral term “Berlin-Strasbourg Apocryphon”, rather than rushing to tangle the text up with the New Testament; although, as he rightly supposes, the use of the term “gospel” will linger in the literature and republications of translations for a while yet.

Like most people, I was unaware of the genre of the “memoirs of the apostles”, and this casts an interesting light on Coptic apocrypha in general.

The thesis is in English, but with a French abstract.  It contains a semi-diplomatic re-edition of the three Sahidic manuscripts: Berlin, Papyrussammlung, P. Berol. 22220; Strasbourg, Bibliothèque Nationale et Universitaire, Copte 4-7a; Aswan, Nubian Museum, Special Number 168, ff. 12v-17r (= the Qasr el-Wizz codex), with introduction and commentary, plus a translation.  Suciu gives a detailed history of the find and reception of the text among scholars, and highlights the important work done by Coptologist Steven Emmel in analysing the text and recognising its connections to other work.

Recommended.  If you are interested in the work at all, get your copy now.  I have no doubt at all that this will become a book in short order.


The Letter of Pilate to Tiberius

One item that floats around the web is the Letter of Pilate to Tiberius.  It appeared in English translation in the Ante-Nicene Fathers vol. 8 (here), and from there to all sorts of other places.  Another translation appears online in The Lost Books of the Bible, 1926[1]

Here is the ANF translation:

The Letter of Pontius Pilate
Which He Wrote to the Roman Emperor, Concerning Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Pontius Pilate to Tiberius Caesar the emperor, greeting.

Upon Jesus Christ, whose case I had dearly set forth to thee in my last, at length by the will of the people a bitter punishment has been inflicted, myself being in a sort unwilling and rather afraid. A man, by Hercules, so pious and strict, no age has ever had nor will have. But wonderful were the efforts of the people themselves, and the unanimity of all the scribes and chief men and elders, to crucify this ambassador of truth, notwithstanding that their own prophets, and after our manner the sibyls, warned them against it: and supernatural signs appeared while he was hanging, and, in the opinion of philosophers, threatened destruction to the whole world. His disciples are flourishing, in their work and the regulation of their lives not belying their master; yea, in his name most beneficent. Had I not been afraid of the rising of a sedition among the people, who were just on the point of breaking out, perhaps this man would still have been alive to us; although, urged more by fidelity to thy dignity than induced by my own wishes, I did not according to my strength resist that innocent blood free from the whole charge brought against it, but unjustly, through the malignity of men, should be sold and suffer, yet, as the Scriptures signify, to their own destruction. Farewell, 28th March.

So what is this item?  The ANF introductory notice is very unhelpful.  New Testament Apocrypha[2] does not mention it at all.  Nor does a Google Books search produce much.

Fortunately I have on my shelves a copy of J. K. Elliot’s The Apocryphal New Testament[3] and this has a section on the apocryphal Pilate literature.  Our item appears on p.206-8.

The work is written in renaissance Latin, probably in the 16th century.[4] The letter cannot be traced any earlier than the renaissance,[5].  It was composed in Latin[6].

Tischendorf printed the Latin text,[7] based on four witnesses, which he obtained from earlier publications:

  • Chas. — the text printed by Chassanaeus in part 4 of his catalogi gloriae mundi, 1571.
  • Flor. — the text printed by Florentinius in Martyrolog. vet. Hieronymi, p.113 (and reprinted by Fabricius).
  • Bodl. — the text printed by Abrah. Gronovius in the preface to his edition of the works of Tacitus in 1721, from an ms. or mss. of the works of Tacitus from the Bodleian library in Oxford.
  • Ven. — the text which Tischendorf himself obtained from a manuscript in Venice, Marcianus class. X. num. CXXXIV.  The ms. is 16th century.

The text had previously been edited by Fabricius[8], Thilo[9], and Giles[10].

Note that the Letters of Pilate and Herod exist in a Syriac version of the 6-7th century,[11], followed by that of Walker in the ANF in 1870.[13]  Another translation appeared in 1915 from A. Westcott.[14]

A Google search reveals an “epistola Pilati” is contained in the British Library ms. Cotton Titus D. xix, on f.88-89, but this is probably the epistola Pilati ad Claudium.[15]

There is also a Letter of Tiberius to Pilate, in Greek.[16] This also is a late production, not earlier than the 11th century.  This takes an unfavourable view of Pilate and alludes to a journey by Mary Magdalene to Rome to accuse Pilate.[17]

  1. [1]Copied from the Cowper translation of 1867.  The introductory words may be found on Cowper, p.389, here.
  2. [2]W. Schneemelcher, New Testament Apocrypha, 2 vols, Eng. tr. 1991.
  3. [3]J. K. Elliot, The Apocryphal New Testament, Clarendon 1993.
  4. [4]Z. Izydorczyk, The Medieval Gospel of Nicodemus, Arizona, 1997, p.8, gives the following description: “Epistola Pilati ad Tiberium: Pilate reveals that he sentenced Christ partly through his own weakness but partly through his loyalty to the emperor. This letter, which again presents Pilate in a positive light, was written in Renaissance Latin, probably in the sixteenth century.” and “Geerard, Clavis no. 68; Starowieyski, Apokryfy, 476″. Online here.
  5. [5]Elliot, p.206.
  6. [6]Elliot, p.207
  7. [7]Tischendorf, Evangelia Apocrypha, Leipzig, (2nd) 1876, p.lxxvi-lxxviii, p. 433-4. Online here.
  8. [8]J. A. Fabricius, Codex Apocryphus Novi Testamenti, 4 vols, Hamburg, 2nd ed., 1719. p.300-1.
  9. [9]J. C. Thilo, Codex Apocryphus Novi Testamentum, vol. i, Leipzig, 1832, p.801-2
  10. [10]J. A. Giles, Codex Apocryphus Novi Testamenti: The uncanonical Gospels and other Writings, London, 1852, vol. ii, p.14; so J.K.Elliot, but in the online copy of that work, I found that the reference did not seem to be correct.
  11. [12]
  12. [11]Texts and Studies, 5, p.xlviii.[/ref] but the Letter of Pilate to Tiberius is not  one of these.

    The first English translation was made in 1867 by B.H.Cowper[12]B.H.Cowper, The Apocryphal Gospels and Other Documents relating to the History of Christ, Edinburgh, 1867, p.398-9.  Cowper tells us, p.xx, that he is translating Tischendorff.  There is no introduction to the “Epistle of Pontius Pilate” in Cowper.

  13. [13]A. Walker, Apocryphal Gospels, Acts and Revelations, Ante-Nicene Christian Library vol. 16, Edinburgh, 1870.  The Ante-Nicene Fathers series is a rearranged and pirated US edition of the Edinburgh series.
  14. [14]A. Westcott, The Gospel of Nicodemus and Kindred Documents, London, 1915, p.119-20. I was unable to access this, but possibly US readers may be able to do so, in which case I should be glad of a copy.
  15. [15]A catalogue online here, where the work follows the Gospel of Nicodemus.  Compiled by Nigel Ramsay, who gives a bibliography including, “The Gospel of Nicodemus. Gesta Salvatoris, ed. H.C. Kim (Toronto, 1973), chapter xxviii. [Epistola Pilati.]”
  16. [16]Epistola Tiberii ad Pilatum. Edited in Texts and Studies, second series, vol. 5, 1893.  Introduction on p.xlix-l; Greek text on p.77-82.
  17. [17]See this post on this letter.