APOCALYPSE OF PETER
From "The Apocryphal New Testament"
M.R. James-Translation and Notes
Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1924
We have not a pure and complete text of this book, which ranked
next in popularity and probably also in date to the Canonical
Apocalypse of St. John.
We have, first, certain quotations made by writers of the
first four centuries.
Next, a fragment in Greek, called the Akhmim fragment, found
with the Passion-fragment of the Gospel of Peter in a manuscript
known as the Gizeh MS. (discovered in a tomb) now at Cairo. This
is undoubtedly drawn from the Apocalypse of Peter: but my present
belief is that, like the Passion fragment (see p. 90), it is
part of the Gospel of Peter, which was a slightly later book
than the Apocalypse and quoted it almost in extenso. There is
also in the Bodleian Library a mutilated leaf of a very tiny
Greek MS. of the fifth century which supplies a few lines of
what I take to be the original Greek text.
Thirdly, an Ethiopic version contained in one of the numerous
forms of the books of Clement, a writing current in Arabic and
Ethiopic purporting to contain revelations of the history of
the world from the Creation, of the last times, and of guidance
for the churches -dictated by Peter to Clement. The version of
the Apocalypse contained in this has some extraneous matter at
the beginning and the end; but, as I have tried to show in a
series of articles in the Journal of Theological Studies (1910-11)
and the Church Quarterly Review (1915), it affords the best general
idea of the contents of the whole book which we have. The second
book of the Sibylline Oracles contains (in Greek hexameters)
a paraphrase of a great part of the Apocalypse: and its influence
can be traced in many early writings -the Acts of Thomas (55-57),
the Martyrdom of Perpetua, the so-called Second Epistle of Clement,
and, as I think, the Shepherd of Hermas: as well as in the Apocalypse
of Paul and many later visions.
The length of the book is given in the Stichometry of Nicephorus
as 300 lines and in that of the Codex Claromontanus (D of the
Epistle) as 270: the latter is a Latin list of the Biblical books;
already cited for the Acts of Paul.
There is no mention of it in the Gelasian Decree, which is
curious. At one time it was popular in Rome for the Muratorian
Canon mentions it (late in the second century?) along with the
Apocalypse of John though it adds, that 'some will not have it
read in the church.' The fifth-century church historian Sozomen
(vii. 19) says that to his knowledge it was still read annually
in some churches in Palestine on Good Friday.
A translation of the ancient quotations shall be given first.
1. From Clement of Alexandria's so-called Prophetical Extracts,
a series of detached sentences excerpted from some larger work,
generally supposed to be his Hypotyposes or Outlines:
a. (41.1) The Scripture saith that the children which have
been exposed (by their parents) are delivered to a care-taking
angel by whom they are educated, and made to grow up, and they
shall be, it saith, as the faithful of an hundred years old are
here (in this life). b. (41. 2) Wherefore also Peter in the Apocalypse
saith: And a flash (lightning) of fire leaping from those children
and smiting the eyes of the women.
2. Ibid. (48 . 1 ) The providence of God doth not light upon
them only that are in the flesh. For example, Peter in the Apocalypse
saith that the children born out of due time (abortively) that
would have been of the better part (i. e. would have been saved
if they had lived) -these are delivered to a care-taking angel,
that they may partake of knowledge and obtain the better abode,
having suffered what they would have suffered had they been in
the body. But the others (i.e. those who would not have been
saved, had they lived) shall only obtain salvation, as beings
that have been injured and had mercy shown to them, and shall
continue without torment, receiving that as a reward.
But the milk of the mothers, flowing from their breasts and
congealing, saith Peter in the Apocalypse, shall engender small
beasts (snakes) devouring the flesh, and these running upon them
devour them: teaching that the torments come to pass because
of the sins (correspond to the sins).
3. From the Symposium (ii.6) of Methodius of Olympus (third
century). He does not name his source. Whence also we have received
in inspired writings that children born untimely -even if they
be the offspring of adultery- are delivered to care-taking angels.
For if they had come into being contrary to the will and ordinance
of that blessed nature of God, how could they have been delivered
to angels to be nourished up in all repose and tranquillity?
And how could they have confidently summoned their parents before
the judgement seat of Christ to accuse them? saying: Thou, O
Lord, didst not begrudge us this light that is common to all,
but these exposed us to death, contemning thy commandment.
The word rendered care-taking in these passages is a very
rare one- [temelouchos, Gr.]: so rare that it was mistaken by
later readers for the proper name of an angel, and we find an
angel Temeluchus in Paul, John, and elsewhere. A similar case
is that of the word Tartaruchus, keeper of hell, which is applied
to angels in our Apocalypse, and is also taken in the Ethiopic
version, in Paul, and in other writings, to be a proper name.
4. From the Apocritica of Macarius Magnes (fourth century)
of whom we know little. His book consists of extracts from a
heathen opponent's attack on Christianity (Porphyry and Hieroclcs
are named as possible authors of it) and his own answers. The
heathen writer says (iv. 6, 7):
And by way of superfluity let this also be cited which is
said in the Apocalypse of Peter. He introduces the Heaven, to
be judged along with the earth, thus: The earth, he says, shall
present all men to God to be judged in the day of judgement being
itself also to be judged along with the heaven that encompasseth
5. Ibid. And this again he says, which is a statement full
of impiety: And every power of heaven shall be melted, and the
heaven shall be rolled up like a book, and all the stars shall
fall like leaves from the vine, and as the leaves from the fig-tree.
This very nearly coincides with Isa. xxxiv.4, and does not
occur in our other texts of the Apocalypse.
6. In an old Latin homily on the Ten Virgins found and published
by Dom Wilmart (Bulletin d'anc. litt. et d'arche'ol. chre't.)
is this sentence:
The closed door is the river of fire by which the ungodly
shall be kept out of the kingdom of God, as is written in Daniel
and in Peter, in his Apocalypse.... That company of the foolish
also shall arise and find the door shut, that is, the fiery river
set against them.
The equivalent of all the above quotations is found in the
Ethiopic text, with one exception, no. 5. The Akhmim text only
contains Something like no. 1 b: one indication out of many that
it is a shortened and, I would say, secondary text.
THE AKHMIM FRAGMENT
which I should prefer to call Fragment II of the Gospel of
Peter. It begins abruptly in a discourse of our Lord.
1 Many of them shall be false prophets, and shall teach ways
and diverse doctrines of perdition. 2 And they shall become sons
of perdition. 3 And then shall God come unto my faithful ones
that hunger and thirst and are afflicted and prove their souls
in this life, and shall judge the sons of iniquity.
4 And the Lord added and said: Let us go unto the mountain
(and) pray. 5 And going with him, we the twelve disciples besought
him that he would show us one of our righteous brethren that
had departed out of the world, that we might see what manner
of men they are in their form, and take courage, and encourage
also the men that should hear us.
6 And as we prayed, suddenly there appeared two men standing
before the Lord (perhaps add, to the east) upon whom we were
not able to look. 7 For there issued from their countenance a
ray as of the sun, and their raiment was shining so as the eye
of man never saw the like: for no mouth is able to declare nor
heart to conceive the glory wherewith they were clad and the
beauty of their countenance. 8 Whom when we saw we were astonied,
for their bodies were whiter than any snow and redder than any
rose. 9 And the redness of them was mingled with the whiteness,
and, in a word, I am not able to declare their beauty. 10 For
their hair was curling and flourishing (flowery), and fell comely
about their countenance and their shoulders like a garland woven
of nard and various flowers, or like a rainbow in the air: such
was their comeliness.
11 We, then, seeing the beauty of them were astonied at them,
for they appeared suddenly. 12 And I drew near to the Lord and
said: Who are these? 13 He saith to me: These are your (our)
righteous brethren whose appearance ye did desire to see. 14
And I said unto him: And where are all the righteous? or of what
sort is the world wherein they are, and possess this glory? 15
And the Lord showed me a very great region outside this world
exceeding bright with light, and the air of that place illuminated
with the beams of the sun, and the earth of itself flowering
with blossoms that fade not, and full of spices and plants, fair-flowering
and incorruptible, and bearing blessed fruit. 16 And so great
was the blossom that the odour thereof was borne thence even
17 And the dwellers in that place were clad with the raiment
of shining angels, and their raiment was like unto their land.
18 And angels ran round about them there. 19 And the glory
of them that dwelt there was all equal, and with one voice they
praised the Lord God, rejoicing in that place.
20 The Lord saith unto us: This is the place of your leaders
(or, high priests), the righteous men.
21 And I saw also another place over against that one, very
squalid; and it was a place of punishment, and they that were
punished and the angels that punished them had their raiment
dark, according to the air of the place. 22 And some there were
there hanging by their tongues; and these were they that blasphemed
the way of righteousness, and under them was laid fire flaming
and tormenting them.
23 And there was a great lake full of flaming mire, wherein
were certain men that turned away from righteousness; and angels,
tormentors, were set over them.
24 And there were also others, women, hanged by their hair
above that mire which boiled up; and these were they that adorned
themselves for adultery.
And the men that were joined with them in the defilement of
adultery were hanging by their feet, and had their heads hidden
in the mire, and said: We believed not that we should come unto
25 And I saw the murderers and them that were consenting to
them cast into a strait place full of evil, creeping things,
and smitten by those beasts, and so turning themselves about
in that torment. And upon them were set worms like clouds of
darkness. And the souls of them that were murdered stood and
looked upon the torment of those murderers and said: O God, righteous
is thy judgement.
26 And hard by that place I saw another strait place wherein
the discharge and the stench of them that were in torment ran
down, and there was as it were a lake there. And there sat women
up to their necks in that liquor, and over against them many
children which were born out of due time sat crying: and from
them went forth rays of fire and smote the women in the eyes:
and these were they that conceived out of wedlock (?) and caused
27 And other men and women were being burned up to their middle
and cast down in a dark place and scourged by evil spirits, and
having their entrails devoured by worms that rested not. And
these were they that had persecuted the righteous and delivered
28 And near to them again were women and men gnawing their
lips and in torment, and having iron heated in the fire set against
their eyes. And these were they that did blaspheme and speak
evil of the way of righteousness.
29 And over against these were yet others, men and women,
gnawing their tongues and having flaming fire in their mouths.
And these were the false witnesses.
30 And in another place were gravel-stones sharper than swords
or any spit, heated with fire, and men and women clad in filthy
rags rolled upon them in torment. [This is suggested by the LXX
of two passages in Job: xli. 30, his bed is of sharp spits; viii.
17, on an heap of stones doth he rest, and shall live in the
midst of gravel-stones.] And these were they that were rich and
trusted in their riches, and had no pity upon orphans and widows
but neglected the commandments of God.
31 And in another great lake full of foul matter (pus) and
blood and boiling mire stood men and women up to their knees
And these were they that lent money and demanded usury upon usury.
32 And other men and women being cast down from a great rock
(precipice) fell (came) to the bottom, and again were driven
by them that were set over them, to go up upon the rock, and
thence were cast down to the bottom and had no rest from this
torment. And these were they that did defile their bodies behaving
as women: and the women that were with them were they that lay
with one another as a man with a woman.
33 And beside that rock was a place full of much fire, and
there stood men which with their own hands had made images for
themselves instead of God, [And beside them other men and women]
having rods of fire and smiting one another and never resting
from this manner of torment....
34 And yet others near unto them, men and women, burning and
turning themselves about and roasted as in a pan. And these were
they that forsook the way of God.
THE BODLEIAN LEAF
It measures but 2 3/4 by 2 inches and has 13 lines of 8 to
10 letters on each side (Madan's Summary Catalogue, No. 31810).
The verso (second page) is difficult to read.
Recto=Gr. 33, 34: women holding chains and scourging themselves
before those idols of deceit. And they shall unceasingly have
this torment. And near
Verso: them shall be other men and women burning in the burning
of them that were mad after idols. And these are they which forsook
the way of God wholly (?) and . . .
THE ETHIOPIC TEXT
First published by the Abbe Sylvain Grebaut in Revue de l'Orient
Chretien, 1910: a fresh translation from his Ethiopic text by
H. Duensing appeared in Zeitschr. f. ntl. Wiss., 1913.
The Second Coming of Christ and Resurrection of the Dead (which
Christ revealed unto Peter) who died because of their sins, for
that they kept not the commandment of God their creator.
And he (Peter) pondered thereon, that he might perceive the
mystery of the Son of God, the merciful and lover of mercy.
And when the Lord was seated upon the Mount of Olives, his
disciples came unto him.
And we besought and entreated him severally and prayed him,
saying unto him: Declare unto us what are the signs of thy coming
and of the end of the world, that we may perceive and mark the
time of thy coming and instruct them that come after us, unto
whom we preach the word of thy gospel, and whom we set over (in)
thy church, that they when they hear it may take heed to themselves
and mark the time of thy coming.
And our Lord answered us, saying: Take heed that no man deceive
you, and that ye be not doubters and serve other gods. Many shall
come in my name, saying: I am the Christ. Believe them not, neither
draw near unto them. For the coming of the Son of God shall not
be plain (i.e. foreseen); but as the lightning that shineth from
the east unto the west, so will I come upon the clouds of heaven
with a great host in my majesty; with my cross going before my
face will I come in my majesty, shining sevenfold more than the
sun will I come in my majesty with all my saints, mine angels
(mine holy angels). And my Father shall set a crown upon mine
head, that I may judge the quick and the dead and recompense
every man according to his works.
And ye, take ye the likeness thereof (learn a parable) from
the fig-tree: so soon as the shoot thereof is come forth and
the twigs grown, the end of the world shall come.
And I, Peter, answered and said unto him: Interpret unto me
concerning the fig-tree, whereby we shall perceive it; for throughout
all its days doth the fig-tree send forth shoots, and every year
it bringeth forth its fruit for its master. What then meaneth
the parable of the fig-tree? We know it not.
And the Master (Lord) answered and said unto me: Understandest
thou not that the fig-tree is the house of Israel? Even as a
man that planted a fig-tree in his garden, and it brought forth
no fruit. And he sought the fruit thereof many years and when
he found it not, he said to the keeper of his garden: Root up
this fig-tree that it make not our ground to be unfruitful. And
the gardener said unto God: (Suffer us) to rid it of weeds and
dig the ground round about it and water it. If then it bear not
fruit, we will straightway remove its roots out of the garden
and plant another in place of it. Hast thou not undErstood that
the fig-tree is the house of Israel? Verily I say unto thee,
when the twigs thereof have sprouted forth in the last days,
then shall feigned Christs come and awake expectation saying:
I am the Christ, that am now come into the world. And when they
(Israel) shall perceive the wickedness of their deeds they shall
turn away after them and deny him [whom our fathers did praise],
even the first Christ whom they crucified and therein sinned
a great sin. But this deceiver is not the Christ. [something
is wrong here: the sense required is that Israel perceives the
wickedness of antichrist and does not follow him.] And when they
reject him he shall slay with the sword, and there shall be many
martyrs. Then shall the twigs of the fig-tree, that is, the house
of Israel, shoot forth: many shall become martyrs at his hand.
Enoch and Elias shall be sent to teach them that this is the
deceiver which must come into the world and do signs and wonders
to deceive. And therefore shall they that die by his hand be
martyrs, and shall be reckoned among the good and righteous martyrs
who have pleased God in their life. [Hermas, Vision III.i.9,
speaks of 'those that have already been well-pleasing unto God
and have suffered for the Name's sake'.]
And he showed me in his right hand the souls of all men, And
on the palm of his right hand the image of that which shall be
accomplished at the last day: and how the righteous and the sinners
shall be separated, and how they do that are upright in heart,
and how the evil-doers shall be rooted out unto all eternity.
We beheld how the sinners wept (weep) in great affliction and
sorrow, until all that saw it with their eyes wept, whether righteous
or angels, and he himself also.
And I asked him and said unto him: Lord, suffer me to speak
thy word concerning the sinners: It were better for them if they
had not been created. And the Saviour answered and said unto
me: Peter, wherefore speakest thou thus, that not to have been
created were better for them? Thou resistest God. Thou wouldest
not have more compassion than he for his image: for he hath created
them and brought them forth out of not being. Now because thou
hast seen the lamentation which shall come upon the sinners in
the last days, therefore is thine heart troubled; but I will
show thee their works, whereby they have sinned against the Most
Behold now what shall come upon them in the last days, when
the day of God and the day of the decision of the judgement of
God cometh. From the east unto the west shall all the children
of men be gathered together before my Father that liveth for
ever. And he shall command hell to open its bars of adamant and
give up all that is therein.
And the wild beasts and the fowls shall he command to restore
all the flesh that they have devoured, because he willeth that
men should appear; for nothing perisheth before God, and nothing
is impossible with him, because all things are his.
For all things come to pass on the day of decision, on the
day of judgement, at the word of God: and as all things were
done when he created the world and commanded all that is therein
and it was done -even so shall it be in the last days; for all
things are possible with God. And therefore saith he in the scripture:
[Ezek. xxxvii.] Son of man, prophesy upon the several bones and
say unto the bones: bone unto bone in joints, sinew. nerves,
flesh and skin and hair thereon [and soul and spirit].
And soul and spirit shall the great Uriel give them at the
commandment of God; for him hath God set over the rising again
of the dead at the day of judgement.
Behold and consider the corns of wheat that are sown in the
earth. As things dry and without soul do men sow them in the
earth: and they live again and bear fruit, and the earth restoreth
them as a pledge entrusted unto it.
[And this that dieth, that is sown as seed in the earth, and
shall become alive and be restored unto life, is man. Probably
How much more shall God raise up on the day of decision them
that believe in him and are chosen of him, for whose sake he
made the world? And all things shall the earth restore on the
day of decision, for it also shall be judged with them, and the
heaven with it.
And this shall come at the day of judgement upon them that
have fallen away from faith in God and that have committed sin:
Floods (cataracts) of fire shall be let loose; and darkness and
obscurity shall come up and clothe and veil the whole world and
the waters shall be changed and turned into coals of fire and
all that is in them shall burn, and the sea shall become fire.
Under the heaven shall be a sharp fire that cannot be quenched
and floweth to fulfil the judgement of wrath. And the stars shall
fly in pieces by flames of fire, as if they had not been created
and the powers (firmaments) of the heaven shall pass away for
lack of water and shall be as though they had not been. And the
lightnings of heaven shall be no more, and by their enchantment
they shall affright the world (probably: The heaven shall turn
to lightning and the lightnings thereof shall affright the world.
The spirits also of the dead bodies shall be like unto them (the
lightnings?) and shall become fire at the commandment of God.
And so soon as the whole creation dissolveth, the men that
are in the east shall flee unto the west,
unto the east; they that are in the south shall flee to the north,
and they that are in the south. And in all places
shall the wrath of a fearful fire overtake them and an unquenchable
flame driving them shall bring them unto the judgement of wrath,
unto the stream of unquenchable fire that floweth, flaming with
fire, and when the waves thereof part themselves one from another,
burning, there shall be a great gnashing of teeth among the children
Then shall they all behold me coming upon an eternal cloud
of brightness: and the angels of God that are with me shall sit
(prob. And I shall sit) upon the throne of my glory at the right
hand of my Heavenly Father; and he shall set a crown upon mine
head. And when the nations behold it, they shall weep, every
Then shall he command them to enter into the river of fire
while the works of every one of them shall stand before them
(something is wanting) to every man according to his deeds. As
for the elect that have done good, they shall come unto me and
not see death by the devouring fire. But the unrighteous the
sinners, and the hypocrites shall stand in the depths of darkness
that shall not pass away, and their chastisement is the fire,
and angels bring forward their sins and prepare for them a place
wherein they shall be punished for ever (every one according
to his transgression).
Uriel (Urael) the angel of God shall bring forth the souls
of those sinners (every one according to his transgression: perhaps
this clause should end the preceding paragraph: so Grebaut takes
it) who perished in the flood, and of all that dwelt in all idols,
in every molten image, in every (object of) love, and in pictures,
and of those that dwelt on all hills and in stones and by the
wayside, whom men called gods: they shall burn them with them
(the objects in which they dwelt, or their worshippers?) in everlasting
fire; and after that all of them with their dwelling places are
destroyed, they shall be punished eternally.
(Here begins the description of torments which we have, in
another text, in the Akhmim fragment.)
Then shall men and women come unto the place prepared for
them. By their tongues wherewith they have blasphemed the way
of righteousness shall they be hanged up. There is spread under
them unquenchable fire, that they escape it not.
Behold, another place: therein is a pit, great and full (of
. . ) In it are they that have denied righteousness: and angels
of punishment chastise them and there do they kindle upon them
the fire of their torment.
And again behold [two: corrupt] women: they hang them up by
their neck and by their hair; they shall cast them into the pit.
These are they which plaited their hair, not for good (or, not
to make them beautiful) but to turn them to fornication, that
they might ensnare the souls of men unto perdition. And the men
that lay with them in fornication shall be hung by their loins
in that place of fire; and they shall say one to another: We
knew not that we should come unto everlasting punishment.
And the murderers and them that have made common cause with
them shall they cast into the fire, in a place full of venomous
beasts, and they shall be tormented without rest, feeling their
pains; and their worms shall be as many in number as a dark cloud.
And the angel Ezrael shall bring forth the souls of them that
have been slain, and they shall behold the torment of them that
slew them, and say one to another: Righteousness and justice
is the judgement of God. For we heard, but we believed not, that
we should come into this place of eternal judgement.
And near by this flame shall be a pit, great and very deep,
and into it floweth from above all manner of torment, foulness,
and issue. And women are swallowed up therein up to their necks
and tormented with great pain. These are they that have caused
their children to be born untimely, and have corrupted the work
of God that created them. Over against them shall be another
place where sit their children [both] alive, and they cry unto
God. And flashes (lightnings) go forth from those children and
pierce the eyes of them that for fornication's sake have caused
Other men and women shall stand above them, naked; and their
children stand over against them in a place of delight, and sigh
and cry unto God because of their parents, saying: These are
they that have despised and cursed and transgressed thy commandments
and delivered us unto death: they have cursed the angel that
formed us, and have hanged us up, and withheld from us (or, begrudged
us) the light which thou hast given unto all creatures. And the
milk of their mothers flowing from their breasts shall congeal,
and from it shall come beasts devouring flesh, which shall come
forth and turn and torment them for ever with their husbands,
because they forsook the commandments of God and slew their children.
As for their children, they shall be delivered unto the angel
Temlakos (i.e. a care-taking angel: see above, in the Fragments).
And they that slew them shall be tormented eternally, for God
willeth it so.
Ezrael the angel of wrath shall bring men and women, the half
of their bodies burning, and cast them into a place of darkness,
even the hell of men; and a spirit of wrath shall chastise them
with all manner of torment, and a worm that sleepeth not shall
devour their entrails: and these are the persecutors and betrayers
of my righteous ones.
And beside them that are there, shall be other men and women,
gnawing their tongues; and they shall torment them with red-hot
iron and burn their eyes. These are they that slander and doubt
of my righteousness. Other men and women whose works were done
in deceitfulness shall have their lips cut off, and fire entereth
into their mouth and their entrails. These are the false witnesses
(al. these are they that caused the martyrs to die by their lying).
And beside them, in a place near at hand, upon the stone shall
be a pillar of fire, and the pillar is sharper than swords. And
there shall be men and women clad in rags and filthy garments,
and they shall be cast thereon, to suffer the judgement of a
torment that ceaseth not: these are they that trusted in their
riches and despised the widows and the woman with fatherless
children . . . before God.
And into another place hard by, full of filth, do they cast
men and women up to the knees. These are they that lent money
and took usury.
And other men and women cast themselves down from an high
place and return again and run, and devils drive them. [These
are the worshippers of idols] and they put them to the end of
their witst (drive them up to the top of the height) and they
cast themselves down. And thus do they continually, and are tormented
for ever. These are they which have cut their flesh as [apostles]
of a man: and the women that were with them . . . and these are
the men that defiled themselves together as women. (This is very
corrupt: but the sense is clear in the (Greek.)
And beside them (shall be a brazier ?) . . . and beneath them
shall the angel Ezrael prepare a place of much fire: and all
the idols of gold and silver, all idols, the work of men's hands,
and the semblances of images of cats and lions, of creeping things
and wild beasts, and the men and women that have prepared the
images thereof, shall be in chains of fire and shall be chastised
because of their error before the idols, and this is their judgement
for ever. (In the Greek they beat each other with rods of fire:
and this is better.)
And beside them shall be other men and women, burning in the
fire of the judgement, and their torment is everlasting. These
are they that have forsaken the commandment of God and followed
the (persuasions ?) of devils.
(Parts of these two sections are in the Bodleian Fragment.
this point the Akhmim fragment ends. The Ethiopic continues :)
And there shall be another place, very high (corrupt sentences
follow. Duensing omits them: Grebaut renders doubtfully: There
shall be a furnace and a brazier wherein shall burn fire. The
fire that shall burn shall come from one end of the brazier).
The men and women whose feet slip, shall go rolling down into
a place where is fear. And again while the fire that is prepared
floweth, they mount up and fall down again and continue to roll
down. (This suggests a narrow bridge over a stream of fire which
they keep trying to cross.) Thus shall they be tormented for
ever. These are they that honoured not their father and mother
and of their own accord withheld (withdrew) themselves from them.
Therefore shall they be chastised eternally.
Furthermore the angel Ezrael shall bring children and maidens
to show them those that are tormented. They shall be chastised
with pains, with hanging up (?) and with a multitude of wounds
which flesh-devouring birds shall inflict upon them. These are
they that boast themselves (trust) in their sins, and obey not
their parents and follow not the instruction of their fathers,
and honour not them that are more aged than they.
Beside them shall be girls clad in darkness for a garment
and they shall be sore chastised and their flesh shall be torn
in pieces. These are they that kept not their virginity until
they were given in marriage, and with these torments shall they
be punished, and shall feel them.
And again, other men and women, gnawing their tongues without
ceasing, and being tormented with everlasting fire. These are
the servants (slaves) which were not obedient unto their masters;
and this then is their judgement for ever.
And hard by this place of torment shall be men and women dumb
and blind, whose raiment is white. They shall crowd one upon
another, and fall upon coals of unquenchable fire. These are
they that give alms and say: We are righteous before God: whereas
they have not sought after righteousness.
Ezrael the angel of God shall bring them forth out of this
fire and establish a judgement of decision. This then is their
judgement. A river of fire shall flow and all judgement (they
that are judged) shall be drawn down into the middle of the river.
And Uriel shall set them there.
And there are wheels of fire and men and women hung thereon
by the strength of the whirling thereof. And they that are in
the pit shall burn: now these are the sorcerers and sorceresses.
Those wheels shall be in a]l decision (judgement, punishment)
by fire without number.
Thereafter shall the angels bring mine elect and righteous
which are perfect in all uprightness, and bear them in their
hands, and clothe them with the raiment of the life that is above.
They shall see their desire on them that hated them, when he
punisheth them, and the torment of every one shall be for ever
according to his works.
And all they that are in torment shall say with one voice:
have mercy upon us, for now know we the judgement of God, which
he declared unto us aforetime, and we believed not. And the angel
Tatirokos (Tartaruchus, keeper of hell: a word corresponding
in formation to Temeluchus) shall come and chastise them with
yet greater torment, and say unto them: Now do ye repent, when
it is no longer the time for repentance, and nought of life remaineth.
And they shall say: Righteous is the judgement of God, for we
have heard and perceived that his judgement is good; for we are
recompensed according to our deeds.
Then will I give unto mine elect and righteous the washing
(baptism) and the salvation for which they have besought me,
in the field of Akrosja (Acherousia, a lake in other writings,
e.g. Apocalypse of Moses -where the soul of Adam is washed in
it: see also Paul 22, 23) which is called Aneslasleja (Elysium).
They shall adorn with flowers the portion of the righteous, and
I shall go . . . I shall rejoice with them. I will cause the
peoples to enter in to mine everlasting kingdom, and show them
that eternal thing (life ?) whereon I have made them to set their
hope, even I and my Father which is in heaven.
I have spoken this unto thee, Peter, and declared it unto
thee. Go forth therefore and go unto the land (or city) of the
west. (Duensing omits the next sentences as unintelligible; Grebaut
and N. McLean render thus: and enter into the vineyard which
I shall tell thee of, in order that by the sickness (sufferings)
of the Son who is without sin the deeds of corruption may be
sanctified. As for thee, thou art chosen according to the promise
which I have given thee. Spread thou therefore my gospel throughout
all the world in peace. Verily men shall rejoice: my words shall
be the source of hope and of life, and suddenly shall the world
(We now have the section descriptive of paradise, which in
the Akhmim text precedes that about hell.)
And my Lord Jesus Christ our King said unto me: Let us go
unto the holy mountain. And his disciples went with him, praying.
And behold there were two men there, and we could not look upon
their faces, for a light came from them, shining more than the
sun, and their rairment also was shining, and cannot be described,
and nothing is sufficient to be compared unto them in this world.
And the sweetness of them . . . that no mouth is able to utter
the beauty of their appearance (or, the mouth hath not sweetness
to express, &c.), for their aspect was astonishing and wonderful.
And the other, great, I say (probably: and, in a word, I cannot
describe it), shineth in his (sic) aspect above crystal. Like
the flower of roses is the appearance of the colour of his aspect
and of his body . . . his head (al. their head was a marvel).
And upon his (their) shoulders (evidently something about their
hair has dropped out) and on their foreheads was a crown of nard
woven of fair flowers. As the rainbow in the water, [Probably:
in the time of rain. From the LXX of Ezek.i.28.] so was their
hair. And such was the comeliness of their countenance, adorned
with all manner of ornament. And when we saw them on a sudden,
we marvelled. And I drew near unto the Lord (God) Jesus Christ
and said unto him: O my Lord, who are these? And he said unto
me: They are Moses and Elias. And I said unto him: Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and the rest of the righteous
fathers? And he showed us a great garden, open, full of fair
trees and blessed fruits, and of the odour of perfumes. The fragrance
thereof was pleasant and came even unto us. And thereof (al.
of that tree) . . . saw I much fruit. And my Lord and God Jesus
Christ said unto me: Hast thou seen the companies of the fathers?
As is their rest, such also is the honour and the glory of
them that are persecuted for my righteousness' sake. And I rejoiced
and believed [and believed] and understood that which is written
in the book of my Lord Jesus Christ. And I said unto him: O my
Lord, wilt thou that I make here three tabernacles, one for thee,
and one for Moses, and one for Elias? And he said unto me in
wrath: Satan maketh war against thee, and hath veiled thine understanding;
and the good things of this world prevail against thee. Thine
eyes therefore must be opened and thine ears unstopped that
a tabernacle, not made with men's hands, which my heavenly Father
hath made for me and for the elect. And we beheld it and were
full of gladness.
And behold, suddenly there came a voice from heaven, saying:
This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased:
my commandments. And then came a great and exceeding white cloud
over our heads and bare away our Lord and Moses and Elias. And
I trembled and was afraid: and we looked up and the heaven opened
and we beheld men in the flesh, and they came and greeted our
Lord and Moses and Elias and went into another heaven. And the
word of the scripture was fulfilled: This is the generation that
seeketh him and seeketh the face of the God of Jacob. And great
fear and commotion was there in heaven and the angels pressed
one upon another that the word of the scripture might be fulfilled
which saith: Open the gates, ye princes.
Thereafter was the heaven shut, that had been open.
And we prayed and went down from the mountain, glorifying
God, which hath written the names of the righteous in heaven
in the book of life.
There is a great deal more of the Ethiopic text, but it is
very evidently of later date; the next words are:
'Peter opened his mouth and said to me: Hearken, my son Clement,
God created all things for his glory,' and this proposition is
dwelt upon. The glory of those who duly praise God is described
in terms borrowed from the Apocalypse: 'The Son at his coming
will raise the dead . . . and will make my righteous ones shine
seven times more than the sun, and will make their crowns shine
like crystal and like the rainbow in the time of rain (crowns)
which are perfumed with nard and cannot be contemplated (adorned)
with rubies, with the colour of emeralds shining brightly, with
topazes, gems, and yellow pearls that shine like the stars of
heaven, and like the rays of the sun, sparkling which cannot
be gazed upon.' Again, of the angels: ' Their faces shine more
than the sun; their crowns are as the rainbow in the time of
rain. (They are perfumed) with nard. Their eyes shine like the
morning star. The beauty of their appearance cannot be expressed....
Their raiment is not woven, but white as that of the fuller,
according as I saw on the mountain where Moses and Elias were.
Our Lord showed at the transfiguration the apparel of the last
days, of the day of resurrection, unto Peter, James and John
the sons of Zebedee, and a bright cloud overshadowed us, and
we heard the voice of the Father saying unto us: This is my Son
whom I love and in whom I am well pleased: hear him. And being
afraid we forgat all the things of this life and of the flesh,
and knew not what we said because of the greatness of the wonder
of that day, and of the mountain whereon he showed us the second
coming in the kingdom that passeth not away.'
Next: ' The Father hath committed all judgement unto the Son.'
The destiny of sinners -their eternal doom- is more than Peter
can endure: he appeals to Christ to have pity on them.
And my Lord answered me and said to me: 'Hast thou understood
that which I said unto thee before? It is permitted unto thee
to know that concerning which thou askest: but thou must not
tell that which thou hearest unto the sinners lest they transgress
the more, and sin.' Peter weeps many hours, and is at last consoled
by an answer which, though exceedingly diffuse and vague does
seem to promise ultimate pardon for all: 'My Father will give
unto them all the life, the glory, and the kingdom that passeth
not away,' . . . 'It is because of them that have believed in
me that I am come. It is also because of them that have believed
in me, that, at their word, I shall have pity on men.' The doctrine
that sinners will be saved at last by the prayers of the righteous
is, rather obscurely, enunciated in the Second Book of the Sibylline
Oracles (a paraphrase, in this part, of the Apocalypse), and
in the (Coptic) Apocalypse of Elias (see post).
Ultimately Peter orders Clement to hide this revelation in
a box, that foolish men may not see it. The passage in the Second
Book of the Sibylline Oracles which seems to point to the ultimate
salvation of all sinners will be found in the last lines of the
translation given below.
The passage in the Coptic Apocalypse of Elias is guarded and
obscure in expression, but significant. It begins with a sentence
which has a parallel in Peter.
The righteous will behold the sinners in their punishment,
and those who have persecuted them and delivered them up. Then
will the sinners on their part behold the place of the righteous
and be partakers of grace. In that day will that for which the
(righteous) shall often pray, be granted to them.
That is, as I take it, the salvation of sinners will be granted
at the prayer of the righteous.
Compare also the Epistle of the Apostles, 40: 'the righteous
are sorry for the sinners, and pray for them.... And I will hearken
unto the prayer of the righteous which they make for them.'
I would add that the author of the Acts of Paul, who (in the
Third Epistle to the Corinthians and elsewhere) betrays a knowledge
of the Apocalypse of Peter, makes Falconilla, the deceased daughter
of Tryphaena, speak of Thecla's praying for her that she may
be translated unto the place of the righteous (Thecla episode,
My impression is that the maker of the Ethiopic version (or
of its Arabic parent, or of another ancestor) has designedly
omitted or slurred over some clauses in the passage beginning:
'Then will I give unto mine elect', and that in his very diffuse
and obscure appendix to the Apocalypse, he has tried to break
the dangerous doctrine of the ultimate salvation of sinners gently
to his readers. But when the Arabic version of the Apocalypse
is before us in the promised edition of MM. Griveau and Grebaut,
we shall have better means of deciding.
SECOND BOOK OF THE SIBYLLINE ORACLES, 190-338
It seems worth while to append here a translation of that
portion of the Second Book which is most evidently taken from
the Apocalypse of Peter. It may be remarked that Books I and
II of the oracles really form but one composition, which is Christian
and may be assigned to some time not early in the second century,
or to the third. Many lines are borrowed from the older books,
especially III and VIII.
After saying (1.187) that Elias will descend on earth and
do three great signs, it proceeds:
190 Woe unto all them that are found great with child in that
day, and to them that give suck to infant children, and to them
that dwell by the sea (the waves). Woe to them that shall behold
that day. For a dark mist shall cover the boundless world, of
the east and west, the south and north. And then shall a great
river of flaming fire flow from heaven and consume all places,
the earth and the great ocean and the grey sea, lakes and rivers
and fountains, and merciless
200 Hades and the pole of heaven: but the lights of heaven
shall melt together in one and into a void (desolate) shape (?).
For the stars shall all fall from heaven into the sea (?), and
all souls of men shall gnash their teeth as they burn in the
river of brimstone and the rush of the fire in the blazing plain,
and ashes shall cover all things. And then shall all the elements
of the world be laid waste, air, earth, sea, light poles, days
and nights, and no more shall the multitudes of birds fly in
the air nor swimming creatures any more swim the sea no ship
shall sail with its cargo over the waves;
210 no straight-going oxen shall plough the tilled land; there
shall be no more sound of swift winds, but he shall fuse all
things together into one, and purge them clean.
214 Now when the immortal angels of the undying God Barakiel,
Ramiel, Uriel, Samiel, and Azael, [These names are from Enoch.]
knowing all the evil deeds that any hath wrought aforetime -then
out of the misty darkness they shall bring all the souls of men
to judgement, unto the seat of God the immortal, the great.
220 For he only is incorruptible, himself the Almighty, who
shall be the judge of mortal men. And then unto them of the underworld
shall the heavenly one give their souls and spirit and speech,
and their bones joined together, with all the joints, and the
flesh and sinews and veins, and skin also over the flesh, and
hair as before, and the bodies of the dwellers upon earth shall
be moved and arise in one day, joined together in immortal fashion
Then shall the great angel Uriel break the monstrous bars
framed of unyielding and unbroken adamant, of the brazen
230 gates of Hades, and cast them down straightway, and bring
forth to judgement all the sorrowful forms, yea, of the ghosts
of the ancient Titans, and of the giants, and all whom the flood
overtook. And all whom the wave of the sea hath destroyed in
the waters, and all whom beasts and creeping things and fowls
have feasted on: all these shall he bring to the judgement seat;
and again those whom flesh-devouring fire hath consumed in the
flames, them also shall he gather and set before God's seat.
And when he shall overcome Fate and raise the dead, then shall
Adonai Sabaoth the high thunderer sit on his heavenly
240 throne, and set up the great pillar, and Christ himself,
the undying unto the undying, shall come in the clouds in glory
with the pure angels, and shall sit on the seat on the right
of the Great One, judging the life of the godly and the walk
of ungodly men.
And Moses also the great, the friend of the Most High shall
come, clad in flesh, and the great Abraham himself shall come,
and Isaac and Jacob, Jesus, Daniel, Elias, Ambacum (Habakkuk),
and Jonas, and they whom the Hebrews slew: and all the Hebrews
that were with (after ?) Jeremias shall be judged at the judgement
seat, and he shall destroy them, that they may receive a due
reward and expiate all that they did in their mortal life.
And then shall all men pass through a blazing river and unquenchable
flame, and the righteous shall be saved whole all of them, but
the ungodly shall perish therein unto all ages, even as many
as wrought evil aforetime, and committed murders, and all that
were privy thereto, liars, thieves, deceivers, cruel destroyers
of houses, gluttons, marriers by stealth, shedders of evil rumours,
sorely insolent lawless, idolaters: and all that forsook the
great immortal God and became blasphemers and harmers of the
godly, breakers of faith and destroyers of righteous men. And
all that look with guileful and shameless double faces -reverend
priests and deacons- and judge unjustly, dealing perversely,
obeying false rumours . . . more deadly than leopards and wolves,
and very evil: and all that are high-minded, and usurers that
heap up in their houses usury out of usury and injure orphans
and widows continually: and they that give alms of unjust gain
unto widows and orphans, and they that when they give alms of
their own toil, reproach them; and they that have forsaken their
parents in their old age and not repaid them at all, nor recompensed
them for their nurture; yea, and they that have disobeyed and
spoken hard words against their parents: they also that have
received pledges and denied them, and servants that have turned
against their masters; and again they which have defiled their
flesh in lasciviousness, and have loosed the girdle of virginity
in secret union, and they that make the child in the womb miscarry,
and that cast out their offspring against right: sorcerers also
and sorceresses with these shall the wrath of the heavenly and
immortal God bring near unto the pillar, all round about which
the untiring river of fire shall flow. And all of them shall
the undying angels of the immortal everlasting God chastise terribly
with flaming scourges, and shall bind them fast from above in
fiery chains, bonds unbreakable. And then shall they cast them
down in the darkness of night into Gehenna among the beasts of
hell, many and frightful, where is darkness without measure.
And when they have dealt out many torments unto all whose
heart was evil, thereafter out of the great river shall a wheel
of fire encompass them, because they devised wicked works. And
then shall they lament apart every one from another in miserable
fate, fathers and infant children, mothers and sucklings weeping,
nor shall they be sated with tears nor shall the voice of them
that mourn piteously apart be heard (?); but far under dark and
squalid Tartarus shall they cry in torment, and in no holy place
shall they abide and expiate threefold every evil deed that they
have done, burning in a great flame; and shall gnash their teeth,
all of them worn out with fierce thirst and hunger (al. force
violence), and shall call death lovely and it shall flee from
them: for no more shall death nor night give them rest, and oft-times
shall they beseech in vain the Almighty God, and then shall he
openly turn away his face from them. For he hath granted the
limit of seven ages for repentance unto men that err, by the
hand of a pure virgin.
But the residue which have cared for justice and good deeds,
yea, and godliness and righteous thoughts, shall angels bear
up and carry through the flaming river unto light, and life without
care, where is the immortal path of the great God; and three
fountains, of wine and honey and milk. And the earth, common
to all, not parted out with walls or fences, shall then bring
forth of her own accord much fruit, and life and wealth shall
be common and undistributed. For there shall be no poor man,
nor rich, nor tyrant, nor slave, none great nor small any longer,
no kings, no princes; but all men shall be together in common.
And no more shall any man say ' night is come ', nor ' the morrow
', nor ' it was yesterday '. He maketh no more of days, nor of
spring, nor winter, nor summer, nor autumn, neither marriage,nor
death, nor selling, nor buying, nor set of sun, nor rising. For
God shall make one long day.
And unto them, the godly, shall the almighty and immortal
God grant another boon, when they shall ask it of him. He shall
grant them to save men out of the fierce fire and the eternal
gnashing of teeth: and this will he do, for he will gather them
again out of the everlasting flame and remove them else whither,
sending them for the sake of his people unto another life eternal
and immortal, in the Elysian plain where are the long waves of
the Acherusian lake exhaustless and deep bosomed;
Some artless iambic lines of uncertain date are appended here,
which show what was thought of the doctrine:
' Plainly false: for the fire will never cease to torment
the damned. I indeed could pray that it might be so, who am branded
with the deepest scars of transgressions which stand in need
of utmost mercy. But let Origen be ashamed of his lying words,
who saith that there is a term set to the torments.'