Posted by on Jul 27, 2016 in Library | Comments Off on APOCRYPHAL WRITINGS

In ancient times some writers fabricated apocryphal treatises of the Old Testament which were spread among the Eastern Christians especially the Syrians. Among these are the Parva Genesis or The Book of Jubilees, the Testament of Adam of which only fragments remain,1 the Book entitled the Cave of Treasures2 ascribed to St. Ephraim, and the Conversation of Moses with God on Mount Sinai published by Hall in Chicago in 1888. In 1887 William Wright published a Psalm and four songs, one of which was Psalm 151, which begins, “I was young in the house of my father”, taken from the Septuagint. The first song was the prayer of King Hezekiah when he was pressed by his enemies, the second was the song of the Israelites when Cyrus permitted them to return to their country, the third and the fourth were the songs chanted by King David after he wrestled with and killed the wolf and the lion which had each snatched a lamb from his flock. Also, the Apocalypse of Baruch was published by Ceriani in the Book of Ezra and the fourth book of Maccabees.3 The latter was republished by Barnes with six Syriac texts relating to the martyrdom of the Maccabees. Mention has also been made of the story of Ahiqar (abridged from an Aramaic copy written earlier than the Book of Tobit in the seventh or fifth centuries B.C.) which was published by Rendel Harris in Cambridge in 1898 and translated into French by Francis Nau in 1909.
The apocryphal writings of the New Testament translated from the Greek are extensive. There is, however, an obvious difference between them and the originals such as the Testament of Our Lord which appears in the Consittutions Apostolorum, believed to have been written in the beginning of the fifth century, the fabricated Gospel of the Infancy of our Lord also written in the fifth century and later the Doctrina Apostolorum written in the middle of the third century, the letter of St. Jacob Bishop of Jerusalem to the Christian Italian Cydorotus informing him of the judgement of Tiberius Caesar against the Jews, and the minutes of the trial of our Lord before Pontius Pilate (which was copied from the Gospel of Nicodemus together with the letters of Herod and Pilate whose copy was found in the Didascalia Apostolorum preserved in our Church in Midyat and is believed to have been transcribed around the eighth century). It was published by Mgr. Rahmani in the second volume of his Studia Syriaca.4
Regarding the story of the Virgin Mary and the Life of Our Lord on Earth, it may be said that they were abridged from the protevangelium Jacobi and the Gospels of St. Matthew, the Gospel of the Infancy of Our Lord or the Gospel of St. Thomas the Hebrew and the Gospel of the Nativity and Assumption of the Virgin in six chapters (extant in many libraries, one being a copy from our patriarchal library in Hims finished in 1468; it was translated into English and published by Wright in London in 1865,5 and was republished by Mrs. A. Lewis in 1902 after a copy in the Library of Mount Sinai.) The story of the Virgin Mary was translated into English and published by Budge in 1899.

Moreover, there survive in Syriac only The Story of Pilate, the Funeral of the Virgin, the Apocalypse of St. Paul, the Death of John, and the Acts of Matthew, Andrew and Thecla.6 The Gospel of the Apostles written in the eighth century was published by Rendel Harris in 1900. A great many copies of the Acts and martyrdom of Peter and Paul, the Life of St. John, the Acts of Philip and the Apostle Thomas called Judas Thomas also survive. There are several copies of these acts apparently written in Syriac around 332 with a Gnostic touch especially the Song of the Soul which is unique and of authentic Syriac origin. It was versified in a six-syllable meter containing one hundred and five refrains. It was edited, translated and published by Bevan in 1897. Also preserved in Syriac are the texts of two treatises on virginity ascribed to St. Clemis (Clement) of Rome (d. 101), but they were most likely written at the end of the third or in the fourth century. The apocryphal teaching of Peter in Rome is of much later period and is remotely connected with the apocryphal Acts of this Apostle.

– Mor Ignatius Aphram Barsoum