Neglected Apocrypha: the Book of the Rolls

I mentioned in a recent post that I had been  reading a little-known apocryphal text called the Book of the Rolls, also known in the manuscripts under several other names: the Apocalypse of Peter (not to be confused with the second-century Greek/Ethiopic work of the same name nor the Coptic text from Nag Hammadi), the Apocalypse of Simon, Clement, the Testament of Our Lord, or the Testament of Our Savior. The text is extant in Garshuni, Arabic, and Ethiopic and appears to have been written by Arabic Christians in Egypt around 800 CE. It is a huge work and has not been fully translated into a modern language; a complete translation would number about 400 pages. The most extensive translation to date is that of Alphonse Mingana, who published images from Mingana, Syr. 77 and translated much of the text (see “Apocalypse of Peter,” in Woodbrooke Studies, vol. 3, Cambridge 1931, 93–449).

 

Few scholars have yet worked on this text, but the early discussions indicate that it draws upon several earlier works from a Syriac milieu and new material was grafted onto the original core over the centuries. Much of the more recent sections of the text comprises apocalyptic visions announcing the coming of Mohammed (referred to as “the follower of the Archon,” “the leader of the children of the wolf,” and “the prophet of falsehood”) and the Islamic conquest of Egypt. In one memorable section, a Christian anti-biography of Mohammed is given by the risen Jesus, which begins: “O Peter, know that when the leader of the children of the wolf appears, he will be taught the faith, which he will learn from the straying sheep who will be banished by my church to the deserts, on account of his teaching about me the beliefs held by the Jews who hate me and my people. He will be a devouring wolf in sheep’s skins” (p. 250). Jesus goes on to say that Mohammed will be befriended by two Jews, who will write him a book (the Qur’an?) “compiled from all the books” (p. 252). It’s interesting to see in this biography some elements of historians’ reconstruction of Mohammed’s origins—that he was influenced by heretical Christians in Arabia, and that the Qur’an has connections with Syriac Christian liturgical texts.

 

Among the older materials incorporated in the text are a portion of the Testament of Abraham, sections of the Pseudo-Clementine Romance, and an otherwise-unknown account of the career of the apostle Paul. This account, found in book eight of the Garshuni version (p. 379–407), presents the apostle to the Gentiles in rather unflattering ways. Though he is converted on the road to Damascus as in Acts, Paul later appears in a pagan temple in Antioch where he challenges Peter to prove the power of Christ over that of the pagan deities. After successfully performing a series of miracles, Peter is then challenged to restore to life the king’s son, who has been dead for three years. Peter does so and the king and his court become believers. Then Paul reveals he only pretended to be a pagan in order to orchestrate the king’s conversion.

 

A similar contest occurs in Rome, this time leading to the conversion of the emperor (!). On both occasions Peter is surprised at Paul’s actions. After some tales of Peter and Paul’s missionary activities in North Africa and Ethiopia, the text concludes with Peter instructing his disciple Clement to write down all that he has revealed to him and to deposit the book in the archives of Rome. He then says, “As God liveth no one ought to divulge these mysteries to Paul [or be he Paul] or those who resemble him” (p. 405). He goes on to describe Paul as the one “who had tampered with the language of the books” (p. 406). The Garshuni Book of the Rolls is difficult to decipher, so conclusions about its contents must be tentative; nevertheless, it is tempting to see in this account of Paul evidence for the conflict between early groups of Jewish and Gentile Christians, a conflict seen also in the Pseudo-Clementine Romance, some of which is incorporated in this text.

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5 Responses to Neglected Apocrypha: the Book of the Rolls

  1. SethTsaddik says:

    Mohammed has nothing to do with this Trinitarian pre Islamic text.

    At all. Paul is the Wolf of Benjamin.

    Duh.

  2. akabekamekka says:

    Obviously a text written in 800AD not naming Mohammed (saws), and based of a Islamic compatible Clementine tradition which this is but a later spin off of that STILL says nothing about Mohammed (saws).

    In both Syriac literature (John bar Penkaye), Jewish (Secrets of Simeon ben Yohai) and John Nikiou of Egypt, 1&2 he (saws) is called “A Prophet” and protector 0f both communities in the 7th-8th centuries.

    Nikiou laments the Coptic Monophysite Christians sided with the Ummah of Muslims against their own Emporer Heraclius.

    And this was written in Arabic first, Garshuni and Syriac second, according to the translator, obviously isn’t talking about Mohammed (saws) just the preconceived notion that Islam didn’t get along with it’s neighbors, a false one demonstrated in Muslim, Syriac-Christian and Coptic, in the beginning.

    Where is the connection? That it says something about a false prophet and a Christian read it? Because Mohammed (saw) had already died, it’s obvious they’d include his (saw) in an Apocalypse, or sn identifying characteristic, none of which appear.

    Sad state of the Christian mind when an anti Pauline text (Islam is anti Pauline) is also forced to be assumed anti Islamic without saying anything of the sort.

  3. akabekamekka says:

    It’s so dishonest to present this text as talking about the Prophet (saws) as if it mentions him (saw) by name.

    I have all 8 files on pdf, manchesterescholar.com, and it NEVER SAYS Mohammed (saws) ONCE, uses letters for people not names, and doesn’t get much right in the way of matching historical persons to predicted ones, even retroactively predicted ones, no point is Mohammed hinted at (saws) in this ENTIRE series, this author is a liar and wants to believe it’s about Mohammed (saws) but isn’t honest enough to make clear it doesn’t actually mention him or his characteristics, AT ALL, which is why quotes are scant, and the only time you mention the Prophet (saw) it’s YOUR words.

    We Muslims expect this level of dishonesty, it’s the m.o. of Trinitarian pagan-polytheist Paulinists to take out their frustration at knowing Paul is a false prophet but take it out ignorantly and by slandering Islam.

    Hoe honorable! Make a revered Muslim Prophet, Issa al Masih (p), say what YOU WANT.

    Woe that day, to the deniers!

  4. akabekamekka says:

    Wolf is obviously a reference to “Wolf of Benjamin.”

    Mohammed (saw) was NOT Israelite, nor a Herodian Jew like Saul/Paul, who ACTUALLY IS MENTIONED AS A FALSIFIER OF BOOKS!!!

    It is in fasciculus 8, the last, that Paul is revealed as the false prophet, in 6 that these alleged prophecies about Mohammed (saw) are retroactively applied without using his name(saw) which would have been done to add authority to a pseudepigraphal Apocalypse, like S. of ben Yohai at least identifies him by characteristics unmistakable.

    The facts are Abrahamic religions got along inside the Ummah and Christians seek to distort the reality knowing the horrible condition of Europe at that time, Byzantium on the decline for corruption, Mohammed (saw) was a blessing, half the Jews of Medina became Muslims in his time

  5. akabekamekka says:

    No wonder the link is to something else!!!

    Manchesterescholar has it, 1-8, 8 is where Paul is said to not be trusted “or any like him.”

    Obviously fulfilling the earluer Prophecy of Wolf of Benjamin.

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