More Secret Scriptures 5: Pseudo-Memoirs of the Apostles

(The latest in a series of posts about little-known Christian Apocrypha that could not be included in my recent book, Secret Scriptures Revealed: A New Introduction to the the Christian Apocrypha, now available in Europe and to be released in North America in November, 2013. My own copies, alas, are on a very slow boat from the UK to Canada.)

Alin Suciu, administer of his self-titled blog, recently completed his PhD. at University Laval in Quebec. His dissertation—“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”—is available, at lest temporarily, on his blog (HERE). Though I am interested in Suciu’s work on the so-called “Gospel of the Savior,” it is a particular section of his dissertation that attracted my attention. In a chapter entitled, “The Place of the Apocryphon Berolinense/Argentoratense in Coptic Literature” (p. 71-129), Suciu situates the gospel within the genre of what he calls “Pseudo-Memoirs of the Apostles.” The texts are usually found embedded in homilies attributed to such recognized Church Fathers as Cyril of Jeusalem, John Chrysostom, and Basil of Caesarea; the author pauses in his address to quote from a book found, typically, in the home of the mother of John Mark in Jerusalem (mentioned in Acts 12:12), and which contains first-hand testimonies recounting the words and deeds of Jesus. These books are ascribed to particular apostles (e.g., Peter, Bartholomew, and James the Just), disciples of apostles (Stephen, Evodius, Gamiliel, and Prochorus), or to the apostles as a group. Two of these books, the Lament of Mary and the Martyrdom of Pilate, were discussed in my last post. Now that I have read Suciu’s detailed treatment of the topic, I wanted to add a little more to that discussion—if only to help document the material for my own sake.

The Pseudo-Memoirs of the Apostles are a uniquely Coptic genre—though some of the texts survive only in translation into Arabic, Garshuni, Old Nubian, and Ethiopic. Observing Miaphysite Christology in the texts, Suciu places their origins in the context of fifth-century Christological debates, specifically after the Council of Chalcedon in 451 CE (Suciu, p. 122). But the function of the texts is “to lay an apostolic foundation for the different liturgical celebrations of the Coptic church. As the liturgical year became more and more elaborated and the number of feasts increased, the Coptic church felt the necessity to claim apostolic authority for its religious celebrations” (Suciu, p. 118) Two of the most well-known of the group of texts, the Book of Bartholomew and the History of Joseph the Carpenter, do not us the homiletic framework and the claim of a manuscript discovery, but they otherwise accord well with other features of the genre.

Here follows a complete list of the Pseudo-Memoirs of the Apostles texts enumerated by Suciu (and reproduced with his permission). I have listed the most readily available editions of the texts; more complete information is provided by Suciu.

Homily On the Life and the Passion of Christ attributed to Cyril of Jerusalem (CPG 3604; clavis coptica 0113). Includes Peter’s narration of events of Holy Week as found by a certain Theodosius in the house of the mother of John Mark. Cyril needed assistance in reading the book from a certain Bachios, who is said to come from a monastery near Ascalon. Published in Roelof van den Broek, Pseudo-Cyril of Jerusalem on the Life and the Passion of Christ (Brill, 2013) (discussed previously HERE and HERE). Available in Sahidic.

A homily on the apostles attributed to the same Bachios (clavis coptica 0067) which contains apocryphal insertions. Published in F. Morard, “Homélie copte sur les apôtres au Jugement Dernier,” in D.H. Warren et al. (eds.), Early Christian Voices in Texts, Traditions and Symbols. Essays in Honor of François Bovon (Biblical Interpretation Series, 66; Boston – Leiden: Brill, 2003) 417-430. Available in Coptic.

A homily on Mary Magdalene attributed to Cyril of Jerusalem (CANT 73; clavis coptica 0118). From a book in the house of the mother of John Mark ascribed to a certain Simon the Eunuch, a disciple of the apostles. Published in R.-G. Coquin, “Un encomion copte sur Marie-Madeleine attribué à Cyrille de Jérusalem,” Bulletin de l’Institut français d’archéologie orientale 90 (1990): 169-212. Includes portions of the Cave of Treasures as a revelation of the Archangel Gabriel to Mary Magdalene and Theophilus. Available in Coptic.

Homily on the Virgin attributed to Cyril of Jerusalem (clavis coptica 0005). The author claims to be recounting the life of Mary “as we read it in the writings of our fathers the apostles.” Published in Forbes Robinson, Coptic Apocryphal Gospels. Translations Together with the Texts of Some of Them, Text and Studies, 4/2; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1896 (available HERE).In Sahidic and Arabic.

Homily on the Dormition of the Virgin attributed to Cyril of Jerusalem. Cyril derives his information from a letter which John sent his disciple Prochorus and desposited in the home of Mary, mother of John Mark. Unpublished. Available only in Arabic.

On the Four Bodiless Creatures attributed to John Chrysostom (CPG 5150.11; clavis coptica 0177). Contains a dialogue between Jesus and his apostles found, again, in the home of Mary, mother of John Mark. Available in Sahidic, Old Nubian, Arabic and Ethiopic. Sahidic text published in C. S. Wansink in L. Depuydt (ed.), Homiletica from the Pierpont Morgan Library 2 vols. (CSCO, 524-525. Scriptores coptici, 43-44; Louvain: Peeters, 1991).

Sermon on the Archangel Michael attributed to Timothy II, patriarch of Alexandria (CPG 2529; clavis coptica 0404). Contains a text attributed to Prochorus, the disciple of John found in the house of the mother of Prochorus (though the Ethiopic witnesses say instead it was written by John himself and found in the home of Mary, mother of John Mark). Available in Sahidic, Ethiopic, and Arabic. Sahidic text published in E.A.W. Budge, Miscellaneous Coptic Texts in the Dialect of Upper Egypt (London: British Museum, 1915; available HERE).

Homily on the Dormition attributed to Cyriacus of Behnesa (CANT 147; 153). Contains a revelation of Christ by John, transcribed by Prochorus, and in the possession of Archelaos, a teacher of Athens. Available in Arabic and Ethiopic (Arabic unpublished). Ethiopic text published in S. Bombeck, Die Geschichte der heiligen Maria in einer alten äthiopischen Handschrift, 2 vols. (Dortmund: Praxiswissen, 2004-2010).

Homily on the Lament of Mary attributed to Cyriacus of Behnesa (CANT 74). Contains a book by Gamaliel and Nicodemus found in the library of Jerusalem. Available in Sahidic, Arabic, Garshuni, and Ethiopic. Arabic version published in A. Mingana, “The Lament of the Virgin,” in Woodbrooke Studies vol. 2 (Cambridge: W. Heffer & Sons, 1928; available HERE).

Homily on the Martyrdom of Pilate attributed to Cyriacus of Behnesa (CANT 75). A continuation of the Lament of Mary, attributed also to Gamaliel and found in the library of Jerusalem. Available in Garshuni and Ethiopic. Garshuni text published in A. Mingana, “Martyrdom of Pilate” in Woodbrooke Studies vol. 2 (Cambridge: W. Heffer & Sons, 1928; available HERE).

Homily attributed to Basil of Caesarea on the building of the first church dedicated to the Virgin (CPG 2970; clavis coptica 0073). The homily mentions the Lament of Mary and the Martyrdom of Pilate and incorporates a letter purported to be by Luke, all found, again in the house of the mother of John Mark. Available in Bohairic, Arabic, and Ethiopic. Bohairic text published in M. Chaîne, “Catéchèse attribuée à Saint Basile de Césarée. Une lettre apocryphe de Saint Luc,” Revue de l'Orient Chrétien 23 (1922/23) 150-159, 271-302.

Homily on the Flight of the Holy Family to Egypt attributed to Cyriacus of Behnesa (no clavis number). Incorporates a book written by Joseph found in Jerusalem. Available in Arabic. Summary provided in P. Dib, “Deux discours de Cyriaque évêque de Behnésa sur la Fuite en Égypte,” Revue de l'Orient Chrétien 15 (1910): 157-161.

Homily on the Archangel Gabriel attributed to the Archelaos, here associated not with Athens but Neapolis or another town, depending on the source) (clavis coptica 0045). Incorporates a book written by the apostles and found in a library of the monastery of St. Romanos (in Palestine). Available in Sahidic/Bohairic, Ethiopic, and Arabic. Bohairic text published in H. De Vis, Homélies coptes de la Vaticane vol. 2 (Coptica, 5; Copenhagen: Gyldendalske Roghandel-Nordisk Forlag, 1929).

Sermon for the celebration of the Dormition of the Virgin attributed to Theodosius of Alexandria (CPG 7153; clavis coptica 0385). Contains information the author found in ancient records in Jerusalem, but came into his hands in the library of the holy Mark in Alexandria. Available in Bohairic and Arabic. Bohairic text published in M. Chaîne, “Sermon de Théodose patriarche d’Alexandrie sur la dormition et l’assomption de la Vierge,” Revue de l'Orient Chrétien 29 (1933/34): 272-314.

Encomium on Abbaton, the angel of death, attributed to Timothy Aelurus (CPG 2530; clavis coptica 0405). Said to be written by the apostles and deposited in the library of Jerusalem. Available in Sahidic, published in E. A. W. Budge, Coptic Martyrdoms in the Dialect of Upper Egypt (London: British Museum, 1914; available HERE).

A book of the Virgin concerning her adventures with the apostle Matthias in the town of Bartos, from a homily attributed to Cyril of Jerusalem (BHO 654; CANT 281.2). Available in Coptic, Arabic, and Ethiopic. Coptic text published in Forbes Robinson, Coptic Apocryphal Gospels. Translations Together with the Texts of Some of Them (Text and Studies, 4/2; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1896; available HERE).

A homily on John Baptist attributed to John Chrysostom (CPG 5150.3; CANT 184; clavis coptica 0170) which contains a book attributed to James the Just. Available in Sahidic and Arabic. Coptic text published in E. A. W. Budge, Coptic Apocrypha in the Dialect of Upper Egypt (London: British Museum, 1913; available HERE). Recent French translation by Anne Boud‘hors in F. Bovon and P. Geoltrain (eds.), Écrits apocryphes chrétiens vol. 1 (Bibliothèque de la Pléiade; Paris: Gallimard, 1997, p. 1552-1578).

Sermon on the Dormition attributed to Cyril of Alexandria, containing a book attributed to James the Just (apparently an adaptation of the Syriac Transitus).

Texts not embedded in homilies:

History of Joseph the Carpenter (BHO 532-533; CANT 60; clavis coptica 0037). The opening of the text says that Jesus related Joseph’s life to the apostles and they deposited the book in the Library at Jerusalem. Available in Coptic and Arabic. Widely published, most recently in Bart Ehrman and Zlatko Plese, The Apocryphal Gospels (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011).

Book of Bartholomew (CANT 80; clavis coptica 0027). Available in Sahidic. Published in E. A. W. Budge, Coptic Apocrypha in the Dialect of Upper Egypt (London: British Museum, 1913; available HERE), and readily available in W. Schneemelcher, New Testament Apocrypha, vol. 2 (trans. R. McL. Wilson; Kentucky: Westminster John Knox, 1991).

Enthronement of Gabriel attributed to Stephen (clavis coptica 0378). Features a dialogue between Christ and the apostles concerning the angelic world. Available in Sahidic and Coptic. Published in C. D. G. Müller, Die Bücher der Einsetzung der Erzengel Michael und Gabriel 2 vols. (CSCO, 225-226. Scriptores coptici, 31-32; Louvain: Sécretariat du CorpusSCO, 1962).

The Mysteries of John the Evangelist (clavis coptica 0041). Contains a vision of John in which a Cherub reveals to him the mysteries of the heavens. Available in Coptic (Sahidic and Bohairic). Published in E. A. W. Budge, Coptic Apocrypha in the Dialect of Upper Egypt (London: British Museum, 1913; available HERE).

Enthronement of Michael attributed to John the Evangelist. Available in Coptic, Old Nubian, and Ethiopic. Published by C. D. G. Müller, Die Bücher der Einsetzung der Erzengel Michael und Gabriel 2 vols. (CSCO, 225-226. Scriptores coptici, 31-32; Louvain: Sécretariat du CorpusSCO, 1962).

Homily on the Dormition attributed to Evodius (CANT 133; clavis coptica 0151). Available in Coptic (Sahidic and Bohairic). Evodius is the bishop of Rome in Coptic tradition but also known as the disciple of Peter and his immediate successor on the episcopal See of Antioch (in one text he is the brother of Cleopas from Luke 24:13). Published in Forbes Robinson, Coptic Apocryphal Gospels. Translations Together with the Texts of Some of Them, Text and Studies, 4/2; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1896 (available HERE).

Homily on the Passion attributed to Evodius (clavis coptica 0149). Available in Sahidic. Published in Leo Depuydt (ed.), Homiletica from the Pierpont Morgan Library 2 vols. (CSCO, 524-525. Scriptores coptici, 43-44; Louvain: Peeters, 1991).

Homily on the Passion perhaps attributed to Evodius (none of the fragmentary Mss preserve the title) (CANT 81; clavis coptica 0150). Elaborates on the resurrection of Lazarus and contains a long dialogue between Jesus and Thomas. Published in Forbes Robinson, Coptic Apocryphal Gospels. Translations Together with the Texts of Some of Them, Text and Studies, 4/2; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1896 (available HERE).

A fragmentary dialogue between Jesus and the apostles published by C. W. Hedrick, “A Revelation Discourse of Jesus,” Journal of Coptic Studies 7 (2005): 13-15.

Suciu has provided a great service in compiling all of this information on the Pseudo-Memoirs of the Apostles and in situating them in their literary and theological contexts.

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