More Christian Apocrypha Updates 8: The Qasr el-Wizz Codex

[This is the latest in a series of posts on texts to be featured in New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures edited by Brent Landau and I. The material here is incorporated also into the information on the texts provided on my More Christian Apocrypha page].

The tenth/eleventh-century Coptic Qasr el-Wizz codex contains two texts: the Discourse of the Savior and the Dance of the Savior. The first of these is a post-resurrection dialogue between Jesus and the apostles set four days before his ascension. Peter begins the dialogue by asking Jesus about the "mystery of the cross." Jesus responds that he will bring the cross with him upon his return to judge the living and the dead. This is to "reveal the shame" of the "law-breaking Jews" who crucified him. The cross will stand beside him in the valley of Josaphat and all those who have performed acts of piety (e.g., feeding the hungry, and notably, writing books in praise of the cross) will stand under its shadow. After Jesus has judged everyone, the righteous will follow the cross as it rises into the heavens. Jesus then tells the apostles to proclaim the cross to the whole world.

The second text, the Dance of the Savior, also takes place on the Mount of Olives, but this time before the crucifixion (perhaps as an expansion of Mark 14:26//Matt 26:30). Jesus gathers the apostles around him and sings a hymn in four parts. The cross again takes center-stage, with Jesus singing such lines as "I will give my light to you, O Cross" and "Receive me to you, O Cross," to which the apostles respond with "Amen." Dance Sav. is preserved also in an Old Nubian manuscript.

Of the two texts, Dance Sav. is perhaps the most well-known. It has been discussed in connection with the Gospel of the Savior (aka the Apocryphon Berolinense/Argentoratense). Alin Suciu has argued that Dance Sav. is an excerpt from Gos. Sav. Other scholars, such as Pierluigi Piovanelli, have discussed the text alongside other hymns/dances in Christian Apocrypha, such as Acts of John 94-95 and sections of Pistis Sophia and the Books of Jeu. Paul Dilley, who translates both texts for our volume, focuses on how both texts from the codex assert their orthodoxy over against these other texts, which encourage hiding the "mysteries" of the hymns, whereas Discourse Sav., at least, urges the apostles to proclaim them. Indeed, these texts seem to have originated in a liturgical setting and bolster the view that Gos. Sav. is not as unorthodox in Coptic Christianity as its first editors believed.

For more from Paul Dilley on these texts, read his article "Jesus as Lord of the Dance," published recently in Biblical Archeology Review.

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