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Apocalypse of Elijah

First to Fourth Century A.D.

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James Charlesworth writes (The Pseudepigrapha and Modern Research, pp. 95-97) :

Two works bear this name and should be distinguished as 1 Elijah and 2 Elijah. The first is extant in Coptic fragments which were edited by G. Steindorff (Die Apokalypse des Elias [TU 17] Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1899) and translated into English by H. P. Houghton ("The Coptic Apocalypse. Part III, Akhmimice: 'The Apocalypse of Elias,'" Aegyptus 39 [1959] 179-210). There are also a few minor excerpts and fragments in Greek which are reprinted by A.-M. Denis (no. 23, pp. 103f.).

In its present form the pseudepigraphon is Christian and dates from the third century. Most scholars concur that it derives from an earlier Jewish work, and J.-M. Rosenstiehl (no. 706, pp. 9, 75f.) concludes that the Grundschrift was composed in Egypt during the first century B.C.

The work consists of three large chapters: a parenetic section (1:1-26); an apocalyptic timetable (2:1-44); and legends about the Antichrist (3:1-99).

The second, 2 Elijah, is extant in rabbinic Hebrew; this was edited and translated into German by M. Buttenwieser (Die hebräische Elias-Apokalypse. Leipzig: Pfeiffer, 1897). As far as I know an English translation has not yet been published. Scholars have generally rejected Buttenwieser's claim that this work is as early as A.D. 260, although there are earlier Jewish traditions preserved in it.

2 Elijah purports to be a revelation by Michael to Elijah on Mt. Carmel. Elijah receives a description of Antichrist, perceives how punishment is suffered according to the sin, and sees a revelation concerning the end.

Regarding the common origin of these two apocalypses, little advance has been achieved beyond the position of M. R. James: "But neither of the extant Apocalypses can be supposed to represent the old book faithfully. The Coptic has been Christianized, the Hebrew abridged, and additions made to both." (LAOT, p. 61). Such an early Jewish apocryphon existed, since it is mentioned as the source of 1 Corinthians 2:9 by Origen (Comm. Mt. 27.9); and is listed in the Apostolic Constitutions, the List of Sixty Books, the Synopsis of Pseudo-Athanasius, the Stichometry of Nicephorus, and the Armenian list by Mechithar. Clement of Rome and Clement of Alexandria may have quoted from the early Jewish composition (see the Greek texts reprinted in Denis, no. 23, p. 103).

A Latin apocryphal text entitled Epistula Titi Discipuli Pauli contains a vision of punishments in Gehenna which is attributed to the prophet Elijah. This quotation was edited by D. de Bruyne ("Nouveaux fragments des Actes de Pierre, de Paul, de Jean, d'André, et de l'Apocalpyse d'Elie," RBen 25 [1908] 149-60), and translated into English by M. R. James (LAOT, p. 55). De Bruyne (pp. 153-55), James (p. 54), and F. Maass (no. 702) contend that the excerpt comes from the original Apocalypse of Elijah. It is wise to be hesitant in identifying this quotation with the Apocalypse of Elijah since it is not found in the Coptic or Hebrew texts, and because there were other compositions pseudonymously attributed to Elijah, although some are now lost.

Some of these still extant, at least partially, are a Sahidic fragment in the British Museum (Or. 3581B[6]), which preserves a story on the assumption of Elijah (see W. E. Crum, Catalogue of the Coptic Manuscripts in the British Museum. London: British Museum, 1905; p. 128, no. 291); a late medieval Armenian text entitled "A Short History of the Prophet Elias" (see J. Issaverdens, UWOT, pp. 149-61); and a Falasha composition named "Abba Elijah" (see Leslau's Falasha Anthology, pp. 40-49). Also note the numerous rabbinic legends about Elijah that are mentioned by L. Ginzberg (Legends, vol. 4, pp. 195-235; vol. 6, pp. 316-42).

Emil Schürer writes: "The prophet Elijah has this in common with Enoch, that like him he was taken up to heaven without dying. Consequently in the legends of the saints he is often associated with Enoch, and like this latter could not fail to be regarded as a peculiarly suitable medium through which to communicate heavenly revelations. A writing bearing his name is mentioned in the Constitut. apostol. vi. 16, and in the patristic quotations simply as an Apocryphum. According to the more exact titles given in the lists of the Apocrypha (Ηλια προφητου in Nicephorus, Ηλιου αποκαλυψις in the anonymous list) and in Jerome, this book was a somewhat short apocalyptic work consisting, according to the Stichometry of Nicephorus, of 316 verses. It is often mentioned by Origen and subsequent ecclesiastical writers as being the source of a quotation made by Paul, and which cannot be traced to any part of the Old Testament (1 Cor. ii. 9: καθως γεγραπται: α οφθαλμος ουκ ειδεν και ους ουκ ηκουσεν και επι καρδιαν ανθρωπου ουκ ανεβη κ.τ.λ.). No doubt Jerome strongly protests against the notion that Paul is here quoting an apocryphal work. But the thing is not at all incredible, for do we not find that the Book of Enoch has also been undoubtedly quoted by the author of the Epistle of Jude? If that be so, then this circumstance serves at the same time to prove the early existence and Jewish origin of the Apocalypse of Elijah. This same passage that is quoted in First Corinthians is likewise quoted by Clemens Romanus, chap. xxxiv. fin. Now as non-canonical quotations occur elsewhere in Clement, it is just possible that he, in like manner, has made use of the Apocalypse of Elijah. At the same time it is more likely that he has borrowed the quotation from the First Epistle to the Corinthians. According to Epiphanius, the passage Eph. v. 14 (εγειρε ο καθευδων και αναστα εκ των νεκρων και επιφαυσει σοι ο Χριστοσ) was also taken from our Apocryphum. But seeing that Origen makes no mention of this in his collations of passages of this sort, that statement is of a very questionable character, and probably rests upon some confusion or other. According to Euthalius, Eph. v. 14 was taken from an apocryphal work that bore the name of Jeremiah." (The Literature of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus, pp. 129-130)

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