Get the CD Now!

Apocalypse of Sedrach

Second to Fifth Century A.D.

Discuss this text or ask a question on the official Early Writings forum. Anyone can post.

Online Text for Apocalypse of Sedrach

Online Resources for Apocalypse of Sedrach

Offline Resources for Apocalypse of Sedrach

Information on Apocalypse of Sedrach

James Charlesworth writes (The Pseudepigrapha and Modern Research, pp. 178-179):

This pseudepigraphon is extant only in a fifteenth-century Greek manuscript preserved in the Bodleian Library (Cod. Misc. Gr. 56, ff. 92-100). It was partially edited by M. R. James (Apocrypha Anecdota [T&S 2.3] Cambridge: CUP, 1893 [repr. 1967]. Pp. 130-37), and this edition was translated into English by A. Rutherford (ANF 10. Pp. 175-80).

Very little critical work has been published on this pseudepigraphon. It is probably neither a Jewish work as C. C. Torrey intimated ("Apocalypse," The Jewish Encyclopedia1 [1901] col. 674) nor a Christian redaction of a Jewish writing as P. Riessler suggested (no. 62, p. 1274). It appears to be a late Christian farrago of Jewish traditions (cf. A.-M. Denis, no. 24, pp. 97-99; and R. Meyer, no. 1233). Although extremely difficult to date, it may have been compiled sometime in the third or fourth century A.D. (contrast H. Weinel in Gunkel Festschrift, pp. 158-60). The author borrows directly from Job, Paul, John, the Testament of Abraham (cf. M. R. James, The Testament of Abraham [T&S 2.2] Cambridge: CUP, 1892 [repr. 1967]; pp. 31-33, 66), the Apocalypse of Ezra (cf. the comparisons outlined by James in Apocrypha Anecdota, p. 128), 2 Baruch, and 4 Ezra (cf. the parallels outlined by James in Apocrypha Anecdota, p. 129). The Christian elements are pervasive: "concerning...orthodox Christians, and the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (preface); "his only begotten (monogene) Son" (chp. 9); "and they obeyed neither apostles nor my word in the Gospels" (chp. 14).

It is difficult to follow James' suggestion (Testament of Abraham, p. 32; Apocrypha Anecdota, p. 129) that this pseudepigraphon embodies two separate documents, one a homily on love and the other an apocalypse. The connection between these two, which James missed, is that God's actions are motivated mainly by love (chp. 8; cf. outline below). The work was probably compiled from diverse writings by one person who prefaced the whole compilation as follows: "The word of the holy and blessed Sedrach concerning love, repentance, orthodox Christians, and the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." It is not inconceivable, however, that two independent compositions, with some similar ideas, when combined were introduced by the preface.

James divided the text into sixteen chapters. Apparently under the influence of Paul and John the author praises "love" (agape; 1). With a rough transition typical of the compiler, Sedrach is introduced as one who aspired to talk with God. "A voice" (he phone) takes him up into the third heaven (2). Sedrach converses with the Lord and receives answers to his questions; for example, he asks why god made the earth and is told "for the sake of man" (dia ton anthropon; 3). Sedrach laments man's condition (4), and wonders why God, if he loves (egapesas) man, willed Adam's deceitfulness (sou thelematos epatethe, despota mou, ho Adam; 5). God replies that Adam, although he was given everything, became a sinner (6). Sedrach repeats his opinion that man failed because of God's will (sou thelematos hermarten), and pleads for God to save man and protect him from sin (7). God's answer is eloquent: "But I have permitted him to have (his own) will because I loved (egapesa) him."

God now asks Sedrach a few questions, similar to those in Job, forcing him to confess that only God knows such things (8). God sends his son to take Sedrach's soul, but Sedrach, as Abraham in the Testament of Abraham, refuses to do so (9). Sedrach asks God from whence he will take the soul, and receives the answer that, although it is scattered throughout the body, it comes out through the lungs, heart, throat, and mouth (10). Sedrach, weeping, catalogues the physical qualities of his body that will soon be interred (11), and asks Christ about the forgiveness of sinners. He receives the assurance that repeentance "for three years" will erase the memory of all (pasas) his sins (12). Sedrach succeeds in reducing the three years to forty days (13), and then beseeches Michael to help him attain God's mercy for the world; but is told of man's continuous failures (14). Sedrach again pleads for God's compassion (15) and sympathy for sinners, moving God to reduce the forty days to twenty. God takes Sedrach's soul and places him in Paradise with all the saints (16). Running throughout the entire work, despite rough transitions and tensions sometimes caused by employing numerous disrelated sources, is the love motif and the appeal for God's forgiveness.

S. Agourides writes: "Much of the doctrinal content of Sedrach is atypical of medieval Christianity and many other elements of the Apocalypse are more Jewish than Christian (see below, 'Provenance'). Where 'Christ' is briefly mentioned, the term seems to be a substitute for the name of the Jewish archangel Michael. While no precise dates can be given, it appears that the Apocalypse was originally composed between A.D. 150 and 500, and that it was joined together with the sermon on love and received its final form shortly after A.D. 1000." (The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, vol. 1, p. 606)

Please buy the CD to support the site, view it without ads, and get bonus stuff!

Early Jewish Writings is copyright © 2001-2013 Peter Kirby <E-Mail>.

Get the CD Now!

Kirby, Peter. Early Jewish Writings. <>.