Apocryphal Literature

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Apocryphal Literature

The apocryphal scriptures originate from the early Hebraic religious literature, in which the subject term was used for the secret books that elaborated themes same as those of the Old Testament. In the 2nd century B.C. those scriptures, along with the rest of the Hebraic Old Testament books, were translated into Greek language, and, since they were considered as secret, hidden books, they were given the name Apocrypha (from Gr. apocryphos – hidden away, secret). The first Christians took on The Apocrypha by use of those translations, which started playing a significant role in the Christian literature ever since. The contemporaries of the initial centuries of Christianity showed great interest in some of the main personalities and events of the history depicted in the Old Testament, wanting to learn far more details than those found in the Bible. As a result, spreading of numerous anonymous apocryphal books, which re-elaborated and supplemented the Bible legends, took place at that time. The Apocrypha, which further built on, in an equivalent way, the events and the personalities of the New Testament, emerged simultaneously with the Old Testament scriptures. There was a particular need for the second type of Apocrypha, which contained many incomprehensible and abstract points, plenty of symbolism and allegories, poorly attainable to the vast majority. The writers of those Apocrypha of the Old Testament and of the New Testament remained anonymous; however, sometimes, in order to grant better reliability to their writings, they used to sign them with the names of the earliest Christian writers, with those of some of the apostles and of their scholars.
The number of those “fake” apocryphal texts started increasing during feudalism, when Christianity became an official Church, as a response to which various heresies featured their resistance towards Christianization and the further imposing of the feudal system. Therefore, in the 2nd century the representatives of Christianity set apart the canonical from the scriptures they categorized as non-canonical, and formed an index of “fake” apocryphal books. This procedure was applied in the case of the Apocrypha of the Old Testament, which we got to know through their translation from Hebrew. Those translations were sometimes too free since the translators didn’t know Greek/ Hebrew well. The most diligent copysts and users of the apocrypha were the Bogomils. As a result, certain episodes on their teaching, which do not exist in the scripture that was translated, can be found in the Apocrypha.
Depending on the events and personalities they talk of, The Apocrypha can be divided into two groups: those of the Old and those of the New Testament.
The Apocrypha of the Old Testament were lesser in number because Bogomilsm rejected the largest part of the Old Testament. Nonetheless, as the teaching progressed, especially after the persecution of its followers, they started using some of the legends of the Old Testament convenient for disguising the principles of their dualistic teaching. One such book is The Book of Enoch, written in a form of a vision or an apocalypse, and was declared apocryphal text in the V century, when various dualistic teachings came into use. This apocryphal book was believed to have been written by Enoch himself, the seventh man after Adam, the latter being the first man on Earth according to the Christian legend. In this text Enoch tells the story of his journey through the heavens. Accompanied by the heavenly angels, Enoch traveled the seven skies, where he saw the life in Paradise and in Hell. The angels showed him the paths of the sun and the stars, introduced him to the heavenly dignitaries, made him know of the heavenly angels, and brought him before the Lord’s throne. God himself told Enoch how He had created the world and the first man, and let him know of His own intentions for the future.
This book’s autograph appeared in the Hebraic literature, was translated into Greek, and came to our knowledge through the Byzantine literature.
Of a theme alike is The Book of Baruch, in which a vision (apocalypse) of the life in the heavens, a description of the cosmos, the first couple and their sin are given. Some of the episodes resemble the Bogomils’ teaching (such as the one on the planting of the vine in Paradise by the Satan).
The scripture says that Baruch, thanks to a way of life pleasing to God, was in God’s good graces.
When the Babylonian emperor Nabuchodonosor tore down and robbed Jerusalem, Baruch was consumed by grief. In order to comfort him, God sent him the angel who took him to the heavens and revealed him the secrets of the heavenly life, which were inaccessible to mortals.
The Old Testament apocryphal Book on Adam and Eve is another such scripture aside from the latter apocalyptical apocrypha. It is written in a form of a legend-like narrative, in which the Biblical tale on the first couple, Adam and Eve, and their life after they were expelled from Paradise is further elaborated. This scripture was taken on from the so-called apocryphal folk bible – Palea.
This scripture tells that Adam and Eve had 33 sons and 33 daughters after they were expelled. When Adam reached the age of nine hundred and thirty, he got fatally ill. His son Seth went to God to ask for mercy on his father. However, Archangel Michael told him that there was no cure for Adam and that the day of his death was about to come. He gave Seth three stalks, pine tree, cedar and cypress, for him to take them to his father. For Adam it was a sign he was going to die. He made a wreath out of those three small branches for his head. Later on, the cross on which Jesus Christ got crucified was made of the latter wreath.
According to this apocryphal book Eve lived yet another six years after Adam’s death. She used to tell stories to her grandchildren about the time when she and Adam were expelled from Paradise. Certain details of this scripture, such as the prayer of Adam and Eve in the rivers of Jordan and Tigris for instance, or that of the signing of the contract between Adam and the Satan during the plowing, are of a Bogomils-like, i.e. dualistic origin.
In the medieval literature there is a considerable number of Apocrypha of the New Testament. It is understandable, given that the Bogomils, alike all the rest of the heresies, in the main based their teaching on the New Testament scriptures, i.e. on the gospels and the works of the apostles. Several Apocrypha that depict the life of Jesus, the Holy Mother of God and other personalities of the New Testament in more details than the canonical gospel can be cited here.
The most popular apocryphal scripture is that of the apocalypse of the Mother of Jesus (The Walk of the Holy Mother of God over the Suffering). Much fantasy and realistic depiction were used in this text to illustrate the life of the sinners in Hell.
The heavenly archangel lead the Holy Mother of God through Hell, showing her the sinners and their suffering. One of the major Christian dogmas is God’s trinity – the belief in God the Holy Father, his Son and the Holy Spirit. There was a teaching within the Christian Church that denied this trinity. Church’s rigidity regarding the obedience by the dogmas is well expressed in this scripture. Following the spirit of such severity the writer managed to portray the suffering of the sinners in Hell who had not obeyed by the canon.

AuthorDobrila Milovska
2018-08-21T17:23:37+00:00 August 1st, 2002|Categories: Literature, Reviews, Blesok no. 27|0 Comments