Page:LostApocryphaOfTheOldTestamentMRJames.djvu/31

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13
THE OLD TESTAMENT

often tried to be with Noe in the ark" (when it was being built, I understand), "and was not permitted, for the Archon who created the world wished to destroy her with all the rest in the flood; and she, they say, seated herself on the ark and set fire to it, not once or twice, but often, even a first, second, and third time. Hence the making of Noe's ark dragged on for many years, because it was so often burnt by her. For, say they, Noe was obedient to the Archon, but Noria revealed (proclaimed) the Upper Powers and Barbelo, who is of the Powers, and opposed to the Archon, like the other Powers, and taught that the elements that had been stolen from the Mother above by the Archon who made this world and the other gods, angels, and demons who were with him, should be collected from the Power that resides in bodies."

The matter about Barbelo and the Archon is, of course. Gnostic from the beginning; but it is curious to notice that in later legend Noah's wife is often referred to as trying to thwart him. A story is current in two widely separate tongues, Slavonic and English, which shows this.

Noah was enjoined to tell no man that he was making the ark; and, miraculously, his tools made no noise when he worked at it. The devil, anxious to prevent the building, went in human form to Noah's wife and asked her where her husband spent his time so secretly. She could not tell. He effectually roused her jealousy and suspicion, and gave her certain grains. "These," he said, "if put in Noah's drink, will force him to tell you all about it." This happened: Noah gave away the secret, and next day, when he went out to work, the first blow of his axe resounded through all the country-side. An angel came to him and rebuked him for his want of caution. The ark had to be finished with wattle-work.

Such is the tale as told and pictured in a beautiful fourteenth-century English MS., Queen Mary's Prayer-book (Brit. Mus. Royal 2. B. vii.). It is to be found also in a Newcastle mystery play, and in Slavonic