The Lost Apocrypha of the Old Testament/Adam

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search




We hear of quite a considerable number of books attributed to, or relating to, Adam: an Apocalypse, a Penitence, a Testament, a Life, are the foremost. As to the first three of these titles, there is uncertainty as to whether they represent one, two, or three books. Perhaps it will be possible to form an opinion when the evidence has been set out.

The Apocalypse of Adam is expressly and certainly quoted only once.

In the Epistle of Barnabas, ii. 10, we read: "But to us he speaks thus: 'The sacrifice of God is a contrite heart; a savour of sweetness to the Lord is a heart glorifying Him that hath formed it.'" Upon this the Constantinople MS. has this marginal note: "Psalm 1. and in the Apocalypse of Adam." The first clause is, of course, familiar, occurring in Ps. 1. (li.); the second is not from the Bible. Yet two early Fathers, namely, Clement of Alexandria and Irenæus, quote it in this form—Clement twice—always in connexion with the passage Isa. i. 11, which, be it noted, Barnabas has also quoted just before. We need not doubt the statement that the words occurred in the Apocalypse of Adam. They have to do with repentance, and plainly repentance was a favourite topic in connexion with Adam. The Gelasian Decree and an Armenian list, we have seen, mention a Penitence of Adam. In the Gnostic book called the Pistis Sophia, by the way, the word penitence has a technical meaning; it is applied to the hymns sung by the being Pistis vSophia on her progress through the spiritual world; each hymn is called "a penitence."

Further, we have another passage which connects together the ideas of repentance and of a revelation made to Adam. George Cedrenus, a Byzantine chronicler, says (ed. Migne, i. 41): "Adam, in the 6ooth year, having repented, learned by revelation concerning the Watchers and the Flood and concerning repentance and the divine incarnation, and concerning the prayers that are sent up to God by all creatures at every hour of the day and night, by the hand of Uriel, the angel that is over repentance. In the first hour of the day the first prayer is accomplished in heaven, in the second hour is the prayer of angels, in the third the prayer of winged things, in the fourth the prayer of cattle, in the fifth the prayer of wild beasts, in the sixth the assembly (or review) of angels and the discerning (or inspection) of all creation, in the seventh the entering in of angels to God and their going out, in the eighth the praise and sacrifices of angels, in the ninth the prayer and worship of men, in the tenth the visitations of waters and the prayers of things in heaven and on earth, in the eleventh the thanksgiving and rejoicing of all things, in the twelfth the entreatings of men unto well-pleasing." He goes on: "And in the 950th year Adam died, on the very day of his transgression, and returned unto the earth from whence he was taken, leaving thirty-three sons and twenty-three daughters."

This horary of the day, and also that of the night, we possess in various other forms. One is in Greek, and has survived under the name, not of Adam, but of Apollonius (of Tyana), the famous thaumaturge of the first century. The latest editor of it. Abbé F. Nau (in Patrologia Syriaca, i. 2, Appendix, 1907), is of opinion that it may really be attributed to Apollonius or his circle, and that it was transferred from his book to that of Adam; but his case is a weak one: the text is full of Christian touches, and the evidence that it was originally under Adam's name is earlier in date than any that can be produced for Apollonius.

The horary seems also to have been known in the Latin Church. Nicetas of Remesiana, writing in the fourth century On the Merit of Psalmody, has this sentence: "We ought not rashly to receive the book that is entitled the Inquisition of Abraham, wherein it is feigned that the very animals, springs, and elements sang, inasmuch as that book is of no credit and rests on no authority." I conjecture (and others agree) that Inquisition of Abraham (Inquisitio Abræ) is a corruption of Dispositio (i. e. Testament) Adæ.

We have it also in Syriac, where it is said to be from the Testament of Adam. There are two Syriac versions, edited and translated by Kmosko, in the volume of the Patrologia Syriaca referred to above. One of these has this introductory note: "When he was sick unto death, he called Seth his son, and said to him: My son, He that formed me out of the dust showed me and granted me to put names upon the beasts of the earth and the fowls of heaven, and showed me the hours of the day and night, how they stand."

And more than once Adam speaks in the first person, e. g. at the fourth hour of the night: "The Trisagion of the Seraphim: thus I used to hear, my son, before I sinned, the sound of their wings in Paradise, and after I had transgressed the commandment I heard it not."

There is thus a prima facie case for thinking that the Apocalypse, Penitence, and Testament of Adam, if not identical, at least contained a good deal of common matter.

The Syriac MSS. of the horary, or some of them, append to it other passages which purport to come from the Testament. One of these is a prophecy of the coming of Christ, addressed to Seth. Of this we have two texts, the second very much amplified. After the prophecy is another prediction that a flood will come because of the sin of Cain, and that the world will last 6000 years after that. Then follows the statement: "I, Seth, wrote this testament: Adam died and was buried on the east of Paradise, over against the first city that was built, named Henoch. He was buried by the angels, and the sun and moon were darkened seven days. Seth sealed the Testament and laid it up in the Cave of Treasures with the gold, frankincense, and myrrh which Adam brought out of Paradise, and which the Magi are to offer to the Son of God in Bethlehem of Judah."

This, of course, is throughout Christian, and the mention of the Cave of Treasures links it up with a whole series of Eastern books, such as the Book of Adam and Eve (tr. S. C. Malan), the Cave of Treasures (ed. Bezold), the Book of the Rolls (Gibson, Studia Sinaitica, viii.).

The last fragment has really no claim to be connected with Adam at all. It is an account of the nine orders of angels in which there is mention of David, Zechariah, and Judas Maccabæus.

If the horary and the prophecy were parts of the same book, it was a Christian, or at least a fully Christianized text, and not a very early one. Yet I find it difficult not to suspect the existence of an early book behind it. The last words of Tertullian's book On Penitence seem to imply that he knew of some writing in which Adam's praises of God after his repentance were recorded. He says: "For, since I am a sinner of the deepest dye, and not born for any end except repentance, I cannot easily keep silence about it (i. e. repentance), and no more does Adam—the beginner both of the race of men and of sin against the Lord—when by confession he has been restored unto his Paradise." No more may be meant than that Adam, now that he is redeemed and restored, sings praise to God; but the other view has usually been taken, and if it is correct it means that there was in the second century a book that contained hymns uttered by Adam after his fall and repentance. The phrase quoted from the Epistle of Barnabas might well be a fragment of such a writing.

Certain it is that legend was busy with accounts of the penitence of Adam: of the attempt made by him and Eve to do penance apart for forty days in the waters of the Tigris and Euphrates—an attempt frustrated by Satan, who disguised himself as an angel and induced Eve to come out of the water on the pretence that God had forgiven and forgotten all. This story appears both in the Eastern Book (or Conflict) of Adam and Eve, and in the Latin Life of Adam. The common source of these widely divergent streams must lie far behind both.

The Life of Adam has been mentioned. In some form it has made its way into most of the vernaculars of Europe, usually by means of the Latin version, which is common in MSS. from the ninth to the fifteenth century. It and its elder sister, or parent, the Greek, may be read in English in Charles's Pseudepigrapha, and I need not analyze either further than to say that the Greek and Latin both contain detailed accounts of the Fall, and of the Death and Burial of Adam, while the Latin also has, as noted above, something about his Penitence. But these were not the only Lives of Adam that were current. A text of a different kind is quoted by George Syncellus in his Chronography, p. 5. He says: I have been necessitated (by the silence of the canonical Scriptures, he means) to give some explanation of this matter (i. e. the dates of Adam's life), such as other historians of Jewish antiquities and Christian history have recorded out of the Leptogenesis (i. e. the Book of Jubilees) and the so-called Life of Adam—though they may not seem authoritative—lest those interested in such questions should fall into extravagant opinions. In the so-called Life of Adam, then, is set forth both the number of the days of the naming of the beasts, and that of the creation of the woman and of the entrance of Adam himself into Paradise, and of the precept of God to him about the eating of the tree, and of the entry of Eve into Paradise with him, and the story of the Fall and what followed it, as is subjoined.

"On the 1st day of the week, which was the 3rd day of the creation of Adam and the 8th of the 1st month Nisan, and the 1st of the month of April, and 6th of the Egyptian month Pharmouthi, Adam by a divine gift of grace named the wild beasts. On the 2nd day of the 2nd week he named the cattle; on the 3rd day of the 2nd week he named the fowls; on the 4th day of the 2nd week he named the creeping things; on the 5th day of the 2nd week he named those that swim. On the 6th day of the 2nd week, which was, according to the Romans, the 6th of April, and according to the Egyptians the 11th of Pharmouthi, God took a part of the rib of Adam and formed the woman.

"On the 46th day of the creation of the world, the 4th day of the 7th week, the 14th of Pachon, and 9th of May, the sun being in Taurus and the moon diametrically opposite in Scorpius, at the rising of the Pleiads, God brought Adam into Paradise on the 40th day from his creation.

"On the 50th day of the creation of the world, and 44th of that of Adam, being Sunday the 18th of Pachon and 13th of May, three days after his entry into Paradise, the sun being in Taurus and the moon in Capricorn, God commanded Adam to abstain from eating of the tree of knowledge.

"On the 93rd day of the creation, the 2nd day of the 46th week, at the summer solstice, the sun and moon being in Cancer, on the 25th of the month of June and 1st of Epiphi, Eve the helpmeet of Adam was brought by God into Paradise, on the 80th day of her creation, and Adam took her and named her Eve, which is interpreted Life. Therefore God ordained by Moses in Leviticus, on account of the days of the separation (of Eve from Adam) after her creation, out of Paradise, that the woman should be unclean 40 days after the birth of a male child, and 80 days after the birth of a female. For Adam was brought into Paradise on the 40th day of his creation, wherefore also they bring male children into the Temple on the 40th day according to the Law. But for a female child she is to be unclean 80 days, both because Eve entered into Paradise on the 80th day, and also because of the impureness of the female compared with the male; for when she is unclean she does not enter the Temple until 7 days after, according to the Law of God.

"This we have copied shortly out of the so-called Life of Adam for the information of students."

Now, although George Syncellus expressly distinguishes the Leptogenesis (Book of Jubilees) from the Life of Adam, and subsequently gives quotations avowedly made from it, the fact remains that practically all that he quotes from the Life of Adam occurs in Jubilees (iii. 1-11). The month-reckonings and the astronomical details are not there, but all the facts are. It has been held that the Life was an amplified episode taken from Jubilees, or that it is merely another name for Jubilees. The former is to my mind the more likely explanation, for there is another bit of evidence in favour of the separate existence of such a writing. Anastasius of Sinai, writing at the end of the sixth century, says (on the Hexameron, vii. p. 895): "The Hebrews assert, on the authority of a book not included in the Canon, which is called the Testament of the Protoplasts, that Adam entered Paradise on the 40th day, and that is the view also of a historian, the chronographer Pyrrho, and of many commentators."

This Testament may very well have been the same as Syncellus's Life. I think we need not greatly regret that we do not possess this Life or Testament: we probably have most of the matter of it either in Jubilees or in the Greek and Latin texts I have described.

The Apocalypse-Testament would have been more interesting, with its hymns of the repentant Adam and the Messianic predictions which I do not doubt that it contained. One more testimony to its existence must be put on record. Epiphanius (Heresy, 26), treating of the "Borborite" Gnostics, makes (in § 5) this quotation: "Reading in apocryphal writings that 'I saw a tree bearing twelve fruits in the year, and he said to me, "This is the tree of life,"' the heretics interpret it" in a way which need not be remembered. Later on (in § 8) he says that they use "Apocalypses of Adam" as well as other spurious books. The plural is merely rhetorical. It has been assumed, plausibly enough, that the quotation about the tree—which nearly coincides with Rev. xxii. 2—is from the Apocalypse of Adam; but this is no more than an assumption. The importance of the passage is that it gives fourth-century evidence of the currency of the Apocalypse.

Upon the whole I incline (in spite of the evidence of Samuel of Ani) to the opinion that there were two outstanding Adam-books of Jewish origin. One, the Apocalypse (Testament, Penitence), which is gone, except for a few quotations; the other the Life, which is represented in its main features by the Latin and Greek texts (Vita Adæ et Evæ, and "Apocalypse of Moses").


The only book current under this name was a "Gospel," and Epiphanius is the only authority for its existence. In the same 26th Heresy (2, 3) he says: "Others do not scruple to speak of a Gospel of Eve, for they father their offspring upon her name, as supposedly the discoverer of the food of knowledge by revelation of the serpent that spake to her." "Their words," he goes on, "like those of a drunkard, are fit to move sometimes laughter, sometimes tears. They deal in foolish visions and testimonies in this Gospel of theirs." Thus: "I stood upon a high mountain, and I saw a tall man and another, a short man, and I heard as it were the voice of thunder, and drew near to hearken, and he spake to me and said: 'I am thou and thou art I. And wheresoever thou art, there am I, and I am dispersed among all things, and whence thou wilt thou canst gather me, and in gathering me thou gatherest thyself.'" This is pantheistic stuff, of a kind, one would suppose, very easy to write, if a model were furnished. I give it a place here only for the sake of completeness: it is no more an Old Testanient apocryph than it is a gospel.


Seth was in like manner the ostensible author of many Gnostic books. But there is a passage both in Syncellus and Cedrenus which deserves to be quoted as possibly preserving a notice of a lost writing under his name, of less eccentric character. I quote Cedrenus (ed. Migne, col. 8): "Seth is recorded as the third son of Adam. He married his own sister, called Asouam, and begat Enos. Seth signifies resurrection. He was also called God, because of the shining of his face, which lasted all his life. Moses also had this grace, and so veiled himself when he spoke with the Jews, for forty years. Seth gave names to the seven planets, and comprehended the lore of the movements of the heavens. He also prepared two pillars, one of stone and one of brick, and wrote these things upon them." (The rest of this familiar story from Josephus is then given.) "He also devised the Hebrew letters. Now Seth was born in the 230th year of Adam, and was weaned when he was twelve years old, and in the 270th year of Adam Seth was caught away by an angel and instructed in what concerned the future transgression of his sons (that is to say, the Watchers, who were also called Sons of God), and concerning the Flood and the coming of the Saviour. And on the fortieth day after he had disappeared, he returned and told the protoplasts all that he had been taught by the angel. He was comely and well-formed, both he and those that were born of him, who were called Watchers and Sons of God because of the shining of the face of Seth. And they dwelt on the higher land of Eden near to Paradise, living the life of angels, until the 1000th year of the world."

Dr. Charles may be right in regarding this statement (about the revelations made to Seth) as an attempt to transfer to him the wisdom and the position which properly belonged to Enoch. Still, there is evidence, at any rate, of Messianic prophecies attributed to Seth, besides those which Adam revealed to him, and which