The Lost Apocrypha of the Old Testament/Ezekiel

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More is to be said about Ezekiel. I have elsewhere (J. T. S. xv. 236, 1914) put together what I could find on the subject of the apocryphal Book of Ezekiel. The passages shall be translated here.

The most important is a parable which is quoted by Epiphanius (Hær. lxiv. 10), who is writing against the Origenists and discussing the resurrection of the body. "For the dead shall rise and they that are in the sepulchre shall be raised," says the prophet (cf. Isa. xxvi. 19). And, for I must not pass over in silence what is said by Ezekiel the prophet in his own apocryphal book (i. e. that under his name) about resurrection, I will quote the very passage here. For, telling a story in cryptic (enigmatic) guise, he says about the just judgment in which soul and body both share, that a certain King had all the men in his kingdom enrolled in the army and had no "pagan" ("civilian," we should say), but two only, one lame and one blind, and each abode separately and dwelt apart. And the King made a marriage-feast for his own son and invited all that were in his kingdom, but neglected the two pagani, the lame man and the blind. And they were angry in themselves and set about contriving a design against the King. Now the King had a garden: and the blind man called out from a distance to the lame man and said, "How much would the breaking of our bread have been (What would have been the extra cost of entertaining us) with the multitudes that are invited to the merry-making? Come then, and as he hath done to us, let us requite him." The other asked, "In what way?" and he said, "Let us go into his garden and destroy the things there." But he said, "And how can I, who am lame and cannot walk?" and the blind man said, "What can I myself do, who cannot see whither I am going? but let us devise means." (Then the lame man) plucked the grass that was near him and plaited a rope and threw it to the blind man and said, "Catch hold of it and come along the rope hither to me." And when he had done as he was told and was come to the place, the lame man said, "Come, be feet to me and carry me, and I will be eyes to thee from above and guide thee to the right hand and the left." And so they did, and went down to the garden. Then, for the rest, whether they spoiled it or not, at all events their tracks were to be seen in the garden. And when the feasters dispersed from the marriage, they went into the garden and were enraged at finding the tracks there, and reported it to the King, saying, "We are all soldiers in thy kingdom, and there is no paganus. Whence, then, are the track of pagani in the garden?" And he marvelled. And as the parable—that of the apocryphal book, I mean—puts it, it applies to a man, but God is not ignorant of anything. But the story says that the King sent for the lame and the blind man, and asked the blind man, "Didst thou go down into the garden?" And he said, "Alas, Lord! thou seest our infirmity: thou knowest that I cannot see where I walk." Then he came to the lame man and asked him, "Didst thou go down into my garden?" and he answered and said, "O Lord, wouldest thou afflict my soul in respect of my infirmity?" And then the judgment was at a standstill. What, then, does the just judge do? Having discerned in what manner the two were yoked together, he sets the lame man on the blind man's back, and examines both of them with scourges, and they cannot deny the fact. Each convicts the other, the lame man saying to the blind, "Didst thou not bear me and carry me off?" and the blind to the lame, "Didst not thou thyself become eyes to me?" In like manner, the body is joined with the soul and the soul with the body to convict them of their deeds done in common, and the judgment becomes complete from (for) both of them, body and soul, of the works they have done, whether good or bad.

A little later on Epiphanius returns to the parable and probably embodies in what he says the gist of the interpretation of it.

He says: God cannot separate the soul from the body for the purpose of final judgment. "For immediately the judgment will be found at a standstill. For if the soul be found all by itself, it would reply when judged, 'The cause of sin is not of me, but of that corruptible and earthly body, in fornication, adultery, lasciviousness. For since it left me, I have done none of these things,' and it will have a good defence and will paralyze the judgment of God. . . . The body cannot be judged apart from the soul: for it also could reply, saying, 'It was not I that sinned, it was the soul: have I, since it departed from me, committed adultery, fornicated, or worshipped idols?' and the body will be withstanding the justice of God, and with reason. On this account, therefore . . . God . . . brings our dead bodies and our souls to a second birth," etc.

This parable is found current in Rabbinic tradition. Three versions of it are given in a book by Fiebig (Die Gleichnisreden Jesu im Lichte der Rabbinischen Gleichnisse der N.T. lichen Zeitalters, p. 73). One is ascribed to R. Ishmael (cir. A.D. 130), the other two to R. Jehuda (cir. 200). Here the lame and blind are custodians of the King's garden and their transgression is eating the choice early fruits. There is nothing about the wedding-feast or the soldiers and pagani. The application is the same. The soul will say, "I have not sinned; it is the body. Since I came out from it I have been like a pure bird that flies in the air." The body says, "I have not sinned; it is the soul. Since it went forth from me I have been like a stone that is thrown on the ground."

Whether this is a later or an earlier form of the story than Ezekiel's, it seems to me an inferior one.

The next fragment is very short. Tertullian (de Carne Christi, 23) says: "We read indeed in Ezekiel about that cow which bare and bare not: but consider whether the Holy Spirit did not even then blame you by that utterance, foreseeing that you would dispute over the womb of Mary."

We have the quotation elsewhere, but only here is the source of it named. Thus Epiphanius (Hær. xxx. 20): "Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son." He said not, "Behold, the woman": and again in another place he saith, "And the heifer shall bear, and they shall say, 'She hath not borne'; for because some of the Manichæans and Marcionites say, 'He was not born,' therefore is it said, 'She shall bear,' and they shall say, 'She hath not borne.'"

The old Acts of Peter, 29, quotes several prophecies (including one from the Ascension of Isaiah): "And again he saith, 'She hath borne and hath not borne,'" is one of these.

Clement of Alexandria (Str. vii. 16, p. 66, Stähelin) has the same words, with "saith the Scripture."

Gregory of Nyssa (Adversus Judæos, 3), "And again: Behold, the heifer hath borne and hath not borne."

Tertullian's words seem to imply that there was some story attached to the saying. It might very well have been a parable. In fact, as it stands it is a parable. I do not see that it can have been anything but Christian; the application to the Virgin-Birth must have been intended by the writer.

A third phrase which is quoted again and again by Fathers of all ages, and sometimes as a saying of Christ's, is attributed in the Life of St. Antony to Ezekiel, and by a later writer to a prophet. It is "Wherein I find thee, therein will I judge thee." It does not give any key to its context, notable as it is in itself.

Clement of Rome (ad Cor. viii.) has this:

"As I live, saith the Lord, I desire not the death of the sinner so much as his repentance" (this is from Ezek. xviii.), adding also a good sentence: "Repent ye, O house of Israel, of your iniquity. Say unto the children of my people: If your sins be from the earth even unto the heaven, and if they be redder than scarlet and blacker than sackcloth, and ye turn unto me with your whole heart and say 'Father,' I will hearken unto you as unto a holy people." This is not in our texts of Ezekiel: it may be a later amplification thereof. Clement of Alexandria also quotes: "If your sins," etc., in Pædag. i. 10, as from Ezekiel. Compare also his Quis Dives salvetur, 39, where he has the former part of the passage, somewhat expanded. Under the heading of Eldad and Medad I gave a prophetical passage which Clement of Rome and the Second Epistle both use. I am inclined to think that Resch may be right in assigning it, as well as that which has just been cited, to the apocryphal Ezekiel. The terms of it, as was said above, seem more appropriate to Israel in Exile than to Israel in the Wilderness. Resch assigns several other quotations in 1 and 2 Clement to the same book, but with less plausibility.

The Lives of the Prophets (Pseudo-Epiphanius) have several legends about Ezekiel; more, in fact, than about any other of the prophets. He was of the land of Sarira. The chief of the people in the place of his sojourn in Babylon slew him because he was rebuked by him for the worship of idols. He gave a sign to the people that they should observe the river Chobar; if its water failed they were to expect the sickle of desolation (a designation of Antichrist which we have had already) to the ends of the earth: if the water overflowed, that signified their return to Jerusalem: and this happened. He is buried in the land of the Syrians, and many resorted to his tomb in prayer. Upon the occasion of such a concourse of Jews, the Chaldeans feared a rising and plotted to come and slaughter them. The prophet made the waters of the river stand, that the Israelites might cross it and escape. Their pursuers were drowned.

By his prayer, in a time of famine, he procured them a sudden and miraculous supply of fish, and raised many to life who had died. When their enemies attacked them, he obstructed them by portents and they ceased from troubling.

In Babylon he judged the tribes of Dan and Gad, who were impious and persecuted the followers of the Law, and wrought this miracle, that serpents devoured their children and their cattle. And he predicted that on their account the people should not return to Jerusalem, but should be in Media until the end of their transgression. And of those tribes was the man who slew him: for they withstood him until the day of his death.

What I have omitted in this abstract is a description of Ezekiel's tomb, and some traits evidently taken from the canonical book. Most of what I have given does not appear anywhere else: it may be based on current tradition. The one point that does occur elsewhere is Ezekiel's violent death. In the Syriac Acts of Philip, the Apocalypse of Paul and the Imperfect Work on Matthew (a remarkable Arian commentary of the fifth century, rather rich in apocryphal quotations), it is said that he was dragged by his feet upon the mountains until his brains were dashed out. Origen also, in a passage to be quoted later (under Zechariah), speaks of Ezekiel's martyrdom as being related in apocryphal writings. In almost the only picture I know of his death (fifteenth-century glass in St. Martin's, Coney Street, York) he is hung by his armpits on a gibbet and two men are tormenting him. This has no old authority behind it that I can discover.

The analogy of the Ascension of Isaiah and the Paralipomena of Jeremiah suggests the possibility that in the apocryphal Ezekiel the climax of the story was that Ezekiel was put to death, perhaps by being dragged over the mountains, as a result of uttering a Christian prophecy, it may be the prophecy or parable about the heifer.