21. Th. Silverstein and A. Hilhorst

Apocalypse of Paul. A New Critical Edition of Three Long Latin Versions

1997, 216 pp. et 54 pll.

Unlike the texts of the well-known Greek and Latin authors, which were sacrosanct from the beginning, and those of the Bible, which soon came to be so, the apocryphal writings were continuously rewritten to meet the religious and social needs of their readers. This secured them a lasting popularity. To demonstrate this, no text is as suitable as the Apocalypse of Paul, an account, on the basis of 2 Cor. 12.1-5, of the visit the Apostle was supposed to have paid to heaven and hell.

Written in Egypt in the third century or even earlier by an unknown Greek-speaking author, it was carried to Asia Minor and reissued there with a preface relating its discovery in the house which had been St Paul’s in Tarsus, a discovery dated by the preface to the year 420. Both text-forms are lost; only an abbreviated version has come down to us in Greek. But the long text does survive in translation in a number of languages, Latin, Coptic, Syriac, Armenian, Old Russian, and in a variety of daughter translations and adaptations in medieval vernacular languages. Furthermore, we can trace the influence of the apocryphon in many other texts. Thus, such authors as St Caesarius of Arles and the anonymous monk to whom we owe the Rule of the Master quote from it, and its echoes are heard in many later works, the most illustrious of which is Dante’s Divina Commedia. In other cases the texts was simply given a new hero, as in the Ethiopic Apocalypse of the Virgin, which makes Mary see what Paul saw in the Apocalypse of Paul. Returning to the Latin tradition, there are no fewer than three long versions, L1 dating probably from the second half of the fifth century, L2 translated independently of L1 in the twelfth century at the latest, and L3, a version at times closely related to L1 but in other passages so unlike it as to qualify as a separate version. Apart from these, there are at least eleven medieval Latin redactions.

In the present book, after an introductory essay on the Western tradition and an extensive bibliography, the three long versions are published in a synoptic arrangement, each MS. having its text in a separate column, together with a critical apparatus and an apparatus of biblical quotations and allusions. For L1 (three MSS.) and L3 (one MS.), the sections are presented in four columns on two facing pages. L2 (three MSS.) has its sections in three columns on one page. The L3 text, from a MS. that was found in Arnhem in the Netherlands, is published here for the first time.

In addition, a fresh edition of the Middle German fragment which is an adaptation of the L2 version, is presented together which an English translation. Fifty-four plates containing photographs of the complete text of the most important witness to the Apocalypse of Paul in any language, the Paris MS., and specimens of the other MSS. published here, are added to the book.

Theodore Silverstein, an emeritus professor of English at the University of Chicago, has widely published on medieval literature and has been an expert in the Apocalypse of Paul ever since his 1935 book Visio Sancti Pauli: The History of the Apocalypse in Latin together with Nine Texts. Anthony Hilhorst, a classicist with a special interest in Hellenistic Judaism and Early Christianity, teaches New Testament at Groningen University; his dissertation was on the language of the Shepherd of Hermas.

Prix : 120 chf

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