Gospel of Nicodemus part 2

The Gospel of Nicodemus Part 2

1. Nicodemus counsels the Jews. 6. Joseph found. 11. Invited by the Jews to return. 19. Relates the manner of his miraculous escape.

1. Then Nicodemus arose and said, You say right, O sons of Israel, for you have heard what those three men said, who have sworn by the Law of God, We have seen Jesus speaking with his disciples upon Mount Olivet, and we saw him ascending up to heaven.
2. And the scripture teaches us that the blessed prophet Elijah was taken up to heaven; and Elisha being asked by the sons of the prophets, Where is our father Elijah? He said to them, He is taken up to heaven.
3. And the sons of the prophets said to him, Perhaps the spirit has carried him into one of the mountains of Israel; perhaps we shall find him there. And they besought Elisha, and he walked about with them three days, and they could not find him.

For this story of Elijah and Elisha, see II Kings 2:9-17.

4. And now hear this, O sons of Israel, let us send men into the mountains of Israel, perhaps in the event that the spirit has carried away Jesus, and perhaps there we shall find him and be satisfied.
5. And the counsel of Nicodemus pleased all the people; and they sent forth men who sought for Jesus, but could not find him: and they returned and said, We went all about, but could not find Jesus, but we have found Joseph in his city of Arimathaea.
6. The rulers and all the people were glad upon hearing this, and praised the God of Israel, because Joseph was found, whom they had shut up in a chamber and could not find.
7. And when they had formed a large assembly, the chief priests said, By what means shall we bring Joseph back to us to speak with him?
8. And taking a piece of paper, they wrote to him and said, Peace be with you and all your family. We know that we have offended against God and you. Be pleased to give a visit to us your fathers, for we were perfectly surprised at your escape from prison.
9. We know that it was malicious counsel which we took against you, and that the Lord took care of you, and the Lord himself delivered you from our designs. Peace be unto you, Joseph, who are honorable among all the people.
10. And they chose seven of Joseph's friends and said to them, When you come to Joseph, salute him in peace, and give him this letter.
11. Accordingly, when the men came to Joseph, they saluted him in peace and gave him the letter.
12. And when Joseph read it, he said, Blessed be the Lord God who delivered me from the Israelites so they could not shed my blood. Blessed be God, who has protected me under your wings.
13. And Joseph kissed them and took them into his house. The next morning, Joseph mounted his ass and went along with them to Jerusalem.
14. And when all the Jews heard these things, they went out to meet him and cried out, saying, Peace attend your coming here, father Joseph.
15. To which he answered, Prosperity from the Lord attend all the people.
16. And they all kissed him; and Nicodemus took him to his house, having prepared a large entertainment.
17. But on the next day, being a preparation-day, Annas, and Caiaphas, and Nicodemus said to Joseph, Make confession to the God of Israel and answer to us all those questions which we shall ask you;
18. For we have been very much troubled that you did bury the body of Jesus, and that when we had locked you in a chamber, we could not find you; and we have been afraid ever since, till this time of your appearance among us. Tell us therefore before God all that came to pass.
19. Then Joseph answered, You did indeed put me under confinement, on the day of preparation, till the morning.
20. But while I was standing at prayer in the middle of the night, the house was surrounded with four angels; and I saw Jesus as the brightness of the sun, and fell down upon the earth for fear.
21. But Jesus took hold of my hand and lifted me from the ground, and the dew was then sprinkled upon me; but he, wiping my face, kissed me, and said unto me, Fear not, Joseph; look upon me, for it is I.
22. Then I looked upon him, and said Rabboni Elias! He answered me, I am not Elias, but Jesus of Nazareth, whose body you buried.
23. I said to him, Show me the tomb in which I laid you.
24. Then Jesus, taking me by the hand, led me unto the place where I laid him, and showed me the linen clothes, and napkin which I put round his head. Then I knew that it was Jesus, and worshipped him, and said, Blessed be he who comes in the name of the Lord.
25. Jesus again taking me by the hand, led me to Arimathaea to my own house, and said to me, Peace be to you; but go not out of your house till the fortieth day; but I must go to my disciples.

Forty days seems to have special significance in the Bible. Noah sent a raven from the ark after the flood had lasted forty days (Genesis 7:17, 8:6); the embalming of Jacob took forty days (Genesis 50:3); Moses fasted forty days (Exodus 24:18, 34:28); spies were in the land of Canaan forty days (Numbers 13:25); Goliath's defiance lasted forty days (I Samuel 19:8); Elijah's divinely-provided meal lasted forty days (I Kings 19:8); Jonah's warning of the destruction of Nineveh lasted forty days (Jonah 3:4); Christ fasted and was tempted by the devil for forty days (Luke 4:2); and more specific to this reference, the period between Christ's Resurrection and Ascension was forty days (Acts 1:3).

1. The Jews are astonished and confounded. 17. Simeon's two sons, Charinus and Lenthius, rise from the dead at Christ's crucifixion. 19. Joseph proposes to get them to relate the mysteries of their resurrection. 21. They are sought and found, 22. brought to the synagogue, 23. privately sworn to secrecy, 25. and undertake to write what they had seen.

1. When the chief priests and Levites heard all these things, they were astonished and fell down with their faces on the ground as dead men, and crying out to one another said, What is this extraordinary sign which is come to pass in Jerusalem? We know the father and mother of Jesus.
2. And a certain Levite said, I know many of his relations, religious persons, who are accustomed to offer sacrifices and burnt-offerings in the temple with prayers to the God of Israel.
3. And when the high priest Simeon took him up in his arms, he said to him, Lord, now let your servant depart in peace according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared before the face of all people: a light to enlighten the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.
4. Simeon in the same manner blessed Mary the mother of Jesus and said to her, I declare to you concerning that child; He is appointed for the fall and rising again of many, and for a sign which shall be spoken against.
5. Yea, a sword shall pierce through your own soul also, and the thoughts of many hearts shall be revealed.

This is a recapitulation of Christ's early life. For Simeon's words, see Luke 2:25-35.

6. Then said all the Jews, Let us send for those three men who said they saw him talking with his disciples in Mount Olivet.
7. After this, they asked them what they had seen, and they answered with one accord, In the presence of the God of Israel we affirm that we plainly saw Jesus talking with his disciples in Mount Olivet, and ascending up to heaven.
8. Then Annas and Caiaphas took them into separate places, and examined them separately; they unanimously confessed the truth and said they had seen Jesus.
9. Then Annas and Caiaphas said, Our law says, By the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established.

The Jews realized their quandary at having misapplied their law: "At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to heath; [but] at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death." (Deuteronomy 17:6)

10. But what have we said? The blessed Enoch pleased God, and was translated by the word of God; and the burying-place of the blessed Moses in known.

Enoch, the father of Methuselah, lived three hundred sixty-five years (Genesis 5:24) and "walked with God: and he [was] not; for God took him," which is understood to mean, like Elijah, he was "translated" to God without dying: "By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God." (Hebrews 11:5)

The Jews knew only the general location where Moses died; a mystery surrounds his death, for Moses received a "divine burial" at the hand of God: "So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord. And he buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Beth- peor: but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day." (Deuteronomy 34:5, 6)

There is a cryptic reference in Jude 9: "Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee."

11. But Jesus was delivered to Pilate, whipped, crowned with thorns, spit upon, pierced with a spear, crucified, died upon the cross, and was buried, and the honorable Joseph buried his body in a new sepulchre, and he testifies that he saw him alive.
12. And besides these men have declared that they saw him talking with his disciples in Mount Olivet, and ascending up to heaven.
13. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] Then Joseph rose up and said to Annas and Caiaphas, You may be justly under a great surprise that you have been told that Jesus is alive, and gone up to heaven.
14. It is indeed a really surprising thing that he should not only himself arise from the dead, but also raise others from their graves, who have been seen by many in Jerusalem.

Compare with: "And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many." (Matthew 27:53)

15. And now hear me little: We all know the blessed Simeon, the high-priest, who took Jesus when an infant into his arms in the temple.
16. This same Simeon had two sons of his own, and we were all present at their death and funeral.
17. Go therefore and see their tombs, for these are open, and they are risen; and behold, they are in the city of Arimathaea, spending their time together in offices of devotion.
18. Indeed, some have heard the sound of their voices in prayer, but they will not discourse with anyone, but continue as mute as dead men.
19. But come, let us go to them and behave ourselves towards them with all due respect and caution. And if we can bring them to take an oath perhaps they will tell us some of the mysteries of their resurrection.
20. When the Jews heard this they exceedingly rejoiced.
21. Then Annas and Caiaphas, Nicodemus, Joseph, and Gamaliel went to Arimathaea, but did not find them in their graves; but while walking about the city, they found them on their bended knees at their devotions:
22. Then saluting them with all respect and deference to God, they brought them to the synagogue at Jerusalem; and having shut the gates, they took the book of the law of the Lord,
23. And putting it in their hands, swore them by God Adonai and the God of Israel who spoke to our fathers by the law and the prophets, saying, If you believe him who raised you from the dead to be Jesus, tell us what you have seen, and how you were raised from the dead.

The phrase "by God Adonai and the God of Israel" warrants explication. In Hebrew, the word "el" or some form of it (elah, elohim, eloah) means "the mighty one" or "the object of worship" and is translated in English as "God."

The word "adon" means a human lord, master, or "sir." Its plural "adonai" (literally "my lords") is used in addressing deity and is properly translated "Lord" in English. In the creation story, it is the plural form "Adonai Elohim" that is translated "Lord God." (Make of that what you will.)

To confuse matters, throughout the Old Testament the word translated "Lord" is "Lord God" is sometimes Adonai and sometimes Jehovah.

The Hebrew "Yah" or "Jah" (meaning "the existing one") was used to denote the incommunicable name of the God of Israel, and it was considered sacrilege to pronounce it. Nevertheless, it is now rendered as Jehovah (although it probably should be Yahweh). In common versions of the English Bible it is generally, though improperly, translated by "the LORD."

Jehovah therefore means God is specific relationship to Israel. In compound forms it is used to designate several especially sacred altars: Jehovah- jireh (Jehovah will provide) was the altar built by Abraham at a place in Jerusalem afterwards called Moriah (Genesis 22:14); Jehovah-nissi (Jehovah is my banner) was an altar erected by Moses (Exodus 17:15); and Jehovah-shalom (Jehovah is peace) was an altar built by Gideon (Judges 6:24).

Thus, by appealing to the Lord God generically and specifically to the Jehovah of Israel, the Jews were emphasizing the solemnity of the witnesses' obligation to tell the truth.

24. Charinus and Lenthius, the two sons of Simeon, trembled when they heard these things and were disturbed, and groaned; at the same time looking up to heaven, they made the sign of the cross with their fingers on their tongues,
25. And immediately they spoke and said, Give each of us some paper, and we will write down for you all those things which we have seen. And they each sat down and wrote, saying:

1. The narrative of Charinus and Lenthius commences. 3. A great light appears in hell. 7. Simeon arrives and announces the coming of Christ.

1. O Lord Jesus and Father, who are God, also the resurrection and life of the dead, give us permission to declare your mysteries belonging to your cross, which we saw after death, for we are sworn by your name.
2. For you have forbidden your servants to declare the secret things that were wrought by your divine power in hell.
3. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] When we were placed with our fathers in the blackness of darkness in the depth of hell, suddenly there appeared the color of the sun like gold, and a substantial purple colored light enlightened the place.

The conception of hell most people have is gleaned from folklore religion rather than the Bible. English translators indiscriminately rendered "hell" from several words in the canonical Scriptures. The Hebrew word "sheol" can mean either the grave or the unseen state of the dead, but is simply translated "hell" in Deuteronomy 32:22, II Samuel 22:6, Job 11:8 and 26:6; Psalms 9:17, 16:10, 18:5, 55:15, 86:13, 116:3, 139:8; Proverbs 5:5, 7:27, 9:18, 15:11, 24, 23:14, 27:20; Isaiah 5:14, 14:9, 15, 28:15, 18, 57:9; Ezekiel 31:16, 32:21, 27; Amos 9:2; Jonah 2:2; and Habakkuk 2:5.

In the New Testament, three Greek words are translated "hell." The first is "hades," meaning the unseen abode of the dead, and is found in Matthew 11:23, 16:18; Luke 16:23, Acts 2:27; Revelation 1:18, 6:8, and 20:13.

The second is "Genhenna," or the Valley of Hinnom, a burning garbage dump outside Jerusalem. This word is the source for the imagery of "where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched," and is found in Matthew 5:22, 29, 10:28, 18:9, 23:15, 33; Mark 9:43, Luke 12:5, and James 3:6.

A third word is the Greek "Tartarus," otherwise undefined but connoting the idea of a bottomless pit. It is found translated "hell" is II Peter 2:4.

Theological debates about the details of hell are due to some group's literal reliance on apocalyptic imagery, or using one or more "proof texts" to interpret all others, rather than deriving a balanced doctrine from a comprehensive view of the Scriptures. Often overlooked are the distinctions between descriptions that refer to the future state and those of the condition of the dead before Christ's Resurrection and Ascension. The teaching seems to be that until then, all departed souls, both righteous and unrighteous, were in "sheol" (that is, "hades"), although somehow separated.

4. Presently upon this, Adam, the father of all mankind, with all the patriarchs and prophets, rejoiced and said, That light is the author of everlasting light who has promised to translate us to everlasting light.
5. Then Isaiah the prophet cried out and said, This is the light of the Father, and the Son of God, according to my prophecy when I was alive upon earth.
6. The land of Zabulon and the land of Nephthalim beyond Jordan, a people who walked in darkness, saw a great light, and to them who dwelled in the region of the shadow of death, light is arisen. And now he is come and has enlightened us who sat in death.

See Isaiah 9:1, 2, and Matthew 4:16.

7. And while we were all rejoicing in the light which shone upon us, our father Simeon came among us, and congratulating all the company, said, Glorify the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God,
8. Whom I took up in my arms when an infant in the temple, and being moved by the Holy Spirit, said to him and acknowledged: Now my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared before the face of all people, a light to enlighten the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.
9. And on hearing this, all the saints who were in the depth of hell rejoiced even more.
10. Afterwards there came forth one like a little hermit, and everyone asked, Who are you?

The Old Testament saints naturally did not recognize John the Baptist.

11. To which he replied, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, John the Baptist, and the prophet of the Most High, who went before his coming to prepare his way, and to give the knowledge of salvation to his people for the forgiveness of sins.
12. And I John, when I saw Jesus coming to me, was moved by the Holy Spirit and said, Behold the Lamb of God; behold him who takes away the sins of the world.
13. And I baptized him in the river Jordan and saw the Holy Spirit descending upon him in the form of a dove, and heard a voice from heaven saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
14. And now while I was going before him, I came down here to acquaint you that the Son of God will next visit us and, as the day-spring from on high, will come to us who are in darkness and the shadow of death.

1. Adam causes Seth to relate what he heard from Michael the archangel when he sent him to Paradise to entreat God to anoint his head in his sickness.

1. But when the first man, our father Adam, heard these things, that Jesus was baptized in Jordan, he called out to his son Seth and said,
2. Declare to your sons, the patriarchs and prophets, all those things which you heard from Michael, the archangel, when I sent you to the gates of Paradise to entreat God that he would anoint my head when I was sick.
3. Then Seth came near to the patriarchs and prophets, and said, I Seth, when I was praying to God at the gates of Paradise, beheld the angel of the Lord. Michael appeared unto me saying, I am sent to you from the Lord; I am appointed to preside over human bodies.
4. I tell you Seth, do not pray to God in tears and entreat him for the oil of the tree of mercy with which to anoint your father Adam for his headache;
5. Because you cannot by any means obtain it till the last day and times, namely, till five thousand and five hundred years be past.
6. Then will Christ, the most merciful Son of God, come on earth to raise again the human body of Adam, and at the same time to raise the bodies of the dead, and when he comes he will be baptized in Jordan.
7. Then with the oil of his mercy he will anoint all those who believe on him; and the oil of his mercy will continue to future generations, for those who shall be born of the water and the Holy Spirit to eternal life.
8. And when at that time the most merciful Son of God, Christ Jesus, shall come down on earth, he will introduce our father Adam into Paradise, to the tree of mercy.
9. When all the patriarchs and prophets heard all these things from Seth, they rejoiced more.

1. Quarrel between Satan and the prince of hell concerning the expected arrival of Christ in hell.

1. While all the saints were rejoicing, behold Satan, the prince and captain of death, said to the prince of hell,
2. Prepare to receive Jesus of Nazareth himself, who boasted that he was the Son of God, and yet was a man afraid of death and said, My soul is sorrowful even to death.

This was Satan's interpretation of the quote from Matthew 26:38.

3. Besides, he did many injuries to me and to many others; for those whom I made blind and lame and those also whom I tormented with several devils, he cured by his word; yea, and those whom I brought dead to you, he takes away from you by force.
4. To this the prince of hell replied to Satan, Who is that so-powerful prince, and yet a man who is afraid of death?
5. For all the potentates of the earth are subject to my power, whom you brought to subjection by your power.
6. But if he be so powerful in his human nature, I affirm to you for truth that he is almighty in his divine nature, and no man can resist his power.
7. When therefore he said he was afraid of death, he designed to ensnare you, and it will be unhappy to you for everlasting ages.
8. Then Satan replied and said to the prince of hell, Why did you express a doubt and were afraid to receive that Jesus of Nazareth, both your adversary and mine?
9. As for me, I tempted him and stirred up my old people the Jews with zeal and anger against him.
10. I sharpened the spear for his suffering; I mixed the gall and vinegar and commanded that he should drink it; I prepared the cross to crucify him and the nails to pierce through his hands and feet; and now that his death is near at hand, I will bring him here, subject both to you and me.
11. Then the prince of hell answered and said, You said to me just now that he took away the dead from me by force.
12. They who have been kept here till they should live again upon earth, were not taken away by their own power, but by prayers made to God, and their Almighty God took them from me.
13. Who then is that Jesus of Nazareth who by his word has taken away the dead from me without praying to God?
14. Perhaps it is the same who took away from me Lazarus, after he had been four days dead and did both stink and was rotten, and of whom I had possession as a dead person, yet he brought him to life again by his power.
15. Satan answered and replied to the prince of hell, It is the very same person, Jesus of Nazareth.
16. When the prince of hell heard this, he said to him, I adjure you by the powers which belong to you and me, that you not bring him to me.
17. For when I heard of the power of his word, I trembled for fear, and all my impious company were at the same time disturbed;
18. And we were not able to detain Lazarus, but he gave himself a shake, and with all the signs of malice, he immediately went away from us; and the very earth, in which the dead body of Lazarus was lodged, presently turned him out alive.
19. And I know now that he is Almighty God who could perform such things, who is mighty in his dominion, and mighty in his human nature, who is the Savior of mankind.
20. Bring not therefore this person here, for he will set at liberty all those whom I hold in prison under unbelief and bound with the fetters of their sins, and will conduct them to everlasting life.

1. Christ's arrival at the gates of hell causes confusion. 10. He descends into hell.

1. And while Satan and the prince of hell were discoursing thus to each other, suddenly there was a voice as of thunder and the rushing of winds saying, Lift up your gates, O you princes; and be you lift up, O everlasting gates, and the King of Glory shall come in.

The voice of thunder quotes Psalm 24:7-10.

2. When the prince of hell heard this, he said to Satan, Depart from me, and go out of my habitations; if you are a powerful warrior, fight with the King of Glory. But what have you to do with him?
3. And he cast him forth from his habitations.
4. And the prince said to his impious officers, Shut the brass gates of cruelty, and make them fast with iron bars, and fight courageously, or we will be taken captives.
5. But when all the company of the saints heard this, they spoke with a loud voice of anger to the prince of hell:
6. Open your gates so that the King of Glory may come in.
7. And the divine prophet David cried out saying, Did not I when on earth truly prophesy and say, O that men would praise the Lord for his goodness and for his wonderful works to the children of men.
8. For he has broken the gates of brass and cut the bars of iron in pieces. He has taken them because of their iniquity, and because of their unrighteousness they are afflicted.

From Psalm 107:15, 16.

9. After this another prophet, namely, holy Isaiah, spoke in the same manner to all the saints, Did not I rightly prophesy to you when I was alive on earth?
10. The dead shall live, and they will rise again who are in their graves, and they will rejoice who are in earth; for the dew which is from the Lord shall bring deliverance to them.

Compare with: "Thy dead [men] shall live, [together with] my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew [is as] the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead." (Isaiah 26:19)

11. And I said in another place, O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?

Compare with: "He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces..." (Isaiah 25:8)

But "Death, where is thy sting?" is quoted in I Corinthians 15:55, from the Septuagint: "I will deliver [them] out of the power of Hades, and will redeem them from death: where is thy penalty, O death? O Hades, where is thy sting?" (Hosea 13:14)

12. When all the saints heard these things spoken by Isaiah, they said to the prince of hell, Open now your gates, and take away your iron bars; for you will now be bound and have no power.

As in verse 16:1, from Psalm 24:7ff.

13. Then there was a great voice, as of the sound of thunder saying, Lift up your gates, O princes; and be lifted up, you gates of hell, and the King of Glory will enter in.
14. The prince of hell, perceiving the same voice repeated, cried out as though he had been ignorant, Who is that King of Glory?
15. David replied to the prince of hell and said, I understand the words of that voice, because I spoke them by his spirit. And now, as I have said, I say again to you, The Lord strong and powerful, the Lord mighty in battle, he is the King of Glory, and he is the Lord in heaven and in earth;
16. He has looked down to hear the groans of the prisoners, and to set loose those that are appointed to death.

Compare with: "For he hath looked down from the height of his sanctuary; from heaven did the Lord behold the earth; To hear the groaning of the prisoner; to loose those that are appointed to death." (Psalm 102:19, 20)

17. And now, you filthy and stinking prince of hell, open your gates that the King of Glory may enter in; for he is the Lord of heaven and earth.
18. While David was saying this, the mighty Lord appeared in the form of a man and enlightened those places which had always before been in darkness,
19. And broke in pieces the fetters which before could not be broken; and with his invincible power visited those who sat in the deep darkness by iniquity, and the shadow of death by sin.

Compare with: "To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace." (Luke 1:79); "The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined." (Isaiah 9:2)

The so-called Apostles' Creed, in Article 6 as now published in the Book of Common Prayer of the United Church of England and Ireland, says "He descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead." This phrase about Christ descending into hell (that is, into sheol or hades) did not exist in any creed during the Apostles' time, nor did it appear in a version of the Apostles' Creed dated as late as A.D. 600.

Neither is it mentioned in any of the rules of faith delivered by Irenaeus, by Origen, or by Tertullian. It is not expressed in those creeds which were made by the councils as larger explications of the Apostles' Creed: not in the Nicene, or Constantinopolitan; not in those of Ephesus or Chalcedon; not in those confessions made at Sardica, Antioch, Selucia, Sirmium, etc.

Neither is it mentioned in several confessions of faith delivered by particular persons: not in that of Eusebius Caesariensis, presented to the council of Nice; not in that of Marcellus, bishop of Ancyra, delivered to Pope Julius; not in that of Arius and Euzoius, presented to Constantine; not in that of Acacius, bishop of Caesarea, delivered to the synod of Selucia; not in that of Eustathius, Theophilus, and Sylvanus, sent to Liberius; there is no mention of it in the creed of St. Basil, or in the creed of Epiphanus, Gelasius, Damancus, Macarius, etc. It is not in the creed expounded by St. Augustine, nor in another attributed to St. Augustine; not in that expounded by Maximus Taurinesis; nor in that so often interpreted by Petrus Chrysologus; nor in that of the church of Antioch, delivered by Cassianus; neither is it to be seen in the creeds set forth by the learned Archbishop of Armagh. It is affirmed by Ruffinus, that in his time it was neither in the Western nor the Eastern Creeds.

Yet despite not being specifically mentioned in early creeds, there is every reason to believe the Church always considered it a fact. (Jerome affirmed that the soul of Christ went to hades, and the funeral service of the Eastern Orthodox Churches contains the sentence: "Thou art the God who descended into Hell, and loosed the bonds of the captives.") The Bible only hints at it: "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit; By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison..." (I Peter 3:18, 19); "Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men." (Ephesians 4:8); the latter refers to the Old Testament: "Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men..." (Psalm 68:18)

1. Death and the devils in great horror at Christ's coming. 13. He tramples on death, seizes the prince of hell, and takes Adam with him to heaven.

1. Impious Death and her cruel officers, on hearing these things, were seized with fear in their several kingdoms, when they saw the clearness of the light,

Death is strangely referred to by a feminine pronoun.

2. And Christ himself suddenly appearing in their habitations. They cried out therefore and said, We are bound by you; you seem to intend our confusion before the Lord.
3. Who are you, who have no sign of corruption, but that bright appearance which is a full proof of your greatness, of which yet you seem to take no notice?
4. Who are you, so powerful and so weak, so great and so little, a humble and yet a soldier of the first rank, who can command in the form of a servant as a common soldier?
5. The King of Glory, dead and alive, though once slain upon the cross?
6. Who lay dead in the grave, and are come down alive to us, and in your death all the creatures trembled and all the stars were moved, and now you have your liberty among the dead, and give disturbance to our legions?
7. Who are you, who releases the captives that were held in chains by original sin, and brings them into their former liberty?

The doctrine of "original sin" means that every person born comes into the world stained with the consequences of the sins of Adam and Eve and of their other ancestors. These consequences are chiefly: 1) mortality, 2) a tendency to sin, and 3) alienation from God and from other people. (Augustine said original sin left mankind in the predicament of being finite, mortal, and ignorant.) Original sin does not carry guilt, however, for a person is guilty only of his or her own sins, not of those of Adam. See Romans 5:12- 16.

8. Who are you, who spreads so glorious and divine a light over those who were made blind by the darkness of sin?
9. In the same manner all the legions of devils were seized with the identical horror, and with the most submissive fear cried out and said,
10. How come, O you Jesus Christ, that you are a man so powerful and glorious in majesty, so bright as to have no blemish, and so pure as to have no crime? For that lower world of earth, which was always till now subject to us and from which we received tribute, never sent us such presents as these to the princes of hell.
11. Who therefore are you, who with such courage enters among our abodes and are not only not afraid to threaten us with the greatest punishments, but also endeavor to rescue all others from the chains in which we hold them?
12. Perhaps you are that Jesus, of whom Satan just now spoke to our prince, that by the death of the cross you were about to receive the power of death.
13. Then the King of Glory trampling upon death, seized the prince of hell, deprived him of all his power, and took our earthly father Adam with him to his gory.

1. Beelzebub, prince of hell, vehemently upbraids Satan for persecuting Christ and bringing him to hell. 4. Christ gives Beelzebub dominion over Satan forever as a recompense for taking away Adam and his sons.

1. Then the prince of hell took Satan and with great indignation said to him, O you prince of destruction, author of Beelzebub's defeat and banishment, the scorn of God's angels and loathed by all righteous persons! What inclined you to act thus?

Beelzebub is not a synonym for Satan, but is the "prince of devils" mentioned in Matthew 10:25, 12:27; Mark 3:22; and Luke 11:15-19.

2. You would crucify the King of Glory, and by his destruction have made us promises of very large advantages, but as a fool were ignorant of what you were doing.
3. For behold now that Jesus of Nazareth, with the brightness of his glorious divinity, puts to flight all the horrid powers of darkness and death;
4. He has broken down our prisons from top to bottom, dismissed all the captives, released all who were bound, and all who formerly were accustomed to groan under the weight of their torments have now insulted us, and we are likely to be defeated by their prayers.
5. Our impious dominions are subdued, and no part of mankind is now left in our subjection, but on the other hand, they all boldly defy us;
6. Though before, the dead never dared behave themselves insolently towards us, nor, being prisoners, could ever on any occasion be merry.
7. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] O Satan, you prince of all the wicked, father of the impious and abandoned, why would you attempt this exploit, seeing our prisoners were until now always without the least hopes of salvation and life?
8. But now not one of them does ever groans, nor is there the least appearance of a tear on any of their faces.
9. O prince Satan, you great keeper of the infernal regions, all your advantages which you did acquire by the forbidden tree and the loss of Paradise, you have now lost by the wood of the cross;
10. And your happiness all then expired, when you did crucify Jesus Christ the King of Glory.
11. You have acted against your own interest and mine, as you will presently perceive by those large torments and infinite punishments which you are about to suffer.
12. O Satan, prince of all evil, author of death and source of all pride, you should first have inquired into the evil crimes of Jesus of Nazareth, and then you would have found that he was guilty of no fault worthy of death.
13. Why did you venture, without either reason or justice, to crucify him, and have brought down to our regions a person innocent and righteous, and thereby have lost all the sinners, impious and unrighteous persons in the whole world?
14. While the prince of hell was speaking this way to Satan, the King of Glory said to Beelzebub, the prince of hell, Satan the prince, shall be subject to your dominion forever, in the room of Adam and his righteous sons, who are mine.

1. Christ takes Adam by the hand, the rest of the saints join hands, and they all ascend with him to Paradise.

1. Then Jesus stretched forth his hand and said, Come to me, all you my saints, who were created in my image, who were condemned by the tree of forbidden fruit, and by the devil and death;
2. Live now by the wood of my cross; the devil, the prince of this world, is overcome, and death is conquered.
3. Then presently all the saints were joined together under the hand of the most high God; and the Lord Jesus laid hold on Adam's hand and said to him, Peace be to you and all your righteous posterity, who are mine.
4. Then Adam, casting himself at the feet of Jesus, addressed himself to him with tears, in humble language, and a loud voice, saying,
5. I will extol you, O Lord, for you have lifted me up and have not made my foes to rejoice over me. O Lord my God, I cried to you, and you have healed me.
6. O Lord, you have brought up my soul from the grave; you have kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit.

This is from Psalm 30.

7. Sing to the Lord, all you saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness. For his anger endures only a moment, but in his favor is life.
8. In the same manner all the saints, prostrate at the feet of Jesus, said with one voice, You are come, O Redeemer of the world, and have actually accomplished all things, which you did foretell by the law and your holy prophets.
9. You have redeemed the living by your cross and are come down to us, that by the death of the cross you might deliver us from hell, and by your power from death.
10. O Lord, as you have put the ensigns of your glory in heaven, you have set up the sign of your redemption, even your cross on earth! Lord, set the sign of the victory of your cross in hell, so that death may have dominion no longer.
11. Then the Lord stretched forth his hand and made the sign of the cross upon Adam and upon all his saints.
12. And taking hold of Adam by his right hand, he ascended from hell, and all the saints of God followed him.
13. Then the royal prophet David boldly cried and said, O sing unto the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things; his right hand and his holy arm have gotten him the victory.
14. The Lord has made known his salvation, his righteousness has he openly showed in the sight of the heathen.

See Psalm 98:1, 2.

15. And the whole multitude of saints answered, saying, This honor have all his saints, Amen. Praise you the Lord.

From Psalm 149:9.

16. Afterwards, the prophet Habakkuk cried out and said, You went forth for the salvation of your people, even for the salvation of your people.

See Habakkuk 3:13.

17. And all the saints said, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; for the Lord has enlightened us. This is our God for ever and ever; he shall reign over us to everlasting ages, Amen.

Compare with: "For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed [is] he that cometh in the name of the Lord." (Matthew 23:39)

18. In like manner all the prophets spoke the sacred things of his praise, and followed the Lord.

1. Christ delivers Adam to Michael the archangel. 3. They meet Enoch and Elijah in heaven, 5. and also the blessed thief, who relates how he came to Paradise.

1. Then the Lord held Adam by the hand and delivered him to Michael the archangel; and he led them into Paradise, filled with mercy and glory.
2. And two very ancient men met them, and were asked by the saints, Who are you, who have not been with us in hell and have had your bodies placed in Paradise?
3. One of them answered and said, I am Enoch, who was translated by the word of God: and this man who is with me is Elijah the Tishbite, who was translated in a fiery chariot.

See Genesis 5:24 regarding Enoch, and Kings 2:11 about Elijah.

4. We have been here since and have not tasted death, but are now about to return at the coming of Antichrist, being armed with divine signs and miracles, to engage him in battle, and to be slain by him at Jerusalem, and to be taken up alive again into the clouds after three days and a half.

Compare with Revelation 11:11.

5. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] And while the holy Enoch and Elijah were relating this, behold there came another man in a miserable figure, carrying the sign of the cross upon his shoulders.
6. And when all the saints saw him, they said to him, Who are you? For your countenance is like a thief's; and why do you carry a cross upon your shoulders?
7. To which he answered and said, You say right, for I was a thief who committed all sorts of wickedness upon earth.
8. And the Jews crucified me with Jesus, and I observed at the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus the surprising things which happened in the creation.

The thief's vision of what happened at the creation is not elaborated on here, nor is it mentioned in the canonical Scriptures.

9. And I believed him to be the Creator of all things, and the Almighty King; so I prayed to him, saying, Lord, remember me, when you come into your kingdom.
10. He presently regarded my supplication and said to me, Truly I say to you, this day you will be with me in Paradise.
11. And he gave me this sign of the cross saying, Carry this and go to Paradise; and if the angel who is the guard of Paradise will not admit you, show him the sign of the cross and say to him: Jesus Christ, who is now crucified, has sent me here to you.
12. When I did this and told the angel who is the guard of Paradise all these things, and he heard them, he presently opened the gates, introduced me, and placed me on the right hand in Paradise.
13. Saying, Stay here a little time, till Adam, the father of all mankind, shall enter in, with all his sons who are the holy and righteous servants of Jesus Christ, who was crucified.
14. When they heard this account from the thief, all the patriarchs said with one voice, Blessed be you, O Almighty God, the Father of everlasting goodness, and the Father of mercies, who have shown such favor to those who were sinners against him, and have brought them to the mercy of Paradise, and have placed them amid your large and spiritual provisions, in a spiritual and holy life. Amen.

1. Charinus and Lenthius being only allowed three days to remain on earth, 7. deliver in their narratives, which miraculously correspond; they vanish, 13. and Pilate records these transactions.

1. These are the divine and sacred mysteries which we saw and heard. We, Charinus and Lenthius are not allowed to declare the other mysteries of God, as the archangel Michael ordered us,
2. Saying, You shall go with my brethren to Jerusalem and shall continue in prayers, declaring and glorifying the resurrection of Jesus Christ, inasmuch as he has raised you from the dead at the same time with himself.
3. And you shall not talk with any man, but sit as mute persons till the time come when the Lord will allow you to relate the mysteries of his divinity.
4. The archangel Michael further commanded us to go beyond Jordan to an excellent and fat country, where there are many who rose from the dead along with us for the proof of the resurrection of Christ.
5. For we who arose from the dead have only three days allowed us to celebrate the passover of our Lord with our parents, and to bear our testimony for Christ the Lord, and we have been baptized in the holy river of Jordan. And now they are not seen by anyone.
6. This is as much as God allowed us to relate to you; therefore give praise and honor to him and repent, and he will have mercy upon you. Peace be to you from the Lord God Jesus Christ and the Savior of us all. Amen, Amen, Amen.
7. And after they had made an end of writing and had written on two distinct pieces of paper, Charinus gave what he wrote into the hands of Annas, and Caiaphas, and Gamaliel.
8. Lenthius likewise gave what he wrote into the hands of Nicodemus and Joseph; and immediately they were changed into exceeding white forms and were seen no more.
9. But what they had written was found perfectly to agree, the one not containing one letter more or less than the other.
10. When all the assembly of the Jews heard all these surprising relations of Charinus and Lenthius, they said to each other, Truly all these things were wrought by God, and blessed be the Lord Jesus for ever and ever, Amen.
11. And they went about with great concern, and fear and trembling, smote upon their breasts, and went away every one to his home.
12. But immediately all these things, which were related by the Jews in their synagogues concerning Jesus, were presently told by Joseph and Nicodemus to the governor.
13. And Pilate wrote down all these transactions, and placed all these accounts in the public records of his hall.

Now it becomes clear why this book is also called the Acts of Pilate.

1. Pilate goes to the temple; calls together the rulers, and scribes, and doctors. 2. Commands the gates to be shut; orders the book of the Scripture and causes the Jews to relate what they really knew concerning Christ. 14. They declare that they crucified Christ in ignorance, and that they now know him to be the Son of God, according to the testimony of the Scriptures, which, after they put him to death, they examined.

1. After these things Pilate went to the temple of the Jews and called together all the rulers and scribes, and doctors of the law, and went with them into a chapel of the temple.
2. And commanding that all the gates should be shut, said to them, I have heard that you have a certain large book in this temple; therefore I desire of you that it may be brought before me.
3. And when the great book, carried by four ministers of the temple, and adorned with gold and precious stones, was brought, Pilate said to them all, I adjure you by the God of your Fathers, who made and commanded this temple to be built, that you not conceal the truth from me.
4. You know all the things which are written in that book; tell me therefore now, if in the Scriptures you have found anything of that Jesus whom you crucified, and at what time of the world he ought to have come. Show it to me.
5. Then having sworn Annas and Caiaphas, they commanded all the rest who were with them to go out of the chapel.
6. And they shut the gates of the temple and of the chapel, and said to Pilate, You have made us to swear, O judge, by the building of this temple, to declare to you that which is true and right.
7. After we had crucified Jesus, not knowing that he was the Son of God, but supposing he wrought his miracles by some magical arts, we summoned a large assembly in this temple.
8. And when we were deliberating among one another about the miracles which Jesus had wrought, we found many witnesses of our own country, who declared that they had seen him alive after his death, and that they heard him discoursing with his disciples, and saw him ascending unto the height of the heavens, and entering into them;
9. And we saw two witnesses, whose bodies Jesus raised from the dead, who told us of many strange things which Jesus did among the dead, of which we have a written account in our hands.
10. And it is our custom annually to open this holy book before an assembly and to search there for the counsel of God.
11. And we found in the first of the seventy books where Michael the archangel is speaking to the third son of Adam the first man, an account that after five thousand five hundred years, Christ the most beloved Son of God was come on earth,

Our present Bible has only sixty-six books, thirty-nine in the Old Testament and twenty-seven in the New Testament, so it is evident the Hebrew canon (with the books we have today) was at that time divided into more than thirty-nine books. In any case, the first canonical book is Genesis, in which no conversation between Michael the archangel and Seth occurs, so the volume of seventy books referred to must have included supplementary material.

12. And we further considered that perhaps he was the very God of Israel who spoke to Moses, You shall make the ark of the testimony; two cubits and a half shall be its length, and a cubit and a half its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height.

These instructions about the construction of the ark of the testimony, or Ark of the Covenant is in Exodus 25:10. A cubit is about eighteen inches.

13. By these five cubits and a half for the building of the ark of the Old Testament, we perceived and knew that in five thousand years and a half (of one thousand) years, Jesus Christ was to come in the ark or tabernacle of a body;

This is an example of fanciful numerological speculations engaged in both by Jewish mystics and later by some of the early Church Fathers.

14. And so our scriptures testify that he is the Son of God, and the Lord and King of Israel.
15. And because after his suffering, our chief priests were surprised at the signs which were wrought by his means, we opened that book to search all the generations down to the generation of Joseph and Mary the mother of Jesus, supposing him to be of the seed of David;
16. And we found the account of the creation, and at what time he made the heaven and the earth and the first man Adam, and that from then to the flood, were two thousand, two hundred and twelve years.
17. And from the flood to Abraham, nine hundred and twelve. And from Abraham to Moses, four hundred and thirty. And from Moses to David the king, five hundred and ten.
18. And from David to the Babylonish captivity, five hundred years. And from the Babylonish captivity to the incarnation of Christ, four hundred years.
19. The sum of all which amounts to five thousand and a half (a thousand).

The margin dates commonly used by some Bible publishers are from Archbishop Usher's system of chronology are rejected by modern scholars. Usher dated the Call of Abraham at B.C. 1921, the Babylonian Captivity at 587, and the birth of Christ at 4 A.D. Only the last is acceptable. In this case, the point is moot, for the total comes only to 4,964 years. The usefulness of the calculations here is that it reflects what was probably widely believed when this book was written.

20. And so it appears that Jesus whom we crucified is Jesus Christ the Son of God, and true and Almighty God. Amen.

The oldest extant manuscript of this book ends with the following note: "In the name of the Holy Trinity, thus end the Acts of our Savior Jesus Christ, which the Emperor Theodosius the Great found at Jerusalem, in the hall of Pontius Pilate among the public records; the things were acted in the nineteenth year of Tiberius Caesar, Emperor of the Romans, and in the seventeenth year of the government of Herod the son of Herod king of Galilee, on the eighth of the calends of April, which is the twenty-third day of the month of March, in the CCIId Olympiad, when Joseph and Caiaphas were Rulers of the Jews; it being a History, written in Hebrew by Nicodemus, of what happened after our Savior's crucifixion."

Your comments or feedback on The Seraphim Files are welcome.
email seraphim@devout.com

Click here to return to Index