Apocalypse of Paul
The Apocalypse of Paul is a 4th-century text of the New Testament apocrypha
New Testament apocrypha
The New Testament apocrypha are a number of writings by early Christians that claim to be accounts of Jesus and his teachings, the nature of God, or the teachings of his apostles and of their lives. These writings often have links with books regarded as "canonical"...

. There is an Ethiopic version of the Apocalypse
An Apocalypse is a disclosure of something hidden from the majority of mankind in an era dominated by falsehood and misconception, i.e. the veil to be lifted. The Apocalypse of John is the Book of Revelation, the last book of the New Testament...

 which features the Virgin Mary in the place of Paul the Apostle, as the receiver of the vision, known as the Apocalypse of the Virgin. The text is not to be confused with the gnostic Apocalypse of Paul
Coptic Apocalypse of Paul
The Coptic Apocalypse of Paul is one of the texts of the New Testament apocrypha found amongst the Nag Hammadi library. The text is not to be confused with the Apocalypse of Paul, which is unlikely to be related....

, which is unlikely to be related.

The text appears to be an elaborate expansion and rearrangement of the Apocalypse of Peter
Apocalypse of Peter
The recovered Apocalypse of Peter or Revelation of Peter is an example of a simple, popular early Christian text of the 2nd century; it is an example of Apocalyptic literature with Hellenistic overtones. The text is extant in two incomplete versions of a lost Greek original, one Koine Greek, and an...

, and is essentially a description of a vision of Heaven
Heaven, the Heavens or Seven Heavens, is a common religious cosmological or metaphysical term for the physical or transcendent place from which heavenly beings originate, are enthroned or inhabit...

, and then of Hell
In many religious traditions, a hell is a place of suffering and punishment in the afterlife. Religions with a linear divine history often depict hells as endless. Religions with a cyclic history often depict a hell as an intermediary period between incarnations...

 – although it also contains a prologue describing all creation appealing to God against the sin of man, which is not present in Peter's Apocalypse. At the end of the text, Paul/Mary manages to persuade God to give everyone in Hell a day off every Sunday.

The text extends Peter's Apocalypse by framing the reasons for the visits to heaven and hell as the witnessing of the death and judgement of one wicked man, and one who is righteous. The text is heavily moralistic, and adds, to the Apocalypse of Peter, features such as:
  • Pride is the root of all evil
    Root of all evil
    -Money:* First Epistle to Timothy in the New Testament , which contains the phrase, "The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil"...

  • Heaven is the land of milk and honey
    Land of Israel
    The Land of Israel is the Biblical name for the territory roughly corresponding to the area encompassed by the Southern Levant, also known as Canaan and Palestine, Promised Land and Holy Land. The belief that the area is a God-given homeland of the Jewish people is based on the narrative of the...

  • Hell has rivers of fire and of ice (for the cold hearted)
  • Some angels are evil, the dark angel
    Fallen angel
    Fallen angel is a concept developed in Jewish mythology from interpretation of the Book of Enoch. The actual term fallen angel is not found in either the Hebrew Bible or the New Testament. Christians adopted the concept of fallen angels mainly based on their interpretations of the Book of...

    s of hell, including Temeluchus
    Temeluchus is one of the tartaruchi, the chief angel of torment , according to the extracanonical Apocalypse of Paul...

    , the tartaruchi
    Tartaruchi are the keepers of Tartarus , according to the 4th century, non-canonical Apocalypse of Paul. The author describes them as using one hand to choke damned souls, and the other using an "iron of three hooks"...


Plan of the book

  • 1, 2. Discovery of the revelation.
  • 3–6. Appeal of creation to God against man
  • 7–10. The report of the angels to God about men.
  • 11–18. Deaths and judgements of the righteous and the wicked.
  • 19–30. First vision of Paradise, including lake Acherusa
    Acherusa is a lake that lies near the city of Christ, according to chapters 22 – 23 of the extracanonical Apocalypse of Paul:Acherusa is also mentioned in the older, fragmentary work The Apocalypse of Peter, though in Peter it is a field, rather than a lake:The name appears to be derived from...

  • 31–44. Hell. Paul obtains rest on Sunday for the lost.
  • 45–51. Second vision of Paradise.


Greek copies of the texts are rare; those existing containing many omissions. Of the Eastern versions – Syriac, Coptic, Ethiopic – the Syriac are considered to be the most reliable. There are also several abridged Latin texts, from which many current versions were translated, into most European languages.

Whole episodes are repeated hinting of unskilled compilation.

James also sees its influence in the Dante's Inferno
The Divine Comedy
The Divine Comedy is an epic poem written by Dante Alighieri between 1308 and his death in 1321. It is widely considered the preeminent work of Italian literature, and is seen as one of the greatest works of world literature...

 (ii. 28), when Dante mentions the visit of the 'Chosen Vessel' to Hell.

Further reading

  • Jan N. Bremmer and Istvan Czachesz (edd). The Visio Pauli and the Gnostic Apocalypse of Paul (Leuven, Peeters, 2007) (Studies on Early Christian Apocrypha, 9).
  • Eileen Gardiner, Visions of Heaven and Hell Before Dante (New York: Italica Press, 1989), pp. 13–46, provides an English translation of the Latin text.
  • Lenka Jiroušková, Die Visio Pauli: Wege und Wandlungen einer orientalischen Apokryphe im lateinischen Mittelalter unter Einschluß der alttsechischen und deutschsprachigen Textzeugen (Leiden, Brill, 2006) (Mittellateinische Studien und Texte, 34).
  • Theodore Silverstein and Anthony Hilhorst (ed.), Apocalypse of Paul (Geneva, P. Cramer, 1997).
  • J. van Ruiten, "The Four Rivers of Eden in the Apocalypse of Paul (Visio Pauli): The Intertextual Relationship of Genesis 2:10–14 and the Apocalypse of Paul 23:4," in García Martínez, Florentino, and Gerard P. Luttikhuizen (edd), Jerusalem, Alexandria, Rome: Studies in Ancient Cultural Interaction in Honour of A. Hilhorst (Leiden, Brill, 2003).

External links

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