THE APOCALYPSE OF ELIJAH
Preface to the Book
This book is purported to be written by the prophet Elijah. We have mentions of this book in the writings of the early church, find some probable quotes of it in the Word of God, find this book listed as part of the canon of Scripture in the early church, and find five copies of it (some partial) to be yet existent. Early attempts at dating presupposed it to be a rewrite of a Jewish Elijah apocalypse. The earliest copy is the Achmimic manuscript dating from the fourth century. Of the five manuscripts, four are in Coptic, and an older one is in Greek. They all come from the early fourth or fifth century.
The manuscripts currently available:
One manuscript is called the Achmimic Coptic (designated Ach), was edited by Steindorff (1862), and this copy has the beginning and end, but is missing some of the middle portions.
Another manuscript, (Sa3), the Shahidic Coptic, is the most complete copy. It is probably the closest to the Greek version, which was translated from the original Hebrew. This manuscript was written in the syllabic units to facilitate reading aloud. Some Scripture, that was especially appreciated and endeared by the congregations, was read aloud in unison in the early church, and this copy seems to be written in syllabic units to make that easy for the congregation to do such.
A third manuscript, the Sahidic (Sa1), was found in the White monastery. It includes the Apocalypse of Zephaniah, but lacks the end, part of the middle, and a bit of the beginning of the Apocalypse of Elijah.
The fourth manuscript (Sa2) is a colophon to a biblical codex found now in the British Museum (BM7594). It is written in Greek script in the Sahidic Coptic language, and was found in 1925. It is dated to the mid fourth century. It has only the opening part of the Apocalypse of Elijah.
The fifth manuscript (Gk-PS17), is made up of fourth century papyrus fragments. Some significant differences are found in it to the Achmimic texts. The reasons for these differences is obvious to readers. The Egyptian influence on the book, the text, has manifested itself in partial attempts to interpret what the book had to say, and when phrases were interpreted, substitutions of places were made. For instance, when the original said, ‘the good city’, the Egyptian readers supposed that to mean a city in Egypt, whose name meant ‘a good city’, and missed the fact, obvious to readers who know other prophetic readings, that ‘the good city’ referred to Jerusalem.
Egyptian attempts to interpret and make more plain what was written in this book by Elijah, have made this book to be shunned, ignored, or attacked for many years. Careful correction needs to be done, to restore this book to the purity of the original writing, and this is difficult, laborious, and can be hotly debated. Careful checking with the five manuscripts available is necessary, as well as checking the quotes of it made by other non-Egyptian writers in the early church, is vital to restoration of the text.
There are many references to the book
by the early church.
Didymus the Blind of the fourth century, mentions it in his ‘Commentary on Ecclesiastes" (page 235, 11:26-28). He refers to the ‘certain girl mentioned by Elijah in Apocalypse of Elijah 4:1-6.
The Tiburtine Sibyls (these were the Greek Tiburtine Sibyl that was expanded in 503-504 CE from earlier Sibylline prophecy of 378-390. This writing mentions ‘Tabitha, and the books shows other parallels to the Apocalypse of Elijah, but the woes and signs are re-arranged from the order given by Elijah.
The Apocalypse of Shenoute, which was a discourse added to Besa’s ‘Life of Shenoute" (685-690 CE) in the Arabic version, contains some details from the Apocalypse of Elijah.
The lists of canon of Scripture is found to sometimes include the Apocalypse of Elijah. For instance, Athanasius, in the sixth century, lists the Apocalypse of Elijah as being part of the canon of the Bible. Stichemetry of Nicephorus, the patriarch of Constantinople, in 806-815, also lists it in the canon. The "Catalogue of Sixty Canonical Books" includes the Apocalypse of Zephaniah, the Apocalypse of Isaiah, and the Apocalypse of Elijah in its canon.
The fifth century, Epistle of Pseudo-Titus, contains the earliest and most extended ‘quotation’ from the Apocalypse of Elijah, and talks of the description of Elijah of the torments of sinners in the lake of fire. The Chronicle of Jerachmeel attributes that vision to Elijah. This current translation does not include such ‘vision’, and it is likely in the large part of the book that is yet to be discovered. There is much missing of the book, and here we will deal with the five chapters that we currently have.
Origen claimed that Paul had taken ‘what no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God hath prepared for those who love Him." (I Corinthians 2:9) from the Apocalypse of Elijah. Jerome also made the same claim. This phrase is not in the five chapters that we have here now.
Some of the many references in the Bible,
where Elijah’s writing was quoted,
or its message referred to:
Apocalypse of Elijah 1:2 is found quoted in I John 2:15
Apocalypse of Elijah 1:5-7 is found quoted, or referred to in Philippians 2:6-8, Hebrews 1:4-6, 2:7-9.
Apocalypse of Elijah 1:8-10 is found referred to in Colossians 1:16, Leviticus 3:8,
and in the Apocalypse of Isaiah.
Apocalypse of Elijah 1:9, is found referred to in Revelation 3:12, 7:3, 16, 14:1.
Apocalypse of Elijah 1:10 is found referred to in Revelation 21:10-27, Hebrews 11:16.
Apocalypse of Elijah 2:5, 32-33 is found referred to in Revelation 9:6, and Revelation 11.
Two parts to the book
Actually, there are two parts currently found of the Apocalypse of Elijah. One part reveals the heavenly mysteries and describes places in the heavens. The second is the part that we will herein translate and paraphrase, where the coming adversary of the last days is described. As soon as possible, the other part will be added to this writing.
These Five chapters:
This opens with a prophetic commission, ‘The word of the Lord came to me; Son of man, say to this people, Why do you sin and continue in sin...?’ This condemnation of sin amidst God’s people is then followed by a discussion fo the devil and the world, the coming of the Messiah, of rewards for serving God, and a call to fasting in the last days. It is written in homiletical style, and addresses those who would be ‘wise’ in the last days.
This chapter is similar to Mark 13, and is a comparison of the true Messiah and the evil spirit who will inhabit and control the counterfeit messiah of the last days. The last day adversary is described in the deeds he will do in the tribulation period.
This chapter is a series of signs and attributes of the last day adversary of Elijah. He is called ‘the wicked one". It compares the coming of the true Messiah, with the coming and works of the false one of the tribulation.
This chapter describes the activities of the last day wicked one, as his influence grows. It emphasizes his cruelty toward those who oppose him. Three martyrdoms are predicted and described, that of Tabitha, Enoch, and Elijah. There will be many martyrdoms, of course, and the ones of Enoch and Elijah, the two witnesses, are described in Revelation. Of the other many martyrdoms, Elijah describes that of a young virgin, named Tabitha, who is resurrected following her death, to speak again to this wicked one. Among the other who oppose the wicked one, there are many saints, and a group of 60 righteous ones who confront and challenge this wicked counterfeit messiah.
This chapter deals with the time when many will realize that the wicked one is not the messiah, and that a group of believers will be spared his wrath. 64,000 angels are dispatched by God to protect them. Gabriel and Uriel lead this group to the joys of paradise. The judgment of the last days is completed, the wicked one is overcome, the army of God returns to do battle against the forces of the wicked one, Enoch and Elijah finish their ministries, and a rule of a 1000 years is predicted for the true Messiah on this earth.