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GOSPEL / QUESTIONS OF BARTHOLOMEW (1st - 4th century) Questions.

Discussion in 'The Voice In The Desert - Oriental Orthodox' started by rakovsky, Feb 11, 2019.

  1. rakovsky

    rakovsky Newbie

    Eastern Orthodox
    The "Gospel of Bartholomew" could be the same as the "Questions of Bartholomew".
    The Decree of Pope Gelasius lists "the Gospels in the name of Bartholomew" among condemned or unacceptable scriptures, and Jerome mentions a Gospel of Bartholomew among other apocryphal gospels in his prologue to Matthew. On the other hand, the Questions of Bartholomew had significant currency through the centuries, has surviving copies in Slavonic, Coptic, Latin, and Greek, and was the basis for a medieval Latin Church sermon. Fr. K. Parhomenko looks at Questions of Bartholomew and suggests it as a source for where the Orthodox Church entered into its hymnography discussions between people in Hades in connection with Christ's descent there. He also sees it as a source for the idea of Jesus' omnipresence in the theologians and hymnography. He quotes Great Saturday's hymn: "In the grave the fleshly, in hades with soul like God, and in paradise with the thief, and on the throne is Christ..." (Тайна Пасхи 4)

    The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia's article on Bartholomew says:
    Al Bahnasa (AKA "Oxyrhynchus") is an Egyptian town where early Christian fragments have been found.

    "The Apocryphal New Testament" (edited by J. K. Elliott) proposes that Questions of Bartholomew was composed in Greek, perhaps in Egypt. The "Routledge Encyclopedia of Ancient Mediterranean Religions" notes: "The apostle was also valued in Egypt, the place of composition of two works bearing his name: the Questions of Bartholomew and the Book of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ by Bartholomew." Besides that, such dialogues (eg. between Jesus and Bartholomew) are a feature shared with gnostic apocrypha, which commonly came from Egypt or the Mideast. In "Jesus and the Gospels", R. J. Bauckham considers the Questions of Bartholomew to be a non-gnostic work.

    The Questions of Bartholomew can be found here: GOSPEL OF BARTHOLOMEW
    Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, a 5th-6th c. "Christian Neoplatonist" quoted statements by Bartholomew here: Dionysius the Areopagite: Mystical Theology
    The Book of Hieratheus, often attributed to the 5th c. Syrian monastic Stephen Bar Sudhaile, says that Bartholomew wrote "As for me I glorify the Cross of mysteries (or 'of sufferings'), and I know that it is the first gate of the house of God." However, this quote is not found in Questions of Bartholomew.

    (Question 1) What do you think is the date range for the Gospel or Questions of Bartholomew?

    Stephen Pelle, in his essay "A Quotation from the Questions of Bartholomew in an early Medieval Latin Sermon", says that the Questions of Bartholomew was probably written between the 2nd and fourth century. (https://www.brepolsonline.net/doi/pdf/10.1484/J.APOCRA.5.103628) In the fourth century, Jerome mentioned the Gospel of Bartholomew. The "Resurrection of Jesus Christ by Bartholomew" is a reworked version of the Questions of Bartholomew and is found in a 5th century list of Christian writings.

    (Question 2) Do you recognize any of Mary's foreign words in bold below? Are they even meant to be real words from a known national language?

    In Chapter II of the Questions of Bartholomew, Bartholomew asks Mary:
    The apostles and Mary give each other honors, like Mary saying that in the apostles' likeness "did God form the sparrows, and sent them forth into the four corners of the world", and the apostles saying to Mary, "He that is scarce contained by the seven heavens was pleased to be contained in thee."
    This suggests that Mary's declaration below is in the form of a prayer and that the apostles are worthy of hearing the answer to their request of her. After the requests and her replies to the apostles,
    Out of these words, I recognize Elison ("have mercy" in Greek) and Seption (from "Seven" in Greek). Maybe the seven is related to the apostles' preceding reference to the seven heavens.
    In "The Apocryphal New Testament" M.R. James notes about Mary's foreign words: "this is the reading of one Greek copy: the others and the Slavonic have many differences as in all such cases: but as the original words-assuming them to have once had a meaning-are hopelessly corrupted, the matter is not of importance."
    I take this to mean that the original, Greek version has Mary give the words and adds: "which is in the Greek tongue", meaning that her foreign words are not Greek, but that the meaning is translated into Greek in the section after them.
    I also take the Slavonic version's alteration to "which is in the Hebrew tongue" to mean that the Slavonic editor supposed that Mary's words were Hebrew.
    My interpretation is that Mary's words are not meant to be either Greek or Hebrew. This is because Mary's other words spoken to the apostles, as well as Bartholomew's conversation with Jesus is all given in Greek. If the author imagined them to be talking Hebrew or Aramaic (which is close to Hebrew), he would not have translated all their dialogues into Greek except for Mary's brief declaration.
    One possibility that comes to mind is that here Mary spoke some kind of angelic, inspirational, or prayer language when she gave her declaration - conceptually similar to how modern Pentecostals portray their "tongues", and this is why it's presented in this gibberish-like form. She had warned the apostles that there could be a fire if she told them what happened at the Incarnation, and after she tells them about the Annunciation, it says that fire came out of her mouth. This brings to mind the tongues of fire in the story of Pentecost in Acts.
    Another option is that the writer meant that Mary was speaking Hebrew or Aramaic in her declaration and that the author presents the supposed original Hebrew/Aramaic words just as the canonical gospels sometimes quotes Jesus in Aramaic and then gives a translation (as in "Talitha Kum", Little Girl, Arise!).

    (Question 3) Have you heard of other references in early Christian writings about angels worshiping Adam or mankind?
    In Chapter 4, Satan tells Bartholomew that the reason he fell from grace was because he (Satan) refused to worship man who was the image of God:
    (Question 4) What do you think the 12 heads of God refers to in Chapter 4?
    In apocalyptic literature of this period, "heads" sometimes refers to kings. So maybe the 12 heads refers to the 12 disciples who were to lead the Church?
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2019
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  2. ~Anastasia~

    ~Anastasia~ † Servant of God † Supporter CF Senior Ambassador

    United States
    Eastern Orthodox

    I hesitate to comment - I certainly don't have answers, only opinions on such apocrypha and in some cases of the "flavor" of the material. A few other minor thoughts. And I'm not OO.

    So watching for now.
  3. dzheremi

    dzheremi Coptic Orthodox non-Egyptian

    Oriental Orthodox
    No, I'm sorry, it's not interesting. After what must be at least the third thread on a similar topic (some weird 'gospel' that was quoted a few times by someone, or was found in Egypt or in Coptic) in just a few days, I'm getting a little concerned that this particular poster is for some reason using the OO forum as a kind of dump for whatever weird probably gnostic crud that he can find that has the most threadbare connection to Egypt. I'm not interested in humoring this anymore, and none of it belongs here.

    But just because someone who has not been posting threads full of weird voodoo crud on this forum has said that it is interesting to her, the words of "St. Mary's" supposed speech appear to be proper names, some with just slightly tweaked spelling, which should be a dead giveaway that this is nothing worth wasting your time on unless you're particularly interested in this type of thing, for some reason. Melitho is a proper name (one of the forty martyrs of Sebaste had this name, if I recall correctly), as is Athoor (a.k.a. Ashur or Atur, the pre-Christian god of the Assyrians; Ashur is still a male proper name in Eastern Assyrian/Neo-Aramaic). It would not surprise me to find that all of them are some kind of garbled Greek or Syriac, as is already suggested regarding Elison and Seption.

    The point is this is a bunch of junk. Stop posting this bizarre nonsense on this subforum. If you keep doing so, Rakovsky, I will request that the mods have these threads locked or removed, because like I tried to tell you a few times ago, this stuff has no status within the OO Church, and is not connected to it just because it was found in Egypt or was quoted by somebody else (Stephen Bar Sudhaile was a heretic condemned by people who the OO do recognize, namely St. Jacob of Serugh and St. Philoxenos of Mabbug). And this forum is supposed to be about the OO Church, not "Rakovsky found something weird that was found in Egypt/was written in Coptic". So all of this is severely off-topic. The OP indicates that there are versions of this particular writing in Greek, Slavonic, and Latin, as well, so why don't post about this on the EO or RC subforums, Rakovsky? No doubt it's just as known to those people as it is to the communion that this subforum is actually supposed to be dedicated to.
  4. rakovsky

    rakovsky Newbie

    Eastern Orthodox
    Dear Dzheremi,
    for making a few comments about the questions, and for expressing your concerns. I think you are worried about me posting weird documents that aren't related to the Coptic Church. I have enjoyed writing with you in the past and appreciated your respectful discussions. I also like the knowledge that you bring to the table along with your familiarity of Egyptian Church history and writings. Let me better explain where I am coming from in making the posts.

    My plan has been to read all the potential first century writings about Christianity, for inspiration as well as to get a good understanding with the foundational period of Christianity. Sometimes there were things in them that I didn't understand, so I decided to ask questions about them, especially with Christians from the areas where the non-gnostic ones were written. So I decided to ask about the Shepherd of Hermas (by Hermas of Rome) on the Catholic Answers forum (THE SHEPHERD OF HERMAS (1st - mid 2nd century) Questions on its authenticity and doubting) and about the Epistle of Barnabas (probably from Cyprus or the Greek mediterranean) on the Monachos forum (The Epistle of Barnabas (1st. cent.) Questions. - Specific texts). And I wanted to ask about the non-gnostic 1st century Christian writings from Egypt here, because this is one of the biggest OO discussion places on the web.

    I understand what you mean when you referred to their "weirdness". "Weird" supernatural accounts or ideas appear to be a major, common feature of many 1st-mid 2nd century Christian writings. Even one of the most respected and best authenticated outside of the Bible, the First Epistle of Clement of Rome, has a passage that seems to imply that the Phoenix is a real bird in Egypt that dies and resurrects. Clement next used this as an analogy for the resurrection. Think about the Shepherd of Hermas - it's a long treatise delivered in visions by a Shepherd; or John's Revelation in the Bible, which depicts the Whore of Babylon and the Beast with the mark of "666", along with plenty of other strange or curious images. Even Paul's reference in his Epistles to knowing someone who went up to the "third heaven" sounds curious. It seems like there was a whole genre of apocalyptic literature from that time with strange or curious visions, images, and concepts.

    Plus, I agree that it's valuable to consider the works' status. The Apocalypse of Peter is in the Muratorian Canon, one of the oldest lists of the books of the Bible, and Clement of Alexandria accepted it, but Eusebius didn't count it as genuine. The Preaching of Peter was accepted by Clement of Alexandria, but Eusebius didn't count it as genuine either. And the Questions of Bartholomew was once widespread among the world's Christians (translated into multiple languages) and maybe contributed to the Great Saturday hymn and was quoted extensively in a medieval Latin sermon, but the decree of Pope Gelasius listed the Gospel of Bartholomew (maybe the same document) as condemned or unacceptable.

    So here I am recognizing what their status is and am not trying to treat these works as major writings of the Coptic church, but rather 1st to 2nd century Christian writings from the time of the apostles and those who knew them. My hope is that they can give me better insight into the ideas of Christians at that time. I'm not implying that the Coptic Church accepts them as genuine or authoritative theologically. In fact, I am also looking for your criticisms of these early documents, if any. I thought that you already made helpful contributions without much effort. I didn't know about Melitho or Athur and didn't recognize those names, so this sheds new light for me on Mary's words in the text. Nor did I know about Stephen Bar Sudhaile's opponents whom you named. This is the kind of new, relevant information for me that gives me a better grasp of these Apostolic Age documents.

    Does that make sense and help to explain better my motives for asking about the early Christian writings here, Dzheremi?
  5. dzheremi

    dzheremi Coptic Orthodox non-Egyptian

    Oriental Orthodox
    That's all fine, my friend. The point is that this stuff does not belong on Voice In The Desert specifically. I think you could get a better response from posting them on one of the forums specifically dealing with the development of scripture (I think there is such a subforum in the Theology section of this website), because posting them here could give a wrong impression about them, and even if it doesn't they are still off topic to the actual purpose of this subforum.