Apocalypse of Paul

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The Apocalypse of Paul is a 3rd-century text of the New Testament apocrypha.[1] There is an Ethiopic version of the Apocalypse 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, which is unlikely to be related.

The text appears to be an elaborate expansion and rearrangement of the Apocalypse of Peter, and is essentially a description of a vision of Heaven, and then of Hell – although it also contains a prologue describing all creation appealing to God against the sin of man, which is not present in the Apocalypse of Peter. 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 the Apocalypse of Peter 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:

Plan of the book[edit]

  • 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.
  • 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, Georgian – 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 (ii. 28[2]), when Dante mentions the visit of the 'Chosen Vessel'[3] to Hell.


  1. ^ Ehrman, Bart (2003), Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew, Oxford Press, pp. xiv, ISBN 9780195141832 
  2. ^ Several versions and commentaries on Inferno, Canto II, 28 of the Divine Comedy. Pietro Alighieri thinks it is an allusion to 2 Corinthians 12.
  3. ^ Acts 9:15: But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:

Further reading[edit]

  • 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).
  • Nikolaos H. Trunte. Reiseführer durch das Jenseits: die Apokalypse des Paulus in der Slavia Orthodoxa (München – Berlin – Washington, D. C.: Verlag Otto Sagner. 2013) (Slavistische Beiträge 490).

External links[edit]