Questions of Bartholomew
|This article relies too much on references to primary sources. (September 2007)|
The Questions of Bartholomew is not to be confused with the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, although either text may be the missing Gospel of Bartholomew (or neither may be), a lost work from the New Testament apocrypha.
The text survives as Greek, Latin, and Old Church Slavonic manuscripts, although each copy varies from the others considerably in the wording chosen. It is of similar style to the Apocalypse of St. John the Divine, although sensational instead of seeking to frighten. It is framed as a dialogue from Jesus to the apostles (it varies significantly as to at which stage in time between the manuscripts), instigated by a series of extremely daring and outrageous questions and requests by Bartholomew.
The text appears to have been quite popular, judging by how well it survived, perhaps due to lavish and carnal depictions of the supernatural. For example, the text implies that The Fall of Man was caused by Eve having sex with Satan.
The text draws heavily on Jewish mysticism (such as the Book of Enoch), seeking to provide an explanation of the more supernatural aspects of Christian thought at the time. However, rather than a more clinical treatment that would be expected for such a treatise, it approaches these topics in a tabloid manner, evidently seeking to be a popular work rather than one for official church teaching.
Initially, the text describes how Jesus descended into hell in his own words, and then jumps to discussing the virginal conception when Mary arrives amongst the apostles. Next, the apostles ask for a vision of hell, and angels roll up the earth to let them, and then return the earth when they have glimpsed it.
Finally, Bartholomew asks to see Satan, and so a choir of angels drags Beliar (a name for Satan) from the depths of hell in chains, the sight of which kills the apostles dead. Jesus immediately brings them back to life and gives Bartholomew control over Satan. Bartholomew asks Satan how he came to be the enemy and other questions on esoteric subjects such as the hierarchy of the angels. He also explains the story of his removal from heaven. Satan's testimony also includes an admission to his role as the leader of six hundred fallen angels that fell with him. Satan is claimed to have a son named Salpsan, though little is mentioned of him.
- The Gospel of Bartholomew From "The Apocryphal New Testament," by M. R. James (trans), Oxford, 1924, hosted on Gnosis.org
- The Poetics of Slavdom: The Mythopoeic Foundations of Yugoslavia, Volume 2, p.518, by Zdenko Zlatar, Peter Lang, 2007
- Christ and Satan: A Critical Edition, p. 27, Robert Emmett Finnegan, Wilfrid Laurier Univ. Press, 1977