Coptic Apocalypse of Paul

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The Coptic Apocalypse of Paul is one of the texts of the New Testament apocrypha found in the Nag Hammadi library of Codex V.[citation needed] The text is not to be confused with the Apocalypse of Paul, which is unrelated.[1] Steven A. Armstrong dates the text to 150-170 CE on the basis of its content.[2] Kaler, Painchaud, and Bussieres date the text to the late second or early third centuries.[3] The text was part of a contested claim between Valentinian Gnostics and other groups about who was the true heir of Paul the Apostle.[4]


While trying to find a way to Jerusalem, the apostle Paul meets a child on the road. The child turns out to be a heavenly messenger, and Paul then experiences a divine vision.

The Holy Spirit takes Paul up into the third heaven, and then up into the fourth heaven, where he sees angels punishing sinners.

He then ascends to the fifth heaven, where he sees an angel holding an iron staff who is accompanied by three other angels. The angels all have whips in the hands or punish the souls of sinners.

Next, Paul reaches the sixth heaven, where he meets a gatekeeper who then opens the gate to the seventh heaven.

At the seventh heaven, Paul meets an old man dressed in white who is seated on a shining throne. Paul gives him a sign and is allowed into the eighth heaven.

At the eighth heaven, Paul sees the twelve apostles. He then ascends further into the ninth heaven, and then finally the tenth heaven, which is where the text ends.[5]


The watch-stations in the Coptic Apocalypse of Paul have parallels with matartas in Mandaeism and aerial toll houses in Eastern Orthodox Christianity.

The old man guarding at the seventh heaven can be compared to the apparition of the heavenly figure in Daniel 7:13 and also in 1 Enoch 46–47,[5] as well as Abatur in Mandaeism.

The Testament of Abraham also describes the punishment of the soul.[5]


  • A. Böhlig and P. Labib's Koptisch-gnostische Apokalypsen aus Codex V von Nag Hammadi im Koptischen Museum zu Alt-Kairo (Halle: Sonderband der Wissenschaftliche Zeitschrift der Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg, 1963), 15–21
  • MacRae, George W.; Murdock, William R., "The Apocalypse of Paul", Coptic Gnostic Library Project, Institute for Antiquity and Christianity, Claremont Graduate School
  • M. Kaler and J.-M. Rosenstiehl, L’Apocalypse de Paul (NH V,2), Bibliothèque copte de Nag Hammadi, section “Textes” (Quebec/Louvain/Paris: PUL/Peeters, 2005).

See also[edit]



Further reading[edit]

  • William Murdock, “The Apocalypse of Paul” (PhD diss., Claremont Graduate School, 1968).
  • W.-P. Funk, “Koptisch-gnostische Apokalypse des Paulus,” in Neutestamentliche Apokryphen in deutscher Übersetzung, ed. W. Schneemelcher (Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1989), 2:628–33
  • R. Kasser, “Bibliothèque gnostique VII: L’Apocalypse de Paul,” RTP 19 (1969): 259–63)
  • H.-M. Schenke, “Review of Labib-Böhlig,” Orientalische Literaturzeitung 61 (1966): col. 24
  • H.-M. Schenke with the Berliner Arbeitskreis für koptisch-gnostische Schriften, “Die Bedeutung der Texte von Nag Hammadi für die moderne Gnosisforschung,” in Gnosis und Neues Testament, ed. K.-W. Tröger (Berlin: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 1973), 13–76. H.-J. Klauck's “Die Himmelfahrt des Paulus (2 Kor 12:2–4) in der koptischen Paulusapokalypse aus Nag Hammadi (NHC V/2),” Studien zum Neuen Testament und seiner Umwelt 10 (1985): 151–90
  • J. Steven-son, “Ascent Through the Heavens from Egypt to Ireland,” Cambridge Medieval Celtic Studies 5 (1983): 21–35