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Apocalypse of Abraham

This Jewish apocryphal work survives only in a Slavonic version, translated from a lost Greek version dependent possibly on a Hebrew or Aramaic original. The extant form was edited by a Christian and has Christian editions. The original was composed in the period a.d. 70-130. Chapters 1-8 expound the conversion of Abraham from idolatry. The remaining chapters (9-32) contain the apocalypse proper, where God tells Abraham of the fall of man and of the idolatry of his seed which leads to the destruction of the Temple (a.d. 70). When, however, the present age, lasting twelve “hours,” is over, the End will come when the heathen will be destroyed, the apocalyptic trumpet will sound, and the people of God will be gathered together.

ABRAHAM, APOCALYPSE OF This extracanonical work is extant in an Old Slavonic VS based on a Gr. tr. of a Heb. or Aram. original as shown by its Sem. names for idols.

The work itself is a composite with the first third (eight chs.) being devoted to legends of Abraham’s youth. This section prob. was written before a.d. 50. The Apocalypse proper occupies the remainder of the work. From its content, it would seem to date from c. a.d. 100. An edition of the text and a tr. was made by G. H. Box (The Apocalypse of Abraham, S.P.C.K., London [1919]).

The Apocalypse is somewhat of a midrashic commentary on Genesis 15. An angel, Jahoel, escorted Abraham up to the seventh heaven where he saw past events such as the fall of Adam and Eve (caused by the sin of sex, and occasioned by the seduction of Azazel), and the Cain and Abel episode. The revelation also included such future events as the destruction of the Temple and Messiah’s coming, which was accompanied by ten plagues upon the heathen, the gathering of Israel in the Promised Land, and the judgment of the wicked.

The book is a mixture of dualism and monism. Abraham discussed the problem of evil with God. When Abraham asked why Azazel is tolerated, God said that evil comes from the free will of man. From its ambivalent theology at this point some have concluded that various sources were used in its compilation.

In the Apocalypse the devil is called Azazel, who is somewhat like Belial of Test XII Pat. He is identified with the serpent of Genesis 3. Some have thought that parts of the Apocalypse dealing with Sammael-Satan were circulated among the Gnostics (cf. Epiphanius, Panarion 39.5). This was a common identification in Gnostic lit. (cf. Apocryphon of John, Hypostasis of Archons) as well as in heterodox Judaism of the early Christian centuries.

The angel Yahoel (Jahoel) claims in the Apocalypse to possess the powers of the ineffable Name. This quality the rabbis ascribed to Metatron (Sanh. 38b), so in the Apocalypse Jahoel is being fused with Metatron. Michael’s tasks are taken over by Jahoel, so in a roundabout way Michael is being transformed into Metatron.


L. Ginzberg, “Abraham, Apocalypse of,” Jew Enc I (1901-1906), 91, 92.

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