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Apocalypse of Thomas

In the so-called Decretum Gelasianum,* a sixth-century list of books declared to be canonical and noncanonical, an item appears in the Apocryphal Books section entitled “Revelation which is ascribed to Thomas.” Another attestation of this document is found in the Chronicle of Jerome of the Codex Philippsianus No. 1829 in Berlin, in which the circumstances of the giving of this revelation to Thomas are described. Evidence shows that the book is fifth-century and tainted with a Manichaean flavor. It exists in two recensions, a longer and a shorter (ET of both versions is given in M.R. James, The Apocryphal New Testament, 1924); and there are critical comments on the two versions in New Testament Apocrypha II (ET ed. R. McL. Wilson, 1965, pp. 798ff.). The book based on the canonical Revelation describes the scenes presaging the events of the end- time, and does so according to a schema of seven days.

THOMAS, APOCALYPSE OF. Long known only from its condemnation in the Decretum Gelasianum, this Apocalypse is a comparatively recent discovery, first identified in 1908 and now extant in two VSS. The longer VS, contained in a Munich MS and in fragments in Rome and Verona, falls into two distinct parts: (a) an account of the events and signs preceding the last judgment, presenting a survey of history in the guise of prophecy as in Daniel and other apocalyptic books. Some historical references, and in particular a cryptic allusion to Arcadius and Honorius (if not an interpolation), date this section to the 5th cent. at the earliest; (b) a description of the seven signs at the end of the world, distributing the events of the end over seven days (the only apocryphal apocalypse that does so). This section is more akin to the canonical Revelation of John. There is an Old Eng. form of this VS in the 9th cent. Anglo-Saxon MS of Vercelli.

The shorter VS corresponds to the second section above, and prob. represents more nearly the original apocalypse, later expanded by various revisions. It is contained in another Munich MS and in a 5th cent. Vienna MS which is the oldest witness. If the allusion to Arcadius and Honorius is authentic (it is missing from the Anglo-Saxon), Lat. was the original language of the longer VS, but there are grounds for suspecting a Gr. original behind the Lat. texts.


Translations of both VSS in ANT 555ff.; shorter VS in NTAp II. 798ff.

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