Creeds: The Epistula Apostolorum

The Epistula Apostolorum is also known as the Epistle of the Apostles. Although originally written in Greek, it is preserved in translations of Coptic and Ethiopic. The Coptic manuscript comes from the late fourth to early fifth century CE. The Ethiopic manuscripts come from the eighteenth century but preserve the entire text. While the Coptic seems to be a direct translation of the Greek, the Ethiopic may be a translation of an existing translation into Arabic or Coptic.

It is apocryphal, but important to show developing doctrine in the light of the fight agianst the Gnostics of Simon Magus and Cerinthus. Ron Cameron writes in his introduction in The Other Gospels:

In presenting an alleged revelation of Jesus to his apostles, the Epistula Apostolorum superimposes the literary form of revelation discourse and dialogue upon its traditions. Jesus speaks as the risen Lord who mediates instruction to the community. This literary layering is clearly secondary: the discourse and dialogue are not composed of sayings, but comprise creedal formulas, catechetical instructions, and portions of abbreviated dogmatic treatises, all of which are used in the service of “orthodoxy.” The Epistula Apostolorum thus mimics a form of revelation literature which was popular among many gnostics, attempting to combat its opponents with their own theological weapons. This apologetic purpose is heightened by prefixing an epistolary introduction to the document. Against the claims of authority of certain writings that circulated under the names of individual apostles or disciples of Jesus, all the apostles are mentioned by name as the authors of this “letter” and the recipients of this revelation. The Epistula Apostolorum thus modifies the form of the letter to stress that this revelation is encompassed with a truly catholic epistle, that it is not a secret teaching, and that what is revealed is known by and available to all. The Epistula Apostolorum, therefore, is an anti-genre, a parody of a form of apocalyptic literature favored by its Christian gnostic opponents, an attempt to domesticate the literature of those who portrayed Jesus as the revealer of otherworldly knowledge disclosed in mystery books.

Here are two creedal statements:

This know we: that our Lord and Redeemer Jesus Christ is God the Son of God, who was sent of God the Lord of the whole world, the maker and creator of it, who is named by all names, and high above all powers, Lord of lords, King of kings, Ruler of rulers, the heavenly one, that sitteth above the cherubim and seraphim at the right hand of the throne of the Father: who by his word made the heavens, and formed the earth and that which is in it, and set bounds to the sea that it should not pass: the deeps also and fountains, that they should spring forth and flow over the earth: the day and the night, the sun and the moon, did he establish, and the stars in the heaven: that did separate the light from the darkness: that called forth hell, and in the twinkling of an eye ordained the rain of the winter, the snow (cloud), the hail, and the ice, and the days in their several seasons: that maketh the earth to quake and again establisheth it: that created man in his own image, after his likeness, and by the fathers of old and the prophets is it declared (or, and spake in parables with the fathers of old and the prophets in verity), of whom the apostles preached, and whom the disciples did touch. In God, the Lord, the Son of God, do we believe, that he is the Word become flesh: that of Mary the holy virgin he took a body, begotten of the Holy Ghost, not of the will (lust) of the flesh, but by the will of God: that he was wrapped in swaddling clothes in Bethlehem and made manifest, and grew up and came to ripe age, when also we beheld it.

And

They are the symbol of our faith in the Lord of the Christians (in the great christendom), even in the Father, the Lord Almighty, and in Jesus Christ our redeemer, in the Holy Ghost the comforter, in the holy church, and in the remission of sins.

This last set of five – Father, Redeemer, Comforter, Church, and Remission is something that we will see again.

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