Open main menu


It now remains to collect certain anonymous quotations, purporting to be Scriptural, which appear in the works of early Christian writers. I can hardly hope that I have not missed some such, but probably all that are of first-class interest will be found here.

A word of caution is necessary. Whoever has read Dr. Rendel Harris's Testimonies (Part I.) must recognize that when we encounter passages seemingly conflated out of texts from the Old Testament, there is a possibility that we may be dealing with extracts from an early Christian selection of logia or testimonies from the prophets, or with erratic renderings of texts that we know in other forms, not with citations from lost writers. I suspect that this is the case with a good many of the passages I have here put together, though their origin has not yet been tracked out.

The Apostolic Fathers come first.

Clement of Rome. Ep. ad. Cor. xxix. (after quoting Deut. xxxii. 8): "And in another place he says, 'Behold, the Lord taketh to Himself a nation from the midst of the nations, as a man taketh the firstfruits of his threshing floor: and there shall come forth out of that nation the holy of holies' (Neuter Plural)."

This is guessed by Gebhardt and Harnack to be a conflation of passages in Deut. (iv. 34, vii. 6, xiv. 2), Num. (xviii. 27), 2 Chron. (xxxi. 14), Ezek. (xlvm. 12), but these do not contain the whole, by any means. Resch would assign it to the apocryphal Ezekiel, along with the prophecy quoted above under Eldad and Medad, and with the next:

l. c. l. 4: "For it is written, 'Enter ye into the store-chambers for a little moment, until my anger and wrath be overpast: and I will remember the good day and will raise you up out of your coffins.'"

Here the, first clause is found in Isa. xxvi. 20, and the last, perhaps, in Ezek. xxxvii. 12, but there is not exact agreement with either.

In xvii. 5 the words, "But I am the vapour from a pot," are attributed to Moses. Dr. Rendel Harris has pointed out that the real source is 1 Chron. xxix. 15.

xxvi. 2: "He saith in a certain place, 'And Thou shalt raise me up and I will give thanks unto Thee,' and 'I laid me down and slept and rose up, for Thou art with me.'"

The first quotation is not exactly to be found in the Psalms, but the second is combined from Ps. iii. (iv.) 6 and xxiii. 4; I imagine Clement is quoting inexactly from memory. He would be less likely to verify quotations from the Psalms than from any other book.

xlvi. 2: "For it is written: Cleave unto the holy, for they that cleave to them shall be made holy." Ps. xviii. 26 follows.

"Cleaving to the holy" is a phrase twice used by Hermas, and Clement of Alexandria quotes Ps. xviii. 26 and then our passage, probably using the Epistle, which he knew well. The words, "for if thou cleave to the holy thou shalt become holy," are also in an early tract of canons to which Hilgenfeld gave the name of the Two Ways, or Judgment of Peter.

In "2 Clement" xiii. 3 is a passage not marked as a quotation, but reading like one: "But ye know that already the day of judgment cometh burning like a furnace, and certain of the heavens shall melt, and all the earth, melting like lead upon the fire; and then shall the secret and the manifest works of men appear." The Apocalypse of Peter is a likely source here; there is a distinct resemblance to 2 Peter iii. 10.

Barnabas vi. 13: "The Lord says: 'Behold, I make the latter things as the first.'" To this end, therefore, the prophet proclaimed: "Enter ye into a land flowing with milk and honey, and have dominion over it." Though inexact, neither clause goes far away from what may be found in the Bible.

vii. 4: "What saith He in (by) the prophet? 'And let them eat of the goat that is offered at the fast for all the sins.' Give good heed. 'And let the priests alone all eat the intestine unwashed, with vinegar. . .'" 7: (after quoting Lev. xvi. 7 sq.: "Take two goats," etc.). But what are they to do with the other? "Cursed, saith he, is the other." See how the type of Jesus is manifested: "And spit, all of you, upon it, and pierce it, and put the scarlet wool about its head, and so let it be cast into the wilderness."

We can hardly be wrong in reckoning this as a Christian interpolation into Leviticus, comparable to, but more serious than, that in the Psalm, "The Lord reigneth from the Tree," which runs through all the early centuries.

xi. 9: "And again another prophet saith: And the land of Jacob was praised above all the earth. . . . 10. Then what saith He?" "And there was a river flowing from the right, and there came up out of it goodly trees, and whosoever eateth of them shall live for ever."

Apparently the two clauses are from a single source, which reminds one of Ezek. xlviii. 1–12, but is not the same.

xii. 1: "Likewise again he defineth concerning the Cross in another prophet who saith: 'And when shall these things be accomplished? The Lord saith :When a tree (or timber) and wood shall lie down and arise, and when blood shall drop from a tree (or wood).'"

It has been thought that this is from 4 Esdras iv. 53, but of late opinion has been against that view, and, I think, rightly. Discussions of it may be found in Rendel Harris's Rest of the Words of Baruch and in my Introduction to 4 Esdras.

xvii. 6: "For it is written: And it shall be, when the week is being accomplished, that the Temple of God shall be built gloriously in the name of the Lord."

This is like Dan. ix. 24 ff. Resch would attribute it to the apocryphal Ezekiel,

Clement of Alexandria, whom we have found to be a rich source, is our next hunting-ground.

Protrepticus viii. fin.: "Hear again the prophet who says: The sun shall fail and the heaven shall be darkened, but the Almighty shall stand for ever: and the powers of the heaven shall be shaken, and the heavens shall be rolled up like a curtain, stretched out and pulled in (for these are the words of the prophecy), and the earth shall flee from the face of the Lord."

Many Biblical phrases are here, but the ensemble is not Biblical, and an Apocalypse of an Old Testament character does seem likely to be the source.

Protr. X. 98: "A certain prophecy says that things here (on earth) will be in an ill plight when they (men) put their faith in statues."

Pædagogus III. viii. 44. The expression "intelligent fire" (φρόνιμον πῦρ) is used. God "poured out a little of that intelligent fire" upon Sodom. It is a phrase which recurs in Clement and other writers, and which I believe we owe to some apocryphal book. It means a fire which distinguishes between the good and the bad.

The Pistis Sophia c. 115 speaks of "a very great, very vehement, wise fire which will burn up sins."

Clem. Alex., Eclogæ ex propheticis scripturis, 26: "The fire is conceived of as a good power and mighty, destroying the worse and preserving the better, for which reason this fire is called in the prophets intelligent." Cf. also 27.

Strom. vii. 34. 4: "We say that the fire sanctifies not the flesh but the sinful souls; we do not mean the all-devouring ordinary fire, but the intelligent, that penetrates the soul that passes through the fire."

Origen (on Prayer, 29): "Rather the retribution of their error takes place in them when they are delivered to sufferings of dishonour or cleansed by the intelligent fire, and in prison have the payment for every one of their shortcomings exacted from them to the uttermost farthing."

Origen (on Ezekiel, i. 3): "What, O Apostle, is that fire which tries our works? What is that fire so wise that it keeps my gold . . . and only consumes the evil I have done?"

Minucius Felix, Octavius, (viii.) 35. 3: "There a wise fire burns the members and refreshes them, consumes and nourishes."

Testament of Isaac (Coptic, p. 41, Guidi): "The river of fire did not hurt the righteous, but the sinners, since the fire was knowing them."

Id. Arabic (Barnes, ap. Test, of Abraham, p. 147): "And the river (of fire) had intelligence in the fire thereof, that it should not hurt the righteous, but the sinners only, burning them." The Test, of Jacob (ibid.): "The river of fire which is prepared to separate the transgressors from the polluted (?)."

The Apocalypse of Peter had the conception of a river of fire which at the last day all souls were to pass, and which should spare the righteous and burn the sinners. But I am inclined to think that it must have appeared in a Jewish apocalypse before that, with the definite description "intelligent fire."

Pæd. III. xii. 89: "Good works," saith he, "are a prayer acceptable to the Lord." Cf. Prov. xv. 8. It is not unlike the quotation from the Apocalypse of Adam in Barnabas (p. 1). Here also it occurs in conjunction with passages from Isa. i.

Stromateis, II. vi. 28, 29. After quoting Isa. liv. i, he continues with words which are not in our texts of the Hebrew or LXX: "Thou livedst in the enclosure of the people, thy children were blessed in the tabernacles of the fathers. . . ." And he adds more plainly: "Thou didst inherit the covenant of Israel." This hardly ranks as apocryphal.

Str. III. xviii. 106: "Makers of war, strikers with their tails, according to the prophet."

Str. VII. xii. 74: "The voice that says: 'Whomsoever I smite, do thou pity.'"

Excerpt. ex Theodoto, 10. In this and other sections there is mention of the first-created angels (seven in number, as we learn from Hermas and from the Stromateis). They are higher than the archangels (12, 27). The word used is πρωτόκτιστοι: the idea occurs in Jewish writings, e. g. the Pirke R. Eliezer 4, where it is said that before God is spread a veil, and the seven first-created angels serve Him before the veil. This veil is spoken of in the Exc. ex Theodot. 38, and there is something like it in the Testament of Isaac.

See also Clement's Eclogæ ex propheticis scripturis 51, 52, 57, Adumbr. in 1 Joh.

Irenæus, Apostolical Preaching c. 43, after quoting "Jeremiah": "Before the morning star I begat thee (Ps. cx.), and before the sun is his name (Ps. Ixxii. 17)." And again he says: "Blessed is he who was there before the coming of man into being." Lactantius, Div. Inst. iv. 8, quotes as from Jeremiah: "Blessed is he who was, before he was born." On these passages see Rendel Harris's Testimonies, I. 72, and Dean Robinson's forthcoming edition of the Apostolical Preaching.

Hippolytus (on Antichrist, 15): "And another prophet also saith: He shall gather together all his power from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof: whom he hath called and whom he hath not called shall go with him: he shall make the sea white with the sails of his ships and the land (plain) black with the shields and the weapons: and every one that shall meet him in battle shall fall by the sword."

Hilgenfeld thought this was from the Apocalypse of Peter, but we may now be sure that that book said very little, probably nothing, about Antichrist; and the words have all the flavour of an Old Testament prophecy. My own attribution would be to the Apocalypse of Elias.

Tertullian (on the Resurrection of the Flesh, 32): "But that there may not appear to be a resurrection only of these bodies which are committed to graves, thou hast it written: 'And I will command the fishes of the sea, and they shall vomit up the bones that are devoured, and I will make joint come to joint and bone to bone.'" The last words are like those of Ezek. xxxviii. 7, and the whole passage agrees in substance with Enoch lxi. 5, but not in wording. Tertullian does not very often quote apocrypha,[1] but the pseudo-Ezekiel, we have seen, is known to him; this may be from it.


A book of a somewhat different kind from those we have been considering has to be noticed now. It is the Prophecy of Hystaspes, a soi-disant pagan prophetical book of the same general character as the Sibylline Oracles (of which, it is hardly necessary to say, a large corpus, wholly Jewish or Christian, exists).

The supposed author, Hystaspes, Hydaspes, Gushtasp, is described as an ancient Persian king, contemporary with Zoroaster. Agathias (ii. 24) says that Zoroaster was "in the time of Hystaspes," but that it was uncertain to him whether this was the father of Darius or some other Hystaspes. He speaks on the authority of the Persians of his own time (middle of the sixth century). In passing, I remind the reader that a Christian prophecy of Zoroaster, mentioned above under Baruch, is addressed to his disciple Gushnasp. Of Hystaspes, Ammianus Marcellinus (xxiii. 6, 32) has this to say: "Hystaspes, a most wise King, father of Darius. He, while boldly exploring the hidden parts of Upper India, came upon a lonely forest region whose still quietude was peopled by the wisest of the Brachmani: from them he learnt, so far as he was able, the system of the course of the world and the stars, and the ritual of a fire-worship; and some part of his learning he infused into the minds of the Magi, by whom, along with the lore of predicting the future, it is handed down to later ages through the descendants of each." This passage does not show Hystaspes as the author of a written work; our evidence as to that is all derived from Christian sources. There are four passages.

Clement of Alexandria, Str. vi. 5. 42, 43: "In addition to the Preaching of Peter this will be seen from the words of the Apostle Paul, who says: Take also the Greek books, consider the Sibyl, how she declares the One God and the future. Take Hystaspes and read him, and you will find the Son of God written of far more distinctly and clearly, and how that many Kings will array themselves against the Christ, hating him and those who bear his name, and his faithful ones, and his patience, and his appearing,"

I agree with others who see in this a probable quotation from the ancient Acts of Paul. If it represents Hystaspes at all faithfully, we have no choice but to set down the book as Christian.

Justin Martyr, Apology, i. 20: "And the Sibyl too, and Hystaspes, said that there should be a dissolution of corruptible things by means of fire."

Id. 44: "(By the evil one's contrivance) death was decreed against those who read the books of Hystaspes or the Sibyl or the Prophets." The reason for this decree will appear from the next passage.

Lactantius, Divine Institutes, vii. 19. 19: "Hystaspes also, who was a most ancient king of the Medes, from whom the river took its name which is now called the Hydaspes, left on record for posterity a wonderful dream interpreted by a prophesying boy (sub interpretatione uaticinantis pueri). He foretold that the empire and name of Rome should be taken away out of the world, and that, long before that race of Trojan descent began to be."

This tells us something of the form of the book. The king, I conjecture, had a symbolic vision, and a marvellous child interpreted it to him, in the manner of Daniel. Is it a faint late echo of this that we find in mediæval times in the following story? Each of the Three Kings had a sign in his house before the birth of Christ. In one case an ostrich laid two eggs, out of which were hatched a lion and a lamb; in the second, a balsam plant in the garden produced a flower, out of which came a dove, and it announced that God, the Maker of heaven, earth, and sea, the Saviour of all, was born of a virgin; to the third King it befell that his wife bare a son, who stood up on his feet and prophesied of Christ and foretold his own death after thirty-three days. The tale, which comes to us in Latin, is said in the MSS. to be drawn from a Greek writer, Germanus (? the Patriarch of Constantinople). The Latin will be found in O. Schade's Narrationes de vita et conversatione B. Mariæ, etc. (Königsberg, 1876), from a Giessen MS. I have also found it in MS. CCCC. 365 and in Cosin's Library at Durham (V. iv. 9). I believe representations of it are among the sculptures on the Cathedral of Ulm.

The last passage I know about Hystaspes is in what is known as the Tübingen Theosophy (Buresch. Klaros, p. 95). It is an epitome, contained in a MS. at Tübingen (a transcript of the burnt Strasburg MS. that contained the Epistle to Diognetus and other apologetic writings), of a fifth-century treatise in eleven parts, of which Books I. to VII. dealt with the True Faith, and VIII. to XL were called Theosophy. "In the fourth (of the Theosophy) or eleventh (of the whole work) he produces oracles of Hystaspes, who was a most pious King, he says, of the Persians or Chaldeans, and therefore received a revelation of divine mysteries concerning the incarnation of the Saviour." He thus confirms, what the Clement-quotation suggested, that the book of Hystaspes was of Christian complexion.

  1. He is generally known to have used Enoch; and Mr. H. N. Bate has recently called my attention to a passage in his de bono patientiæ, xiii., in which he not only alludes to the Ascension of Isaiah, but also, undoubtedly, to the Testament of Job, chap. xx.