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The Apocryphal Old Testament Collection of the most important non-canonical Old Testament books designed for general use.

The Life of Adam and Eve - Introduction

The Life of Adam and Eve here translated is the Latin version of the story of Adam and Eve from the time of their expulsion from Paradise until their deaths.

Jewish legends connected with Adam and Eve and their children abound. So much is clear from the Rabbinic literature. Yet there is no direct evidence for the existence of any pre-Christian written collection of these legends in either Hebrew or Aramaic. The Church, however, seems to have known a number of apparently different Adam books from a comparatively early date: Epiphanius, for example, says that ‘many’ Gnostic books were attributed to Seth and ‘revelations’ to Adam, 1 Epiph. Haer. XXVI. viii. 1. the Apostolic Constitutions mentions Adam along with Moses and Enoch as one of the ‘ancients’ who wrote apocryphal books, 2 Const. Apost. VI. xvi. 3. and the Gelasian Decree includes in its list of apocrypha ‘the book that is called The Penitence of Adam’. 3 Decr. Gelas. v. 6.

The Adam books which have survived have various titles: they have been preserved in a variety of forms and recensions, and in a variety of languages. Some are distinct: others are interrelated, some obviously so, others less obviously. Thus, the Coptic ‘Apocalypse of Adam’, discovered near Nag Hammadi in 1945, has no points of contact at all with the Syriac ‘Testament of Adam’ (apart from its form), nor with the Ethiopic ‘Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan’: on the other hand, our Latin ‘Life of Adam and Eve’ has a number of points of contact with the Ethiopic ‘Conflict’, but nothing like as many as it has with the Armenian ‘Book of Adam’. No attempt will be made, therefore, either to summarize the contents of these books individually, or to disentangle the very complicated interrelationships where they exist. Fundamental to the group most closely related to our ‘Life’ would appear to be the Greek work edited by Tischendorf in 1866 (under the title ‘The Apocalypse of Moses’ 4 This title was Tischendorf's own. His four MSS all gave as title (with minor variations) ‘The Story and Life of Adam and Eve, revealed by God to Moses his servant, when he received the tables of the Law of the Covenant from the Lord's hand, being taught by the archangel Michael’. ) and again by Ceriani two years later. 5 Ceriani printed only the text of Cod. Ambrosianus C. 237 Inf. (11th cent.; = Tischendorf's ‘D’), which unfortunately has a lacuna of eighteen chapters in the middle. To-day more than twenty MSS are known.

Despite the very considerable differences in detail, Tischendorf's ‘Apocalypse’ covers in all essentials the same ground as our ‘Life’. On the debit side it lacks the account of the penitence of Adam and Eve contained in Life i–xxi, as well as the vision of Adam in Life xxv–xxix: on the credit side, it puts into the mouth of Eve a much more elaborate account of the Fall, a translation of which, because of its inherent interest, is printed in full as an appendix at the end of our translation of the Life. 6 See below, pp. 161–67.

So far as the origin of the Apocalypse is concerned, there is nothing in it that is necessarily Christian; and for this reason many regard it as a purely Jewish work, some even going as far as to claim that it is a translation from a Semitic original. But for this last view there is no sound evidence. Against it is the presence of certain Greek terms and expressions, which are unlikely to be found in a translation, and the fact that references and allusions to the Old Testament betray dependence on the Septuagint. All that can safely be said about it is that the author, whether Jew or Christian, constructed his narrative making use of such Jewish traditions or written sources as were known to him: that he almost certainly wrote in Greek; and that in all probability he is to be dated within the first three Christian centuries. Wells, for instance, saw the author as a Jew of the Dispersion, who wrote perhaps at Alexandria, ‘between AD 60 and 300, and probably in the earliest years of this period’. Wells reckoned, however, with the possibility that the extant Greek text may be ‘a slightly revised version’. 7 L.S.A. Wells in R. H. Charles, APOT ii, pp. 129 and 130.

The Latin text of the Life, with which we are more immediately concerned, was first published by Meyer in 1878 from twelve MSS, all (with one exception) at Munich and dating from the 9th to 15th cents. In 1929 J. H. Mozley printed a text based on twelve 13th–15th cent. English MSS. This text does not differ markedly from Meyer's in content: it only makes even more clear what is already evident from Meyer, namely that the mediaeval copyists of the Life had no scruples about altering and expanding the phraseology of their original whenever they felt so inclined, or about incorporating odd scraps of additional material that came their way wherever it seemed appropriate.

As already indicated, it is the presence of not a little of such additional material in the Latin Life which particularly differentiates it from the Greek ‘Apocalypse’. Some of this additional material is undoubtedly Jewish – as, for example, the legend which appears in Life l–li, that, in accordance with Eve's final instructions before her death, Seth wrote down the story of Adam and Eve and ‘all that he had heard and seen from them’ both on ‘tablets of stone’ and on ‘tablets of clay’, so that whatever form the threatened judgement took, whether fire or flood, the record on one or other might survive. 8 Cp. Josephus, Ant. I. ii. 3 (70–71). Some of the additional material, however, is undoubtedly Christian – as, for example, the speech of Michael in xli.2–xlii.5 prophesying the coming upon earth of ‘the most beloved King, Christ, the son of God’, which is almost verbally identical with Michael's speech as given in the ‘Latin A’ recension of the Acts of Pilate (Gospel of Nicodemus) chap. xix . The Life is thus a typical compound of Jewish and Christian elements, but with the Jewish predominating. It has come down to us in Latin, yet the occurrence from time to time of transliterated Greek words (e.g. cinnamomum et calaminthen et nardum at xliii.3) makes it as reasonably certain as anything can be that it is basically a translation of a Greek original. It is best explained as the translation either of a later recension of the ‘Apocalypse’, or, possibly but less probably, of one of the sources behind the ‘Apocalypse’.

The English translation which follows is based on the Latin as printed by Meyer.

Notes:

1 Epiph. Haer. XXVI. viii. 1.

2 Const. Apost. VI. xvi. 3.

3 Decr. Gelas. v. 6.

4 This title was Tischendorf's own. His four MSS all gave as title (with minor variations) ‘The Story and Life of Adam and Eve, revealed by God to Moses his servant, when he received the tables of the Law of the Covenant from the Lord's hand, being taught by the archangel Michael’.

5 Ceriani printed only the text of Cod. Ambrosianus C. 237 Inf. (11th cent.; = Tischendorf's ‘D’), which unfortunately has a lacuna of eighteen chapters in the middle. To-day more than twenty MSS are known.

6 See below, pp. 161–67.

7 L.S.A. Wells in R. H. Charles, APOT ii, pp. 129 and 130.

8 Cp. Josephus, Ant. I. ii. 3 (70–71).

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