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p. vii


   The story, which I have called the Book of the Rolls, from an expression in its opening rubric, is taken from the Arabic MS. No. 508 in the Library of the Convent of Saint Catherine on Mount Sinai, where I photographed it during my second visit, in 1893, and where I revised it and re-photographed various pages on my two subsequent visits in 1895 and 1897. The work of copying it for the press, and of correcting the proof-sheets, I have done from my photographs at home. At first I thought it was a recension of the Book of Adam and Eve, of which an Arabic MS. exists in the Library at Munich, and which has been translated from the Ethiopic by the Rev. S. C. Malan, D.D., but in this I was mistaken. It was not till I had got three sheets of the present work through the Press, that I learned from Prof. Seybold of Tübingen, that this same subject had been published in Germany so long ago as 1888, both in Syriac and Arabic, by Prof. Bezold of Munich, under the title of Die Schatzhöhle, the “Cave of Treasures,” a translation having preceded it in 1883. I determined, however, to go on with my publication, first, because the Sinai text is so different from Dr Bezold’s that I found it impossible to collate them, and second, because though Dr Bezold collated eight Arabic and four Syriac texts for his publication, only one of them, the Paris one, No. 76, has any claim to antiquity, and it is precisely with it that the Sinai text is most in agreement. As Dr de Lagarde pointed out in his Mittheilungen, Vol. IV., pp. 6-8 Dr Bezold has not menioned three other Paris texts, Nos. 77, 78 and 79, nor that in all four this story forms part of an “Apocalypse of Peter.” As Prof. Bezold has published the text of 76, with which the other three are quite or nearly identical, I thought it better to give the Sinai text without any collation. The story stands by itself in the Codex, apart from any Apocalypse. As I think that it throuws light on some bdoubtful places in the Paris MSS., I subjoin a short list of some of these, hoping that in most p. viii of the passages, the Sinai MS. will be considered to have the advantage.

{here follows a list of variations, not reproduced in this rescension}

p. ix

   Dr de Lagarde says of this treatise, in reviewing Prof. Bezold’s book (Mittheilungen, Vol. III., pp. 50-51), that it is important, even though it may be worthless in itself, because of the influence it has excercised. It is the source from which many authors have drawn; it runs in Syriac, Arabic and Ethiopic through the churches of Asia and Africa, and it serves as a leading line of ancient history, as well as of the philosophy of religion.

   Dr Nöldeke thinks that the story dates from the sixth century, which Lagarde doubts. The latter relates that, according to Nicoll and Tischendorf, there is a letter from Jacques de Vitry, Bishop of St Jean d’Acre, dated A.D. 1219, to Pope Honorius III., telling him p. x that the Revelation of Peter to Clement will soon be put before him in one volume*. The Paris MSS. 77 and 78 say that the Apocalypse of Peter has been found it Nicosia, therefore de Lagarde thinks that the book has some connection with the history of the first crusades. The Cambridge MS. makes a similar statement.

   Duval (Anciennes Littératures Chrétiennes, pp. 90-96) says that our tale belongs to the Book of Jubilees, said to have been composed by St Ephraim; the author however cannot be Ephraim, but rather one of his disciples, as the work is not earlier than the sixth century.

   It is evidently written by a Christian, who has been hurt by the conduct of certain Jews in reviling the Mother of our Lord, and its object is to prove her descent from David, which these Jews were impudently calling in question. The proper names in the Sinai MS. have been much spoiled, probably by repeated copyings, but they are not difficult to identify with those in the books of Genesis, Judges, and Kings. It would be curious to know where the names of the ladies come from. Several of them are those given in Kings, but even these are not all correct. The names of towns are still more difficult to recognize.

   There is no date discoverable in our MS., No. 508 in my catalogue of the Arabic MSS. (Studia Sinaitica, No. III.), the same from which I have already edited the Anaphora Pilati and the Recognitions of Clement (Studia Sinaitica, No. V.). The codex consists of 156 leaves, all paper, with the exception of five, which are vellum, measuring 20 × 15 centimetres. The hand-writing, as may be seen form the frontispiece is very like that of Plate XX. of the Palæographic Society’s Facsimiles of Ancient MSS. Oriental Series Part II. the date of whose original is A.D. 885. I may therefore claim that this Sinai MS. is at least older than the four Paris MSS. 76, 77, 78 and 79, of which No. 76 is dated A.D. 1336-7, and copied from a MS. of A.D. 1176-7.

   We have so little original Christian Arabic literature of the period before or shortly after the Mohammedan conquests, that we ought to welcome any light on the ideas, or scriptural and historical knowledge p. xi of these long-forgotten Arabs, whose lamp was so effectually extinguished, perhaps because it was burning smokily. We cannot avoid noticing that they had some heathen notions mingled with their Christian doctrine; notable the perpetual service before the body of Adam, and the idea of carrying it to the centre of the earth (Jerusalem) is truly pagan, and yet the latter persists in the Holy City at the present day. The same may be said of the keeping of Adam’s body in the Ark by Noah, and one cannot help feeling that the accumulation of patriachal bodies, as time went on, must have become somewhat embarrassing. See translation, page 22, line 33.

   I believe this treatise to be copied from an older MS. because of its obvious mistakes, . . . . There is a possibility of its having been originally translated from the Greek, . . . .


   This tale is purely apocryphal, and its very plan is an anachronism. The utmost ingenuity cannot reconcile its discordance. Jesus ben Sira, the author of Eclesiasticus, lived towards the end of the second century B.C. and his grandson translated his work in the days of Ptolemy Euergetes, King of Egypt; therefore he could not have been vizier to a monarch who preceded him by eight centuries. If he were a vizier at all, it must have been to one of the successors of Antiochus, and a legend true or p. xii false, may have arisen about his wife, the name of Solomon being substituted at a later period for that of a Greek king. This would be all the more likely to happen as Jesus ben Sira wrote the book of Ecclesiasticus in conscious imitation of the literature ascribed to Solomon. If this legend has any foundation in fact, it would account for the extraordinary statement in Ecclus. xlii. 14, “Better is the wickedness of a man than the goodness of a woman” (see the lately discovered Hebrew text, ed. Cowley-Neubauer, Oxford, 1897), a reflection which he might well make during the two years of sulkiness here attributed to him. Another solution of the difficulty may be found in the possibility that Jesus ben Sira is confused with another. Dr Nestle, of Maulbronn, has found in the pre-Lutheran Bible, in the Prologue to Ecclesiasticus, after the words ὁ πάππος μου ’Ιησου̑ς “Mein anherr Jesus ein sun josedech, der do einer ist von den tulmetzschungen der LXX, des enckeln ist gewest diser Jesus ein sun syrach, dornach als er sich mer gab zu dem fleiss der letzen [Lection] der schrifft in dem gesetze und der propheten und ander bücher, die von unsern eltern und vorfarenden seint gegeben; dornach wolt er augh schreiben etwas.” These words must have been in the Latin MS. from which the translation was made.



p. x

* I have found this statement in a footnote to Tischendorf, Prolegomena to Apocalypses Apocryphae, page xx. Our story corresponds with the first part of the description which Tischendorf gives of the Apocalypse of Peter, from Nicoll’s Catalogue of the Bodelian Library, A.D. 1821.