Flora Tells a Story
The Apocalypse of Paul and Its Contexts
Publication Year: 2008
In early Christianity, many people were inspired to write gospels, treatises, letters, and stories celebrating the new faith, but not all of these writings are found in the New Testament. One such story from an unknown author is the Coptic, gnostic Apocalypse of Paul, a tale of the apostle Paul’s ascent to the heavens that was lost for millennia and rediscovered at Nag Hammadi in 1945. In Flora Tells a Story, Michael Kaler discusses the Apocalypse of Paul and how it was shaped by its literary environment.
The book takes a behind the scenes look at early Christian literary production, analyzing the ways in which various literary traditions—such as apocalyptic writings, gnostic thought, and understandings of Paul—influenced the author of the Apocalypse of Paul and helped to shape the text. It also includes a new annotated English translation of the Apocalypse of Paul and a fictional account of how it might have come to be written.
This work is the most in-depth study of the Apocalypse of Paul to date and the only full-length discussion of it in English. It provides a detailed but accessible account of the literary environment in which its author worked and integrates this little-known work into the broader stream of early Christian writings. This book will be of interest to specialists in Nag Hammadi and gnostic studies and early Christian literature, but will also appeal to the general reader interested in Christianity, mysticism, and gnosticism.
Published by: Wilfrid Laurier University Press
Title Page, Copyright Page
This book has been a long time coming and would not have arrived at all without the help of many people and institutions. I would like first of all to thank Louis Painchaud, who originally interested me in the Apocalypse of Paul and who provided inspiration, support, and assistance while I was working on it. And my initiation into the study...
In this book, I will be taking an in-depth look at a short tale of heavenly ascension called the Apocalypse of Paul.1 It is a gnostic, Christian work, composed sometime before the mid-fourth century of our era, one of the many previously unknown writings that make up the “Nag Hammadi Library.”2 My concern will be to outline and defend my hypothesis as to its function and raison d’être, and also to illuminate...
English Translation of the Apocalypse of Paul (NHC V,2)
Introduction. [approx. 11 lines missing]3 (18.3) the road, [a]nd [he4 spoke to him,] | saying, [“By which] road (5) [can I go] up to Je[rusalem5 ?”]...
Flora Tells a Story: A Fictional Account of the Creation of the Apocalypse of Paul
The more I read of ancient Christian texts, the more I wonder about the people who wrote them. In studying these works we are taught to analyze them in terms of the social and theological contexts in which they were composed, we try to find the sources of their motifs, in short, we try to figure out their overall literary and historical context...
Section One: "The Apocalypse of Paul is a text …"
The sole attested version of the Coptic, gnostic Apocalypse of Paul (not to be confused with the doctrinally orthodox and extremely popular Visio Sancti Pauli, also known as the Apocalypse of Paul) is found in the fifth codex of a thirteen-codex collection of Coptic writings discovered...
Section Two: "written in the late 2nd or early 3rd century by a gnostic (possibly Valentinian) author …"
In this section I will be addressing the question of the original Sitz im Leben of the Apocalypse of Paul, a speculative expansion of Paul’s account of his ascent to heaven in 2 Cor 12:2–4, of which the sole surviving manuscript is preserved in the fifth codex of the Nag Hammadi collection....
Section Three: "showing the apostle Paul …"
As I noted in the introduction, in the present work we will be concerned with analyzing the way in which the Apocalypse of Paul fits into three currents of early Christian thought: apocalypticism, Paulinism, and gnosticism. I have argued that the three are related as follows...
Section Four: "as an apocalyptic hero …"
In previous sections of this book I have discussed the probable Sitz im Leben for the Apocalypse of Paul and have attempted to tease out some of the nuances of the message it is intended to convey. I have also examined the significance of the author’s choice of the apostle Paul for her protagonist. In this section I turn from the background...
Section Five: "… in order to authoritatively present a gnostic understanding of the cosmos and the Pauline writings"
We have examined above the significance of the genre of the Apocalypse of Paul and the way in which its author works with that genre. We have also examined its protagonist, Paul, and the way in which its unknown author works with—or perhaps we ought to say “constructs...
In the introduction, I noted that the hypothesis that I have presented here can be summed up in one sentence: “The Apocalypse of Paul is a text, written in the late second or early third century by a gnostic (possibly Valentinian) author, showing the apostle Paul as an apocalyptic hero, in order to authoritatively present a gnostic understanding...