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The Apocalypse of the Virgin

(Summary only)

From "The Apocryphal New Testament"
M.R. James-Translation and Notes
Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1924


We have this in Greek in a great many texts. The oldest I have found was edited by me in 1893. A very brief summary of it will suffice, for it is a late and dreary production.

The Virgin at the Mount of Olives prays to be told about the torments of hell and the next world. Michael is sent. He takes her to the west: the earth opens and discloses the lost who did not worship the Trinity.

She sees a great darkness. At her prayer it is lifted and she sees souls tormented with boiling pitch. No one has yet interceded for them, neither Abraham, John Baptist, Moses, nor Paul. They are unbelievers.

They go to the south: there is a river of fire with souls immersed at various depths. Cursers of their parents. Causers of abortion. False swearers. A man hung by the feet and devoured by worms is a usurer. A woman hung by the ears, with serpents coming out of her mouth and biting her, is a backbiter and gossip.

They go (again!) to the west. In a cloud of fire lie those who lay late on Sunday. On fiery seats sit those who did not rise at the entry of the priest. On an iron tree hang blasphemers and slanderers. A man hung by hands and feet is the evil steward (oeconomus) of a church. Wicked priests, readers, bishops, widows of priests who married again, an 'archdeaconess', covetous women, are severally described.

They go to the left-hand of paradise. In a river of pitch and fire are the Jews who crucified Jesus, those who denied baptism those guilty of various impurities, sorcerers, murderers, they who strangle their children. In a lake of fire are bad Christians.

A great appeal of the Virgin follows, in which she entreats all the saints to intercede, with her, for the Christians. At last the Son appears, and grants the days of Pentecost as a season of rest to the lost.

In some texts a visit of the Virgin to paradise follows this, but it is usually short and uninteresting. In one of the Eastern books on the Assumption there is a very diffuse account of paradise as seen by the Virgin.


This is wholly different from the Greek. It was edited with a Latin version by Chaine in 1909 (Corpus Scriptt. Christ. Orient. i. 7) with texts of the Protevangelium and a story of the Assumption.

The Apocalypse is almost wholly borrowed from that of Paul. Chaine takes it to be a version from Arabic, and the Arabic he thinks was translated from Greek. John is the narrator. The Virgin called him to listen to a wonderful mystery which had been revealed to her: as she prayed at Golgotha at noon on the sixth day of the week a cloud came and took her into the third heaven. The Son appeared and said that he would show her a great mystery. 'Look upon the earth beneath.' (Here we have ch. 13 of Paul, and from this point we continue with the text of Paul sometimes amplified with quotations from the Bible.)

At Paul 31 we have the addition -doubtless correct- that the souls who were neither hot nor cold sit beside the river of fire. There are several variations and additions to the list of torments not worth specifying, but the section which corresponds to Paul 40 must be quoted (unpleasant as the topic is) on account of its affinity with Peter.

Women are seen, bitten by serpents, dogs, lions, and leopards of fire. They are nuns who violated the rule and slew their children.

Often they caused their death before they were born. They shed their blood on the ground, or killed them when born, or their fathers gave poison to the mothers. 'But these children cry out before the throne of my Father, and say: Lord, they have not suffered us to grow up to do good or evil: the half of us they gave to the dogs and cast the other half to the swine. And when we heard the words of these children, I and my Father and the Comforter were grieved, and I commanded Temliaqos to set them in a beautiful abode. But for their fathers and mothers this is their torment for ever.'

The Virgin says: If they repent wilt thou not forgive them? Yes, if they do so from their heart. But as for their pastors who did not admonish them, their part shall be with Eli and Fola. Eli did not reprove his sons, Fola sold his daughters for an ox.

I do not know who Fola was.

The Apocalypse ends with ch. 44 of Paul. There is no trace in it of Paul 1-12 or 45-51.

Scanned and Edited by
Joshua Williams
Northwest Nazarene College, 1995