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Renaissance attitudes to New Testament Apocryphal writings: Jacques Lefevre d'Etaples and his Epigones.

The question of whether it is legitimate to talk about a corpus of something called the "New Testament Apocrypha" has been raised in a recent article.(1) In fact the idea that writings which are either generically similar to the canonical New Testament writings or which were used by some Christian groups as ecclesiastical writings without ever assuming normative status should constitute a corpus of something called the "New Testament Apocrypha" goes back to Johann Albert Fabricius whose Codex Apocryphus Noui Testatment was published for the first time in 1703.(2)

Fabricius's second, revised, and augmented edition appeared in 1719 and constitutes a milestone and a point of reference; not only did he assemble the hitherto dispersed writings into a corpus, but he was also the first to give them an extra-canonical status. Without wishing to replace any of the writings in the New Testament canon, Fabricius openly acknowledged the usefulness of these apocrypha to the educated faithful, as throwing a light on ancient heresies and complementing several passages in the writings of the church fathers.(3)

Fabricius's undertaking however, tended to straitjacket the study of a certain type of early Christian literature which found itself classified under the general heading of New Testament Apocrypha. Thus, for example, what is commonly known today as the "Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles" has very little in common with the canonical Acts. Moreover, certain pieces that might well have definitively entered the corpus, such as Hermas's Shepherd, were in fact excluded, having been placed by Cotelier in an equally ambivalent category of "writings of the Fathers contemporary with the apostolic period" which was in turn constituted into a corpus of the "writings of the Apostolic Fathers" by Thomas Ittig in 1675.(4) It is interesting to note although Hermas is included in Fabricius's volume, it was the Cotelier/Ittig view of it that was to gain the upper hand.

Our intention here is not to take sides in the contemporary debate on whether the New Testament Apocrypha should be called that by name, whether the books do in fact constitute a corpus, or indeed what would happen if the corpus were to be dismembered. We simply intend to study a sample of the sixteenth-century reception of pieces of early Christian literature that are considered either as part of the apocryphal corpus in the post-Fabrician sense of the word or that were for one reason or another qualified as apocrypha in some part of the sixteenth-century but were subsequently relegated to another corpus, be it of the apostolic fathers, legends, or simply historical accounts. Needless to say, particular attention will be paid throughout to the exact significance that the different editors attributed to the term apocryphon (to Fabricius it became a value judgment, but this was not necessarily the case for his predecessors). We shall also study the actual form of publication of New Testament Apocrypha. Were such writings, as were extant, always published as collections of whatever dimension? Were they incorporated into collections of writings that had little or nothing to do either with the Apocrypha or with early Christianity? Was their relationship to the canon considered? Were they published for their moral worth, the historical information they contained, or other reasons? Was their publication and status in any way affected by the respective editors' confessional stance? (After all it is not for nothing that Fabricius in his preface feels obliged to explain that a publication such as his Codex Apocryphus Noui Testamenti is at loggerheads with Luther's teaching, which maintained that all Apocrypha should be burnt.)(5) We shall also naturally consider questions related to text, recension and/or translation of the diverse pieces published and their relationship to manuscripts. By this approach we hope to throw at least some light on the origins of the corpus of New Testament Apocrypha as it is understood today.

During the period of 1500-31, wholesale attempts to replace the Apocrypha in the canon of the New Testament were simply not made. The only person to publish apocryphal writings within a New Testament and to pose the question of their relationship to the canon was the French humanist Jacques Lefevre d'Etaples, especially in his Latin edition of Saint Paul's Epistles of 1512 and in his edition of Hermas's Sheperd of 1513, along with his earlier, brief mentioning of the problem in his edition of the [Pseudo-]Clementine Recognitiones of 1504.(6) In an article published in 1979, Gerard Poupon saw Lefevre's efforts to make available the apocryphal New Testament simply as an expression of fairly uncritical enthusiasm for the rediscovery of witnesses to ancient forms of piety. Still, according to Poupon, it was in exactly the same spirit that Lef'evre cast no doubt upon the Dionysian authorship of the Celestial Hierarchy.(7)

However, if studied carefully, Lefevre's placing of the apocryphal writings within the various works and the views he expresses on their status in his prefaces - and indeed the type of work in which he chooses to publish such and such a piece of apocryphal literature - would show that Lefevre's ends cannot be reduced to just a simple desire to promulgate the piety of the apostolic age.


Although this is by no means the first work in which Lefevre published apocrypha, it constitutes probably the most important example in that, by including apocryphal pieces within an admittedly partial edition of the New Testament, Lefevre raises quite explicitly the fundamental question of the relationship between the Apocrypha and the canon.

In order to appreciate the full subtlety of Lefevre's position, however, it is necessary to say something about the status of the Epistle to the Laodiceans and Paul's Correspondence with Seneca in medieval Bibles. Thanks to the work of Samuel Berger we know that the following particularly important medieval manuscripts of the Vulgate contain the Epistle to the Laodiceans in some form or other:

1) The tenth-century incomplete Codex Aemilianeus extant in 1893 in Madrid Library of the Historical Academy (contains the Laodiceans in the margin of the Colossians).(10)

2) The ninth-century Codex Complutensis, otherwise known as the first Bible of Alcala (held by the Madrid University Library in 1893), contains the Laodiceans, but in contrast to the other Spanish Bibles, the Epistle follows Hebrews and not Colossians.(11)

3) The eleventh-century Codex, Paris, BNF, Ms. Lat. 309 which contains the incomplete New Testament (without the Gospels) as well as a summary of the Song of Songs includes the Laodiceans, most unusually after 1 and 2 Thessalonians.(12)

4) The ninth-century Hartmut Codex (without the Gospels), London, BL, Add. Ms. 11852, contains Laodiceans, like the Codex Complutensis after Hebrews.(13)

All in all, according to Berger, around forty medieval manuscripts of the Vulgate include Laodiceans between Colossians and Thessalonians; thirteen insert Laodiceans after Thessalonians; three place the Epistle after Titus; ten adopt the order Thessalonians, Colossians, Laodiceans; at least two the order Philemon, Laodiceans, Hebrews; at least twenty place the Laodiceans after Hebrews, ten place it after the Apocalypse; and several German Bibles place it after Galatians.(14)

Approximate and dated though these figures are, they suffice to show that the Epistle to the Laodiceans did have an extensive medieval tradition, a feature which distinguished it sharply from the other apocryphal pieces published by Lefevre in his Translation and Commentary of the Pauline Epistles. Was Lefevre aware of this? How does he see the Laodiceans in comparison to say, the Correspondence with Seneca, which albeit known in the Middle Ages, never formed part of the Vulgate?

The very disposition of the apocryphal pieces on the title page and, more importantly, within the body of the work, gives the reader important clues about their status. On the title page, the fourteen Pauline Epistles (including Hebrews) are listed first. The mention "Ad has 14 adiecta intelligentia ex graeco" ("To those fourteen, the interpretation from the Greek is added") refers to Lefevre's own translation which is printed opposite the Vulgate and should, as the inscription suggests, be considered subordinate to it. Only then does the title page mention the Epistle to the Laodiceans and Paul's Correspondence with Seneca. Next on the list are the Commentariorum libri quatuordecim (i.e., Lefevre's own Commentaries) with Linus de passione Petri et Pauli constituting a sort of appendix.

This disposition of tides would suggest that Lefevre saw the Epistle to the Laodiceans and Paul's Correspondence with Seneca as assuming intermediary status between canonical Biblical text and commentary. The [Pseudo-]Linus, on the other hand, was to serve the function of nothing more than a complement of information.

If we now turn to the text itself, we see that both the Laodiceans and Paul's Correspondence with Seneca are printed in the body of the Commentarii.(15) The Laodiceans constitutes in fact a part of Lefevre's commentary on Colossians 4.16 (where Paul refers obliquely to his correspondence with the Laodiceans) and receives no separate comments or even textual remarks from Lefevre, who prefaces the text as follows:

The Letter sent by Paul to the Laodiceans is not to be found among his Epistles nowadays. However, I did find an epistle addressed to the Laodiceans and bearing Paul's name in four different places: the first in Padua, in the monastery of Saint John de Viridario; the second in Cologne in the library of the Brethren of the Common Life, and two more in Paris, one in the library of the Augustinians and one at the Sorbonne. As I noticed that the text contained nothing but things conducive to piety, I thought it an act of piety to publish it here so that those who love Paul and wish to read him (as all Christians should) can do so and, what is more, can find consolation in their readings.(16)

Judging by this brief preface Lefevre was quite unaware of the extensive Latin medieval tradition of the Epistle to the Laodiceans and does not make any inordinate efforts to replace the Laodiceans in the canon. He further appears to take it for granted that the manuscripts he found would be in Latin and makes no comment on the absence of Greek. No doubt Lefevre was somewhat influenced here by Jerome's De viris illustribus 5 which mentioned the existence of a spurious Epistle to the Laodiceans. By the discreet placing of the Epistle and by the cautious tone of his own preface Lefevre makes plain it should be read primarily as a commentary on Col. 4.16 and certainly not as a canonical writing. Nor does he feel impelled to make any comment on the manuscripts he found.(17)

What is interesting is the opening sentence of Lefevre's preface which suggests that, although he genuinely believed (more so than Jerome) that Paul's Epistle to the Laodiceans as mentioned in Col. 4.16 had existed at some time or another, it was not necessarily to be identified with the Latin text he decided to publish as an Epistle to the Laodiceans bearing Paul's name. Lefevre's concluding remarks on the text, despite their apparent enthusiasm, do nothing to reinstate the text within the canon:

This is the Epistle that I found bearing the name of Paul and the Laodiceans and I was thrilled to find it and read it with great joy because it contains the name of Christ and his Apostle. Admittedly, it is short, but what was there to stop the Apostle from making his letters long or short as he saw fit? The Letter to Philemon is also short. Moreover, as it breathes Christ on every page and contains holy precepts, indeed as the name of Christ recurs throughout and is present in every utterance, this is why it should be venerated and why we should humble ourselves before it. For this is the name of our magnificent and eternal king. To whom all praise and glory is due and worship in spirit and in truth forever and ever. Amen.(18)

It is for its focus on Christ that the Epistle to the Laodiceans should therefore be venerated. Lefevre's point about the Apostle making his letters long or short as he sees fit is indeed valid. However, it is important to note the exact nuance of his argument: while the length of Pauline Epistles is indeed variable, it is not crucial in determining their canonicity. A short Epistle could well be genuine (the example of Philemon is particularly well chosen), but this does not necessarily imply that Laodiceans is genuine; it simply does not exclude it automatically from the canon. The question of the text's canonicity is thus left open. All Lefevre is saying is that all texts containing some measure of apostolic doctrine should be diffused among the faithful.

The famous exchange between Paul and Seneca receives a somewhat less "apocryphal" treatment from Lefevre.(19) It could well be that Lefevre's more positive attitude is partly due to Jerome who in De viris illustribus, cap. 12, states explicitly that the correspondence is found to be genuine a plurimis. However, he makes no attempt to fully reintegrate it into the canon, placing it astutely at the end of his own Commentary on the Epistle to Philemon, though unlike in the case of Laodiceans, each letter is armed with an apologetic commentary.(20) Thus, although subsidiary to Philemon, the exchange between Seneca and Paul cannot be seen as a commentary on it. Lefevre makes this plain in his preface:

And this is the end of Paul's Epistle to Philemon, the authenticity of which has only barely been admitted by some, seeing as it is less serious and does not contain much that is instructive. But to Paul, Catholic Epistles treat of matters that concern everyone while personal letters are only of import to one or two people. Catholic Epistles are therefore universal, serious and weighty; such are the twelve that we have commented on and such is the Epistle to the Hebrews which, with Christ's help, we shall elucidate after this one. Personal letters, however, are of limited import, less serious and of lesser importance. Such is the present Epistle and the six others which some consider Paul to have written in Latin in answer to Seneca.(21)

Having established Paul's letters to Seneca as belonging to a well-defined canonical genre, Lefevre then had to explain Paul's (unprecedented) resorting to Latin. He also had to give a reason for reproducing Senecas replies along with Paul's letters as well as justifying to the reader the fact of Paul apparently keeping up a correspondence with someone who was a confirmed pagan.

The question of language could easily be resolved by invoking the authority of Jerome; admittedly the latter does not pronounce himself in De viris illustribus 12 on the question of Paul's knowledge of Latin (or his willingness to correspond in it with a Roman orator). As Lefevre was quick to note, Jerome does, however, justify Paul resorting to his native Hebrew in order to address the Hebrews. How happy we would be, notes Lefevre, if the original of Hebrews (which he considers as perfectly canonical, after Jerome in De viris illustribus 5) could be found! Thus, if a canonical Catholic Epistle such as Hebrews exists in translation only, why not admit that Paul wrote other Epistles in a language other than Greek? Sophistical though it is, Lefevre's argument does make two important points: first, not everything that is canonical exists in its original language; second, Latin can and perhaps even ought to be considered as a biblical language seeing as Paul himself seems to have used it to correspond with no lesser a pious pagan than Seneca.

Why reproduce the latter's replies? Lefevre's answer is rather less convincing on this point. He argues that his own somewhat brief Commentary on Philemon was not at all out of place in being supplemented by the friendly exchange between Paul and Seneca, "so that those who love Christ and Paul do not lack that which may bring solace to their minds, that is both types of Pauline Epistles, Catholic and familiar or personal" - the function of the latter being to act as a relief from more serious devotions. The question that then arises is that of the very poor style, especially in Senecas (eight) replies. Invoking the authority of Jerome (De viris illustribus 12) and of Pseudo-Linus, Lefevre notes that Paul did not have to make a particular rhetorical effort, given that he was writing to Seneca as a personal friend of pagan persuasion (albeit one well-inclined to Christians). As for Seneca, he had to disguise his style in case the letters fell into hostile hands. The authority of Jerome and Pseudo-Linus is also invoked to prove to any skeptical reader that the Seneca of the correspondence is Lucius Annaeus Seneca and not some obscure figure who happened to bear the same name.(22)

However, at no stage does Lefevre come out and say that the evidence for the authenticity of the correspondence in any way warrants it being incorporated into the canon. Indeed, he does not even imply that the epistolary exchange should be printed as part of the biblical text proper. While not reduced to the status of a mere commentary on Philemon, Paul's correspondence with Seneca is seen by Lefevre as distinctly inferior to it, in other words as a (not unworthy) apocryphon.

Lefevre's glosses on the eight letters of Seneca and the six replies of Paul treat of four main points: first, the meaning and significance of the concept of apocryphon; second the question of relationship between the pagan (i.e. civil) and religious (or divine) authority; third, the nature and origin of Christian rhetoric, and fourthly the nature of Paul's doctrine.

It is in his comments on Seneca's first epistle(23) (in which Paul's writings are elevated to the status of apocrypha in the sense of writings dictated to a human author by a divine power) that Lefevre (not unnaturally) comments on the concept of apocryphon and gives his interpretation of it. According to the French humanist it can be understood both positively and negatively. It is used in its positive sense by Paul himself in Col 2.3 where the Apostle refers to all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge being hidden [Greek Text Omitted] in Christ. It is in this sense that Seneca uses it, notes Lefevre, with the added nuance of secrecy from public view, given that Christianity was a forbidden doctrine at the time of the orator's friendship with Paul. This to Lefevre is the most important sense of the concept of apocryphon and he lays stress on the fact that Seneca and his friends had to meet in secret to read Paul's Epistles. The other sense of the word apocryphon is negative and applies to malevolent practices and the literary remains of heretics, inspired not by God, but by the devil.(24)

Discussing the question of the relationship between Christian and pagan authority, Lefevre stresses Paul's obedience and his reluctance to pass judgment on Nero's character as well as Seneca's obvious respect for Paul as a Roman citizen, quite independent of his respect for Paul as Apostle.(25) The nature and origins of Christian rhetoric, the third point raised in Lefevre's commentary, are, a propos of Seneca's seventh and eighth letters and Paul's sixth and final letter, not only a defense of its divine origins but also a defense of allegory. It is not Paul who speaks, it is God who speaks through him - so writes Seneca in letter eight, referring to Paul's own words. Moreover, divine rhetoric has to be simple, Paul himself having warned his pagan friend against the dangers of excessively ornamental discourse which he compared to feminine wiles. However, divinely conferred discourse need not be literal, as Paul himself apparently resorted to allegory in some of his writings. Anticipating the question of the present location of Paul's allegorical writings, Lefevre specifies that there is no reason why they should be still extant: in his thirty-six or more (according to Sophronius) years as soldier of Christ, Paul no doubt wrote much more than the corpus known to us, and some of those lost writings could well have been allegorical.(26) It is worth noting that Lefevre does not go so far as to assert that Paul produced allegorical writings. He simply admits the possibility.

As for the nature of Paul's teaching (the fourth and final issue to be treated in Lefevre's glosses), Lefevre comments on it in regard to Seneca's first letter: "having read your booklet (that is only some of your many letters which you have been sending to some city or capital of a province) exhorting us in a wondrous way on how to live morally, we found ourselves greatly consoled."(27) Seneca, Lefevre asserts, is wrong in thinking that Pauline teaching does no more than exhort men and women to a better life, just as he is wrong in thinking that it is the moral value of the teaching that denotes its divine origin. A pagan can exhort people on how to live morally; what marks out Paul's doctrine from any other is that it contains the ultimate divinely inspired Christian truth.(28)

Lefevre makes no effort to reconcile the contradictions in his pronouncements on the poor literary quality of the correspondence and the intrinsic superiority of Christian rhetoric which is divinely inspired and contains the ultimate truth. Moreover, his criticism of the pagan fashion of understanding Paul (as if he were no more than a moralist) does nothing to restore the reader's confidence in the Apocrypha as a source of secret wisdom on which Lefevre insists in his commentary on the first letter. In a word, while not relegating Paul's correspondence with Seneca to the realm of mere commentary, as he did with Laodiceans and Col. 4.16, and while apparently praising it, Lefevre makes very sure that it should be seen as a genre vastly inferior to the canonical books of the Bible.

An even lower-status is accorded to the Passiones Petri et Pauli of Pseudo-Linus which are printed as an appendix to Lefevre's Epistles with their own title page and preface? The title, it is worth noting, emphasizes the supremacy of Christ and the glory of carrying his cross - a recurrent theme in Lefevre's theology which has led some to see him as a representative of the devotio moderna.(30) Without entering into the complexities of this particular issue, it is worth noting that Lefevre's title in no way encourages saint-worship, any more than his preface addressed to Guillaume Briconnet.(31) The epistle is interesting in that Lefevre is quite clear about why he published the two Passiones. His original intention was simply to celebrare Paulum ("render homage to Paul"), whose Epistles he had just published, by including an account of his martyrdom written by the bishop Linus which would serve as an example to us and enable us to imitate the Apostle's faith. However, he finally decided to publish both the Passiones, initially intended for the eastern churches. The reasons for this choice were partly practical and technical and partly theological. Firstly, Lefevre notes that, having frequently referred to Linus in his commentaries, it seemed unfair to deprive the reader of the full text, which is extremely difficult to find, particularly in the case of the Passio Petri. After scouring a very large number of libraries, including the most ancient ones, he finally found a copy of it in peruetusto codice ("in a very ancient manuscript") of the Benedictine abbey of Marmoutier near Tours. He was more fortunate in finding copies of Passio Pauli, quae crebrior est ("which is more widely known"), although it was often teeming with faults and anonymous, with some of the manuscripts containing only an incomplete text. Having done his best to collate the manuscripts so as to obtain a coherent text, Lefevre then decided to publish both the Passiones, deliberately deciding to put the Passio Petri before the Passio Pauli, for theological reasons. After all, he says, it was Peter who was called first and who was appointed head of the Church by Christ when the Lord was still on earth. Peter was also the first to suffer martyrdom. Paul was second to Peter in all respects, so much so that he suffered martyrdom exactly one year later than Peter.

It has been noted that Lefevre appears to be completely unsurpised by the encratistic aspect of the Passio Petri(32) which proved a source of great shock to later generations of theologians. It may well be that Lef'evre tacitly approved of the abnegation of the flesh that the Passio recommended. It is worth noting that he does not openly express any approval or disapproval at anything in Pseudo-Linus. His approach to it is, so to speak, ahistorical. The two texts serve as an example of apostolic faith and they also remind the reader that it is Peter (and his successors) who is the real head of the Church. The authority of Scripture and that of the Roman Church thus become inextricably interwoven.

By the placing of the various apocryphal writings and by his comments on them Lefevre thus makes his points quite clearly. Secret or apocryphal writings are not in themselves bad; the original corpus of apostolic literature was probably larger than what was available in Lefevre's time but this does not mean that every epistle of dubious origin and style has to be included in the canon. It can, however, if sufficiently pious, be studied either as subsidiary to the canonical writings or as a commentary on them. This holds for the Epistles. So far as apocryphal Acts of the Apostles are concerned, they are to be used, at least in the case of [Pseudo-]Linus, to show the intrinsic link between the authority of Scripture and that of the church.


A much less cautious attitude to the Laodiceans and to Paul's Correspondence with Seneca is adopted by an anonymous imitator of Lefevre who in 1514 produced the Vulgate version of the Pauline Epistles (complete with Jerome's Prologues), adding to it the Correspondence between Paul and Seneca and the Epistle to the Laodiceans. The volume was printed in Vienna by Hieronymus Vietor and Johannes Singrenius.(33) Admittedly, the Epistle to the Laodiceans had figured in German printed Bibles from at least as early as 1483.(34) However, what is important about the Vienna volume is that its author implicitly takes up a position on what we saw was Lefevre's very reserved view of the status of the New Testament Apocrypha.

The very title page is significant, stating:

The following are contained in this book: the letters of the very blessed Paul, the apostle to the nations, filled full of the deepest mysteries; seven of those the sedulous preacher of Christ sent to the nations as universal and those that were private he sent to his disciples. To those are added eight letters from Lucius Annaeus Seneca to saint Paul and six replies from Paul to Seneca, brief but delightful and full of humanity. At the end is appended the letter which turns up under the name of Paul, written to the Laodiceans.(35)

The title thus takes up several of the points made by Lefevre in his prefaces to the Laodiceans and to the Correspondence with Seneca: the distinction between Paul's "catholic" (or general) letters and his private letters; the intrinsically secret (or apocryphal) nature of the doctrine of Christ; the separation of the canonical and the non-canonical Epistles; and the question of length of an Epistle not being indicative of either its canonicity or of its apocryphal nature.

Moreover, no formal identification of Paul's Epistle to the Laodiceans is made, as the phrase "ea quae a Paulo Laodicensibus scripta inuenitur" ("the letter which turns up under the name of Paul, written to the Laodiceans") allows the reader to suppose that it is simply an Epistle bearing Paul's name. However, it is important to note that the phrase is sufficiently vague as to also permit the reader to think that the text in question is that of the Pauline Epistle to the Laodiceans.

Thus the author (or compiler) of the Pauline Epistles of 1514 would appear to be more favorable than Lefevre - if not to the Apocrypha in general, at least to the Seneca Correspondence and the Laodiceans. This is shown by his two brief prefaces to the respective pieces.

Without expressing any of Lefevre's reservations or qualifications, the anonymous author of 1514 simply states that he is including the Seneca-Paul exchange on the authority of Jerome and [Pseudo-]Linus, citing extensively the relevant passages from De viris illustribus and the Passio Pauli.(36) The text of the correspondence itself is then reproduced without any commentary, and is followed (89v) by the preface to the Laodiceans, with the author clearly demonstrating his desire to reintegrate the Epistle into the canon while paying lip service to the prevailing doubts about the text's authenticity:

We have decided to place this Epistle, addressed to the Laodiceans, right at the very end, chiefly because so many very learned men have cast such great doubts upon the identity of the author. However, the text should not be left out altogether, in view of what is written by Saint Paul at the end of his Epistle to the Colossians [4.16]: once this letter has been read among you, see that it is read also to the church at Laodicea, and that you in turn read my letter to the Laodiceans. Thus, given that Saint Paul - as is made very clear in this passage - wrote a letter to the Laodiceans, and given that the letter that we print below bears Paul's name on the frontispiece of many manuscripts, we thought it in no way an act of impiety to attribute it to Saint Paul. And as it contains nothing but pious doctrine, we thought it would be in no way an impious act to print it here to be read with the others.(37)

Again, the author's insistence on the fundamental orthodoxy and piety of the Epistle contains echoes of Lefevre's preface. However, unlike Lefevre, the Viennese editor (as we shall call him) makes clear by the final phrase of his preface and by the very placing of the text that it is not to be a read as a sort of commentary on Col. 4.16 but that it should be read together with Paul's canonical Epistles.(38) The Vienna volume of Pauline Epistles would suggest that Lefevre's basically cautious view of the status of Pauline Apocrypha was not shared by his contemporaries, some of whom, even after reading the French humanist's caveats, had no hesitations about using the Seneca Correspondence and the Laodiceans to extend the Pauline corpus. This somewhat optimistic attitude to Pauline Apocrypha should not be confused with Lefevre's own views.


Although Hermas's Shepherd is not considered as part of the New Testament apocryphal corpus by modern scholarship, it is included in the Greek Codex Sinaiticus of the New Testament and also in a mutilated form in the Vulgate (used by Robert Estienne in 1540 and described by Berger in 1893).(39) Lefevre's edition of it deserves a mention in that it shows that the French humanist did attempt to elevate Hermas's Shepherd to the status of a biblical apocryphon without ever implying that it should be included in any Bible in any form whatsoever, let alone in the canon. The first edition of the Shepherd appeared in 1513 as part of an anthology of devotional and mystical literature which included the Sciuias of Hildegard von Bingen, the Visio Wettini, two works by Robert of Uzes, selections from Elizabeth of Schonau and the Liber specialis gratiae of Mechthild von Hackeborn.(40) The question of Hermas's Shepherd is raised both in the preface, addressed to Adelheid von Ottenstein (abbess of the Benedictine convent of Rupertsberg near Bingen, founded by Hildegard von Bingen in 1147) and in the postface addressed to Markwest von Hatstein, Kilian Westhausen and Wolfgang von Matt.

In the preface to Adelheid, Lefevre treats in greater detail the question he had already raised in 1512 in his commentary on the correspondence between Seneca and Paul of what exactly is meant by New Testament apocryphal writings. The definition he presents will tacitly affect various approaches to the New Testament Apocrypha in the course of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, especially in one quintessential feature he describes concerning the apocryphal writings: the fluidity of the corpus. His preface to the Liber trium virorum is thus crucial to our understanding of the nature and status of New Testament Apocrypha in the pre-Fabrician period.

Thus, writing to Adelheid, Lefevre notes that those who dismiss Hermas as apocryphal do so on the authority of the [Pseudo-] Gelasian Decree, forgetting the latter's total acceptance of Jerome's authority. And it is a fact, notes Lefevre, that Jerome in De viris illustribus 10 has nothing but the highest praise for Hermas's Shepherd and points out that it was considered part of the Scripture in the Greek Church while remaining practically unknown in the West.(41) Lefevre's remark merits a comment: as has been pointed out by Bardenhewer and others,(42) Jerome's apparently favorable judgment on the Shepherd and his identification of Hermas with the Hermas of Romans 16.4 is no more than a quotation from Eusebius and probably Origen and should in no way be taken as reflecting Jerome's own view, let alone that of the Western church. Jerome himself condemned the book as "liber ille apocryphus stultitiae condemnandus est" ("this apocryphal work, to be convicted for its stupidity") in his Commentary on Habakkuk (ad 1.13) because of its remarks on the angel Thegri (vis 4.2.4) appointed to watch over animals.

Lefevre then continues to draw Adelheid's attention to the fact that if Jerome approves of Hermas then so does "Gelasius" (given that the latter approves everything that Jerome approves of). He simply does not wish to count it among canonical books (listed by Irenaeus, Clement, Eusebius, Jerome, and others) - that is, books which determine the faith and dogma of the church. Thus to call Hermas's Shepherd apocryphal is not to dismiss it as absurd, heretical, or unsound; it is simply to assign it extra-canonical or even deutero-canonical status.

Lefevre's source for this latter affirmation is naturally not the Codex Sinaiticus, but, oddly enough, Jerome's preface to the Book of Kings or the famous Prologus galeatus which establishes all Old Testament books not written in Hebrew as being outside the canon and therefore possessing only ecclesiastical authority. The extract from the Prologus galeatus, cited correctly by Lefevre, reads: "Therefore the book of Wisdom, usually attributed to Solomon, the book of Jehu, son of Sirach, Judith, Tobias and Shepherd are not in the canon."(43)

Whatever Jerome's reasons for the mention of Hermas's Shepherd, Lefevre is so taken up with raising the latter to a deutero-canonical status that he does not even notice that not a single other New Testament Book is mentioned in the Prologus galeatus. On the contrary, he automatically assumes that Jerome's Pastor is Hermas's Shepherd, which therefore in his eyes assumes the status of an ecclesiastical book whose authority equals that of Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Judith or Tobias when it comes to aedificatio pietatis.(44) Concluding his remarks on Hermas, Lefevre feels he has proved to his and his reader's satisfaction that Hermas's Shepherd not only enjoyed Jerome's approval but was considered by him as a biblical book of ecclesiastical authority. Having thus rehabilitated the Shepherd, he reminds Adelheid - again alluding to [Pseudo-] Gelasius's qualification of the work as "apocryphal" - that the latter term need not and indeed should not be understood in a derogatory sense. Apocrypha fall into two categories: (a) writings which are very close indeed to canonical writings; (b) "writings which are superstitious, heretical, excessively speculative, useless and all others texts of that ilk which the holy doctors order us not just to avoid but to abhor."(45)

The originality of Lefevre's position as expressed here is considerable. Far from adopting the standard medieval view of New Testament Apocrypha as being by definition Christian writings related to matters treated in the canonical books - which may be useful devotionally or historically but should be treated with caution and in some cases dismissed as heretical(46) - Lefevre redefines apocryphon as either any writing of ecclesiastical authority in Jerome's sense of the term, whose normative doctrinal value is equivalent to that of, for example, the Book of Wisdom or as simply a (heretical) fanciful tale on a biblical theme, to be dismissed as such. Furthermore, his reading of Jerome's Prologus galeatus enables him to extend the New Testament apocryphal corpus to include Hermas's Shepherd and thus to point up the amorphous nature of all that is apocryphal. The inconvenience of this non-destructive view is that it forces Lefevre into an uncritical stance. Thus in the appendix to von Hatstein, Westhausen, and von Matt, he supplements the information on Hermas with data from "Dorotheus" (i.e., pseudo-Dorotheus, De 70 Domini discipulis, MPG 92, 1063, a sixth-century work) who counts Hermas among the seventy disciples. He then faces the delicate problem of Hermas as an authority for celebrating Easter on Sunday. The Shepherd was written in the time of Clement I and contains nothing about Easter. However, the Liber pontificalis in the Vita Pii (d. c. 154) does mention Hermas as an authority for celebrating Easter on Sunday. Thus, notes Lefevre, Hermas's activity would have extended over some sixty years. There is nothing odd about this, he concludes somewhat hastily, since "it is obvious that Christ kept him alive as long as possible so that he could wage the glorious battle of martyrdom." Lefevre omits to point out that the Lives of the Popes (which Lefevre attributes to Damasus [c. 304-84]) in the Liber pontificalis were much later than Hermas and already interwoven with myths and legends.(47)

What Lefevre has done, however, is to usefully increase the authority of Hermas with this information: not only is the Shepherd to be ranked on the same level as the Book of Wisdom, but its author is considered the most ancient authority for celebrating Easter on Sunday. Therefore, celebration of Easter on Sunday assumes practically biblical authority.

At the same time it is worth noting that at no point did Lefevre consider publishing the Shepherd in any of his Bibles, not even as a commentary on a more canonical book. There could, in our view, be two reasons for this reticence: either Lefevre is implicitly aware of the fact that the Shepherd does not really correspond to any of the canonical New Testament genres (with perhaps the sole exception of the Apocalypse), which would suggest that his concept of apocrypha is not a generic one, or, more likely, Lefevre is playing a double game.(48) It must not be forgotten that his was the first edition of the Shepherd, a text which the western church had ignored for a long time and which therefore was wide open to being considered an apocryphon in the purely negative sense of the word. Lefevre, aware of this, thus showed his reader two things: first, that the text was found by Jerome himself to be on par with sapiential literature (and indeed it does contain some sapiential elements); and second, that its editor was not going to go "one better" than Jerome by adding it to the biblical text. No, the Shepherd was to remain buried in a collection of devotional and mystical literature intended for the edification of monks and nuns.

Lefevre's pioneering effort was again to find an imitator, this time in the person of Nicholas Gerbel, the famous Strasbourg humanist, Greek scholar, and fervent partisan of Luther from the very beginnings of the Reformation.(49) It was not for nothing that Gerbel in 1521 brought out an exact imitation of Erasmus's New Testament. A year later, in 1522, he brought out, without a single mention of Lefevre's name, the French humanist's text of the Shepherd, adding to it simply his own introduction. The matter would be hardly worth a mention were it not for Gerbel's introduction and the phrasing of the very comprehensive title page. Both show that the Shepherd was received very differently in early Lutheran circles, in contrast to the way it was received among the devout religious for whom Lefevre had originally intended it. That the Shepherd was received in Lutheran circles at all shows that the latter had already a taste for early Christian literature, which extended to what we nowadays term the New Testament Apocrypha.

The very phrasing of Gerbel's Hermas title page is, as we said, revealing. We shall therefore cite it here extensively:

Five visions, twelve precepts and ten parables of the Shepherd, messenger of penitence, in which he appeared and talked to Hermas, the disciple of the apostle Paul, who also had various visions of the church at the beginning. Origen often cites the testimony of the book of the Shepherd, especially in his Commentary on Ecclesiasticus. Athanasius also refers to it in his book on the Incarnation of Christ and says: "the extremely useful work by the Shepherd." Jerome too in his Catalogue of famous men asserts that Hermas (who is mentioned by Paul in his letter to the Romans: "greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and all friends in their company") is the author of the book entitled the Shepherd and that it is even read as part of the liturgy in some Greek churches. The book is indeed extremely useful and many ancient writers have relied on its testimonies. However, it is practically unknown in the Latin West.(50)

The title page contains the maximum amount of information so that the reader (be he clerical or lay) would know exactly what to expect: five visions, twelve precepts, and ten parables revealed to Hermas, a disciple of Paul, who, it is noted from the outset, was himself initially subject to visions.

Origen's testimony is mentioned and the paragraph from Jerome's De viris illustribus is cited extensively. Gerbel shows himself no more knowledgeable than Lefevre about the status of Jerome's testimony. He does, however, use it to make the point that Lefevre did not make explicitly: the mention of Hermas in Rom. 16.14 shows that he had links with the Bible. The title page thus constitutes a good summary of what Gerbel will say in the preface: the Shepherd is a book of visions, which, on purely textual evidence, it would be unwise to separate completely from the New Testament.

The preface itself makes no reference to the [Pseudo-]Gelasian Decree or to the Prologus galeatus, which suggests that the question of auctoritates is not what preoccupies the Lutheran. His argument centers on the intrinsic link between the Shepherd and the Bible (i.e., the mention of Hermas in Rom. 16.14), the question of literary genres (visions are not unbiblical) and the question of the status of the Shepherd in the early church; the distinction between the western and the eastern church plays no part here. In fact, the citing of the Shepherd by Greek fathers would seem to confer greater weight upon it - not surprising given Gerbel's Greek training.

So far as the content of the work is concerned, Gerbel stresses at the very beginning of his preface, that the visions contain nothing other than that which is conducive to a better knowledge of God, greater sincerity of faith, and purity of life.(51) The Lutheran humanist then notes that instruction by means of apparitions, dreams, and visions was much beloved of the ancients. Thus Peter in Acts 10.1-18 admitted Cornelius to the church (thus opening it to the gentiles) as a result of a vision. Paul took endless care to expound to the Corinthians (2 Cor. 12) the vision which brought about his own conversion. And to round off his argument Gerbel refers the reader to the book of Revelation whose author "be it the Apostle John or someone else," wished his visions to be treated with total faith and threatened terrible plagues on anyone wishing either to add to or take away from the words in his book of prophecy [cf. Rev. 22.18-19]. Hermas's argument is similar to John's, Gerbel continues, adding that he himself does not see why the Shepherd was so cavalierly dismissed by the prior aetas (an oblique reference to the [Pseudo-] Gelasian Decree), since its testimony had been taken quite seriously by antiquity. The church's ruling on what constitutes ecclesiastical literature is often due to whims of private individuals. He, Gerbel, would have found it impertinent to dismiss as apocryphal a book which so many church fathers had approved. Reminding the reader of Paul's admonition in 1 Thess. 5.21, he ends his preface, enjoining him to "test them all, keep hold of what is good" and also keep in mind Pliny's saying that no book is so bad that it cannot be useful in some respect.(52)

This brief preface, as we said, reveals much about the attitude to apocryphal literature, adopted respectively by the Roman Catholic Lefevre and the Lutheran Gerbel. Both are favorable to Hermas, both find it a useful book albeit for completely different reasons. Lefevre, ignoring the question of literary genre, accords the work a deuterocanonical or sapiential status on the strength of his own reading of the Prologus galeatus - in other words on the strength of the authority of the western church. As we noted, this approach had the advantage of incidentally pointing up the very fluidity of the genre of New Testament Apocrypha.

To Gerbel, on the other hand, the question of the authority of western church is of no importance whatsoever. What is important is that the Shepherd was recognized by the early Greek Fathers, that the name of Hermas appears in Romans 16.14, and that its literary genre (visions particularly) is one that is of great importance in the New Testament.

Without adopting Lefevre's distinction between "good" and "bad" Apocrypha - and tending to consider any apocryphon as writing which is either of doubtful attribution or heretical or both - Gerbel ends up placing the Shepherd in the same category as Lefevre, i.e. as useful writings, akin to the Bible, but not to be printed in any Bible. However, unlike Lefevre, Gerbel published the Shepherd not as one of a collection of medieval visionary writings, but on its own as sui generic piece.


Curiously enough the question of whether or not the Pseudo-Clementine Recognitiones constitute an apocryphon in any sense of the word or indeed the question of its status in general did not seem to preoccupy Lefevre, if his preface to Jacobo Ramirez de Guzman, dated Paris, 10 February 1504, is anything to go by.(53) As for the appendix to the reader, dated before 13 July 1504, it makes no mention of the Recognitiones concentrating on the other pieces in the volume.(54) Lefevre was thus indeed the first to publish Rufinus's ten book Latin recension of the Recognitiones.(55) However, as is indicated by the title and by the prefaces, he published the Recognitiones within a particular context. The full title of the volume is: Pro piorum recreatione. Et in hoc opere contenta. Epistola ante indicem. Index contentorum. Ad lectores. Paradysus Heraclidis. Epistola Clementis. Recognitiones Petri apostoli. Complementum epistole Clementis. Epistola Anacleti.(56)

The Paradysus Heraclidis is of course the short Latin recension of the Historia lausiaca of Palladius (c. 420), a collection of biographical sketches of the author's anchoritic friends and an important source for the history of monasticism. The version published by Lefevre is a witness to the "mixed" or "debased" text of Paschasius's (sixth-century) revision of the older fifth-century Latin translation. Paschasius's revision was done on the basis of Heraclidas of Nyssa's expanded Greek manuscript and so inevitably included many of Heraclidas's additions. Most extant Latin manuscripts contain this "mixed" text and Lefevre's was no exception.

Lefevre rounded off the volume with two apocryphal letters, both taken from the Decretales pseudo-isidorianae, one by pseudo-Anacletus, one by pseudo-Clement. The first half of the latter was in fact one of the original prefaces to the Pseudo-Clementine Homilies and it was this that Lefevre placed as introduction to the Recognitiones. The second half of the Pseudo-Isidorian letter, dating from the ninth century, was printed by Lefevre after the Recognitiones and entitled Continuario Epistole Clementis. Lefevre's edition raised many textual problems. For the moment, however, we shall concentrate on the status of the works in the volume.

Judging by the preface and the postface it was not at all the PseudoClementine Recognitiones that were of prime interest to Lefevre but the anchoritic Lives. He does, however, devote well over a paragraph to praising the virtues of the Recognitiones in the preface, and the reasons for this approval of the work are not without interest. Is it an apocryphon? The question is not of the slightest interest to him. He is quite content to cite Pico della Mirandola's judgment that the work contains apostolic doctrine. Lefevre makes no allusion to the fact that Pico saw the work as riddled with Eunomian elements.(57) What is there to commend the Recognitiones? First of all, Lefevre praises its austerity, its condemnation of magic and judicial astrology.(58) It does away with any remnants of the worship of pagan gods (in other words, all superstitious practices) instilling into people's minds a doctrine which contains the sum of piety and knowledge of God.(59) Lefevre makes no mention of the Judeo-Gnostic tendencies of the work (which portrays Christ as a divine aeon who had previously been revealed in Adam and Moses). Publishing the work together with the Historia lausiaca suggests that Lefevre would have been attracted to the strong ascetic elements in the Recognitiones. Does he really approve of using water alone in the eucharist? The preface says nothing about it, with Lefevre insisting on the works great value as being of apostolic origin."(60) Through Ramirez de Guzman, he concludes, the great and famous of Spain can read the holy and Christian work about the Apostle Peter, though even Sophronius says that the blessed prince of the Apostles visited Spain while still alive, so that he cannot have been totally unknown there. In other words, it is by the example of Peter himself that the great and famous of Spain are to improve their Christian morals.(61) The question of Apocrypha and their status is not raised by Lefevre in the context of the [Pseudo-]Clementine Recognitiones which is seen primarily as a historical work of edification completely unrelated to the canonical New Testament. The pseudo-Gelasian designation of the Recognitiones as apocryphal, although certainly known to Lefevre, provoked no reaction in him, so much so that it is legitimate to ask whether his edition is not a tacit attempt to rehabilitate the work, not as part of the canon but as an authentic witness to apostolic doctrine. The obviously heretical aspects of the work do not seem to interest him in the slightest. It must be further noted that the concept of apocryphon in any sense of the term - that is, hidden, not part of the canonical New Testament, unknown to the majority but useful, hidden because containing wicked doctrine, or simply misattributed - does not occur in Lefevre's preface to his edition of the Epistles of Ignatius (1499), where he is simply content to emphasize the value of martyrdom.(62)


Where Lefevre made a tacit and discrete attempt to rehabilitate the Pseudo-Clementines, his "successor," Johannes Sichard,(64) though a good Catholic, declared himself openly contemptuous of the very concept of apocryphon without, however, making the slightest claim or affirmation about the relationship between the Recognitiones and the canon of the New Testament. We shall examine separately the text of Pseudo-Clement published by Sichard and the various papal briefs he appended to it ("Clementis Epistolae quinque" ["the five letters of Clement"]). In his preface to Bernard of Cles (1485-1539), the bishop of Trent, Sichard stresses the synonymity of Christian piety and Christian eloquence, which the bishop embodies. "Clement" therefore proved to be the most suitable author to dedicate to the prelate. It is at this point that Sichard launches into his invective against consigning certain works to the realm of apocrypha. The precise object of his anger is the list in the Decree of Gratian. He declares himself not in the slightest bit moved by the well-worn and trite opinion about apocrypha that is to be found on all lips. If all writings considered apocryphal are to be rejected, Sichard writes, then we shall lose Tertullian, most of Eusebius, and Lactantius; indeed, there will be hardly any ancient writers left, especially among those whose theology determined the dogmas promulgated by the ecumenical councils. Why make apocryphal or hidden the very writings which until recently constituted public reading for the churches? And finally, Sichard frankly condemns the scope and purpose of "ilia veterum autorum censura... quae distinctione XV. capite sancta Romana habetur" ("the censure on ancient authors... which figures in the 15th distinction [of the Decree of Gratian], chapter beginning 'Holy Roman'"). Sichard cannot understand why the document cited in the Decree of Gratian (in fact a recension of the Decretum Gelasianum) declares as apocryphal Clement's "eight books divided into fifty chapters." He finds the whole thing deeply suspicious.(65) He himself has found no manuscripts (of the Rufinus version of the Recognitiones) containing either chapter divisions or anything other than ten books. Moreover, Sichard cannot believe that Rufinus, the translator of canonical Christian authors like Origen, Xistus, Eusebius of Caesarea, Gregory of Nazianzus, Pamphilus, and Evagrius, should have suddenly so far forgotten himself and his reputation as to translate an apocryphon.(66)

Sichard, unlike Lefevre, worked in a polemical context. His object was to show his adversaries the antiquity and true doctrine of the Roman Church. This meant, in the case of the Recognitiones, questioning the canon of received writings as given in the [Pseudo-] Gelasian Decree, in the Corpus iuris canonici, and thus, paradoxically, questioning the authority of the Roman Church itself. At no point did Sichard attempt to integrate the Recognitiones into the canon of the New Testament; he simply treated them as a natural extension of New Testament doctrines, thus hoping to show his adversaries the link between the New Testament and Peter's primacy. That the Recognitiones might have embodied ancient heretical teachings of any kind was not of the slightest interest to him.

Let us summarize the understanding of the concept as shown by Lefevre and his imitators and "successors." The following senses of the term apocrypha can be distinguished: (1) ancient literature which is edifying but which had to remain secret for fear of persecution and which is sometimes similar in genre but always inferior to the canonical books of the Bible; (2) ancient literature (often to do with Peter's primacy) which provides a historical extension of New Testament accounts; and (3) ancient literature (such as Hermas's Shepherd for Lefevre) that should have assumed a sapiential status but did not. On the Lutheran side, we note a wish to establish a textual and generic link between the given apocryphal text and the canonical biblical text. Gerbel's insistence on the canonicity of visions merits a particular mention here. The sense of the word apocrypha as heretical writings which ought to be suppressed is thus naturally maintained, as is the sense of writings falsified with the intention of misleading the faithful.

As for collections or corpora of New Testament Apocrypha, the genre was unknown to Lefevre and his contemporaries. What we nowadays call New Testament Apocrypha were either published separately or, as in the case of Paul's Correspondence with Seneca and Laodiceans, as appendices to the New Testament, or else as collections of devotional literature. The [Pseudo-] Gelasian Decree, which is frequently mentioned, albeit almost always in passing, could well have provided a model for publication of collections of New Testament Apocrypha. Why it did not do so is obvious. To Lefevre and his contemporaries the term apocryphon covered a multitude of meanings only one of which was "a Christian text of dubious origin, not to be made generally available." Collections of such texts only became possible once the writings acquired a fully dubious status. That they did was partly due to Lefevre's and his contemporaries' unwillingness to tamper with the biblical canon.


1 Junod, 17-46.

2 The second edition appeared in 1719 and the third never saw the light of day. However, judging by Fabricius's ms. notes in his own copy of the second edition, held by the Copenhagen Royal Library (shelfmark, Th 37 957), the bulk of the work had been accomplished by 1719. The third edition, had it appeared, would have contained a few minor additions and corrections.

3 Fabricius, 1719, 7r: "E contrario viris doctis et historiae ecclesiasticae peritis constat hos libros in tanta praesertim qua divinae beneficio hodie fruimur diuinae veritatis luce, non modo legi posse sine detrimento, sed cum vtilitate quoque si idoneus lector accesserit. Nam cum hypobolimena quidem et peruetusta sint haec scripta pleraque, res ipsa docet Historiam veterum haeresium et loca quaedam veterum ecclesiae doctorum ex his posse illustrari."

4 Cf. Junod, 20-22, and the literature cited there.

5 Fabricius, 1719, 7r: "Leo sane Magnus pontifex, Apocryphas Scripturas, quae sub nominibus Apostolorum multarum habent seminarium falsitatum, non solum interdicendas, sed etiam penitus auferendas praecipit atque ignibus concremandas. Idem est D. Lutheri (in colloquiis mensualibus c. 9, 69 seq., edit. Lipsiae 1700 vbi singillatim inuehitur in Librum Infantiae) nostri iudicium."

6 Jacobus Faber Stapulensis (14607-1536). The best concise account is by Bedouelle, 1996. Cf. bibliography, ibid.

7 Poupon, 25-29. Cf. also Bedouelle, 1976, 20, where the same view is expressed.

8 Contenta. Epistola ad Rhomanos. Epistola prima ad Corinthios... Epistola ad Hebraeos. Ad has 14. adiecta intelligentia ex graeco. Epistola ad Laodicenses. Epistolae ad Senecam sex. Commentariorum libri quatuordecim. Linus de passione Petri et Pauli, Paris, 1512. The prefaces can be easily consulted in Rice, no. 96, 295-302 (preface to the main text); no. 97, 303-04 (preface to Pseudo-Linus). The second edition of the Epistolae (Paris, 1515) adds the following statement on the title page which shows that, although it underwent certain minor improvements, it does not differ substantially from the first edition: "In hac secunda emissione obiter relegendo commentarios castigata sunt nonnulla, aut quia deprauata aut quia minus placebant, substracta etiam nonnulla aut immutata sed haec pauca, et insuper vbi visum est oportunum adiecta nonnulla. Quae et vniuersa quae emittimus vt omnibus prodesse, ita et ab omnibus grate beneuoleque suscipi pro lectorum animi candore optamus."

9 Lefevre's first "apocryphal" publication was the first edition of Rufinus's version of the [Pseudo-]Clementine Recognitiones which appeared in Paris in 1504 under the following title: Pro piorum recreatione...Paradisus Heraclidis. Epistola Clementis. Recognitiones Petri Apostoli. Complementum Epistole Clementis. Epistola Anacleti. Cf. Rice, no. 38, 11720 and infra. The Theologia viuificans of Pseudo-Dionysius and the Pseudo-Ignatian and Ignatian Epistles appeared for the first time in 1499 (cf. Rice, no. 21, 71-74). However, in our view they should not be regarded as constituting an intrinsic part of the Lefevrian N.T. apocryphal corpus.

10 Cf. Berger, 16, 393.

11 Ibid., 23, 392.

12 Ibid., 99, 403.

13 Ibid., 127, 390.

14 Ibid., 341-42.

15 Cf. note 8, supra. We shall be referring here to the text and folio numbers of the second (1515) edition. Cf. Epistolae, 1515, 180v inc "Paulus Apostolus non ab hominibus neque per hominem des. 181 r in omnia saeculorum saecula. Amen." Cf. Clauis Apocryphorum Noui Testamenti, 1992, no. 305 (hereafter Geerard, C.A.N.T.), where it is noted that the Epistle is to be found in several N.T. manuscripts. Cf. also ibid., literature cited and especially Lightfoot, 274-300.

16 Epistolae, 1515, 180v: "Epistola quam misit Paulus ad Laodicenses inter Epistolas eius nunc non continetur. Verum vnam titulo Pauli ad Laodicenses insignitam, quatuor in locis reperi. Primum Pataui in coenobio sancti Johannis de Viridario, Coloniae apud Fratres Communis Vitae et apud Parisios in Bibliothecis Eduana et Sorbonica. Quam quia non nisi pietatem continere conspexi, nichil etiam fuerit a pietate alienum si eam hoc in loco inseramus, vt qui fuerint studiosi Pauli (debent etiam Christiani omnes) legant et etiam consolentur legentes." This preface is to be found in Rice, 300-01.

17 The problem of manuscripts was of very little interest to him.

18 Epistolae, 1515, 181 r: "Haec est quam sub nomine Pauli et Laodicensium reperi Epistolam et gauisus sum reperiens et earn cum voluptate ob Christi et Apostoli eius nomen repertam legi perlibenter. Quae si breuis sit, quid prohibet Apostolum interdum breues interdum longas confecisse Epistolas? Breuis etiam et ilia est quae est ad Philemonem. Praeterea quia sapit Christum et sancta continet praecepta, vbicunque sane nomen Christi legitur, vbicunque in voce sonat, inclinatio et veneratio debetur. Nam est summi et aeterni regis nostri nomen, quem decet omnis laus et gloria et in spiritu et veritate adoratio in omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen."

19 Cf. Geerard, C.A.N.T, no. 306, and on the medieval tradition esp. Lienard, 589-98.

20 Epistolae, 1515, 218r-221r. Cf. Rice, 301.

21 Epistolae, 1515, 218r: "Ethic Epistolae Pauli ad Philemonem finis, quam et aliqui vix tribuere Paulo voluerunt, quia minus seria visa sit et modicam continere institutionem. Sed aliud est cum Paulus catholicas et cum familiares scribit Epistolas. Catholicae res ad omnes continentes pertinent [!]. Familiares vero res ad vnum aut paucos. Catholicae vniuersales sunt, seriae et magni ponderis, quales duodecim praecedentibus libris explicatae sunt; quails estet ea quae ad Hebraeos est, libro sequenti per Christi gratiam enucleanda. Familiares particulares sunt, minus seriae minorisque momenti, qualis praesens est et sex aliae, quas sermone latino Senecae respondendo autumant scripsisse Paulum."

22 Epistolae, 1515, 218r. That part of the preface is reproduced in Rice, 301.

23 Epistolae, 1515,218r, inc. "Credo Paule tibi nunciatum, des. Bene te valere frater cupio."

24 Epistolae, 1515, 218r: "Haec prima Senecae epistola. Et que air de apocryphis, id est de absconditis rebus siue disciplinis. Ferme quaecunque sunt a Spiritu superiore, quorum author agnosci non potest, apocrypha dicere solent. Neque id in sacris eloquiis in malam partem capi solet. Nam et diuinus Paulus thesauros sapientiae et cognitionis in Christo appellat apocryphos, id est absconditos, sic capite 2.Epistolae ad Colossenses scribens... Neque hic Seneca in malam partem hoc vocabulo vtitur, sed pro disciplinis Christianorum, quarum abscondita virtus et hominibus superior erat author. Caeterum et absconditae Christianorum disciplinae sic erant, vt propter edicta imperatorum et praetorum prodire non auderent in publicum. Sunt etiam et apocrypha in malam partem vt magiae maleficae artes et haereticorum periergiae, quarum et malignus spiritus author est."

25 Epistolae, 1515, 220r: "Ad hanc epistolam non respondet Paulus. Nam de natura Neronis satius fuit silere quam super ea re responsionem facere . . . ad hanc respondet Seneca et humilitatem a Paulo ex ea edoctus nomen suum nomini Pauli a modo subsecundat, hoc ipso facto Paulurn pasiter et Romanam ciuilitatem honorans. Magna enim ilia tempestate erat nobilitas ciuilitas Romana."

26 Epistolae, 1515, ad letter 8,220v-221r.

27 Epistolae, 1515, 218r: "Libello tuo lecto, id est de plurimis aliquas literas, quas ad ciuitatem aliquam seu prouinciae caput direxisti, mira exhortatione vitam moralem continentes, vsque refecti fuimus."

28 Epistolae, 1515, 218r: "Et illo transcensu hallucinabatur Seneca et ideo air Paulum non ex se dixisse, sed virtutem quandam homine superiorem per Paulum locutam. Et hoc verum est sed non ideo moralis disciplina est, sed plusquam moralis longe hac eminentior . . . Haec (moralis inquam) humana industria habetur, ilia infusione eget superna. Hanc infidelis; illam solus fidelis habere potest..."

29 Epistolae, 1515, inc., 258v: In nomine Ihesu omne genu flectatur coelestium, terrestrium et infernorum./ Tempore modico patiar sed viuam in perpetuum cum Deo meo et rege aeterno Ihesu Christo./ Nec enim aliud nomen est sub coelo datum hominibus, in quo oporteat nos saluos fieri. Nulla sit michi gloria nisi crux Domini mei Ihesu Christi cuius ego sum serum. On Pseudo-Linus, cf. Geerard, C.A.N.T. nos. 191,212.

30 Cf. Poupon, 25-27 and the literature cited there.

31 Epistolae, 1515, 259r. Cf. Rice, no. 97, 303-04.

32 Cf. Poupon, 27-28.

33 Octavo. I shall be referring here to the copy held by Bodleian Library, Oxford, shelfmark: Antiq. e. GA 1514/1.

34 Cf. Poupon, 25, and notes 4-8 supra.

35 Insequentia in hoc libro continentur. Beatissimi Pauli gentium Apostoli Epistole altissimis referte mysteriis, quas septem ecclesiis catholicas et praeterea quas discipulis suis priuatas sedulus Christi orator transmisit. Adiiciuntur iis L. Annei Senecae ad S. Paulum octo Paulique rursus ad Senecam responsive sex, breues quidem, iucunde tamen humanitatisque plene. Iungitur etiam in cake ea que a Paulo Laodicensibus scripta inuenitur.

36 Insequentia, 1514, 86v. Epistola (follows on the text of the canonical Epistles): "Sequuntur Epistole Annei Senece ad Paulum Apostolum octo. Et rursus Pauli ad Senecam responsiue sex. Que vt huic loco apprimerentur sacri Hieronymi autoritas effecit. Loquens enim in Libro virorum illustrium [12] de Anneo Seneca ait: 'quem, inquit, non ponerem in Cathalogo sanctorum nisi me ille Epistole prouocarent quae leguntur a plurimis Pauli ad Senecam et Senece ad Paulum.' Hec sacer Hieronymus. Et Linus de Paulo et Seneca ait: 'Institutor imperatoris adeo est illi amicitia copulatus videns in eo diuinam scientiam, vt sea colloquio illius temporare vix posset. Quominus, si ore ad os ilium alloqui non valeret frequentibus datis et acceptis Epistolis ipsius dulcedine et amicabili colloquio atque consilio frueretur.' Hec Linus in Vita Pauli."

37 Insequentia, 1514, 89v: "Epistolam illam Laodicensibus adscriptam ob id maxime vltimum locum vendicare voluimus, quod dubitare non parum multi etiam docti de authore videbantur. At non prorsus obmissa propter id quod in calce Epistole S. Pauli ad Colossenses scriptum legitur: 'et cum lecta inquit fuerit apud eos Epistola haec, facite vt et in Laodicensium ecclesia legatur et ea quae Laodicensium est, vobis legatur.' Cum itaque Laodicensibus S. Paulus Epistolam scripserit, quemadmodum ex hoc loco praedare dilucet, et haec Epistola quae hic subimpressa est, pluribus in locis nomine Pauli in frontispitio praetitulata sit, nequaquam impium putandum si S. Paulo hec tribuatur. Et cum nil nisi pietatem continere perspicitur, nihil etiam a pietate alienum erit si (cum caeteris legenda) apponatur."

38 The colophon to the volume reveals the identity of the benefactor but not of the editor: "Vienne Pannonie per Hieronymum Vietorem et Joannem Singrenium impressum. Expensis vero Leonardi et Luce Alantse fratrum. Sexto Kalendas Februari. Anno 1514. Imperante Maximiliano."

39 Berger, 65-72.

40 Liber trium virorum et trium spiritualium virginum. Hermae Liber vnus. Vguetini Liber vnus. F. Roberti libri duo. Hildegardis Sciuias libri tres. Elizabethae virginis libri sex. Mechthildis virginis libri quinque (Parisiis, ex officina Henrici Stephani calcographi e regione Scholae decretorum, anno 1513, sexto nonas Junias). Hereafter referred to as: Lefevre, Liber trium virorum, 1513. Cf. Rice, no. 99, 308-20 (prefatory epistle to Adelheid von Ottenstein, 308-14; and appendix to Markwert von Hatstein, Kilian Westhausen and Wolfgang von Matt). Both the prefatory epistle and the appendix are dated 1513.

41. Rice. 310: Lefevre's preface to Adelheid, a.j.r.: "Probat autem ille De viris illustribus [10] scribens eum, qui in fronte huius operis habetur, Pastoris librum: 'apud quasdam, inquit, Graeciae ecclesias etiam publice legitur, reuera vtilis liber, multique de eo scriptorum veterum vsurpauere testimonia, sed apud Latinos paene ignotus est'. Haec Hieronymus."

42 Bardenhewer, 479-80.

43 Both Rices text of Lefevre's preface and his annotations on it are completely unreliable here. We therefore refer the reader to the text of the original edition a.j.r.: "Ideo Gelasius apocryphum librum ilium more Hieronymi appellat qui in Prologo voluminis Regum vbi Veteris Legis prime authoritatis libros enumerauit, ita habet: 'ut scire, inquit, valeamus quicquid extra hos est inter apocrypha esse ponendum. Igitur Sapientia quae vulgo Salomonis inscribitur et Iehu filii Sirach liber et Judith et Tobias et Pastor non sunt in canone'. Haec Hieronymus."

44 Lefevre, Liber trium virorum, a.j.r.: "Ecce quomodo connectit Pastorem libro Sapientiae, Ecclesiastico, libro Judith, et Thobiae, eandem tribuens ei authoritatem quia eandem continet ad aedificationem pietatis virtutem."

45 Lefevre, Liber trium virorum, a.j.r.: "Id ergo eos nosse operaeprecium erit qui in nomine Apocryphorum et fallunt et falluntur, apocrypha duplici significatione dici. Haec: bene nota; ilia: mala. Meliore nota dicuntur apocrypha quae sacris eloquiis, id est, ils quae prima et summa authoritate existunt, vicina sunt et quasi indiscriminata. Deteriore vero nota: superstitiosa, haeretica, curiosa, vana et perierga omnia, a quibus sancti iubent prorsus non solum abstinendum sed et abhorrendum."

46 Gounelle, 189-90, and the literature cited there.

47 Full Latin text of the appendix in Rice, 315-16.

48 On this issue in modern apocryphal scholarship, cf. Junod, 17-46

49 Gerbel was born in Pforzheim (Baden) in 1485 and died in Strasbourg in 1560. After studies at Pforzheim, Vienna, Cologne, Mainz, Tubingen, and Bologna where he became doctor of canon law, Gerbel settled in Strasbourg working first as city lawyer, then as secretary to the Great Chapter. He published works of classical authors and in 1521 produced an edition of the Greek New Testament which was a straightforward imitation of Erasmus, with whom he was in correspondence. He became a fervent Lutheran very early and defended Luther's doctrine of the real presence against the Strasbourg reformers, 1527-1536. Cf. especially Buchle.

50 Pastoris nuntii poenitentiae visiones quinque, mandata duodecim, similitudines vero decem in quibus apparuit et locutus est Hermae, discipulo Pauli Apostoli. Cui etiam in principio apparuit ecclesia in variis signis. Origenes alias saepe, tum etiam in Commentariis super Iesum Naue Libelli Pastoris testimonium citat. Eius meminit et Athanasius in libro de incarnatione Christi his verbis: "ille sane Pastoris perquam vtilis liber. "Hieronymus item in Catalogo virorum illustrium Hermam (cuius Paulus ad Romanos scribens meminit [16.14]): '"salutate Asyncritum, Phtegontem, Hermam, Patrobam, Hermem et qui cum eis sunt fratres") asseruit autorem libri qui adpellatur Pastor et apud quasdam Graeciae ecclesias etiam publice legitur. Reuera vtilis liber multique de eo scriptorum veterum vsurpauerunt testimonia. Sed apud Latinos pene ignotus est." Volaterranus eum scribit Philippoleos fuisse praesulem (Argentorati, apud Joannem Schottum, 1522).

51 Gerbel, Pastoris nuntii poenitentiae visiones..., 1522, alv: "Libellum hunc Pastoris iam pluribus ignotum saeculis, haec aetas nostra e tenebris reuocauit. Autorem eius fuisse scribit Hermam diuus Hieronymus in Catalogo ecclesiasticorum scriptorum. In eo sane quae ad cognitionem Dei, ad synceritatem fidei, ad institutionem atque puritatem vitae pertinent visionibus ac similitudinibus adumbrantur."

52 Gerbel, Pastoris nuntii poenitentiae visiones ..., 1522, alv: "Nam genus hoc erudiendi per apparitiones, per somnia, per visiones mire veteribus placuisse video quo videlicet maiori fide (vt auguror) doctrinae suae auctoritatem posteritati commendarent. Petrus in Libello Historiae Apostolicae, visione admonitus, in societatem fidei Cornelium accepit. Quod factum, cum ab initio socii ministerii ferrent iniquius, enarrata coelesti visione tuetur. Magnus ille gentium atque adeo totius orbis apostolus Paulus, quanto studio Corinthiis visionem suam, qua in praedicationem fidei diuinitus adscitus ruerat commendauit. Id quod et alias non impigre habita oportunitate exequitur. Ioannes apostolus vel si quis alius est author libri Reuelationum non vulgarem fidem visionibus, quae vidit, praestari desiderat, horrendis destinans suppliciis eos qui vel adiecerint imprudenter vel ademerint quicquam temere iis quae scripta sunt in libro Prophetiae illius. Consimili ludit argumento Hermas, multis sane salubribus monitis erudiens lectorem. Quem librum cur adeo indementer prior reiecerit aetas non video. Maxime cum illius testimonio non grauatim vsa sit Antiquitas. Quod si quis inter apocryphos hunc enumeratum conclamet, nolo quenquam ecclesiae nomine grauari.

"Quandoquidem superioribus annis multa ecclesiae nomine promulgata sunt, quae priuatorum hominum decreuit Licentia. [Greek Text Omitted] [sic] [Greek Text Omitted], inquit Paulus, [Greek Text Omitted].

"Verum huius rei iudicium ad eos qui ingenio atque doctrina praestant, deferimus. Ego sane inciuile esse arbitratus sum, librum perueterem tantisque probatum autoribus naso suspendi aut in ordinem redigi. Lectorem moneo: Pliniani illius meminisse velit: nullum esse librum tam malum quin aliqua in parte prosit."

53 Cf. Rice, no. 38, 117-20.

54 Cf. Rice, no. 38, 121-23.

55 Cf. Geerard, C.A.N.T., no. 209 (5). The Greek original of the Recognitiones is no longer extant.

56 The work was printed in Paris by Guy Marchant for Jean Petit, 13 July 1504.

57 Cf. Pico della Mirandola, Apologia, in Opera, Basal, 1557, 204: "Clemens apostolorum discipulus qui Romanae ecclesiae post Apostolos episcopus et martyr fuit, libros edidit qui appellantur Recognitio, in quibus cum ex persona Petri doctrina quasi vere apostolica exponatur, in aliquibus ita Eunomii dogma inseritur vt nullus alius quam ipse Eunomius disputare credatur, Filium Dei creatum de nihilo dicens."

58 Cf. Rice, no. 38, 118 and editor's n. 7, 120, where it is rightly noted that Lefevre's condemnation of natural magic here sharply contradicts his favorable attitude to it as expressed in De magia naturali, ca. 1493. By 1512, Lefevre's position was determinedly hostile to magic (cf. ibid.).

59 The preface does suggest that Lefevre was attracted to the work for its purity and austerity. Cf. Rice, no. 38, 118: "...Confutat etiam diuinatoriam astrologiam, longe serpens eta multis etiam nunc receptum malum, et qua pythonici, necromantici et impuri theurgici omnes sub peritiae astrorum nomine suas contegunt impietates. Cultum etiam gentilium deorum et rituum insanias funditus extirpat et doctrinam totius pietatis agnitionisque diuinae summam continentem mentibus humanis inserit."

60 He also confuses Gaudentius, the early fifth-century bishop of Brescia, to whom Rufinus dedicated the work, with Gaudentius of Rimini, a medieval saint. Cf. Rice, editor's n. 8, 120, where this anachronism is discussed.

61 Rice, no. 38, 118: "Per te Christianum et sanctae eruditionis Petri apostoli opus celebres Hispaniae legent, quamquam scribit et Sophronius beatissimum apostolorum principem Petrum dum etiam ageret in humanis inuisisse Hispanias." According to Rice, ibid., is meant here [Pseudo-]Sophronius, De laboribus, certaminibus et peregrinationibus SS. Petri et Pauli, MPG 87:3, col. 4013. Text inc. 4011, "Petrus genere fuit Hebraeus"; text des. 4014, "Vide Tertullianum in libro vbi air morris Petri et Pauli mentionem in Annalibus haberi." However, it is not at all clear that it is this text by Pseudo-Sphronius that is meant or how Lefevre would have got access to it.

62 Cf. Rice, no. 21, 71-75 (Theologia viuificans. .. Ignatii vndecim epistolae. Polycarpi Ephtola vna. . . Parisiis, 2nd ed., 1510).

63 Diui Clementis Recognitionum libri x. Ad Jacobum fratrem Domini, Rufino Torano Aquileiense interprete. Cui accessit non poenitenda epistolarum pars vetustissimorum episcoporum, hactenus non visa, eorum qui ab hinc an. M.CC. Romanae ecclesiae praefuerunt . . . Basileae, apud Ioannem Bebelium, 1526. Cf. Hieronymus, no. 430, 690-95.

64 After studies at Ingolstadt he lectured in Basel from 1524, not only in classical studies but also in law (about which he apparently knew very little). Cf. Hieronymus, no. 430, 691.

65 Decretum Gratiani la pass, dist. 15, c. 3, para. 29, cf. Friedberg 1,38. Sichard obviously had access to a recension which mentioned fifty chapters. Most recensions simply give eight or nine books. The other possibility is that Sichard is conflating the [Pseudo-] Gelasian Decrees condemnation of eight books of Clement and Gratian's condemnation of the fifty Canones Apostolorum also attributed to Clement (cf. Friedberg, 1:42).

66 Recognitiones, 1526, a3v: "Nec enim me mouit illa plus quam decantata vbique de Apocryphis sententia, quae si sunt abiicienda, Tertulliano carebimus, Eusebii magna parte, Lactantio. Quid multis? Aegre quisquam paulo vetustior locum suum tuebitur, quippe quorum plerique synodos illas praecesserint quibus veluti cancellis quibusdam circumscripta fuit Christanismi professio. Mirum ergo videri debet, si a vetustioribus illis, quid sit variatum et coeperint legi priuatim, id est fieri Apocrypha, quae paulo ante publice legebantur? Vt veto interim dicam quod sentio, nondum satis mecum constitui, quid ilia veterum autorum censura sibi velit quae distinctione XV, capite Sancta Ro[mana ecclesia] (Decretum Gratiani la pass, dist. 15, cap. 3 Sancta Romana ecclesia, para. 71) habetur, vt omittam quod quaedam isthic ex diametro inter se pugnant. Clementis vero dum octo facit libros et capitum meminit, nisi me animus fallit, quinquaginta quae sint pro autenticis, sic enim loquitur, recepta, non potest mihi non praebere nescio cuius monstri suspicionem//a4r.//vel hoc nomine maxime, quod quae hodie in vetustissimis bibliothecis supersunt exemplaria, quorum duo omnino licuit per sesquismestrem illam excursionem videre, vnum Basileae... alterum Schonaugiae... Sed hoc quicquid est rei iudicandum aliis in medio relinquam, si hoc vnum addidero: mihi alioqui non tam superstitiose nasuto nec videri verisimile Rufinum virum, ne quid addam praeterea Magnum, potuisse adduci vt Latine donaret librum quem vidisset parum dextre ab eruditioribus accipi aut cui dignitatis suae ratio non iam ante constaret. Et quaeso qui fieret vt Origenem, Xistum philosopbum, Eusebium Caesariensem, Gregorium Nazianzenum, Basilium Magnum, Pamphilum Martyrem, Euagrium, rei theologicae quod in confesso est, facile principes, ex Graecis verteret, hic vero tanquam sui oblitus, imperare sibi potuerit vt tot lucubrationum gloriam istius versionis veluti tenebris obscuraret et tanquam malus poeta vno actu eoque postremo, totam fabulam dehonestaret?"


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Berger, Samuel. Histoire de la Vulgate pendant les premiers siecles du Moyen-Age. Nancy, 1893.

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Author:Backus, Irena
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