Tuesday, August 15, 2006

PSEUDEPIGRAPHA AND APOCRYPHA WATCH: Today is the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which has inspired Tempo in the Philippines to publish a brief piece on assumptions (i.e., translations live into heaven) in ancient Jewish and Christian literature. Excerpt:
At the time of Jesus, Jews thought that friends of God became members of the heavenly court when they finished their work. The Hebrew Scriptures describe how holy people were “taken up” by God into heaven. One example is Elijah who rode to heaven in a chariot of fire (2Kgs2). Jewish narratives described the assumption of Moses, Isaiah and other prophets. The Jews believed that holy people are protected by the power of the Almighty. ...

Belief in the assumption of the Virgin Mary is attested in a number of books written after the year 300 AD. These books describe the death of Mary under various circumstances. Some claim that Mary was raised after three days, others that her body was taken up to heaven during the funeral procession. Other books claim that Mary’s tomb was opened and found to be empty. These writings claim that Mary died anywhere from three to 50 years after the death of Jesus.
The pseudepigrapha alluded to are the Martyrdom and Ascension of Isaiah and the Assumption/Testament of Moses (although the surviving Latin fragment doesn't extend to an assumption of Moses and may not actually have included one). Technically speaking, Isaiah wasn't assumed, since he returned to earth and died there. But Enoch, who isn't mentioned, was. There's a large ancient literature on the assumption of Mary, starting in the fourth or fifth century. A number of the texts are collected by Stephen J. Shoemaker at his Early Traditions of the Virgin Mary's Dormition (Dormitio Mariae) website.

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