The Apocryphon of Ezekiel, Fragment 1

The Apocryphon of Ezekiel is a lost work known only through a fragment preserved in Epiphanes (Against Heresies 64.70, 5-17), the Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 91a, a fragment preserved in 1 Clement 8:3, a number variations of a saying Tertullian attributed to Ezekiel, a fragment in Justin Martyr (Dialogue, 47), and a fragment in Clement of Alexandria (Paedagogus, 1:9).  A late date for the larger work can be set by First Clement is normally dated to A.D. 95.  Josephus seems knows of Ezekiel (Ant. 10.5.1 mentions two books).  Dates for Apocryphon of Ezekiel therefore range from 50 B.C. to A.D. 50 (Mueller and Robinson, 488).

Roman Feast 01The first fragment contains a parable used by Epiphanes to discuss the relationship of the body and the soul.  A king drafted his entire population into the army so there were no civilians except a blind man and a lame man. The king gave a wedding banquet for his son and invited the entire kingdom except the two civilians. They were insulted at this snub and made a plan to work together to enter the king’s garden. The blind man helps the lame man walk, the lame man led the blind man. (The version in the Talmud is slightly different in that the two men simply enter the garden and steal new figs without the wedding banquet.)

When the king discovers what the men did he questions them, but they deny responsibility.  The blind man could not have entered the garden because he cannot see, the lame man cannot walk.  In Epiphanes’ version the king flogs the men to discover the truth – the one blames the other.  In both versions of this parable the point is to illustrate the relationship of the soul and the body.

This parable is a potential parallel to the Parable of the Wedding Feast in Matthew 22:1-14 or the Great Banquet in Luke 14:15-35. In both biblical parables and the Apocryphon version a king gives a banquet and invites many guests.  But in the biblical version the invited guests do not come to the banquet and are replaced by the blind, lame, etc.

The point of the parable of Jesus is to describe his ministry (those who were invited to the wedding banquet reject the invitation and are replaced with “outsiders”) rather than a description of the body and soul.  In the Apocryphon’s version the guests all accept the invitation, the two “outsiders” are not among those who should be at the banquet. What is clear from this fragment is that the metaphor of a wedding banquet was common, but also flexible enough to be used in different ways.

A wedding banquet is not always about the coming Kingdom of God.

4 thoughts on “The Apocryphon of Ezekiel, Fragment 1

  1. I’ve never been convinced that the parable is part of the same Ezekiel Apocryphon as the rest of the fragments. It is entirely a different tone and style completely alien to the rest. I think there is actually at least two, and that parable of the blind and lame man is from some post-Christian one; while all of the rest were from Hebrew originals, probably from the same one as was discovered in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

  2. It is also of note, that once the 2 Ezekiel book was discovered in the Dead Sea Scrolls, it was made clear that one unidentified quotation from Barnabas was actually from it.

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