The Apocryphon of Ezekiel, Fragments 2-5

[Andrew Harrington offered a link to the text of fragments 2-5 in the comments, I am adding the link here. Thanks Andrew!]

Fragment 2 as reported in 1 Clement 8:3 describes God’s mercy. Even if the sins are “redder than scarlet or blacker than sackcloth,” if the people simply call God “Father” he will forgive them.  In addition to Jesus’ use of Father for God, Gal. 4:6 and Rom. 8:15 refer to calling out to God as Father (“abba”).  Fragment 3 exists in several variations, but is only reported as coming from Ezekiel by Tertullian (De carne Christi 23). This saying concerns a cow which has “given birth and not given birth.”  Apparently Tertullian used this as a reference to the Virgin Mary.

Fragment 4 is a saying attributed to Jesus by Justin Martyr, although it appears to come from “the prophets” in Elias of Crete and Pseudo-Athanasius.

Fragment 5 is found in Clement of Alexandria.  This text describes the healing of the nation and is probably based on Ezekiel 34:14-16 and Isaiah 35:5-7.  The Ezekiel passage is in the context of the true shepherd, while Isaiah describes the joy of the restoration of the people.  Zeph. 3:19 and Micah 4:6-7 both use the restoration of the lame as an image of renewal.

It is too much to say these fragments had much impact on the thinking of first century Judaism, although it is clear from the writers who preserved them that early Christians read and used the Apocryphon of Ezekiel. While the Christians used texts which could be applied to Jesus as the Messiah, it is almost impossible to know how a Jewish reader would have taken these same texts.

These fragments at best indicate the currency of the idea of restoration in Judaism based on the classic texts of Isaiah and Ezekiel.  The idea of a true shepherd from Ezekiel 34 may have been a popular enough of an idea that when Jesus used sheep as images in parables (Luke 15:1-3-7; John 10:11-14).



Bregman, Marc. “The Parable of the Lame and the Blind: Epiphanius’ Quotation from an Apocryphon of Ezekiel.” JTS ns 42 (1991): 125-138.

Cook, Stephen L. “The Five Fragments of the Apocryphon of Ezekiel: A Critical Study” JBL115 (1996): 532-534.

Mueller, James Raymond.  “The ‘Apocryphon of Ezekiel:’ A Critical Study of Pseudepigraphic Fragments.”  Unpublished Dissertation:  (Ph. D.) Duke University, 1986.

Mueller, J. R. and S. E. Robinson.  “The Apocryphon of Ezekiel ”in OTP 1:487-495.

Stone, Michael E., Benjamin G. Wright, and David Satran.  The Apocryphal Ezekiel.  Atlanta: SBL, 2000.

Wright, Benjamin G. “The Apocryphon of Ezekiel and 4QPseudo-Ezekiel” pages 462-480 in Dead Sea Scrolls Jerusalem. Jerusalem: Israel Museum, 2000.

__________.  “Talking with God and Losing His Head: Extrabiblical Traditions about the Prophet Ezekiel” pages 290-315 in Biblical Figures Outside the Bible. Harrisburg, Penn.: Trinity Press, 1998.

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.