Apocalypse of Paul

The Apocalypse of Paul (Apocalypsis Pauli, more commonly known in the Latin tradition as the Visio Pauli or Visio sancti Pauli) is a third-century text of the New Testament apocrypha.[1] The original version of the Apocalypse is lost and must be reconstructed from later versions and translations, but must originally have been in Greek.[2] The text is not to be confused with the gnostic Coptic Apocalypse of Paul, which is unlikely to be related.

The text purports to present a detailed account of a vision of Heaven and Hell experienced by Paul the Apostle; "its chief importance lies in the way it helped to shape the beliefs of ordinary Christians concerning the afterlife".[3]

Origins and content

The text appears to be an elaborate expansion and rearrangement of the Apocalypse of Peter, and is essentially a description of visions of Heaven and Hell – although it also contains a prologue describing all creation appealing to God against the sin of man, which is not present in the Apocalypse of Peter. At the end of the text, Paul/Mary manages to persuade God to give everyone in Hell a day off every Sunday.

The text extends the Apocalypse of Peter by framing the reasons for the visits to heaven and hell as the witnessing of the death and judgement of one wicked man, and one who is righteous. The text is heavily moralistic, and adds, to the Apocalypse of Peter, features such as:

The plan of the text is:

  • 1, 2. Discovery of the revelation.
  • 3–6. Appeal of creation to God against man
  • 7–10. The report of the angels to God about men.
  • 11–18. Deaths and judgements of the righteous and the wicked.
  • 19–30. First vision of Paradise, including lake Acherusa.
  • 31–44. Hell. Paul obtains rest on Sunday for the lost.
  • 45–51. Second vision of Paradise.