The Apocryphal Books Of Elijah and Paul
In his First Epistle to the Corinthians, Paul says that:
“However, as it is written: ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.’” (1 Corinthians 2:9)
It is claimed that Paul had paraphrase the above citation from Isaiah:
“Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.” (Isaiah 64:4)
This is actually inaccurate, as Paul had actually quoted the above from the ‘apocryphal books of Elijah’ and not Isaiah 64:4. Apostolic Christians such as Origen and Jerome had confirmed the following about the source of Paul’s quote:
1 Cor 2:9
[But as it is written] This passage is quoted from Isa 64:4. It is not quoted literally; but the sense only is given. The words are found in the apocryphal books of Elijah (Elias); and Origen and Jerome supposed that Paul quoted from those books. But it is evident that Paul had in his eye the passage in Isaiah; and intended to apply it to his present purpose.1
The same commentary can also be found at Robertson’s Word Pictures of the New Testament.2
It is claimed that the authors of the New Testament were ‘inspired by God’ to write their books, yet we see the borrowing of a quote from an extra-canonical source, an apocryphal book that is not even in the Bible today! The above exposition should be able to raise serious doubts about the sources of the writings which Christians hold dear as the “inspired” ‘Word of God’.
This apocryphal work is dated around the end of the fourth century C.E. or the beginning of the fifth century C.E. whereas 1 Corinthians was written by Paul after 57 C.E.
Apocryphal books of Elijah
This edition, based on P. Chester Beatty 2018, was edited by Albert Pietersma and Susan Turner Comstock. The document is dated at the end of the fourth century C.E. or the beginning of the fifth century C.E. It is said to constitute a separate, independent work. This particular manuscript provides thirty-four lines of text which previously were unknown. It appears that the original text was carelessly written because the copyist missed a number of errors. Facsimiles of the manuscript are included.3
So it is clear that the quotation in 1 Corinthians 2:9 was not originally from the book of Isaiah, and is certainly not from Paul, as Paul had clearly stated in his quote “But as it is written” to clarify that the quotation is not his. But the question arises, why did Paul quoted from something which is not in the Bible?
The answer is simple; this is not the first time he was ‘inspired’ to do that. For instance, in Titus 1:12 Paul was ‘inspired’ to quote from Epimenides, a Cretan poet of sixth century B.C., which had a logical error in the statement. Also, in 1 Corinthians 15:33 he again quoted from Menander’s Thais (fragment no. 218).
It is clear that if any charge of borrowing should be hurled at the New Testament, the verse in 1 Corinthians 2:9 would be a good place to start. It is claimed that the authors of the New Testament were ‘inspired by God’ to write their books, yet we see the borrowing of a quote from an extra-canonical source, an apocryphal book that is not even in the Bible today! The above exposition should be able to raise serious doubts about the sources of the writings which Christians hold dear as the “inspired” ‘Word of God’.
- Albert Barnes, Notes On the New Testament, (Grand Rapids, 1955), Electronic Database, Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft
- The aforementioned commentary can be found at this link.