Last weekend, whilst lying in a hotel bed trying to avoid thinking about my future fate and not succeeding in sleeping, I picked up my phone and scrolled through my Pseudepigrapha texts to read some Greek I haven’t read before. This is always a good way to kill time in a pinch. I stumbled across what turned out to be a gem of a story: the Apocryphon of Ezekiel. There are only a few fragments extant from this work of unknown composition (though probably written sometime in the 50 BC – AD 50 time frame).
For more information on the Apocryphon of Ezekiel, check out Early Jewish Writings.
The first major chunk of the surviving work is a brilliant little parable. I liked it so much that I spent some time going back through it and decided to translate it. I don’t do much translating, so it is always interesting to see how my “translation philosophy” has developed over time. This is not a full blown “normal English” attempt at a translation. In fact, it is pretty “literal” with some of the greater differences smoothed out.
If you are interested in the Greek text, I am not putting it here. It is from recent enough time that it is still under copyright (I’m assuming it is copyrighted). You can get it for free in the Diogenes reader (work number 1161:001).
Without further ado, here is the translation.
“For the dead will rise and those in the graves will rise again,” said the prophet. Lest I pass over in silence the things spoken in his own secret book by the prophet Ezekiel concerning the resurrection, I will lay out these things here. For, speaking enigmatically, he said [the following story] concerning the judgement of the righteous, which the soul and body share, “a certain king made everyone in his kingdom soldiers. He did not have any civilians except just two: one lame man and one blind man. Each one sat by himself and lived by himself. Now when the king put on a wedding for his son, he invited everyone in his kingdom to come, but he despised the two civilians, both the lame man and the blind man. Now these two were very upset and they were thinking about getting even with the king.
Now the king had a royal garden, and from a long way off the blind man started talking to the lame man, saying, “How much more would our crumb of bread been among the crowds of those invited to the revelry? Come now, just as he has done to us, let us repay him.”
And the other one answered, “How?”
He responded, “Let us go into his royal garden and destroy the garden things (i.e., plants) that are in it.
But (the other) said, “And how can I do that, being lame and not able to cause trouble?”
The blind man answer, “And I myself am able to do anything, not being able to see where I am going? But come now, let us be crafty.”
After plucking (long) grass from the neighbor and weaving a rope, he threw it to the blind man. And he said, “Take it and come along the rope to me.”
Now when he had done what was urged, when he arrived, he (the lame man) said, “Come, be my feet and carry me and I will be your eyes, guiding you from above to the right or left.”
Having done this, they went down into the royal garden. Then, finally, regardless of whether they did wrong or even did no wrong, their footprints were visible in the garden.
Now when the revelers left the wedding and went down into the royal garden, they were surprised to find footprints in the royal garden. They reported this to the king, saying “Everyone in your kingdom is a solider and no one is a civilian. How, then, are there civilian footprints in your royal garden?”
And he was amazed. And thus, the parable manifestly speaks of that which is hidden, as speaking in riddles to men, but God is ignorant of nothing.
Now the narrative tells how he summoned the lame man and the blind man and asked the blind man, “You did not go down into my royal garden, did you?”
He answered, “Oh, my lord! You see our handicaps; you know that I do not see where I am walking.”
Then, coming to the lame man, he asked him, “Did you go down into my royal garden?”
Answering he said, “O Lord, are you trying to embitter my soul regarding my handicap?”
What, then, will the just judge do? Having recognized in what manner both were tied together, he sets the lame man on the blind one and interrogates both of them with the whip and they will not be able to deny it. Each will condemn the other, the lame man saying, “And didn’t you pick me up and carry me away?”
And the blind man will say to the lame man, “And you yourself, weren’t you my eyes?”
In this way the body is united with the soul and the soul with the body for the judgment of the common work, and the judgment will be complete concerning both, both the body and the soul, of the works which were done, whether good or evil.