2020-05-08

The Gospel According to The Ascension of Isaiah

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by Neil Godfrey

I am posting here a worksheet I have prepared for my own ongoing reading around the Ascension of Isaiah. There are some good reasons to think that the “pocket gospel” in the Ascension of Isaiah, 11:2-22, is an interpolation and not part of the original text. But on the other hand there are others who are persuaded that 11:2-22 was part of the original text. That’s a question I will address, pros and cons, in a future post.

The following table expands on the gospel as found in chapter 11 by adding details mentioned in earlier chapters.

Just as fascinating is the account in Asc. Isa. of what happens after the ascension of Jesus to heaven. We read of a story of apostasy and some sort of Anti-Christ figure emerging on the eve of Christ’s return to resurrect and condemn all the wicked.

So the following highlights of the Asc. Isa. “gospel” are not presented with the suggestion that they were part of the original text. No, I really don’t know if they were or not. But either way they clearly are an early form of gospel that in many ways stands quite apart from our canonical gospels.

The table is hardly a comprehensive layout of the other early non-canonical gospels. I’ve only selected a few details that in some way relate to the Asc. Isa. and/or show other non-canonical parallels with Justin’s account of the gospel.

There are several quite interesting details in the Asc. Isa. gospel account when we read it carefully. For instance, Mary is said to be from the family of “David the Prophet”. Why is David said to be “the Prophet” and not the King? An answer may come to mind when we realize that a larger theme of the Asc. Isa. is false versus true prophets and the persecution, even martyrdom, of the true prophets. This is another little detail of a larger theme I have brought up in other posts — that the David motif in the intertestamental period was often wrapped in ideas of suffering, unjust persecution, righteousness, rather than conquering militarily.

Ascension of Isaiah

3:13-18

9:5, 13-17

11:2-22

Gospel of Peter

Infancy Gospel of James (Prot-
evangelium
of James)

Justin

FA=First Apology
DT=Dial with Trypho

No angel appears to Mary to explain to her why she is pregnant

Gabriel’s announcement to Mary; “Be it according to thy word”

11:2; 12:2

Gabriel’s announcement to Mary; “Be it according to thy word”

DT100

Isaiah is told in his heavenly ascent that he will be called Jesus and Christ

9:5, 13

Angel to virgin: …call his name Jesus for he shall save from sins 

11:3

Angel to virgin: …call his name Jesus for he shall save from sins

FA33

“Born” of virgin Mary — but Jesus suddenly appears in front of Mary and she is no longer pregnant — no actual birth is described

11:13

Born of virgin Mary

19:3

Born of virgin 

DT23,63,66,71,84,85

He will be appear like and be thought to be a man

9:13

No human generation

DT32, 43 FA51

Not descended from men, seed not from humans 

DT63, 68

Mary was of family of “David the Prophet”

11:2

Mary was of family of David

10:1

Mary was of house of David

DT76

Joseph, a carpenter, was also of family of “righteous David”

11:2

 

Joseph “came into his lot” and Mary was “espoused” to him.

11:3

Joseph was chosen by lot to marry Mary

9:1; 19:1

 

Joseph wanted to put Mary away, but an angel appeared to him and changed his mind. Kept it a secret from everyone.

11:3-4

Joseph wanted to put Mary away; a dream changed this

14:1-2

Joseph wanted to put Mary away; a dream changed this

DT78

 

Census from Augustus

17:1

Census under Quirinius/Cyrenius

FA34

Joseph left home — no reference to Nazareth — for Bethlehem

17:1-2

Joseph left home in Nazareth to enrol in Bethlehem, since he was of the tribe of Judah in that region

DT78

In Asc. Isa. Mary is “born” in a house

Joseph found a cave for Mary; set his sons to protect her while he went to search Bethlehem for a midwife

18:1

No lodging room at Bethlehem

So found a cave near village there

DT78

After two months, still a virgin, and with both Joseph and Mary alone in Joseph’s house in Bethlehem, Mary was astonished to suddenly saw a small babe in front of her, and she was still a virgin with her womb restored as before.

11:7-9

Herod learns Christ is to be born in Bethlehem

21:2

Jesus born at Bethlehem

FA34

Joseph could not understand Mary’s astonishment until his eyes “were opened” and then he, too, saw the child.

A voice came to them both, “Tell this vision to no one.”

11:10-11

 

But people nonetheless heard that a child had been born. But they were all confused with different accounts of what had happened: “they were all blinded respecting Him and they all knew regarding Him, though they knew not whence He was.”

11:12-14

 

 

To hide the child from Herod Mary wrapped him in swaddling clothes and put him in an ox manger

22:2

Jesus placed in manger

DT78

 

Star told Magi that a king had been born in Judea

21:2

Star told Magi that a king had been born in Judea

DT78

 

Magi are from the East

21:1

Magi in/from Arabia

DT78

 

Magi came to worship Jesus

21:2

Magi come to worship him at his birth
 

Magi first see Herod

21:2

Magi first see Herod
 

The wise men and high priests tell Herod Christ is to be born in Bethlehem

21:2

Herod learns from elders Christ to be born in Bethlehem
 

Magi present him with gold, frank, myrrh

21:3

Magi present him with gold, frank, myrrh

DT78

 

Not to go through Judea, Herod tricked

21:4

Warned in dream not to return to Herod

DT78

 

Herod plotted to kill him

22:1

Herod plotted to kill him

DT102

 

Herod killing all children, including seeking John the Baptist

22-23

With Jesus in Egypt Herod massacred children in Bethlehem born at same time 

DT103 – Jeremiah’s prophecy

Rama = Arabia- thus fulfilled prophecy to take power of Damascus and spoils of Samaria – releasing power of demon over Magi at his birth

DT78

Joseph and Mary took Jesus to Nazareth in Galilee. . . . 

11:15

All of this happened unknown to all the heavens, princes and gods of this world.

11:16

Joseph in Egypt till another vision told him to return to Judea

DT78

In Nazareth he “sucked the breast as a babe as is customary in order that he might not be recognized.”

11:17

Jesus escaped notice of others till adult

FA35

Once an adult he performed miracles in the land of Israel and Jerusalem.

11:18

Jesus came to Jews, healed the maimed, deaf, lame from birth, blind, raised the dead

DT69, FA48,31

He taught twelve disciples 

3:13

 
The demonic power saw him performing signs and envied him so stirred up the children of Israel against him. . . not knowing who he was.

11:19

Seized and crucified on Passover

DT111

The children of Israel delivered him to the king

11:19

Arrested at night at Mt Olives by those sent by Pharisees and Scribes 

DT103

 

Herod and Jews use Pilate to cover their plot

8(28-30), 11(47-49)

Pilate, Herod, Jews, Roman soldiers conspired against Christ

FA40

 

Herod and his judges and Jews sentenced him to crucifixion

1(1-2)

Jewish synagogue sentenced him to crucifixion

DT104

 

Herod responsible for crucifixion; pierced by Jews, synagogue of wicked, under Pilate 

1-7(1-25)

Herod responsible for crucifixion; pierced by Jews, synagogue of wicked, under Pilate 

DT32,85,104 FA13

Persecuted and tortured by children of Israel

3:13

Scourged

3(9)

Scourged

DT89

 

Jews pierce their king

1-7(1-25)

Jews pierce their king

DT14,32,64,97,98,104,118, FA13

the day before the sabbath

3:13

crucified him on a tree in Jerusalem

11

He descended to the angel of Sheol

11:19

Crucified on tree

DT15

The Twelve who were with him were offended because of him

11:14

After crucified, all acquaintances and disciples denied him and forsook him and dispersed 

7(26)

After crucified, all acquaintances and disciples denied him and forsook him and dispersed

FA50 DT53

 

Those who crucified him shook head, distorted lips, twisted noses to each other, mocking his claim: “He was the Son of God….!”

3(9)

Those who crucified him shook head, distorted lips, twisted noses to each other, mocking his claim: “He was the Son of God….!”

DT101

 

On cross: “My power” in place of “My God”

5(19)

On cross: “Oh my God why have you forsaken me”

DT99

 

On cross till buried at evening

2(5) 5(15) 6(22-23)

On cross till buried at evening

DT97 104

 

nails pierced hands

6(21)

Nails pierced hands and feet

DT97,104

 

Garments parted/lots 

4(12)

Garments parted/lots

DT 97, 104

 A watch was placed on his sepulchre

11:14

Soldiers kept watch over sepulchre

9(35)

  Christ’s reign begins with his death

DT 73, FA 41

After the third day he rose again

11:21

Resurrected Sunday first day of week

DT 41

Gabriel and Michael descend and open the sepulchre and escort the Beloved sitting on their shoulders

3:16-17

Two men descend from heaven, roll back the stone, and supporting Jesus bring him out of the tomb.

36-40

He remained some days 

11:21

On resurrection Sunday taught his disciples weekly church meetings, the eucharist, Sunday prayers, readings, handouts for poor

FA 65-67 cf. DT 51

  Christ gave believers bread & cup — These were to remind he had been flesh 

DT70

He sent out the Twelve Apostles 

11:22

who taught all nations of the cross, the resurrection and ascension.

3:18

 The apostles went out from Jerusalem to preach about him

FA39, 49

Ascended to heaven

11:22

Ascended to heaven

FA 51, 46

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Neil Godfrey

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