The Rapture In The Apocalypse Of Elijah -- By: Francis X. Gumerlock

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 170:680 (Oct 2013)
Article: The Rapture In The Apocalypse Of Elijah
Author: Francis X. Gumerlock


The Rapture In The Apocalypse Of Elijah

Francis X. Gumerlock

Francis X. Gumerlock is Professor of Historical Theology, Providence Theological Seminary, Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Many evangelicals argue that the pretribulation rapture is a theological construction of J. N. Darby (d. 1882) or his nineteenth-century contemporary Margaret Macdonald and that prior to the last two hundred years it was unheard of in Christian history.1 However, within the last few decades several discoveries have surfaced beliefs similar to pretribulationism in writings of medieval Christians. These discoveries include a seventh-century sermon of Pseudo-Ephraem and a fourteenth-century text entitled The History of Brother Dolcino.2 As new finds are discovered, evangelicals are gradually becoming aware that pretribulationism

has a much broader history than its articulations over the last two hundred years. This article presents another example of teaching similar to pretribulationism in a document from the early church called the Apocalypse of Elijah.

The Apocalypse of Elijah is a third-century treatise about the events of the end times, reconstructed in its entirety from fragments in Greek and several Coptic dialects.3 It is believed to be a Christian revision of an earlier Jewish apocalypse.4 The author of the third-century text does not claim to be the biblical Elijah; he may have been a Christian in third-century Egypt who took the name Elijah.5 Moreover, the text is not a writing of a Gnostic group, but arose among a community of chiliast (millenarian) Christians living in upper Egypt.

The sources that influenced the Apocalypse of Elijah include the Old and New Testaments, most notably the synoptic Gospels, the Pauline Epistles, the book of Revelation, and the apocryphal writings 1 Enoch and Apocalypse of Peter.6 Several of the church fathers were familiar with the Apocalypse of Elijah, and it was used as source material for later apocalyptic literature, even as late as in the eleventh-century Irish text called The Two Sorrows of the Kingdom of Heaven.7

The fifth chapter of the Apo...

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