Introduction to the Vision of Paul
The present translation of the Vision of Paul is made from the text of a Latin version, edited by Mr. M. R. James in the Cambridge Texts and Studies, ii., 3, p. 11 ff.-from a ms. of the eighth century now in the Bibliothèque Nationale at Paris.
Tischendorf's Greek text was based on two mss., the earliest of which is at Munich and is of the thirteenth century. This version has already been translated in the Ante-Nicene Library, vol. xvi.
A translation into English from a Syriac version (date unknown) was published by the Rev. J. Perkins, D.D., in the Journal of Sacred Literature, N. S., vol. vi., 1865, and republished by Tischendorf alongside of the Greek version in his Apocalypses Apocryphae.
The Revelation of Paul was known to S. Augustine, who thus refers to it in his Tractate 98 on the Gospel of John, §8: "... There have been some vain individuals, who, with a presumption that betrays the grossest folly, have forged a Revelation of Paul, crammed with all manner of fables, which has been rejected by the Orthodox Church; affirming it to be that whereof he had said that he was caught up into the third heavens, and there heard unspeakable words `which it is not lawful for a man to utter.' Nevertheless, the audacity of such might be tolerable, had he said that he heard words which it is not as yet lawful for a man to utter; but when he said `which it is not lawful for a man to utter, 'who are they that dare to utter them with such impudence and non-success? "
Sozomen, H. E., vii., 19, after speaking of the Apocalypse of Peter, continues: "So the work entitled `The Apocalypse of the Apostle Paul, 'though rejected by the ancients, is still esteemed by most of the monks. Some persons affirm that the book was found during this reign (i.e., of Theodosius) by divine revelation, in a marble box, buried beneath the soil, in the house of Paul, at Tarsus, in Cilicia. I have been informed that this report is false, by a presbyter of Tarsus, a man of very advanced age, as is indicated by his grey hairs."
The book was probably composed, or rather compiled, for it is largely indebted to previous Apocalyptic writings, about the time when it purports to have been discovered at Tarsus, i.e., 388 a.d., the year of the consulship of Theodosius the Less and Cynegius. The alleged sending of a copy of the original to Jerusalem probably indicates the place where it was composed, or, at least, first found currency.
The Vision of Paul seems to have enjoyed great popularity during the Middle Ages. Brandes (Halle, 1885), in his edition of two shorter Latin versions, enumerates twenty-two different mss. of the Latin and "gives particulars of French, English, Danish, and Slavonic forms of the legend."
Of the three main versions, the Latin and Syriac are longer and fuller than the Greek, which in its present form has been abbreviated. Taking advantage of the excellent comparative table presented by Mr. M. R. James in his edition of the text, the translator has endeavoured to point out to the reader, by notes in the margin, the passages where the Latin varies from the Greek, and, to a less extent, from the Syriac. Parallel passages in other and earlier Apocalyptic writings are also indicated in the notes.