Translated from the original by Costas Balomenos
“Apocrypha” books of the New Testament are named several texts from the 2nd century onwards, from Christians or heretics authors. They refer to it the life of Christ, for the action of the Apostles, or contain various revelations. Each one of them has a name of a known person from the early Church, for example, "At Thomas Gospel," "Acts Peter," "Letter of eleven Apostles" "Revelation Paul", etc. The “Apocrypha” are many and were written either to cover - with fantastic episodes - the gaps in the history of Christ or the Apostles, or to disseminate heretical ideas. The Christians, to distinguish the original texts of the Apostles from the inauthentic circulating then, stood out the 27 books as authentic, which have been the body of the books of the New Testament called “Canon”...
Were named “Apocrypha”, because the authors claim that their information were derived from some hidden - to many - sources or they had been known upon divine revelation. For example the “apocryphon Gospel of Nicodemus”, which we quote today, writes in Chapter 21: «These are the divine and holy mysteries that we saw and heard. I, Charinos and Lenthios we are not allowed to describe the other mysteries of God, according to what we ordered the archangel Michael».
Nevertheless, the “Apocrypha”, influenced the hagiography and the hymnography of our Church. So in the depiction of the Resurrection of Christ in the Eastern Orthodox Church are depicted events and persons is recounted in the “apocryphon Gospel of Nicodemus”, as Christ who rests firmly on two fallen door leaves (are the gates of Hades who crashed), a dark form in chains - sometimes two - symbolizing death and Satan, the raising of Adam and Eve who catches them by the hand and left and right of Christ prophets and holy personages of the Old Testament.
As we know from the canonical gospels, Nicodemus was a member of the Jewish Congress and with Joseph of Arimathea took care for the burial of Christ. His apocryphal gospel considered by most researchers that it is work of many believers that everyone added their own contribution, to obtain the final form in which is delivered to us today.
The narration of Harrowing of Hell from the Apocryphon Gospel of Nicodemus follows :
«While the angels rejoiced, lo Satan, the prince and lord of death, he said to the prince of hell, “Prepare to accept Jesus of Nazareth the same, who boasting that he is the son of God and however is only a man, who scared to death and said 'joyless is my soul unto death'. Moreover did lot of damage to me and in too many others, because in those who I did blinds and lame and in those also who were tortured by several devils, he healed with his word • yes, and in those who I was bringing to you dead, he takes them with the violence from you”.
Then the prince of hell replied to Satan, “Who is this powerful prince, who, however, is a man who is afraid of death? All the powerful of the earth are dependents to my power, thou subjugated them to me with your own strength. But if is so strong in human nature, I certify you that is really omnipotent in the divine nature and none man can resist in his power. Therefore, when he said that he fears death, he did to entrap you and bring to you eternal misery”.
Then Satan replied to the prince of hell, “Why you express doubts and you afraid to accept Jesus of
who is your enemy and mine enemy? As regards me, I put into temptation and
revolutionized the Jews with rage and fanatically against
him. I sharpened the lance for his passions, mixed up bile and vinegar, and I commanded to drink it, I made the cross to
crucify him, as
well as the nails which will
punctured his hands and
feet • now, his death is approaching and I will bring him here, subservient to
you and me". Nazareth
After this, the prince of hell said, "Just now you told me that he took the dead by force from me. Ones who were here until to live again on earth, were leaving from here not with their own strength, but with the prayers made to God and the almighty God was the one who took them from me. Who is then Jesus the Nazarene, who - with his word - he took the dead without pray to God? You might be he who took me Lazarus, who was four days dead and smelled and had rotted and I had in my possession like a dead man, but this has brought him back to life with his power".
Satan replied to the prince of hell “Is himself this Jesus of
”. The prince of hell hearing this told him "In exorcise in the forces belonging
to me, do not bring him to me. Because when I heard about the power of his word, I began to
tremble with fear and simultaneously began to upset all my impious company. And we could not keep Lazarus, but he gave a jounce and
with all his malice immediately he left away from us
· the land itself in which was
located the dead body of Lazarus, gave him back alive. Now I know
that this is the Almighty God who could indeed to do such things and is almighty
in power and in human nature, Savior of mankind. For this, you do not bring him here, because he will release all those I
keep prisoners because of infidelity and they are captive to the shackles of
their sins and will lead them to eternal life”». Nazareth
«And while Satan and the prince of hell were saying them together, suddenly was heard a voice like a thunderbolt and winds gust, saying, "Lift up your gates, princes · Towering eternal gates and will enter the King of Glory”.
When hearing this, Prince of Hell, he said to Satan, "Get out of my way and begone of my houses. If you are a mighty warrior, fought with the King of Glory. But what have you to do with him? "And he kicks out from his residence.
And the prince said to the ungodly officials, "Close the brazen gates of pitilessness fasten them with iron barriers and fight courageously in order we do not grasped captives". But when the saints they heard this, they talked to the prince of hell with a voice of intense anger, “Open your gates to enter the King of Glory”.
And the divine prophet David cried and said, "So I prophesied truly when I was on earth and I said, let's praising the Lord for his mercies and for his wonderful works to the children of people. Smashed the bronze gates and has cut the iron barriers. Defeated the unwise for their iniquities and their injustices”.
Then, another prophet, saint Isaiah spoke in the same way to all the saints, and said, "I do not your prophesied correctly, when I lived on earth? The dead will live and those who are in their graves will be resurrected and those who are in the soil will exult, because the dew that comes from the Lord will bring them the redemption. And to another point I said, "Oh death, where is your sting?"
When all the saints heard what Isaiah had said, they said to the prince of hell, "Open your gates now and pull out the iron levers, because now you will capture and you will not have any power”.
Then was heard a great voice like a thunder, saying, "Lift up your gates, princes and towering gates of hell and will enter the King of Glory”.
The prince of hell, listening to the same voice repeated, shouted, as if he not knew, "Who is this King of Glory?"
David replied to the prince of hell and said, "I understand the words of this voice, because one day and myself I said with his spirit. And now, as I said before, I answer to you: is the Lord the powerful and mighty, the Lord mighty in war, he is the King of Glory and the Lord of heaven and earth. He turned his gaze lower to hear the moans of prisoners and to release those who they are surrendered to death. Now therefore, you, grubby and filthy prince of hell, open your gates to enter the King of Glory, because he is the Lord of heaven and earth”.
While David was saying these words, the mighty Lord appeared in human form and illuminated those parts that before was in the dark.
And he made pieces the chains, which until then could not break them • and with his overpowering strength visited those who were in deep darkness because of lawlessness and the shadow of death, because of sin.»
«When they heard these things, the irreverent death and the cruel officials, were occupied by fear within their various kingdoms, seeing the purity of light and Christ himself suddenly to appearing in their stays. They began to screaming and saying, "You have us nail down. Do you want to upset us before the Lord? Who are you, the uncorrupted, with this bright appearance that is a full proof of your majesty, and that does not seem to take care so much?
Who are you, so strong and so weak, so great and so small, a humble and yet a first class soldier, who may order having the form of a servant like a common soldier?
The King of Glory, dead and alive, although they killed him on the cross?
You, who they lie down dead in the grave, who descended alive in us, whom with your death shivered all the creatures and all the stars quaked, and now you have your freedom among the dead and you agitate our legions?
Who are you, which releases the prisoners detained from the chains of original sin and brings back to the old freedom?
Who are you that spread apart such a brilliant and divine light upon those who were blinded by the darkness of sin?”
In a similar manner, all the legions of devils were occupied from the same terror and they cried with the most frightened voice,“ How it is done, Jesus Christ, to be a man so powerful and wonderful into your greatness, so brilliant that you do not have even one blemish and so chaste that you do not have even one sin? Because this lower world of land, which hitherto was subordinate to us and from whom we take tribute of vassalage, never before sent us such a dead, never sent gifts like these to princes of hell.
Who are you then, who with such courage you enter in our kingdom and not only you does not afraid to threaten us with the greatest punishments, but also you trying to save and everyone else from the chains with which we keep them? Maybe you're the one Jesus, for whom just now Satan spoke to our prince • the one who with your death on the cross acquired power over death”.
Then the King of Glory trampled the death, arrested the prince of hell, took away all his forces, and took with him our earthly father, Adam, in his glory».
Then Jesus stretched out his hand and said, "Come to me all ye my saints, who were created in my image and were sentenced by the tree of forbidden fruit and from the devil and death. Live now by the wood of my cross · the devil, the prince of this world, has been defeated and death was conquered".
Then, immediately all the saints were joined together under the hand of the Most High God and the Lord Jesus caught the hand of Adam and said, "Peace to you and at all the righteous descendants, who are my own”.
Then Adam tumbling at the feet of Jesus, was addressed to him with tears, with humble words and loud voice, saying, "I will emblazon you, O Lord, because you lifted me and you did not allow to my enemies to rejoice at my expense. O Lord my God, I cried out you and you healed me. O Lord, you uploaded my soul from the grave, you keep me alive, to not I fall into the gulch. Praise the Lord, all you saints, and give thanks remembering His holiness. Because his anger does not last in spite only for a moment. The life exists in his grace".
In the same way, all the saints, kneeling at the feet of Jesus, they said in one voice, “You came, Redeemer of the world and fulfilled all that you foretold with the law and with your holy prophets. Ransomed the living people with your cross and you descended to us, to save us with your death on the cross from hell with your power from death. O, Lord, as you raised the banners of your glory in heaven and the point of your redemption - your cross - on earth, so Lord, put the sign of your victory, of your cross and in hell, so the death can not be any more power".
Then the Lord stretching out his hand, made the sign of the cross over to Adam and over all his saints. And while getting Adam from his right hand ascended from hell and all the saints of God followed him.
Then the king prophet David cried boldly and said, "Chant you to the Lord a new chant, because did wonderful works. His right and his holy arm, gave him the victory. The Lord made known his salvation, his righteousness revealed in front of the nations".
And the whole multitude of the saints responded by saying, "All the Saints of this have this glory, Amen, Praise the Lord."
Then, the prophet Habakkuk cried and said, "You went out for the salvation of thy people • yes, for the salvation of thy people."
And all the saints said, "Blessed he that cometh in the name of the Lord, because the Lord enlightened us. He is our God forever • he will reign us eternally. Amen".
In the same way all the prophets said the sacred words of the hymn and were followed the Lord".
In Chapter 20 is described how Christ delivers Adam to Archangel Michael to lead him to
Paradise. There he meets Enoch and Elias, who
they had not died as well as the robber that Jesus forgave
the moment ofsacrifice on the cross.
1. Apocrypha texts of the New Testament, Vol. 1st, edition "Pyrinos Kosmos"
2. School textbook of Religious second grades may of Gymnasio.
Writer Christos Pal