An Electronic Edition of the Life of Adam and Eve

Gary A. Anderson
The University of Virginia
Michael E. Stone
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Table of Contents



The Life of Adam and Eve is an apocryphal story about the experience of the first human couple after their expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Of the numerous apocryphal works that were written regarding Adam and Eve in the ancient world, this text certainly has pride of place. Not only was its influence in antiquity quite evident and widespread but the tale also enjoyed enormous popularity in the medieval world as well.


The text has proven very difficult to date and one can be no more accurate than to say it must have been composed between the 3rd and 7th centuries. It is quite possible of course that certain literary units of the work are considerably older than this as there can be no question that the present form of the work is the result of a complex redactional process that wove together different source materials into a single story.


Equally problematic is the question of the work's provenance. Most scholars have assumed a Jewish origin for the work, on the grounds that evidence of explicit Christian features are so minimal in the tale and seem to be of a late redactional level rather than integral to the story itself. Yet recent scholarship on the creation and transmission of such apocryphal tales from antiquity suggests that the possibility of Christian origins be given due consideration. In any event the fact that the tale was copied, edited and expanded by Christian scribes and enjoyed immense popularity in Christian circles needs to be taken seriously. There is evidence of Jewish familiarity with parts of the work but no evidence of any role in the transmission of the text as it now presently stands.


The text survives in six languages: Greek, Latin, Armenian, Georgian, Slavonic, and Coptic (only small fragments remain of this version). Most scholars agree that the text was written originally in Greek and that all of the six versions stem from some form of Greek vorlage. But it should be emphasized here that the Greek manuscripts that we now possess are not witnesses to this putative Greek original. The present Greek material has undergone considerable redactional activity and should not be considered a better witness to the original form of the text than any of the other forms. Yet it should also be underscored that the text-critical work has hardly begun on this document and almost any conclusions about such matters must be considered provisional and exploratory.

For purposes of convenience we shall refer to all the forms of this work under a simple title, "The Life of Adam and Eve," or Vita for short. But it should be borne in mind that each version has its own unique title.


The Greek text of the Vita was first published by Tischendorf in 1866 on the basis of four manuscripts. Because one of the manuscripts had a prologue which identified the work as a "revelation (apokalypsis) to Moses" von Tischendorf titled the work accordingly. Sadly, the misnomer has been the long-standing title of the work even to the present day. Since the original publication of van Tischendorf numerous additional manuscripts have come to light, bringing the total to 25. A full representation of all 25 manuscripts appears in the variorum edition of Nagel, a doctoral dissertation presented to the University of Strasbourg in 1974. Nagel compiled a new text of the Vita for a concordance of the Greek pseudepigrapha edited by Denis. The nature of this text is unclear but it appears to be a presentation of the superior reading from Nagel's Family I with numerous additional readings which demosntrate close affinity to the Armenian and Georgian versions.
The Latin text was first published by W. Meyer in 1878. He relied mainly on a set of manuscripts found in Munich. Later, J. H. Mozley published another text based on a set of manuscripts found in England. Most recently a full listing of all of the known Latin texts was published by M. E. B. Halford. Most still cite Meyer's edition although numerous superior readings are to be found in Mozley.

At present 73 manuscripts of the Latin are known to exist. The Latin material has only been surveyed in a summary fashion and much work remains to be done. The Latin manuscripts are especially significant for medievalists because of the enormous significance the Vita had in spawning later vernacular versions of the life of Adam and Eve. Among these one should include those versions for which we now have excellent editions in English: the Old Irish, Saltair Na Rann, the Old French, Penitence of Adam, and Lutwin's Middle High German, Eva und Adam. The problems involved in sorting out the textual sources of these works have been usefully surveyed in the publications of Murdoch, Quinn, and Halford.

The Latin version of the tale is certainly the most complex of all. At present no critical edition of the material exists. Meyer's edition is regularly cited as authoritative in spite of the fact that numerous superior readings exist in Mozley's survey of the texts found in England. The Latin material has not been re-examined in light of the recent publication of the Armenian and Georgian editions. The Latin material is also difficult because it was subject to such extensive re-writing in the course of its transmission. Halford, indeed, has wondered whether the establishment of a single critical text is possible, so varied is the text in its multiple forms. It seems to have been rewritten each time it was copied. We may only be able to establish priority within particular narrative units. In addition, because the Latin version served as a base text for dozens of other medieval vernacular editions, it may be that a standard critical edition of this text is not to be preferred, for the establishment of a primitive text would be of little use for tracing the life of these traditions in later medieval literature.

The Armenian version was published by M. Stone in 1981. The critical edition of the text was based on three 17th century manuscripts.
The Georgian text was published by K'urc'ikidze in 1964. It was recently translated into French by J.P. Mahé in 1981. The text exists in two recensions, the former surviving in 4 manuscripts while the later in 1.

The Slavonic text is among the most interesting but also the least studied. It follows the Greek in placing the penitence and second temptation narratives at the end of Eve's long discourse on the nature of the fall (Chapter 29 in the Greek, but note that only two Greek manuscripts contain this epitome of the penitence cycle.). The Slavonic text is attested in two recensions, one long and the other short. Jagic published the longer version.

Several traditions in the Vita had a long and very developed history in Slavonic literature. These would include the narratives about the origins of the Wood of the Cross (Holy Rood) and the story of the Cheirograph. The relationship of these traditions to the origin and development of the book still await a thorough investigation.

A small fragment of this version was published by W. E. Crum in 1909. It is very likely that the fragment came from a complete Coptic version of the Vita which no longer survives.



A. Regarding Its Potential

At least three different interpretive issues need to be kept in mind when preparing an edition of this work:

For the first it is imperative to have all of the textual data at hand in order to compare each and every textual witness. For the second it is crucial to have established a critical text that will allow one to set the earliest form of each language-version over against the others with a view toward reconstructing the most primitive form of the work. For the third it is important to have all of the Latin material available in order to determine which Latin exemplar was used as the base text for the creation of a new vernacular version. We might also add that the other textual data may be useful for positing possible Latin originals that no longer exist. In the case of the Saltair Na Rann one must consider the very real possibility of a Greek form of the text, unlike any we now possess, underlying the text in question.

Both the enormous volume of material and the numerous ways in which this material needs to be deployed for various research purposes argues strongly for an electronic publication of the material. For any printed publication of material will not only have to restrict the amount of data that will be presented but it will also have to structure the presentation of that data to enhance one particular research strategy or the other. The electronic publication that is envisioned here will be flexible enough to allow scholars to employ the textual data accordingly to whatever research purposes they may have.

The electronic publication will allow for the following:

But there are other problems involved in the production of an edition of the Vita. Two prominent ones immediately come to mind:


At present there exists an ability to present scanned photographs of the manuscript evidence, a transcription of any original which was composed in a Latin alphabet and an English translation of each text.

One level of our Archive will present the user with this full range of material: a scanned original of the manuscript pages, transcription of the original text, and an English translation. In most cases the English translation would only be found for the "critical text," the understanding being that scholars working on the problem of textual versions would not need a translation. Obviously, though, given the wide range of language groups represented, no one scholar could work in the original for every text represented.


An obvious desideratum for an electronic publication of the Vita is the ability to represent the various non-Latin texts in machine readable form (Greek, Armenian, Georgian, and Slavonic). At present there are numerous ways to do this on any particular PC or Macintosh (and to a lesser degree the same is true for Unix machines). But none of these machines achieves this representation in a standardized fashion. Indeed the manner of encoding and presenting any single font can vary widely depending not only on the type of computer one is using but also the type of font-software that is being employed. This is because most computers represent character sets in a 7- or 8-bit (byte) fashion. Or to put the matter in more general terms, one is limited to at most 256 different characters at any one time. The Latin alphabet is almost always a fixed variable in this situation but the placement of the foreign characters across these remaining "open" bits is often unique to any given piece of software. Thus Latin-based texts can be ported from one computer to another without any problems, but one can rarely, if ever, say the same for non-Latin based texts.

The development of Unicode, a 16-bit convention for rendering character sets allows a computer to process over 65,000 characters at any one time. Every known character-set can be handled by this convention and perhaps just as important, in a uniform and standardized manner.

The encoding of non-Latin character sets according to uniform standards will allow the textual data we prepare to be utilized by scholars everywhere just as present-day ASCII conventions allow for such portability for Latin characters. Of course one drawback at present is that few software tools exist for Unicode implementation, but this is quickly changing. Most likely, far sooner than anyone would have imagined, it will become widely available for micro-computer applications.

All of the texts prepared for this edition of Vita have been converted into Unicode conventions. When personal computers are able to utilize this information all the texts we have assembled will be universally usable.


An additional consideration is the ability to display the texts in a synoptic fashion, in parallel columns. On a conventional word-processor, multi-lingual texts can be presented in such a manner. Indeed this was the way in which Stone and Anderson assembled their first form of the published Synopsis. This camera-ready 'electronic' text prepared for Scholars Press has the textual witnesses for the Vita laid out in multiple columns. It should be noted, however, that this assemblage was limited by the particular editorial predilections of the editors and cannot be altered as far as its print version stands and can only be altered in a very laborious manner in its present electronic version. Each column must be erased and reconstructed verse by verse.

During my year in residence, the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities (IATH) at the University of Virginia has undertaken development of a Unicode-based synoptic text viewer called Babble, the immediate purpose of which is to allow us to construct a synoptic presentation of the Vita. Because Babble is Unicode-based, it can simultaneously display (across the network, using X-Windows) a mixed collection of texts in different character sets--at present, Hebrew, Latin, Greek, Cyrillic, and Japanese. The tool can also read 'tagged' line-numbers for each text it encounters and align those various texts in horizontal rows according to the line-numbers. This will allow one to place any text one wishes in a given column, and as long as that text has been properly marked up, Babble will be able to present the text so that each verse-unit corresponds to the other versions present in the synopsis. Babble will also allow the texts to be selectively linked for scrolling, and it will allow texts to be selectively line-wrapped to fit within the display area, or unwrapped, in which case horizontal scroll-bars can be used. In line-wrapping and other functions, Babble also respects the directionality of the text in question, wrapping Hebrew from right to left, for example.

We have used SGML conventions to establish the marked verse-tags and have marked each text in two ways: one which conforms to the native versification of the particular language version (in accordance with its principal publication and the manner in which it has normally been referred to by scholars) and another will gives a unique verse-tag to each verse unit across the 5 language groups. This latter means of tagging allows each version to be linked electronically to the other. This second means of tagging the verses is, of course, unique to the present synoptic presentation and so is completely artificial. This means of tagging the material is will not be visible to the user of the tool but will be used solely for the purpose of lining the texts up in an appropriate synoptic arrangement.

Ideally, for the purposes of this project, one would start Babble with a default set of texts: in this way, one would be presented with a single 'critical' text for each of the versions of the Vita. Moreover, one could elect to compare Mozley's Latin text instead of Meyer, or one could set several Latin versions over against Lutwin's Adam und Eva.

Since Babble will be SGML-aware [SGML=Standard Generalized Markup Language], it will be take advantage of any mark-up that an editor may wish to implement. Indeed it is the SGML-encoded chapter and verse tags that this software will use to display the texts in synoptic fashion. As one scrolls up or down the text, the various versions will in move in tandem. The tool will also allow one to 'unlock' the columns, if desired, and to scroll the files independently.



The Archive has been put together with two purposes in mind. The first is more important: to enhance the study of the Vita itself. But the other purpose is also of some significance: to assemble a wide range of material related to the interpretation of the Life of Adam and Eve in Late Antiquity. This latter aim, of course, is enormous and is probably impossible to complete in the course of any one individual's lifetime. Since so much material about Adam and Eve was being collected in view of the interpretation of the Vita, it seemed reasonable also to assemble those same sources in terms of how they illuminated the early interpretation of the story of Adam and Eve in its broadest possible array. Certainly one of the chief virtues of the electronic medium is the ability to assemble an archive such as this that can serve multiple purposes. All of the texts that are collected as background to various interpretive problems in the Vita can just as well be assembled into a source book or better, electronic Archive for the story of Adam and Eve in its most general outline.

The Archive

When one turns to the the opening page of the Archive, one is presented with a set of different categories of interpretation that bear on the life of Adam and Eve. These include: Unfortunately much of this material had to be presented in English translation alone. This is because the Web cannot, as of yet, present anything more than the standard Latin alphabet. The reliance on English means that the scholarly usage of the material is going to be hampered by not allowing for direct access to the original. Just as problematic is the fact that most of the material in English translation is of recent vintage and thus is copyrighted. We have assembled all of these texts in the original, but their display will have to be a future event. As to those texts in English, we have posted as many representative samples as can be done. Let us describe each section of the Archive.
  1. The Vita text itself. In this section we present the Vita text in its entirety. The material will be approachable from two directions representing two different user-purposes:
  2. The Biblical Text. This portion of the Archive will present the Biblical texts in one of two ways: Either as a single text in serial order, or in a synoptic table that will enhance the ability to discern variants across the many versions. Again, although we are limited to the Latin alphabet, all the data has been stored in the originals and with the synoptic text viewer the material will be viewable in the original. When the Web can handle Unicode, all of this material will become publicly available.
  3. Commentaries. The number of commentaries on Genesis 1-3 that were produced in Late Antiquity is staggering. At present only a small sampling is represented. In the end we hope to have a dozen or so Patristic commentaries, several Rabbinic texts pertinent to Gen1-3 and a selection of Medieval line-by-line commentaries.

    Because these commentaries are so long, it is useful to set up their electronic presentation in a manner that will facilitate easy searching. Each commentary will begin with a short table of contents with hot-buttons linked to a single or several biblical verses. Thus the user will be ablt to go directly to the text under consideration.

  4. Apocryphal Stories. At present we have incorporated the Book of Jubilees and the Cave of Treasures. We hope to include a rather large sampling of Armenian apocrypha as well as several Medieval retellings of the story of Fall that built on the Vita as their base text. Among these will be Lutwin's Eva und Adam and the anonymous Old Irish, Saltair Na Rann. The Saltair is especially interesting for text-critical purposes, for it appears to have preserved a Greek form of the Vita text that underlies the form of the work witnessed in the Armenian and Georgian versions.
  5. Images. Here we have the largest problem with copyright. A variety of images have been assembled in regard to the Cheirograph legend and the Fall of Satan narrative. In addition we have scanned in the iconographic material on Gen 1-3 from: a. The San Marco mosaics, b. The Hortus Deliciarum. None of this material is currently available for viewing.

B. The Fall of Satan

The Archive has also been presented in a way to illustrate sample problems in the Vita narrative. Over the course of the last year Stone has worked on the legend of the Cheirograph in the Vita and in all of the associated apocryphal material, Anderson has worked on the Fall of Satan. Below we will present some of the sources for the study of Satan's fall as it is witnessed in the Vita narrative and in the exegesis of Ezekiel 28.

The source page for the Fall of Satan has been linked to the Pericope page. It will also be accessible from the very first page of the Archive itself. When one enters the source page for this narrative unit one will find a representative sampling of various materials from late antiquity that are relevant for the interpretation of this narrative unit in the Vita. In addition to the source material itself, there will also be an interpretive essay that will guide the reader through the material. As in any humanistic endeavor this essay cannot be considered the last word on the subject, rather it represents the views and perspectives of the compilers of this Archive. The advantage of presenting the material in this fashion is that the user of the archive will be able to see at a very quick glance what sources have been assembled by the author and will be able to consult these sources either to confirm what the author has written or to form a new opinion on the matter.

The sources presented in the Fall of Satan page represent, for the most part, the categories that stood at the very front of the Archive. We have divided them as follows:

  1. The Vita narratives that bear on the tale itself;
  2. Possible Biblical sources for the creation of the tale;
  3. Apocryphal retellings that directly bear on the history of the idea;
  4. Patristic and Rabbinic writings relevant to the fall of Satan. This category is very close to the "commentary" section that was listed at the front of the Archive. Some of the material is in the form of a line by line commentary, but other materials here represent early Christian exegetical activity as attested in other theological sources;
  5. Koran. This is a special category that is quite important for the story of Satan's fall for the Koranic story built directly on the Vita;
  6. Images.

I. The Vita

A special interest of the project is to describe how these various sources interact in antiquity and why it is important to keep them in mind as one proceeds through the materials themselves. Let us begin with the evidence of the Vita.

The Vita material can be viewed in a variety of ways. One can look at the material in each text on its own terms, or one can find all the versions assembled in English translation on a single HTML-page [HTML=Hyper-Textual Markup Language] for rapid comparison of the different text-forms, or, finally, one can view the materials in synoptic fashion through the means of the Synoptic Text Viewer. The latter version will allow for the display of the text in its original language [though the reader should be aware that because this tool works on a UNIX machine we can only provide the display for those languages in which a UNIX font exists. For the present this limits us to Greek, Slavonic and Latin; Armenian and Georgian still wait implemntation.] We have found the relevant material for the fall of Satan in two places. First in pericope 5, where Satan provides for Adam the reasons for his fall. Second in pericope 18 where the reasons for Satan's primordial fall become the same reasons for the "fall" of the serpent prior to the temptation of Eve.

II. Biblical Sources: Ezekiel 28

The lament that Ezekiel intones against the prince of Tyre was one of the classic "fall of Satan" texts in early Christianity. The key features of the text that attracted commetatores were the description of the stones that this prince had girded himself with in verse 13 and the description of the Cherubs in verses 14 and 16. Both of these texts varied wildly across the different versions and careful study of the influence of these texts necessitates that one compare the various versions that existed in late antiquity.

The synoptic presentation that we offer contains the text in four different text forms: Hebrew, Greek, Latin Vulgate and Syriac Peshitta. Since the Latin Vulgate was a direct translation from the Hebrew original it does not offer any substantial textual variation but it does provide evidence of several important interpretive moves in the way it renders several of the Hebrew phrases. The Greek and Peshitta versions show some striking contrasts to the Hebrew text form.

The first problem that should be attended to is the list of the gems in verse 13. As commentators have long noted this list of gems is very close in form to the list of twelve gems found in Exodus 28. The Greek version shows a near one-to-one correspondence with that list whereas the Hebrew and Latin Vulgate show agreement for nine of the twelve. The Peshitta is a far more complicated problem, showing agreement for just seven. The correspondence between the stones in these two chapters suggested to many commentators, both ancient and modern, that the picture of the denizen of the Garden portrayed in Ezekiel 28 builds on the model of the High Priest in Exodus 28. The putative 'Prince of Tyre' in Ezekiel not only dwells in the sacred space of Eden but is adorned with a distinctive vestment that must have served to accentuate his lofty stature.

The second problem in the Biblical text is the identification of the Cherub figures in verses 14 and 16. Here are problems are two-fold. On the one hand we are dealing with true variant texts. The Hebrew (as well as the Peshitta and Vulgate) of verse 14 describes a Cherub who is both anointed (or "extended [of wing]") and overshadowing, whereas in verse 16 we have a Cherub who is simply overshadowing. The Greek on the other hand describes this figure simply as a Cherub, no other distinguishing marks to be found.

In addition to this question of textual variants, we also have the problem of how to read the Hebrew original. Hebrew, being a language that is written without vowels, often provides a reader with variant possibilities for vocalization. And since the vowels provided also indicate the form of the verb (or noun) in question, variant vocalizations often yield variant meanings. Thus in verse 14 one can read the same Hebrew text as either: A. "You are the Cherub . . . and I placed you" or B. "With the Cherub . . .I placed you". To complicate things even further one should note that the adjectives used to describe the Cherub are also subject to different renderings. Some commentators take the Hebrew vocable mem-mem-shin-het as a hapax legomenon that refers to an anointed status. Hence: "the anointed Cherub". An example of this sort of understanding can be found in Theodoret of Cyrrhus. Other commentators take the vocable as though it were from a better attested but far latter verbal root, "to be stretched out, extended (as a measuring line)". This would indicate that some feature of the Cherub was of considerable extention. Since Cherubs are often depicted with wings one could render the clause, "Cherub with extensive wingspan." So the phrase comes into St. Jerome's Vulgate version: "tu cherub extentus." We could make the picture even more muddy by mentioning the fact that manuscripts of the Greek Bible tended to be corrected, over time, to the text-form found in the Hebrew Bible. Thus, if we consulted the Greek text used by Theodoret we would find a form of the Greek Bible that is close to our present Hebrew form than the Greek original.

In any event, the importance of presenting this panoply of textual evidence is to show how many different "Bibles" existed in late antiquity. When one comes to investigate any particular commentary or apocryphal writing on Ezekiel 28 one must first ask which Biblical version was used by the writer before making any assessment of the exegesis supplied therein.

III. Commentaries

We have provided a number of ancient commentaries related to the fall of Satan. Some of the material provides information relevant to the apocrphal tale itself, such as the material found in the Hymns of Romanos. Other materials listed here are more directly relevant to the exegesis of Ezekiel 28. For example in Origen's work De Principiis, he discusses in detail just why this Biblical text became such an important source for the fall of Satan. The casual reader of the Bible would certainly be puzzled by this fact because the chapter ostensibly is about the historical king of Tyre. For Origen, however, the chapter cannot possibly be about this historical figure--for which king of Tyre ever resided in Eden, was appareled with priestly vestments and walked on fiery stones? Origen notes that according to certain Biblical texts every foreign nation was ruled over by a guardian angel. The story of the prince of Tyre, then, is not about an ordinary prince or king but rather about the angelic prince who stood watch over this ancient city. Origen equated this angelic prince with the figure of Satan since his primordial existence is described as so preeminent prior to his fall. Much the same type of interpretation can be found in Theodoret's commentary on Ezekiel 28. This sort of analysis of the chapter was altogether a commonplace in early Christian material and could be found in many other writers as well.

IV. Apocryphal Stories

The story of Satan's fall occurs in numerous other apocryphal material. The question of how these stories are related to the story found in the Vita is still sub judice. Most assume that the story found in the Vita is Grundform of the tradition and though this is likely, it will still require careful analysis before it is confirmed.

One detail that looms large in several of the Coptic versions of this tale is the question of the Cherubs. In several Coptic texts (For example see: Coptic Text Attributed to Peter of Alexandria ) we can find explicit reference to the fact that Satan was driven from his pre-fallen glorious state by a Cherub. There can be no doubt that the Cherub in question is the same figure we find in Ezekiel 28:16.

This curious linkage between our apocryphal tradition of Satan's pre-fallen glory and Ezekiel 28 should occasion no surprise. We find it everywhere in the Patristic commentaries. Yet one does not find in these Coptic sources any references to the Cherub that is spoken of in Ezekiel 28:14. As one will recall, this verse is quite problematic textually, but could be rendered as follows: "you were the Cherub of extended [wingspan] who overshadows." This motif indeed seems to be present in the Georgian version of our tale. For in the Georgian version we see Satan describe his pre-fallen glory in this manner: "My wings were more numerous that those of the Cherubim, and I concealed myself underthem. Because of you, now my feet walk on the earth. . ." In light of the tradition we have traced it is very hard indeed not to associate this description of Satan's pre-fallen glory from the text of Ezekiel 28:14-16.

V. Images

The last portion of the Fall of Satan page has to do with images that relate to this motif. In this section we have included a wonderful early medieval rendering (12th century) of Satan in his pre-fallen glory found in the Hortus Deliciarum. In this work two textual annotations are found on the image that link the figure of Satan to our Ezekiel text. First, an inscription is held across his figure which contains the Latin Vulgate text of 28:14: "You are the Cherub with extensive [wingspan]." Second is an inscription beside him which describes the precious stones which make up his vestment. In the image itself we can see that our artist has used these biblical details to fashion his image of Satan. Our figure is pictured like the Cherubim who stand at either side of God the Father (upper register). But he is distinct in two ways: 1. He is wearing a special vestment that appears to have twelve stones fixed on the vertical portion of the stole and 2. he is blessed with an especially extensive wingspan, indeed a wingspan of such length that it truly "overshadows" the other Cherubim. In the language of the Psalter we could say that this figure of Satan, prior to his fall, is truly a figure under whose wings the other members of the divine host can take refuge.

This image was, of course, fashioned completely independently of the story found in the Vita. But it attests to the attraction of those motifs in Ezekial 28 to a variety of different authors in late antiquity.

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