Serapion on Addition to Scripture
June 1, 2009

Serapion, bishop of Antioch

Serapion, bishop of Antioch

Serapion, bishop of Antioch at the turn of the third century, has no extant writing outside of Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History. He gave Christians at Rhossus permission to read the [now apocryphal] Gospel of Peter in their meeting, but, upon reviewing the gospel, changed his mind. Here is his summary reason:

Since we have been furnished with this gospel…, we have been able to go through it and find many things of the correct word of the Savior, but also some things which were added, which we arrange for you below.1

Compare the words of those who stole the 116 pages:

“And if God giveth him power again, or if he translates again, or, in other words, if he bringeth forth the same words, behold, we have the same with us, and we have altered them” (D&C 10:17).

Also the revelation given to Joseph Smith concerning the OT Apocrypha:

Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you concerning the Apocrypha—There are many things contained therein that are true, and it is mostly translated correctly; There are many things contained therein that are not true, which are interpolations by the hands of men (D&C 91:1–2).

Now, lest anyone jump on me for “parallel-o-mania,” I bring up these parallels only to note 1) that the similarity exists, and 2) to put forth questions.

For instance, does this view of “heretical” gospels exists elsewhere among the early Church fathers? If so, in what context? Why did Serapion choose to highlight the dual nature of the writing instead of denouncing the entire thing as a heresy?

1. Eusebius. Hist. Eccl. 6.12.3–6. Translation is mine. In context, Serapion mentions that he obtained the gospel from the successors of the Docetists, who were using the gospel, and whose doctrine the gospel exemplified. Here is the Greek:

ἐδυνήθημεν γὰρ παρ᾿ ἄλλων τῶν ἀσκησάντων αὐτὸ τοῦτο τὸ εὐαγγέλιον, τοῦτ᾿ ἐστὶν παρὰ τῶν διαδόχων τῶν καταρξαμένων αὐτοῦ, οὓς Δοκητὰς καλοῦμεν (τὰ γὰρ πλείονα φρονήματα ἐκείνων ἐστὶ τῆς διδασκαλίας), χρησάμενοι παρ᾿ αὐτῶν διελθεῖν καὶ εὑρεῖν τὰ μὲν πλείονα τοῦ ὀρθοῦ λόγου τοῦ σωτῆρος, τινὰ δὲ προσδιεσταλμένα, ἃ καὶ ὑπετάξαμεν ὑμῖν.