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Ethiopia, complained that Moses was of no service to her, and concluded by driving him away, and placing on the throne the son of the late king.
Moses fled into the country of Midian, to the priest Jethro. This priest thought his fortune would be made if he could put Moses into the hands of Pharaoh of Egypt, and began by confining him in a low cell, and allowing him only bread and water. Moses grew fat very fast in his dungeon, at which Jethro was quite astonished. He was not aware that his daughter Sephora had fallen in love with the prisoner, and every day, with her own hands, carried him partridges and quails, with excellent wine. He concluded that Moses was protected by God, and did not give him up to Pharaoh.
However, Jethro the priest wished to have his daughter married. He had in his garden a tree of sapphire, on which was engraven the word Jaho or Jehovah. He caused it to be published throughout the country, that he would give his daughter to him who could tear up the sapphire tree. Sephora's lovers presented themselves, but none of them could so much as bend the tree. Moses, who was only seventy-seven years old, tore it up at once, without an effort. He married Sephora, by whom he soon had a fine boy, named Gerson.
As he was one day walking in a small wood, he met God (who had formerly called himself Sadaï, and then called himself Jehovah,) and God ordered him to go and work miracles at Pharaoh's court. He set out, with his wife and son. On the way, they met an angel (to whom no name is given) who ordered Sephora to circumcise little Gerson with a knife made of stone. God sent Aaron on the same errand: but Aaron thought his brother had done very wrong in marrying a Midianite; he called her a very coarse name, and little Gerson a bastard, and sent them the shortest way back to their own country.
Aaron and Moses then went to Pharaoh's palace by themselves. The gate of the palace was guarded by two lions of an enormous size. Balaam, one of the
king's magicians, seeing the two brothers come, set the lions upon them; but Moses touched them with his rod, and the lions humbly prostrating themselves, licked the feet of Aaron and Moses. The king, in astonishment, had the two pilgrims brought into the presence of all his magicians, that they might strive which could work the most miracles.
The author here relates the ten plagues of Egypt, nearly as they are related in Exodus. He only adds, that Moses covered all Egypt with lice, to the depth of a cubit; and that he sent among all the Egyptians, lions, wolves, bears, and tigers, which ran into all the houses, notwithstanding that the doors were bolted, and devoured all the little children.
According to this writer, it was not the Jews who fled through the Red Sea; it was Pharaoh who fled that way with his army: the Jews ran after him; the waters separated right and left, to see them fight; and all the Egyptians, except the king, were slain upon the sand. Then the king, finding that his own was the weaker side, asked pardon of God. Michael and Gabriel were sent to him, and conveyed him to the city of Nineveh, where he reigned four hundred years.
The Death of Moses.
God had declared to the people of Israel, that they should not go out of Egypt until they had once more found the tomb of Joseph. Moses found it, and carried it on his shoulders through the Red Sea. God told him that he would bear in mind this good action, and would assist him at the time of his death. When Moses had lived six score years, God came to announce to him that he must die, and had but three hours more to live. The bad angel Samael was present at the conversation. As soon as the first hour had passed, he began to laugh for joy, that he should so soon carry off the soul of Moses; and Michael began to weep. "Be not rejoiced, thou wicked beast," said the good to the bad angel; "Moses is going to die; but we have Joshua in his stead."
When the three hours had elapsed, God commanded
Gabriel to take the dying man's soul. Gabriel begged to be excused. Michael did the same. These two angels having refused, God addressed himself to Zinguiel. But this angel was no more willing to obey than the others. I," said he, "was formerly his preceptor, and I will not kill my disciple." Then God, being angry, said to the bad angel Samael, "Well, then, wicked one, thou must take his soul." Samael joyfully drew his sword, and ran up to Moses. The dying man rose up in wrath, his eyes sparkling with fire. "What! thou villain," said Moses; "wouldst thou dare to kill me?-me, who when a child, put on my head the crown of a Pharaoh; who have worked miracles at the age of eighty years; who have led sixty millions of men out of Egypt; who have cut the Red Sea in two; who have conquered two kings so tall that at the time of the Flood they were not knee-deep in water? Be gone, you rascal; leave my presence instantly."
This altercation lasted a few moments longer; during which time Gabriel prepared a litter to convey the soul of Moses, Michael a purple mantle, and Zinguiel a cassock. God then laid his hands on Moses' breast, and took away his soul.
It is to this history that St. Jude the Apostle alludes in his Epistle, when he says that the archangel Michael contended with the devil for the body of Moses. As this fact is to be found only in the book which I have just quoted, it is evident that St. Jude had read it, and that he considered it as a canonical book.
The second History of the Death of Moses is likewise a conversation with God. It is no less pleasant and curious than the first. A part of this dialogue is as follows:
Moses. I pray thee, O Lord, let me enter into the land of promise, at least for two or three years.
God. No: my decree expressly saith that thou shalt not enter it.
Moses.-Grant, at least, that I may be carried thither after my
Moses.-Alas! but, good Lord, thou showest such clemency to thy creatures! thou pardonest them twice or three times; I have sinned but once, and am not to be forgiven!
God. Thou knowst not what thou sayst; thou hast committed six sins. I remember to have sworn thy death or the destruction of Israel; one of the two must be accomplished. If thou wilt live, Israel must perish.
Moses.-O Lord, be not so hasty. All is in thy hands. Let Moses perish, rather than one soul in Israel.
After several discourses of this sort, the echo of the mountain says to Moses, “Thou hast but five hours to live." At the end of five hours, God sends for Gabriel, Zinguiel, and Samael. He promises Moses that he shall be buried, and carries away his soul.
When we reflect that nearly the whole earth has been infatuated by similar stories, and that they have formed the education of mankind, the fables of Pilpay, Lokman, or Æsop, appear quite reasonable.
Apocryphal Books of the New Law.
Fifty Gospels, all very different from one another, of which there remain only four entire-that of James, that of Nicodemus, that of the infancy of Jesus, and that of the birth of Mary. Of the rest we have nothing more than fragments and slight notices.
The traveller Tournefort, sent into Asia by Louis XIV. informs us that the Georgians have preserved the gospel of the Infancy, which was probably communicated to them by the Azmenians.*
In the beginning, several of these gospels, now regarded as apocryphal, were cited as authentic, and were even the only gospels that were cited. In the Acts of the Apostles we find these words, uttered by St. Paul-"And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, it is more blessed to give than to receive."
St. Barnabas, in his Catholic Epistle, makes Jesus Christ speak thus- "Let us resist all iniquity; let
* Tournefort, letter xix. † Chap. xx. v.35. ‡ No. 4 and 7.
us hate it..
Such as would see me and enter into my kingdom, must follow me through pain and sorrow."
St. Clement, in his second Epistle to the Corinthians, puts these words into the mouth of Jesus Christ-"If you are assembled in my bosom, and do not follow my commandments, I shall reject you, and say to you,Depart from me; I know you not; depart from me, ye workers of iniquity."
He afterwards attributes to Jesus Christ these words;-" Keep your flesh chaste, and the seal unspotted, in order that you may receive eternal life.”+
In the Apostolical Constitutions, composed in the second century, we find these words "Jesus Christ has said, Be ye honest exchange-brokers."
We find many similar quotations, not one of which is taken from the four gospels recognized by the Church as the only canonical ones. They are, for the most part, taken from the Gospel according to the Hebrews, a gospel which was translated by St. Jerome, and is now considered as apocryphal.
St. Clement the Roman says, in his second Epistle "The Lord, being asked when his reign should come, answered-When two shall make one, when that which is without shall be within, when the male shall be female, and when there shall be neither female nor male."
These words are taken from the Gospel according to the Egyptians; and the text is repeated entire by St. Clement of Alexandria. But what could the author of the Egyptian gospels, and what could St. Clement himself be thinking of? The words which he quotes are injurious to Jesus Christ; they give us to understand that he did not believe that his reign would come at all. To say that a thing will take place when two shall make one, when the male shall be female, is to say that it will never take place. A passage like this is rabbinical, much rather than evangelical. There were also two apocryphal Acts of the Apostles.
* No. 4. + No. 8.