As noted in a recent post, a Coptic parchment manuscript was discovered in the 1990s that supposedly preserved an ancient Christian Gospel from the second century. A recent monograph by Alin Suciu, though, has argued forcefully that the writing–now called the Berlin-Strasbourg Apocryphon–was written in the fifth century to promote Coptic theological concerns.

In this apocryphon, Jesus reveals many things to his apostles, seemingly just before going to the cross. We also find something rather odd: Jesus sings a hymn to (not about) the cross! The passage is unique (although, since I’m not an expert in Coptic writings, there may be other similar passages; if so, please let us know in the comment section) and worth reading. The hymn is found in both P. Berol. 22220 and Qasr el-Wizz. It is abbreviated in the latter, but the former is riddled with lacunas, so I quote from the latter (translation by Suciu, pp. 180-181).

The extant Qasr el-Wizz manuscript opens, “It happened one day while our Savior was sitting on the Mount of Olives, before the impious Jews crucified him, (and) we were all gathered with him. He spoke up saying: ‘O my holy members, gather to me so that I sing (ὑμνεύειν) to the cross and you answer after me.” The apostles then circle around him and Jesus sings:

Amen! A little while I am with you in your midst. They take counsel against me now. Do not restrain me, O cross, rise up, rise, O holy cross, and lift [yourself], O cross. I am rich. Amen! I shall climb upon you, O cross. They shall hang me upon you as a testimony against themselves. Receive me to yourself, O cross. Amen! Do not weep, O cross, but rather rejoice greatly. Amen!

The apostles all answer, “Amen!” Jesus then continues with a second hymn:

I am the way of the blessed life, Amen! I am the immortal bread, eat and be satiated, Amen! … Gather to me, O my holy members so that I dance for the cross for the third time, and you answer after me ‘Amen!’ O cross filled with light! Yet again, he shall carry the light, Amen! I shall approach you, O cross, Amen! I shall climb upon you as a testimony against them. Receive me to yourself, O cross. Do not reveal my body, Amen!

Jesus actually then continues with “The fourth dance of the cross.” Yes, there’s even a dance to the cross. For that dance, I’ll let you find it in Suciu’s work, pp. 180-181.

For a complete text and translation of the Berlin-Strasbourg Apocryphon, check out Alin Suciu’s monograph, which importantly re-situates the writing from its supposed second century context to a more realistic fifth century Coptic context.