On the Priesthood of Jesus

De sacerdotio Christi

Standard abbreviation: Priest. Jes.

Other titles: Confession of Theodosius, Apology of Theodosius

Clavis numbers: CANT 54; BHO 810–12

Category: Infancy Gospels

Related literature: Michael Glycas, Quaest. 54 (S. Eustratiades, ed. Michaèl tou Glykas, Eis tas aporias tès Theias Graphès kephalia [Μιχαὴλ τοῦ Γλυκᾶ. Εἰς τὰς ἀπορίας τῆς Θείας Γραφῆς κεφάλαια] [Alexandria, 1912], 2. 92-107); John of Euboea, In conceptionem Deiparae 18 (PG 96:1489-92)

Compiled by: William Adler (n51nh301@ncsu.edu).

Citing this resource (using Chicago Manual of Style): Adler, William. “On the Priesthood of Jesus.” e-Clavis: Christian Apocrypha. Accessed DAY MONTH YEAR. http://www.nasscal.com/e-clavis-christian-apocrypha/on-the-priesthood-of-jesus/.

Posted January, 2016.


On the Priesthood of Jesus is an example of an embedded apocryphon—meaning, the text comes with a framing story, in this case a dispute between Jews and Christians in the reign of the emperor Justinian I (527-565) during which an account is brought forward that is said to have come from an old codex in Tiberius saved from the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE. It is unlikely that this old account actually existed apart from the larger work. But it reveals that, early in the career of Jesus, a position became vacant in the 22-member priesthood. Jesus is put forward as a candidate but the priests must establish that he is a descendant of one of the priestly families. Since Joseph is deceased, they summon his mother, who reveals that Joseph was not Jesus’ earthly father but Jesus is still a suitable candidate because she is descended from the families of Aaron and Judah. As proof of her claim, the priests summon midwives to see if she is still a virgin. Her post partum virginity is established and Jesus is considered worthy of the priesthood. This makes it possible for Jesus to be the priestly messiah mentioned in Psalm 110:4 and provides background to the episode in Luke 4:16–22 where Jesus preaches in the synagogue.



3.1 Manuscripts and Editions

3.1.1 Arabic (related to the long Greek recension).

Evetts, Basil Thomas Alfred, ed. A. History of the Patriarchs of the Coptic Church of Alexandria. PO 1.2. Paris: Firmin-Didot, 1948, p. 120–34. Online text. (The prologue describes itself as a translation from Coptic.)

3.1.2 Georgian (related to the long Greek recension).

Qubaneišhvili, Solomon Ivlianes-dze, ed. Ẓveli k’art’uli literaturis krestomathia. Tbilisi, 1946, p. 20-26.

3.1.3 Greek

A. Long recension (=Grl):

Mount Athos, Lavra, Γ 37, fol. 176v–87r

Turin, Biblioteca Nazionale, gr. 185, fol. 289r–294r (14th cent.)

Vatican, Biblioteca apostolica, gr. 687, fol. 245r–259r (16th cent.)

Ziffer, Giorgio. “Una versione greca inedita del De Sacerdotio Christi.” Pages 141-73 in Studi per Riccardo Ribuoli. Scritti di filologia, musicologia, storia. Edited by Franco Piperno. Rome: Edizioni di storia e letteratura, 1986. (Edition and Italian translation of longer recension of Greek text.)

B. Short recension (=Grs):

Moscow, Russian State Library gr. 443, fols. 85–88 (12th cent.) ~ similar to the Suda entry

Vatican, Biblioteca apostolica, Ottoboni gr. 408, fols. 170–172

Incorporated into the Suda (a 10th-century Byzantine encyclopedia)

Vassiliev (p. xxvi-xxvii) lists the following additional, unedited witnesses:

Cod. Ottobianus  408, fols. 170–172 (15th/16th cent.)

Cod. Mosquensi X, fols. 85–88 (12th cent.)

Vatican, Biblioteca apostolica, Barberini 344 (olim III, 63) fols. 239–243 (1628)

Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, gr. 3437

Two unidentified manuscripts from Vienna mentioned by Fabricius, Cod. apocr. novi test., 1:372.

He lists also Vatican, Biblioteca apostolica, Palatini gr.  364 but this does not contain the text after all.

Adler, Ada, ed. Suidae Lexicon, s.v. Ἰησοῦς ὁ Χριστὸς καὶ θεὸς ἡμῶν. Leipzig: Teubner, 1933 (vol. 2, p. 620–25).

Ziffer, Giorgio. “‘La Confessione di Teodosio’ nella sua tradizione orientale.” MA thesis, Rome: La Sapienza, Facolta di lettere e filosofia, 1985 (contains an edition of the short recension).

Vassiliev, Athanasius, ed. “Quomodo Iesus Christus sacerdos factus sit.” Pages xxv–xxvii and 58–72 in Anecdota graeco-byzantina, vol. 1. Moscow: Imperial University, 1893 (editions of the Moscow and Vatican manuscripts and the Suda entry).



3.1.4 Latin (translation of the Suda entry)

De Keyser, Jeroen. “Early Modern Latin Translations of the Apocryphal ‘De Sacerdotio Christi.’” Lias: Journal of Early Modern Intellectual Culture and its Sources, 40.1(2013): 29–82. (Includes the Suda lemma, six editions of Latin translations of the Suda text, and an inventory of manuscript witnesses.)

3.1.5 Slavonic (two versions related to the shorter Greek recension).

Ziffer, Giorgio. “Contributo allo studio della tradizione slava della ‘Confessione di Teodosio’.” OCP 54 (1988): 331–51.


3.1.6 Anglo-Norman (translation of the Suda entry)

Dean, R.J. “An Anglo-Norman Version of Grosseteste: Part of his Suidas and Testamenta XII patriarcharum.” PMLA 51 (1936): 607–20.

3.2 Modern Translations

3.2.1 English

Adler, William. “On the Priesthood of Jesus.” Pages 69–108 in vol. 1 of New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures. Edited by Tony Burke and Brent Landau. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2016 (translations of the longer Greek recension, the Suda entry alongside Vassiliev’s edition of the similar text in the Moscow manuscript, Vassiliev’s other manuscript from the Vatican, and a précis of the story by John of Euboea).

3.2.2 French

Migne, J.-P., ed. Dictionnaire des apocryphes; ou, Collection de tous les livres apocryphes relatifs à l’Ancien et au Nouveau Testament. 2 vols. Paris, 1856–1858 (French translation of the Suda text, vol. 2. cols. 383–87 ).

Nuvolone, Flavio G., trans. “Sur le sacerdoce du Christ ou Confession de Théodose.” Pages 77–99 in Écrits apocryphes chrétiens. Edited by Pierre Geoltrain and Jean-Daniel Kaestli. Paris: Éditions Gallimard, 2005 (translation of the longer Greek recension).

3.3 General Works

Adler, William. “The Suda and the Priesthood of Jesus.” Pages 1–12 in R. A. Argall, B. A. Bow, and R. A. Werline, eds. For a Later Generation: The Transformation of Tradition in Israel, Early Judaism, and Early Christianity. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity, 2000.

Dagron, Gilbert. “Jésus prêtre du judaïsme: le demi-succès d’une légende.” Pages 10–24 in Leimôn. Studies Presented to Lennart Rydén on His Sixty-Fifth Birthday. Edited by J. O. Rosenqvist. Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, Studia Byzantina Upsaliensia 6. Uppsala, 1996. (Close analysis of the Suda lemma, along with French translation of portion of the text.)

Dean, Ruth J.  “An Anglo-Norman Version of Grosseteste: Part of his Suidas and Testamenta XII patriarcharum.” PMLA 51 (1936): 607–20 (includes transcription of an Anglo-Norman translation of Grosseteste’s Latin translation of the Suda text).

Esbroeck, Michel van. Les plus anciens homéliaires géorgiens: étude descriptive et historique, 201-2 (T. 47), 279. Publications de l’Institut Orientaliste de Louvain, 10. Louvain-la-Neuve: Université catholique de Louvain, Institut orientaliste, 1975.

Gero, Stephen. “Apocryphal Gospels: A Survey of Textual and Literary Problems.” Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt II.25.5: 3969–91. New York: De Gruyter, 1988 (see pp. 3979–80).

Horst, Pieter W. van der. “Jesus and the Jews according to the Suda.” ZNW 84(3-4): 268–77.

Mercati, Giovanni. Ultimi contributi alla storia degli umanisti. Fasc. 1:70-85. Studi e testi 90-91. Vatican: Biblioteca apostolica vaticana, 1939 (survey of Latin translations of the work).

Nuvolone, Flavio G. “La Légende du Christ, XXIIe et dernier prêtre du temple de Jérusalem: priorité du texte long.” Pages 203–32 in Anthropos Laïkos: mélanges Alexandre Faivre à l’occasion de ses 30 ans d’ enseignement. Edited by Marie-Anne Vannier, Otto Wermelinger, Gregor Wurst. Fribourg, Suisse: Éditions Universitaires, 2000.

Speyer, Wolfgang. Bücherfunde in der Glaubenswerbung der Antike, 138-9. Hypomnemata, Heft 24. Göttingen, Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1970.

Thilo, Ioannis Caroli. Codex Apocryphus Novi Testamenti. Lipsius: Vogel, 1832. (dated, but highly learned discussion of the Levitical lineage of Jesus motif in the Suda text, pp. 375–76)

Ziffer, Giorgio. La Confessione di Teodosio” nella sua tradizione orientale. Rome. La Sapienza, Facolta di lettere e filosofia, 1985 (unpublished thesis.)