Legends of Yesterday

Legends of Yesterday

In a time of terror, when darkness terrorized the nations, there was a monster—a literal, blood-sucking monster. He killed, tormented, and reigned with insatiable ruthlessness. The world needed a hero, but one would not be enough; we needed many heroic people coming together to stand up to this terror and put an end to its reign. We needed Tabitha (a.k.a. Dorcas) leading Enoch, Elijah, and 60 saints into battle against the Antichrist.

You know Tabitha for her ability and skill in making tunics and for her generosity, but to others she is the indestructible voice of justice in the face of ultimate evil. According to the Apocalypse of Elijah (neither an apocalypse nor all that related to Elijah), some Christians in the fourth to fifth century CE knew a different story. While the Antichrist was reigning Tabitha took a stand with Elijah, Enoch, and 60 others. She donned herself in her fine cloth, confronted him at the temple, and called for justice. The Antichrist fought back, sucked her blood, and then covered the temple in her blood, killing her. Assuming an early victory, he was surprised the next day when Tabitha returned, very much alive. She pronounced God’s victory, her blood took on healing powers for the people, and the Antichrist could not triumph over the heroic Dorcas. [1]

You probably have lots of questions. We all do. But the pressing one is how we got from a resurrection of a generous woman in Acts 9 to Super Dorcas in the Apocalypse of Elijah. It is fair to say she was a legend in her own right. She left a legacy behind when she died, and she positively impacted the lives of many. She was a hero for her generosity. And as with all legends, hers grew with time. It started slow with a Sahidic fragment claiming that after her resurrection in Acts she never died, [2] and eventually she confronted the vampiric Antichrist. But why? Why do we spin such fantastic tales of heroes and monsters?

I’m sure there are many reasons, but for this blog I’m most interested in a theory of distraction. Acts 9 does not tell a story about Peter resurrecting Tabitha. Okay, sure; it technically does, but not really. They are not the main characters of the story; God is. Acts 9 tells a story of the power of God at work in the lives of Peter and Tabitha. God is the main character—the superhero, so to speak. But we are so anthropocentric that we get distracted by the supporting actors. Before we know it, our fascination with ourselves leads to exaggeration, exaggeration to building legends, and legends to a near deification of people. What began as a story of God’s power became a story of Dorcas’s heroic deeds and indestructible humanity.

The warning, then, is this: when reading God’s story, remember it is God’s story. Moses is not a hero who liberated slaves, but God is. Elijah isn’t a hero who stood for justice against the corruption of power, but God is. And Dorcas isn’t a hero who fought evil and could not be killed, but Jesus is. It has always been God’s story, and we have been invited into that story, but it is always God’s. The day we forget whose story we are in is the day that Super Dorcas fights a vampire Antichrist.

[1] James H. Charlesworth, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, vol. 1 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2009), 746-49.

[2] W. E. Crum, “Schila Und Tabitha,” Zeitschrift Für Die Neutestamentliche Wissenschaft Und Die Kunde Der Älteren Kirche 12, no. 4 (1911): 352-352.

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