The Apocryphal Acts of Paul, Peter, John, Andrew and Thomas
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The full title of this book, published in 1909, is The Apocryphal Acts of Paul, Peter, John, Andrew and Thomas. As early as the second century, numerous legends concerning the fates of the Christian apostles were in circulation. These Acts, widely regarded as originating circa 150 CE, are among the earliest accounts still in existence of the lives, preaching and martyrdoms of the apostles Paul, Peter, John, Andrew and Thomas.

The Apocryphal Acts
Paul, Peter, John,
Andrew and Thomas

Bernhard Pick


The publication of the epoch-making work by Lipsius on the Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles comprising about 1800 pages closely printed; Schmidt’s Coptic Acta Pauli, more especially the critical edition of the Apocryphal Acts by Lipsius and Bonnet, have opened a large, but very little cultivated field of ancient Christian literature. The oldest of these Acts are those which are treated in the present volume. They give us a picture of Christianity towards the end of the second century. They are important for the history of the Christian cultus in the second and third cent., and by their description of the divine service in the houses they supplement of picture delineated in the Acts of the Apostles. They are also important for the history of Christian poetry which commences among the Gnostics; in short: though these Acts contain both “truth and fiction,” they cannot be ignored by the teacher and preacher, the missionary and historian. What has hitherto been a terra incognita generally speaking, has now been made accessible, especially by the beautiful edition of Lipsius and Bonnet, whose text must now be considered as textus receptus. Tischendorf’s text which was published in 1851, is now superseded by this later publication, and what is said of the text concerns also the English translation of Apocryphal Acts based on Tischendorf's work. As an illustration we only refer to the fact that chaps, 39-41, 62-158 now found in the Acts of Thomas are wanting in Tischendorf’s edition. The Acts of Paul and Thecla formerly regarded as a separate book, are now proven to be a part of the Acts of Paul, to which also belongs the so-called third epistle to the Corinthians. Without calling attention to many other points, it is obvious that the Apocryphal Acts, as far as they have been translated into English, need a thorough revision, if not a new translation. For the present we offer the oldest and therefore most important Acts, That these Acts cannot be ignored because they form an important contribution to the primitive literature of the Church, the reader can readily see from the special introductions and literature. In the preparation of the present volume the work edited by Edgar Hennecke has been of great help. I have also made free use of the English translation of the Apocryphal Acts by A. Walker in the Ante-Nicene Christian Library (Edinb. 1867), as far as was possible. In other respects the present work is entirely independent, and whatever its shortcomings may be, we have the satisfaction that it is the first effort to make the researches of Lipsius, Bonnet, Schmidt, etc. accessible to the English reader.

B. P.

Newark, New Jersey, Nov. 1908.


The late Professor R.A. Lipsius, of Jena (d. 1892), thus opens his epoch-making work Die apokryphen Apostelgeschichten und Apostellegenden (1893-91):

“Under the name of Acts or Deeds (praxeis, acta, actus), Circuits or Journeys (periodoi), and Martyrdom or Consummation (martyrion, teleiosis) of the various apostles was comprised in the times of Christian antiquity a widely spread and manifold literature, of which very important remains exist. As early as the second century numerous legendary reports concerning the fates of the apostles were in circulation, in part, at least, of a very romantic character. The real history of the lives and deaths of most of the apostles being shrouded in obscurity, a pious imagination was very early busily employed in filling up the large lacunae left in the historical reminiscences of the church. Not a few of such narratives owe their origin simply to an endeavor to satisfy the pious curiosity or taste for the marvelous in members of the primitive church; while others subserved the local interests of particular towns or districts which claimed to have derived their Christianity from the missionary activity of one of the apostles, or their line of bishops from one immediately ordained by him. It likewise not infrequently happened that party spirit, theological or ecclesiastical, would take advantage of a pious credulity to further its own ends by manipulating the older legends, or inventing others entirely new, after a carefully preconceived form and pattern. And so almost every fresh editor of such narratives, using that freedom which all antiquity was wont to allow itself in dealing with literary monuments, would reveal the materials which lay before him, excluding whatever might not suit his theological point of view — dogmatic statement, for example, speeches, prayers, etc., for which he would substitute other formulae of his own composition, and further expanding or abridging after his own pleasure, or as the immediate object which he had in view might dictate. Only with the simply miraculous parts of the narrative was the case different. These passed unaltered and unquestioned from one hand to another, ecclesiastical circles the most opposed in other respects having here equal and coinciding interests, while the critical spirit, usually so acute in detecting erroneous opinions or heretical tendencies, was contented here to lay down its arms, however troubled or suspected the source from which such legendary narration might flow. Therefore, although these fables originated for the most part in heretical quarters, we find them at a later period among the cherished possessions of ordinary Catholics, acquaintance with them being perpetually renewed or their memory preserved in Catholic Christendom, partly by the festal homilies of eminent Fathers, and partly by religious poetry and works of sacred art. Like all legends or myths preserved in popular memory, however, they present great difficulties in the way of a satisfactory treatment from a literary point of view, perpetually springing up, as they do, afresh, now here, now there, now in one shape, now in another, and again withdrawing themselves in a tantalizing way, for a longer or shorter period, from the eyes of the historical inquirer. The older church martyrologies and calendars, subject as they were to continuous processes of change and augmentation, and the collectanea of later chroniclers and legend writers, who for the most part copied one from another, have furnished us with rich stores of legendary matter, which only in rare instances can be satisfactorily traced back to their original sources.”

There can be no doubt that numerous apocryphal apostle-legends were current during the second century, and that certain written recensions existed, as may be seen from allusions and references by early writers. But with the fourth century the testimonies as to the existence and use of apocryphal Acts become numerous. Most explicit in this respect is the testimony of Photius, patriarch of Constantinople, A. D. 858, who in his Bibl., cod. 114, speaks of a volume purporting to be written by Leucius Charinus, and containing the travels of Peter, John, Andrew, Thomas and Paul. Photius describes the book as both foolish and heretical. It taught the existence of two Gods — an evil one, the God of the Jews, having Simon Magus for his minister; and a good one, whom, confounding the two Persons it identified with Christ. It denied the reality of Christ’s incarnation, and gave a Docetic account of his life on earth, and in particular of his crucifixion; it condemned marriage, and regarded all generation as the work of the evil principle; and it told several silly and childish stories. We can satisfactorily trace these Acts back to the fourth century by means of references in writers of that date. At that time they were chiefly in use among the Manicheans; yet there are grounds for looking on them as more ancient than that heresy, which only began toward the end of the third century. We do not find, indeed, the name of Leucius in any writer earlier than the fourth century; yet earlier writers show acquaintance with stories which we know to have been in the Leucian Acts; whence the conclusion has been drawn that these Acts are really a second-century production, and that they found favor with the Manicheans on account of the affinity of their doctrines. From Epiphanius we know that these Acts were also largely in use among other heretical parties, and much that still remains to us seems frequently to favor older sectarian opinions, although in our present texts the most characteristic passages have been toned down or removed. Scarcely one of these Gnostic Acts of the Apostles has come down to us wholly untampered with; while, on the other hand, even in works which have already passed several times through the reforming hands of Catholic revisers, some of the old Gnostic features, despite all their efforts, are still distinctly traceable.

The original purpose with which these apocryphal writings were composed was that of diffusing a knowledge of the doctrines and customs of the various Gnostic schools, and of setting up against the Catholic tradition another which appealed with no less confidence to the authority of apostles and their immediate disciples. And yet it was hardly as a sort of rival or additional canon that these writings were presented to the Christian public of those times. They aimed, rather, at supplying a popular kind of religious reading in the shape of tracts set forth by the Gnostic propaganda, which, professing to contain historical reminiscences from apostolic times, and composed in the credulous spirit of the age, seemed to satisfy the demands of pious curiosity and soon obtained an extensive circulation. Catholic bishops and teachers did not know how better to stem this flood of Gnostic writings and their influence among the faithful, than by boldly adopting the most popular narrations from the heretical books, and, after carefully eliminating the poison of false doctrine, replacing them in this purified form in the hands of the people. That this process of purification was not always complete need not surprise us when we consider how changeable or uncertain on some points was the boundary line between Gnostic and Catholic doctrines. Thus originated the many castrated and revised editions of the Acts of Peter, Paul, John, Andrew, Thomas, Philip, Matthew, and others, which are found in Greek, Latin, Syriac, Armenian, Arabic, Coptic, Ethiopic, Anglo-Saxon, and ancient Slavonic languages.

In general, however, says Lipsius whom we follow for the most part, these Gnostic productions, apart from any more or less marked assertion of heretical dogmas or rules of life, betray their real origin by the overgrowths of a luxuriant imagination, by their highly colored pictures, and by their passionate love for mythical additions and adornments in excess even of the popular belief in signs and wonders. The favorite critical canon — “the more romantic the more recent in origin” — does not hold good as against this branch of literature, in which exorcising of demons, raisings of the dead, and other miracles of healing or of punishment are multiplied endlessly. The incessant repetition of the like wonders baffles the efforts of the most lively imagination to avoid a certain monotony, interrupted, however, by dialogues and prayers, which not seldom afford a pleasant relief, and are sometimes of a genuinely poetical character. There is withal a rich apparatus of the super-natural, consisting of visions, angelic appearances, voices from heaven, speaking animals and demons, who with shame confess their impotence against the champions of the truth; unearthly streams of light descend, or mysterious signs appear, from heaven; earthquakes, thunders and lightnings terrify the ungodly; the elements of wind and fire and water minister to the righteous; wild beasts, dogs, serpents, lions, bears and tigers are tamed by a single word from the mouths of the apostles, or turn their rage against the persecutors; dying martyrs are encompassed by wreaths of light or heavenly roses and lilies and enchanting odors, while the abyss opens to devour their enemies. The Devil himself is often introduced into these stories in the form of a black Ethiopian, and plays a considerable part. But the visionary element is the favorite one. Our Lord often appears to his servants, now as a beautiful youth, and again’ as a seaman, or as a shepherd, or in the form of an apostle; holy martyrs return to life to manifest themselves, at one time to their disciples, at another to their persecutors. Dreams and visions announce beforehand to apostles their approaching martyrdom, or to longing souls among the heathen the fulfillment of their desires. All this fantastic scenery has been left, for the most part, untouched by Catholic revisers, and remains, therefore, in works which in other respects have been most thoroughly recast. Yet it was only in very rare cases that these romantic creations of fancy were themselves the original object in view with the writers who produced them. That object was either some dogmatic interest, or, where such retired into the background, an ascetic purpose. Many of these narratives were simply invented to extol the meritoriousness of the celibate life, or to commend the severest abstinence in the estate of matrimony. At this point Catholic revisers have been careful throughout to make regular alterations, now degrading legitimate wives to the position of concubines, and now introducing objections connected with nearness of kin or other circumstances which might justify the refusal or the repudiation of a given marriage. But where merely the praise of virginity was concerned the views of Catholics and Gnostics were nearly identical, except that the former refused to regard the maintenance of that estate as an absolute or universal moral obligation.

Recent investigations have shown that in large portions of these Acts genuine reminiscences are to be found, though not in reference to the legends themselves, yet in regard to the setting in which they are presented to us, their secular historical background, or their geographical and ethnographical scenery. Yet, at the same time, all efforts to derive from them any trustworthy particulars as to the actual histories of the apostles themselves, or to extract from the confused mass of legends any sound historical nucleus, have hitherto proved almost always unsuccessful. Such are in the main the characteristic points given by Lipsius in the beginning of his work mentioned before.




The Acts of Paul (Praxeis Pauiu, or Acta, also Actus Pauli) are first mentioned by Origen, who quotes twice from them. Thus we read Hom. in John XX, 12: “if any one likes to receive that which is written in the Acts of Paul as said of the Saviour, I go to be crucified again.” In a somewhat different form the same phrase occurs in the Acts of Peter. Since it is impossible to imagine that Origen should confound the Acts of Peter which were rejected as heretical with the Acts of Paul which he highly esteemed, Harnack may very well be right in supposing that the old Acts of Peter did not contain an account of Peter’s martyrdom, but that this originally occurred in the Acts of Paul.

The second reference is found in De Princip., 1, 2, 3, where we read: “Hence that word appears to me also spoken correctly which is written in the Acts of Paul: ‘This is the word, a living being,’ though not expressed so well as in the Prologue to the Fourth Gospel.”

Without name the Acts are also referred to by Hippolytus (Commentary on Daniel, III, 29, 4 ed. Bonwetsch 176) who says: “for if we believe that when Paul was condemned to the wild beasts, the lion that was loosed upon him lay down at his feet and licked him, why should we not believe what happened in the case of Daniel in the lion’s den?” This seems to suppose that the writing which contained the narrative concerning Paul was regarded as trustworthy in Church circles. Besides, the parallels are so obvious that there can be no doubt as to the author of the work. That the statement of Hippolytus is taken from the Acts of Paul is clear from the statement of Nicephorus Callisti (Church history, II, 25 in Migne, “Patrologia Grseca,” Vol. CXLV, Col. 821-824, Paris 1865), who relates that this incident was related in the Periodoi Pauli.

This historian of the XIV. cent. speaks of Paul’s fight with the beasts at Ephesus.

Nicephorus introduces his narrative with the words that those who described the “travels of Paul” recorded also very many things which he had already done before and suffered (before), as well as at the time when he was in Ephesus. That the “Journeys or Circuits of Paul” are identical with the “Acts or Deeds of Paul” needs no explanation.

Nicephorus then continues as follows: “When Jerome was head of the city, Paul came forth boldly. And he (Jerome) said, ‘This is very good, but not the right time for such speeches.’ The populace of the city, however, being enraged, had Paul put in chains and locked up in prison, till he was cast before the lions to be eaten. But Eubula and Artemilla, the wives of prominent Ephesians, who were his disciples and sought his communion at night, desired the grace of divine baptism. By means of an extraordinary divine power and angels, which had spears and illuminated the darkness of the night by the abundance of inner splendor, Paul was released from his fetters and brought them to perfection through the divine baptism, having gone to the seashore without being noticed by the prison keepers. He returned again to the prison, to be kept as food for the lions. A very big and strong lion was let loose upon him, and having run up to his feet, lay down, and though many more beasts were let loose upon him, none would touch the holy body, which was supported and strengthened by prayer. While this was going on, an awful hailstorm came and crushed the heads of many men and of the wild beasts. Jerome too was hit by a hailstone, and in consequence of this he turned with his followers to the God of Paul, and received baptism. But the lion ran away to the mountains, and Paul sailed thence to Macedonia and Greece.”

Eusebius (Hist, eccles., III, 25, 4), places the Acts of Paul amongst the Antilegomena, under the heading of nothoi or spurious, but ranks them with the Shepherd of Hermas, the Apocalypse of Peter, the Epistle of Barnabas, the Didache, and even the Apocalypse of John and the Epistle of the Hebrews.

In the list of books given in the Codex Claromontanus (of the VI. cent.) the order is Barnabas, Apocalypse, Acts of the Apostles, Hermas, Acts of Paul, Apocalypse of Peter. In the stichometry of Nicephorus, besides the journeys of Peter, John, Thomas, also “the journeys of Paul” are mentioned. They contained 3600 stichoi. That the Acts of Paul are meant thereby there can be no doubt, for the number of stichoi is almost identical with the 3560 stichoi, ascribed to the Acts of Paul in the Codex Claromontanus.

The Muratorian Fragment and the Decretum Gelasianum (proclaimed 496) do not mention the Acts of Paul. The latter mentions instead the Actus Pauli et Theclae, which shows that long before the promulgation of the Gelasian decree the Acts of Paul and Thecla must have been detached from the main body of the “Acts.” This accounts for the fact that till recently we knew considerably little of the Acts of Paul which were so highly esteemed in the Eastern Church.

The discovery of fragments of a Coptic translation of the Acts of Paul made by Prof. Carl Schmidt, has supplied us with enough material to enable us to reconstruct the original Acts. Aside from the three known portions: the Thecla narrative, the correspondence of Paul with the Corinthians, and the Martyrdom of Paul, the Coptic fragments, as far as they could be deciphered, supply enough material to show at least the connection of the narrative.

From the Acta Pauli published by Schmidt, we learn the following: The story opens with a deed of Paul at Antioch in Pisidia, where he raised from the dead the son of Anchares and Phila, who were evidently Jews. Being invited by Anchares to stay with him, Paul spends eight days in the house of Anchares. The Jews insist that Anchares should drive Paul from the city. But it seems that the apostle had anticipated them. Anchares openly professes Jesus as the Son of God. Now the Jews bring the apostle back to the city, abuse him, stone him and finally drive him away from the city. Anchares, who will not recompense evil with evil, retires with his wife to his house, where he fasts and prays. In the evening Paul returns again to Anchares, bids him farewell and betakes himself to Iconium.

This is followed by the story of Paul and Thecla, the greater part of which is preserved.

The next scene is at Myra, where Thecla left him. Here lived the dropsical Hermocrates. Having heard of the power of the God whom Paul preached, he fell down at the feet of Paul together with his wife and children, beseeching his help. The apostle promised to help him in the name of Jesus Christ. At this the dropsical man fell down, his body opened and much water came forth. Those that stood by, believed the sufferer to be dead; but the apostle lifted him up and gave him bread to eat. At this Hermocrates and his wife were baptized. But the elder son Hermippus was not pleased with the turn of affairs, as he had already been counting on the inheritance. With his friends he plotted against the life of the apostle. In the meantime the second son of Hermocrates, Dion, who carefully listened to the words of the apostle, hurt himself and died. The apostle restored him to life again. Being admonished in a vision of the danger which threatened him, he receives Hermippus who rushes upon him with his drawn sword with the same word with which Jesus met the bailiffs in Gethsemane. Hermippus suddenly grows blind. He asks his companions not to leave him in his misery and accuses himself of having persecuted innocent blood. He prays all to ask Paul to cure him from his blindness and reminds them of what Paul did for his father and brother. Paul being deeply moved, goes away. The companions carry Hermippus to the house, in which Paul is teaching. The blind man touches the feet of all who went in and asks them to intercede for him before Paul. Among these are his parents Hermocrates and Nympha who bring corn and money to be distributed among the poor because of Dion’s deliverance. The parents are greatly distressed at the condition of their son. Paul and the parents pray for Hermippus; he is healed and imagines that the apostle put his hand on him. . . . From Myra Paul went to Sidon. On the way some Christians from Perge in Pamphylia join him, Thrasymachus and Aline (or Alype) Cleon and Chrysa, who entertain the apostle. They rest under a tree (?) where there is a heathen altar. Paul speaks of contamination by idolatry, against which an old man protests who tries to persuade the hearers to retain the old belief, adducing many instances, where the adoption of Christianity caused the death of the converts. . . . In Sidon Paul preaches, exhorting the inhabitants to think of Sodom and Gomorrha, and admonishes them to believe because of his miracles. On this account he is imprisoned with Thrasymachus and Cleon in the temple of Apollo, and supplied with precious victuals. Paul however fasts three days and prays in the night for the help of God. At once one-half of the temple falls down. When the servants of the temple and the conspirators see this, they proclaimed it in the whole city. The inhabitants run to the temple, where they find Paul and his companions weeping “because of this temptation, which will make them a spectacle for all.” At the request of the multitude they are led into the theatre. . . . (What happened here we know not. It seems that miracles were performed for the salvation of Paul, which changed the opinion of the people. For in the end the) “God is praised, who sent Paul, and a certain Theudes is baptized.” Paul leaves Sidon for Tyre.

In Tyre Paul casts out some devils and two men Amphion and Chrysippus are mentioned, with whom he has to do.

(After this comes a series of mutilated fragments, but the apostle is supposed by the editor of the Coptic Acts to travel on to Jerusalem, since we come to a fragment belonging to the first half which runs as follows: “thou findest thyself in view of Jerusalem. But I trust in the Lord that thou wilt. . . . Saul. . . . ” Since in the following the name of Peter is mentioned, it is possible that Paul meets him at Jerusalem, probably at the time of the apostolic council.)

The next fragment shows the apostle as prisoner in a mine, where, we know not. A certain Longinus is introduced, whose daughter Phrontina is condemned to be hurled from a rock. As Paul is blamed for the fate of the daughter, the father insists that the apostle should also die with her. In a vision Paul is made aware of the attempt on his life, but he goes about his work with the other prisoners as usual. On the third day Phrontina, lamented by her parents and soldiers, is carried forth on a bier to meet her death. . . . Paul raises Phrontina from the dead, and leads her through the city to the house of her father. The result is that the God who restored to life Phrontina, is now acknowledged by the multitude as the only God, the creator of heaven and earth. Paul goes to Philippi.

Here, as presently appears, Paul was put in prison because of Stratonike, the wife of Apollophanes. While at Philippi, messengers came to Paul with a letter from Corinth complaining of the teaching of Simon and Cleobius (Here follows the correspondence).

Another fragment contains a farewell scene, which reminds us of a like one, at Miletus, mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, chap. xx. Paul says: “The grace of the Lord shall go with me, that I may finish in patience all administration, which shall come to me.” When they heard this, they became sad and fasted. And Cleobius rose up, and speaking through the spirit said to them: “Brethren, the [Almighty?] will permit Paul to accomplish all and allow him to go up [to Jerusalem?]; thence he shall teach. . . . in great instruction and knowledge and sowing of the word, that he will be envied, that he departs from this world.” When the brethren and Paul heard this, they lifted up their voice, saying: . . . . But the spirit came upon Myrte, and she said: “Brethren, . . . . and look at this sign, by (?) . . . . Paul namely, the servant of the Lord, shall save many at Rome, and nourish many by the word, that they shall be without number, and he reveals himself more than all believers. Then shall . . . . come of the Lord Jesus Christ and a great mercy shall be . . . . in Rome.” And this is the manner in which the Spirit spoke to Myrte. All partake then of the bread, are filled with joy and celebrate the Lord’s Supper, singing psalms. — This is the substance of the Coptic fragments.

Who was the author of the Acts of Paul? Tertullian (between 220 and 240) writes in his treatise De Baptismo, ch. XVII: “But if any defend those things which have been rashly ascribed to Paul, under the example of Thecla, so as to give license to women to teach and baptize, let them know that the presbyter in Asia, who compiled the account, as it were, under the title of Paul, accumulating of his own store, being convicted of what he had done, and confessing that he had done it out of love to Paul, was removed from his place. For how could it seem probable that he who would not give any firm permission to a woman to learn should grant to a female to teach and baptize?” There can be no doubt that this account of Tertullian refers to the whole work and not merely to the Acts of Paul and Thecla. For in the latter little or nothing is said of deeds of the apostle. All which we now have of the Acts of Paul are only portions which were early detached from the original work. We can therefore apply the remark of Tertullian to the entire work, which was composed by a presbyter in Asia who was deposed because he used the name of the apostle. And it is interesting to know that amongst the Coptic fragments is the conclusion of the whole MS. together with the statement; “The Acts of Paul according to the Apostle,” i.e. according to St. Paul himself.

The author being a presbyter of Asia, whose history Tertullian knows, we may take it for granted that the Acts were composed at least before A.D. 200, perhaps somewhere between 165 and 195, and most probably within a few years of the middle of that period. Hennecke puts the time between 160-180; Leipoldt names the year 180.

The Acta Pauli were no doubt intended to show the popular Christianity of the second century, of which Paul was the best exponent. The tendency of the author was to give a counterpart to the canonical Acts of the Apostles. The author who wrote “out of love to Paul” was deposed, but his work retained an honorable place in the Church literature.


One of the oldest and most interesting relics of the extant New Testament Apocrypha, is the Acts of St. Paul and Thecla. They were first edited by Grabe in his Spicilegium, Oxford, 1698 (2d ed., 1700); again by Tischendorf in his Acta Apocrypha, Leipzig, 1851; and more recently by Lipsius, who together with Bonnet, published a new edition of Acta Apostolorum Apocrypha, 2 Vols. 1891-1903.

Grabe’s text was published from a manuscript belonging to the twelfth century. To the same time (X.-XIII. cent.) the other manuscripts belong, and it is therefore difficult to say at what time the Acta Theclae were detached from the Acta Pauli. But this must have been done long before the so-called decree of Gelasius (496) was issued, which excludes from the list of “scriptures received by the Church” the book which is called “the Acts of Paul and Thecla.” But we have yet earlier testimonies. The earliest is that of Tertullian, in his treatise De Baptismo, c. XVII., already alluded to. It has been taken for granted that the meaning is that a presbyter of Asia, somewhat towards the end of the first century, compiled a history of Paul and Thecla, and, instead of publishing it as a true narrative, either in his own name, or with any name at all, but in good faith, published it falsely, and therefore wickedly, under the name of Paul, as though he were himself the writer; that he was convicted of his forgery, and deposed from the priesthood.

This account has been marvelously dressed up, and some of its advocates have ventured to say that a Montanist writer of the name of Leucius was the real author of these Acts. (Tillemont, Memoires, II, 446).

The next witness is Jerome, who in his Catalogus Script. Eccl. c:7 (written about the year 392), commenting upon the passage of Tertullian, says that the presbyter who wrote the history of Paul and Thecla was deposed for what he had done by John (apud Johannem) the Apostle. That Jerome relied upon Tertullian is evident from his statement; but his conduct in fathering the story of the deposition by John upon Tertullian is inexcusable, because no such statement was made by Tertullian. Tertullian speaks of an Asiatic presbyter, Jerome adds apud Johannem, and his copyists instead of “apud Johannem,” write “a Johanne.”

Of Eastern writers who were acquainted with our Acts, we mention Basil, bishop of Seleucia (431-467), author of a “Life and Miracles of St. Thecla” (see Migne, Pat. Gr. 85 col. 477 ff.), Nicetas of Paphlagonia, towards the end of the ninth century, and Simeon Metaphrastes in the tenth. The only writer who treats Thecla directly, and not by way of mere passing allusion, is Methodius, the author of Symposium Decem Virginum (written about A. D. 300). Into this Symposium or dialogue ten virgins are introduced as contending in the presence of Arete concerning chastity. At the end of the dialogue Thecla leads off a hymn, to which the rest, standing round as a chorus respond: “I keep myself pure for Thee, O Bridegroom, and holding a lighted torch I go to meet Thee.”

In inviting Thecla to speak, Arete designates her a disciple of Paul: in her oration she speaks of those who “set little by wealth, distinction, race or marriage, and are ready to yield their bodies to wild beasts and to the fire, because of their yearning and enthusiasm for the things that are in supermundane places.” After Gregorion had finished the address, Euboulios cannot suppress her admiration; she knows of other acts of Thecla, with which what they have just heard coincides, for says she: “I know her wisdom also for other noble actions, and what sort of things she succeeded in speaking, giving proof of supreme love to Christ; and how glorious she often appeared in meeting the chief conflicts of the martyrs, procuring for herself a zeal equal to her courage, and a strength of body equal to the wisdom of her counsels.” After the last two virgins have finished speaking, Arete addresses them all saying: “And having in my hearing sufficiently contended by words, I pronounce you all victors and crown you: but Thecla with a larger and thicker chaplet, as the chief of you, and as having shone with greater luster than the rest.” From the latter passage we can infer how greatly esteemed Thecla was already in the third century. Allusions to her we find also in the writings of Gregory Nazianzen. In his first address against Julian the Apostate, he concluded a catalogue of apostles and disciples of the apostles with Thecla; he also speaks of her as a virgin who had escaped the “tyranny” of her betrothed husband and her mother (Oratio, XXIV.) and (Exhortatio ad Virgines, II) connects her escape with Paul’s suffering hunger. Gregory of Nyssa (Hom., XIV. in Cant. cantic.) speaks of her as Paul’s virgin disciple, and (Vita Macrinae) he calls her a virgin martyr. Epiphanius (Haeres. 79, 5) puts Thecla by the side of Elias, John the Baptist and the Virgin Mother, and praises her for sacrificing under Paul’s teaching her prospects of a prosperous marriage. Chrysostom tells us how Thecla managed to see Paul, In his Homily, XXV. (in Acta Apost. )he says: “Hear then of the blessed Thecla, who for the sake of seeing Paul, gave up her jewels; but thou wilt not give an obolus for the sake of seeing Christ.”

Isidore of Pelusium (Lib., I. epist. 260) calls her “protomartyr,” and John of Damascus in an address on those who have died in the faith, says, that one should pray to God not for his own soul alone, but also for that of others, as the protomartyr Thecla had done. Zeno of Verona (De Timore) of the fourth century who joins her name with that of Daniel, Jonah, Peter gives an account of the Thecla-Antiochian martyrdom as told in the Acts, giving as it does particulars of the bulls goaded to attack her, her perils from the seals, and the fiery cloud which covered her nakedness. Ambrose joins her name with that of Agnes and with the virgin Mother, Daniel and John as the “Immaculatus chorus puritatis” (De lapsu virginis, c:3, 4), and with Miriam, Moses’ sister (epist. 63, 34 Ad Vercellensem eccles.); and Sulpicius Severus in his account of St. Martin of Tours, written about 403 narrates that Thecla together with Agnes and Mary often appeared unto him. Even Jerome though as we have seen he rejects the written narrative of her life, asserts the traditional prevalence of her fame by adducing her as an example of saintliness. Churches were built in Thecla’s honor. As early as 385 A. D. the “Martyrium” of Thecla near Seleucia was visited by Sylvia of Aquitania, who in her travels gives a description of the locality with its monasteries and the church, which inclosed the “Martyrium” and states that she prayed in the “Monasterium” and read there the holy history of Thecla.

From all indications it may be inferred that the work was composed at least before A. D. 200, perhaps somewhere between 165 and 195, and most probably within a few years of the middle of that period. And this will hold good of the Acts of Paul in general. Though deeply tinged with Encratism, and notwithstanding the author’s deposition from his ministry, the history of Thecla was universally welcomed in Catholic circles, was frequently re-edited, and often used as a subject of homiletic discourse.

An indication of the early origin of the Acts of Thecla is the absence of quotations from the New Testament. There is not a single direct citation, yet the student cannot fail to discover many instances in which the New Testament has been used.

After these preliminary remarks we now give the Acts of Paul and Thecla. The Greek text is found in Lipsius Acta Apocrypha, I, 235-269; the Coptic, as far as it goes and its German translation in Schmidt, Acta Pauli, pp. 27-53.


1. As Paul was going up to Iconium after his flight from Antioch, his fellow-travelers were Demas and Hermogenes, the coppersmith, full of hypocrisy, and persisted in staying with Paul, as if they loved him. Paul looking only to the goodness of Christ, did them no harm, but loved them exceedingly, so that he made sweet to them all the words of the Lord and the oracles of the gospel concerning the birth and resurrection of the Beloved; and he gave them an account, word for word, of the great deeds of Christ, how they were revealed to him [that Christ is born of the virgin Mary and of the seed of David].

2. And a certain man, by name Onesiphorus, hearing that Paul was to come to Iconium, went out to meet him with his children Simmias and Zeno, and his wife Lectra, in order that he might entertain him. For Titus had informed him what Paul was like in appearance. For he had not seen him in the flesh, but only in the spirit.

3. And he went along the royal road to Lystra, and kept looking at the passers-by according to the description of Titus. And he saw Paul coming, a man small in size, bald-headed, bandy-legged, of noble mien, with eyebrows meeting, rather long-nosed, full of grace. For sometimes he seemed like a man, and sometimes he had the countenance of an angel.

4. And Paul, seeing Onesiphorus, smiled; and Onesiphorus said, “Hail, O servant of the blessed God.” And he said, “Grace be with thee and thy house.” And Demas and Hermogenes were jealous and showed greater hypocrisy, so that Demas said: “are we not of the blessed God, that thou hast not thus saluted us? “And Onesiphorus said, “I see not in you the fruit of righteousness; but if such you be, come also into my house and refresh yourselves.”

5. And Paul having gone into the house of Onesiphorus, there was great joy, and bending of knees, and breaking of bread, and the word about self-control and the resurrection, Paul saying: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God; blessed are they that have kept the flesh chaste, for they shall become a temple of God; blessed are they that control themselves, for God shall speak with them; blessed are they that have kept aloof from this world, for they shall please God; blessed are they that have wives as not having them, for they shall receive God for their portion; blessed are they that have the fear of God, for they shall become angels of God.

6. “Blessed are they that tremble at the word of God, for they shall be comforted; blessed are they that have received the wisdom of Jesus Christ, for they shall be called the sons of the Most High; blessed are they that have kept the baptism, for they shall be refreshed by the Father and the Son; blessed are they who have come to a knowledge of Christ, for they shall be in the light; blessed are they that through love of God have come out from conformity with the world, for they shall judge angels, and shall be blessed at the right hand of the Father; blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy, and shall not see the bitter day of judgment; blessed are the bodies of the virgins, for they shall be well pleasing to God, and shall not lose the reward of their chastity. For the word of the Father shall become to them a work of salvation against the day of the Son, and they shall rest for ever and ever.”

7. And while Paul was thus speaking in the midst of the congregation in the house of Onesiphorus, a certain virgin named Thecla, the daughter of Theoclia, betrothed to a man named Thamyris, sitting at the window close by, listened day and night to the discourse of virginity and prayer, as proclaimed by Paul. And she did not look away from the window, but paid earnest heed to the faith [rejoicing exceedingly]. And when she saw many women and virgins going in beside Paul, she also had an eager desire to be deemed worthy to hear the words of Christ. For she had not yet seen Paul’s figure, but heard his word only.

8. As she did not move from the window, her mother sent to Thamyris. And he came gladly, as if already receiving her in marriage. And Thamyris said to Theoclia, “Where, then, is my Thecla {that I may see her}”? And Theoclia answered, “I have a strange story to tell thee, Thamyris. For three days and three nights Thecla does not rise from the window, neither to eat, nor to drink; but looking earnestly as if upon some pleasant sight, she is devoted to a foreigner teaching deceitful and artful discourses, that I wonder how a virgin of her great modesty exposes herself to such painful vexations.

9. “Thamyris! this man will overturn the city of the Iconians, and thy Thecla too, besides; for all the women and the young men go in beside him to be taught by him, who says one must fear only one God and live in chastity. Moreover, also, my daughter, tied to the window like a spider, lays hold of what is said by him with a strange eagerness and awful emotion. For the virgin looks eagerly at what is said by him, and has been captivated. But do thou go near and speak to her, for she has been betrothed to thee.”

10. And Thamyris going near, and kissing her, but at the same time also being afraid of her overpowering emotion, said, “Thecla, my betrothed, why thus? And what sort of feeling holds thee overpowered? Come back to thy Thamyris, and be ashamed.” Moreover, also, her mother said the same things: “Why dost thou sit thus looking down, my child, and answering nothing, but like a mad woman?” And they {that were in the house} wept bitterly, Thamyris for the loss of a wife, Theoclia of a child, and the maidservants of a mistress. And there was a great outpouring of lamentation in the house. And while these things were thus going on, Thecla did not turn round, but kept attending earnestly to the word of Paul.

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