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Encyclopedia > Acts of Paul and Thecla

The Acts of Paul and Thecla (Acta Pauli et Theclae) is an apocryphal story of St Paul's influence on a young virgin named Thecla. It is one of the writings of the New Testament Apocrypha. Apocrypha (from the Greek word απόκρυφα meaning those having been hidden away[1]) are texts of uncertain authenticity or writings where the authorship is questioned. ... Paul of Tarsus (b. ... In the process of determining the Biblical canon, a large number of works were excluded from the New Testament. ...


It was probably written in the second century. The discovery of a Coptic text of the Acts of Paul containing the Thecla narrative suggests that it may have been part of that larger work. If so, it is attested as early as Tertullian (Bapt. 17:5), who states that the Acts were written in honor of St Paul, by a presbyter of Asia, whose fraud was identified, and he was degraded from his office, at a date about AD 160. Many surviving versions of the Acts of Paul and Thecla in Greek, and some in Coptic, as well as references to the work among Church fathers show that it was widely disseminated. ( 1st century - 2nd century - 3rd century - other centuries) Events Roman Empire governed by the Five Good Emperors ( 96– 180) – Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, Marcus Aurelius. ... Coptic is the most recent phase of ancient Egyptian. ... The Acts of Paul and Thecla (Acta Pauli et Theclae) is an apocryphal story of St Pauls influence on the young virgin, Thecla. ... Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus, anglicized as Tertullian, (ca. ... Coptic is the most recent phase of ancient Egyptian. ... The Church Fathers or Fathers of the Church are the early and influential theologians and writers in the Christian Church, particularly those of the first five centuries of Christian history. ...

Contents

The story of Thecla

The author sets this story about Paul into the framework of the Book of Acts, but this text is ideologically different from the New Testament portrayal of Paul. The extravagant praise of virginity, however, was a running thread in mainstream Early Christianity. The Acts of the Apostles (Greek Praxeis Apostolon) is a book of the Bible, which now stands fifth in the New Testament. ... John 21:1 Jesus Appears to His Disciples--Alessandro Mantovani: the Vatican, Rome. ... The term Early Christianity here refers to Christianity of the period after the Death of Jesus and the foundation of the churches of Jerusalem and Antioch in the 30s and before the First Council of Nicaea in 325. ...


Here, Paul is travelling to Iconium, proclaiming ‘the word of God about abstinence and the resurrection’. Paul gives his sermons in the house of Onesiphorus, by which Thecla, a young noble virgin, listens to his ‘discourse on virginity’ from her window in an adjacent house. Her mother, Theoclia, warns her fiancée, Thamyris, that Thecla is devoted to Paul, and his disruptive ‘teaching that one must fear only one God and live in chastity’. Thamyris and a mob drag Paul to the governor, who imprisons the apostle. Konya (also Koniah, Konieh, Konia, and Qunia; historically known as Iconium) is a city in Turkey, on the central plateau of Anatolia. ... Look up Resurrection in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ...


However, Thecla gains entrance to the prison and sits at Paul’s feet. When her family find her, both she and Paul are again brought before the governor. At her mother’s request, Paul is sentenced to scourging and expulsion, and Thecla to be burnt: that, ‘all the women who have been taught by this man may be afraid.’ Stripped naked, Thecla is put on the fire, but she is unharmed, for God sends miraculous hail, rain and an earthquake to put out the flames.


Reunited, Paul and Thecla then travel to Pisidian Antioch, where a nobleman, named Alexander, takes a romantic interest in Thecla. When she humiliatingly rejects him, he drags her before the governor and, despite the protests of the city’s women, she is sentenced to be thrown to wild beasts. To ensure that her virtue is intact at her death, a Queen Tryphaena, takes her into protective custody overnight. Pisidia was an inland region in southern Anatolia. ...


Thecla is tied to a fierce lioness, and paraded through the city. Then, she is stripped and thrown to beasts, which have been helpfully provided by Alexander. The women of the city again protest against the injustice. But, Thecla is protected: first by the lioness, and then by a series of miracles (during which she appears to baptise herself), until finally the women of the city and Queen Tryphaena intervene. Thecla returns to Paul.


One ending has Thecla dwelling in a cave for the next 72 years, then, at age 90, some men come to corrupt her, but Thecla escapes for Rome and is buried with Paul. Nickname: The Eternal City Motto: SPQR: Senatus PopulusQue Romanus Location of the city of Rome (yellow) within the Province of Rome (red) and region of Lazio (grey) Coordinates: Region Lazio Province Province of Rome Founded 21 April 753 BC  - Mayor Walter Veltroni Area    - City 1285 km²  (580 sq mi)  - Urban...


Significance

Although probably consciously unhistorical, and certainly overstated, the tale reflects ascetic tendencies, and the experience of persecution in early Christianity. However, many have noted that it is also almost erotic, even mildly pornographic in places.


Feminist?

Tertullian (160-230) complains that some Christians in Alexandria were using the example of Thecla to legitimize women's roles of teaching and baptizing in the church (Bapt. 17). This in itself is interesting for reconstruction the 2nd-century struggles against women in positions of authority, notably among Gnostic and Montanist Christians. Some modern scholars even suggest the Acts of Paul and Thecla as a proto-feminist text. In their reading, Thecla is abused by men and their world, and yet refuses to conform to its expectations, marriage patterns, and dress code. She boldly asserts her independence, receiving support from many women. However, many contemporary male-centred assumptions are also evident in the text: women are portrayed as driven by lust— a common stereotype— and Thecla’s mentor is a man, Paul. Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus, anglicized as Tertullian, (ca. ... This article or section is in need of attention from an expert on the subject. ... Montanism was an early Christian sectarian movement of the mid-2nd century A.D., named after its founder Montanus. ... Feminism is a social theory and political movement primarily informed and motivated by the experience of women. ...


Portrayal of Paul

Paul is also an ambiguous figure in this work. He is seen a preacher of asceticism, but one with whom women are besotted. His teachings lead Thecla into trouble, and yet he is never there when the trouble comes. Ascetic redirects here. ...


This presentation of Paul as ascetic preacher, discouraging marriage, appears to be very different from that of the (possibly pseudonymous) Pastoral Epistles. For instance, 1st Timothy 4:1-3 has Paul explicitly condemning anyone who forbids marriage. The three pastoral epistles are books of the canonical New Testament: the First Epistle to Timothy (1 Timothy) the Second Epistle to Timothy (2 Timothy), and the Epistle to Titus. ... The three Pastoral Epistles are books of the canonic New Testament: the First Epistle to Timothy (1 Timothy) the Second Epistle to Timothy (2 Timothy), and the Epistle to Titus. ...


However, 1st Corinthians 7 (universally regarded as authentically Pauline), appears to share more ambivalence about marriage, with the statement "it is well for a man not to touch a woman" (7:1). This text has been interpreted as ideologically closer to Paul and Thecla. The First Epistle to the Corinthians is a book of the Bible in the New Testament. ...


In any event, Paul and Thecla indicates one possible understanding of Paul's legacy in the second century.


The text also gives the earliest supposed description of Paul, ‘A man small in size, bald headed, bandy legged, of noble mien, with eye brows meeting, and a rather hooked nose. But full of grace, sometimes he seemed like a man, and sometimes he had the face of an angel he was supposedly very handsome.’


Cult of Saint Thecla of Iconium

In the Eastern Church, the wide circulation of the Acts of Paul and Thecla is evidence of her veneration. She was called "Apostle and protomartyr among women" and even "equal to the apostles". She was widely cited as an ascetic role model for women. Her cult flourished particularly at Seleucia (where she was said to be buried), Iconium, and Nicomedia. The cult also appeared, at least as early as the fourth century, in Western Europe. In Bede's martyrology, Thecla is celebrated on the 23 September, which is still her feast day in the Roman Catholic Church. The Orthodox churches commemorate her on 24 September. Eastern Christianity refers collectively to the Christian traditions and churches which developed in Greece, Russia, the Balkans, Eastern Europe, Asia Minor, the Middle East, northeastern Africa and southern India over several centuries of religious antiquity. ... An equal-to-the-apostles is a special title given to some canonized Saints in Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Rite churches as an outstanding recognition of their service in spreading and assertion of Christianity comparable to that of the original apostles. ... Seleucia (Greek: Σέλεύχεια) – also transliterated as Seleuceia, Seleukeia, or Seleukheia – may refer to many cities of the Seleucid Empire (Syria): Seleucia on the Tigris (first capital of the Seleucid Empire; currently in Iraq) Seleucia (Sittacene) – in antiquity, across the Tigris from the above city, currently in Iraq Seleucia above Zeugma – on... Nicomedia (modern İzmit, also known as Iznik) was founded by Nicomedes I of Bithynia at the head of the Gulf of Astacus (which opens on the Propontis) in 264 BC. The city has ever since been one of the chief towns in this part of Asia Minor. ... (3rd century - 4th century - 5th century - other centuries) As a means of recording the passage of time, the 4th century was that century which lasted from 301 to 400. ... Bede (IPA: ) (also Saint Bede, the Venerable Bede, or (from Latin) Beda (IPA: )), (ca. ... September 23 is the 266th day of the year (267th in leap years). ... The calendar of saints is a traditional Christian method of organising a liturgical year on the level of days by associating each day with one or more saints, and referring to the day as that saints day. ... The Roman Catholic Church, most often spoken of simply as the Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with over one billion members. ... The Eastern Orthodox Church is a Christian body that views itself: as the historical continuation of the original Christian community established by Jesus Christ and the Twelve Apostles. ... September 24 is the 267th day of the year (268th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ...


A local martyr legend, of Tecla, may have inspired this episode, in which she was connected to Paul of Tarsus. "It is otherwise difficult to account for the very great popularity of the cult of St. Thecla, which spread over East and West, and made her the most famous of virgin martyrs," wrote M.R. James, the editor of this Acta, (James 1924). This article or section does not adequately cite its references or sources. ... Paul of Tarsus (b. ... Montague Rhodes James, (August 1, 1862, Goodnestone Parsonage, Kent, England –June 12, 1936). ...


In Maalula, Syria, there is a monastery of St. Thecla, built near what is said to be her cave. Santa Tecla is the patron saint of Tarragona, Spain, where her feast day is the major fiesta of the city and the cathedral is dedicated to her. In Spain, she is sometimes facetiously referred to as the patron saint of computers (teclado means "keyboard"). Saint Quentin is the patron saint of locksmiths and is also invoked against coughs and sneezes. ... For the municipality in the Philippines, see Tarragona, Davao Oriental. ...


See Also

Leucius Charinus was, according to tradition, a disciple of St. ...

Bibliography

  • Eliott, J.K. The Apocryphal New Testament: A Collection of Apocryphal Christian Literature in an English Translation 1993 Oxford: Oxford University Press
  • MacDonald, D.R. 1983 The Legend and the Apostle: The Battle for Paul in Story and Canon Philadelphia: Westminster Press

Oxford University Press (OUP) is a highly-respected publishing house and a department of the University of Oxford in England. ...

External links

  • Acts of Paul and Thecla: translated probably by Jeremiah Jones, (1693-1724)
  • Early Christian Writings: Acts of Paul: episode "The Acts of Paul and Thecla" (e-text) ed. M.R. James 1924
  • Nancy A. Carter, "The Acts of Thecla : a Pauline tradition linked to women"

  Results from FactBites:
 
Acts of Paul and Thecla - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (1046 words)
But, Thecla is protected: first by the lioness, and then by a series of miracles (during which she appears to baptise herself), until finally the women of the city and Queen Tryphaena intervene.
One ending, has Thecla dwelling in a cave for the next 72 years, then, at age 90, some men come to corrupt her, but Thecla escapes for Rome and is buried with Paul.
Thecla is abused by men and their world, and yet refuses to conform to its expectations, marriage patterns, and dress code.
The Acts of Paul (9542 words)
Thecla therefore went in with her and rested in her house eight days, teaching her the word of God, so that the more part of the maid-servants also believed, and there was great joy in the house.
Amphion (= Aphphia of the Acts of Titus).
Paul took the hand of the daughter and led her through the city unto the house of Longinus, and the whole multitude said with one voice: God is one, who hath made heaven and earth, who hath granted the life of the daughter in the presence of Paul.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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