Acts of Paul
The Acts of Paul is one of the major works and earliest pseudepigraphal (noncanonical) series from the New Testament also known as Apocryphal Acts, an approximate date given to the Acts of Paul is 160 CE. The Acts were first mentioned by Tertullian. Tertullian found it heretical because it encouraged women to preach and baptize. The Acts were considered orthodox by Hippolytus, but were eventually regarded as heretical when the Manichaeans started using the texts. The author of the Acts of Paul is unknown and wrote out of respect for Paul, in Asia Minor. The author does not show any dependency on the canonical Acts, but uses oral traditions of Paul's missionary work.
The discovery of a Coptic version of the text, demonstrated that the text was composed of
- the Acts of Paul and Thecla
- the Epistle of the Corinthians to Paul
- the Third Epistle to the Corinthians
- the Martyrdom of Paul – his death at the hand of Nero
All of these constituent parts were often considered worth treating as separate texts, and frequently appeared independently, although scholars agree that they were originally part of the Acts of Paul. Besides the four main sections mentioned above, the remainder of the Acts exist only in fragments from the 3rd and 5th centuries:
The texts are a coherent whole, and generally thought to have been written by one author using oral traditions, rather than basing it on any of the other apocrypha or the orthodox canon. The main emphasis of the text is on Chastity and anti-Gnosticism. According to Tertullian, the author was a priest in Asia Minor. While the priest encouraged female ministry, it did have doctrinal orthodoxy in regards to continence and Resurrection. Also, they mentioned the close relationship of sexual purity and salvation.
The Epistle of the Corinthians to Paul and the Third Epistle of the Corinthians both appear in some editions of the Armenian Bible.
Acts of Paul consists of the third letter to the Corinthians, an account of his martyrdom, and other narratives depicting his preaching and activity. There is a range of literature either about or purporting to be by Paul, including letters, narratives, prayers, and apocalypses. The pseudonymous Third Letter to the Corinthians claims to have been written from prison to correct the misinterpretations that his first and second letter had created. In his first letter to the Corinthians, he stated that "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God" and this statement is not unrelated to the debates that ensued between the Gnostic and proto-orthodox Christians thereafter. A Christian concerned to emphasize that people would be physically resurrected rather than merely spiritually forged 3 Corinthians to counter what the Gnostics were saying, presumably because their argument was gaining much ground. The Acts of Paul also appear to be familiar with the traditional account about the martyrdom of Peter, in which, having been arrested and condemned to death, Peter asked to be crucified head-down because he wasn't worthy of having the same death as Jesus.
- Jones, Timothy Paul: Misquoting Truth, page 167. InterVarsity Press, 2007.
- Acta Pauli A website devoted to an international, scholarly discussion of the Acts of Paul.