Abdias of Babylon

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Abdias of Babylon
Feast October 28

Legend makes Abdias (Obadiah), first bishop of Babylon and one of the Seventy Apostles who are collectively mentioned in the Gospel of Luke 10:1-20. Sts. Simon and Jude allegedly consecrated him as the first Bishop of Babylon.[1] Nothing certain is known about him.

Abdias is commemorated with a feast day on October 28.[citation needed]

History of the Apostolical Contest[edit]

Main article: Pseudo-Abdias

An apocryphal work in ten books called Historia Certaminis Apostolici ("History of the Apostolical Contest")[2] was traditionally ascribed to an Abdias, assumed to be this bishop of Babylon.[3] It is a major collection of New Testament apocrypha, which tells of the labors and miracles, persecution and deaths of the Apostles, exhibiting a taste for the marvelous that places the narratives in the genre of heroic romances, of which "these stories came at length to form a sort of apostolic cycle", Matthew B. Riddle noted in his Introductory Notice to Apocrypha of the New Testament (1870).[4]

This compilation purports to have been translated from Hebrew into Greek by "Eutropius", a disciple of Abdias, and, in the third century, from Greek into Latin by Julius Africanus, the friend of Origen, or as reported in Legenda Aurea by his disciple Tropaeus Africanus.[5]

Later scholarship determined the book was originally written in Latin, probably around 910 AD, long after the death of the Abdias who served as Bishop of Babylon.[6] The most obvious clues include the book's citations of the Vulgate of St Jerome, of the Ecclesiastical History of Rufinus and of his Latin translation of the Recognitiones of Clement.

An earlier date of composition is given by R. A. Lipsius, who theorizes the work was compiled during the latter half of the sixth century, in an unidentified Frankish monastery, for the purpose of satisfying the natural curiosity of Western Christians. At the same time the author of this Historia used much older pseudo-Apostolic materials that he abridged or excerpted to suit his purpose, and often revised or expurgated to conform them to Catholic teaching, for not a few of the writings that he used were originally Gnostic compositions, and abounded in Gnostic speeches and prayers.

The interest of the work is due to what the author claims to have drawn from the ancient Acta of the Apostles, and to many ancient legends which have survived in this collection. The text of the compiler who may then be called the Pseudo-Abdias may be found in Constantin von Tischendorf, and in the Codex Apocryphus Novi Testimenti of Johann Albert Fabricius.[6] There are also parallel texts of single books printed in the Bollandists' Acta Sanctorum.


  1. ^ A'Becket, John Joseph. "Abdias of Babylon". The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 1. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. 19 Sept. 2012
  2. ^ often referred to as the "Apostolic History of pseudo-Abdias"
  3. ^ Michael Walsh (ed.). Dictionary of Christian Biography. Continuum. p. 2. ISBN 0826452639. 
  4. ^ Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. VIII
  5. ^ The Golden Legend: The Lives of Saints Simon and Jude
  6. ^ a b Christie, Albany James (1867), "Abdias", in Smith, William, Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology 1, p. 2 


  • F. G. Holweck, A Biographical Dictionary of the Saints. St. Louis, MO: B. Herder Book Co., 1924.