Acts of Paul

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The Acts of Paul is one of the major works and earliest pseudepigraphal series from the New Testament apocrypha also known as Apocryphal Acts. This work is part of a body of literature either about or purporting to be written by Paul the Apostle, including letters, narratives, prayers, and apocalypses. An approximate date given to the Acts of Paul is 100-160 AD.[1] The Acts of Paul were first mentioned by Tertullian, who deemed the work to be heretical because it encouraged women to preach and baptize. The Acts of Paul were considered orthodox by Hippolytus of Rome but were eventually regarded as heretical when the Manichaeans started using the texts. The author of the Acts of Paul is unknown, but probably came from a Christian community in Asia Minor that revered Paul. The work does not use the canonical Acts of the Apostles as a source; instead it relies on oral traditions of Paul's missionary work. The text is primarily known from Greek manuscripts.[2] The discovery of a Coptic language version of the text demonstrated that the text was composed of:

All of these constituent parts were often considered worth treating as separate texts and frequently appeared independently, leading to speculation that the Acts of Paul may have been compiling disparate stories into one work, although other parts scholars believe to be original to the Acts of Paul. Besides the four main sections mentioned above, the remainder of the Acts of Paul exist only in fragments from the 3rd and 5th centuries:

The texts are a coherent whole and are 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, he expressed doctrinal orthodoxy in regard to continence and Resurrection. Also, they mentioned the close relationship between sexual purity and salvation.


The Acts of Paul — which was declared to be antilegomena by Eusebius in his Church History — consists of narratives depicting Paul's preaching and other activities, such as the Acts of Paul and Thecla, Paul's Correspondence With the Corinthians, and the Martyrdom of the Holy Apostle Paul.

Paul's Correspondence With the Corinthians was written roughly a century after the death of Paul, with the intention of correcting perceived misinterpretations of Paul's first and second epistles, as well as to counter certain Gnostic teachings. This work consists of two letters. The first letter is the Epistle of the Corinthians to Paul, in which the author tells the story of how two presbyters had come to Corinth, preaching "pernicious words". Specifically, they claimed that God is not almighty, there is no resurrection of the body, man was not created by God, Christ had not come in the flesh, nor was he born of Mary, and the world was created not by God but rather by angels. The second letter is Paul's response to the first. In this letter, the author repudiates all of the claims made by the two presbyters.[3]

The Martyrdom of the Holy Apostle Paul tells the story of Paul's last days in Rome. Upon learning that Paul had resurrected a young man who had died after falling from a parapet, Nero became fearful that the Roman Empire might be overthrown by the Christians. This was the event that precipitated the Neronian persecution of Christians in general, as well as the specific order to behead Paul. According to this work, when Paul was beheaded, milk — rather than blood — spurted from his neck.[4][5]

Richard J. Bauckham argues that the author of the Acts of Paul drew directly from 2 Timothy in addition to 1 and 2 Corinthians to write a sequel to the Acts of the Apostles based on their understanding of Paul’s final years.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jones, Timothy Paul (2007). Misquoting Truth. InterVarsity Press. p. 167..
  2. ^ Pervo, R.I. (2014). The Acts of Paul: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. Wipf & Stock Publishers. p. 61. ISBN 978-1-63087-146-8.
  3. ^ Pick, Bernhard (1909). "Paul's Correspondence With the Corinthians". The Apocryphal Acts of Paul, Peter, John, Andrew and Thomas. Chicago: The Open Court Publishing Co. pp. 35–42. ISBN 9780837019123.
  4. ^ Pick, Bernhard (1909). "The Martyrdom of the Holy Apostle Paul". The Apocryphal Acts of Paul, Peter, John, Andrew and Thomas. Chicago: The Open Court Publishing Co. pp. 43–9. ISBN 9780837019123. And turning toward the east, Paul lifted up his hands to heaven and prayed much; and after having conversed in Hebrew with the fathers during prayer, he bent his neck, without speaking any more. When the lictor cut off his head, milk splashed on the dress of the soldier. And the soldier, and all who stood near by, were astonished at this sight and glorified God, who had thus honored Paul. And they went away and reported everything to Caesar.
  5. ^ Lipsius, Richard Adelbert (1891). "passio sancti Pauli apostoli". In Bonnet, Maximilian (ed.). Acta apostolorum apocrypha (in Latin). Vol. 1. Leipzig: Hermann Mendelssohn. pp. 23–44.
  6. ^ Richard Bauckham, “The Acts of Paul as a Sequel of Acts,” in The Book of Acts in its Ancient Literary Setting, ed. Bruce Winter and Andrew Clarke (Grand Rapids: Wm. B Eerdmans, 1993), 105-152.


External links[edit]

  • The full text of Acts of Paul at Wikisource, translation and commentary by M. R. James in the 1924 book The Apocryphal New Testament
  • Acta Pauli A website devoted to an international, scholarly discussion of the Acts of Paul.