Thursday, May 5, 2022

Acts of Paul and Thecla

Acts of Paul and Thecla

The Acts of Paul and Thecla story comes from The Acts of Thecla, an alternate name for second-century apocryphal writing. In this article, we have given the Text details to let you know about its characters, story, etc.

What do you know about Acts of Paul and Thecla?

It is a text where a young woman is known as Thecla. She hears Paul preaching in Iconium, and as a result, she becomes a zealous convert. The way Paul teaches about chastity and celibacy attracts her. Even she cancels her engagement and follows Paul to jail to know details about Christian doctrine. She spends a whole night listening to him by bribing the jailers. After that, she is burnt at the stake to give death.

How Thecla is saved from different obstacles:

However, as per the story details, she gets saved from the fire by a miraculous downpour of rain. Next, she runs away to find Paul again, and then they move to Antioch. When he tells her to wait for baptism, she gets raped nearly by a nobleman in Antioch. But she got arrested and sentenced to death again for fighting with her attacker. Finally, she is approx naked while being thrown into an arena full of wild animals.

During her survival journey, a lioness gives her protection. According to the story, she then jumps into a pool with many seals and man-eaters. But she has a powerful heaven cover killing animals and protecting her from them. The third time, she is about to be killed by bulls but is saved by supernatural fire.

However, when local people don't try to kill her more, she converts many people through her testimony. After that, she dressed as a man and went to find him again. As soon as she sees Paul in Myra, he commissions her as a teacher. She then takes a vow of absolute celibacy. After that, she encourages women to follow the Lord and remain unmarried. Thus, gradually she becomes an ascetic and keeps herself protected from another attempted rape.

She spends her life in prayer, teaching, and performing healing miracles per the story. Finally, after 72 years as a hermit in Rome, she leaves again to see him. But he died before her arrival, seeing which she lies down by his grave. The incident happened around the end of the second century. The early church rejected the acts of Thecla writing like other Christian-flavored writings, including The Apocalypse of Peter and The Shepherd of Hermas.

The writing has many non-biblical embellishments. Hence, you can see all the miracles are understated. In this text, you can see promoting speaking to the dead and praying for the dead.


Tertullian, De baptismo 17:5 (c. 190), says that a presbyter who wrote the text was deposed when he confessed that he was its writer.

In the reign of Commodus (180–192), Eugenia of Rome took Thecla as her model before Tertullian disapproved. It is reported in the Acts of her martyrdom, and Jerome gathers details from Tertullian. However, a few scholars consider the text a 1st-century creation for its exactitude in reporting on chronology.

According to several surviving versions of the Acts of Paul and Thecla in Greek, a few in Coptic, and as per the works among Church fathers, let you know the text was widely disseminated. You get to know about the wide circulation of the Acts of Paul and Thecla in Greek, Syriac, and Armenian in the Eastern Church, a proof of the veneration of Thecla of Iconium. Besides, you can find different versions, such as Latin, Coptic, and Ethiopic versions differing from the Greek widely.

In the Ethiopic, if you don't consider Thecla's admitted claim to preach and to baptize, the story will lose half of its point. The discovery of a Coptic text of the Acts of Paul says that the text's abrupt opening happens to be an excerpt of that more extensive work.

Narrative of the Text:

The author sets the story when Paul the Apostle's First Missionary Journey is running. But you can find the text different from the New Testament portrayal of Paul in the Acts of the Apostles and the Pauline Epistles.

You can find Paul traveling to Iconium (Acts 13:51), and he proclaims the word of God about abstinence and the resurrection. The author gave a beautiful physical description of him, saying that he seemed like a man one time while another time he seemed like an angel.

Paul spread all his sermons in Onesiphorus's home in beatitudes. Thus, Thecla heard about Paul's "discourse on virginity" from her window. Even she had not moved for days to listen to him. Theocleia, Thecla's mother, and her fiancé, Thamyris, became concerned that she might follow his demand that one should fear one God only and live in chastity. After that, they made a mob to drag Paul to the governor.

We have told you before that Paul and Thecla move to Pisidian Antioch. Then, Alexander, a nobleman, wanted to have Thecla and offered Paul money for her. But Paul claimed that he didn't know her. As a result, Alexander was forced to take Thecla. But as she fought off him, she was sentenced to death.

The Hellenistic physicians lost their livelihood and told young people to rape Thecla while she was 90. When they came to take her, a new passage opened in the cave where she escaped. Then, she came to Rome. It is an apocryphal story that Edgar J. Goodspeed called a religious romance.

How the 'The Acts of Paul and Thecla' text describes the physical appearance of the story character Paul:

Acts of Paul and Thecla
The writing was famous in its day, but the leaders of early Christianity disagreed with it and rejected it as false. Like other earlier texts, this writing is exciting and includes the Apostle Paul's physical details. In this text, he is described as a man of low stature, bald on the head, with crooked thighs, beautiful legs, and hollow-eyed. Besides, Paul had a crooked nose & full of grace.

What is the issue with the writing 'The Acts of Paul and Thecla'?

The primary problem with the text is that its main focus is on unbiblical views of sexuality. For instance, you can see him speaking a few words from his mouth, and he indicates the term "blessed" to those who have wives. Besides, he also said that they would be made angels of God.

On the flip side, blessed indicates the bodies and souls of virgins because God accepts them. They will not lose their virginity, which is a reward itself. These teachings conflict with the Bible's principles concerning marriage and sex.

However, husbands and wives must not leave each other or deprive one another of sex. You should know that asceticism and celibacy cannot achieve salvation, and Paul denounced the people who don't allow others to marry.

The writing greatly emphasizes virginity and total denial of the flesh, making it excellent writing. Ancient Gnosticism thought that the body and material things are inherently evil, and Thecla converted her to abstain from sex, pleasure, etc. The text has become famous for teaching celibacy to the people who consider chastity a need for spiritual service, like Catholicism. The Catholic Church has made her a saint worthy of veneration though she was not.

This writing was an old series of pseudepigraphal (noncanonical) New Testament writings known as the Apocryphal Acts. It was about AD 160–180 when this text was written. It describes the Apostle Paul's travels and teachings. Tertullian (AD 160–230) mentioned the Acts of Paul first. He thought that the manuscript was heretical as it encouraged women to preach and baptize.

Who wrote 'The Acts of Paul and Thecla and from where it was taken?

According to Tertullian, a presbyter of a church in Asia, wrote the text. The presbyter said that he wrote it "out of love of Paul," and he was expelled from his church office. The author established a close relationship between sexual purity and salvation to conform to doctrinal orthodoxy regarding continence and the Resurrection despite the anti-Pauline endorsement of female ministry. However, the author did not support the moral laxity of heretical Gnostic sects.

The bottom line:

The article contains all about 'Acts of Paul and Thecla' where you get to know about a boy and a girl. People didn't know about the actual contents until the publication in 1904 of a 6th-century Coptic manuscript. It means that the entire Apocryphon has three different texts, including the Acts of Paul and Thecla, a letter from the Corinthians to Paul and his reply, and the Martyrdom of Paul. People found each of these separate writing in many manuscripts and different publications. The subsequent publication in 1936 of a substantial Greek fragment supported the theory that the texts offer common authorship.

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