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Papers presented at the Eighteenth International Conference on Patristic Studies held in Oxford 2019: Volume 4: Remembering Apostles as Martyrs [1 ed.]
 9042947489, 9789042947481, 9789042947498

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Papers presented at the Eighteenth International Conference on Patristic Studies held in Oxford 2019 Edited by MARKUS VINZENT Volume 4:

Remembering Apostles as Martyrs Edited by STEPHAN WITETSCHEK




STUDIA PATRISTICA Editor: Markus VINZENT, King’s College London, UK and Max Weber Centre, University of Erfurt, Germany

Board of Directors (2019): Carol HARRISON, Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Oxford, UK Mark EDWARDS, Professor of Early Christian Studies, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Oxford, UK Neil MCLYNN, University Lecturer in Later Roman History, Faculty of Classics, University of Oxford, UK Philip BOOTH, A.G. Leventis Associate Professor in Eastern Christianity, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Oxford, UK Sophie LUNN-ROCKLIFFE, Lecturer in Patristics, Faculty of Divinity, University of Cambridge, UK Morwenna LUDLOW, Professor, Theology and Religion, University of Exeter, UK Ioannis PAPADOGIANNAKIS, Senior Lecturer in Patristics, Department of Theology and Religious Studies, King’s College London, UK Markus VINZENT, Professor of the History of Theology, Department of Theology and Religious Studies, King’s College London, UK Josef LÖSSL, Professor of Historical Theology and Intellectual History, School of History, Archaeology and Religion, Cardiff University, UK Lewis AYRES, Professor of Catholic and Historical Theology, Department of Theology and Religion, Durham University, UK John BEHR, Regius Chair in Humanity, The School of Divinity, History, Philosophy & Art History, University of Aberdeen, UK Anthony DUPONT, Research Professor in Christian Antiquity, Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, KU Leuven, Belgium Patricia CINER (as president of AIEP), Professor, Universidad de San Juan-Universidad Católica de Cuyo, Argentina Clayton JEFFORD (as president of NAPS), Professor of Scripture, Seminary and School of Theology, Saint Meinrad, IN, USA


Papers presented at the Eighteenth International Conference on Patristic Studies held in Oxford 2019 Edited by MARKUS VINZENT Volume 4:

Remembering Apostles as Martyrs Edited by STEPHAN WITETSCHEK



© Peeters Publishers — Louvain — Belgium 2021 All rights reserved, including the right to translate or to reproduce this book or parts thereof in any form. D/2021/0602/141 ISBN: 978-90-429-4748-1 eISBN: 978-90-429-4749-8 A catalogue record for this book is available from the Library of Congress. Printed in Belgium by Peeters, Leuven

Table of Contents Stephan WITETSCHEK Introduction .........................................................................................


M. Elisabeth SCHWAB Narrating Death. Tertullian, Cyprian, and Lactantius on the Martyrdom of ‘Others’ ...................................................................................


Markus KIRCHNER ‘The Greatest Example of Endurance’: Paul’s Death in Early Christian Memory – The Case of 1Clem. 5:5-7 .........................................


Cedric BÜCHNER Martyrdom as Access. The Martyrdom of the Apostle Andrew as it is Presented in the Acts of Andrew .....................................................


Florian S. RÖSCH ‘Let us also go that we may die with him’: The Memory of the Martyrdom of Thomas the Twin.........................................................


Stephan WITETSCHEK Peter the Martyr. Christian Memory under Construction...................


David L. EASTMAN Sacred Story, Sacred Space: Tradition and Memory in Accounts of the Death and Burial of Peter ............................................................. 107 Stephan WITETSCHEK Johannes, Märtyrer und Nicht-Märtyrer ............................................. 117 Joseph VERHEYDEN The End of the Apostles: A Brief Response to Some Inspiring Essays .................................................................................................. 135


see ASS. Abhandlungen der Akademie der Wissenschaften in Göttingen Philologisch-historische Klasse, Göttingen. Analecta Bollandiana, Brussels. Antike und Christentum, ed. F.J. Dölger, Münster. Antiquité classique, Louvain. Acta conciliorum oecumenicorum, ed. E. Schwartz, Berlin. Ancient Christian Writers, ed. J. Quasten and J.C. Plumpe, Westminster (Md.)/London. Archives d’histoire doctrinale et littéraire du moyen âge, Paris. American Journal of Ancient History, Cambridge, Mass. American Journal of Philology, Baltimore. Archiv für katholisches Kirchenrecht, Mainz. Abhandlungen der königlichen Preußischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Berlin. Archivum Latinitatis Medii Aevi (Bulletin du Cange), Paris/Brussels. Archiv für Liturgiewissenschaft, Regensburg. Analecta Bollandiana, Brussels. Ante-Nicene Christian Library, Edinburgh. Ante-Nicene Fathers, Buffalo/New York. Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt, ed H. Temporini et al., Berlin. Anatolian Studies, London. Année théologique augustinienne, Paris. Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament in English, ed. R.E. Charles, Oxford. Archivum Romanicum, Florence. Archiv für Religionswissenschaft, Berlin/Leipzig. Acta Sanctorum, ed. the Bollandists, Brussels. Abhandlungen zur Theologie des Alten und Neuen Testaments, Zürich. Augustinianum, Rome. Augustinian Studies, Villanova (USA). Athanasius Werke, ed. H.-G. Opitz et al., Berlin. Archäologische Zeitung, Berlin. Bibliothèque augustinienne, Paris. Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos, Madrid. Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, New Haven, Conn. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd edn F.W. Danker, Chicago. Bibliothèque de l’École des Hautes Études, Paris. Bibliotheca Ephemeridum Theologicarum Lovaniensium, Louvain. Benediktinisches Geistesleben, St. Ottilien. Bibliotheca Hagiographica Graeca, Brussels. Bibliotheca Hagiographica Latina Antiquae et Mediae Aetatis, Brussels.




Bibliotheca Hagiographica Orientalis, Brussels. Beiträge zur historischen Theologie, Tübingen. Bursians Jahresbericht über die Fortschritte der klassischen Altertumswissenschaft, Leipzig. Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, Manchester. Bibliothek der Kirchenväter, ed. F.X. Reithmayr and V. Thalhofer, Kempten. Bibliothek der Kirchenväter, ed. O. Bardenhewer, Th. Schermann, and C. Weyman, Kempten/Munich. Bibliothek der Kirchenväter. Zweite Reihe, ed. O. Bardenhewer, J. Zellinger, and J. Martin, Munich. Bulletin de littérature ecclésiastique, Toulouse. Bonner Jahrbücher, Bonn. Bibliotheca sacra, London. Bolletino di studi latini, Naples. Beiträge zur Wissenschaft vom Alten Testament, Leipzig/Stuttgart. Byzantion, Leuven. Byzantinische Zeitschrift, Leipzig. Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft, Berlin. Cahiers Archéologique, Paris. Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Washington. Corpus Christianorum, Continuatio Mediaevalis, Turnhout/Paris. Corpus Christianorum, Series Apocryphorum, Turnhout/Paris. Corpus Christianorum, Series Graeca, Turnhout/Paris. Corpus Christianorum, Series Latina, Turnhout/Paris. Church History, Chicago. Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum, Berlin. Classical Philology, Chicago. Clavis Patrum Graecorum, ed. M. Geerard, vols. I-VI, Turnhout. Clavis Patrum Latinorum (SE 3), ed. E. Dekkers and A. Gaar, Turnhout. Classical Quarterly, London/Oxford. The Classical Review, London/Oxford. Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium, Louvain. Aeth = Scriptores Aethiopici Ar = Scriptores Arabici Arm = Scriptores Armeniaci Copt = Scriptores Coptici Iber = Scriptores Iberici Syr = Scriptores Syri Subs = Subsidia Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum, Vienna. Corpus Scriptorum Historiae Byzantinae, Bonn. Collectanea Theologica, Lvov. Collection des Universités de France publiée sous le patronage de l’Association Guillaume Budé, Paris. Catholic World, New York. Dictionary of the Apostolic Church, ed. J. Hastings, Edinburgh.




see DAL Dictionnaire d’archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie, ed. F. Cabrol, H. Leclercq, Paris. Dictionnaire de la Bible, Paris. Dictionnaire de la Bible, Supplément, Paris. Dictionary of Christian Biography, Literature, Sects, and Doctrines, ed. W. Smith and H. Wace, 4 vols, London. Dictionnaire d’histoire et de géographie ecclésiastique, ed. A. Baudrillart, Paris. Didaskalia, Lisbon. Dumbarton Oaks Papers, Cambridge, Mass., subsequently Washington, D.C. Dumbarton Oaks Studies, Cambridge, Mass., subsequently Washington, D.C. Downside Review, Stratton on the Fosse, Bath. H.J. Denzinger and A. Schönmetzer, ed., Enchiridion Symbolorum, Barcelona/Freiburg i.B./Rome. Dictionnaire de Spiritualité, ed. M. Viller, S.J., and others, Paris. Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. A. Vacant, E. Mangenot, and E. Amann, Paris. Études augustiniennes, Paris. Enciclopedia Cattolica, Rome. Eastern Churches Quarterly, Ramsgate. Estudios eclesiasticos, Madrid. Encyclopedia of the Early Church, ed. A. Di Berardino, Cambridge. Evangelisch-Katholischer Kommentar zum Neuen Testament, Neukirchen. Enchiridion Fontium Historiae Ecclesiasticae Antiquae, ed. Ueding-Kirch, 6th ed., Barcelona. Échos d’Orient, Paris. Études Byzantines, Paris. Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses, Louvain. Exegetisches Wörterbuch zum NT, ed. H.R. Balz et al., Stuttgart. The Expository Times, Edinburgh. The Fathers of the Church, New York. Fragmente der griechischen Historiker, Berlin. Forschungen zur Kirchen- und Dogmengeschichte, Göttingen. Forschungen zur Religion und Literatur des Alten und Neuen Testaments, Göttingen. Festschrift. Freiburger theologische Studien, Freiburg i.B. Frankfurter theologische Studien, Frankfurt a.M. Freiburger Zeitschrift für Theologie und Philosophie, Freiburg/Switzerland. Die griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller, Leipzig/Berlin. Geschichtsschreiber der deutschen Vorzeit, Stuttgart. Grande Lessico del Nuovo Testamento, Genoa. Gregorii Nysseni Opera, Leiden. Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies, Cambridge, Mass.



Geschichte in Wissenschaft und Unterricht, Offenburg. Handbuch zum Neuen Testament. Tübingen. Harvard Dissertations in Religion, Missoula. Historisches Jahrbuch der Görresgesellschaft, successively Munich, Cologne and Munich/Freiburg i.B. Handbuch der Kirchengeschichte, Tübingen. Handbuch zum Neuen Testament, Tübingen. Handbuch der Orientalistik, Leiden. Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, Cambridge, Mass. Harvard Theological Review, Cambridge, Mass. Harvard Theological Studies, Cambridge, Mass. Historische Zeitschrift, Munich/Berlin. The International Critical Commentary of the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, Edinburgh. Inscriptiones Latinae Christianae Veteres, ed. E. Diehl, Berlin. Inscriptiones Latinae Selectae, ed. H. Dessau, Berlin. Jahrbuch für Antike und Christentum, Münster. Journal of Biblical Literature, Philadelphia, Pa., then various places. Jahrbuch des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts, Berlin. Journal of Early Christian Studies, Baltimore. The Journal of Ecclesiastical History, London. Journal of Jewish Studies, London. Jahrbuch für Liturgik und Hymnologie, Kassel. Jahrbücher für protestantische Theologie, Leipzig/Freiburg i.B. Jewish Quarterly Review, Philadelphia. Journal of Roman Studies, London. Journal for the Study of Judaism in the Persian, Hellenistic and Roman Period, Leiden. Journal of the Society of Oriental Research, Chicago. Journal of Theological Studies, Oxford. Kommentar zu den apostolischen Vätern, Göttingen. Kerk en Theologie, ’s Gravenhage. Kirchliches Jahrbuch für die evangelische Kirche in Deutschland, Gütersloh. The Loeb Classical Library, London/Cambridge, Mass. A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, ed. P. Schaff and H. Wace, Buffalo/New York. Library of Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church, Oxford. H.G. Liddell and R. Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, new (9th) edn H.S. Jones, Oxford. Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, Freiburg i.B. Septuagint. Moyen-Âge, Brussels. Monumenta Asiae Minoris Antiqua, London. J.D. Mansi, Sacrorum conciliorum nova et amplissima collectio, Florence, 1759-1798. Reprint and continuation: Paris/Leipzig, 1901-1927. Münsterische Beiträge zur Theologie, Münster.




Miscelanea Comillas, Comillas/Santander. Monumenta germaniae historica. Hanover/Berlin. Mediaevalia Lovaniensia, Louvain. See PG. Mélanges de science religieuse, Lille. Münchener theologische Zeitschrift, Munich. Le Muséon, Louvain. Nestle-Aland, Novum Testamentum Graece, 28th edition, Stuttgart. Nachrichten der Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen. Nag Hammadi (and Manichaean) Studies, Leiden. New International Version. New King James Version. Novum Testamentum, Leiden. See LNPF. New Revised Standard Version. Nouvelle Revue Théologique, Tournai/Louvain/Paris. Neutestamentliche Abhandlungen, Münster. Novum Testamentum Supplements, Leiden. New Testament Studies, Cambridge/Washington. New Testament Tools, Studies and Documents, Leiden/Boston. Orbis biblicus et orientalis, Freiburg, Switz., then Louvain. Orientalia Christiana Analecta, Rome. Orientalia Christiana Periodica, Rome. Oxford Early Christian Studies, Oxford. Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta, Louvain. Orientalia Lovaniensia Periodica, Louvain. Orientalia. Commentarii editi a Pontificio Instituto Biblico, Rome. Oriens Christianus, Leipzig, then Wiesbaden. L’Orient Syrien, Paris. Migne, Patrologia, series graeca. A Patristic Greek Lexicon, ed. G.L. Lampe, Oxford. Migne, Patrologia, series latina. The Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire, ed. A.H.M. Jones et al., Cambridge. Migne, Patrologia, series latina. Supplementum ed. A. Hamman. Patrologia Orientalis, Paris. Paulys Realenzyklopädie der classischen Alterthumswissenschaft, Stuttgart. Patrologia Syriaca, Paris. Papyrologische Texte und Abhandlungen, Bonn. Princeton Theological Review, Princeton. Patristische Texte und Studien, Berlin. Paulys Realencyclopädie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft, ed. G. Wissowa, Stuttgart. Questions liturgiques et paroissiales, Louvain. Questions liturgiques, Louvain. Rivista di Archeologia Cristiana, Rome. Reallexikon für Antike und Christentum, Stuttgart.

XII RAM RAug RBen RB(ibl) RE


Revue d’ascétique et de mystique, Paris. Recherches Augustiniennes, Paris. Revue Bénédictine, Maredsous. Revue biblique, Paris. Realencyklopädie für protestantische Theologie und Kirche, founded by J.J. Herzog, 3e ed. A. Hauck, Leipzig. REA(ug) Revue des études Augustiniennes, Paris. REB Revue des études byzantines, Paris. RED Rerum ecclesiasticarum documenta, Rome. RÉL Revue des études latines, Paris. REG Revue des études grecques, Paris. RevSR Revue des sciences religieuses, Strasbourg. RevThom Revue thomiste, Toulouse. RFIC Rivista di filologia e d’istruzione classica, Turin. RGG Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart, ed. Gunkel-Zscharnack, Tübingen RHE Revue d’histoire ecclésiastique, Louvain. RhMus Rheinisches Museum für Philologie, Bonn. RHR Revue de l’histoire des religions, Paris. RHT Revue d’Histoire des Textes, Paris. RMAL Revue du Moyen-Âge Latin, Paris. ROC Revue de l’Orient chrétien, Paris. RPh Revue de philologie, Paris. RQ Römische Quartalschrift, Freiburg i.B. RQH Revue des questions historiques, Paris. RSLR Rivista di storia e letteratura religiosa, Florence. RSPT, RSPh Revue des sciences philosophiques et théologiques, Paris. RSR Recherches de science religieuse, Paris. RTAM Recherches de théologie ancienne et médiévale, Louvain. RthL Revue théologique de Louvain, Louvain. RTM Rivista di teologia morale, Bologna. Sal Salesianum, Roma. SBA Schweizerische Beiträge zur Altertumswissenschaft, Basel. SBS Stuttgarter Bibelstudien, Stuttgart. ScEc Sciences ecclésiastiques, Bruges. SCh, SC Sources chrétiennes, Paris. SD Studies and Documents, ed. K. Lake and S. Lake. London/Philadelphia. SE Sacris Erudiri, Bruges. SDHI Studia et documenta historiae et iuris, Roma. SH Subsidia Hagiographica, Brussels. SHA Scriptores Historiae Augustae. SJMS Speculum. Journal of Mediaeval Studies, Cambridge, Mass. SM Studien und Mitteilungen zur Geschichte des Benediktinerordens und seiner Zweige, Munich. SO Symbolae Osloenses, Oslo. SP Studia Patristica, successively Berlin, Kalamazoo, Leuven. SPM Stromata Patristica et Mediaevalia, ed. C. Mohrmann and J. Quasten, Utrecht.




Sammlung ausgewählter Quellenschriften zur Kirchen- und Dogmengeschichte, Tübingen. Schriften und Quellen der Alten Welt, Berlin. Spicilegium Sacrum Lovaniense, Louvain. Studi Medievali, Turin. Supplements to Vigiliae Christianae, Leiden. Stoicorum Veterum Fragmenta, ed. J. von Arnim, Leipzig. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Grand Rapids, Mich. Teologia espiritual, Valencia. Theologie und Glaube, Paderborn. Theologische Jahrbücher, Leipzig. Theologische Literaturzeitung, Leipzig. Theologie und Philosophie, Freiburg i.B. Theologische Quartalschrift, Tübingen. Theologische Rundschau, Tübingen. Theologisches Wörterbuch zum Alten Testament, Stuttgart. Theologisches Wörterbuch zum Neuen Testament, Stuttgart. Theologische Zeitschrift, Basel. Thesaurus Linguae Graecae. Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association, Lancaster, Pa. Theologische Realenzyklopädie, Berlin. Theological Studies, New York and various places; now Washington, DC. Trierer theologische Zeitschrift, Trier. Texte und Untersuchungen, Leipzig/Berlin. Union Seminary Quarterly Review, New York. Vigiliae Christianae, Amsterdam. Vetera Christianorum, Bari (Italy). Vetus Testamentum, Leiden. Word Biblical Commentary, Waco. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament, Tübingen. Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde des Morgenlandes, Vienna. Yale University Press, New Haven. Zeitschrift für Antikes Christentum, Berlin. Zeitschrift für Aszese und Mystik, Innsbruck, then Würzburg. Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft, Giessen, then Berlin. Zeitschrift des Deutschen Palästina-Vereins, Leipzig. Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte, Gotha, then Stuttgart. Zeitschrift für katholische Theologie, Vienna. Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft und die Kunde der älteren Kirche, Giessen, then Berlin. Zeitschrift für Rechtsgeschichte, Weimar. Zeitschrift für Theologie und Kirche, Tübingen.

Introduction Stephan WITETSCHEK, LMU Munich, Germany

Since 2001, at the latest, there are very good reasons for having and cultivating a sustained interest in the phenomenon of martyrdom and its conceptualisation.1 People who deliberately die for their religious conviction(s) have lost their prima facie innocence. Since 2001, at the latest, the concept of martyrdom requires rethinking, if martyrdom is still meant to maintain meaning and positive value in the collective memory and resultant self-understanding of religious communities like Christian churches. Meanwhile, this discourse has literally come of age.2 Martyrdom has now come to be seen not so much as an objective description, but as an evaluation ascribed to a person’s violent death, an evaluation that may be plausible within the conceptual framework of a certain group, but not necessarily for other groups or in the axiomatic structure of a given society.3 The other side of the coin is the concept of persecution, which, following the pioneering work of Adela Yarbro Collins on the Apocalypse of John,4 has come to be seen, in many cases, as a matter of perception: The sense of being persecuted does not provide conclusive evidence for a situation of 1 It may suffice to mention a few handbook-like instances from the vast amount of recent publications on the issue of martyrdom in early Christianity: Candida R. Moss, Ancient Christian Martyrdom. Diverse Practices, Theologies, and Traditions, AYRL (New Haven, CT, London, 2012); Paul Middleton (ed.), The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Christian Martyrdom (Chichester, Hoboken, NJ, 2020). Overall, the existence of even a ‘Very Short Introduction’ is telling; see Jolyon Mitchell, Martyrdom. A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2012). 2 Besides the handbooks mentioned in n. 1, reference may be made, e.g., to James A. Kelhoffer, Persecution, Persuasion and Power. Readiness to Withstand Hardship as a Corroboration of Legitimacy in the New Testament, WUNT 270 (Tübingen, 2010); Candida R. Moss, The Other Christs. Imitating Jesus in Ancient Christian Ideologies of Martyrdom (Oxford, 2010); ead., The Myth of Persecution. How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom (New York, 2013), as well as to a forthcoming study: Katharina Waldner, Die Erfindung des Martyriums. Wahrheit, Recht und religiöse Identität in Hellenismus und Kaiserzeit, STAC (Tübingen, forthcoming). 3 See, e.g., Paul Middleton, ‘Creating and Contesting Christian Martyrdom’, in id. (ed.), The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Christian Martyrdom (Chichester, Hoboken, NJ, 2020), 12-29, esp. 25-6; accordingly, Middleton deliberately refuses to give a definition of ‘martyrdom’. 4 See Adela Yarbro Collins, Crisis and Catharsis. The Power of the Apocalypse (Philadelphia, PA, 1984), esp. 84-110 on the concept of ‘perceived crisis’. For a different approach with the same result (by a historian), see Ulrike Riemer, Das Tier auf dem Kaiserthron? Eine Untersuchung zur Offenbarung des Johannes als historischer Quelle, BzA 114 (Stuttgart, Leipzig, 1998).

Studia Patristica CVII, 1-9. © Peeters Publishers, 2021.



persecution in objective terms (i.e., repressive measures by the government in a legal framework against, e.g., Christians as Christians5). Since the 1980s, therefore, a shift of paradigms is to be noted: The ancient Christian discourse on persecution and martyrdom meets a critical approach that is aimed at understanding this discourse as the subjective interpretation of certain events as it proved plausible within a certain group. This may even lead to the question whether ‘martyrdom’ is at all a useful descriptive term for the fact of a person’s violent death.6 I. Memory Studies and Remembering Apostles This is where memory studies with a particular focus on the dynamics of collective memory enter the stage. Memory, in this sense is not a repository of past facts, but a way of making sense of the past, or of referring to the past in a manner that makes sense for the self-understanding or collective identity of a group – or even of society at large. In this sense, (collective) memory is not only (but also) selective and tendentious, it can even turn out to be constructive in view of a past that makes sense to the present.7 That is to say, one cannot exclude that groups determine their identity by referring not to the past as it ‘really happened’ (whatever that may mean), but to their construction of the past that may (but need not), to a lesser or greater extent, survive the test of critical historical inquiry. For scholars devoted to an ideal of objective knowledge 5

This means that the reason for repressive measures is precisely the Christian faith as such (which, therefore, has to be sufficiently prominent to serve as an identifiable target), not its more or less accidental corollaries, such as the refusal to participate in sacrificial cult. If one thus approaches persecution from the point of view of the persecutors, as it were, the record of persecutions of Christians in the pre-Constantinian period becomes remarkably thin. However, one may question whether the (etic) notion of ‘Christian martyrdom’ necessarily requires an explicit (emic) self-consciousness of the victims as Χριστιανοί and knowledge of the term by those responsible for the killing; for such a strict definition see, e.g., C. Moss, Myth of Persecution (2013), 133-4. – In this volume, ‘Christian’ is used as a descriptive term for adherents of Jesus, even if the persons in question, in their day, did not yet have the terminological means to identify themselves as such. The texts referring to them, however, were mostly composed in circumstances where the category ‘Christian’ was already established. 6 This is not to suggest that the term ‘martyrdom’ is altogether useless. But, strictly speaking, the use of this term implies a statement, with the observer leaving their neutral stance and siding (if only for the sake of the argument) with an interpretation that assigns positive (moral and theological) value to the violent deaths of certain persons adhering to certain (religious) beliefs. – In this introduction, as well in the other contributions in this volume, we continue to use the term ‘martyrdom’, since we are trying to understand and interpret the discourse we encounter in the pertinent source texts. 7 For a summary with pertinent references see, e.g., Alan Kirk, ‘Social and Cultural Memory’, in id. and Tom Thatcher (eds), Memory, Tradition, and Text. Uses of the Past in Early Christianity, Semeia Studies 52 (Atlanta, GA, 2005), 1-24, 10-1. – In this sense, the subtitle of the volume (‘Uses of the Past’) is very well chosen indeed.



of facts, there may be a considerable temptation to assess this phenomenon in moralising terms, using vocabulary like ‘to fabricate’, ‘to invent’, ‘to concoct’, ‘fictitious’, ‘fraud’, or the dichotomy of ‘true’ and ‘false’. To be sure, there are cases where the unmasking of persistent and sometimes even dangerous myths about the origins of Christianity is still a worthwhile endeavour.8 Scholarship inspired by memory studies, however, tends to take a different avenue: Leaving aside the question of historicity or historical reference for methodological reasons, scholars approach the documents in question (e.g., gospels or martyr acts) primarily as sources for the attitudes of their authors and first audiences. This approach makes it possible to appreciate, e.g., texts referring to the earliest history of Christianity as documents in their own right with the narrative world they create, without rashly dismissing their overall value on the basis of the single criterion of historical referentiality or lack thereof. In other words: Early Christian narratives thus receive a comparatively broad assessment, judging mainly their theological, religious and aesthetic merits and even their value as fiction, without tying the category of ‘fiction’ to a moral evaluation by the criterion of (historical) truthfulness. In view of ancient historiography as well as early Christian narratives (in the broadest possible sense), reference to the past is almost inevitably twinned with fictionality.9 This means that reference to the past can only appear in a somehow organised, orderly fashion, and this ordering of the past inevitably comes not only with interpretation and evaluation,10 but also with the creation of a conceptual or narrative ‘world’ (however rudimentary it may be) in which the individual events or bits of information only receive their significance. Reference to the past in this sense, however, appears at different levels, from shared 8 This is, for instance, the driving force in C. Moss, Myth of Persecution (2013). While the entire book seems to be aimed at deconstructing a traditional myth of Christian apologetics (bluntly put: ‘The Christian message of the resurrection of Jesus is true because the apostles and other Christians died for it’), the persistent power of an idealising myth of martyrdom even in recent public discourse becomes the target especially in the last chapter (pp. 247-60). In the meantime, political rhetoric (with self-pitying talk of perceived persecution and self-styled martyrdom) in several countries has developed in such a way that Moss’ study is even timelier now than she could have aspired in 2013. 9 See, e.g., Knut Backhaus and Gerd Häfner, Historiographie und fiktionales Erzählen. Zur Konstruktivität in Geschichtstheorie und Exegese, BThS 86 (Neukirchen-Vluyn 2007, 22009), esp. 1-29 (Backhaus – reprinted in Knut Backhaus, Die Entgrenzung des Heils. Gesammelte Studien zur Apostelgeschichte, WUNT 422 [Tübingen, 2019], 129-55) and 67-96 (Häfner – mostly in dialogue with Hayden White, The Tropics of Discourse. Essays in Cultural Criticism [Baltimore, MD, 1978] and with White’s successors). Moreover: Hans-Joachim Gehrke, Geschichte als Element antiker Kultur. Die Griechen und ihre Geschichte(n), Münchner Vorlesungen zu antiken Welten 2 (Berlin, New York, 2014), esp. 65-119. 10 A good example is the composition of any newspaper: Decisions have to be made as to which story finds a place on the first page and which one remains hidden in a brief one-column note. The same is basically true for online media, although in these cases the decisions are influenced by the user’s preferences.



(and agreed-upon) recollections within a family to the foundational myth of an entire state or empire. The classic work of Jan Assmann11 has mostly been focussed on the ‘cultural memory’ of states or societies, i.e., textualised, or even – avant la lettre – canonised, myth or axiomatic common knowledge. For the study of early (i.e., pre-Constantinian) Christianity, however, levels below that of cultural memory are more pertinent. Following the clarifying work of Sandra Huebenthal,12 it seems appropriate to speak of ‘collective memory’ when referring to the shared reference to the past that informs the collective identity of a group larger than a person’s immediate social environment, that may, but need not, have been written down and that may exist in several, possibly competing, versions. The shared reference to the past that informs the collective identity of a small group (e.g., a family or a peer group) and is usually cultivated orally, hence limited to the span of three to four generations, is referred to as ‘social memory’. These distinctions prove most helpful in studying the sorts of memory that were relevant to the formation of early Christian identities. This is the framework of the project ‘Memoria Apostolorum’ as it is being run since 2017 at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität at Munich (Faculty of Catholic Theology). This project, funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), has as its objective the study of apostolic figures (hence not only the ‘Twelve Apostles’) as they appear in Christian collective memory (or memories), documented by Christian literature from the 1st-3rd centuries. The project’s leading question is how these figures are employed as elements of a meaningful past, and how remembering them serves the collective self-understanding of Christians in the first three centuries AD. The first phase of this project (2017-2020) was devoted to what one may call the ‘Big Five’, i.e., those apostles who, by the late 2nd or early 3rd century, became protagonists of their own narratives (‘Apocryphal Acts of Apostles’): Peter, Paul, John, Thomas and Andrew. Workshops in the project focussed on particular aspects or roles that are – largely – common to all five and thus allow comparison (‘Apostles as Miracle-Workers’, ‘Apostles as Martyrs’ and ‘Apostles as Teachers and Learners’). One of these was the workshop ‘Apostles as Martyrs’ held during the 2019 Oxford Patristics Conference, which is documented in this volume. The papers in this volume largely deal with formal narratives of the deaths of apostles, i.e., Apocryphal Acts of Apostles and later martyrdom stories. In the cases of Peter and Paul (partly for John, too), however, there are several more texts that mention the violent deaths of these apostles, yet without providing a 11 Jan Assmann, Das kulturelle Gedächtnis. Schrift, Erinnerung und politische Identität in frühen Hochkulturen (Munich, 1992); ET: Cultural Memory and Early Civilization. Writing, Remembrance, and Political Imagination, trans. David H. Wilson (Cambridge, 2011). 12 Sandra Huebenthal, Das Markusevangelium als kollektives Gedächtnis, FRLANT 253 (Göttingen, 2014), for the following see esp. 11-155 with the table on p. 148. ET: Reading Mark’s Gospel as a Text from Collective Memory (Grand Rapids, MI, 2020), esp. 1-178 with table on p. 170.



full narrative in the literary sense (see especially the papers by Kirchner and Witetschek). One may compare these allusions to the tips of icebergs; they seem to point to an underlying narrative or narratives (in a broad sense, viz. the sense being made of the past). These narratives are what the memory of apostles is made of.

II. Apostolic Martyrdoms and Narratives of Martyrdoms The objective of this volume is to trace the development of early Christian narratives (in the broadest possible sense) about the violent deaths (understood as martyrdoms) of apostolic figures. The afterlife of apostles (in this case, equivalent to ‘the Twelve’, most notably excluding Paul) has received extensive treatment by Régis Burnet.13 Burnet’s work, comprehensive as far as its aspirations go, deals with the apostles’ martyrdoms as one aspect among others. While presenting an immense wealth of source material, Burnet did not provide a theoretical framework that would have related his work to contemporary conceptions of (collective) memory, fictionality and historical reference. In the case of early Christian memories of apostles, however, these theoretical issues are not discussed for their own sake, but in order to avoid rather pointless controversies and to arrive at an adequate and balanced appreciation of the texts in question (see above). An example may illustrate the point: In her valuable study The Myth of Persecution, Candida Moss made a considerable effort to deconstruct the widely held myth of pre-Constantinian Christianity being under constant bloody persecution or threat thereof. Coming to the deaths of the Apostles, she observed that the extant narrative about, e.g., Peter’s violent death (the Martyrdom of Peter, being part of the Acts of Peter) is formally close to a novel and generally unreliable because it was composed more than 100 years after the event.14 The earlier testimony 1Clem 5.4 is dismissed as ‘just an interpretation’.15 In a rather apologetic, maximalist reaction to her work, Sean McDowell quotes a review of The Myth of Persecution that criticises Moss’ formally identical dismissal of Tacitus’ passage on the persecution of Christians under Nero (Ann. 15.44): ‘This is the same as suggesting that no one today can write accurately about what happened during the Kennedy administration!’16 Both parties, however, 13 Régis Burnet, Les douze apôtres. Histoire de la réception des figures apostoliques dans le christianisme ancien (Turnhout, 2014). 14 See C. Moss, Myth of Persecution (2013), 136. 15 C. Moss, Myth of Persecution (2013), 137. 16 Paul L. Maier, ‘The Myth of Persecution: A Provocative Title, An Overdone Thesis’, in Christian Research Journal 36 (2013), 55 (



seem to measure the value of the texts in question solely in terms of their ‘accuracy’, i.e., exact historical referentiality. They differ on the question of whether the temporal distance of fifty (or, for the sake of our argument, one hundred) years is already too long for a text to report ‘what really happened’. Memory studies have shown, however, that the temporal distance of a few hours may already be sufficient for a story about a given event to take a particular shape that is approved by the community telling the story.17 The ideal of ‘accuracy’ of a given source thus becomes elusive.18 Approaching the matter from a different angle, the account of a past event can hardly be anything else than narrative. Since a narrative creates a world with characters and objects in which changes of state take place and are interpreted in view of their order and causal relations,19 a narrative cannot help being an interpretation of events that may also yield some information about the bare facts. The past is only to be had in the form of interpreting narrative. In the case of violent deaths of Christians, including the first followers of Jesus, interpretative efforts may have been even more necessary than in other cases. If they fell victims to unchallenged mob violence, this very fact would have revealed their position in society as precarious; if they were executed following a regular death sentence by the Roman administration, this would have marked them as convicted criminals. If remembering them was to cause anything else than embarrassment, a positive interpretation was desperately needed. One strategy was to model the deaths of Christian martyrs after the death of Jesus.20 This is also evident for the apostles in question: In the case of Peter, Tertullian (Praescr. 36.3) thus allusively points to Peter’s crucifixion, and the Acts of Peter (Acts Pet. 40 / Mart. Pet. 11) describe Peter’s very death in terms of John 19:30 (παρέδωκεν τὸ πνεῦμα). The description is also given for the death of Andrew in Acts Andr. 63(9), and, at least according to one Greek a-provocative-title-an-overdone-thesis/, last viewed 18 March 2021), quoted with approval by Sean McDowell, The Fate of the Apostles. Examining the Martyrdom Accounts of the Closest Followers of Jesus (Farnham/Burlington, VT, 2015), 51. 17 See, e.g. (drawing on anthropological fieldwork on Madagascar), John S. Kloppenborg, ‘Memory, Performance, and the Sayings of Jesus’, JSHJ 10 (2012), 97-132, 109, revised version in Karl Galinsky (ed.), Memory in Ancient Rome and Early Christianity (Oxford, 2016), 286-323, 295-6; see also S. Huebenthal, Markusevangelium (2014), 77-96; ET 85-108. 18 When dealing with events in recent history, historians have become inclined rather not to trust eyewitnesses when it comes to establishing a report of historical facts. 19 This is the condensed form of the definition offered by Marie-Laure Ryan, ‘The Modes of Narrativity and Their Visual Metaphors’, Style 26 (1992), 368-87, 371; see also S. Huebenthal, Markusevangelium (2014), 96-124; ET 109-42. 20 This is treated at length in C. Moss, The Other Christs (2010); see also, e.g., C. Moss, Myth of Persecution (2013), 36; Paul Middleton, ‘Martyrdom and Persecution in the New Testament’, in id. (ed.), The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Christian Martyrdom (Chichester, Hoboken, NJ, 2020), 51-71, 67.



variant, to that of Thomas (Acts Thom. 168). Even John, whose death the Acts of John describe in detail as non-violent, dies like Jesus on the cross: παρέδωκε τὸ πνεῦμα χαιρῶν (Acts John 115). To be sure, this would hardly have been convincing for outsiders, but within a Christian audience it would have provided a sufficient rationale for interpreting these deaths in a positive manner. Especially in cases where Christians were executed by the authorities, the positive memory of them as martyrs would have come into conflict with the aspiration to be respectable members of society – a dilemma: Either these martyrs were rightly executed, then they were hardly worth remembering and certainly no good examples to be emulated, or they were in fact good people worth remembering, then something must have been wrong with the authorities who had them put to death. The solution to this dilemma lay in the fact that the Roman Empire had many rulers, and Romans were aware that not all (past) emperors and certainly not all governors and their underlings were morally beyond reproach. This made it possible to attribute the sufferings and deaths of prominent Christians like apostles either to the wicked emperor Nero (Peter and Paul) or to a provincial official or local magnate of dubious qualities (Andrew, partly Paul) – or even to a ‘barbarian’ ruler (Thomas). Both strategies made it possible not only to remember the violent deaths of apostles and other Christians without embarrassment, but also to endow them with respect, even authority.21 By the mid-2nd century, the positive interpretation of violent death as martyrdom led to the axiomatic assumption – at least in some parts of Christianity – that apostles were quite naturally to be regarded as martyrs. Pol. Phil. 9.1-2, while sharing some allusive phrasing with 1Clem. 5, seems to suggest that apostles in general (with a particular nod to Paul) died as martyrs like Jesus.22 While it is not evident that Polycarp equated apostles with ‘the Twelve’, and while some rhetorical flourish is certainly to be accounted for, this passage seems to be the first piece of evidence to suggest that apostles were considered 21 In the footsteps of Pierre Bourdieu, one may speak of ‘social capital’; see J.A. Kelhoffer, Persecution, Persuasion and Power (2010), esp. 11. 22 Pol. Phil. 9.1-2: (1) Παρακαλῶ οὖν πάντας ὑμᾶς πειθαρχεῖν τῷ λόγῳ τῆ δικαιοσύνης καί ὑπομένειν πᾶσαν ὑπομονήν, ἣν καὶ εἴδατε κατ᾿ ὀφθαλμοὺς οὐ μόνον ἐν τοῖς μακαρίοις Ἰγνατίῳ καὶ Ζωσίμῳ καὶ Ῥούφῳ, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐν ἄλλοις τοῖς ἐξ ὑμῶν καὶ ἐν αὐτῷ Παύλῳ καὶ τοῖς λοιποῖς ἀποστόλοις· (2) πεπεισμένους, ὅτι οὗτοι πάντες οὐκ εἰς κένον ἔδραμον, ἀλλ᾿ ἐν πίστει καὶ δικαιοσύνῃ, καὶ ὅτι εἰς τὸν ὀφειλόμενον αὐτοῖς τόπον εἰσὶ παρὰ τῷ κυρίῳ ᾧ καὶ συνέπαθον. οὐ γὰρ τὸν νῦν ἠγάπησαν αἰῶνα, ἀλλὰ τὸν ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν ἀποθανόντα καὶ δι᾿ ἡμᾶς ὑπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ ἀναστάντα. I encourage all of you to obey the word of righteousness and to endure fast with all endurance, which you have seen with (your own) eyes not only with the blessed Ignatius and Zosimus and Rufus, but also with others from among you and with Paul himself and the other apostles, since you are convinced that they all did not run in vain, but in faithfulness and righteousness, and that they are in the place due to them with the Lord, whose suffering they shared. For they did not love the present aeon, but the one who died for us and, by God’s doing, rose again.



remarkable for their suffering and even violent death. Possibly somewhat later Heracleon (as cited by Clement of Alexandria, Strom. IV 71) stressed the value of life-long witness as the comprehensive one, compared to witness ‘with words’ before the authorities, which, according to him, was only piecemeal. The crucial point in his argument is that not all of the saved ones – and not even all of the apostles (he mentions Matthew, Philipp, Thomas, Levi and many others, Strom. IV 71.3) – ‘departed’ (ἐξῆλθον) after having given their witness with words. Although Heracleon speaks of violent death only in an allusive manner, it is remarkable that he could produce a list of apostles who did not die as martyrs. If this was remarkable in Heracleon’s day, there seem to have been at least some currents in early Christianity who considered violent death the normal fate of an apostle. The texts studied in this volume can be seen of elements in a discourse that accompanied the establishment of the view – which had become normal by late antiquity – that apostles are the martyrs par excellence. In one aspect, however, apostles are different from other Christians who fell victims to measures of the Roman administration: In the early texts studied in this volume, the violent deaths of apostles do not generally appear as the result of (real or perceived) ‘persecution’. Only in the Acts of Paul is Paul arrested together with other Christians, but is executed separately (Acts Paul 14).23 The Acts of Peter (Acts Pet. 41 / Mart. Pet. 12) have Nero start a persecution of Christians only after Peter’s death, Thomas in the Acts of Thomas and Andrew in the Acts of Andrew are put to death on their own, as heralds of abstinence, and John in the Acts of John is completely out of touch with political leaders. This observation provides some nuance to the immediate application of a theory of social or collective memory to the narratives of apostles’ martyrdoms: It seems that, in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, apostles were remembered as martyrs not in order to provide templates for the right attitude in times of persecution. Rather, it seems that apostles were the founding figures to be remembered not because of, but including their violent deaths. The ideals they stand for – be it steadfast witness, be it sexual abstinence – find their confirmation in the (noble) deaths of their proponents. There are indeed several sorts of texts in early Christian literature – narrative, testament, apocalypse, to mention a few – that depict the deaths of apostles, in greater or lesser detail, as not only meaningful but noble and the fitting conclusion to lives lived consistently for the ‘right’ Christian faith (even if it turns out to consist in little more than sexual abstinence).

23 This may constitute an allusion to the Neronian persecution of 64 AD, but if this is the case, the total absence of the fire of Rome (see Tacitus, Ann. 15.44) is more than striking.



III. The Outline of this Volume The present volume is divided into two parts: The shorter first part consists of the paper by Elisabeth Schwab, which sketches the context of (non-apostolic) narratives of martyrdom and other gruesome deaths. Some other papers on general questions, though they were part of the original plan, unfortunately could not find their way into this volume. The second part comprises papers dealing with individual apostles, with each apostle treated by the respective specialist in the project ‘Memoria Apostolorum’: Paul is studied by Markus Kirchner, Andrew by Cedric Büchner, Thomas by Florian Rösch. Only Peter is treated to two treatments: While Stephan Witetschek traces the traditions of Peter’s martyrdom before the Acts of Peter, David Eastman, building on his recent book,24 presents the afterlife of this narrative. All but two of the papers and the response by Joseph Verheyden were given at the conference. David Eastman’s paper was originally intended for the conference and is now published in its due place. The second paper by Stephan Witetschek on John as martyr and non-martyr is a supplement; it is based on a presentation given to the Arbeitsgemeinschaft 2. Jahrhundert, which met in Benediktbeuern (Bavaria) on 20-22 September 2019, shortly after the Oxford conference. We hope that the papers collected in this volume make sense in their own way and help to understand some ways of remembering that shaped the identity of early Christianity.

24 David L. Eastman, The Many Deaths of Peter and Paul, Oxford Early Christian Studies (Oxford, New York, 2019).

Narrating Death. Tertullian, Cyprian, and Lactantius on the Martyrdom of ‘Others’ M. Elisabeth SCHWAB, University of Bonn, Bonn, Germany

ABSTRACT In the 3rd century CE faith was a matter of following Christ not just in heart and mind, but also with one’s physical body and at the possible expense of one’s life. Christians were persecuted and faced humiliating executions of many sorts. Many Christians were famously steadfast in confronting the dangers. Several are still known to us and venerated as martyrs or even saints of the church. They stand out against the tumultuous backdrop of early Christianity as names, stories and physical remains of body parts that endured formidable tortures. But Saint Barbara and her fellow martyrs were not the only people who died in the third century. This change of perspective is my starting point: in my article I explore what is said about the miseries of other people by early Christian writers from Northern Africa. How and why are their suffering bodies staged in the writings by Tertullian (150-220), Cyprian (200-258), and Lactantius (250-320)? These authors witnessed the persecutions, and thus are known for shaping our view of the period and of early martyrdom. But we must realize that when they address the violence against Christians they do so in the light of the fact that death is a conventional conditio humana. By examining the full variety of descriptions surrounding bodily suffering and death we cultivate a finer understanding of how the narration of martyr death served as a rhetorical device.

It is a commonly known fact that everybody has to die. Everyone’s life ends with death as part of our conditio humana. For many people death comes with pain and bodily suffering, which is often inflicted by others. This is nothing special, it is maybe the most conventional that we could think of – death dances with all of us regardless of our sex, social rank or religious belief. At the same time, we all know that there are certain ways of dying that are more prominent than others and draw our attention. True, most people might just die in bed, mostly of old age or a common disease, but some fall ill with rare disorders, suffer spectacular accidents, are murdered in painful or atrocious ways. We are even more interested in the details of a death the more famous or special the person who dies. However, the more we would like to know about the deaths of great celebrities, such as Princess Diana or Michael Jackson, the more elements are added to the story and the more mysterious it seems to be. Of ancient

Studia Patristica CVII, 11-25. © Peeters Publishers, 2021.



deaths, we know exactly that Julius Caesar was assassinated with 23 stabs, Socrates had to empty the cup of hemlock, and Laocoon was unjustly strangled to death by two giant sea serpents sent by the goddess Athena. Their deaths were worth narrating and their death-stories are passed down from one generation to the next. As Bishop Cyprian of Carthage points out in his De mortalitate, early Christians were no different. They had to deal with the same odds and adversities as all other human beings, ordinary death causes being no exception.1 However, death was a special topic for early Christian authors: Jesus’s death on the cross, the most notable death in the Christian world, is probably the most successful attempt to narrate a death-story that exceeds conventional every-day dying. In fact, we could ask ourselves who Christ would be without his death and what Christianity would be without him having died. But when, as for instance in the Gospel of John, Jesus talks about himself, his famous I-am-sayings are all about the opposite: ‘I am the Bread of Life’ (John 6:35) he says, ‘I am the Resurrection and the Life’ (John 11:25) and yet again ‘I am the Way and the Truth and the Life’ (John 14:6). It is his death that paradoxically leads to life. As he promises, people who follow his example ‘will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life’ (John 8:12). The contributions of this volume explore the lives of Christ’s earliest followers, the apostles, and how they became martyrs. They not only confessed their Christian faith but were also killed for it.2 In fact, due to the violence that Christians were faced with in the first centuries CE martyrdom became a major topic in Early Christian literature. The uncommon, special death in the name of Christ was valued through the numerous writings of early Christian writers. In my investigation I will not tackle this issue from a theological or historical viewpoint. Thus, I am not going to discuss the actual dimensions of Christian persecution3 or how martyrs, saints and apostles were memorized.4 Nor am I going to ask in what way martyrdom could be seen as a Christian invention.5 Instead, I will focus on the 1

See Cyprian, De mortalitate 8. See the definition by J.W. van Henten and F. Avemarie, Martyrdom and Noble Death: Selected Texts from Graeco-Roman, Jewish and Christian Antiquity (London, 2002), 3. 3 On this question see Candida Moss, The Myth of Persecution. How Early Christians Invented a Myth of Persecution (New York, 2013). Her point is that ‘the idea of the Christian martyr is based in legend and rhetoric, rather than history and truth’ (ibid. 20). For a more traditional view see Wolfram Kinzig, Christenverfolgung in der Antike (Munich, 2019). 4 See the other contributions in this volume. 5 The idea that martyrdom was a new invention was first expressed by Bowersock and more recently discussed by Paul Middleton, Radical Martyrdom and Cosmic Conflict in Early Christianity, LNTS 307 (London, ²2008) and Katharina Waldner, Die Erfindung des Martyriums. Wahrheit, Recht und religiöse Identität in Hellenismus und Kaiserzeit, STAC (Tübingen, forthcoming). See also Walter Ameling, ‘From Persecution to Martyrdom. Changes in the Christian Perception of the Past’, in Anja Bettenworth, Dietrich Boschung and Marco Formisano (eds), For Example. Martyrdom and Imitation in Early Christian Texts and Art (Leiden, Boston, 2020), 77-98. 2

Narrating Death


narration of martyrdom6 and how it is reflected in what is said about the death of others, of non-martyrs. In other words, I will analyze the rhetorical structure of early Christian texts and investigate how the death of martyrs is compared with the death of ordinary people: how was the death of non-martyrs described amidst a literary tradition of martyrdom stories? In the following, I will discuss three case examples that juxtapose martyr and non-martyr deaths. Remarkably, this rhetorical device is used in central passages by the north-African church fathers Tertullian and Cyprian, who both write as direct witnesses of persecutions in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, and then by Lactantius and his immediate reaction after the persecution of the Christians came to an end at the beginning of the 4th century. 1. Tertullian: martyres designati et alii Tertullian lived in Carthage around 160 to 220 CE, at a time when the situation for Christians in Northern Africa became increasingly insecure. Around 200 CE7 he sent a short treatise to a group of catechumens that had been arrested and thrown into jail. His letter Ad martyras is meant as an encouragement to them while they await their execution through an unequal fight against wild beasts in the amphitheatre. While others donate food to the prisoners to comfort their stomachs (carnis alimenta), Tertullian gives them his words to feed their souls (ad spiritum quoque educandum). The letter falls into two parts: In the first half (1-3) Tertullian busies himself with downplaying the horrors of incarceration. According to his twisted rhetoric, the world outside is much worse a prison. To a Christian, jail means nothing more than desert does to a prophet. Tertullian compares the dungeon to a sort of boot camp that helps soldiers to get ready for the real battle or a training camp that offers the right circumstances to an athlete. ‘Let us, who are destined to obtain an eternal [wreath], interpret our prison as a wrestling-school’, is his conclusion to this first part of the letter.8 6

On the literary presentation of martyrdom see Christel Butterweck, ‘Martyriumssucht’ in der alten Kirche? Studien zur Darstellung und Deutung frühchristlicher Martyrien, BHTh 87 (Tübingen, 1995); Ekkehard Mühlenberg, ‘The martyr’s death and its literary presentation’, SP 29 (1997), 85-93; Tessa Rajak, ‘Dying for the Law: The Martyr’s Portrait in Jewish-Greek literature’, in Mark J. Edwards and Simon Swain (eds), Portraits: Biographical Representation in the Greek and Latin Literature of the Roman Empire (Oxford, 1997), 39-67. 7 For the traditional dating to around 202/203 see René Braun, ‘Sur la date, la composition et le texte de l’Ad Martyras de Tertullien’, REA 24 (1978), 221-42; for the more recent dating to the year 197 see Éric Rebillard, Christians and their many Identities in Late Antiquity, North Africa, 200-450 CE (Ithaca, NY, 2012), 36. 8 Nos aeternam [coronam] consecuturi carcerem pro palaestra nobis interpretemur… (Tert., Ad. mart. 3.5, ed. Vincentius Bulhart, CSEL 76 [Vienna, 1957]; translation here and of the following passages from Tert., Ad. mart. by Thomas Herbert Bindley).



The second half (4-6) is dedicated to the martyrdom itself. Just as Tertullian had contrasted the prison with the rest of the world outside he now parallels martyr death with that of non-martyrs.9 He starts with Matt. 26:41, ‘the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak’ (Scimus…, quod caro infirma sit, spiritus promptus), and reports a little conversation between the spirit and the flesh. The latter is deeply afraid of torment and death whereas the spirit has the last word by reminding the flesh and itself that10 Acerba licet ista, a multis tamen aequo animo excepta, immo et ultro appetita famae et gloriae causa, nec a viris tantum, sed etiam a feminis… … these tortures, although bitter, have yet been endured by many without complaint, nay, have even been willingly sought after, for the sake of fame and glory, and that, not only by men but also by women…

Thus, this passage serves as a perfect example for the characterization of martyrdom through the description of the misfortunes of others, who all went through a painful death for the sake of much less a rewarding purpose than the incarcerated Christians, who are martyrs in spe (martyres designati). In what follows, Tertullian introduces three groups of ‘others’: first people who seek to die for their thirst of glory (famae et gloriae causa). Here, he allows famous ancient women such as Lucretia, Cleopatra and Dido,11 the first queen of Carthage, to take pride of place on his list. Their Noble Death12 is inferior to the one of the Christian women in the Carthaginian prison, who will earn heavenly fame, while ‘the others’ received false honour for real:13 Quis ergo non libentissime tantum pro vero habeat erogare quantum alii pro falso? Who, then, is not bound to undergo most willingly as much for the real as others do for the false?

With this rhetorical question Tertullian pointedly concludes this part on people who voluntarily die for their thirst of glory. His summary is short and 9 For a theological interpretation of Tertullian’s distinction between conventional death, caused by the Fall of Man, and martyrdom as a way to directly reach heaven see Wiebke Bähnk, Von der Notwendigkeit des Leidens. Die Theologie des Martyriums bei Tertullian, FKDG 78 (Göttingen, 2001), 233-9. 10 Tert., Ad. mart. 4.3. 11 It is interesting that Tertullian’s ancient examples – not only the women, but also Heraclitus and Empedocles – all commit suicide. P. Middleton, Radical martyrdom (²2008), 35, takes this as evidence for his observation of a prevalent ‘radical martyrdom’ in the 2nd century CE, an enthusiastic Christian self-killing that exceeds the voluntary death among pagans. 12 For the ideal of ‘noble death’ as a forerunner of martyrdom see J.W. van Henten and F. Avemarie, Martyrdom and Noble Death (2002). Middleton rebuts the view that the ‘noble death’ tradition should be seen as an origin of Christian martyrology pointing to the fact that the concept of Noble Death involves restoration of honour, while this is not an issue for Christian martyrs (P. Middleton, Radical Martyrdom [²2008], 120-3). 13 Tert., Ad. mart. 4.9.

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sharp: Christians die ‘for the real’ (pro vero), ‘the others’ (alii) ‘for the false’ (pro falso). Tertullian’s second group of ‘others’ are people who put their life at risk in the arena out of mere vanity (affectatio).14 They volunteer to fight against wild beasts thinking the bites and scars will make them more handsome. Tertullian suggests that God allows such things to happen to encourage the persecuted Christians and to embarrass those who shy away from the tortures of the persecutors. This part, too, ends with a pointed juxtaposition:15 … ad nos et nunc exhortandos et in illo die confundendos, si reformidaverimus pati pro veritate in salutem, quae alii affectaverunt pro vanitate in perditionem. … both for our encouragement now, and for our confusion in that day (2Tim. 4:8), if we through dread have avoided suffering for the truth’s sake unto salvation those things which others have eagerly entered upon for vanity’s sake unto perdition.

Again, we find a perfectly clear sentence with a parallel construction capable of setting any confused mind straight: Christians suffer for the truth that brings them to salvation (pro veritate in salutem), the ‘others’ suffer willingly for nothing and for their own ruin (pro vanitate in perditionem). Finally, Tertullian points at a third group of ‘others’ who simply suffer from ordinary human life, the common conditio humana, that leads to life-threatening misfortunes.16 They are accidentally burnt in (forest) fires, lacerated by wild beasts, murdered by bandits or tortured and executed because they have been loyal to a man. Here again, we encounter an incisive phrase:17 Nemo non etiam hominis causa pati potest, quod causa dei pati dubitat. One will even suffer for the sake of a man what he hesitates to undergo in the cause of God.

As in the two phrases mentioned before, Tertullian chooses a parallel construction for the main and subordinate clause with a slight chiastic variation that emphasizes the contrasting pair, ‘man’ versus ‘God’. In this case, he seems to complain about people who ‘can’ (potest) suffer ‘for a human being’ (hominis causa) what they ‘hesitate’ (dubitat) to suffer ‘for God’ (causa dei). As we have seen, Tertullian’s exhortation shows a poignant structure. There are three reasons why the non-martyrs suffer and undergo death in equally painful ordeal: first, gloria/fama, second affectatio, and third their conditio humana. Each of these three death causes are compared to martyr death that 14

For Tertullian’s opinion on trifle theatre shows see De spectaculis. Tert., Ad. mart. 5.2. 16 See for a similar confrontation Tert., Fuga 9, where Tertullian rejects the option to flee from persecution. Christians should rather die as martyrs and not desire ‘to die on bridal beds, nor in miscarriages, nor in soft fevers’. With this, he probably cites Montanus, see W. Bähnk, Notwendigkeit des Leidens (2001), 147-8; P. Middleton, Radical martyrdom (2008), 29. 17 Tert., Ad. mart. 6.2. 15



is caused by persecution. But the tertium comparationis, by which they differ, is their end. Here, people die pro falso, pro vanitate in perditionem, hominis causa, there, death is accepted pro vero, pro veritate in salutatem, causa dei. Tertullian’s sharp contrasting of martyr death and non-martyr death values the former as a meaningful way of ending one’s life. Surprisingly, he does not primarily remind the martyres designati of Christ’s example on the cross but uses anyone’s ordinary death to illustrate the extraordinary death that will distinguish them from ‘the others’. 2. Cyprian of Carthage: martyrum coronae et aliena perfidia However, as we can see in our next example, the De lapsis by Cyprian, bishop of Carthage (200-258 CE), it is not always easy to explain who ‘the others’ are supposed to be. They can be pagans, or Jews, or heretics, or just other Christians – such as the Christians in Carthage who sent their young daughters to church without covering their head with a scarf and who became the target of one of Tertullian’s heavy attacks.18 Moreover, it can even be unclear who is actually dying and who is staying alive. De lapsis is an oration written under the impression of the edict of Decius (249) that forced all Roman citizens to publicly sacrifice to the emperor and that as a consequence led to the first persecution involving the whole Roman Empire. Bishop Cyprian, who himself had escaped from persecution through leaving his hometown and came back to Carthage in 251, faced a difficult situation. He tried to solve it with a complicated system of categorization.19 First, he distinguishes between Christians on the one hand and pagan Romans on the other hand. The latter are simply called the inimicus that will always fail to keep Christians from preaching and praising the Lord.20 The Christians are the group around Cyprian whom he addresses as ‘we’ and ‘ours’ in the introductory chapter. He calms them down, saying that the persecution is over and ‘our’ peace has been restored (divina securitas nostra reparata est), and characterizes the group as ‘we’ who love God with all our heart (Deum corde toto et anima et virtute diligimus).21 But there is even more to this group. Cyprian states the obvious by claiming that God deserves praise. Then, however, he adds that He deserves it, ‘though in fact our lips never ceased giving thanks even in the midst of persecution’.22 This already points to the main problem that Cyprian is going to tackle in his treatise: he refuses to count in the lapsi, 18

See Tert., De virginibus velandis. For more information on ‘groupness’ and the limits of religious allegiance among Christians in the 3rd century see E. Rebillard, Many Identities (2012), 47-55. 20 Cyprian, De lapsis 1.9 (ed. and translation here and in the following M. Bévenot, CChr.SL 3 and ACW 25). 21 Cyprian, De lapsis 1.3, 10 (see Mark 12:30). 22 Cyprian, De lapsis 1.8-9: quamvis agere gratias nostra vox nec in persecutione cessaverit… 19

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the people who did not continue to sing the Lord’s praises but ‘fell’ under the pressure of the persecutors. In his view they should neither be allowed to be part of the Christian community nor celebrate the Eucharist before repentance. Thus, the Christian side is further divided into different categories according to their reaction in the moment of persecution: a. confessores: they confessed their faith but were not killed for it. Cyprian calls them ‘the bright army of soldiers of Christ … ready as they were for the long-suffering of prison-life, steeled to the endurance of death’. Even if they did not actually undergo torture and execution Cyprian still sees in them ‘to your brethren an example to follow’.23 b. stantes: they form the majority. Cyprian holds that they earned ‘titles to glory almost equal’ to the confessors, since they remained steadfast, even though they somehow escaped attention or fled the city and thus did not fall into the hands of the pagans. To him, what matters is that they ‘were unmoved by the fear at the decrees of banishment, at the tortures awaiting them, or the threats against their property and persons’.24 c. martyrs: very shortly Cyprian mentions the ‘heavenly crowns of the martyrs’,25 but their fate does not concern him.26 d. lapsi: they did not pass God’s testing – as Cyprian interprets the deeper reason for the persecution – but gave in and offered a sacrifice to the pagan Gods. What is more, they sometimes even took advantage of the situation and made common cause with the pagans. To make sure that the lapsi are understood as ‘the others’ who do not belong to the Christian community any longer, Cyprian contrasts martyr death and non-martyr (i.e. lapsi) death with one another. A closer look at the relevant chapters (4 to 9)27 reveals how he artfully blurs the distinction between a physical and a spiritual way of dying. Chapter 4 still belongs to the introduction (1-4), but forms the transition to Cyprian’s lament on the lapsi and their harmful impact (5-28) that dominates his treatise until he lays on them the obligation of a long penance (29-36). It starts as follows:28 23 Cyprian, De lapsis 2.18-22: … militum Christi cohors candida … parati ad patientiam carceris, armati ad tolerantiam mortis. … secuturis fratribus fuistis exemplo. 24 Cyprian, De lapsis 2.38-43: proximis et paene coniunctis laudis insignibus vestigia vestra (i.e., confessorum) comitatur … non praescripta exsilia, non destinata tormenta, non rei familiaris et corporis supplicia terruerunt. 25 Cyprian, De lapsis 4.61: Has martyrum caelestes coronas… 26 Cyprian’s own martyr death that he endured under the Valerian persecution in 258 is no point of interest here. See Hartmut Leppin, Die frühen Christen, von den Anfängen bis Konstantin (Munich, ²2019), 196-9; Timothy D. Barnes, Early Christian hagiography and Roman History, Tria Corda 5 (Tübingen, ²2016), 77-85. 27 For a comprehensive introduction to the De lapsis see Graeme Clarke and Michel Poirer, Cyprien de Carthage, Ceux qui sont tombés, SC 547 (Paris, 2012), 54-7. 28 Cyprian, De lapsis 4.61-4.



Has martyrum caelestes coronas, has confessorum glorias spiritales, has stantium fratrum maximas eximiasque virtutes maestitia una contristat: quod avulsam nostrorum viscerum partem violentus inimicus populationis suae strage deiecit. These heavenly crowns of the martyrs, these spiritual triumphs of the confessors, these outstanding exploits of our brethren cannot, alas, remove one cause of sorrow: that the Enemy’s violence and slaughter has wrought havoc amongst us and has torn away something from our very heart and cast it to the ground.

Here, Cyprian lists the categories of Christians that he had introduced before: martyrs, confessors, and the steadfast. What we might expect now is a mourning of the dead martyrs who were brutally murdered for their Christian faith. But whom Cyprian actually seems to grieve are the lapsi:29 … cum iacentibus iacere me credo. Iaculis illis grassantis inimici mea simul membra percussa sunt, saevientes gladii per mea viscera transierunt. Inmunis et liber a persecutionis incursu fuisse non potest animus, in prostratis fratribus et me prostravit adfectus. … with the fallen I have fallen myself. My limbs too were struck by the arrows of the lurking foe, his angry sword pierced my body, too. When persecution rages, the mind of none escapes free and unscathed: when my brethren fell, my heart was struck and I fell at their side.

Who is it, then, that Cyprian commiserates? He leaves the answer to this question in a state of uncertainty, avoiding the term lapsi or even the verb labi and, instead, making careful use of synonyms, such as iacere or prosternere. May the martyrs be struck in a literal sense and physically dead, the lapsi, on the other hand, are spiritually slain and murdered. That Cyprian is thinking of a metaphorical sword is indicated in a very subtle way in introducing himself to the picture. By assigning himself to the same ‘death’ through his thorough compassion the metaphorical meaning of the passage becomes explicit. Cyprian continues by offering an in-depth exploration of the spiritual lapsi death. In his account, we encounter the main elements that make a praiseworthy martyr death: readiness, fearlessness, and burning in the flames of a pyre – all of them, of course, directed towards the wrong cause. First of all, they eagerly run into their ‘death’ voluntarily. Cyprian downplays the pressure applied by the officials:30 Ad prima statim verba minantis inimici maximus fratrum numerus fidem suam prodidit; nec prostratus est persecutionis impetu, sed voluntario lapsu se ipse prostravit. At the first threatening words of the Enemy, an all too large number of the brethren betrayed their faith; they were not felled by the violence of the persecution but fell of their free will.

29 30

Cyprian, De lapsis 4.79-83. Cyprian, De lapsis 7.126-9.

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Their willingness to meet their doom in self-destruction is emphasized yet again in the following chapter:31 Non expectaverunt saltim ut ascenderent adprehensi, ut interrogati negarent. Ante aciem multi victi, sine congressione prostrati, nec hoc sibi relinquerunt ut sacrificare idolis viderentur inviti: ultro ad forum currere, ad mortem sponte properare, quasi hoc olim cuperent, quasi amplecterentur occasionem datam quam libenter optassent. Quot illic a magistratibus vespera urgente dilati sunt, quot ne eorum differretur interitus et rogaverunt. Quam vim potest talis obtendere qua crimen suum purget, cum vim magis ipse fecerit ut periret? They did not even wait to be arrested before going up [to offer sacrifice]; they did not wait to be questioned before they denied faith. Many were defeated before the battle was joined, they collapsed without any encounter, thus even depriving themselves of the plea that they had sacrificed to the idols against their will. Without any compulsion they hastened to the forum, they hurried of themselves to death, as if this was what they had long been waiting for, as if they were embracing the opportunity to realize the object of their desires. How many, as night fell, had to be put off till later, and how many even begged the magistrates not to postpone their doom! What pretext of pressure can such men allege to excuse their crime, when it was rather they who pressed for their own destruction?

We could even say that the lapsi surpass the martyrs in their willingness to die when they don’t even wait for the questioning but disavow at the first possible moment. Cyprian uses the same metaphorical language of war (ante aciem, ‘before the battle’) that is common to martyr accounts and that we have already seen in Tertullian, who compared the prison to a soldiers’ camp before the battle. Then, Cyprian concentrates on the impact that the situation should have on their body. In a row of rhetorical questions, he presupposes that they should be in fear of their very lives and thus should be shaking and trembling. The effect is that his audience feels the disappointment about the lapsi’s carelessness:32 Nonne quando ad Capitolium sponte ventum est, quando ultro ad obsequium diri facinoris accessum est, labavit gressus, caligavit aspectus, tremuerunt viscera, brachia conciderunt? Non sensus obstipuit, lingua haesit, sermo defecit? Stare illic potuit Dei servus et loqui et renuntiare Christo, qui iam diabolo renuntiaverat et saeculo? But surely, even if a man did come to the Capitol spontaneously, even if he approached of his own accord to commit himself to this grim crime, did not his step falter, his eyes cloud, did not his heart quake, his limbs tremble? Surely his blood ran cold, his tongue clove to his palate, his speech failed him? Could a servant of God stand there and speak – and renounce Christ, whereas it was the world and the devil he had renounced before?

Paradoxically, the lapsi hasten to their ‘death’ the same way as the bravest martyr can’t wait to be executed. They don’t show a hint of fear. As a consequence, 31 32

Cyprian, De lapsis 8.148-57. Cyprian, De lapsis 8.157-63.



it will be the lapsi’s bodies that will illustrate the effects of their divine punishment when they bite their guilty tongues and when their stomachs do not stand to digest the host received at the Eucharist (De lapsis 23-6). But for now, Cyprian continues with imagining their offering to the pagan gods, which in his account becomes their (spiritual) death on the pyre. As before, his account consists of a set of poignant rhetorical questions that dramatically end in an emphatic address to the lapsi:33 Non ara illa quo moriturus accessit, rogus illi fuit? Non diaboli altare, quod faetore taetro fumare ac redolere conspexerat, velut funus et bustum vitae suae horrere ac fugere debebat? Quid hostiam tecum, miser, quid victimam supplicaturus inponis? Ipse ad aras hostia, victima ipse venisti; immolasti illic salutem tuam, spem tuam, fidem tuam funestis illis ignibus concremasti. Was not that altar, where he was going to his death, in fact his funeral pyre? When he saw that altar of the devil, smoking and reeking with its foul stench, should he not have fled in terror, as from the place where his soul must burn? Poor fellow, why bring any other offering or victim to place there while you pray? You yourself are the offering and the victim come to the altar; there you have slain your hope of salvation, there in those fatal fires you have reduced your faith to ashes.

The inversion of Christian and pagan elements in this scene of a martyrlapsus becomes explicit in the use of the term ara (‘altar’) that appears three times in this passage. First, it is the pagan altar where the offering is made. Secondly, it is an altar in the Christian sense built up by the devil to fool the Christian who is about to fall. Thirdly, it turns into a pyre, since the real offering is the martyr-lapsus himself. Finally, Cyprian even magnifies the crime committed by the lapsi as they did not make the decision just for themselves, but ‘encouraged one another and rode to their ruin in a body; with poisoned cup they toasted each other’s death!’34 What is even worse, they forced their children to become lapsi as well, so that they will justly accuse their parents of ‘murder’:35 … perdidit nos aliena perfidia, parentes sensimus parricidas … aliena fraude caperemur. … it was the wickedness of others which was our ruin – our parents murdered our souls … we became victims of the unscrupulousness of others.

Here, Cyprian finally calls the lapsi through the mouths of their children ‘others’ and ‘foreigeners’ (aliena perfidia/aliena fraude). To put it in a nutshell, Cyprian composes an ‘inverted martyr passion’. The executed martyrs reach eternal life and don’t need mourning, but the survivors who did not manage to remain faithful have died of a painful death. It was those 33

Cyprian, De lapsis 8.163-9. Cyprian, De lapsis 9.170-2: hortamentis mutuis in exitium populus inpulsus est, mors invicem letali poculo propinata est. 35 Cyprian, De lapsis 9.176-81. 34

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non-martyrs who adopted the features of a martyr when they voluntarily longed for death and ran towards the devil’s altar without fear. 3. Lactantius: poena ignis et insanabilis plaga The treatise ‘On the Deaths of the Persecutors’ (De mortibus persecutorum) is attributed to Lactantius and dates shortly after the Edict of Milan in 313 CE.36 It informs us about the machinations and wrong-doings of the Roman emperors from Nero onwards and how they come to an end with Constantine. While Cyprian had written his De lapsis in only a short moment of breath-taking and peace in Carthage, Lactantius, who spent most of his life in Nicomedia in Bithynia, today’s northern Turkey, already belonged to the generation that witnessed persecution and then saw the first Christian Roman emperor coming into power. Constantine was in fact his patron and Lactantius became the tutor of his son Crispus around 317. Just as Cyprian in De lapsis, he uses the death of martyrs to interpret the death of others. In his case, he is most interested in the deaths of the emperors that come as a just and cruel punishment for their crimes against the Christian Church.37 In the introductory passage we read:38 Qui insultaverant deo, iacent, qui templum sanctum everterant, ruina maiore ceciderunt, qui iustos excarnificaverant, caelestibus plagis et cruciatibus meritis nocentes animas profuderunt. Those who had outraged God lie prostrate; those who had overturned His holy temple have themselves fallen in even greater ruin; those who had butchered the righteous have now after blows from heaven and agonies which they had earned yielded up their guilty souls.

The tricolon, composed according to Behaghel’s law, addresses the emperors with an anonymous qui that contrasts sharply with the opposing side that consists of God, the holy temple, and the righteous. The outrageous wrong-doings of the qui all have a counterpart: insultare vs. iacere, evertere vs. cadere, excarnificare vs. animas profundere. This can be seen as programmatic for the rest of the treatise. As Helmut Seng has shown, the De mortibus persecutorum was composed with an alternating structure, where the story line that informs 36

Antonie Wlosok, ‘L. Caecilius Firmianus Lactantius’, in HLL 5 (1989), 375-404, here 397; J.L. Creed, Lactantius. De Mortibus Persecutorum (Oxford, 1984), xxxiii-xxxv. 37 See Lact., De ira. Helmut Seng, ‘Lactanz, De mortibus persecutorum, Handlungsführung und Komposition’, in Martin Walraff (ed.), Geschichte als Argument? Historiographie und Apologetik. Akten der Tagung der Patristischen Arbeitsgemeinschaft, Basel, 2.-5.1.2013, Patristic Studies 13 (Leuven, 2015), 33-47, stresses the point of causal relationships in Lactiantius to describe the historiographic character of De mortibus persecutorum. 38 Mort. pers. 1.5, ed. and translation J.L. Creed, Lactantius (1984).



us about the coming and going of the emperors is interspersed with the accounts of their reign of terror and persecution of Christians.39 Greatest attention is paid to the painful endings of the emperors’ lives that come as God’s punishment for their deeds and thus not only equal, but exceed the cruelty of their rule.40 Nero, for instance, had Peter and Paul executed (according to Lactantius), but the emperor himself was cursed with matricide and madness – arguably even worse a fate.41 Thus, we could also describe the structure of Lactantius’s historiographical treatise as the action being arranged around the emperors’ outstanding deaths that form the backbone of the composition. Two death scenes can be singled out as the two probably most atrocious passages in the treatise. The first passage (Mort. pers. 21,7-22,1) tells us about the practice of punishing people of lower rank by slowly burning them to death (dignitatem non habentibus poena ignis fuit).42 This penalty, Lactantius informs us, was first used for Christians and then inflicted on others as well. The second (Mort. pers. 33-5) is the account of the death of Emperor Galerius, who died of a malignant ulcer (percussit eum deus insanabili plaga).43 The latter has often been compared with a passage in the Second Book of the Maccabees, where Antiochus, King of the Seleucids, is punished by God for the persecution of the Jews and dies of a similar illness.44 However, in the case of Lactantius, the account of the emperor’s suffering is much more individualized and offers many details. Not all of the elements in the text can be explained with reference to the Second Book of the Maccabees. As Timothy Barnes rightly suggests we should read De mortibus persecutorum in the following way:45 Lactantius’ tract may be regarded as a work of anti-hagiography. […] Lactantius, therefore, may have composed his tract as a conscious counterpart to the acts and passions of martyrs: whereas Christian hagiography recorded the heroic deaths of martyrs,


H. Seng, ‘Lactanz’ (2015), 36-40. The emperors’ sufferings continue in the afterlife: see DI 5.18.24-16 and 7.21.1-5, Jochen Walter, Pagane Texte und Wertvorstellungen bei Lactanz, Hypomnemata 165 (Göttingen, 2006), 314-5. 41 See e.g. Mort. pers. 5.6 for the death of emperor Valerian, whose skin was mounted in a Persian temple. On this theme see Robert Rollinger and Josef Wiesehöfer, ‘Kaiser Valerian und Ilu-bi’di von Hamat. Über das Schicksal besiegter Feinde, persische Grausamkeit und die Persistenz altorientalischer Traditionen’, in Heather Baker, Kai Kaniuth and Adelheid Otto (eds), Stories of Long Ago. Festschrift für Michael D. Roaf, AOAT 397 (Münster, 2012), 497-515. 42 See also Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 8.6.3 and Lactantius, DI 5.11.16-7. 43 See also Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 8.16. 44 2Macc. 9:11-8; see the commentary by J. Moreau, Lactance: De la mort des persécuteurs, I: Introduction, texte critique et traduction, II: Commentaire, SC 39 (Paris 1954); J. Rougée, ‘Le de Mortibus Persecutorum, 5e livre des Macchabées’, SP 12 (1976), 135-43, and Wilhelm Nestle, ‘Die Legende vom Tode der Gottesverächter’, ARW 33 (1936), 246-69 = Id., Griechische Studien. Untersuchungen zur Religion, Dichtung und Philosophie der Griechen (Stuttgart, 1948), 567-96. For differences between the two texts see Creed, Lactantius (1984), xxxviii. 45 T.D. Barnes, Early Christian Hagiography (2016), 115-6. 40

Narrating Death


Lactantius set out to chronicle the gruesome deaths of the emperors on whose orders the martyrs of his own day were executed.

Indeed, one needs to add, in Lactantius’s account the emperors face a plus quam martyr death with respect to the sufferings of the body. I would argue that the two passages are parallel and illustrate how the non-martyr death of the guilty mirrors and outperforms the martyr death of the innocent. In both passages, death comes in a long and painful process: the burning takes a day (per multum diem), while the illness takes a whole year (per annum perpetem). This is also mirrored in the length of the two passages: the first consists of 118 words, the second is almost three times as long.46 In both cases the malady starts from below, that is it begins with a burning of the bottom of the feet in the first case (subdebatur primo pedibus lenis flamma) or, respectively, with an ulcer at the lower part of the genitals in the second (in inferiori parte genitalium). From there, the evil spreads to the other body parts. Burning torches are shortly brought close to the body and the head and airways are rinsed with water to prevent an early death. For the emperor Galerius there are doctors at hand to replace the torturers: in the attempt to help and cure him they repeatedly save his life and thus prolong the suffering of their patient.47 Ellen Muehlberger observes: ‘the text turns Galerius into a victim tortured by a divine hand and induced to admit a truth by that torture’.48 In fact, while there is apparently no mental torture sketched out in the first passage, Galerius is forced to enact an edict that brings the persecution to a first hold, but does not save him neither physically nor spiritually. Death is finally reached when the inner parts of the body are afflicted. The first passage reads: vis ignis intima viscera penetrasset, and in the second passage Galerius’s end is near when it says: malum … interna comprehendit. In addition to these parallels regarding the process, the choice of words is often identical (arescere, cutis, ossa, viscera). Right before Galerius dies, he has to acknowledge that the illness was a punishment sent to him from God and thus he has to admit the power of the Christian God. While the execution of the Christian is not staged as a making of a martyr and remains a general account of this special style of torture, a transcendental meaning is applied to the death of the Emperor Galerius. Just as we have seen in Cyprian’s De lapsis, we could also call Lactantius’s picture of Galerius an ‘inverted martyr passion’. Once again, we see how the martyr death of Christians is contrasted with the death of others. 46 See Ellen Muehlberger, Moment of Reckoning, Imagined Death and its Consequences in Late Ancient Christianity (Oxford, 2019), 45-7, on the extraordinary length of the passage. 47 The doctors (medici) are compared to the magistri in Vergil’s Georgics who fail to master the cattle plague. Lactantius literally cites Verg., Georg. 3.549 as well as Verg. Aen. 2.222-4. On the function of such ‘Schmuckzitate’ see Eberhardt Heck, Mē theomachein oder: Die Bestrafung des Gottesverächters, Studien zur Klassischen Philologie 24 (Frankfurt a.M., 1987), 208-28. 48 E. Muehlberger, Moment of Reckoning (2019), 49.



Conclusion Early Christians always sought to distinguish themselves from ‘the others’. In the examples discussed above we have encountered many faces of ‘others’: famous ancient persons, contemporary pagan citizens, gladiators, Christians who were cast out of the community, and emperors who were in charge of persecutions. In each case, the death of ‘the others’ was contrasted with the martyr-death of Christians. As we have seen, this rhetorical device was used for different purposes in different genres: a letter, an oration, an historiographical treatise. But it always served as a means to discern the meaningful from the meaningless, to reveal the insignificant and to mark the superiority of the Christian end of life. Maybe the sharpest juxtaposition could be witnessed in Tertullian’s Ad martyras. His aim was to show the designated martyrs in jail that their fate only seemed to be more violent and horrible than that of others, when in fact, with a view to the outcome, it was the most glorious way to die. He summarizes his messages in contrasting pairs that are easy to memorize: pro falso versus pro vero, pro vanitate versus pro veritate, hominis causa versus causa dei. Cyprian’s De lapsis offers a subtler case of confronting martyr death with non-martyr death. In describing the spiritual death of those who openly renounced their faith he weaves the elements of a martyr death into his narration. Here, we can learn a lot from Cyprian’s understanding of martyrdom itself. When Tertullian underlines a violent death that must be endured for the sake of heavenly paradise, Cyprian adds a readiness to die that is little short of a self-killing. Moreover, Christians confessed their faith without fear – just as the lapsi would fatally denounce their faith without fear. Both encounter death on the altar, the martyrs in the flames of a pyre and the lapsi at the altar of the devil. Thus, we have called this mirroring of the lapsi’s fate an ‘inverted martyr passion’. For Cyprian’s De mortibus persecutorum we have shown how the ‘inverted martyr passion’ can be characterized as the main device that structures the entire treatise: passages that describe the cruel rule of the Roman emperors alternate with passages that narrate their violent deaths. The most spectacular of these contrasting scenes are the burning of a convict of no social rank – a punishment that had been practised on Christians first and then had been used on others, too – in Mort. pers. 21.7-22.1, and the death of emperor Galerius caused by a malignant ulcer in Mort. pers. 34-5. Here, martyr death is not mirrored in its single elements, but merely characterized by its extreme violence of the dying process. Cyprian does not focus on God’s testing of the Christians or on the glory that they will obtain in heaven, but he reveals God’s powerful punishment for those who have committed violence against his faithful followers. Thus, the violence is reversed and augmented in an almost absurd way.

Narrating Death


These three examples illustrate how the narration of Christian martyrs is used as a rhetorical device to distinguish the group of the Christians from the others. Furthermore, martyr death serves as a means to characterize the death of others by way of contrasting, mirroring and outdoing. Thus, it offers a model and characteristic pattern for further death narrations.

‘The Greatest Example of Endurance’: Paul’s Death in Early Christian Memory – The Case of 1Clem. 5:5-7 Markus KIRCHNER, DFG-Projekt ‘Memoria Apostolorum’, LMU München, Germany

ABSTRACT From a modern perspective, the significance of the apostle Paul for early church history is based particularly on his contribution to the expansion of Christianity and his theology of justification through faith instead of law, whereas the circumstances of his death appear to be a less important issue. Early Christians, however, seem to have considered Paul’s death as a key to understanding his whole life and ministry. This shows, for instance, the example of 1Clem. 5:5-7, where the whole life of Paul seems to be heading towards his death as its climax. This article tries to understand this short passage about Paul’s life and death against the background of ancient memory culture. Following Jan Assmann’s theory of cultural memory, it is shown that remembering the death of an important figure of the past (like Socrates, for example) always has a twofold function: On the one hand, it provides a common reference point for the identity of the remembering community. On the other hand, it offers the members of the community a vivid picture of their common values, and thus also a pattern for imitation. It is argued that by pointing to the circumstances of Paul’s death, 1Clement appeals to the common identity of the divided community in Corinth and at the same time provides a pattern by which they can orient themselves.

Up to this day, the Apostle Paul’s liturgical veneration in the Roman catholic church emphasises not so much his achievements in propagating the Christian message but his martyrdom, which he suffered according to legend together with Saint Peter on a 29th June, their common solemnity.1 Given its importance for Saint Paul’s later veneration,2 it seems surprising that we have only little 1 See e.g. the Introit to the Mass for the Solemnity of Peter and Paul: Isti sunt qui, viventes in carne, plantaverunt Ecclesiam sanguine suo: calicem Domini biberunt, et amici Dei facti sunt. English Translation: ‘These are the ones who, living in the flesh, planted the church with their blood; they drank the chalice of the Lord and became the friends of God’ (The Roman Missal. English Translation according to the Third Typical Edition. For the Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America [Vatican City, 2011], 866). On the history of the liturgical texts see Otto Zwierlein, Petrus und Paulus in Jerusalem und Rom. Vom Neuen Testament zu den apokryphen Apostelakten, UaLG 109 (Berlin, Boston, 2013), 106-12. 2 On the beginnings of this veneration see David L. Eastman, Paul the Martyr. The Cult of the Apostle in the Latin West, SBL RGRW Supplements 4 (Atlanta, 2011).

Studia Patristica CVII, 27-40. © Peeters Publishers, 2021.



concrete information about his death from the early times of Christianity.3 Especially the silence of the Acts of the Apostles has raised the question if there could have been some indifference4 or even embarrassment5 in early Christianity about the specific circumstances of Paul’s death. But the lack of concrete information cannot hide the fact that in early Christian memory the death of Paul has played a significant part from the beginning.6 Even if the early mentions of his death can hardly provide any reliable historical insights, they still tell us something about early Christian memory culture. Of course, Paul’s memory in the first decades after his death must not yet be identified with the later forms of his veneration as martyr. It rather can be understood in the light of remembering the death of great men (viri illustres) in ancient memory culture, as this article tries to show. First, we shall sketch the general outlines of this form of memory (1). In particular, two functions of remembering a person’s death shall be pointed out: on the one hand, death as the summary of a person’s life and character; on the other hand, death as identity-establishing pattern for the commemorating community. Then, by considering the example of the short mention of Paul’s death in 1Clem. 5:5-7, it shall be examined to what extent these functions can also be found in the early Christian memory of Paul (2). A short conclusion (3) will round up the observations. 1. Images of a Good Death in Antiquity According to ancient conviction, if one wants to understand and evaluate a person’s life, one has to look at his death.7 This thought is already expressed in the ancient Greek gnome that no life should be called fortunate before its 3

The problem of the historical reconstruction of the end of Paul’s life has drawn much attention in recent times. See e.g. Harry W. Tajra, The Martyrdom of St. Paul. Historical and Judicial Contexts, Traditions, and Legends, WUNT 2/67 (Tübingen, 1994); Friedrich W. Horn (ed.), Das Ende des Paulus. Historische, theologische und literaturgeschichtliche Aspekte, BZNW 106 (Berlin, New York, 2001); Stefan Heid (ed.), Petrus und Paulus in Rom. Eine interdisziplinäre Debatte (Freiburg, 2011); O. Zwierlein, Petrus (2013); Georg Rubel, Paulus in Rom. Historische, rezeptionsgeschichtliche und archäologische Aspekte zum letzten Lebensabschnitt des Völkerapostels, NTA 57 (Münster, 2014); Armand Puig i Tàrrech et al. (eds), The Last Years of Paul. Essays from the Tarragona Conference, June 2013, WUNT 2/352 (Tübingen, 2015). 4 See e.g. Gudrun Guttenberger, ‘Ist der Tod der Apostel nicht der Rede wert? Vorstellungen von Tod und Sterben in der Apostelgeschichte’, in F.W. Horn (ed.), Ende (2001), 273-305. 5 See Daniel Marguerat, ‘On Why Luke Remains Silent about Paul’s End’, in A. Puig i Tàrrech et al. (eds), The Last Years (2015), 305-32, esp. 331-2. 6 See Hermut Löhr, ‘Paulus als Vorbild des Sterbens im frühen Christentum’, in Sebastian Fuhrmann and Regina Grundmann (eds), Martyriumsvorstellungen in Antike und Mittelalter. Leben oder Sterben für Gott?, AGJU 80 (Leiden, Boston, 2012), 149-65. 7 On what follows see Manuel Vogel, Commentatio Mortis. 2Kor 5,1-10 auf dem Hintergrund antiker ars moriendi, FRLANT 214 (Göttingen, 2006), 45-222.

‘The Greatest Example of Endurance’


end.8 From ancient Greek perspective, however, death not only allows a final résumé. It rather contains and mirrors in some way a person’s whole life. This is, for example, how Valerius Maximus reads the sentence: Humanae autem vitae condicionem praecipue primus et ultimus dies continet, quia plurimum interest quibus auspiciis incohetur et quo fine claudatur, ideoque eum demum felicem fuisse iudicamus cui et accipere lucem prospere et reddere placide contingit. medii temporis cursus, prout Fortuna gubernaculum rexit, modo aspero, modo tranquillo motu peragitur. The condition of human life is chiefly determined by its first and last days, because it is of the greatest importance under what auspices it is begun and with what end it is terminated; and therefore we judge that he only has been fortunate whose lot it has been to receive the light propitiously and to yield it back quietly. The course of intervening time is accomplished with motion now rough, now tranquil, as Fortune guides the helm.9

As birth points forward to the course of life as an omen (auspicia), so death contains (continet) the essence of life as a whole. Thus, if someone dies a quiet death, he must have had in sum an equally quiet and fortunate life, even if Fortune may have caused some troubles from time to time. Yet, death is not only significant for a person’s fortune, but also for his moral character. A man dying a noble death must be a brave man,10 a disgraceful death in contrast reveals the coward. The conviction that death is a kind of summary of the whole life has been used in particular by ancient biography and historiography in order to characterise historical persons.11 The description of the death of a Roman emperor for example always implies an estimation of his ruling.12 Hence, Augustus, who is regarded as a good emperor, is dying a quiet death in the arms of his wife Livia according to Suetonius.13 Nero, on the contrary, is dying on his flight, abandoned by everyone, and he is proving himself to be a coward and effeminate by mourning for himself as a dying artist (Qualis artifex pereo!) and giving 8 The saying is ascribed to Solon from Herodotus onwards (see Hist. 1.32), but it appears also frequently in tragedy and is called λόγος ἀρχαῖος at Sophocles, Trach. 1. It is cited throughout antiquity in Greek as well as Latin literature (see Richard C. Jebb, Sophocles. The Plays and Fragments. Part I. Oedipus Tyrannus [Cambridge, 1914], 199f.). Aristotle discusses it at length in the Nicomachean Ethics (Book I, 1100a10-1100b10). 9 Facta et dicta memorabilia 9,12 praef. Text and translation: Valerius Maximus: Memorable Doings and Sayings. Vol. II: Books 6-9. Ed. and trans. by David R. Shackleton Bailey, LCL 493 (Cambridge, MA, 2000), 368f. 10 On the different motifs associated with ‘noble death’ and their influence on the Christian notion of martyrdom see Jan W. van Henten, ‘Noble Death and Martyrdom in Antiquity’, in S. Fuhrmann and R. Grundmann (eds), Martyriumsvorstellungen (2012), 85-110; id., ‘ Martyrium II (ideengeschichtlich)’, RAC 24 (2011), 300-25. 11 See M. Vogel, Commentatio mortis (2006), 86-136. 12 See ibid. 93-109; Alessandro Ronconi, ‘Exitus illustrium virorum’, RAC 6 (1966), 1258-68, 1263. 13 Suet., Aug. 99.



himself the mortal blow only with the assistance of his private secretary Epaphroditus.14 The aim of such portrayals is of course not to represent the historical circumstances of death as accurately as possible, but to draw an image of death which expresses most vividly the person’s character. Furthermore, the moral instruction of the reader plays an important role – true to Cicero’s historia magistra vitae.15 According to Livy, the benefit of history for the reader is ‘that you behold the lessons of every kind of experience set forth as on a conspicuous monument; from these you may choose for yourself and for your own state what to imitate, from these mark for avoidance what is shameful in the conception and shameful in the result’.16 The images of the death of great men (exitus illustrium virorum) therefore not only serve to characterise these men themselves, but also to form an identityestablishing heritage of the community of memory: they are memory figures (Erinnerungsfiguren) in terms of Jan Assmann.17 They are embodiments of the ideals of a community, ‘an indissoluble merging of idea and image’.18 They express the formative as well as the normative aspect of memory: ‘They define and reinforce the identity of the group and motivate communal action by narrating a shared history’.19 They reinforce the group identity, because they refer to the own history of the group, to the heroes of their own past (formative). At the same time, they encourage to imitate the virtues which are visible in the life and death of those heroes (normative). The images of the exitus illustrium virorum are therefore not restricted to the historiographic and biographic genre, but form a widespread kind of Kleinliteratur20 that can be found in many different genres of texts, especially as rhetoric exempla. There have even been collections of such tales of exitus21 (among others in the work of Valerius Maximus cited above), which underscores the importance of this literary topos. The perhaps most influential memory figure of a great man’s death in antiquity is of course the image of the dying Socrates.22 Both aspects are very clearly 14 Suet., Nero 49. To be sure, Augustus also presents himself as a kind of artist in his famous last words: ‘Since well I’ve played my part, all clap your hands, and from the stage dismiss me with applause’ (Suet., Aug. 99). But unlike Nero’s last words, they must be taken metaphorically. Since the Hellenistic age, the world of stage was a familiar metaphor for a monarch’s behaviour. See e.g. Angelos Chaniotis, Age of Conquests: The Greek World from Alexander to Hadrian (Cambridge, MA, 2018), 117-21. Nero’s mistake was to take this metaphor too literally, at least in the eyes of the Roman aristocrats. 15 See Cicero, De oratore 2,36. 16 Livy, Ab urbe condita, praef. 10. Trans.: Livy. History of Rome, Vol. I: Books 1-2. Trans. by Benjamin O. Foster, LCL 114 (Cambridge, MA, 1919), 5. 17 See Jan Assmann, Cultural Memory and Early Civilisation: Writing, Rememberance, and Political Imagination (Cambridge, 2011), 23-8. 18 Ibid. 24. 19 Ibid. 123. 20 See A. Ronconi, ‘Exitus’ (1966), 1258. 21 See Vogel, Commentatio mortis (2006), 74-84; A. Ronconi, ‘Exitus’ (1966), 1260-1. 22 See J.W. van Henten, ‘Noble Death’ (2012), 103-4.

‘The Greatest Example of Endurance’


visible here, death as the summary of life as well as the identity-establishing effect of its remembrance. The archetype of this memory figure is the representation of Socrates’s trial, captivity and death especially in Plato’s Phaedo, but also in the Apology and the Crito. The attitude towards death shown by Socrates here illustrates the essence of his philosophy: ‘Not to care for your persons (σωμάτων) or your property more than for the perfection of your souls, or even so much; and […] that virtue does not come from money, but from virtue comes money and all other good things to man, both to the individual and to the state’.23 From the priority of virtue over all other goods, even life itself, follows Socrates’s refusal to escape as well as the conviction that ‘Anytos and Meletos can kill me, but they cannot hurt me’.24 The memory figure of the dying Socrates is therefore the vivid embodiment of his philosophy. In fact, it’s only his fortitude and constancy which makes his radical doctrine reliable. His death is really the summary and mirror of his life. At the same time, the image of the dying Socrates has become part of the Greco-Roman cultural memory as archetype of a good death.25 It has been the pattern after which innumerable further memory figures have been modelled.26 Cato the Younger, for example, is dying according to Plutarch while reading the Phaedo,27 and Tacitus tells us that Seneca tries to expedite his death by means of hemlock after calmly reminding his friends of the maxims of his philosophy.28 So the death of Socrates not only discloses his personality ex post but also shapes cultural memory by presenting a pattern of action and motivating its imitation. 2. Paul as Pattern of Endurance in 1Clem. 5:5-7 As we have seen, the memory of the death of great men is an integral part of ancient memory culture. As is shown particularly by the example of Socrates, the picture of a person’s death vividly illustrates the values which one stands 23 Apol. 30a-b, trans.: Plato in Twelve Volumes. Vol. I: Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Phaedo, Phaedrus. Trans. by Harold N. Fowler, LCL 36 (Cambridge, MA, 1977), 109-11. 24 Compare Apol 30c-d. In this shortened form, the sentence has been quoted by many pagan as well as Christian authors, see Theofried Baumeister, ‘Anytos und Meletos können mich zwar töten, schaden jedoch können sie mir nicht’, in Horst-Dieter Blume and Friedhelm Mann (eds), Platonismus und Christentum. Festschrift Heinrich Dörrie, JAC 10 (Münster, 1983), 58-63. 25 See A. Ronconi, ‘Exitus’ (1966), 1258-9; Klaus Döring, Exemplum Socratis. Studien zur Sokratesnachwirkung in der kynisch-stoischen Popularphilosophie der frühen Kaiserzeit und im frühen Christentum, Hermes Einzelschriften 42 (Wiesbaden, 1979), esp. 37-42. 26 See especially Seneca’s words at Tacitus, Ann. 15,62: ‘He turned to his friends, and called them for witness that, as he was prevented from showing his gratitude for their services, he left them his sole but fairest possession – the image of his life (imaginem vitae suae)’. Trans.: Tacitus. Annals: Books 13-16. Trans. by John Jackson, LCL 322 (Cambridge, MA, 1937), 315. 27 Plutarch, Cato Minor, 68,1-70,5. 28 See Tacitus, Ann. 15,60-4; similar also the death of Thrasea Paetus (Ann. 16,34).



for and thus motivates others to model their own lives after these values. Is it possible to demonstrate a similar form of memory related to the Apostle Paul in the early church as well? In this chapter we will examine the oldest text (according to the usual dating) which mentions the death of Paul. 1Clem. 5:5-7 says: διὰ ζῆλον καὶ ἔριν Παῦλος ὑπομονῆς βραβεῖον ἔδειξεν· ἑπτάκις δεσμὰ φορέσας, φυγαδευθείς, λιθασθείς, κῆρυξ γενόμενος ἔν τε τῇ ἀνατολῇ καὶ ἐν τῇ δύσει, τὸ γενναῖον τῆς πίστεως αὐτοῦ κλέος ἔλαβεν. δικαιοσύνην διδάξας ὅλον τὸν κόσμον, καὶ ἐπὶ τὸ τέρμα τῆς δύσεως ἐλθὼν καὶ μαρτυρήσας ἐπὶ τῶν ἡγουμένων, οὕτως ἀπηλλάγη τοῦ κόσμου καὶ εἰς τὸν ἅγιον τόπον ἀνελήμφθη, ὑπομονῆς γενόμενος μέγιστος ὑπογραμμός. Because of jealousy and strife Paul pointed the way to the prize for endurance. Seven times he bore chains; he was sent into exile and stoned; he served as a herald in both the East and the West; and he received the noble reputation for his faith. He taught righteousness to the whole world, and came to the limits of the West, bearing his witness before the rulers. And so he was set free from this world and transported up to the holy place, having become the greatest example of endurance.29

The passage has received much attention, especially with regard to the question of whether it can be evaluated for the historical reconstruction of the last years of Paul’s ministry.30 In particular, it has been discussed whether the phrase ἐπὶ τὸ τέρμα τῆς δύσεως (5:7) possibly hints at a journey of the Apostle to Spain. But here we want to put such historical questions aside. Instead we shall ask which role Paul’s death plays in this passage and whether it represents a figure of memory in the sense described above. To this end, we must first recall the context of the passage. Then we shall examine whether Paul’s death is presented here in a similar way as the summary of his whole life and whether it functions as a memory figure for establishing an identity for the Christian community adressed. 2.1. Context The short passage on Paul is part of a series of exempla in 1Clem. 4-6. The connecting keyword of the series is the term ζῆλος (jealousy), sometimes coupled with similar terms such as φθόνος (envy) or – in our passage – ἔρις (quarrel, strife).31 The series is related to the occasion of the letter: a quarrel 29

The Apostolic Fathers, Volume I: I Clement. II Clement. Ignatius. Polycarp. Didache. Ed. and trans. Bart D. Ehrman, LCL 24 (Cambridge, MA, 2003), 44f. 30 See especially the overview given by Wolfgang Grünstäudl, ‘Hidden in Praise: Some Notes on 1 Clement 5.7’, in A. Puig i Tàrrech et al. (eds), The Last Years (2015), 375-89. 31 For a thorough analysis of this ‘recht dichtes semantisches Netz’ see Hermut Löhr, ‘Zur Paulus-Notiz in 1Clem 5,5-7’, in F.W. Horn (ed.), Ende (2001), 197-213, 199-201. See also Horacio E. Lona, Der erste Clemensbrief, Kommentar zu den Apostolischen Vätern 2 (Göttingen, 1998), 138-40.

‘The Greatest Example of Endurance’


within the church of Corinth that had resulted in the removal of presbyters. This quarrel is attributed in 1Clem. 3:2 to bad attitudes such as ζῆλος, which – as is stated in 3:4 – leads to death (δι᾿ οὗ καὶ θάνατος εἰσῆλθεν εἰς τὸν κόσμον). This assertion is illustrated by the series of exempla which consists of two clearly separated parts: In the first part (4:1-13) seven examples from the OT are cited. Then 5:1 switches with a distinct Abbruchsformel from the ‘old’ to the ‘quite recent’ examples of ‘our generation’, the Christian martyrs.32 The following second part has a somewhat more complex structure: 5:2-3 is a kind of introductory heading.33 Whether the term ‘pillars’ (στῦλοι) refers exclusively to Peter and Paul, as the comparison with Gal. 2:9 suggests, is by no means certain, since this term is also found in other Jewish and Christian texts as a term for martyrs.34 Thus, 5:2 can also be understood as a heading for the entire passage 5:3-6:3, where 5:3 in turn would be a subtitle for the passage 5:4-7. If, however, στῦλοι already refers to Peter and Paul in particular, then 5:2-3 is to be understood as a heading to 5:4-7. 6:1 then refers more generally to other Christian martyrs, while γυναῖκες Δαναΐδες καὶ Δίρκαι in 6:2 presents a particularly blatant individual case of persecution.35 6:3-4 finally close the series with examples from general life experience.

Although the structure of the second part is a bit obscure, it is certainly clear that the examples of Peter and Paul form its centrepiece and that they are closely related. In addition to the fact that they are introduced together in 5:3 (λάβωμεν πρὸ ὀφθαλμῶν ἡμῶν τοὺς ἀγαθοὺς ἀποστόλους), the parallel structure and several common keywords of their passages point to this. The common denominator of the series of examples is the principle stated in 3:4 that ζῆλος leads to death. Accordingly, many of the OT examples of the first part end up in death (or at least metaphorically in persecution μέχρι θανάτου as with Joseph, 4:9), and also the second part focusses on martyrdom. However, there is an important difference between the two parts: While throughout the first part death is described as a negative consequence, the second part is clearly more ambivalent on this point.36 It is only here, for example, 32 Ἀλλ᾿ ἵνα τῶν ἀρχαίων ὑποδειγμάτων παυσώμεθα, ἔλθωμεν ἐπὶ τοὺς ἔγγιστα γενομένους ἀθλητάς· λάβωμεν τῆς γενεᾶς ἡμῶν τὰ γενναῖα ὑποδείγματα. 33 Also H. Löhr, ‘Paulus-Notiz’ (2001), 200, who nevertheless counts the verse as an example of its own in order to reach the number seven in the second part as well. Allowedly, this view is supported by the sevenfold naming of ζῆλος. See H.E. Lona, Clemensbrief (1998), 147 with note 2. 34 For evidence see H.E. Lona, Clemensbrief (1998), 157. Nevertheless, Lona himself applies the term to Peter and Paul without any further discussion. Similarly Andreas Lindemann, Die Apostolischen Väter I. Die Clemensbriefe, Handbuch zum Neuen Testament 17 (Tübingen, 1992), 41; different Rudolf Knopf, Der erste Clemensbrief, Texte und Untersuchungen 5,1 (Leipzig, 1899), 50. 35 H.E. Lona (Clemensbrief [1998], 167) and A. Lindemann (Clemensbriefe [1992], 41) suppose verse 6:1 to refer mainly to men in opposition to the women in 6:2. This, however, cannot be inferred from the text. 36 See H. Löhr, ‘Paulus-Notiz’ (2001), 202.



that death is associated with a hope for the hereafter.37 The frequent appearance of the agōn motif, which occurs only in the second part, also points to this.38 This is an exceedingly positive motif which is popular in the Stoic-Cynic Diatribe,39 but also in Jewish-Hellenistic martyr literature.40 So we can observe here a subtle shift of focus: ‘The warning against the deadly ζῆλος etc. is here superimposed by the motive of struggling faith and the role models for it‘.41 Such a digression from the main topic is quite typical for the style of the letter.42 To sum up, Paul is not mentioned in 5:5-7 for his own sake. His death serves as part of a series of examples to support the statement that jealousy leads to death. But besides this primary goal, the second part of the series also serves another purpose. By presenting to the Corinthians role models from their own Christian community, it seeks to instruct them how to deal with a situation of ζῆλος καὶ ἔρις (such as their own).43 As ‘heroes’ of the Christian past, Peter and Paul thus offer a measure to which the Corinthians should orient themselves in the present situation. 2.2. The Image of Paul’s Life and Death according to 1Clement The passage about Paul itself begins with a short introduction containing three essential motifs: The first words διὰ ζῆλον καὶ ἔριν establish the connection to the series of exempla. The lexeme βραβεῖον, which denotes the victory prize in a sporting competition,44 places the whole section under the leitmotif of the agōn metaphor. Finally, the keyword ὑπομονή (endurance), which is picked up again at the end of the passage in 5:7 (ὑπομονῆς γενόμενος μέγιστος ὑπογραμμός), serves as a key concept for the interpretation of Paul:45 Because of his endurance, Paul won the victory prize; it is his endurance that makes him a role model (ὑπογραμμός) for the Corinthians. In the main part of the passage, the ministry of Paul up to his death is described in two verses (5:6-7) like in circular movements. Already their grammatical 37 38

τόπος τῆς δόξης (5:4); ἅγιος τόπος (5:7); ἔλαβον γέρας γενναῖον (6:2). Already at the beginning: τοὺς ἔγγιστα γενομένους ἀθλητάς (5:1); ἕως θανάτου ἤθλησαν

(5:2). 39 See Louis Sanders, L’Hellénisme de Saint Clément de Rome et le Paulinisme, Studia Hellenistica 2 (Leuven, 1943), 34-40. 40 See H.E. Lona, Clemensbrief (1998), 157; J.W. van Henten, ‘Noble Death’ (2012), 102f. 41 “Die Warnung vor dem todbringenden ζῆλος etc. ist hier also durch das Motiv des Glaubenskampfes und der Vorbilder darin überlagert” (H. Löhr, ‘Paulus-Notiz’ [2001], 202, translation M.K.). 42 See H.E. Lona, Clemensbrief (1998), 24. 43 See H. Löhr, ‘Paulus-Notiz’ (2001), 205. 44 Paul uses the term in his athletic metaphors in 1Cor. 9:24 and Phil. 3:14. See Ethelbert Stauffer, ‘βραβεῖον’, ThWNT, Vol. 1 (1933), 636f. 45 Endurance is also a key concept for the letter as a whole, as is shown particularly by the mentioning in the summary in 62:2. See H. Löhr, ‘Paulus-Notiz’ (2001), 203-5.

‘The Greatest Example of Endurance’


structure indicates that death means more here than just the end point of life course: Paul’s death is expressed by the predicates of both sentences (κλέος ἔλαβεν,46 5:6; ἀπηλλάγη τοῦ κόσμου καὶ εἰς τὸν ἅγιον τόπον ἀνελήμφθη, 5:7), while the verbs describing his earthly ministry are syntactically subordinated as participles. At the same time, Paul’s death is also referred back to his ministry in both cases: in v.6 implicitly by the term κλέος, which describes the reward for probation in his ministry;47 in v.7 by οὕτως, which describes death as confirmation of his earthly ministry.48 Thus, in the formal structure of the passage we already find a similarity to the ancient memory figures of death that we have considered above. Life and death prove to be mutually interrelated, with death (expressed by the predicates) ‘encompassing’ the whole series of life events mentioned in the participles. This interpretation based on grammar may appear oversubtle, but only at first glance. 1Clement is, after all, a carefully elaborated product of rhetorical art that leaves nothing to chance.49 Considering each verse separately, the mutual connection between Paul’s life and death becomes even clearer. With its first three participles (ἑπτάκις δεσμὰ φορέσας, φυγαδευθείς, λιθασθείς), v.6 gives a peristasis catalogue. In doing so, it sticks to the topic of the examples of the apostles mentioned in 5:2, 46 Though Paul’s death is not explicitly mentioned in the first sentence, it seems already to be alluded here as is suggested by the parallelism with v.7 (see H. Löhr, ‘Paulus-Notiz’ [2001], 206: ‘V.6 […] deutet zuletzt das Ende des Paulus an’). Like in the second sentence, the predicate is not just an explanation of the series of participles but their final result (see note 48): after having born chains, having been sent to exile etc., he finally received the reputation for his faith. κλέος appears in NT only at 1Petr. 2:20, in 1Clem. here and in 54:3. Its meaning seems not to be different from the usage in classical Greek. H.E. Lona (Clemensbrief [1998], 164) notes: ‘Es empfiehlt sich, den “edlen Ruhm” als den Ruhm des Helden im klassischen Sinn aufzufassen’ and gives references to Homer. So, just as the fame of the classical heroes, Paul’s fame refers to his deeds within his life, but reaches beyond his death, which must be tacitly implied here. 47 See H.E. Lona, Clemensbrief (1998), 164. 48 The meaning of οὕτως has been debated in the context of the question whether μαρτυρήσας refers in a technical sense to the death of the apostle (which is commonly rejected today), so that οὕτως would just introduce an explanation of μαρτυρήσας (see H.E. Lona, Clemensbrief [1998], 166). Karl Heussi has shown that this is not the case: ‘Die mit οὕτως eingeleitete Aussage gibt also nicht eine Erläuterung des vorangehenden Nebensatzes, sondern eine gedankliche Weiterführung’ (Karl Heussi, Die römische Petrustradition in kritischer Sicht [Tübingen, 1955], 17). He compares four parallels for the use of οὕτως (Acts 20:11; 27:17; Josephus, B.J. 2.129; A.J. 8.270) and shows that in each case οὕτως introduces a new action. But a close look at Heussi’s examples shows also that this new action is qualified by the foregoing participles, e.g.: Acts 27:17: ‘Fearing that they would run aground on the Syrtis, they lowered the gear, and thus (= in this way!) they were driven along’. So οὕτως does not only mean ‘hereafter’, but also ‘in this way’, ‘in accordance with this’. 49 See e.g. the estimation of Harnack, cited by H.E. Lona, Clemensbrief (1998), 22: ‘Kein einziger Abschnitt ist rasch und natürlich hingeworfen, sondern alles ist wohl durchdacht, formell gründlich durchgearbeitet und stilistisch gefeilt. In Kunstprosa ist alles gegeben – selbst der historische Abschnitt über Petrus und Paulus –, in einer Kunstprosa, die in vielen Partien von Poesie nicht mehr zu unterscheiden ist’ (italics M.K.).



namely persecution (ἐδιώχθησαν). At the same time, however, it also explains the central keyword ὑπομονή: in all these sufferings Paul has shown endurance. The fourth participle then introduces Paul’s universal preaching activity as a second aspect: κῆρυξ γενόμενος ἔν τε τῇ ἀνατολῇ καὶ ἐν τῇ δύσει. Both of those aspects together ultimately bring Paul the ‘noble reputation’. Thus, both aspects together represent the whole life and ministry of Paul – a life that finds its natural goal in receiving reputation.50 But instead of continuing immediately with Paul’s death, as we would expect now, v.7 makes a new start and presents the second of the two aspects, preaching, in more detail. Three points are mentioned: (1) the content of the preaching: Justice;51 (2) the universality of the mission already mentioned is again emphasized by the phrase ἐπὶ τὸ τέρμα τῆς δύσεως ἐλθών; (3) the witness before the rulers (μαρτυρήσας ἐπὶ τῶν ἡγουμένων). The fact that the ‘rulers’ are set in plural here indicates that the phrase does not refer to Paul’s last trial in Rome but to subordinate authorities such as provincial governors.52 Thus, the testimony before the rulers is presented here not just as a feature of the end of his life, but as a permanent part of Paul’s ministry as a whole. After all, it is exactly this testimony before the rulers that leads to the permanent sufferings described at the beginning of v.6. For this very reason, however, the death of Paul at this point appears to be a natural and seamless continuation of the ministry of his life (which is expressed by the connecting particle οὕτως). Martyrdom is just the consequent finish of a life that consisted of untiring preaching, trials and persecutions. Finally, the end of v.7 (ὑπομονῆς γενόμενος μέγιστος ὑπογραμμός) again summarises this whole life course under the keyword ὑπομονή, that was already introduced in the headline (v.5). So here the circle is complete and we can observe a chiastic structure of the whole passage: ὑπομονή persecution universal preaching noble reputation (implying martyrdom) universal preaching persecution martyrdom ὑπομονή 50 Both aspects of course also draw on actual historical events in Paul’s life. For parallels of the singular expressions in Pauline tradition see A. Lindemann, Clemensbriefe (1992), 38. 51 Whether this is an echo of Paul’s doctrine of justification is hard to decide. See A. Lindemann, Clemensbriefe (1992), 39. 52 This may also, but not exclusively, refer to the trial before Felix, Festus and Agrippa (as is thought of by H.E. Lona, Clemensbrief [1998], 166). After all, Paul had to face a lot of trials during his lifetime, just think e.g. of Gallio in Corinth.

‘The Greatest Example of Endurance’


The passage is framed by the term ὑπομονή as essential keyword for the understanding of Paul’s life and death.53 In the description of Paul’s ministry itself, the two aspects persecution and universal preaching are intertwined not only by the chiastic order, but also by mutual reference: it’s the preaching that causes the persecutions, and it’s the persecutions that confirm Paul’s preaching by making him an ‘example of endurance’. This mutual connection between both aspects finally culminates in his violent death, which stands in the centre and at the end of the passage. We therefore have again the characteristic structure of ancient memory culture described above: Paul’s end is the summary of his life. All the aspects that make up his ministry are summarized in the way he dies. However, a closer look also reveals marked differences to the ancient examples considered above. Most notably, Paul’s death is only mentioned very cautiously and concealed by euphemisms. In this point, the passage differs considerably from the highly vivid and detailed descriptions of Plato, Suetonius and Tacitus, for instance. How are these differences to be interpreted? Can we really speak of an ‘image’ of Paul’s death? First of all: The passage is indeed painting a vivid image of Paul, albeit not of his death, but certainly of his life and personality. This image, however, is employed precisely to illustrate Paul’s death, which is actually the primary subject of the passage. This is clear from the context of the series of examples which – as we saw above – is meant to prove the thesis that because of jealousy ‘death came into the world’ (3:4). After the examples from the OT, this lethal power of jealousy is shown by the death of the ‘great apostles’ Peter and Paul. Considering this function of the passage, it is even more striking that the letter refers to their deaths only in weak allusions. Yet, if we take into account the observations we have just made, it seems not too surprising anymore: Paul’s whole life is described as endurance of deadly persecution. It is therefore not so important which concrete circumstances eventually led to his death. Rather, his death can be understood from his life of endurance. Conversely, however, it is only his death that makes this character of his life visible. Both must therefore not be played off against each other. Paul’s death reveals the character of his life no less than his life reveals the character of his death. It is just that the rhetorical technique works, so to speak, the other way round here: It is not a condensed picture of death that characterises the life of the person, but a condensed picture of life that characterises his death. The formula Life =^ Death, however, remains preserved, and its function is the same: to construct a memory image that establishes identity.


See H.E. Lona, Clemensbrief (1998), 161-2.



2.3. Paul’s Death and the construction of Christian identity Pauls death is not primarily mentioned in 1Clem. 5:5-7 in order to characterise Paul himself, but it serves a concrete persuasive purpose. As we have seen, the main purpose of the catalogue of examples is to demonstrate the destructive power of ζῆλος. But Paul, like the other Christian martyrs, is also meant to serve as a role model for the Corinthian community. In fact, Paul functions as a particularly important role model within 1Clement.54 This is expressed, for example, in 47:1-3, where the recipients are referred to Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians and the σχίσματα treated there (see 1Cor. 1:10) are directly compared to the current situation in Corinth. All in all Joseph Verheyden states for 1Clement: ‘Paul is repeatedly taken as the rule and measure against which to measure certain aspects of Christian community life, especially, it seems, to address a crisis in the community’.55 Can this also be shown for the passage in 5:5-7? Some hints indicate that it is particularly Paul’s death which is taken as ‘rule and measure’ here and thus represents a figure of memory in the sense described above. First of all, the expression ὑπομονῆς μέγιστος ὑπογραμμός stands out. Ehrman translates this phrase as ‘greatest example of endurance’, which has given this essay its title. But ὑπογραμμός means much more than just ‘example’ (Greek ὑπόδειγμα). In antiquity it was used, for example, to describe copy-heads that schoolboys had to rewrite.56 Therefore the translation ‘pattern’ would probably be better. Paul became the archetype of ὑπομονή because of his life and his death. Just as children learn to write by means of ὑπογραμμοί, so Christians can learn ὑπομονή by imitating Paul. But the high appreciation which is expressed for Paul here becomes clear only when we consider that the term ὑπογραμμός is otherwise applied to Christ exclusively in 1Clement and throughout early Christian literature.57 Imitatio Christi and imitatio Pauli seem to merge into one here.58 It is already in the following paragraph (6:1) that this imitation is addressed: To these men who have conducted themselves in such a holy way there has been added a great multitude of the elect, who have set a superb example among us (ὑπόδειγμα κάλλιστον ἐγένοντο ἐν ἡμῖν) by the numerous torments and tortures they suffered because of jealousy.59 54 See Joseph Verheyden, ‘Paul, Clement and the Corinthians’, in Jens Schröter et al. (eds), Receptions of Paul in Early Christianity: The Person of Paul and His Writings Through the Eyes of His Early Interpreters, BZNW 234 (Berlin, Boston, 2018), 555-78. 55 Ibid. 577. 56 Attested by Clem. Al., Strom. 5,8,49; see Henry G. Liddel, Robert Scott and Henry S. Jones, A Greek-English Lexicon (Oxford, 1996), 1877. On the application of ὑπογραμμοί in ancient teaching see Plato, Protagoras 326d. 57 1Pet. 2:21; 1Clem. 16:17; 33:8; Pol. 8:2. 58 But see already 1Cor. 11:1. 59 B.D. Ehrman, Apostolic Fathers (2003), 45.

‘The Greatest Example of Endurance’


The ‘elect’, the martyrs of the Roman church (possibly the victims of the Neronian persecution), have been ‘added’ (συνηθροίσθη) to Peter and Paul, that means: They are joining them in their fate. By imitating their suffering and death, they form a common community together with the apostles. And together with them, they become in turn examples for ‘us’, i.e. the Christians of 1Clement’s times.60 Terminologically though, a fine distinction is made here: they are not, like Paul himself, patterns (ὑπογραμμοί), but examples (ὑποδείγματα), not archetypes, but still images that repeat the archetype time and again and present it in a new light. Perhaps we have to imagine a similar relation here as we observed above with Seneca: By imitating the archetype Socrates in his death, he gave on his part an image of good life and death to his friends. So too in this case: Socrates : Seneca = Seneca : his friends Paul : the ‘elect’ = the ‘elect’ : ‘us’ (ἡμεῖς) The end of this chain of images is thus always the present community (‘we’). By remembering their forerunners, Christians are encouraged to imitate them in their own lives (normative aspect of memory). In addition, the reference to a common memory figure is also integrating and consolidating their group through a common identity (formative aspect). This function finally becomes visible in 7:1, at the end of the catalogue of examples: We are writing these things, loved ones, not only to admonish you but also to remind ourselves (ἑαυτοὺς ὑπομιμνήσκοντες). For we are in the same arena (ἐν γὰρ τῷ αὐτῷ ἐσμὲν σκάμματι) and the same contest is set before us (ὁ αὐτὸς ἡμῖν ἀγὼν ἐπίκειται).61

The Corinthians are encouraged explicitly not to regard the list of examples as a kind of patronising admonishment, but as shared memory. Thereby contrast between sender and recipient, between admonisher and admonished is abolished and both are integrated into a community with a common basis: both are ‘in the same arena’. In addition to this ‘horizontal’ integration the phrase ἐν τῷ αὐτῷ σκάμματι also hints at a ‘vertical’ one, because the repeated application of the agōn metaphor connects the Christians of the present with the great ‘athletes’ of the past. Thus, by including his addressees in the long line of the successors of the great model Paul, 1Clement refers the divided church in Corinth to their common identity. At the same time, he presents Paul’s endurance as a pattern for their own behaviour in their difficult situation of ‘jealousy and strife’. 60 Compare H.E. Lona, Clemensbrief (1998), 168: ‘Das συνηθροίσθη meint den Sammlungseffekt, der durch die Nachahmung des apostolischen Beispiels bei den anderen Gläubigen hervorgerufen wird. Wenn die „große Menge von Auserwählten“ sich gegenüber den Leiden ähnlich verhält, bildet sie mit den Aposteln eine gemeinsame Gruppe und wird selber zum ὑπόδειγμα κάλλιστον’. 61 B.D. Ehrman, Apostolic Fathers (2003), 47.



3. Conclusion We have seen that the death of great men (viri illustres) plays a special role in ancient memory culture. On the one hand it is regarded as a mirror of the whole life of the person as well as of his character. On the other hand, the memory of the death of a great person holds the potential to become constitutive for the identity of a community. We have illustrated this with the example of Socrates: In the way Socrates dies, he makes visible the values that have guided him in his life. At the same time, he leaves posterity with a pattern of good dying, which offers an identity for many people who see themselves as ‘philosophers’. This identity in turn implies a formative and a normative aspect: formative, because it constructs the ‘philosophers’ as a group following the archetype of Socrates, normative, because with this construction it provides a pattern of action against which later ‘philosophers’ can measure themselves. The examination of 1Clement has shown that it ascribes to Paul a similar fundamental role for the identity of Christians as ancient philosophy does for Socrates. Paul is the archetype (ὑπογραμμός) in which Christians can learn who they are and how to act. They can learn this by reading his letters (1Clem. 47:1-3), but even more by looking at his death, in which his whole life is summarized as one focal point.

Martyrdom as Access. The Martyrdom of the Apostle Andrew as it is Presented in the Acts of Andrew Cedric BÜCHNER, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich, Germany

ABSTRACT The Apostle Andrew is inscribed in the collective memory as a martyr. This is where today’s memory and several ancient Christian testimonies agree. However, the question arises which conception do early Christian traditions attach to Andrew’s martyrdom? The Apocryphal Acts of Andrew and their martyrdom narrative in particular, which have had wide influence over centuries but are rather unknown nowadays, had chosen martyrdom as specific access to the Apostle Andrew. Martyrdom is their narrative strategy. Due to this specific approach, they are particularly useful for obtaining an impression of the early Christian reception history regarding Andrew and the success story of his martyrdom.

1. Introduction: Martyrdom as a Narrative Strategy Throughout the last centuries, the remembrance of the Apostle Andrew appears rather uniform. A view into popular art shows that the prevailing image of the Apostle is that of a martyr, presented in a typical way. In most cases, he is depicted with a cross in the famous X-shape, which is commonly known as ʻSt. Andrew’s crossʼ. This X-shaped cross, which has become self-evident for today’s memory of Andrew, is based neither on canonical ground, nor on apocryphal ground. In fact, the first verifiable depiction showing Andrew’s cross in an X-shape has its origin in a troparium of the tenth century.1 Even though this medieval depiction has become a characteristic feature of the presentation of the Apostle, some other artworks present a conceptual approach that resembles almost hidden remembrances of Andrew’s martyrdom that go back to early Christianity.2 The Apocryphal Acts of Andrew (= AA), 1

The manuscript ʻTropaire de l’église d’Autunʼ presents Andrew being crucified on a X-shaped cross which in turn is attached to an upright wooden beam anchored in the ground (Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France. Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal, Ms-1169, 14v). 2 For example, the baroque artists of the Caravaggio School, Jusepe de Ribera and Nicolas Tournier, portray Andrew as standing in a beam of light, greeting the cross in the dark with a devout and expectant gaze. See Jusepe de Ribera, Saint Andrew (Naples, Quadreria dei Girolamini, 1651/20) and Nicolas Tournier, Saint Andrew (in private property, around 1616), see Bernd Ebert (ed.), Utrecht, Caravaggio and Europe (Munich, 2018), 109-10. The staging of light, a

Studia Patristica CVII, 41-53. © Peeters Publishers, 2021.



which are narratively set in the first century, are a valuable source; they have had a great and significant influence on the memory of Andrew and are one example of a popular early Christian way of remembering the Apostle and his martyrdom in particular. This article focuses on the apocryphal text of the AA and draws on its martyrdom narrative as it is preserved in a reconstruction based on two manuscripts (Cod. Sin. gr. 526 and Cod. Jer. Sabas gr. 103).3 Although this witness to the text presumably is an adaptation of the original AA, it can provide information about the manner in which the martyrdom was possibly presented in the original AA. In particular, the article will focus on the way in which the text, in a narrative strategy, portrays the Apostle Andrew as a martyr. For this purpose, the importance that early Christianity attached to martyrdom and the way in which the text shapes its plot and roles towards martyrdom, will be examined first. Afterwards, the narrated martyrdom is to be exemplified from various points of view. In a last step, the article will focus on the text’s understanding of the Apostle’s martyrdom and to what extent it characterizes its protagonist Andrew.

2. Martyrdom as a Success Strategy 2.1. The Context: The Effects of the Apostle’s Message As with other Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles, the narrative of martyrdom is well documented because it gained independence from the rest of the other parts of the AA and was reproduced separately from an early stage on. There are a few narratives of the martyrdom which suggest from their quantity in comparison to the assumed scope of the other part of the initial version, that the AA must have been a kind of ʻpassion storyʼ with detailed introduction – as it is often claimed about the Gospel of Mark for instance.4 The singular interest in this part of the narrative suggests that early Christianity attached particular importance to the death of Andrew and that martyrdom is the very identification typical characteristic of the Caravaggio School, follows an apocryphal pattern found in the Acts of Andrew, knowingly or not: prior to his martyrdom the Apostle greets the cross as a shining, life and light filled one (φωτεινὲ καὶ ὅλε ζωῆς καὶ φέγγους σταυρέ, 614-5). 3 The Greek version of the text used in this article is the one according to Theocharis Detorakis. The references refer to the lines in Theocharis Detorakis, ʻΤΟ ΑΝΕΚΔΟΤΟ ΜΑΡΤΥΡΙΟ ΤΟΥ ΑΠΟΣΤΟΛΟΥ ΑΝΔΡΕΑʼ, in Tasso A. Gritsopoulos, Dikaios V. Vayakakos and Con. L. Kotonis (eds), Acts of The Second International Congress of Peloponnesian Studies I, Peloponnesiaca Supplement 8 (Athens, 1981-2), 325-52. 4 In reference to all four Gospels, see Martin Kähler, Der sogenannte historische Jesus und der geschichtliche, biblische Christus, Vortrag auf der Wupperthaler Pastoralkonferenz (Leipzig, 1892), 331.

Martyrdom as Access


of the Apostle; that this segment of the text was successfully handed down because it concerned especially the martyrdom of Andrew. Most likely however, the AA are not a passion narrative in the sense of them being a detailed story about the death of the Apostle Andrew, since his death itself is recounted quite short in the AA. It can rather be understood as a continuous and detailed narrative built around Andrew’s death, telling what led up to the final consequence of his life. The narrative is a story about Andrew’s martyrdom as a whole, as testimony of life and of living for his message: Andrew sacrifices himself, suffers and clings to it until and during his crucifixion.5 In the AA narrative of the martyrdom, it is told that the ascetic preaching of the Apostle Andrew in Patras (Greece) also finds favour by Maximilla, the wife of proconsul Aegeates. She decides to live in sexual abstinence and to send a slave named Eukleia to her husband’s bedchamber (230-47). Andrew’s success puts him in trouble because the proconsul’s marriage begins to disintegrate due to Maximilla’s conversion. The household – as ʻthe building block of Roman societyʼ6 – of the proconsul begins to deteriorate. It seems that when the furious statesman is unable to organize and control his own family, he is also unable to fulfil his political duties.7 When the deception is unveiled and the proconsul realizes that Andrew, Maximilla’s spiritual leader, is the reason for her asceticism, the latter becomes a thorn in Aegeates’s side. For the martyrdom narrative of the AA, the proconsul’s conflictual situation is primarily the result of a relationship issue. A triangular relationship of Aegeates, Maximilla and Andrew creates a competitive situation between the proconsul and the Apostle, which influences the further course of the action.8 The sexually 5 The Acts themselves do not use the term ʻmartyrʼ for Andrew. It was not until the narration of the passion became independent that Andrew’s death was given the title ʻmartyrdomʼ. In the AA, it is only mentioned that he would associate with martyrs (322-4). 6 Candida R. Moss, ʻRoman Imperialism. The Political Context of Early Christian Apocryphaʼ, in Andrew Gregory and Christopher Tuckett (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Early Christian Apocrypha (Oxford, 2015), 378-88, 384. 7 Aegeates accuses Andrew to be an adversary of his family (οἰκία, 559) and a ʻdestroyerʼ of his entire house (οἶκος, 560). For Aegeates’s οἰκία see also Andrew’s report on the content of his dream (252-3). 8 In her essay ʻAegeates, the Devil in Personʼ, Monika Peshty was able to clarify that the triangular relationship from the biblical creation narrative (Adam-Eve-snake) can be found modified in the AA: Andrew takes the role of Adam, Maximilla of Eve and Aegeates of the snake. Andrew (as Adam) is the one who tries to bring Maximillia (Eve) back from the fallen world (475-8). Just as Adam and Eve are victims of the snake, Andrew and Maximilla are victims of Aegeates. According to the view represented by Andrew in the AA, only those who renounce sexuality can return to paradise because it is necessary to liberate the soul from the body to which sexuality is directed. See Monika Pesthy, ʻAegeates, the Devil in Personʼ, in Jan N. Bremmer (ed.), The Apocryphal Acts of Andrew, Studies on the Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles 5 (Leuven, 2000), 47-55, 50-2. The ʻtriangle of loveʼ can also be found in a varied form in the Odyseey, see Régis Burnet, Les douze apôtres: Histoire de la réception des figures apostoliques dans le christianisme ancien, JAOC 1 (Turnhout, 2014), 273.



eager Aegeates is contrasted by Andrew, who calls for asceticism and to whom Maximilla is devoted.9 Maximilla’s rejection of Aegeates and her affection for Andrew gives rise to a conflict, which is fought out in the course of the story. For Aegeates, the private matter, which actually only concerns the proconsul’s chambers, becomes a great state affair.10 His desire for Maximilla11 and the offense he takes at the Apostle leads to a protracted, unjust trial against Andrew, who is consciously described by the text as dealing patiently and calmly with the suffering and as being absolutely exposed to the totalitarian and arbitrarily acting ruler: Andrew is imprisoned (354-5), Aegeates takes action against him and eventually sentences him to death (558-67). Thus, Andrew’s trial is a direct consequence of the effect of his message on Maximilla, a member of the proconsul’s own household,12 and his death on the cross is the result of a ʻrelationship conflictʼ that arose from it. 2.2. Idealized Roles: Between the Earthly and the Divine The ʻrelationship conflictʼ in which Andrew and Aegeates are involved is treated on several levels within the martyrdom narrative of the AA. What initially concerns Maximilla on the level of the plot is shifted to a higher level in the course of the narrative. Not just two men, but two ʻrepresentativesʼ compete with each other. This is evident in the deliberate stylization of Andrew and Aegeates, who are presented as two fundamentally opposed characters. The relationship between the two antagonists can best be described as antipodal. In the AA, both characters have little or no individuality but fulfil stereotypes. Their dichotomy is depicted as follows: while Andrew stands for the immaterial, spiritual world beyond, Aegeates represents the material and demonic world. This characterization pervades the narrative and is made especially clear over the course of the trial and the enforcement of the judgment. Almost visually it is shown to the reader how the Apostle Andrew, who has been distinguished by the crowd as a righteous person who is full of God 9 Her devotion assumes traits of ʻloveʼ, which is a major theme of AA. For example, Maximilla tells of her love in the confrontation with Aegeates: Φιλῶ, Αἰγεάτα, φιλῶ. Καὶ ὃ φιλῶ οὐδὲν τῶν ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ ἐστὶν τοῦτο […] (305-6). Even Stratocles speaks of a kind of love for the Apostle (στοργή, 505, 508). Paradoxically, the highly eroticized story is not only about the physical desire of Aegeates, but also about physical contact between Maximilla and Andrew, such as touching and kissing the hand (462-3). 10 In contrast to the trial of Andrew, which is not treated immediately, Aegeates can also make short work of someone: he has crucified three chatty slaves within the context of the affaire of Eukleia (289-91). Even Eukleia herself is mutilated without further ado and thrown out of the house (288-9). The resumption of the trial against Andrew only takes place after the proconsul remembers ʻAndrew’s affairʼ while holding other trials in court and becoming furious (441-2). 11 See also the resumption of the process motivated by the fierce desire of the proconsul for Maximilla (444). 12 See also C.R. Moss, ʻRoman Imperialism’ (2015), 382.

Martyrdom as Access


(ὁ δίκαιος, ὁ θεὸν ἔχων), is at the mercy of the godless (τοῦ ἀνοσίου) Aegeates (568). The proconsul adhering to the material is represented in the AA as evil (πονηρός) in person.13 He is marked by the attributes of the devil. The AA carries out a change of perspective: while the proconsul sees the root and causer of all evil in Andrew,14 the AA depict Aegeates as the evil, who is addicted to desire and therefore adheres exclusively to matter.15 In addition, it is reasonable to assume that the text – in order to stage Aegeates and Andrew as opponents – intentionally has chosen charactonyms. The name Aegeates (Αἰγεάτης) can be a quite meaningful name if one points out its reference to the Aegean Sea (Αἰγαῖος).16 If the name was chosen for the sake of its meaning, it can implicitly stand for the sea and the water, which in the AA are often attributed to evil powers.17 In this way, Aegeates also appears in the text. He is not only associated with evil but he is also dominated by his unbridled emotions, which can be seen in the narrative, for example in his relationship with Maximilla or in his dealings with Andrew.18 The choice of his name would be appropriate, since the name of Andrew (Ἀνδρέας) can have a contrasting meaning. Andrew is ʻthe brave manʼ – and that is the way he is depicted in the AA.19 His fearlessness is particularly evident in the way he deals with the judgment of Aegeates and the death on the cross itself. Figuratively, the Andrew of the AA bears a name worthy of his death and the way he passes away.

13 Again and again over the course of the text Aegeates is associated with evil. He is called an ʻoutrageous and reluctant snakeʼ (208) and his father is identified with the devil (485-6) or a snake (492-3). 14 The furious Aegeates is told by a slave that Stratocles would ʻgive him peaceʼ (318). Andrew is – in view of Aegeates – the one who ʻthrows the house of the proconsul into confusionʼ (341-2). 15 With regard to evil signs and persons in early Christian parlance, see Outi Lehtipuu, ʻEschatology and the Fate of the Dead in Early Christian Apocryphaʼ, in A. Gregory and C. Tuckett (eds), The Oxford Handbook (2015), 343-60, 343. 16 Aegeates is a pretty unknown name; it is rather a fictitious one. The chosen explanation of his name faces the challenge that Patras and even the Achaia are not located on the Aegean Sea. It can therefore only be a kind of ʻreferenceʼ. Moreover, it should be noted that Patras has never been the seat of a proconsul and that a Roman proconsul hardly would have had a Greek name. 17 As an example, in Gregory of Tours’ Liber de miraculis, which refers to the AA and represents a revised version, a man in the water is attacked by demons; the water is accordingly understood as the realm of evil powers. See Jean-Marc Prieur, Acta Andreae: Textus, CChr.SA 6 (Turnhout, 1989), 5783. See also – with regard to the hermetic text ʻPoimandresʼ – János Bollók, ʻPoimandres and the Acta Andreaeʼ, in J.N. Bremmer (ed.), The Apocryphal Acts of Andrew (2000), 104-9, 108. 18 For example, the text describes Aegeates as frantic (ἐμμανής, 310, 442). 19 See the origin of the name from the Greek ἀνδρεία, which means courage, manliness, braveness. In shaping the figure of Andrew, the authorship was presumably only sparsely inspired by factual information, and rather significantly influenced by contemporary philosophy and ancient Greek literature.



3. Martyrdom as a Passionate Strategy 3.1. Death at the Cross: A Place of Transition What is implied by the names is also made clear by the text in its plot and the narrated stage: in the AA, the preparation for Andrew’s execution begins in the morning (ἑωθινός), or – more precisely – at dawn, which is associated with darkness and thus with evil (131-7). The cross already stands at the place of execution, which is unusual for Roman practice, and is in close proximity to the sea. This closeness to the sea, as place of execution, correlates with Greek practice20 and is an adaptation of a typical idea of Homeric epic.21 Thus, it is not only a border place between land and water, but rather a zone of transition. In the AA, there are again two possible ways of interpretation. For Aegeates – as an admirer of the material – this place is primarily the place where he seeks to put an end to the spiritual leader of his wife Maximillia, who preaches asceticism to her – and thus to the destruction of his own household – by means of the material instrument of the cross. In contrast to Aegeates, the reader quickly becomes aware that the procedure of crucifixion does not achieve the goal intended by the proconsul and contrarily is offered a completely different approach to this place of passage. The text lets Andrew speak about the cross as a sign (σημεῖον, 609) showing him the way to the Logos, which he defines as the purpose of his life (608-10). In the sign, the Andrew of the AA finds the place (τόπος, 610) where he may enter the rest of God. While the cross in the AA can be understood as the ʻdestinationʼ of Andrew’s body, the (eternal) rest is the state intended for the soul of the Apostle. Instead of fear of the execution tool, the AA place words of praise addressed to the cross in the Apostle’s mouth and thus demonstrate that ʻthe martyr Andrewʼ, who freely and patiently accepts his judgment to find his death on the cross and with it his transition to rest (612-5), is superior to the governor.22 The place that is to become the end (of the effects) of Andrew’s message is the place where the Apostle can 20 According to Jan N. Bremmer a reminiscence of Greek practice ʻto dispose of polluted beings at the beach, a typically ambivalent place between land and seaʼ can be seen in this location. See Jan N. Bremmer, ʻMan, Magic, and Martyrdom in the Acts of Andrewʼ, in J.N. Bremmer (ed.), The Apocryphal Acts of Andrew (2000), 15-34, 34 according to Robert Parker, Miasma: Pollution and purification in early Greek religion (Oxford, 1985), 226-7. 21 In reference to early Christian localization, see O. Lehtipuu, Eschatology and the fate (2015), 349. See also Dennis Ronald MacDonald, who studied the parallels between Andrew and Socrates as well as the literary dependence of the AA on certain ancient Greek texts at book-length and who can convince at several points: Dennis Ronald MacDonald, Christianizing Homer: The Odyssey, Plato, and the Acts of Andrew (New York, 1994), 259: ʻIf any image would have shaken the reader awake to the hypertextual intention of the Acts, it would have been his lashing to a cross on a beach next to a turbulent seaʼ. 22 The superiority is also demonstrated by the death of the proconsul, which is mentioned at the end of the story. Contrary to the quietly accepted death of the Apostle, Aegeates takes his own life after he has unsuccessfully harassed Maximilla one last time (719-22).

Martyrdom as Access


continue to preach; it even turns into the place of a life testimony, of martyrdom, as death itself confirms the message. 3.2. Death as Superiority: Redeemed Smile and Preaching The superiority of the Apostle is also expressed by the narrative of Andrew’s passion in the smile of the protagonist (μειδάω, 627) shortly after his fixation to the cross.23 This mainly serves two functions. On the one hand, it can be interpreted as a smile at the totalitarian statesman who believes he is suppressing Andrew and his followers by condemning him (their spiritual leader). As part of the martyrdom narrative, Aegeates once boasted in front of Maximilla that he had captured her teacher, to which she replied (362-6): My teacher is not someone who clings to the mighty. He is neither tangible nor tangible with the senses. You have not triumphed over such a man, Aegeates, stop your so boastful speech.24

On the other hand, in Andrew’s explanation of the answer to Stratocles’s question concerning his smile, he brings a docetic argument into play (632-4): He [sc. Aegeates] has not yet convinced himself that we are alien to him and his plans. He cannot hear, for if he could, he would have understood that Jesus was a man who could not be punished.25

In the AA, the proconsul, who is foreign to the Apostle, is not able to recognize that the punishment of the body does not equal the punishment of the actual person. Accordingly, the ʻeliminationʼ of Andrew does not have the effect of solving the problem by destroying its root, as initially intended by Aegeates. The Apostle’s premortal smile is therefore motivated by the fact of the governor’s inability to understand the immortality of the soul and the transience of the body. The AA paint the picture of a brave, fearless Apostle who stands deep in faith in union with one (τῷ ἑνί), ready to leave many (τῶν πολλῶν) behind (689-90). For the Andrew of the AA, death is something to be welcomed.26 To stylize the Apostle as a martyr, the text makes particular use of sermonlike instructions that are repeatedly incorporated into the course of action within the martyrdom narrative. For this reason, the text attaches such importance to 23 The premortal smile of the Apostle suggests an imitation of the laughter of Socrates in Plato’s philosophical didactic dialogue Phaedo (Phaedo 84d-e). 24 Οὐκ ἔστι τῶν δυναμένων ἀποκρεμασθῆναι ὁ ἐμὸς διδάσκαλος. Οὐ γάρ ἐστι ληπτὸς οὐδὲ ὄψει δεικτός. Οὐδενὸς οὖν τῶν τοιούτων ἐπικρατὴς γεγονώς, Αἰγεάτα, μέθες τὸ τοι οῦτον σου καύχημα. 25 Οὐδέπω πέπεισαι ὅτι ἀλλότριοι αὐτοῦ ἐσμεν καὶ τῶν ἐπιβουλῶν αὐτοῦ; Οὐκ ἔχει τὸ ἀκούειν, ἐπεὶ εἰ εἶχεν ἠκηκόει ἄν ὅτι Ἰησοῦς ἄνθπωπος ἀτιμώρητος. 26 See also See Jean-Marc Prieur, Acta Andreae: Praefatio – Commentarius, CChr.SA 6 (Turnhout, 1989), 3311.



the words of its protagonist spoken in the face of death. Thus, the Apostle is remembered as a preacher who in vicinia mortis untiringly teaches for another three days. The Apostle’s words and teachings, which also play an important role throughout the entire narrative of the AA, are especially emphasized shortly before and during passion (Andrew had ʻnothing to eat on the cross and yet satisfied us with his wordsʼ, 671-2). His speeches in the face of death summarize his message. In addition to the word, however, the deed (the death on the cross, i.e. the martyrdom) also comes to the fore.27 Thus, it is stated in the AA that word and deed of the Apostle fall into one category – especially in the passion. His quiet and willing acceptance of death on the cross (in presence of the raging and ʻunfreeʼ proconsul) is a validation of his preaching. Régis Burnet speaks of Andrew’s martyrdom in the AA fittingly as a ʻcoronation of the messageʼ.28 It would be an ʻexpression of the firmness of the Apostle’s soulʼ.29 His death on the cross has the character of a witness. Instead of depicting the agonies of the crucified one, the text shows his hero as a self-controlled one at rest who gives an explanation for his death, dies for his conviction of faith and invites others to follow the path of liberation.30 Thus, it becomes clear that Andrew’s death has two effects. On one hand, a very personal one for the Apostle, but on the other hand, also a pro-existent one; a meaning for others.31 These others, for whom Andrew’s ʻpro-existenceʼ is intended and who are almost called to ʻdieʼ by the Apostle,32 are those who are considered in the text to be his ʻrelativesʼ (συγγενεῖς). 3.3. Death as Escape: Bound Body and Liberated Soul In Andrew’s first preaching-like instruction given from the cross (636-55), resulting from the answer to Stratocles’s question about his smile (630-4), he addresses the bystanders around the cross speaking about the dualism of body (σώμα) and soul (ψυχή).33 The Apostle distinguishes two ways of interpreting his death: Whoever understands his crucifixion as ʻthe end of transient lifeʼ and From this perspective, the title πράξεις becomes clear. For the AA, Andrew’s act par excellence is his martyrdom, his living and dying for his message. 28 Régis Burnet, Les douze apôtres (2014), 276 (own trans.). 29 Ibid. (own trans.). 30 Against this background, it also becomes clear why no traces of the formation of church structures can be found in the AA. If the Apostle calls upon his own to leave this world, in which the soul is connected to the body, then the formation of an institution is pointless. 31 See also the conversation with Maximilla: […] καὶ αὐτὸς ἀναπαύσομαι οὕτω βιασθεὶς ἀναλύσαι τοῦ βίου τούτου ὑπὲρ σοῦ, τοὐτέστιν ὑπὲρ ἐμαυτοῦ (489-91). 32 For the ʻgeneralisationʼ of martyrdom in the AA see Jean-Marc Prieur, Acta Andreae: Praefatio – Commentarius (1989), 330. 33 Another parallel to ancient Greek literature is given: in the case of Andrews as in the case of Socrates, their speeches in the face of death are dedicated to the immortality of the soul and 27

Martyrdom as Access


thus as the end of the body, but not of the soul, is already freed from this place (ἤδη ἀπαλλάσσεσθε τοῦ τόπου τούτου, 639). Whoever, on the other hand, holds the union of the soul with the body for the soul itself and sees the Apostle’s death on the cross as the end of body and soul, counts as ʻwild animalʼ (640-2). In the concept of the AA, the body (the material) keeps the soul (the immaterial) imprisoned for life, as Aegeates believes that Andrew is held captive on the cross (482-3). This earthly bond is placed in picture in the AA within the framework of Andrew’s passion: Aegeates does not have Andrew nailed to the cross, but tied (618-21). Being tied to the cross is paradoxically the way that leads the Apostle to the liberation of his soul. The cross enables Andrew’s soul to be liberated from the material (646-7). Like the proconsul’s order not to smash Andrew’s bones (564-7), the measure to tie him to the cross has the intention to prolong the suffering of the condemned man. The AA skilfully turn the tables: instead of prolonging suffering (566-7), both measures have a life-prolonging effect and offer Andrew the opportunity to teach the crowd from the cross for another three days (65960). This understanding also explains Andrew’s defensive reaction to the release by Aegeates. The proconsul, moved by the crowd to leave his judge’s chair (βήματος, 679), wants to take Andrew off the cross on the fourth day. When the proconsul arrives at the place of execution accompanied by the joyfully cheering people, Andrew is anything but pleased about this plan of ʻapparentʼ liberation. He defends his ʻtrueʼ liberation (691) through a detailed contradiction addressed to the people and the proconsul (684-96). Aegeates, who is consistently bound to the matter, is unable to understand Andrew, who does not want to be freed from the shackles that tie him to the cross, because this would mean returning to the world he wishes to escape. The AA understand the departure from the world as access to the rest of God (ἀνάπαυσις) that the Apostle longed for throughout his life. It is associated with a clear rejection of the carnal that is connected to the evil. The AA use the image of captivity and liberation to explain the relationship between body and soul. Already in prison, in which Andrew is incarcerated before his false trial, it is said that Aegeates’s father, the devil (διάβολος), will free Andrew through him from this prison (485-6). By ʻthis prisonʼ not only the dungeon of Aegeates is meant, but in a figurative sense also the ʻdungeonʼ of matter from which Andrew wants to free himself. The objective of the soul in the AA is the liberation from worldly captivity and the return to its divine origin. Accordingly, the Apostle does not want to be freed from the cross by the proconsul,

the transience of the body asceticized by food and sexuality (Phaedo 115e-116a). The protagonists prefer death in order to escape the attachment of body and soul (Phaedo 64c-e).



because this cross frees his soul and becomes a place of transition to (eternal) rest, which God holds ready for him and into which God receives his soul.34 Once again, the AA turn the balance of power upside down. They show that Aegeates has no power over the Apostle, but only over his earthly body. The power over this material aspect of the Apostle becomes clear in his death on the cross. At the same time, however, Aegeates’s powerlessness over Andrew’s soul also becomes apparent. Bound and dead on the cross, he is paradoxically freed from his body and alive. If Aegeates untied his chains and thus brought him back into his sphere of power, i.e. the sphere of evil, Andrew would not be connected with ʻthe oneʼ (689-90). The distinction between material and immaterial is to be seen through the lens of dualistic thinking. Where matter is the problem, the immaterial is the solution;35 where the body is synonymous with this problem, the soul is the ideal; where the body is a prison throughout life, the soul is freed after death. This idea of the separation of body and soul, the relation of the body with the worldly and the soul with the divine origin, is consistently maintained by the AA up to the story of the burial of the corpse. There is no narrative of Andrew’s funeral but the reader later learns of a burial regarding ʻthe remains of the blessedʼ (τὸ λείψανον τοῦ μακαρίου, 713-4) by Maximilla.36 4. Martyrdom as an Access Strategy Just as the text makes a dualistic distinction between evil and good, material and immaterial, body and soul, humanity is divided by means of ʻkinshipʼ – according to the AA. This distinction gives reason to assume that in the understanding of the AA there is a kind of predestined, God-willed relationship that can refer to ʻbothʼ sides. While some in this concept of stipulated ratios are related to evil (like Aegeates),37 others are related to the divine (like Andrew, Maximilla, Stratocles and others). As already mentioned, Aegeates is represented as a relative of the sea, of demonic powers and even as a son of the devil. His kinship is defined by the inaccessibility to the ʻworldʼ of Andrew and his relatives. He is incapable of 34 The motive of ʻrestʼ is a common one in the AA. For example, the text tells that Maximilla, Stratocles and other ʻbrothersʼ are ʻrecoveringʼ with Andrew (248-50). 35 See also Richard I. Pervo, ʻThe Role of the Apostlesʼ, in A. Gregory and C. Tuckett (eds), The Oxford Handbook (2015), 306-18, 310. 36 Even the burial scene is very similar to the Greek Phaedo: like Socrates, Andrew’s corpse is buried by women (Phaedo 115a). 37 For example, the AA count among the relatives of the evil the slaves, who, in the context of the Eukleia narrative, talk about what they have seen and – according to the text – have the devil as their father (274-5).

Martyrdom as Access


building a relationship to all things that lie outside the material world.38 Accordingly, he is in no way related to what Andrew and his relatives aspire to, but he rather embodies all that the Apostle and his relatives want to detach themselves from (λύσειν).39 His lack of compassion is evident in his ways of dealing with his wife Maximilla (whom he wants to dispose of like an object), with the slave Eukleia (whom he has mutilated), with Andrew (whom he sentenced to death in an unjust trial) and ultimately also with himself (as he commits suicide).40 These ʻapatheticʼ traits of Aegeates make it impossible for him to understand Andrew and his voluntary death, which is alien to him. More than that, his attempted contact to Maximilla after the Apostleʼs death (719-20) gives the impression that Aegeates thought he solved the ʻrelationship conflictʼ by crucifying his competitor. As his wife – despite the death of Andrew – continues to lead a life in separation, he commits suicide (720-22). In the concept of the AA, the group of Andrew’s relatives is separated from Aegeates and the evil.41 The text understands the relatives as a kind of ʻfamily of the redeemedʼ and consequently of those who carry a divine core within themselves. For them the term ʻbrothersʼ is used in the AA (ἀδελφοί). However, since the inner core is veiled, not everyone who carries the core within themselves is aware of their kinship. This veiling is again the work of the demonic powers. In order to reveal the God-given core and thus also the relationship, Andrew sees himself as an obstetrician; as a ʻmaster of maieuticʼ (82-3). Until his death, he is interested in helping people to uncover their relationship. Thus, the master shares a common fate with the disciples, which becomes clear in the relationship with Maximilla. The ignorance, which Andrew seeks to overcome, is the proconsul’s tragedy that he has a thoroughly evil core and does not know about this. Aegeates does not know himself, which is why Andrew addresses him in the AA from the cross (699-701): Dreadful Aegeates, enemy of us all, what are you standing tame and still and can’t do anything of that which you dare? But I and my relatives hurry into ours and let you be what you are, without you knowing anything about yourself.42

38 This inability to relate also manifests itself in the conversation with his wife Maximilla, who tells him: Καὶ ὅ φιλῶ οὐδὲν τῶν ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ ἐστὶν τοῦτο ὥστε γενέσθαι σοι κατάδηλον […] (305-6). 39 So Maximilla wants to free herself from Aegeates as she asks the Lord in a prayer ʻthat all evil be kept away from herʼ (267). 40 See also M. Peshty, ʻAegeates, the Devil in Personʼ (2000), 47. 41 For the separation from evil, see also the prayer of Andrew for Maximilla (213-5). 42 Δεινὲ καὶ πᾶσιν ἡμῖν ἐχθρὲ Αἰγεάτα, τὶ [sic!] ἥμερος καὶ ἡσύχιος ἕστηκας μηδὲν ὧν τολμᾷς δυνάμενος; ἐγὼ δὲ καὶ οἱ ἐμοὶ συγγενεῖς ἐπὶ τὰ ἡμῶν ἐπειγόμεθα, σὲ ἐῶντες εἶναι ὅ εἶ καὶ μὴ ἐπίστασαι αὐτὸς περὶ σεαυτοῦ.



In contrast to Aegeates, Andrew’s death is another act of revealing the common divine core for his relatives. For those who are connected to the martyr by connaturality,43 a counter-reality is set. Wherein death is supposed to be the end – according to the expectation –, it becomes the entrance gate, the access, to the rest of God. For the AA, Andrew’s death on the cross leads him and his relatives to life. This is emphasized in his final prayer, in which the Apostle asks God for his departure from the earthbound world, his way out (ἔξοδος), to become the access (εἴσοδος) for the relatives (707-8). In this request, the proexistent idea of his dying once again lights up. His death as a martyr has a purpose. The prayer on the cross, which the AA attribute to Andrew, makes his death as a martyr understandable, accessible, for the readers and becomes a point of access to what the Apostle has ʻalwaysʼ been teaching. Against this background, it becomes understandable what access the text provides to the Apostle Andrew and what access to his martyrdom it allows the readers: death, especially martyrdom, is something to be welcomed. Andrew, as a master of maieutic, as a preacher, as a miracle worker and especially as a martyr, is the one who opens a new path for the relatives.

5. Conclusion This article has clarified that the AA, as a commemorative text, wanted their protagonist Andrew to be remembered as someone who remains in the collective memory as a martyr, who throughout the entire course of action bears witness to his message, which leads him to death. In order to create this image, the authors conceptualized idealized roles that concern not only Andrew, but also his opponent Aegeates, among others. Both antagonists are in a competitive relationship with each other, which results from the rivalry concerning Maximilla. In the course of the narrative, their conflict of relationship turns out to be a conflict of kinship. It is no longer just a matter of the conflict regarding Maximilla, but rather a confrontation of two controversial world views, symbolized by the adversaries Andrew and Aegeates. The stylization of representatives of various positions, which must be seen in the context of dualistic thinking, is particularly supported by the choice of characters that bear names that are aptonyms. Characters and plot of the AA provide the stage for an examination of the presented world view and shape the narrative towards martyrdom. The process of examination is characterized by paradoxes, which the AA repeatedly present as a reversal of circumstances and a superiority of Andrew’s view: knowledge turns out to be ignorance, apparent power becomes visible as powerlessness, sadness becomes superior laughter, 43

See Jean-Marc Prieur, Acta Andreae: Praefatio – Commentarius (1989), 311.

Martyrdom as Access


the shackles become a tool of liberation, the exit becomes an access and death becomes a releasing place of transition into life. For the AA, Andrew’s death is the consequence of his conviction, which he expresses again and again through his sermon-like teachings. Over the course of the story, which was built around his passion, almost every element is focused on martyrdom; on bearing testimony to the message of the Apostle. Andrew suffers for this message, sacrifices himself, dies for it, and – ultimately – lives it. Thus, the martyrdom on the cross is consequently portrayed as the deed par excellence: with his death, Andrew puts into practice what he taught. His martyrdom and especially his last prayer present him as a ʻsacred exampleʼ for his relatives. The martyrdom he experiences results from and leads into relationship; it opens up to his relatives what the Apostle had preached and accordingly demonstrates that Andrew and his message – which he embodies in the AA – are credible. The martyrdom narrative of the AA is a detailed, edifyingly narrated and ornamented story of the martyr Andrew. It is part of the early reception history of the Apostle Andrew. Thus, it provides information about a specific memory of the Apostle, established by the text and about the thinking and remembering of a particular group of early Christianity, which is to be seen within a rather philosophical than a Jewish-biblical context. It is precisely because of Andrew’s martyrdom, that the AA have become interesting to the early Christians. I turned out to be the source of the AA’s success and the apocryphal text became the medium that made it popular. Particularly the martyrdom narrative of the AA provided a literary approach to the martyrdom of the Apostle and on the level of meaning an access to something that is beyond the text and beyond death.

ʻLet us also go that we may die with himʼ: The Memory of the Martyrdom of Thomas the Twin Florian S. RÖSCH, Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, Germany

ABSTRACT The apocryphal Acts of Thomas (ATh) from the beginning of the 3rd century AD provide a first written evidence for a violent death of this Apostle. Few information, however, can be found on Thomas in early Christian literature, but in the area around Edessa, Thomas gained much attention. In Edessa, the Apostle’s tomb and relics were venerated as proved by sources from the 4th century. Furthermore, the image of Thomas being pierced by lances became a common iconography of this Apostle, having its source often in these apocryphal Acts. This article aims to trace back the early sources of Thomasʼ death or his attitude towards martyrdom – beginning with his utterance in John 11:16. In my study, I am going to focus on the Apostle’s Acts and I intend to point out the main characteristics of the martyrdom’s account. The main focus lies on the question to what extent the apocryphal Acts of Thomas can be read in their entirety as a story of Thomasʼ Passion. Therefore, it is indispensable to investigate allusions to the Passion of Christ that are rooted in the imagination of Thomas being the spiritual twin brother of his Lord, who shares in many respects the fate of Christ. Several parallelisms to the Passion narratives of the Gospels can be detected that connect the suffering of Thomas to that of Jesus who both had to die because of their salvific message. In my conclusion, I am going to provide an explanation for the genesis and especially the construction of the narrative of Thomasʼ martyrdom story based on current memory theories. Together with this analysis, this article intends to elucidate the function of the memory of the Apostle as it is narrated in his Acts.

1. Introduction: The Johannine Thomas as a Role Model The earliest information about Thomas in early Christian literature can be taken from the Gospel of John, where he appears five times as a narrative figure (John 11:16; 14:5; 20:24-8; 21:2).1 Concerning the Apostle’s martyrdom, 1 For an analysis of the four appearances, see Judith Hartenstein, Charakterisierung im Dialog. Die Darstellung von Maria Magdalena, Petrus, Thomas und der Mutter Jesu im Kontext anderer frühchristlicher Darstellungen (Göttingen, 2007), 214-23; Johnson Thomaskutty, Saint Thomas the Apostle. New Testament, Apocrypha, and Historical Traditions, Jewish and Christian Texts in Contexts and Related Studies 25 (London, Oxford, New York, New Delhi, Sydney, 2018), 15-84; Stephan Witetschek, Thomas und Johannes – Johannes und Thomas. Das Verhältnis der Logien

Studia Patristica CVII, 55-76. © Peeters Publishers, 2021.



especially 11:16 should be taken into account. Given the background of Lazarus’ death, Thomas encourages the disciples (τοῖς συμμαθηταῖς) after Jesusʼ request to go (ἄγωμεν) with him to Bethany with the words: ʻLet us also go (ἄγωμεν) that we may die with him (μετ’ αὐτοῦ)ʼ. μετ’αὐτοῦ applies in this context to Jesus himself, whose impending death is already implied in 10:31.39, 11:8 and again in 11:49-52, rather than to Lazarus who is already dead (11:14).2 Therefore, Thomas expresses his willingness to follow his master regarding his violent death. The modern exegetical interpretations of this Thomasine utterance vary: R. Bultmann e.g. speaks of ʻblind devotionʼ3 whereas F.J. Molony invokes him as an example of the ʻmisunderstanding of the disciplesʼ4 – comparable to Peter in 13:37. The appraisal of Thomas as ignorant disciple, however, doesnʼt live up the meaning of John 11:16. Contrarily to Peter in John 13:38, for example, Jesus doesn’t rebuke Thomas.5 As argued by J. Beutler, 11:16 initiates a row of verses that call on a fearless confession to Jesus, which can be seen as a feature of true discipleship (see also 12:24-6, 15:18-16:4 and 21:18-9). Consequently, as a narrative figure, Thomas serves as a first example of a consistent fellowship with Jesus that leads to death. With regard to the situation of the recipients of John who might had to suffer from conflicts and persecutions, according to Beutler, the figure of Thomas becomes ʻa role model for the willingness to undertake together with Jesus hostility culminating in the threat of oneʼs own lifeʼ.6 In the following, I will highlight the sources related to the death of Thomas, up to the 3rd century AD. The main focus lies on the Apostle’s martyrdom as narrated in the apocryphal Acts of Thomas. I will analyse how the death of the Apostle is characterised and filled with meaning. Following this, I am going to demonstrate how motifs of suffering and persecution persist through the entire Acts and create a Passion narrative of the Apostle. These results will finally be interpreted in the light of common memory theories in order to indicate the des Thomasevangeliums zum Johannesevangelium, Herders biblische Studien 79 (Freiburg im Breisgau, Basel, Vienna, 2015), 89-98. In the Synoptic Gospels and in Acts Thomas is merely mentioned as one of the Twelve without any further important role (Matt. 10:3 par.; Acts 1:13). 2 J. Hartenstein, Charakterisierung (2007), 216-7; J. Thomaskutty, Saint Thomas (2018), 15; S. Witetschek, Thomas und Johannes (2005), 89. 3 Rudolf Bultmann, The Gospel of John. A Commentary (Philadelphia, 1971), 400. 4 Francis J. Moloney, The Gospel of John, Sacra Pagina Series 4 (Collegeville, MN, 1998), 337. 5 So e.g. Johannes Beutler, ʻLasst uns mit ihm gehen, um mit ihm zu sterben (Joh 11,16)ʼ, in Lorenzo de Santos and Santi Grasso (eds), ʻPerché stessero con luiʼ. Scritti in onore di Klemens Stock SJ nel suo 75° compleanno, Analecta Biblica 180 (Rome, 2010), 327-43, 332-5; Hartwig Thyen, Das Johannesevangelium, Handbuch zum Neuen Testament 6 (Tübingen, 2015), 518; S. Witetschek, Thomas und Johannes (2005), 90. 6 J. Beutler, ʻLasst uns mit ihm gehenʼ (2010), 335 (own trans.). Already Origen interpreted this verse in a similar manner, see therefore Bonaventura Rebstock OSB, Vom Wort des Lebens. Gedanken zum Johannes-Evangelium im Geist der Heiligen Väter 1. Das öffentliche Wirken Kapitel 1-12 (Recklinghausen, 1950), 364.

The Memory of the Martyrdom of Thomas the Twin


genesis and the function of the memory of the martyr Thomas who was ready to die for Jesus, according to John 11:16. 2. Thomasʼ Death according to the Sources of the 2nd Century 2.1. The Testimony of Heracleon Beside the testimony of John, few sources about the life and especially the death of Thomas exist from the 2nd century. In order to find a first reference to his death one must consult Clement of Alexandria, Strom. 4.71.1-4 where he quotes Heracleon as the ʻmost famous of the Valentiniansʼ7 (71:1). Heracleon held that a martyrdom alone does not suffice as a testimony because it could also be borne by hypocrites. For him, a lifestyle in accordance with the Gospel should be rated higher as a confession to Christ than the violent death in his name. In this context, he confirms his argumentation as follows: (…) οὐ γὰρ πάντες οἱ σῳζόμενοι ὡμολόγησαν τὴν διὰ τῆς φωνῆς ὁμολογίαν καὶ ἐξῆλθον, ἐξ ὧν Ματθαῖος, Φίλιππος, Θωμᾶς, Λευῒς καὶ ἄλλοι πολλοί (4.71.3).8 (…) For not all who were saved confessed with their voices and died, among them were Matthew, Philipp, Thomas, Levi und many more.

Therefore, for Hercaleon, Thomas was one of those who did not suffer martyrdom.9 However, it is uncertain how Clement estimated this utterance of Heracleon or to what extent the opinion of this alleged Gnostic is representative for the Christian traditions of the 2nd century. On one hand, Clement does not really struggle with Heracleonʼs assessment of the martyrdom in general, but – contrarily to Basilidesʼ explications – agrees with him in many aspects (see 4.73.1).10 Clement also does not contradict the belief that Thomas died a natural death. Moreover, Heracleon who was also living in Alexandria in the second 7 (…) Ἡρακλέων ὁ τῆς Οὐαλεντίνου σχολῆς δοκιμώτατος (…), see Clément dʼAlexandrie. Les stromates IV, ed. Annewies van den Hoek, SC 463 (Paris, 2001), 172. 8 Clément dʼAlexandrie. Les stromates IV, ed. A. van den Hoek (2001), 174. 9 Theodor Schermann, Propheten- und Apostellegenden. Nebst Jüngerkatalogen des Dorotheus und verwandter Texte, TU 31.3 (Leipzig, 1907), 274. For another opinion see Helmut Waldmann, Der Königsweg der Apostel in Edessa, Indien und Rom, Wissenschaftliche Reihe 5 (Tübingen, 1997), 11-2, who translates ἐξῆλθον with ʻget awayʼ. He thinks that Heracleon refers to Thomasʼ refusal to believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus. He therefore did not confess by voice but, nevertheless, he ʻgot awayʼ. In my assessment it is not immediately obvious why Heracleon should allude to John 20:25 because it is the aim of the Gnostic to elucidate why a martyrdom is not necessary. 10 Silke-Petra Bergjan, Der fürsorgende Gott. Der Begriff der ʻPronoiaʼ Gottes in der apologetischen Literatur der Alten Kirche, Arbeiten zur Kirchengeschichte 81 (Berlin, New York, 2002), 135-9; Christoph Markschies, Valentinus Gnosticus? Untersuchungen zur valentinianischen Gnosis. Mit einem Kommentar zu den Fragmenten Valentins, WUNT 65 (Tübingen, 1992), 120.



half of the 2nd century,11 was not as connected to the Valentinian gnosis as his disciples. According to A. Wucherpfennig, it is far more plausible to see in him one among many different, peacefully coexisting teachers with gnosticizing ideas in Alexandria.12 His argumentation about martyrdom would have been unconvincing if the tradition of a violent death of Thomas already existed, for his given examples could easily be refuted. Furthermore, it seems unlikely that it was Heracleonʼs invention to negate a martyrdom of Thomas because of the often assumed ʻMartyriumsscheuʼ13 of the Gnostics. Heracleon does not reject martyrdom but rather appreciates it as a culminating point of a righteous life.14 It is more likely that Heracleon knew a tradition that relies on the natural death of the mentioned apostles. It is difficult to judge if Clement shared his real opinion, because he argues generally in 4.75.1 that the apostles drank the ʻsame cupʼ15 as Jesus. If he excludes Thomas here – in accordance with Heracleonʼs previously quoted utterance – remains unclear. 2.2. The Testimony of Origen In addition to that, one must refer to a quotation of Origen by Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 3.1.1-3 from the third book of his commentary on Genesis.16 Origen reports 11 Ansgar Wucherpfennig, Heracleon Philologus. Gnostische Johannesexegese im zweiten Jahrhundert, WUNT 142 (Tübingen, 2002), 369. 12 A. Wucherpfennig, Heracleon Philologus (2002), 361-70; 402. See also Johanna Brankaer, Die Gnosis. Texte und Kommentar (Wiesbaden, 2010), 72-3. 13 For a discussion on the matter why it is insufficient to postulate a general aversion of the Gnostics against martyrdom or even to attest them cowardice, see e.g. Heinz Kraft, Gnostisches Gemeinschaftsleben. Untersuchungen zu den Gemeinschafts- und Lebensformen häretischer christlicher Gnosis des 2. Jahrhunderts (Heidelberg, 1950), 162-3; Klaus Koschorke, Die Polemik der Gnostiker gegen das kirchliche Christentum. Unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der NagHammadi-Traktate ʻApokalypse des Petrusʼ (NHC VII, 3) und ʻTestimonium veritatisʼ (NHC IX, 3), Nag Hammadi Studies 12 (Leiden, 1978), 134-6. 14 Werner Foerster, Von Valentin zu Herakleon. Untersuchungen über die Quellen und die Entwicklung der Valentinianischen Gnosis, ZNW 7 (Gießen, 1928), 43-4; Clemens Scholten, Martyrium und Sophiamythos im Gnostizismus nach den Texten von Nag Hammadi, JAC 14 (Münster, 1987), 118. Similarly, also Basilides and Valentin didn’t reject martyrdom. 15 Μόνος τοίνυν ὁ κύριος διὰ τὴν τῶν ἐπιβουλευόντων αὐτῷ ἄνοιαν καὶ τὴν τῶν ἀπίστων ἀποκάθαρσιν ἔπιεν τὸ ποτήριον· ὃν μιμούμενοι οἱ ἀπόστολοι ὡς ἂν τῷ ὄντι γνωστικοὶ καὶ τέλειοι ὑπὲρ τῶν ἐκκλησιῶν ἃς ἔπηξαν ἔπαθον, see Clément dʼAlexandrie. Les stromates IV, ed. A. van den Hoek (2001), 178. 16 The attribution of the whole quotation to Origenʼs commentary on Genesis goes back to Eric Junod, ʻOrigène, Eusèbe et la tradition sur la réparition des champs de mission des apôtres (Eusèbe, HE III,1,1-3)ʼ, in François Bovon, Michel van Esbroek, Richard Goulet, Eric Junod, Jean-Daniel Kaestli, Françoise Morard, Gérard Poupon, Jean-Marc Prieur and Yves Tissot (eds), Les actes apocryphes des apôtres. Christianisme et monde païen, Publications de la Faculté de Théologie de lʼUniversité de Genève 4 (Geneva, 1981), 233-48, 247-8 against Adolf von Harnack, Der kirchengeschichtliche Ertrag der exegetischen Arbeiten des Origenes 1. Hexateuch und Richterbuch, TU 42.3 (Leipzig, 1918), 14-6.

The Memory of the Martyrdom of Thomas the Twin


the apostles’ missions – Thomas in Parthia and Andrew in Scythia. John in turn preached in Asia as maintained by Origen and died in Ephesus, just as Peter and Paul died as martyrs in Rome. As stated by R.A. Lipsius and E. Junod, Origen didn’t rely on the apocryphal Acts since the missionary area of Thomas and Andrew do not correlate with the testimony of their Acts.17 Origen obviously lacks any information of a (violent) death of Thomas, contrary to what he knows about John, Peter and Paul. Otherwise, he surely would have mentioned it following to what he says about the other apostles. As to his source, Origen refers generally to the tradition (παράδοσις) that provided him with information about Thomas, Andrew and John. To sum up, no written source for a martyrdom of Thomas is known to us from the 2nd century. Heracleon uses the notion of the Apostle’s natural death while writing about martyrdom. Clement may not have a problem with Thomas not being counted amongst the martyrs and apparently even Origen does not know anything about the Apostle’s violent death with reference to the tradition. 3. The Apostle’s Martyrdom according to the Apocryphal Acts of Thomas 3.1. Introduction The apocryphal Acts of Thomas must be considered as the first written evidence for a martyrdom of the Apostle. These Acts from the 3rd century,18 written in Syriac, derive from Osrhoene with its capital Edessa.19 The preserved Syriac manuscripts – the earliest among them date from the 5th/6th century – show a catholic revision of the original text. Instead, the Greek version of these Acts with their main textual witnesses U (Romanus Vallicellanus B 35, 11th cent.) and P (Par. gr. 1510, 11th cent.) should be preferred for they preserve an earlier version of the text and seem to be more reliable.20 The Acts of Thomas are a 17 Richard Adalbert Lipsius, Die apokryphen Apostelgeschichten und Apostellegenden. Ein Beitrag zur altchristlichen Literaturgeschichte 1 (Braunschweig, 1883), 14 und E. Junod, ʻOrigèneʼ (1981), 247. 18 Jan N. Bremmer, ʻThe Acts of Thomas. Place, Date and Womenʼ, in id. (ed.), The Apocryphal Acts of Thomas, Studies on Early Christian Apocrypha 6 (Leuven, 2001), 74-90, 77. 19 As hints, for example, serve the theology that corresponds to that of Tatian and Bardaisan, the name of the noblewoman Mygdonia that also designates the region around Nisibis, and also the veneration of the Apostle Thomas together with his tomb in Edessa, see J.N. Bremmer, ʻThe Acts of Thomasʼ (2001), 74-5. 20 The labelling of the manuscripts together with all the textual quotations and references in this article are taken from Maximilian Bonnet, ʻΠΡΑΧΕΙΣ ΤΟΥ ΑΓΙΟΥ ΑΠΟΣΤΟΛΟΥ ΘΟΜΑʼ, in Maximilian Bonnet and Richard Adalbert Lipsius (eds), Acta apostolorum apocrypha 2.2. Acta Philippi et Acta Thomae accedunt Acta Barnabae (Leipzig, 1903), 99-291. For the edition of the Syriac text see William Wright, Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles. Edition from Syriac Manuscripts



compositional opus of different episodes that were brought together and combined.21 In addition, the account of Thomas’ martyrdom (ATh 159-70) probably circulated independently in the Syrian area before their insertion into the Acts,22 maybe already during the 2nd century. 3.2. The Account of Thomas’ Martyrdom: Its Content The account of Thomas’ martyrdom (ATh 159-70) follows in the 13th act (πράξις), according to the outline of the Greek text.23 Judas Thomas who was arrested because of his ascetic, encratitic teaching and the conversion of the nobles Mygdonia, Vazan, Mnesar and Tertia flees and baptises the converts (ATh 150-8). Afterwards he returns to his prison cell (159-61) and expects his execution. The jailers report king Misdai that Thomas had escaped, although the seal of his cell remained intact (because of Jesusʼ intervention), but has returned (162). Then, Misdai interrogates Thomas (163) and hands down his death sentence. Because of the multitudes that are well disposed towards the Apostle, Misdai leads Thomas outside the city (164). Four soldiers and an officer guide him up a mountain. Thomas predicts that he will be pierced by four lances because he consists of four elements just as Jesus was stabbed by one (John 19:34) consisting of one nature (ATh 165). Thomas is permitted to speak a final prayer (167) before the four soldiers pierce him with their lances at once (168). After his burial in a former king’s tomb, Thomas appears to his fellows (169). An undefined period later, Misdai intends to heal his son who is possessed by a demon. A merchant, however, has brought the Apostle’s corpse to the western regions (τὰ τῆς δύσεως μέρη).24 Therefore, Misdai serves himself with dust from Thomas’ tomb to expel the demon. After the successful exorcism, Misdai converts and joins the assembly of the faithful and their Eucharistic meal (170).

in the British Museum and Other Libraries with English Translation and Notes 1. The Syriac Texts (Amsterdam, 1968). 21 Günther Bornkamm, Mythos und Legende in den apokryphen Thomas-Akten. Beiträge zur Geschichte der Gnosis und zur Vorgeschichte des Manichäismus (Göttingen, 1933); Yves Tissot, ʻLes Acts apocryphes de Thomas. Exemple de recueil compositeʼ, in F. Bovon et al. (eds), Les actes apocryphes (1981), 223-32, 223-30. This can be proven by duplicates in the text or by the fact, that the first acts (Praxis 1-6/7) narrate loosely connected episodes whereas the further acts build one composition. 22 See Han J.W. Drijvers, ʻThe Acts of Thomasʼ, in Wilhelm Schneemelcher (ed.), New Testament Apocrypha 2. Writings Related to the Apostles, Apocalypses and Related Subjects (Cambridge, 2003), 322-411, 327-9. 23 Harold W. Attridge, The Acts of Thomas, Early Christian Apocrypha 3 (Salem, OR, 2010), 5-8. 24 As stated by later traditions, these western regions should be identified with Edessa, see J. Thomaskutty, Saint Thomas (2018), 135-7.

The Memory of the Martyrdom of Thomas the Twin


3.3. Thomas becoming a Martyr because of his Message According to the Acts of Thomas, the Apostle went to prison, was persecuted and finally executed because of his encratitic-ascetic message that dominates the narration.25 Thomas argues against earthly marriages that include sexual intercourse (e.g. ATh 11-5) and favours sexual abstinence and a spiritual marriage with Christ. A life in accordance with ἐγκράτεια could free the human soul from its earthly, material confinement and restore its primordial condition.26 In order to save their souls, Mygdonia and Tertia forsake sexual intercourse with their husbands. Consequently, Thomas incurs their anger and is sentenced to death in the end (163-4). In chapter 163, the main accusation against him lies in the reproach of using magic (φάρμακα). It is hard to determine to which form of magic Misdai exactly refers. In the preceding chapter, Misdai does not believe the jailers who reported to him that Thomas escaped and met with the arrested nobles Tertia, Mygdonia and Vazan because the seal of the cell remained intact. In the end of the episode, the guardians confirm their assertion. The text does not mention the king’s reaction, but it is likely that he trusted their testimony as he starts interrogating Thomas. During the trial, the king accuses Thomas for his magic (φάρμακα). He declares that, at the beginning, he didn’t intend to destroy the Apostle but Thomas ʻmade additions to his deedsʼ.27 Once more, it remains obscure to which deeds or sorcery Misdai refers to. Of course, it is possible to assume that Misdai alludes to Thomasʼ jailbreak and his return to his cell without breaking the seal. However, there is no hint that the king really understood either the occurrences or the soldiersʼ utterance. If Misdai merely referred to Thomas’ miraculous prison outbreak, he would be exaggerating that the Apostle’s deeds were now heard throughout the country (ἐν πάσῃ τῇ χώρᾳ). In my opinion, it seems to be more adequate to correlate the accusation φάρμακα to the encratitic teaching of the Apostle in general: During the entire Acts Thomas is often accused by the desperate husbands of being a φαρμακός. In 134 e.g., Misdai speaks of sorcery when he gets to know that Mygdonia refuses sexual intercourse because of Thomasʼ teaching.28 The decision for a life in ἐγκράτεια appears to the ignorant adversaries of the Apostle as magic infatuation.29 The condemnation by Misdai in 163, again, takes up the general accusation of 25 Yves Tissot, ʻEncratism and the Apocryphal Actsʼ, in Andrew F. Gregory and Christopher M. Tuckett (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Early Christian Apocrypha, Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology (Oxford, 2015), 407-23, 409-10. 26 H.J.W. Drijvers, ʻThe Acts of Thomasʼ (2003), 327-9. 27 ATh 163: Ἐγὼ οὐκ ἠπείχθην φησίν σε ἀπολέσαι, ἀλλʼ ἠνεσχόμην· σὺ δὲ ἐπίδοσιν ἐποιήσω τῶν σῶν ἔργων (…). 28 ATh 134: (…) τοῖς αὐτοῦ περιπεσεῖν φαρμάκοις καὶ τοῦ ἰδίου ἀνδρὸς διαζευχθῆναι. 29 For other appearances in ATh 16, 98, 99, 114, 117 see Matthias Lipinski, Konkordanz zu den Thomasakten, Athenäums Monografien 67 (Frankfurt am Main, 1988), 457.



Thomas as sorcerer who confuses people with his teaching. When Misdai accuses Thomas for ʻmaking additions to his deedsʼ in 163, he may refer to the baptism of the royals prince Vazan, his wife Mnesar and queen Tertia in 157, because with them, the most senior Indians – except of the king – join the community of the faithful Christians that were taught by and who assemble around Thomas. Thomas must die for the sake of his live-giving, redemptive message, the proclamation of encratism that his enemies consider as delusion. With his teaching, the Apostle wishes to save humankind. That is the goal of his Indian mission (ἵνα πολλοὺς σῴσω – ATh 163). Through dying for his message, Thomas shares the fate of other apostles according to their Acts, whose teaching, not their confession to Christ, entails their execution.30 3.4. Thomas’ courageous Path into Death Throughout the narrative of the apostle’s death, Thomas is characterised as a courageous disciple of his Lord who voluntarily accepts his execution, since it is an integral part of his mission and a stage in his ascent to God. The account of the martyrdom begins (ATh 159) with Thomasʼ willingly and voluntarily return to his prison cell where he must wait for the execution that is about to take place. In a prophetic manner he foretells his last day on earth (ἐν τῇ τελευταίᾳ μου ἡμέρᾳ). In a speech to his followers (160), he affirms that he could prevent his execution if he wanted to. However, it is rather his intention to willingly take his suffering upon himself, since his death is the release (ἀπαλλαγή) from and dissolution (λύσις) of the body.31 He looks forward to his execution with cheerfulness (γεγηθώς), since it will enable him to unite with Christ. When Misdai finally questions the apostle in 163, Thomas emphasises that the king has no power over him (καὶ τὴν κατ’ ἐμοῦ ἐξουσίαν οὐκ ἔχεις οὐδὲ ὅλως). In my view, this again implies that all the events that follow are due to the explicit will of the apostle and not because of Misdaiʼs power and authority. On the way to the place of execution on the mountain, an officer walks ahead on the way uphill (165). The text itself provides the interpretation that this soldier symbolises the Lord whom Thomas follows.32 The walk on the mountain symbolises Thomasʼ ascent to Jesus through his death. This gives the walk 30

János Bolyki, ʻ“Head Downwords”. The Cross of Peter in the Lights of the Apocryphal Acts, of the New Testament and of the Society-Transforming Claim of Early Christianityʼ, in Jan N. Bremmer (ed.), The Apocryphal Acts of Peter. Magic, Miracles and Gnosticism, Studies on the Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles 3 (Kampen, 1998), 111-22, 114. 31 ATh 160: ἀλλʼ οὗτος ὁ φαινόμενος οὐκ ἔστιν θάνατος, ἀπαλλαγὴ δὲ καὶ τοῦ σώματος λύσις· For a parallel of this behaviour to that of Socrates see also the contributions of C. Büchner (p. 41-53) and M. Kirchner (p. 27-40) in this volume. 32 ATh 165: καὶ εἷς με ἄγει, ἐπειδήπερ ἑνός εἰμι, πρὸς ὃν ἄπειμι (…).

The Memory of the Martyrdom of Thomas the Twin


to death, the way to execution, a clearly positive connotation, since the walk up the mountain is equated with the ascent to Christ. The same connotation of the scene is also revealed at the beginning of 165. The soldiers lead Thomas towards his punishment: πρὸς τιμὴν. The ambiguity of τιμή is evident here.33 The subliminal allusion to honour that resonates when this word is used, puts the martyrdom scene in a positive light. After a concluding prayer, it is the apostle himself who urges the soldiers to pierce and kill him (168).34 Nowhere in the text is physical suffering during martyrdom described. In 140 already, Thomas states that Misdai is not capable of doing any kind of suffering to him. This becomes particularly clear in Ÿ the Syrian version (ÛàĀæsÿÑã¿ćà{). The martyrdom report characterises Thomas as one who courageously welcomes his death, since it is necessary for him to die in order to be united with Christ. Thomas emphasises that he has the power to prevent his death (160; 163), but he voluntarily accepts the execution and even orders the soldiers to carry it out. In this, Thomasʼ martyrdom again shows parallels with other apocryphal Acts, for example, in the case of the apostle’s own order that the execution be carried out, and the triumphant, voluntary acceptance of violent death.35 3.5. The Apostleʼs Relics Chapter 170 is a secondary addition to the original text, what H.-J. Klauck has already pointed out.36 Chapter 169 with the final apparitions of Thomas and the note of the constitution of a community with Sifor as presbyter and Vazan as deacon, seems to close the Acts already.37 Other stylistic inconsistencies also point to the secondary character of the narrative. For example, the son of King Misdai appears anonymous, quite in contrast to Vazan as one of the main protagonists of the preceding chapters. The chronological introduction πολλοῦ χρόνου also places the entire narrative in an indefinite past, which seems to be only peripherally linked to the account of the martyrdom. Moreover, the sudden conversion of the king, who was formerly the main adversary of the apostle and now goes to the tomb of Thomas in search of help, seems abrupt.38 So even 33

H.W. Attridge, The Acts of Thomas (2010), 121. ATh 168: Ἐλθόντες πληρώσατε τὸ πρᾶγμα τοῦ πέμψαντος ὑμᾶς. 35 Françoise Morard, ʻSouffrance et martyre dans les Actes apocryphesʼ, in F. Bovon et al. (eds), Les actes apocryphes (1981), 95-108, 98-101; Monika Pesthy, ʻCross and Death in the Apocryphal Acts of the Apostlesʼ, in J.N. Bremmer (ed.), The Apocryphal Acts of Peter (1998), 123-33, 124-8. 36 Hans-Josef Klauck, Apokryphe Apostelakten. Eine Einführung (Stuttgart, 2005), 186. 37 Janet E. Splitter, ʻKnochen und Staub. Die Kraft der heiligen Reliquien (Heilung des Sohnes) – ActThom 170ʼ, in Ruben Zimmermann (ed.), Kompendium der frühchristlichen Wundererzählungen 2. Die Wunder der Apostel (Gütersloh, 2017), 766-72, 767. 38 H.-J. Klauck, Apokryphe Apostelakten (2005), 186; J.E. Splitter, ʻKnochen und Staubʼ (2017), 767. 34



if it can be stated with a high degree of probability that chapter 170 represents a later addition, it must, nevertheless, be noted that the story is not completely isolated from the rest of the Acts. Ath 170 marks a progress in the king’s habitus, since it is already mentioned in 169 that, although he did not convert, he at least accepted his wife’s faith in the end. In both chapters (169 and 170), Thomas prophesies the assistance of Christ. Misdai participates in 170 in the assembly (συνάγω) presided over by Sifor. The note that the believers come together (συνάγω) under the ministry of Sifor is already mentioned earlier in 169. Thus, it seems that with the addition of 170 to the original text, or in the course of redaction, an attempt was made to tie in with previous passages of the narrative. Apart from these literary observations, cultural-historical arguments also underline the resentfulness of chapter 170. As R. Wiśniewski pointed out, the cult of the relics, respectively the importance of contact relics for healings arose in the second half of the 4th century AD. In addition, narrations of translations occur for the first time in this period.39 He dates the composition of ATh 170 between 350 and 360 in as much as Eusebius (Hist. eccl. 3.1.1) yet lacks knowledge of the Apostle’s relics, whereas Ephrem (Carm. Nis. 42) reports around 360/70 that Thomasʼ remains had been brought to Edessa by a merchant.40 Even Egeria visited the Apostle’s tomb in the Syrian city in year 384 (Itin. Eger. 17:1; 19:3). Chapter 170 therefore serves as aetiology for the translation of the Apostle’s relics from India to Edessa and simultaneously affirms narratively their miraculous power. 4. The Acts of Thomas – A Story of his Passion 4.1. The Sufferings of the Twin: Preface It is remarkable that, in the account of the martyrdom, the actual execution is described in only one sentence (ATh 168)41 without giving further details. It seems that the exact circumstances are far less relevant than the general appreciation of death as release (ἀπαλλαγή) from the body (159; 160). The final death is the end of Thomasʼ India mission. After having fulfilled the commission of Jesus, Thomas ascends to his Lord and receives his reward (μισθός in 159) for his earthly deeds. Thus, death is not described as real death (ὁ φαινόμενος οὐκ ἔστιν Θάνατος – ATh 160). It is rather a transit from the earthly to the heavenly world. But in my view, it cannot be deduced from this that suffering and death play only a marginal role in the Acts of Thomas. Rather, I support the thesis, which will be explained further below, that the entire text is interwoven with motives of passion and suffering. This transforms the story of the 39 40 41

Robert Wiśniewski, The Beginnings of the Cult of the Relics (Oxford, 2019), 8-22. R. Wiśniewski, The Beginnings (2019), 13. ATh 168: Καὶ ἅμα οἱ τέσσαρες πλήξαντες αὐτὸν ἀνεῖλαν.

The Memory of the Martyrdom of Thomas the Twin


mission to India into a great Passion story of the Apostle. The same has already been postulated by M. Kähler for the Gospel of Mark.42 The so-called twin motif plays an essential role in the further investigation, as it is this motif that shapes the characterisation of Thomas. The protagonist Judas Thomas, also called Didymos (δίδυμος), appears as the spiritual twin brother of Jesus (e.g. ATh 31; 39) and as such resembles his brother in his physical appearance as well (45). Like his twin, he is a craftsman (2), executes deeds comparable to those of his Master, performs miracles, teaches the Lordʼs Prayer (144) and announces Beatitudes (94).43 His deeds surpass those told about other apostles in their records, for example, Thomas destroys Satan, the serpent from the Garden of Eden (31-3). As alter Christus, he continues the work of his twin Jesus on earth.44 This is contradicted by the fact that the text denies the mutual identification of both as Jesus and Thomas remain distinct from each other despite the high degree of assimilation (e.g. 160). Through his deeds and the ascetic way of life he lived, Thomas rather becomes the role model of the imitatio Christi.45 Separated from the motif of twinhood and yet connected to it again is the paradox of depicting Thomas simultaneously as the servant of Christ and as alter Christus. Beyond his godlike status in word and deed, the apostle always remains a servant of Jesus, who sells him to India as a slave (2). Thomas willingly endures this humiliation.46 However, the apparent contradiction between ʻslaveʼ and ʻbrotherʼ of Christ is reflected in Thomasʼ twinship, because like Jesus he accepts kenosis (see Phil. 2:7) to fulfil the will of God – to lead mankind to salvation through his redemption message.47 This Thomasʼ humiliation is also expressed in the narration by the fact that he appears as a homeless stranger (ξένος/¿ÚçêÂs – ATh 4; 61; 72; 93) in India.48 The voluntary self-abasement, the existence as slave and twin of the Lord is manifested especially in the Passion of Thomas. In the following, I will examine selected passages of the text that indicate that the Acts of Thomas should 42 Martin Kähler, Der sogenannte historische Jesus und der geschichtliche, biblische Christus, Theologische Bücherei 2 (Leipzig, 1896), 80. 43 John Nicol Farquhar, The Apostle Thomas in India. According to the Acts of Thomas, The Syrian Churches Series 1 (Kottayam, 1972), 7-9. 44 Marco Frenschkowski, ʻZwillingsmythologie in den Thomasaktenʼ, in Jens Schröter (ed.), The Apocryphal Gospels within the Context of Early Christian Theology, Bibliotheca Ephemeridum Theologicarum Lovaniensium 260 (Leuven, 2013), 509-28, 512; Monika Pesthy, ʻThomas, the Slave of the Lordʼ, in J.N. Bremmer (ed.), The Apocryphal Acts of Thomas (2001), 65-73, 66. 45 Régis Burnet, Les douze apôtres. Histoire de la réception des figures apostoliques dans le christianisme ancien (Turnhout, 2014), 522. 46 M. Pesthy, ʻThomas, the Slaveʼ (2001), 68. This is proven by the note that Jesus gave Thomasʼ purchase price to the Apostle, but Thomas never intended to buy himself free. 47 Ibid. 69. 48 The term ¿ÚçêÂs simultaneously designates the type of the ʻwandering Christianʼ as representative of the perfect believer, see Albertus Frederik Johannes Klijn, The Acts of Thomas. Introduction, Text, Commentary, Supplements to Novum Testamentum 5 (Leiden, 1962), 165-6.



be read in their entirety as a Passion story. In addition to general motifs of death and suffering, I will highlight allusions to the Passion of Christ as well as biblical quotations that are connected with Passion motifs. In general, the Acts of Thomas are full of indirect quotations or allusions to Bible passages.49 The Greek version of the Acts serves as the basis now, which is expanded, where necessary, by the Syrian text witnesses. One must always bear in mind that missing literal coincidences between the NT and the Acts of Thomas are not surprising due to the complicated textual tradition of the Acts. It is highly probable that the original Syrian text was based on Tatian’s Diatessaron as the Bible text. The Greek translation then probably stems from translating the Bible quotations directly from Syriac. Finally, in the later Syrian manuscripts, passages from the Bible were adapted to the later translations of Vetus Syra (S) and Peshitta (P). The existing Greek text resembles the Byzantine biblical text in many respects but has also undergone several changes. Finally, one should also keep in mind that the Syriac as well as in the Greek Patristic texts were also quoted by heart which explains linguistic variations.50 4.2. Motifs of a Passion a) Thomas, the sold Apostle The first allusion to the Passion of Christ can be found in ATh 2 when Jesus sells his disciple for three bars of silver (συνεφώνησεν μετ’ αὐτοῦ τριῶν λιτρῶν ἀσήμου). The Syriac text mentions twenty pieces of silver (¿óêÝx èÙüíï) instead.51 This narrative strand seems to be significant on several levels. One the one hand, the disposal of Thomas recalls the betrayal of Judas Iscariot in the Gospels and is therefore reminiscent of the beginning of Christ’s Passion.52 Obviously, the later recipients of the text recognised this parallelism. Thus, the Syriac text of Sachau 222 speaks of thirty pieces of silver,53 according to 49 Raymond Kuntzmann, Le symbolisme des jumeaux au Proche-Orient ancien. Naissance, fonction et évolution dʼun symbole, Beauchesne religions 12 (Paris, 1983), 176 counts 764 biblical references. 50 Sebastian P. Brock, The Bible in the Syriac Tradition, Gorgias Handbooks 7 (Piscataway, NJ, 2006), 33, 106-14; A.F.J. Klijn, The Acts of Thomas (1962), 16-7; René Lavenant, ʻLa letteratura siriaca primitivaʼ, in Paolo Siniscalco (ed.), Le antiche Chiese orientali. Storia e letteratura (Rome, 2005), 178-207, 186-93. All Greek Biblical quotations are taken from Novum Testamentum Graece. Nestle-Aland, ed. int. al. Barbara and Kurt Aland, 28th ed. (Stuttgart, 2013), the Syriac from George Anton Kiraz, Comparative Edition of the Syriac Gospels. Aligning the Sinaiticus, Curetonianus, Peshîṭtâ and Ḥarklean Versions, 4 vol., New Testament Tools and Studies (Leiden, 1996). For quoting the Bible by heart see e.g. Wolf-Dietrich Köhler, Die Rezeption des Matthäusevangeliums in der Zeit vor Irenäus, WUNT 2/24 (Tübingen, 1987), 528-30. 51 For the different renderings of the money see A.F.J. Klijn, The Acts of Thomas (1962), 161-2. 52 See H.J.W. Drijvers, ʻThe Acts of Thomasʼ (2003), 326: ʻThe sale of Judas relates to Judas Iscariot, who sold his Lord, and introduces the Passion motif, which is dominant in the whole of the first Praxisʼ. 53 H.W. Attridge, The Acts of Thomas (2010), 18; A.F.J. Klijn, The Acts of Thomas (1962), 161.

The Memory of the Martyrdom of Thomas the Twin


Matt. 27:3. Simultaneously, the twenty pieces of silver in the original text allude to the disposal of Joseph in Gen. 37:28. Joseph in turn played a major role in the Patristic exegesis as typus for Christ.54 This way, the disposal of Thomas evokes the association with Judasʼ betrayal and hence the Passion of Christ on one hand and on the other hand, Thomas and Jesus are correlated again according to the motif of the spiritual twinship. b) Silent Indulgence When Judas Thomas learns that Jesus had sold him, he accepts his fate willingly, he does not protest but keeps quiet instead (ATh 2): Καὶ ὁ ἀπόστολος ἡσύχαζεν. This is evocative of Jesus’ behaviour at the trial in front of Pilate (Matt. 26:63: ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς ἐσιώπα). The same wording is used in five manuscripts labelled as Γ by Bonnet (καὶ ὁ ἀπόστολος ἐσιώπα). Thomas behaves like his heavenly twin Jesus in the face of affliction and endures his selling – the starting point of his humiliation and his painful Indian mission – with longanimity and willingness. Therefore, Thomas appears as alter Christus once more. Coincidently, the reader is reminded of the Passion of Christ. c) For Christʼs sake In the beginning (ATh 1), Thomas clearly articulates his aversion for missionizing India. Nevertheless, after Jesus had sold him, he accepts the will of his Lord and puts his own fear of the foreign country aside. He welcomes his fate humbly with the words ʻτὸ θέλημα τὸ σὸν γενέσθωʼ or ʻτὸ θέλημά τὸ σὸν γινέσθωʼ (ATh 3), according to the witnesses Paris. gr. 1468, Escorial Y II 9 and Vatic. gr. 797. Here, one can recognise an allusion to Luke 22:42 (πλὴν μὴ τὸ θέλημά μου ἀλλὰ τὸ σὸν γινέσθω) when Jesus accepts his imminent Passion and announces his readiness to fulfil the mission of his father which has been entrusted to him.55 In the same manner, Thomas is ready to travel to India for Christ’s sake. In my opinion, based on this utterance, the Acts beginning are marked as the path of the apostle’s suffering here. Just as Jesus in Gethsemane, Thomas also bears his tormentful fate – the travel into an alien country as foreigner (ξένος/¿ÙüÝÎæ) that is equalled with Jesus’ Passion – that burgeons in further sufferings of the Apostle and, at the same time, forecasts the eventual martyrdom. 54

Martina Janßen, ʻ“Evangelium des Zwillings?” Das Thomasevangelium als ThomasSchriftʼ, in Jörg Frey, Enno Edzard Popkes and Jens Schröter (eds), Das Thomasevangelium. Entstehung, Rezeption, Theologie, BZNW 157 (Berlin, New York, 2008), 222-48, 229 n. 39. Jacob of Sarug (5th/6th cent.) explained that Jesus was sold for more coins (30) than Thomas (20) because of their different ranks: Jakob von Sarug, Drei Gedichte über den Apostel Thomas in Indien, ed. Werner Strothmann (Göttingen, 1976), 196-203. Ÿ 55 Ÿ The Syriac version (ßçÚ‹À{ÍæĀÚ Âœ ‹x¿çÞÙs… ÌãÀz) instead may rather allude œ to Matt. 26:42 (ßçÚ‹À{Íæ), what refers to the same context. It seems unlikely that the authors had Matt. 6:10 in mind because Passion motifs dominate in the first Praxis.



d) In Disguise of the suffering Lord The usage of Passion motifs directly continues in ATh 5-6. Thomas reveals himself for the first time during a wedding (see John 2:1-10). As a partaker at the festivity, he disguises himself with a wreath (στέφανος) on his head and a reed (κάλαμος) in his hand and anoints himself. Afterwards, one of the winepourers slaps him in his face. The allusion to the mocking of Jesus by the soldiers (Matt. 26:67 par.; 27:29 par.) is evident.56 Matt. 27:29: καὶ πλέξαντες στέφανον ἐξ ATh 5: καὶ τὸν στέφανον δὲ τὸν προσεἀκανθῶν ἐπέθηκαν ἐπὶ τῆς κεφαλῆς νεχθέντα αὐτῷ ἐκ μυρσίνης καὶ ἄλλων αὐτοῦ καὶ κάλαμον ἐν τῇ δεξιᾷ αὐτοῦ ἀνθέων πεπλεγμένον λαβὼν ἐπέθετο τῇ ἑαυτοῦ κεφαλῇ, κλάδον δὲ καλάμου ἔλαβεν ἐν τῇ χειρὶ αὐτοῦ καὶ κατεῖχεν. Matt. 26:67: καὶ ἐκολάφισαν αὐτόν, οἱ ATh 6: Τοῦ δὲ ἀποστόλου εἰς τὴν γῆν δὲ ἐράπισαν ἀφορῶντος εἷς τις τῶν οἰνοχόων ἐκτείνας τὴν χεῖρα αὐτοῦ ἐράπισεν αὐτόν.

It is distinctive that in ATh 5 and 6 already, Thomas is depicted as the suffering Christ at the very beginning of his public performance and before his first miracle (ATh 6-9). In my opinion, the story takes the motif of Thomas’ mission up as the narration of the Apostle’s suffering who is mocked and slapped quite at the beginning. His final suffering, Passion and death seem to be foreshadowed here. e) Thomasʼ Palm Sunday The chapters 39-41 narrate that Thomas was entering a city – accompanied by the multitude – on the back of a talking assʼ colt (πῶλος ὀνάδος). The scene resembles Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem as described in Matt. 21:1-11 par. who also rode on the back of a colt (πῶλος) (Mark 11:2). This comparison is borne out by the colt’s utterance that he is from the same lineage as the colt who took Jesus to Jerusalem (ATh 40). After the ass and Thomas reached the city gates, the Apostle dismounts, the ass however dies and is buried. Thomas refuses to raise the animal from the dead (41) but explains that the death is more appropriate (συμφέρον) for him (41). In ATh 40, the colt affirms that it was sent in order to carry the Apostle. Beyond any cosmological-mythological construal of the donkey ride,57 S. Luther pointed out that it is Godʼs will that the ass eventually dies after it has accomplished its commission.58 This conforms with the 56

H.-J. Klauck, Apokryphe Apostelakten (2005), 162. G. Bornkamm, Mythos und Legende (1933), 33-8; A.F.J. Klijn, The Acts of Thomas (1962), 234-5; Janet E. Spittler, Animals in the Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles. The Wild Kingdom of Early Christian Literature, WUNT 2/247 (Tübingen, 2008), 199-221. 58 Susanne Luther, ʻDie ethische Signifikanz der Wunder. Eine Relecture der Wundererzählungen der apokryphen Thomasakten unter ethischer Perspektiveʼ, in Bernd Kollmann and 57

The Memory of the Martyrdom of Thomas the Twin


interpretation given by Klauck, who recognises a prolepsis of the final death of Thomas, who also has to die after finishing the service for God, in the scene.59 This would also coincide with the positive valuation of the death in the Acts of Thomas. Klauck’s conclusive interpretation fits very well into the whole setting of the scene, which recalls the entry of Jesus in Jerusalem as the starting point for the Passion events. f) Farewell in Tears When Thomas leaves the community of the faithful Christians in order to help general Sifor in ATh 66 (the 7th Praxis), he makes his farewells with the words: ἐγὼ γὰρ ἤδη ἄπειμι ἐξ ὑμῶν, καὶ ἄδηλόν ἐστιν εἰ ἔτι ὄψομαι ὑμᾶς κατὰ σάρκα. Thomas already predicts his final death in chapter 66 – long before his actual martyrdom in ATh 168. The sad character of the scene is underlined in ATh 68 with the remark that the crowd farewells him in tears (δακρύοντες) and begs him not to forget (μὴ ἐπιλανθάνειν) them. This farewell scene appears unexpectedly because there is no hint at any impending risk of death for the Apostle. Nevertheless, it once more serves to characterise Thomas’ mission as a Passion and sorrowful path that leads to his final, omnipresent death in the end. g) Worthy to suffer In chapter 107, when the Apostle must go to prison, Thomas praises Christ because he made him worthy to endure (ὑπομεῖναι/Äêæ) a lot for his Lord’s sake. Thereby, Thomas reinforces that suffering is part of his Indian mission and likewise his task to which Christ called him. Affliction belongs essentially to Thomasʼ assignment and contributes from the beginning to his willingly self-humiliation. In this regard, he is once more comparable to his twin Jesus who suffered for his people’s sake just as Thomas did for Christ’s sake. As a prove serves the juxtaposition of two of the Apostle’s prayers: ATh 107:

(…) ἄξιόν με ἐποίησας, ἀλλὰ καὶ τοῦ ὑπομεῖναι πολλὰ διὰ σέ.

ATh 161:

Ὁ σωτήρ μου ὁ ὑπομείνας πολλὰ διʼ ἡμας (…).

h) Judas Thomas in Court Even before the final trial in ATh 163, several other court scenes are narrated that illustrate Thomas’ preparation for and dealing with his all-imminent death in his apocryphal Acts. Chapter 106 reports the first interrogation by Misdai. Thomas refuses to answer the questions of the king (Ὁ δὲ ἀπόστολος ἡσύχαζεν) and

Ruben Zimmermann (eds), Hermeneutik der frühchristlichen Wundererzählungen. Geschichtliche, literarische und rezeptionsorientierte Perspektiven, WUNT 339 (Tübingen, 2004), 559-88, 570-2. 59 H.-J. Klauck, Apokryphe Apostelakten (2005), 169.



imitates therein the behaviour of Jesus during his encounter with Pilate again. Therefore, Thomas is scourged and incarcerated. Thomas is brought to Misdai in ATh 127 once more. When the king requests Thomas to allure Mygdonia from his doctrine, the Apostle refuses and encourages Misdai: Μὴ μέλλε εἴ τι ἔχεις πρᾶξαι. Yet another time, Thomas accepts every fate and all pressure by Misdai willingly and even calls on the king to harm him for his teaching’s sake. A more detailed description of a trial in front of the king is to be found in ATh 139-40 after Thomas convinced the king’s wife Tertia of his doctrine as well. After a brutal torment by the king’s soldiers (138), the Apostle is first brought to prince Vazan. The following interrogation resembles the inquiry of Jesus by Pilate in many points. Vazan asks Thomas if he does not know (Οὐκ οἶδάς φησιν ὅτι… ATh 139) that he could release the Apostle. This must be related to John 19:10 (οὐκ οἶδας ὅτι…).60 Instead, Thomas doubts the king’s son’s might. Following this, the soldiers lead him to Misdai. Just as Jesus said to Pilate (John 19:11: οὐκ εἶχες ἐξουσίαν κατ’ ἐμοῦ),61 his twin also addresses the king with the words: Οὐκ ἔχεις ἐξουσίαν ὡς νομίζεις κατ’ ἐμοῦ (ATh 140). i) Wages for the Tired Because of his rigid behaviour at the trial, king Misdai orders to make the Apostle stand barefoot on heated slabs (140). During the Apostle’s prayer, God cools the slabs with water. On this occasion, Thomas calls Jesus the one who gives wages to those who are tired (ὁ δοὺς μισθὸν τοῖς κεκοπιακόσιν – 141). In 160 in the account of the martyrdom, Thomas utters that he is tired because of the mission he fulfilled for Jesus (πάνυ γὰρ κέκμηκα τῇ πρὸς αὐτὸν λατρείᾳ). That the Apostle will receive his wage now (ἀπολάβω μου τὸν μισθὸν), the release from the body, is stated shortly before (159). One can connect both passages in 140 and 160 and interpret the former one as prolepsis to the final death of the Apostle who will receive his wage – the earthly death – in the end after all sufferings, trials and tortures.62 j) Thomasʼ Last Supper In 158, the last chapter before the account of the martyrdom, Thomas baptises Vazan, Mnesar and Tertia. Following this, Thomas celebrates the Eucharist 60 In the Syriac version this parallelism is reinforced because Vazan utters, that he has force (¿æsÕÚáý), just as Pilate stressed in the same wording in John 19:10: ¿æsÕÚáýaccording to P. 61 Here, the Acts of Thomas resemble in Syriac (¿çÔàÎýÛáïßàĀÚà) rather the Peshitta (¿çÔàÎýÛáïßàÀ{zĀÚà– P). 62 The relatedness of both passages is underlined even more intensively in the Syriac text that Ÿ ? Ÿ – ʻGiver mentiones Thomasʼlabours. In ATh 140 it is written: …{ÍáÝ Ûáäðà ÁÌÅs uÍÙ Ÿ Ÿ Ÿ ÌÚÅÛ of the reward for all my laboursʼ and later in 160: ÍçÑàÎóÂĀáäï Æé– ʻFor I have laboured a lot in his serviceʼ.

The Memory of the Martyrdom of Thomas the Twin


with his fellows and the neophytes. There are many different portrayals of Eucharistic celebrations in the Acts of Thomas (ATh 26-9; 49; 121; 133).63 But it’s noteworthy that, in chapter 158, the actual offering of the Eucharist is preceded by a long résumé of the narration of the Passion of Christ, including the crucifixion, the drinking of the gall and the vinegar as well es the mention of the reed (κάλαμος – Matt. 27:29), which, in particular, is evocative of the description of Thomas in ATh 5 as well. This summary of Christʼs Passion surely serves as a link between the 13th act and the account of the martyrdom. The reminiscence of the suffering of Jesus leads into the narration of Thomas’ eventual Passion and the martyrdom. The Eucharistic meal that exceedingly alludes to the Passion and the death of Christ64 should also be interpreted as a kind of Thomas’ Last Supper with his fellows that is followed by Thomas’ imprisonment, his trial and his execution. k) The Martyrdom At least, in the account of the martyrdom one discovers several parallelisms to the Passion of Christ. At the beginning (160), Thomas assures his fellows that he could prevent his death if he wished to do so. By this, he resembles Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane who insures in Matt. 26:53 that he could avert his execution. Both, Thomas and Christ, undertake their fate willingly instead. During the trial in ATh 163, the soldiers strip Thomas and gird him with linen. This slightly alludes to the distribution of Jesusʼ garments in Matt. 27:35 par. During his trial in ATh 163, Thomas repeats his statement that Misdai has no power over him (καὶ τὴν κατ’ ἐμοῦ ἐξουσίαν οὐκ ἔχεις οὐδὲ ὅλως) – comparable to John 19:11. Thomas already states this in ATh 140 but now – in his final trial – he reinforces this Jesuanic utterance by the insertion of ὅλως. Misdai, who fears the multitude (164), that is devoted to Thomas (ἐφοβεῖτο γὰρ τὸν περιεστῶτα ὄχλον, πολλῶν αὐτῷ πιστευσάντων, compare also Luke 20:19; 22:2), lets the soldiers lead the Apostle on a mountain (164), a scene that naturally recalls Golgotha outside of Jerusalem. In turn, the actual execution resembles only slightly the way of Jesus’ execution. Regarding the four soldiers (στρατιῶται) and the one officer (πολέμαρχος), that leads the Apostle on the mountain (ATh 165), J.N. Farquhar recognises an 63 See Joseph Verheyden, ʻEating with Apostles. Eucharist and Table Fellowship in the Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles. The Evidence from the Acts of John and the Acts of Thomasʼ, in David Hellholm and Dieter Sänger (eds), The Eucharist. Its Origins and Contexts 2. Patristic Traditions. Iconography, WUNT 376 (Tübingen, 2017), 1011-60, 1037-56. 64 Gerardus A. Rouwhorst, ʻLa célébration de lʼeucharistie selon les Actes de Thomasʼ, in Charles Caspers (ed.), Omnes circumadstantes. Contributions towards a History of the Role of the People in the Liturgy, Presented to Herman Wegman on the Occasion of his Retirement from the Chair of History of Liturgy and Theology in the Katholieke Theologische Universiteit Utrecht (Kampen, 1990), 51-77, 70.



allusion to the four soldiers (στρατιῶται) of John 19:23.65 Nevertheless, it seems more likely in my opinion that the number of four soldiers was chosen by the author(s) with remark to the four lances in relation to the four elements that constitute Thomasʼ nature. This opinion is strengthened by the fact that, according to ATh 165, altogether five soldiers guide Thomas, not four. Both, Jesus and Thomas, were pierced by lances (ATh 168; John 19:34), but in the case of Jesus this only served to ascertain the already occurred death.66 Therefore, Christ and his Apostle remain differentiated in their ultimate execution. This differentiation is also accentuated by the interpretation that Thomas consists of four elements and Jesus of only one nature (165). The ontological distinction however fits in the account of the martyrdom very well. At its beginning, for instance, Thomas stresses not to be identical with his Lord. A last prayer precedes the Apostle’s execution. Towards the end of his servitude, Thomas points out that he became a slave but within the death, he will be freed (ATh 167). In several Greek manuscripts (P F S L Z), this prayer is missing and is replaced by one of ATh 144-8. Here, too, Thomas refers to his departure of this life, he resumes his former, ascetic life and stresses de novo his willingly humiliation67 and begs for his final wage.68 After his death, his fellows bury Thomas in a former king’s tomb (168), just as Jesus was sepulchred in the grave of Joseph of Arimathea (John 19:38-42). Thomas’ corpse is wrapped in fine linen (ὀθόναις πολλαῖς) that is reminiscent of Jesusʼs linen (Luke 24:12; John 19:40). Matt. 27:59 and Mark 15:46 mention σινδόνα instead. The Syriac language however relativises these differentiations ? for ¿æĀÝtranslates both Greek words.69 In the end, chapter 169 reports postmortal appearances of Thomas.70 This reminds the appearances of Jesus, even if a physical resurrection of Thomas must be negated because his corpse remains in the tomb, according to ATh 170. Nonetheless, Thomas relativises 65

J.N. Farquhar, The Apostle Thomas in India (1972), 8. A further similarity hence can be found in the Thomasine utterance before his death, that he accomplished Jesusʼ task (ATh 167: ἐπλήρωσά σου τὸ ἔργον καὶ ἐτελείωσά σου τὸ πρόσταγμα), compared to Jesus’ last word according to John 19:30 ʻτετέλεσταιʼ. See George Nedungatt, ʻThe Apocryphal Acts of Thomas and Christian Origins in Indiaʼ, Gregorianum 92.3 (2011), 533-57, 543. 67 ATh 145: πεπλήρωκα οὖν κύριε τὰς ἐντολάς σου καὶ ἐτέλεσα τὸ βούλημά σου· καὶ ἐγενόμην πένης καὶ ἐνδεὴς καὶ ξένος καὶ δοῦλος καὶ ἐξουδενωμένος καὶ δέσμιος καὶ πειναλέος καὶ διψαλέος καὶ πεποίθησίς μου· 68 ATh 148: παρέλθοιμι μετʼ εἰρήνης τῶν χορῶν αὐτῶν, συμπαρούσης μοι τῆς εἰρήνης καὶ χαρᾶς. 69 A.F.J. Klijn, The Acts of Thomas (1962), 303. 70 The nature of those appearances remains unclear. Contrarily to the Acts of Peter 40, the text does not explicitly state that Thomas appears in a dream. The verb that qualifies the appearance is ἐφάνη, also used in Mark 16:9 for Jesusʼ resurrection. The usage of the correspondent Syriac verb ÀÏÐ(Ethpe.) does not help to specifiy Thomasʼ appearance, for the occurrences of the verb see Robert Payne Smith, Thesaurus Syriacus 1 (Oxford, 1879), 615. 66

The Memory of the Martyrdom of Thomas the Twin


the relevance of his corpse when he announces to his disciples that he is not here (Οὐκ εἰμὶ ἐνταῦθα), just as the angel said at Jesusʼs tomb according to Mark 16:6 and Luke 24:6: οὐκ ἔστιν ὧδε.71 5. Conclusion The offered analysis revealed several characteristics of Thomasʼs martyrdom, according to the apocryphal Acts of Thomas. I underlined that the Apostle a) suffered a violent death for his ascetic-encratitic message’s sake and that he b) underwent his death willingly and voluntarily and that he always remains the sovereign over the scenery of the martyrdom. He appears as one who faces his death triumphantly without suffering from any physical pain. He accepts his death cheerfully. It is the reward for his tormenting Indian mission, as Thomas can unite with his heavenly twin through the liberation of his body. Even if the actual execution is reported within a few words (ATh 168), the Acts in their entirety generate a story of the Apostle’s suffering and can be read as the Passion Story of Thomas. Judas Thomas as the spiritual twin of his Lord acts simultaneously as his servant and shares Jesusʼs kenosis (Phil. 2:7). The suffering he bears belongs to his unsolicitous self-humiliation. Especially the first Praxis creates the conception of an ongoing narration of Thomasʼs suffering through Passion motifs. The allusion to Jesus’ utterance in Luke 22:42/ Matt. 26:42 for instance, parallels Thomas with Jesus. Just as Jesus accepts his commencing Passion on the Mount of Olives, Thomas also agrees in his hazardous mission, which from the beginning seems to be linked to his eventual death and always seems to be heading towards him. The encratitic teaching of the Apostle, which is worth dying for, has a redemptive character. Christ is described as actual redeemer who suffered for humankind (ATh 72; 80; 126; 136; 137). Thomas continues his Lordʼs acting and preaches Jesus’ teaching. The Son of God is designated as the cause of life/ πρόφασις τῆς ζωῆς (e.g. 48; 141). The same predicate is assigned to Thomas (39; 42) for he proclaims his Lordʼs message. Through his self-humiliation as a slave he can free humankind from the life on earth (19). Because of this parallelisation, it seems to be inevitable to construct Thomas as martyr who resembles his master as a twin and consequently has to suffer the same fate. He must die like Christ for his redemptive message. In the end, he receives his reward for his obedience – the release from the body that exemplifies his proclaimed encratism to his fellows.


In the Syriac, there is a higher parallelism to Matt. 28:6 instead of Mark 16:6. See ATh 169: Ÿ Ÿ Ÿ ¿ÝyzĀÙ {z¿ćàxand Matt. 28:6 (¿ÝyzÀ{z¿ćàaccording to S) und Luke 24:6 (¿ćà Ÿ ¿ÝyzÀ{zaccording to S).



How is it possible to classify the memory of Thomas as martyr based on memory theories and to elucidate the function of this memory? Apart from John 11:16 where Thomas is depicted and commemorated as disciple of Christ who is ready to suffer for his Lord, Heracleon assumed a natural death of Thomas. In the second half of the 2nd century he might refer to already existing traditions, otherwise his argumentation about the value of the martyrdom would be unconvincing to all those who would have known about a violent death of Thomas. Furthermore, Clement does not clearly contradict him. It is possible, however, that this Church father tacitly includes Thomas among the apostles who ʻdrank the same cupʼ as Jesus dying as a martyr. Some years later, also Origen seems to be unaware of a martyrdom of the Apostle and relies herein on the tradition. For the first time, the apocryphal Acts of Thomas narrate the violent death of Thomas and take most likely recourse to (oral) circulating stories. At least the above-mentioned compositional character of the Acts suggests this. Therefore, one can assume that as early as the 2nd century, traditions about the violent death of Thomas existed. According to memory theories, this phase of the 2nd resp. the 3rd century must relate to the formation of the collective memory. This period, that is not limited in time contrarily to the social memory, designates the time span when different circulating traditions consolidate to one conception that was externalised narratively, but was not yet canonised. However, a certain perspective starts to prevail even if different stories persist.72 Obviously, divergent opinions on the end of Thomasʼ life and his death existed in Early Christianity. This diversity reached its preliminary end and condensed in the textual retained memory of a martyrdom in the Acts of Thomas. The imagination of a violent death of Thomas shaped the further memory73 of the Apostle’s decease. Up to the moment of the creation of the Acts only few information was known of Thomasʼ activities, with the result that it is self-evident that gaps 72

Sandra Hübenthal, Das Markusevangelium als kollektives Gedächtnis (Göttingen, 2014), 144-55; ead., ʻ“Frozen Momentsˮ – Early Christianity through the Lens of Social Memory Theoryʼ, in Simon Butticaz and Enrico Norelli (eds), Memory and Memories in Early Christianity. Proceedings of the International Conference Held at the Universities of Geneva and Lausanne (June 2-3, 2016), WUNT 398 (Tübingen, 2018), 17-43, 26-36. As Hübenthal pointed out, it is often difficult to distinguish between collective and cultural memory, transitions are fluid. Also, the exact time spans of divergent memories and the generational/floating gaps between them are ideally and frequently depend on a certain commemorative community. 73 See for instance Klaus Zelzer, Die alten Lateinischen Thomasakten, TU 122 (Berlin, 1977), 75. The lance as symbol for his martyrdom e.g. is a common attribute of the Apostle in Christian iconography (Angelo Maria Raggi, ʻTommaso, apostolo, santo. Iconografiaʼ, Bibliotheca Sanctorum 12 [1998], 539-44, 540). Contrarily, the Acta Thomae minora, written presumably in the 4th/5th century, do not narrate the Apostleʼs martyrdom, but refer to his assumption to heaven instead: Aurelio de Santos Otero, ʻLater Acts of Apostlesʼ, in W. Schneemelcher, New Testament Apocrypha 2 (2003), 426-82, 457-8; Janet E. Spittler, ʻSuffering Thomas. Doubt, Pain, and Punishment in the Acts of Thomas and his Wonderworking Skinʼ, in ead. (ed.), The Narrative Self in Early Christianity. Essays in Honor of Judith Perkins, Writings from the Greco-Roman World Supplement 15 (Atlanta, GA, 2019), 211-28, 212-3.

The Memory of the Martyrdom of Thomas the Twin


in the memory existed. In this context it is noteworthy, that the account of Thomasʼ martyrdom and its causes show several parallels to the narrative description of other apostles’ deaths in different apocryphal Acts. Commonly, the main structure consisting of incarceration, interrogation and execution is very similar.74 In order to explain this issue I. Czachesz adapted the theory of scripts, which describe memory in conventionalised episodes that are formed by cultural and social norms. In the constructed memory each of the texts adapts existing schemata and scripts. In the context of the martyrdom stories of the apostles, he names twelve elements of a martyrdom script, whose components were partially adopted by each of the texts. These components correspond to the cultural expectations of the commemorator.75 In addition to the twelve points of Czachesz, I would suppose to subjoin the two further elements a) death for the message’s sake and b) the voluntariness of the apostle in the case of the apocryphal Acts to undergo the martyrdom. The gaps that existed in the memory while constructing the martyrdom of Thomas in the late 2nd century, were therefore filled with some elements of the martyrdom script (Czachesz) that, in my opinion, constituted the elsewhere76 invoked cultural available plots. According to the definition of D.E. Polkinghorne,77 those plots are chosen from the authors’/commemorators’ cultural repertoire of stories on behalf of their function and relevant contribution to the main story. It seems likely that the mentioned contents of the martyrdom script were present for the authors of the Acta Thomae on basis of the other apocryphal Acts that partially underlay the Acts of Thomas.78 The recourse to these plots explains several features of the memory-constitution of Thomas as martyr that was amended e.g. by the motif of the twinship with all its further implications and consequences for the narration.


István Czachesz, ʻPassion and Martyrdom Traditions in the Apocryphal Acts of the Apostlesʼ, in Andreas Merkt, Tobias Nicklas and Joseph Verheyden (eds), Gelitten, gestorben, auferstanden. Passions- und Ostertraditionen im antiken Christentum, WUNT 2/273 (Tübingen, 2010), 1-20, 10. 75 Ibid. 4; 14-6. Czacheszʼs twelve elements are: 1) arrest; 2) imprisonment and torture; 3) reaction of the martyr’s companions; 4) significant words of the martyr; 5) conviction; 6) way to the place of execution; 7) last words of the martyr; 8) death; 9) miraculous signs; 10) reaction of friends and enemies; 11) resurrection; 12) appearances. Also Platoʼs Apology of Socrates serves according to Czachesz as a role model for Christian martyrdom stories. 76 S. Hübenthal, Das Markusevangelium (2014), 105-8. 77 Donald E. Polkinghorne, ʻNarrative and Self-Conceptʼ, Journal of Narrative and Life History 1 (1991), 135-53, 136-53; Donald E. Polkinghorne, ʻNarrative Psychologie und Geschichtsbewusstsein. Beziehungen und Perspektivenʼ, in Jürgen Straub (ed.), Erzählung, Identität und historisches Bewußtsein. Die psychologische Konstruktion von Zeit und Geschichte, Erinnerung, Geschichte, Identität 1 (Frankfurt am Main, 1998), 12-45, 17-26, esp. 26. 78 For connections of the Acts of Thomas to other apocryphal Acts see A.F.J. Klijn, The Acts of Thomas (1962), 22-6 and Jean-Marc Prieur, Acta Andreae 1. Praefatio, commentarius (Turnhout, 1989), 389-94.



If one follows the different explanations of the formation of memory, the construction of the past is always orientated on the needs of the present commemoration community.79 Thomas as martyr serves as a ʻmemory figureʼ80 with a normative and a formative aspect.81 For both functions, the assimilation of Thomas to Jesus through their corresponding Passions seems indispensable. Concerning the normative function of the memory of Thomas as martyr, the Apostleʼs willing dying for his encratitic-ascetic message valorises and legitimises his teaching.82 This is particularly reached by the equalisation of his fate, his Passion, to that of Jesus what reinforces his redeemer-like, but not with Jesus identical role, so that he becomes like him πρόφασις τῆς ζωῆς. Finally, the formative function of the memorial figure Thomas is brought forth through the construction of Thomas as reference person for the Syriac community in whose midst the Acts originated. Through his Christ-like Passion and ʻkenosisʼ, Thomas becomes a Jesus-like authority for his commemorators. In the text already, Thomas is the founder of a community of faithful that keep assembling even after his death (ATh 169), united in assemblies of Eucharistic celebrations, according to the Syriac version.83 Furthermore, the relics of the Apostle, whose miraculous power chapter 170 affirms, designate the church of Edessa as an apostolic church.84 This church acts with respect to the authority of Thomas and gathers at the Apostle’s tomb as a commemoration community. Its memory of Thomas as a martyr solidifies in the veneration of his corpse.

79 For an overview see e.g. Anthony Le Donne, The Historiographical Jesus. Memory, Typology, and the Son of David (Waco, TX, 2009), 41-64. 80 Jan Assmann, Das kulturelle Gedächtnis. Schrift, Erinnerung und politische Identität in frühen Hochkulturen, 8th ed. (Munich, 2018), 37-42. 81 Ibid. 142. 82 See for example also Irenäus, Haer. 3.12.13 with a similar interpretation on the connection of a true message and the martyrdom. 83 J. Verheyden, ʻEating with the Apostlesʼ (2017), 1055-6. 84 R. Wiśniewski, The Beginnings (2019), 13.

Peter the Martyr. Christian Memory under Construction Stephan WITETSCHEK, LMU Munich, Germany

ABSTRACT The story of Peter’s violent death has found its iconic shape in the account of the Acts of Peter: Peter crucified upside down. This account can be understood as the result of a development that took almost the entire 2nd century, beginning with rather allusive remarks in John 21:18-9 and 1Clement 5.4. The aim of this article is to understand this development as a development of collective memory and to relate it to developments in the understanding of martyrdom and in the memory of Peter in general. The working hypothesis is that, while in the early 2nd century the death of Peter required explanation, by the early 3rd century the view of Peter as the first bishop of Rome required, among other things, an explicit account of his martyrdom.

Roughly around 200 AD, we observe in Christian literature the establishment of a narrative about Peter’s death. It may be saying too much to call this version ‘canonical’, but in any event it seems to have been a widely acceptable narrative, as it is attested in the Acts of Peter (Martyrdom of the Holy Apostle Peter)1 as well as in Tertullian2 and apparently in Origen.3 The common elements of this narrative are that Peter (1) died a violent death (2) in Rome (3) under Emperor Nero4 (4) by being crucified (5) upside down according to his own 1 Acts Pet. 35-41 (Mart. Pet. 6-12). Edition of the Acts of Peter: Marietheres Döhler, Acta Petri. Text, Übersetzung und Kommentar zu den Actus Vercellenses, TU 171 (Berlin, New York, 2018). Edition of the Martyrdom of Peter: Otto Zwierlein, Petrus in Rom. Die literarischen Zeugnisse, UaLG 96 (Berlin, New York, 1st ed. 2009, 2nd ed. 2010), 404-24. 2 Tertullian, Praescr. 36.2-3: (Apostolic churches) … si autem Italiae adiaces, habes Romam unde nobis quoque auctoritas praesto est. Ista quam felix ecclesia cui totam doctrinam apostoli sanguine suo profuderunt, ubi Petrus passioni dominicae adaequatur, ubi Paulus Iohannis (sc. baptistae) exitu coronatur, ubi apostolus Iohannes posteaquam in oleum igneum demersus nihil passus est, in insulam relegatur. Scorp. 15,3: Orientem fidem Romae primus Nero cruentauit. Tunc Petrus ab altero cingitur, cum cruci adstringitur. Tunc Paulus ciuitatis Romanae consequitur natiuitatem, cum illic martyrii renascitur generositate. 3 Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 3.1.2 (apparently citing the third book of Origen’s Commentary on Genesis): Πέτρος δ᾿ ἐν Πόντῳ καὶ Γαλατίᾳ καὶ Βιθυνίᾳ Καππαδοκίᾳ τε καὶ Ἀσίᾳ κεκηρυχέναι τοῖς [ἐκ] διασπορᾶς Ἰουδαῖοις ἔοικεν· ὃς καὶ ἐπὶ τέλει ἐν Ῥώμῃ γενόμενος, ἀνεσκολοπίσθη κατὰ κεφαλῆς, οὕτως αὐτὸς ἀξιώσας παθεῖν. 4 Origen does not mention Nero, but the Acts of Peter (41; Mart. Pet. 12) and Tertullian, Scorp. 15.3 do.

Studia Patristica CVII, 77-105. © Peeters Publishers, 2021.



wish.5 This narrative of Peter’s death proved to be lasting and, at the same time, offering opportunities for further development and embellishment throughout late antiquity.6 There does not seem to be an alternative memory of Peter having ‘died in his bed’,7 as the late Michael Goulder famously suggested. The purpose of this article, however, is not to trace these further developments, but to inquire into how this narrative came about. This will be achieved through analysis of the pertinent sources from the 1st and 2nd centuries AD that, in some way or other, provide allusions or hints to Peter’s violent death. This will allow tracing the development of individual traits of the narrative outlined above. However, the Acts of Peter as the quasi-canonical shape of this narrative are not part of the present study;8 they represent a further step in the development of the memory of Peter’s death. The ideal approach in discussing the diverse pieces of evidence would be a chronological one. However, for most of the texts in question, dating is notoriously difficult; therefore, the arrangement of texts below is only tentative. Something materially similar has already been achieved almost three decades ago in the magisterial ANRW article by Richard Bauckham.9 Thus, since no new relevant sources have been discovered in the meantime, the following study may seem redundant. Bauckham’s objective in 1992, however, was mainly historical: to gather and evaluate all the available evidence that may provide information about Peter’s death.10 While this is, without question, a worthy aim, the present study is informed by the concept of collective memory; thus the same texts will be approached with different questions from a different perspective: as documents of collective memory at different stages of its development. Texts that provide no new information at the historical level are nevertheless of interest as documents of a collective memory taking shape. ‘Collective memory’ in this article is a category of communal memory.11 It is memory that has already taken a distinct narrative shape within a social body 5 This element is not attested by Tertullian, but in the Acts of Peter 37-8; Mart. Pet. 8.4-9.1 and Origen (apud Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 3.1.2), both of which use the verb ἀξιόω to describe Peter’s wish. 6 For a collection of pertinent texts see David L. Eastman, The Ancient Martyrdom Accounts of Peter and Paul, SBLWGRW 39 (Atlanta, GA, 2015), esp. 1-117. 7 Michael D. Goulder, ‘Did Peter ever go to Rome?’, SJTh 57 (2004), 377-96, 383. 8 Further developments are sketched in the article by David Eastman in this volume, p. 107-16. 9 Richard Bauckham, ‘The Martyrdom of Peter in Early Christian Literature’, in ANRW II 26.1, ed. Wolfgang Haase (Berlin, New York, 1992), 539-95. 10 See esp. R. Bauckham, ‘Martyrdom of Peter’ (1992), 540. 11 For the categories employed see Sandra Huebenthal, Das Markusevangelium als kollektives Gedächtnis, FRLANT 253 (Göttingen, 2014), 77-155, esp. 148: While the immediate recourse to the shared past (with interpretations possibly still under negotiation within the group) is referred to as communicative or social memory, ‘collective memory’, typically after a period of 40 years, has achieved a level of distinctness that comes with a particular (and, for a given group, normative) interpretation of the past and the possibility to construct an overarching narrative of the events in question. Cultural memory, eventually, has moved beyond negotiation and diversity; it has become the highly formalised ‘grand narrative’ of a larger group.

Peter the Martyr. Christian Memory under Construction


– one may even speak of an ‘icon’ or ‘myth’. Moreover, this memory is already a distinct interpretation of the past that has turned out to be the dominant – or most convincing – one for the social body in question. Interpretative choices have been made. In what follows, these choices will be analysed. I. First- and Second-Century Allusions to Peter’s Violent Death 1. 1Pet. 5:1 (1) Πρεσβυτέρους τοὺς ἐν ὑμῖν παρακαλῶ ὁ συμπρεσβύτερος καὶ μάρτυς τῶν τοῦ Χριστοῦ παθημάτων, ὁ καὶ τῆς μελλούσης ἀποκαλύπτεσθαι δόξης κοινωνός. I encourage the elders among you, being the co-elder and witness of Christ’s sufferings, as well as share-holder in the glory about to be revealed.

If in this text the word μάρτυς were to mean ‘eye-witness’, it would be a singular reference to Peter having been present at Jesus’ suffering and death – contrary to all four canonical gospels12 as well as to the Gospel of Peter.13 Unless one understands 1Pet. 5:1 as suggesting a significantly different passion story, the word μάρτυς must refer to Peter’s active role; several commentators suggest that, although the word does not yet carry the technical meaning of ‘martyr’, it refers to Peter’s extreme witness (in German: ‘Tatzeugnis’), i.e. his faithfulness leading to suffering.14 Many exegetes interpret this as an allusion to Peter’s violent death,15 whereas Richard Bauckham pointed out that, within the context of 1Pet. 5:1, the ‘witness’ must be something which the συμπρεσβύτερος ‘Peter’ can claim to have in common with the elders addressed in this verse, hence his Christian preaching.16 This point would carry more weight, however, if the other two members of Peter’s tripartite self-presentation were also composites with σύν-, like σύμμαρτυς and συγκοινωνός (as in Rev. 1:9). As the text stands, the more plausible reading seems to be that συμπρεσβύτερος is what Peter shares with the other elders, while μάρτυς and κοινωνός are the features that mark him out and give him authority. 12 All four canonical gospels have Peter disappear after his third denial (Matt 26:75; Mark 14:72; Luke 22:62; John 18:27). 13 In Gos. Pet. 7.26-27 the first-person narrator (Peter, see 13.60) only speaks of himself and his friends hiding in grief and fear. 14 See also Régis Burnet, Les douze apôtres. Histoire de la reception des figures apostoliques dans le christianisme ancien, JAOC 1 (Turnhout, 2014), 192. 15 See Norbert Brox, Der erste Petrusbrief, EKK 21 (Zürich, Neukirchen-Vluyn, 1979), 229; Karl Matthias Schmidt, Mahnung und Erinnerung im Maskenspiel. Epistolographie, Rhetorik und Narrativik der pseudepigraphen Petrusbriefe, HBS 38 (Freiburg, Basel, Wien, 2003), 283; Reinhard Feldmeier, Der erste Brief des Petrus, THKNT 15/1 (Leipzig, 2005), 156, all with reference to 1Pet. 4:13 (sharing in the sufferings of Christ). 16 See R. Bauckham, ‘Martyrdom of Peter’ (1992), 541; see also John H. Elliott, 1 Peter, AYB 37B (New Haven, CT, 2011), 819-20.



The notion of Peter’s witness through suffering (in and of itself by no means the only possible one) finds support in the immediately following phrase about Peter having a share in future glory (on this connection see, too, 1Clement 5.4 below).17 The close connection suggests that, for 1Peter, Peter’s witness is not limited to confirming the correctness of factual information but extends to his existential involvement with implications for what may be called his personal eschatology. In other words: 1Pet. 5:1 suggests that Peter experienced suffering, possibly (but not necessarily) violent death, on account of his Christian confession.18 A glance at 1Pet. 4:13 supports the broader understanding of suffering as participation in the suffering of Christ; the following examples (1Pet. 4:14-5) make clear that participation is not necessarily strict imitation of a violent death – and yet permits hope for future glory.19 It is nevertheless possible that through the reference to suffering 1Peter may be transparent for its pseudepigraphic situation, being composed after the actual death of Peter.20 This would find some support in 1Pet. 5:13, where Peter’s (fictional) base bears the name of ‘Babylon’, usually understood to be a chiffre for Rome, as in Rev. 17-8.21 Of course, this connection has probative value only if it proves to be based on a tradition that connects Peter’s death with the city of Rome (as in the Apocalypse of Peter, see below). On the other hand, a reference to the actual death of Peter would presumably come with more circumstance like a prediction by Jesus (as in John 21:18-9; Apoc. Pet. 14.4; 2Pet. 1:14, see below). 1Peter thus gives very allusive indications of a memory of Peter’s suffering and connection with Rome. On its own, the passage in question could serve as evidence neither for any historical judgement about Peter’s whereabouts, nor for an early Christian discourse remembering Peter’s death. 1Peter can only figure as taking part in such a discourse if the existence of said discourse is 17

See also R. Feldmeier, Der erste Brief des Petrus (2005), 156; Lutz Doering, ‘Apostle, Co-Elder, and Witness of Suffering. Author Construction and Peter Image in First Peter’, in Jörg Frey et al. (eds), Pseudepigraphie und Verfasserfiktion in frühchristlichen Briefen, WUNT 246 (Tübingen, 2009), 645-81, 659-60; most recently David Horrell, ‘Peter Remembered in 1Peter? Images, Traditions, Representations’, in Judith Lieu (ed.), Peter in the Early Church. Apostle – Missionary – Church Leader, BETL 325 (Leuven, forthcoming). 18 With an eye to 1Pet. 4:16, it seems safe to use the term ‘Christian’ when speaking of 1Peter and the image of Peter this letter conveys. 19 This is what also R. Bauckham, ‘Martyrdom of Peter’ (1992), 541 would concede. 20 See L. Doering, ‘Apostle, Co-Elder, Witness’ (2009), 660-1. 21 See e.g. R. Bauckham, ‘Martyrdom of Peter’ (1992), 542; more generally Armin D. Baum, ‘„Babylon“ als Ortsnamenmetapher in 1 Petr 5,13 auf dem Hintergrund der antiken Literatur und im Kontext des Briefes’, in Stefan Heid (ed.), Petrus und Paulus in Rom. Eine interdisziplinäre Debatte (Freiburg, 2011), 180-221. For a different assessment see e.g. O. Zwierlein, Petrus in Rom (2009), 7-12; 2nd ed. 2010, 478-9; id., ‘Petrus in Rom? Die literarischen Zeugnisse’, in Stefan Heid (ed.), Petrus und Paulus in Rom. Eine interdisziplinäre Debatte (Freiburg, 2011), 444-67, 448-53 (= id., Petrus und Paulus in Jerusalem und Rom. Vom Neuen Testament zu den apokryphen Apostelakten, UaLG 109 [Berlin, New York, 2013], 3-30, 7-14).

Peter the Martyr. Christian Memory under Construction


established from other sources. Hence more, and more explicit, evidence is required. 2. 1Clem. 5:3-4 (3) Λάβωμεν πρὸ ὀφθαλμῶν ἡμῶν τοὺς ἀγαθοὺς ἀποστόλους. (4) Πέτρον, ὃς διὰ ζῆλον ἄδικον οὐχ ἕνα οὐδὲ δύο, ἀλλὰ πλείονας ὑπήνεγκεν πόνους καὶ οὕτω μαρτυρήσας ἐπορεύθη εἰς τὸν ὀφειλόμενον τόπον τῆς δόξης. Let us place before our eyes the brave apostles:22 Peter, who, because of unrighteous zeal underwent not one, not two, but many hardships, and having thus given witness, went to the due place of glory.

This passage from 1Clement is remarkable since, at an early date,23 it closely connects the mentioning of Peter’ sufferings with a slightly longer account of Paul’s sufferings and endurance (1Clement 5.5-7) – an arrangement that may already point to the later (3rd century) joint veneration of Peter and Paul in Rome. When studied on its own terms, however, the statement of 1Clement 5.4 does not seem to contribute much to the comprehensive picture of Peter’s martyrdom as sketched above. The passage is, strictly speaking, only about persistent hardships that Peter endured during his life.24 His death is only alluded to by the reference to ‘going to the due place of glory’, which need not necessarily mean a violent death. In other words: 1Clement 5.4, on its own, would be compatible with the idea that Peter died in his bed. It would be possible to interpret this phrase in the sense that Peter’s witness consisted in leading a life characterised by many hardships, with no regard to the manner of his death. It is the context that makes things look different:25 The apostles Peter and Paul, among others, are labelled as ‘the greatest and most righteous pillars (who) were persecuted and struggled until death’ (οἱ μέγιστοι καὶ δικαιότατοι στῦλοι ἐδιώχθησαν καὶ ἕως θανάτου ἤθλησαν, 1Clement 5.2). The phrase ἕως θανάτου here is not just a temporal indicator (so as to say that their struggle 22 For the choice of this translation see also Horacio E. Lona, Der erste Clemensbrief, KAV 2 (Göttingen, 1998), 158. The alternative, though more circumstantial and less likely rendering would be: ‘Let us place before the eyes our brave apostles’. 23 For many authors, this passage is of particular value as the earliest explicit reference to Peter’s martyrdom; see e.g. Oscar Cullmann, Petrus. Jünger – Apostel – Märtyrer. Das historische und das theologische Petrusproblem (Zürich, 1952, 2nd ed. 1960), 96-119, esp. 97 (2nd ed. 101-23, esp. 102); R. Burnet, Les douze apôtres (2014), 193-4. For a different assessment see R. Bauckham, ‘Martyrdom of Peter’ (1992), 99: 1Clement 5.4, allusive as it is, cannot carry the burden of proof imposed by Cullmann and others. According to Bauckham, the earliest explicit references to Peter’s martyrdom are the Apocalypse of Peter and the Ascension of Isaiah (see below I.4 and I.5). 24 See H.E. Lona, Der erste Clemensbrief (1998), 160; more generally O. Zwierlein, ‘Petrus in Rom?’ (2011), 454-5. 25 See also H.E. Lona, ‘Petrus in Rom und der Erste Clemensbrief’, in Stefan Heid (ed.), Petrus und Paulus in Rom. Eine interdisziplinäre Debatte (Freiburg, 2011), 221-46, 224-5.



came to its obvious end with the end of their lives – implying they could have died in their beds as well), but a qualitative one: Their struggle was so fierce that it culminated in their (violent) deaths.26 It is in this context that Peter is referred to as the first recent example of ultimately upright perseverance in the face of zeal and envy. In order to work for the argumentative purpose of 1Clement, this example only requires the addressees to share the author’s knowledge that Peter met a violent death that deserved positive assessment. It does not help the argument very much if this death was specifically connected with Rome.27 The latter is probably alluded to (albeit quite circumstantially) by ἐν ἡμῖν in 1Clement 6.1, but the author does not exploit this.28 What matters more to the author is closeness in time: Peter, Paul and the sufferers of 1Clement 6 are closest to (ἔγγιστα, 1Clement 5.1), even belong to the same generation as, the author and audience of 1Clement. This is what distinguishes them from the OT examples of 1Clement 4 and makes them particularly pertinent for the author’s argument. The list in 1Clement 5-6, however, gives the impression of a rather forced collection of figures from the recent past that, in some way, serve as examples of endurance. Among the recent exempla, Peter and Paul stand out as being mentioned by name, the other instances remain opaque and allusive. This observation begs the question whether the list as a whole was already a traditional body,29 or whether it was put together from various sources that happened to contain examples of endurance under hardship (note that the list is materially about endurance, but that there is not a pervasive catchword such as, e.g., ὑπομονή). It is at least plausible that the accounts of Peter (1Clement 5.4) and Paul (1Clement 5.5-7) come from the same source. They both (different from the other exempla in 1Clement 4-6) include a view to the apostles’ ultimate destination in terms of going (πορεύομαι) to a particular place (εἰς τὸν … τόπον…), which is missing in the other exempla.30 26

See also H.E. Lona, Der erste Clemensbrief (1998), 158. According to Zwierlein, ‘Petrus in Rom?’ (2011), 458, the author of 1Clement drew his knowledge of Peter and Paul only from (the later canonical Book of) Acts and thus provides no trace of any local Roman memory of Peter. This, of course is only convincing if one is willing to emulate Zwierlein’s methodological choice of considering early Christian tradition only in terms of relationships between extant literary texts. 28 See also H.E. Lona, ‘Petrus in Rom’ (2011), 225-7. Authors who do not think that – historically speaking – Peter came to and died in Rome are inclined to understand this ἡμεῖς as referring not to inhabitants of Rome, but to Christians in every place; see e.g. O. Zwierlein, Petrus in Rom (2009), 24-7; id., ‘Petrus in Rom?’ (2011), 455-6. The communicative situation of the (albeit fairly lengthy) letter, however, lends some plausibility to a Roman notion of ἡμεῖς. 29 This seems to be the view of R. Bauckham, ‘Martyrdom of Peter’ (1992), 556-8: The list was already a traditional collection of instances of endurance and was redactionally made to serve the aim of 1Clement, to showcase the disastrous consequences of zeal and envy. 30 1Clement 5.4: ἐπορεύθη εἰς τὸν ὀφειλόμενον τόπον της δόξης; 5.7: εἰς τὸν ἅγιον τόπον ἐπορεύθη. 27

Peter the Martyr. Christian Memory under Construction


This may indicate that the author of 1Clement could use a condensed narrative of Peter and Paul that put particular emphasis on the hardships they endured and their eschatological fate. It is true that the stress of the enumeration in 1Clement 4-6 is not on martyrdom but on endurance in the face of hardships.31 That does not mean, however, that martyrdom is positively excluded. Especially if one perceives the elements of the enumeration as a heterogeneous collection that was redactionally made to serve the purpose of propagating endurance. Individual elements of the list may originally have served other purposes. While the martyrdom of Peter (and Paul) is not positively endorsed from the wider context of 1Clement 4-6, it is not positively excluded either. In any event, the narrative as it appears in 1Clement 5 seems to have been shared knowledge in both Rome and Corinth. The author can take for granted that the audience in Corinth will share his conviction that their suffering was unjust and undeserved. Otherwise, the allusive reference to Peter’s (and Paul’s) hardships and deaths would not have sufficed to serve the author’s case. The list as such does not provide any prejudice. That is to say: 1Clement 5 does not intend to inform readers about the lives and deaths of Peter and Paul, but to place this knowledge – shared by author and audience – into a new hermeneutical framework.32 The shared memory of Peter and Paul is employed to make the fate of ‘the brave apostles’ a warning against an agonistic mentality that goes to the extremes of destructive ζῆλος and – secondarily – an encouragement to emulate the positive virtue of ὑπομονή. To be sure, this does not necessarily require violent death – David, too, is mentioned among the ancient exempla (1Clement 4.13), and not all the examples mentioned in 1Clement 6 imply violent death. But in the cases of Peter and Paul, the allusive references to externally inflicted pressure and hardships as well as to their eschatological fate amount to a cumulative case:33 Each of them, on its own, would allow for a different interpretation as well (hence, no strict proof), but they are, in this combination, better understandable if shared memory of their violent deaths was in the background. The precise classification of this memory, however, is a somewhat tricky matter. In 1Clement 5.3 the author evokes a visual representation of Peter and Paul (λάβωμεν πρό ὀφθαλμῶν ἡμῶν). To begin with, this requires shared knowledge of the apostles Peter and Paul. If it is a valid assumption that 1Clement was composed around 100 AD, it is quite plausible that there were 31 See O. Zwierlein, ‘Petrus in Rom?’ (2011), 456-8; 458: ‘Die beiden Apostel sind für ihn (sc. the author of 1Clement, SW) Dulder, nicht Märtyrer’. 32 See also Walter Ameling, ‘Petrus in Rom. Zur Genese frühchristlicher Erinnerung’, in Stefan Heid (ed.), Petrus und Paulus in Rom. Eine interdisziplinäre Debatte (Freiburg, 2011), 468-91, 472, who suggests that both author and audience must have known more than what the text says. 33 See also R. Bauckham, ‘Martyrdom of Peter’ (1992), 559.



still some Corinthian Christians who had first-hand experience of Paul’s (and probably also Peter’s)34 visit(s) to Corinth, and in the Roman community from which the writing came from, there might still have been some members with a comparable experience of Peter (and Paul).35 Thus, the memory of both may still have been a matter of living social memory within a narrating community – 40-50 years after the events. However, this sort of memory does not seem to be the predominant category in 1Clement. In 1Clement 47.1-4 the author evokes the factions within the Corinthian ἐκκλησία (see 1Cor. 1:10-4:21), but only with reference to Paul’s letter, not to living memory. This may be for reasons of diplomacy, but, in any event, the observation from 1Clement 47.1-4 serves as a caution against putting too much stress in the factor of living or social/ communicative memory.36 It seems more advisable, therefore, to understand 1Clement 5.4 already in terms of collective memory. The recollection of Peter and Paul comes with a very special focus that seems to be uncontroversial to both author and audience: Peter and Paul thus serve the purpose of examples for steadfastness in suffering. To achieve this, 1Clement 5 provides, condensed though it is, a narrative of Peter and of Paul that goes beyond mere episodes – especially a narrative of Paul (1Clement 5.5-7), to be sure. It is indeed striking how little 1Clement has to say about Peter, especially if one assumes that the letter was composed by a Roman in Rome and that Peter died in Rome.37 An explanation may be that 1Clement stands at the transition between communicative/social and collective memory: The memory of Paul was what Christians in Rome and in Corinth could more easily share from their own experience, be it as immediate eyewitnesses, be it as members of a storytelling community. But the narrative of 1Clement 5 already shows remarkable signs of deliberate stylisation. What is more, Paul was presumably more relevant to Corinthian collective memory as founder of the community. After all, Paul makes another appearance in 1Clement 47.1-4 as author of a well-known letter. In sum, 1Clement 5 permits insights into the collective memory of Peter’s suffering and probably violent death that was shared between Christians in Rome and Corinth. Peter’s suffering and death are not mentioned for their own sake, but for their value as a moral example.


See Stephan Witetschek, ‘Peter in Corinth? A Review of the Evidence from 1 Corinthians’, JThS.NS 69 (2018), 66-82. 35 See W. Ameling, ‘Petrus in Rom’ (2011), 472-3. 36 See S. Huebenthal, Markusevangelium (2014), 143-7. 37 See R. Bauckham, ‘Martyrdom of Peter’ (1992), 562-3. For the 1st person plural in 1Clement 6.1 referring to the collective identity of Christians in Rome, see, e.g., H.E. Lona, Der erste Clemensbrief (1998), 168-9; Meinolf Vielberg, ‘Philologisches zum 1. Klemensbrief’, in Stefan Heid (ed.), Petrus und Paulus in Rom. Eine interdisziplinäre Debatte (Freiburg, 2011), 492-6.

Peter the Martyr. Christian Memory under Construction


3. John 21:18-9 (18) Ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω σοι, ὅτε ἦς νεώτερος, ἐζώννυες σεαυτὸν καὶ περιεπάτεις ὅπου ἤθελες · ὅταν δὲ γηράσῃς, ἐκτενεῖς τὰς χεῖράς σου, καὶ ἄλλος σε ζώσει καὶ οἴσει ὅπου οὐ θέλεις. (19) τοῦτο δὲ εἶπεν σημαίνων ποίῳ θανάτῳ δοξάσει τὸν θεόν. καὶ τοῦτο εἰπὼν λέγει αὐτῷ· ἀκολούθει μοι. Amen, amen, I tell you: When you were younger, you used to gird yourself, and you used to go where you wanted. When you have grown old, you will stretch out your hands, and somebody else will gird you and lead you where you do not want. He said this in order to indicate by what kind of death he was to glorify God. And having spoken that, he said to him: Follow me.

This passage from the very last chapter of the Gospel of John refers not only to the brute fact of Peter’s death, but even to the particular way whereby Peter was brought to death – albeit in a veiled and allusive fashion. This oracle by the risen Jesus with its authorial interpretation often serves as the decisive piece of evidence (outside the Acts of Peter) to prove that Peter did die on a cross – with his arms stretched out.38 Tertullian apparently was the first to draw this connection and interpreted the ‘girding’ (ζώννυμι) as a reference to Peter being tied (not nailed) to a cross.39 However, his phrase shows that this connection is not in itself obvious: he needs to spell out explicitly that, in this case, cingere actually has to mean cruci adstringere. As it stands, the oracle with its application to Peter’s death is open to other interpretations,40 as a fierce study by Timothy Barnes has shown in no uncertain terms.41 Barnes’ first (negative) point is that the use of the verb ζώννυμι (‘to gird’, i.e. to fasten one’s clothing) 38 There are indeed a number of passages in ancient literature where ‘to stretch out one’s hands’ can be a metonymy for ‘to be crucified’ (the precise Greek vocabulary can vary): Barn. 12.2-4 (interpreting Exod. 17:11-2 LXX; Isa. 65:2 LXX); moreover, see Justin, 1Apol. 35; Dial. 90.5; 91.3; Irenaeus, Haer. 5.17.4; Epid. 46, 79; Cyprian, Test. 2.20; Od. Sol. 27.1-3; 35.7; 41.1-2; for background see Epictetus, Diss. 3.26.22; Seneca, Marc. 20.3. See R. Bauckham, ‘Martyrdom of Peter’ (1992), 547; Christian Gnilka, ‘Philologisches zur römischen Petrustradition’, in id., Stefan Heid and Rainer Riesner, Blutzeuge. Tod und Grab des Petrus in Rom (Regensburg, 2010), 33-80, 50-4. 39 Tertullian, Scorp. 15.3: (In Nero’s times) … Tunc Petrus ab altero cingitur, cum cruci adstringitur. It is also conceivable to appreciate Tertullian’s interpretation as evidence for the original meaning of the saying; see Bauckham, ‘Martyrdom of Peter’ (1992), 547-8. 40 Ἐκτενεῖν τὰς χεῖρας may simply mean to hold forth one’s hands in order to have them bound; see Rudolf Schnackenburg, Das Johannesevangelium. 3. Teil. Kommentar zu Kap. 13-21, HThK.NT 4/3 (Freiburg, Basel, Wien, 1975, 6th ed. 1992), 438: ‘Die Pointe der Gegenüberstellung liegt doch darin, daß sich Petrus einem anderen Willen fügen muss, ja einem gewaltsamen Tod entgegensieht (vgl. V 19). Bei der joh Vorliebe für doppelsinnige Ausdrücke darf man darum einen übertragenen Sinn von güten = fesseln vermuten. Das Ausstrecken der Hände braucht dann nichts anderes zu bedeuten, als daß Petrus die Hände vorstrecken muß, um sich die Fesseln anlegen zu lassen…’ 41 See Timothy D. Barnes, Early Christian Hagiography and Roman History, Tria Corda 5 (Tübingen, 2010), 4-9; but especially: id., ‘“Another Shall Gird Thee”: Probative Evidence for the Death of Peter’, in Helen K. Bond and Larry W. Hurtado (eds), Peter in Early Christianity (Grand Rapids, MI, Cambridge, 2015), 76-95.



necessarily implies that Peter died with clothes, whereas the victims of crucifixion were normally naked. This makes it impossible for John 21:18 to refer to death by crucifixion. In the second (positive) step, Barnes takes for granted that Peter died in the Neronian persecution after the fire of Rome in 64 AD, as reported by Tacitus (Ann. 15.44).42 Tacitus mentions two exquisite ways by which Christians as alleged arsonists were executed: Some were dressed up as wild animals and killed by (hunting) dogs in the arena, others burnt on crosses. From Tacitus’ account, Barnes concludes that the ‘girding’ in John 21:18 must refer to Peter being dressed in a pitch-soaked tunica molesta43 before being burnt alive (with his arms stretches out)44.45 However, if Tacitus’ account is the key to interpreting John 21:18-9 (which is a possible, but not a necessary connection), there is one more possibility: ζώννυμι could just as well, and even more plausibly, refer to the first kind of execution mentioned by Tacitus: Being dressed up (hence ‘girded’) as a wild animal and killed by dogs in a mock hunt. If, however, Peter did not die during the Neronian persecution, Tacitus’ account of that persecution ceases to be a relevant source at all. That is to say: John 21:18-9 informs us only vaguely about Peter’s kind of death, and we receive no information at all about its place (Rome or elsewhere). The scope of this paper, however, is not historical inquiry into the precise circumstances of Peter’s death, but a study of the Christian – in this case rather: Johannine – memory of Peter’s death. The historical endeavour outlined above shows that the phrasing of John 21:18-9 is open to many interpretations; thus the original audience of John’s Gospel must have known (or believed to know) more about Peter’s death than what modern scholars can claim to know. The Gospel itself (in its final shape of John 1-21) gives two slightly opposing hints: (1) Peter’s (violent) death is interpreted as an act of following Jesus at its due time (John 13:36-8; 21:19: especially the verb ἀκολουθέω) – possibly to be seen as imitation of Jesus.46 (2) The oracle and its authorial comment (John 21:18-9) show that the precise manner of Peter’s violent death47 was something special that required explanation. This makes it rather unlikely that the author of the Gospel of John thought of Peter’s death as an exact imitation of the death of Jesus – quite the contrary. While John 21:19 makes clear that 42 Tacitus, Ann. 15.44: Et pereuntibus addita ludibria, ut ferarum tergis contecti laniatu canum interirent aut crucibus adfixi [aut flammandi atque], ubi defecisset dies, in usu[m] nocturni luminis urerentur. 43 See Seneca, Ep. 14.5; Martial, Epigr. 10.25; Juvenal, Sat. 8.231-5. 44 What lead Barnes to this narrowing down of possibilities was that he referred the stretching out of hands to the actual execution in apparent parody of Jesus’ death on a cross, rather than to the process of being dressed (‘girded’) before the actual execution; see T.D. Barnes, Early Christian Hagiography (2010), 9. 45 For criticism of this interpretation see, e.g., O. Zwierlein, ‘Petrus in Rom?’ (2011), 447 with n. 8 (= id., Petrus und Paulus in Jerusalem und Rom [2013], 6-7 with n. 8). 46 This seems to be the line of reasoning taken by Tertullian, Praescr. 36.2; see also R. Bauckham, ‘Martyrdom of Peter’ (1992), 544-5. 47 See Rudolf Bultmann, Das Evangelium des Johannes, KEK 2 (Göttingen, 1941), 552-3.

Peter the Martyr. Christian Memory under Construction


Peter’s death is an act of following Jesus and (thereby) glorifying God, the precise manner (ποίῳ θανάτῳ) is something different; it seems to be selected out of a wide range of possibilities.48 Thus, the author of this episode confronts us with a riddle that, in a way, is even worse than the riddles and misunderstandings that paved Jesus’ way in John 1-12. A close parallel is John 2:18-22: Jesus first speaks in a riddle (2:19) to which the ‘Jews’ respond in misunderstanding (2:20), as the narrator makes clear by adding an authorial comment (2:21-2) that both elucidates the ‘correct’ meaning of Jesus’ saying and excuses the disciples for not yet grasping it. Rudolf Bultmann has assumed that John 21:18 reproduces a proverb expressing an anthropological truism.49 This may make the different perspective in the two halves of the saying better understandable, but the saying is nowhere attested as a proverb.50 Even if something like it ever existed as a proverb, we now know it only in the context of John 21 as an oracle by the risen Jesus with regard to Peter,51 an enigmatic saying in need of clarifying interpretation (John 21:19). In John 21:18-9, the author gives only s slight hint of a hermeneutical difference between the narrated world in the text and the real world of his audience. Now the audience receives only a tentative indication of what the oracle of John 21:18 might mean. They are supposed to know themselves ‘by which death’ Peter died! In terms of a theory of memory, this means that the author does not confront the audience with new and unheard-of information (e.g. that, contrary to all previous belief, Peter died on a cross) but rather activates the memory they already have. John 21:18-9 thus makes sense if the audience knows52 already how Peter died. What is new is the connection between Peter’s death and Jesus’ oracle about girding oneself and being girded by somebody else. 48 Richard Bauckham observed that, in the Gospel of John, the deaths of both Jesus and Peter are announced with rather opaque references to the kind of death (ποίῳ θανάτῳ in John 12:33 and 21:19). He concluded that in both cases (for John 12:32-3 secured by John 18:32) the reference has to be to death by crucifixion – in John 12:32-3 encoded as ‘being lifted up’, in John 21:18-9 encoded as ‘stretching out one’s hands’; see R. Bauckham, ‘Martyrdom of Peter’ (1992), 548-9; similarly C. Gnilka, ‘Philologisches zur römischen Petrustradition’ (2010), 47-8. This, however, is a conclusion from formal similarity to material similarity, which is not warranted: A veiled reference to a certain kind of death need not necessarily refer to crucifixion; see also R. Schnackenburg, Johannesevangelium 3 (1975), 438. In the same sense already R. Bultmann, Evangelium des Johannes (1941), 553 n. 3: ‘… Über die spezielle Todesart ist aus V. 18 natürlich nichts zu entnehmen.’ 49 See R. Bultmann, Evangelium des Johannes (1941), 552 with n. 5; see also Andrew T. Lincoln, The Gospel According to St John, BNTC (London, New York, 2005), 518. 50 See R. Bauckham, ‘Martyrdom of Peter’ (1992), 546. 51 Richard Bauckham even assumed that the core of this saying might go back to the historical Jesus; see R. Bauckham, ‘Martyrdom of Peter’ (1992), 546-7. On the other hand, it is not included in the magisterial study by Michael Theobald, Herrenworte im Johannesevangelium, HBS 34 (Freiburg, Basel, Wien, 2002). 52 In this case, the verb ‘to know’ does not refer to factual knowledge in the historico-critical sense, but to a shared stock of stories that a given group accepts as true.



In other words: They know that Peter died in a certain way; now they learn that Jesus had already told him so. Thus, as was the case with Jesus’ predictions of his own passion, Peter’s violent death is integrated into a larger framework and thus prevented from merely being bad luck or well-deserved punishment: It is an act of following Jesus and (thus) glorifying God. Reference to a prediction of Peter’s death by Jesus will appear a number of times in this paper (with regard to the Apocalypse of Peter, to 2Peter, to the Ascension if Isaiah, and to the Apocryphal Epistle of James). A slight hint thereof also appears in the Quo Vadis scene in Acts Pet. 35 (Mart. Pet. 6). Going through the evidence will indicate that there seems to have been a tradition behind these various instances. In the case of John 21:18-9, Enrico Norelli assumed that this tradition was employed for a very special purpose: to give contours to the figure of Peter that allow putting the Beloved Disciple (and rumours about his death) into sharper relief.53 In fact, the way via a prediction of Peter’s martyrdom would not have been the only possible way of finding a transition to a final note about the Beloved Disciple as the authority behind the Gospel of John (John 21:20-5). Applying the categories of memory studies, John 21 has moved beyond an immediate social/communicative memory of Peter. There is no reason to assume that author and audience share first-(or even second-)hand-experience of Peter. Throughout the Gospel of John (and even more so in John 21), Peter appears as a type who embodies a certain kind of discipleship. This points to a high degree of stylisation that provides a valid image of Peter for a certain group – but hardly beyond. Hence we are dealing with collective memory of Peter and his violent death (as predicted by Jesus). The memory of this death is taken for granted and employed in order to sharpen the contours of the Johannine Beloved Disciple and his relationship with Peter (or with what Peter stands for). Nevertheless, it is remarkable that the author of this gospel chose Peter – of all persons – for this purpose. Peter’s violent death (with some details), therefore, seems to have been firmly anchored in Christian memory already at the level of the Gospel of John. 4. Apoc. Pet. 14 (P.Vindob. 39756 fol. 2 recto l. 6 – fol. 2 verso l. 12) Ἰδοῦ ἐδήλωσά σοι Πέτρε καὶ ἐξεθέμην πάντα. καὶ πορεύου εἰς πόλιν ἄρχουσαν δύσεως καὶ πίε τὸ ποτήριον ὃ ἐπηγγειλάμην σοι ἐν χειρεὶ τοῦ υ(ἱο)ῦ τοῦ ἐν Ἅιδου εἵνα ἀρχὴν λάβῃ αὐτοῦ ἡ ἀφάνια· καὶ σὺ δεκτὸς τῆς ἐπαγγελεί[ας …]54 53

See Enrico Norelli, ‘Situation des apocryphes pétriniennes’, Apocrypha 2 (1991), 31-83, 41. Edition of the Greek text in Peter van Minnen, ‘The Greek Apocalypse of Peter’, in Jan N. Bremmer and István Czachesz (eds), The Apocalypse of Peter, Studies on Early Christian Apocrypha 7 (Leuven, 2003), 15-39, 36-8, as well as Thomas J. Kraus and Tobias Nicklas, Das Petrusevangelium und die Petrusapokalypse, GCS.NF 11 – Neutestamentliche Apokryphen 1 (Berlin, New York, 2004), 126-7. 54

Peter the Martyr. Christian Memory under Construction


Look, I have revealed and explained everything to you, Peter. And go into a city that rules over the West and drink the cup that I have promised to you, through/in the hand of (the son of) the one who is in Hades, so that his destruction may have its beginning. And you (are?) acceptable … the promise…

With the Apocalypse of Peter, we are in the early 2nd century (possibly around the time of the Bar Kochba revolt).55 The Greek text offered above is a fragment from a Greek parchment codex (P.Vindob. 39756, known as the Rainer Fragment)56 that comes with a significant translational difficulty: The phrase ἐν χειρεὶ τοῦ υ(ἱο)ῦ τοῦ ἐν Ἅιδου can be translated in two different ways: (1) ‘in the hand of the son (who is) in Hades’ or (2) ‘in the hand of the son of the one (who is) in Hades’. Rendering (1) does not seem to make good sense at all, while most scholars interpret rendering (2) as referring to Nero, the son of the one in ‘hell’, hence an antichrist figure.57 This widely-held view appears surprising at first glance: If one understands by ‘Hades’ the underworld and abode of the dead, the strange phrase would naturally refer either (1) to somebody’s son who has already passed away, or (2) to somebody whose father has already passed away. Neither is particularly distinctive. The interpretation of the person in question as Nero has to presuppose that ‘Hades’ is not some abode of the dead (as in traditional Greek mythology), but a dwelling-place of demonic beings, hence what Christian tradition has come to call ‘hell’.58 What is more, this interpretation presupposes a developed form of the myth of Nero redivivus: It is not just Nero Redux, i.e. Emperor Nero (37-68 AD) who allegedly had not died but gone into exile to the Parthians, waiting to come back and take revenge. Rather, it is Nero as a demonic force from the underworld (Beliar, see Ascension of Isaiah), or eschatological adversary. As a rule, one would assume that this elaborate form of the myth made sense at a time when one could not reasonably expect Nero still to be alive, hence probably by the second third of the 2nd century (see below).59 55 See e.g. C. Detlef G. Müller, ‘Offenbarung des Petrus’, in Wilhelm Schneemelcher (ed.), Neutestamentliche Apokryphen in deutscher Übersetzung II. Apostolisches. Apokalypsen und Verwandtes, 6th ed. (Tübingen, 1997), 562-78, 563-4. For an alternative proposal (Alexandria, early 2nd century) see Tobias Nicklas, ‘Petrus-Diskurse in Alexandria: Eine Fortführung der Gedanken von Jörg Frey’, in Jörg Frey, Matthijs den Dulk and Jan G. van der Watt (eds), 2 Peter and the Apocalypse of Peter: Towards a New Perspective. Radboud Prestige Lectures by Jörg Frey, BibInt 174 (Leiden, Boston, 2019), 99-127, 102-8. 56 On the preference for this version (as far as it goes) compared to the Ethiopic see E. Norelli, ‘Situation des apocryphes pétriniennes’ (1991), 35-6; Richard Bauckham, ‘The Apocalypse of Peter. A Jewish Christian Apocalypse from the Time of Bar Kokhba’, Apocrypha 5 (1994), 7-111, 98. 57 See e.g. P. van Minnen, ‘The Greek Apocalypse of Peter’ (2003), 39. Quite confusingly, Kraus and Nicklas (Das Petrusevangelium und die Petrusapokalypse [2004], 128) give rendering (1) in their German translation (‘… in der Hand des Sohnes im Hades’), while their English translation is rendering (2) (‘… the son of the one who is in Hades’). 58 Richard Bauckham rightly calls this ‘a little odd’: R. Bauckham, ‘Apocalypse of Peter’ (1994), 100; see also R. Bauckham, ‘Martyrdom of Peter’ (1992), 573. 59 On the history of this myth see e.g. Stephan Witetschek, ‘Ein weit geöffnetes Zeitfenster? Überlegungen zur Datierung der Johannesapokalypse’, in Jörg Frey, James A. Kelhoffer and Franz



If this were the case (and the case is somewhat circumstantial), this text would give a rough chronological indication of Peter’s death (i.e., during Nero’s reign). The difficulty with this proposal is, however, that at the time of Peter’s death Nero was anywhere but in Hades. It requires, therefore, an interpretative move in assuming that, for the author, Nero always (even during his lifetime) belonged to the demonic realm, with the belonging expressed by the metaphor of sonship (The brief allusion to Nero in Ascen. Isa. 4.2-4 works in precisely the same way). If that works, however, the Apocalypse of Peter would provide a fairly early instance of the idea that it was Nero who – directly or indirectly – put Peter to death in Rome (see below, I.9). However, the concrete figure of Nero seems to fade away behind a thick layer of mythology and demonology. In other words: In order to recognise Nero in this text, one needs to ‘know’ in advance that Peter was indeed put to death in Nero’s reign. The reasoning is thus in danger of becoming circular. The metaphor of ‘drinking a cup (ποτήριον)’ may point back to Jesus’ own suffering (Mark 14:36 parr. Matt. 26:39; Luke 22:42; John 18:11) and to that of his followers (Mark 10:38-9 par. Matt. 20:22-3). The latter oracle, however, is addressed to James and John, the sons of Zebedee, not to Peter. Therefore, the ‘promise’ (ἐπηγγειλάμην σοι) of drinking that cup does not literally refer to Mark 10:38-9 par. Matt. 20:22-3 – the same image appears in John 18:1160 –, but the metaphor provides fitting language to express the prediction of Peter’s violent death. Thus, the Apocalypse of Peter seems to provide another instance of a tradition about Peter’s martyrdom being predicted by Jesus (as in John 21:18-9). What is more, Apoc. Pet. 14, at the transition between the two main parts of the Apocalypse of Peter, connects the prediction of Peter’s martyrdom with his general apostolic commission – just as in John 21:15-9.61 Given that there seems to be no evidence for a direct connection between these two texts, it seems advisable to understand them as manifestations of a common underlying tradition62 that could take different shapes in different texts. By the time of the Apocalypse of Peter, the memory of Peter’s martyrdom seems to have acquired specific contours that point to more than just the recalling of the brute fact of his death. Behind this brief saying there seems to lie a Tóth (eds), Die Johannesapokalypse. Kontexte – Konzepte – Rezeption, WUNT 287 (Tübingen, 2012), 117-48, 126-31; with precise focus on Ascen. Isa. 4: Jan Dochhorn, ‘Beliar als Endtyrann in der Ascensio Isaiae. Ein Beitrag zur Eschatologie und Satanologie des frühen Christentums sowie zur Erforschung der Apokalypse des Johannes’, ibid. 293-315, esp. 295-306. 60 See R. Burnet, Les douze apôtres (2014), 209. 61 See R. Bauckham, ‘Martyrdom of Peter’ (1992), 572; R. Bauckham. ‘Apocalypse of Peter’ (1994), 98. 62 An argument in favour of this hypothesis may be that the antichrist, who otherwise in the Apocalypse of Peter seems to bear traits of Bar Kokhba, here (being situated in Rome) bears traits of Nero, just as in the Ascension of Isaiah (see below I.9); see R. Bauckham, ‘Apocalypse of Peter’ (1994), 102-3.

Peter the Martyr. Christian Memory under Construction


developed narrative of Peter’s violent death: It is certainly connected with Rome,63 possibly with Nero (in any event, a ruler whom Christians demonised),64 and it is interpreted in an eschatological sense, as part of a struggle against the forces of evil.65 Hence an ‘iconic’ view of Peter the martyr has developed. 5. 2Pet. 1:13-5 (13) Δίκαιον δὲ ἡγοῦμαι ἐφ᾿ ὅσον εἰμὶ ἐν τούτῳ τῷ σκηνώματι, διεγείρειν ὑμᾶς ἐν ὑπομνήσει, (14) εἰδὼς ὅτι ταχινή ἐστιν ἡ ἀπόθεσις τοῦ σκηνώματός μου, καθὼς καὶ ὁ κύριος ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς ἐδήλωσέν μοι. (15) σπουδάσω δὲ καὶ ἑκάστοτε ἔχειν ὑμᾶς μετὰ τὴν ἐμὴν ἔξοδον τὴν τούτων μνήμην ποιεῖσθαι. I consider it just, as long as I am in this dwelling, to lift you up by remembering, seeing that my dwelling will soon be taken away, as our Lord Jesus Christ, too, has revealed to me. Yet I shall be eager that you may have (the possibility) any time, (even) after my death, to remember these things.

This text, from probably the youngest writing later included in the New Testament canon, deals head-on with the issue of remembering Peter and what Peter stands for. Especially the passage in question, 2Pet. 1:12-5, explicates the main purpose of the writing, to maintain and to cultivate the memory of Peter among the recipients66 – hence an ideal document of collective memory. Whereas 1Pet. 5:1 featured (at most) only vague hints at Peter’s death,67 this text speaks in all openness about Peter’s ‘dwelling’ (or ‘tent’) that is about to be taken away – and this according to a special revelation by the Lord. Like in other farewell discourses (for the NT: John 14-7; Acts 20:18-35; 2Tim.), the speaker/author intends to prepare the audience for the time after his death, which is expected (or – ex eventu – known) to come with special challenges.68 It is hard to avoid the impression that this ‘Peter’ is writing outre-tombe. What is to be remembered is most explicitly the heavenly voice at Jesus’ transfiguration (2Pet. 1:17-8; see Matt. 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:34-5). In this 63 Even the earliest reference to Peter’s martyrdom in Rome; see R. Bauckham, ‘Martyrdom of Peter’ (1992), 572. 64 On these two points with their respective levels of probability see R. Bauckham, ‘Apocalypse of Peter’ (1994), 99; R. Burnet, Les douze apôtres (2014), 209. 65 It may seem striking that the martyrdom of Peter (rather than the death and/or resurrection of Jesus) appears as the decisive blow against the antichrist; see R. Burnet, Les douze apôtres (2014), 209-10. A possible explanation may be that this antichrist is still characterised by distinctly Neronian traits, and for him the martyrdom of Peter may very well be seen as the crucial turning point. One further point in support of this interpretation is that the destruction of this antichrist is described as ἀφάνεια, disappearance – possibly a pointer to the legend of Nero Redux; see R. Bauckham, ‘Martyrdom of Peter’ (1992), 573-4; R. Bauckham, ‘Apocalypse of Peter’ (1994), 101. 66 See R. Burnet, Les douze apôtres (2014), 220. 67 According to 2Pet. 3:1, the letter arguably refers to 1Peter. 68 See Anton Vögtle, Der Judasbrief / Der 2. Petrusbrief, EKK 22 (Solothurn, NeukirchenVluyn, 1994), 159, 161-3.



context we learn that Peter, together with others (ἡμεῖς) was a witness of the event. The more pertinent question is, however, whether 2Peter can tell us anything about Peter’s death, apart from the sheer fact. Two possible indications are given: (1) The term ἀπόθεσις τοῦ σκηνώματός μου appears impersonal and distanced. It may just refer to God’s ultimate competence to break down Peter’s ‘tent’ or to the inevitable fate of having to give up one’s earthly dwelling.69 The word ἀπόθεσις (from ἀποτίθημι), however, points to the action of somebody (Peter himself, God, somebody else). So this phrase can point to Peter’s violent death,70 but this is by no means a necessary conclusion. (2) It is not just that ‘Peter’, having grown old, senses his death being close at hand. The Lord Jesus Christ himself has even revealed (ἐδήλωσεν) to ‘Peter’ his impending death.71 This is clearly a reference to extratextual knowledge, as no other passage in 2Peter (certainly not the immediately following account of the transfiguration) deals with Peter’s death. Jörg Frey has searched early Christian literature and found four possible candidates:72 ● John 21:18-9 (see above I.3) is a possible point of reference,73 but even if

2Peter should refer to the Gospel of John,74 the latter sees Peter’s death in the remote future, not immediately impending.75

69 See A. Vögtle, Der Judasbrief / Der 2. Petrusbrief (1994), 159; Jörg Frey, Der Brief des Judas und der zweite Brief des Petrus, THKNT 15/2 (Leipzig, 2015), 242: In fact, the author seems to mix up two metaphorical fields: breaking down a tent and taking off clothing. 70 Suggested as a possibility by K.M. Schmidt, Mahnung und Erinnerung im Maskenspiel (2003), 355 n. 117. 71 According to R. Bauckham, ‘Martyrdom of Peter’ (1992), 551-2, the καθώς καί in 2Pet. 1:14 connects two different sources of ‘Peter’s’ knowledge: His simple knowledge (εἰδώς) and, in addition, the special revelation (καθὼς καὶ … ἐδήλωσέν μοι). Later, however, Bauckham seems to have changed his view so as to understand the phrase as referring to only one source of knowledge, the ‘disclosure’ not being a distinct and widely known prophecy; see Richard Bauckham, ‘2 Peter and the Apocalypse of Peter Revisited: A Response to Jörg Frey’, in J. Frey, M. den Dulk and J.G. van der Watt (eds), 2 Peter and the Apocalypse of Peter: Towards a New Perspective (2019), 261-81, 264-7. 72 For an alternative approach see Henning Paulsen, Der Zweite Petrusbrief und der Judasbrief, KEK 12/2 (Göttingen, 1992), 115: The reference to special revelation of impending death may simply be a hagiographical topos. 73 In favour of this solution are e.g. R. Bauckham, ‘Martyrdom of Peter’ (1992), 552; A. Vögtle, Der Judasbrief / Der 2. Petrusbrief (1994), 160-1. 74 J. Frey, Der Brief des Judas und der zweite Brief des Petrus (2015), 244 categorically excludes the possibility that the oracle in John 21:18 could be a piece of older tradition that was included and – possibly – re-interpreted in John 21. The narrator’s comment in John 21:19, however, points to the possibility that John 21:18 could indeed be an older piece of tradition. On the other hand, it is only the narrator’s comment that makes this opaque oracle refer to Peter’s death. Without that, it could merely be a pearl of common wisdom about growing old (see above, I.3). 75 See J. Frey, Der Brief des Judas und der zweite Brief des Petrus (2015), 244.

Peter the Martyr. Christian Memory under Construction


● The Quo vadis scene (Acts Pet. 35) is an improbable candidate for chrono-

logical reasons;76 moreover, it is, strictly speaking, not a prophecy of Peter’s death. ● A brief quotation in the pseudo-Clementine Letter of Clement to James (2.1-2) is also improbable for chronological reasons; moreover, it is possible that this text may, in turn, draw on the Apocalypse of Peter.77 ● The last, and most plausible, candidate is the Apocalypse of Peter (see above I.4; preserved in Ethiopic and Greek, not to be confused with the CopticGnostic Apocalypse of Peter from Nag Hammadi, NHC VII 3), which may predate and have served as a source for 2Peter.78 If this is the case, then the oracle in this apocalypse (Apoc. Pet. 14, see above) may be alluded to in 2Pet. 1:14. It seems questionable, however, whether Frey’s learned inquiry is asking the right question:79 Recourse to the Apocalypse of Peter does not solve the riddle of a prediction of Peter’s martyrdom, but only carries the problem one step further: As seen above, Apoc. Pet. 14, too, speaks of Jesus having predicted/ promised martyrdom to Peter, albeit in direct speech as a commission – and speaking of it not as being close at hand.80 It may be more advisable to assume that the narrative of Peter’s death, as it developed in early Christian memory, soon came with a notion that Jesus had already predicted this death. The several instances that contain this element (John 21:18-9; Apoc. Pet. 14; 2Pet. 1:14, at a later stage Ascen. Isa. 4.2-4; Acts Pet. 35 [Mart. Pet. 6]) do not give any indication of one directly depending upon the other; they are best seen independent manifestations of this lore. This, however, permits the conclusion that there was a strong and widespread tradition of such a prediction in early Christianity. 2Pet. 1:14 is one instance that already shows a high degree of stylisation.81 2Peter itself does not contain any explicit reference to Peter’s violent death. By circumstantial evidence, however, it seems to turn out that the author can afford to allude to shared memory (based on a text like Apoc. Pet. or on hearsay) 76

See ibid. See ibid. 78 This is the thesis of Wolfgang Grünstäudl, Petrus Alexandrinus. Studien zum historischen und theologischen Ort des zweiten Petrusbriefes, WUNT 2/353 (Tübingen, 2013); cited with approval by J. Frey, Der Brief des Judas und der zweite Brief des Petrus (2015), 244-6; see also id., ‘Second Peter in New Perspective’, in id., M. den Dulk and J.G. van der Watt (eds), 2 Peter and the Apocalypse of Peter (2019), 7-74, esp. 19-20. 79 For a critical assessment see also Paul Foster, ‘Does the Apocalypse of Peter Help to Determine the Date of 2 Peter?’, in J. Frey, M. den Dulk and J.G. van der Watt (eds), 2 Peter and the Apocalypse of Peter (2019), 217-60, 246-9. 80 See also R. Bauckham, ‘2 Peter and the Apocalypse of Peter Revisited’ (2019), 267-8, esp. 268: ‘Even if 2 Pet 1:14 does refer to a prophecy its readers would already know, Apoc. Pet. 14:4 (R) cannot be that prophecy.’ 81 See also R. Burnet, Les douze apôtres (2014), 219 with n. 288. 77



of Peter’s violent death and of a dominical oracle mentioning that death. What is new is not so much the information about Peter’s death, but instructions on how to deal with this (not so) new situation. For this purpose, however, a violent death is not necessary. In theory, the argument would also work if Peter were known to have died in his bed. In early Christian farewell discourses, however, the speaker is facing the prospective of violent death, be it Jesus (Luke 22:24-38; John 14-7), be it Paul (Acts 20:18-35; 2Tim.). To be sure, this is not the case for Moses (Deut. 34) or the Twelve Patriarchs (TestXII). But if, by the early 2nd century, there ever existed a shared memory of Peter’s violent death, it offered itself comfortably for elaboration in the shape of a farewell discourse. Moreover, the effort of a special prediction by Jesus makes it more probable that Peter’s death was remembered as something outstanding that deserved this effort and required an explanation – more plausibly a violent death.82 6. Pol., Phil. 9.1-2 In his comprehensive study, Richard Bauckham mentioned a piece of indirect evidence for Peter’s martyrdom: Pol., Phil. 9.1-2.83 (1) Παρακαλῶ οὖν πάντας ὑμᾶς πειθαρχεῖν τῷ λόγῳ τῆ δικαιοσύνης καί ὑπομένειν πᾶσαν ὑπομονήν, ἣν καὶ εἴδατε κατ᾿ ὀφθαλμοὺς οὐ μόνον ἐν τοῖς μακαρίοις Ἰγνατίῳ καὶ Ζωσίμῳ καὶ Ῥούφῳ, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐν ἄλλοις τοῖς ἐξ ὑμῶν καὶ ἐν αὐτῷ Παύλῳ καὶ τοῖς λοιποῖς ἀποστόλοις· (2) πεπεισμένους, ὅτι οὗτοι πάντες οὐκ εἰς κένον ἔδραμον, ἀλλ᾿ ἐν πίστει καὶ δικαιοσύνῃ, καὶ ὅτι εἰς τὸν ὀφειλόμενον αὐτοῖς τόπον εἰσὶ παρὰ τῷ κυρίῳ ᾧ καὶ συνέπαθον. οὐ γὰρ τὸν νῦν ἠγάπησαν αἰῶνα, ἀλλὰ τὸν ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν ἀποθανόντα καὶ δι᾿ ἡμᾶς ὑπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ ἀναστάντα. I encourage all of you to obey the word of righteousness and to endure fast with all endurance, which you have seen with (your own) eyes not only with the blessed Ignatius and Zosimus and Rufus, but also with others from among you and with Paul himself and the other apostles, since you are convinced that they all did not run in vain, but in faithfulness and righteousness, and that they are in the place due to them with the Lord, whose suffering they shared. For they did not love the present aeon, but the one who died for us and, by God’s doing, rose again.

With the phrase εἰς τὸν ὀφειλόμενον τόπον designating the fate of Christian martyrs, this passage seems to allude to 1Clem. 5 (see above I.2).84 If this is the case, the text loses its value as independent historical evidence for Paul’s (and possibly Peter’s) martyrdom. On the other hand, it maintains its value as a document of the collective memory of Christian martyrdoms.85 To be sure, 82

On this see also R. Bauckham, ‘Martyrdom of Peter’ (1992), 552. See R. Bauckham, ‘Martyrdom of Peter’ (1992), 578. 84 See also Paul Hartog, Polycarp’s Epistle to the Philippians and the Martyrdom of Polycarp, Oxford Apostolic Fathers (Oxford, New York, 2013), 136. 85 The expression ‘to share in the sufferings (of the Lord’ (συμπαθεῖν) makes it quite evident that violent deaths are in view. 83

Peter the Martyr. Christian Memory under Construction


Peter is not mentioned in this passage nor in Polycarp’s entire letter(s) to the Philippians. Bauckham saw him included among ‘the other apostles’, whose endurance the Philippians (certainly those actually addressed by Polycarp) did not see with their own eyes.86 In conjunction with the evident parallel to 1Clem. 5, this points to the notion that Polycarp’s Philippians are to remember not only the martyrs whose suffering they witnessed immediately, but also Paul and other apostles precisely under the aspect of their enduring of violence, even of violent death. Thus, this text does not yield anything specific about the collective memory of Peter, but more about the collective memory of apostles-martyrs in general – or rather: that, at this point, apostles were remembered precisely under one distinct aspect: Apostleship includes the enduring of violence, even violent death. 7. Ign., Rom. 4.3 Οὐχ ὡς Πέτρος καὶ Παῦλος διατάσσομαι ὑμῖν. ἐκεῖνοι ἀπόστολοι, ἐγὼ κατάκριτος· ἐκεῖνοι ἐλεύθεροι, ἐγὼ δὲ μέχρι νῦν δοῦλος. ἀλλ᾿ ἐὰν πάθω, ἀπελεύθερος γενήσομαι Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ καὶ ἀναστήσομαι ἐν αὐτῷ ἐλεύθερος. καὶ νῦν μανθάνω δεδεμένος μηδὲν ἐπιθυμεῖν. Not like Peter and Paul do I give you orders. Those are apostles, I am condemned; those are free, I am until now a slave. But when I suffer, I shall become a freedman of Jesus Christ and shall rise free in him. And now I learn, bound as I am, to desire nothing.

In and of itself, this passage does not say anything about the martyrdom of Peter (nor that of Paul). The only remarkable thing seems to be that the couple ‘Peter & Paul’ are treated as a single entity with no individual profiles. If one wished to speak of a development towards the joint veneration of Peter and Paul, as it became evident in 258 AD in San Sebastiano on the Via Appia,87 the Ignatian Corpus88 seems to have moved a significant step forward compared to 1Clement. In the context of Ign., Rom. 4, however, there is a distinct discourse on martyrdom (Ign., Rom. 4.1-2): ‘Ignatius’ confronts his (Roman?) audience with his 86

See R. Bauckham, ‘Martyrdom of Peter’ (1992), 578. For this cult site see, e.g., David L. Eastman, Paul the Martyr. The Cult of the Apostle in the Latin West, SBLWGRW.S 4 (Atlanta, GA, 2011), 72-94. 88 It may not be the majority view, but at least a good case can be made for the Ignatian letters (middle recension) to be not authentic letters by a martyr-bishop from the Trajanic period (98-117 AD), but a corpus of pseudepigraphic letters (‘epistles’) composed in the early second half of the 2nd century in order to support the establishment of monepiscopacy. See Robert Joly, Le dossier d’Ignace d’Antioche (Bruxelles, 1979); Reinhard M. Hübner, ‘Thesen zur Echtheit und Datierung der sieben Briefe des Ignatius von Antiochien’, ZAC 1 (1997), 44-72; Thomas Lechner, Ignatius adversus Valentinianos? Chronologische und theologiegeschichtliche Studien zu den Briefen des Ignatius von Antiochien, SVigChr, 47 (Leiden, Boston, Köln, 1999); Ferdinand R. Prostmeier, ‘Cui bono? Ignatios von Rom’, in Thomas J. Bauer and Peter von Möllendorff (eds), Die Briefe des Ignatios von Antiochia. Motive, Strategien, Kontexte, Millenium-Studien 72 (Berlin, New York, 2018), 169-99. 87



slightly eccentric wish to be by all means devoured by the wild animals in the arena – with no material remains left. This rather outlandish desire for death with no traces left, by the way, is one point that seems to be better understandable if the Ignatian corpus was already a redacted and stylised corpus of writings.89 What is more important, however, is that ‘Ignatius’ here compares himself to Peter and Paul, yet in Ign. Rom. 4.3 he mentions only differences between himself and them. The only thing he and they have in common, in view of Ign., Rom. 4.1-2, seems to be martyrdom – already achieved in the cases of Peter and Paul, impending in the case of ‘Ignatius’. Otherwise it would be paradoxical, to say the least, to invoke Peter and Paul, with whom, according to Ign., Rom. 4.3, he has nothing in common, in order to lend authority to his own request. But a soon-to-be martyr may make requests, even if his authority is otherwise not comparable to that of Peter and Paul.90 The unspoken assumption behind the request by ‘Ignatius’ is, however, that Peter and Paul are (and are known as) what he aspires to be; the authority acquired by martyrdom (already accomplished by the time the Ignatian letters were written) is the only authority ‘Ignatius’ can muster in the face of a Roman audience.91 It is on this assumption that the request, outlandish though it may seem, can possibly become convincing for Romans. While it is true that the case ‘Ignatius’ is trying to make does not strictly require the martyrdom of Peter and Paul (they possess authority anyway, ‘Ignatius’ must try to acquire it),92 and while it is true that neither Peter nor Paul is explicitly mentioned as a martyr (even though the context of Ign., Rom. 4 would encourage such a connection), the ‘freedom’ that ‘Ignatius’ aspires to share with Peter and Paul seems to be the key to the notion of their martyrdom: If martyrdom is the way for ‘Ignatius’ to become a ‘freedman’ (ἀπελεύθερος) and thus to rise (ἀναστήσομαι) as free as they already are, it seems warranted to assume that they, too, attained their freedom through martyrdom, given that the cause of their freedom is not otherwise specified. There is another passage in the Ignatian corpus that may indicate that its author took the martyrdom of Peter for granted: In Ign., Smyrn. 3.2, in the 89 To make things more intricate, one can even doubt, on textual grounds, whether the Ignatian Epistle to the Romans is at all an integral part of the Middle Recension (or rather a text from the 4th century); see, e.g., Candida R. Moss, Ancient Christian Martyrdom. Diverse Practices, Theologies, and Traditions, AYBRL (New Haven, CT, London, 2012), 54; in the immediate context, however, Moss seems to be rather unconcerned with questions of authenticity, see ibid. 54-5. 90 In fact, ‘Ignatius’ does not give orders (διατάσσομαι, 4.3), but asks/requests (παρακαλῶ, 4.1); thus, he is building up a different kind of authority from that of Rome’s foundational apostles; see F.R. Prostmeier, ‘Cui bono?’ (2018), 174-6. The same distinction is already present in Paul’s Letter to Philemon (Phlm. 8-9). 91 ‘Ignatius’ seems to be making a distinct connection of Peter and Paul with Rome, given that in a similar argumentative context, in Ign., Trall. 3,3, he only speaks of giving orders ‘like an apostle’ (… ἵνα ὢν κατάκριτος ὡς ἀπόστολος ὑμῖν διατάσσομαι); see R. Bauckham, ‘Martyrdom of Peter’ (1992), 565. 92 See William R. Schoedel, A Commentary on the Letters of Ignatius of Antioch (Minneapolis, MN, 1985), 176-7; R. Bauckham, ‘Martyrdom of Peter’ (1992), 565-6.

Peter the Martyr. Christian Memory under Construction


context of an anti-docetic argument, ‘Ignatius’ narrates the appearance of the risen Jesus in a way similar to Luke 24:36-40. In addition, however, it is specified that Jesus came ‘to those around Peter’ (πρὸς τοὺς περὶ Πέτρον), and that this encounter enabled them to (later) despise death and be found superior to death (διὰ τοῦτο καὶ θανάτου κατεφρόνησαν, ηὑρέθησαν δὲ ὑπὲρ θάνατον). While being unspecific about Peter, this phrase points to the notion that, as a rule, apostleship implies martyrdom (as in Pol. Phil. 9.1-2, see above I.6). As the most prominent member of this circle, Peter, too, is probably thought of as a martyr.93 Memory, thus, plays a more important role in the Ignatian corpus than one would have expected: The memory figure of the apostles (‘those around Peter’, Ign., Smyrn. 3.2) as martyrs serves as a handy argument in a controversy on Christology.94 Their martyrdoms can be taken for granted and serve as the basis for further arguments. The same holds true for Ign., Rom. 4.3: The memory of bishop Ignatius as a martyr and the memory of the martyrdoms of Peter and Paul work together in order to back the establishment of monepiscopacy.95 In other words: Recourse to the past fosters innovation. 8. Dionysius of Corinth (apud Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 2.25.8) Ταῦτα καὶ ὑμεῖς διὰ τῆς τοσαύτης νουθεσίας τὴν ἀπὸ Πέτρου καὶ Παύλου φυτείαν γενηθεῖσαν ῾Ρωμαίων τε καὶ Κορινθίων συνεκεράσατε. καὶ γὰρ ἄμφω καὶ εἰς τὴν ἡμετέραν Κόρινθον φυτεύσαντες ἡμᾶς ὁμοίως ἐδίδαξαν, ὁμοίως δὲ καὶ εἰς τὴν Ἰταλίαν ὁμόσε διδάξαντες ἐμαρτύρησαν κατὰ τὸν αὐτὸν καιρόν. You, too, due to the very same admonition, have joined the plantations of the Romans and of the Corinthians as done by Peter and Paul. In fact, both of them, having planted us in our Corinth, have taught in the same way, and in the same way, having taught in the same place in Italy, suffered martyrdom at the same time.

In this passage from Dionysius of Corinth (around 170 AD), the rendering of the verb μαρτυρέω is not entirely uncontroversial. It is sometimes suggested that it could not (yet) have the technical sense of ‘to die as a martyr’, but rather the more general sense of ‘to give witness’.96 Certainly, while it was possible around 170 AD to use the verb μαρτυρέω to designate what we today would call ‘martyrdom’, this specific understanding did not become the only possible one. However, in Dionysius’ phrasing, this witness seems to be a single event that concludes the period of teaching – rather than ‘teaching’ and ‘witness’ designating one and the same period of time. 93

See R. Bauckham, ‘Martyrdom of Peter’ (1992), 563-4. For an attempt to trace this tradition, see e.g. W.R. Schoedel, Ignatius of Antioch (1985), 227-8. Despite its logical weakness that has become painfully evident, at the latest, with 9/11, this argumentative topos (bluntly put: ‘Proposition P is true because somebody died for it’) enjoyed broad reception in Christian Apologetics right into the mid-20th century. 95 See F.R. Prostmeier, ‘Cui bono?’ (2018), 194-5. 96 See, e.g., O. Zwierlein, Petrus in Rom (2009), 134. 94



What is more important about this text, however, is that Dionysius draws the fates of Peter and of Paul most closely together – that both suffered death in the same place and at the same time (κατὰ τὸν αὐτὸν καιρόν). This is a significant move forward compared to the connections made in 1Clem. 5 (see above I.2) and Ign., Rom. 4 (see above I.7).97 Among other things, the connection with Paul provides a rough chronological framework for Peter’s martyrdom: Following the framework of Acts, one is led to assign Peter’s death, too, to the late Neronian period, hence the 60s AD. To be sure, the close alignment with Paul does not exactly produce this chronology, but it participates in the further development of the narrative of Peter’s death, which is also manifest in the (presumably secondarily added)98 concluding passage of the Acts of Peter (Acts Pet. 41; Mart. Pet. 12). Later on, Nero became a stock character in the very narrative of Peter’s martyrdom, while the connection with Paul’s death rather established itself at the meta-level of reflection about both martyrdoms.99 9. Ascen. Isa. 4.2-4 After this has taken place, Beliar, the great ruler and king of this world, will descend – the one who has ruled it since it came into being. He will descend from his firmament in the form of a man, who is a lawless king and a murderer of his mother. He himself, this king, will persecute the plant that the twelve apostles of the beloved one will plant, and one of the twelve will be given over into his hands. This leader will come in the likeness of that king, and all the powers of this world will be present…100

With the Ascension of Isaiah, we come to a text that does not easily lend itself to being pinned down on the map of Christian traditions. The date of this writing (speaking of evidently Christian passages like the one quoted above and, at the same time, the composition of the writing as we now know it) is debated. While some optimistically assign it to a date in the early 2nd century (100-130 AD),101 for others the earliest possible date seems to be in the second half of the 2nd century.102 The question of date has very much to do with the 97 To be sure, this solution was not universally accepted in the late 2nd century. Presumably a few decades after Dionysius, the Canon Muratori (ll. 25-31), deliberately separates the martyrdoms of Peter and Paul in order to fit them into the narrative framework provided by Acts; see R. Bauckham, ‘Martyrdom of Peter’ (1992), 586-7. 98 See R. Bauckham, ‘Martyrdom of Peter’ (1992), 579-80; Christine M. Thomas, The Acts of Peter, Gospel Literature, and the Ancient Novel. Rewriting the Past (Oxford, New York, 2003), 52-3; O. Zwierlein, Petrus in Rom (2009), 114-5; R. Burnet, Les douze apôtres (2014), 221. 99 On these further developments, see David L. Eastman, The Many Deaths of Peter and Paul, Oxford Early Christian Studies (Oxford, New York, 2019), esp. 11-37, 78-102, and the article by David Eastman in this volume, p. 107-16. 100 English translation from D.L. Eastman, Ancient Martyrdom Accounts (2015), 391-3. 101 Thus, e.g., R. Bauckham, ‘Martyrdom of Peter’ (1992), 569; id., ‘Apocalypyse of Peter’ (1994), 99; D.L. Eastman, Ancient Martyrdom Accounts (2015), 391. 102 See C. Detlef G. Müller, ‘Die Himmelfahrt des Jesaja’, in Wilhelm Schneemelcher (ed.), Neutestamentliche Apokryphen in deutscher Übersetzung II. Apostolisches. Apokalypsen und

Peter the Martyr. Christian Memory under Construction


particular shape of Nero in this text, that is, with its particular stage in the development of the myth of Nero Redivivus (see above, I.4). After his suicide in 68 AD, rumours circulated that Nero was not really dead but had gone into exile to the Parthian empire, to return at some point (see Tacitus, Hist. 2.8; Suetonius, Nero 57; Sib. Or. 4.119-24, 130-9). This expectation seems to have persisted into the early 2nd century AD in Asia Minor (see Dion of Prusa, Or. 21.10). Later Sibylline Oracles expect Nero’s return as an event of the endtime (Sib. Or. 5.361-70; 8.68-72). In another strand of this tradition, ‘Nero’ becomes a mythical figure and receives the name of Beliar (Sib. Or. 3.63-75; Ascen. Isa. 4.1-13). The latter examples, however, are not really instances of a Nero Redivivus or Redux. In the Ascension of Isaiah (as in the Apocalypse of Peter, if the interpretation outlined above, I.4, is valid), Nero has always been a demon who, at some point of his rule in Rome, puts Peter to death. It is remarkable that one victim of Nero from among the twelve is mentioned although the larger context of this passage has got nothing to do with apostles or with Peter in particular, but with this eschatological adversary called Beliar and appearing as emperor Nero. That Nero is the ruler in question becomes unequivocally clear from the reference to killing is mother (see also Philostratus, Vit. Apoll. 4.32).103 That his victim is Peter has to be inferred from a (supposed) tradition about the martyrdom of Peter under Nero.104 However, this tradition otherwise comes to the surface only with the conclusion of the Acts of Peter (Acts Pet. 41; Mart. Pet. 12). This observation, by the way, may serve as an indication that the Ascension of Isaiah (certainly chapter 4) has been composed at a later date than is often assumed. In any event, by the time our text was composed, it seems to have become an essential part of the Christian memory of Nero that one of Jesus’ disciples (Peter) had fallen victim to his murderous rule. On the other hand, the connection between Nero and Peter seems to have been sufficiently established so that Peter is the only apostle who would come to mind as a victim of Nero, and so that the author of our text could afford to be content with this highly allusive reference.105 As far as this text concerns Peter’s martyrdom, it presupposes a fair amount of background knowledge on the part of the audience. To put it more precisely, readers of the Ascension of Isaiah are supposed to know that Peter suffered martyrdom under Nero. In terms of a theory of memory, this means that the ‘icon’ painted in the collective memory of Peter’s death has been furnished

Verwandtes, 6th ed. (Tübingen, 1997), 547-62, 548. For O. Zwierlein, Petrus in Rom (2009), 34-5, this version of Peter’s martyrdom is only explicable if it was based on the Acts of Peter and Tertullian, Scorp. 15.3, which, in turn, requires our text to have been composed only in the early 3rd century. 103 See R. Bauckham, ‘Apocalypse of Peter’ (1994), 99. Contrary to the Apocalypse of Peter, however, this text does not say anything about the place of the event. 104 See R. Bauckham, ‘Martyrdom of Peter’ (1992), 567. 105 See ibid. 567-8; W. Ameling, ‘Petrus in Rom’ (2011), 475.



with a number of traits beyond the mere fact. Nero, at this point, has become a constitutive part of the narrative. 10. Ap. Jas. (NHC I 2) 5.9-20 ⲏ ⲚⲧⲉⲧⲚⲥⲁⲩⲛⲉ ⲉⲛ ϫⲉ ⲘⲡⲁⲧⲟⲩⲢϩⲩⲃⲣⲓⲍⲉ ⲘⲙⲱⲧⲚ. ⲁⲩⲱ ⲘⲡⲁⲧⲟⲩⲢⲕⲁⲧⲏⲅⲟⲣⲓ ⲘⲙⲱⲧⲚ ϩⲛⲛ ⲟⲩϫⲓ ⲚϭⲁⲚⲤ. ⲟⲩⲇⲉ ⲘⲡⲁⲧⲟⲩⲱⲦⲠ ⲧⲏⲛⲉ ⲁϩⲟⲩⲛ. ⲁⲩϣⲧⲉⲕⲟ. ⲟⲩⲧⲉ ⲉⲙⲡⲁⲧⲟⲩϭⲁⲉⲓⲉ ⲧⲏⲩⲧⲚ ϩⲚ ⲟⲩⲙⲚⲦⲁⲛⲟⲙⲟⲥ. ⲟⲩⲧⲉ Ⲙⲡⲁⲧⲟⲩⲣⲥ⳨ⲟ[ⲩ] ⲘⲙⲱⲧⲚ ϩⲚⲛ ⲟⲩⲙⲚⲧⲗⲟⲅⲟⲥ ⲟⲩⲧⲉ ⲘⲡⲁⲧⲟⲩⲧⲱⲘⲤ ⲧⲏⲛⲉ ϩⲚⲛ ⲟⲩϣⲟⲩ Ⲛⲧⲁϩⲉ ϩⲱⲱⲧ ⲁⲃⲁⲗ ϩⲓⲧⲟⲟⲧϤ ⲘⲠⲡⲟⲛⲏⲣⲟⲥ. Or do you (plur.) not know that they have not (yet) mistreated you (plur.) and they have not (yet) accused you (plur.) by brute force and they have not (yet) locked you (plur.) up in a prison, and they have not (yet) condemned you (plur.) in lawlessness and they have not (yet) crucified you (plur.) with reason (or: cunning) and they have not (yet) buried you (plur.) in the sand (?) as it happened to myself through the evil one.

The Apocryphal Epistle of James from Nag Hammadi Codex I is with good reasons assigned to a date of composition at the end of the 2nd century or even later.106 At first glance, however, one may wonder what this piece of text has to do with Peter’s martyrdom: After all, Jesus, the speaker, announces hardships and violent death to more than one interlocutor, as is evident from the plural forms in the Coptic. The immediate addressee, who has just before asked a question, is James, but the question before has been put by Peter (3.38-4.2); both of them are the interlocutors of Jesus and, as such, are included in the plural forms.107 Hence, when crucifixion is mentioned, it refers to both James and Peter. James – if Jesus’ brother ‘James the Just’ is meant – seems to have been killed by stoning (Josephus, Ant. 20.9; Hegesippus apud Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 2.23). If the author of Ap. Jas. knew and supported this tradition, crucifixion can only refer to the second interlocutor, Peter.108 The evidence is somewhat circumstantial, but it shows that, generally speaking, this text presupposes a memory of Peter having died on a cross – certainly if it is to be understood as an ex-eventu prophecy. What is more, this knowledge is introduced in a fairly casual way. On the one hand, this means that we do not get much insight into the memory of Peter’s death that informed this text – apart from the reference to crucifixion. On the other hand, however, this casual reference to Peter’s 106 See Judith Hartenstein and Uwe-Karsten Plisch, ‘Der Brief des Jakobus (NHC I,2)’, in Christoph Markschies and Jens Schröter (eds), Antike christliche Apokryphen in deutscher Übersetzung. I. Band: Evangelien und Verwandtes. Teilband 2 (Tübingen, 2012), 1093-106, 1096-7. 107 According to D.L. Eastman, Ancient Martyrdom Accounts (2015), 401, this is ‘Jesus speaking to Peter’ (which makes it possible to include our passage in a collection of patristic texts about Peter’s martyrdom). This, however, is only true if one includes Peter in the plural of those addressed. The speech is not addressed specifically to Peter! 108 It may not be without reason that after this speaking part by Jesus, James immediately refuses to be confronted with any mentioning of the cross.


Peter the Martyr. Christian Memory under Construction

death (while his individual death is not even mentioned as such) shows that there seems to have been no need to explain it. Thus, quite fitting for a relatively late text like the Apocryphal Epistle of James, a larger narrative of Peter’s (and James’) death is just alluded to – a narrative that seems to have included Peter’s death by crucifixion. As in 1Clement, however, Peter here appears (alongside with James) as someone who, in his life, underwent many hardships which culminated in violent death. What is more, this text seems to fit in a discourse already mentioned above, where the violent death of Peter receives some interpretation by being predicted to him by (the risen) Jesus – as narrated in John 21:18-9 and alluded to in Apoc. Pet. 14 and 2Pet. 1:14 (see above, I.3; I.4; I.5). II. Collective Memory of Peter’s Violent Death 1. Survey The different ways of remembering Peter’s death discussed above, when compared to the martyrdom account in the Acts of Peter, present themselves in a schematical way as follows: violent death

in Rome under crucified upside Nero down









own wish

with Paul ?

? X

predicted by Jesus

Apoc. Pet.




Pol., Phil.


Ign., Rom.



Dionysius of Corinth




Acts Pet.




Ascen. Isa.


Ap. Jas.


Tertullian, Praescr.



Tertullian, Scorp.








X X ? ? X X
















2. Crucifixion under Nero This survey shows that the memory of a violent death of Peter was quite widespread in 2nd century Christianity. It seems that the few texts surveyed above with their more or less clear allusions are only the tips of icebergs, as it were. The connection between Peter’s death and the city of Rome and/or with emperor Nero, however, is significantly less widespread. Things are even worse for Peter’s crucifixion, more precisely his crucifixion upside down. In the Acts of Peter, Peter’s crucifixion (upside down) is narrated at length, but otherwise only the (probably somewhat later) statements by Tertullian and Origen mention it, as does the (contemporaneous or later) allusion in the Apocryphal Epistle of James. It is not surprising that the Acts of Peter, being the only fully developed narrative in the spectrum of texts surveyed in this paper, is the only text to give the full story of Peter’s violent death on a cross (in Rome under emperor Nero, by being crucified upside down on his own wish). By the turn from the 2nd to the 3rd century, there seems to have been a relatively widespread notion that Peter was killed by crucifixion, with crucifixion upside down still being a rare eccentricity in need of explanation. It may well be that the Acts of Peter, by providing a full narrative, had a significant part in spreading this version of Peter’s death.109 This is particularly significant since earlier texts could just as well have alluded to Peter’s crucifixion as an imitation of Jesus’ death. The Gospel of John (John 12:32-3; 19:16-42) as well as 1Peter (1Pet. 2:21-5) have important things to say about Jesus’ death on a cross, but neither of them exploits this when it comes to Peter’s fate. Nero enters the story at a late stage and by no means as a necessary component; the Acts of Peter (41) mention him as a sort of afterthought.110 The authors who do mention Nero (Apocalypse of Peter (?), Ascension of Isaiah, Acts of Peter, Tertullian) may take part in a discourse that increasingly demonised Nero,111 so as to imply, simply speaking, that Christians are good because the wicked Nero persecuted them and killed their most prominent apostle. 109 It is important to note that the Acts of Peter are the earliest extant instance of this tradition, not its origin; see also Wolfgang Dieter Lebek, ‘Petrus als Blutzeuge. Tertullianische Probleme’, in Stefan Heid (ed.), Petrus und Paulus in Rom. Eine interdisziplinäre Debatte (Freiburg, 2011), 497-516, 507-15. 110 It is striking that only Tertullian was the first author to connect Peter’s death with the Neronian persecution; see also R. Bauckham, ‘Martyrdom of Peter’ (1992), 580, 587: This may be due to the wish to have Peter and Paul suffer martyrdom together and at the same time, as Dionysius of Corinth (apud Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 2.25.8) already suggested. 111 See e.g. Knut Backhaus, ‘Der Tyrann als Topos. Nero/Domitian in der frühchristlich-frühjüdischen Wahrnehmung’, in Sophia Bönisch-Meyer et al. (eds), Nero und Domitian. Mediale Diskurse der Herrscherrepräsentation im Vergleich, Classica Monacensia 46 (Tübingen, 2014), 379-403.

Peter the Martyr. Christian Memory under Construction


3. Prediction by Jesus Another element of the full narrative of Peter’s martyrdom seems to fade away by the end of the 2nd century AD: In the Acts/Martyrdom of Peter (Acts Pet. 35 / Mart. Pet. 6.5 – text only preserved in the Greek Martyrdom of Peter), Peter’s encounter with Jesus in the famous Quo Vadis scene (‘Yes, Peter, I am going to be crucified again’) is interpreted as referring to Peter’s martyrdom: Καὶ ἐλθὼν εἰς ἑαυτὸν ὁ Πέτρος καὶ ἰδὼν τὸν κύριον εἰς οὐρανὸν ἀνελθόντα, ὑπέστρεψεν εἰς τὴν Ῥώμην ἀγαλλιῶν καὶ δοξάζων τὸν κύριον, ὅτι ἑαυτὸν εἶπεν πάλιν σταυροῦσθαι, ὃ εἰς τὸν Πέτρον προέλεγεν γίνεσθαι. And when Peter came to himself and saw the Lord going up to heaven, he returned to Rome rejoicing and praising the Lord, because he had said himself to be crucified again, which he had predicted to happen to Peter.

The later version of Pseudo-Linus clarifies that the actual encounter was a prediction of Peter’s death.112 In this ‘iconic’ narrative of Peter’s martyrdom, the prediction is thus drawn in to the closest possible vicinity of the martyrdom itself – barely before the point where the prediction would become pointless as the event unfolds. Several of the texts discussed above, however, capitalise more strongly on the tradition of a prediction of Peter’s (violent) death, presumably because they do not provide a narrative of Peter’s death: John 21:18-9; Apoc. Pet. 14.4; 2Pet. 1:14; Ap. Jas. 5.9-20. It seems futile, however, to align these texts in a literary ‘stemma’ of dependence in one or the other direction. Rather, they appear, again, as the tips of icebergs, hence independent manifestations of an underlying tradition.113 ‘Tradition’ is here understood as a complex of motifs, themes, topoi that, by themselves, do not have a textual shape so as to allow reconstruction from extant texts.114 The tradition of Peter’s (violent) death being predicted by Jesus takes different shapes in the different texts discussed above, so that the field of this tradition can receive some structure: While all four texts in question mention Peter’s death, 2Pet. 1:14 is not very explicit about the violent nature of this death, yet it seems quite probable (see 112 Lin. Mart. Pet. 6: Et post haec rediens in se ipsum intellexit de sua dictum passione, quod in eo Dominus esset passurus qui patitur in electis misericordiae compassione et glorificationis celebritate (‘And after that, coming back to himself, he realised that it was spoken about his passion, for the Lord was going to suffer in him, who suffers in the elect through compassionate mercy and the renown of glorification’). For the text of Ps.-Linus, see D.L. Eastman, Ancient Martyrdom Accounts (2015), 32-65. 113 See also E. Norelli, ‘Situation des apocryphes pétriniennes’ (1991), 41. 114 See, e.g., M. Theobald, Herrenworte im Johannesevangelium (2002), 18-20. In German, Theobald can distinguish between ‘Überlieferung’ (a saying or story whose original shape can be reconstructed from the extant instances) and ‘Tradition’ (the motifs, themes, topoi – or stories mentioned above).



above, I.5). John 21:18-9 and Ap. Jas. 5.9-20 include a reference to the precise manner of Peter’s death, whereas neither of them gives clear details: John because the manner of death is deliberately left to the audience’s knowledge, Ap. Jas. because James and Peter are addressed together and crucifixion appears only as one member in an enumeration of hardships and deaths. Apoc. Pet. 14.4 is the most explicit prediction as it includes even the place of Peter’s death and an eschatological interpretation. This interpretation, by the way, leads into another trajectory that surfaces again in the Ascension of Isaiah.115 The existence of this tradition has two important implications: ● It indicates that, by the time of John 21 and Apoc. Pet., there was, at least

in some Christian circles, a detailed narrative (or narratives) of Peter’s death that included the place (Rome) and the manner of his death. Quite remarkably, the author of John 21 could even afford to hide this narrative in the riddle of John 21:18. On the formal level, this is good evidence for a firmly established narrative. ● It indicates that Peter’s violent death required explanation at a high level. It was understandable if predicted by Jesus – but for no lesser reason. The texts in question do not suffer from the presumed shock of Peter’s actual execution, but still the apostle’s violent death was not his self-evident fate. While authors like Polycarp and the author of the Ignatian corpus could en passant refer to martyrdom as the fitting fate for any apostle (see above, I.6; I.7), in John 21 and Apoc. Pet. it is by no means self-evident that apostles need to meet a violent end (the example to the contrary is the Beloved Disciple, John 21:20-5). For those of whom it was known or believed to be known (Peter, Paul, Sons of Zebedee), special efforts were required to make these deaths understandable and meaningful. In the case of the Apocalypse of Peter, meaning is supplied from a mythological context that puts the death of the apostle on a higher level of an almost cosmic struggle against the forces of evil. Peter’s death kept Christian thinkers on their toes, as it were. Even decades after the event, efforts had to be made to supply it with meaning and to integrate it into a theological framework. These efforts could take different shapes, but a prediction by Jesus seems to have been the choice medium of access to this particular piece of the past of early Christianity. The prediction, irrespective of its precise phrasing, allowed Christians to make their past make sense (hence to remember in a productive sense of the word) – certainly with regard to Peter’s death.


See R. Bauckham, ‘Martyrdom of Peter’ (1992), 575; earlier already Erik Peterson, ‘Das Martyrium des hl. Petrus nach der Petrus-Apocalypse’, in Miscellanea Giulio Belvederi, Collezione ‘Amici delle Catacombe’ 23 (Città del Vaticano, 1954), 181-5.

Peter the Martyr. Christian Memory under Construction


III. Conclusion If we ask for historical facts, we may only be able to say that Peter died by violence, quite probably in Rome (mainly because there is no competing local tradition that would reclaim Peter’s death for some other place116).117 What we can find, however, – and what is much more interesting with respect to a theory of collective memory – is a growing and self-consolidating discourse that may have begun with presupposing a narrative in early Christian lore. In texts from the 2nd century AD we find different attempts to give shape to this memory and thus allow the past (i.e., Peter’s death) to make sense. In view of the broad range of texts with their different perspectives and provenances, however, it is striking that there hardly seem to be two or more fundamentally competing stories. To be sure, it is not possible to extrapolate all elements of the full story sketched above from all the texts discussed. Yet the only instance where one could find one narrative to contradict another is John 21:18-9 regarding the manner of Peter’s death (by crucifixion or not by crucifixion). Apart from that, the 2nd century shaped a grand narrative that found its condensed literary expression in the Martyrdom of Peter (Act. Pet. 33-41). There the narrative took the unprecedented shape of Peter’s death upside down on a cross, which made a significant difference for the further growth of this memory – a successful narrative that invited rereading, retelling and rewriting. That, however, is beyond the scope of this paper.


See, e.g., R. Burnet, Les douze apôtres (2014), 192. For a slightly more optimistic estimation see, e.g., R. Bauckham, ‘Martyrdom of Peter’ (1992), 588: Peter died as a martyr by crucifixion in Rome under Nero, which, in some Christian circles (Ascen. Isa.; Apoc. Pet.), was interpreted in an apocalyptic sense. 117

Sacred Story, Sacred Space: Tradition and Memory in Accounts of the Death and Burial of Peter David L. EASTMAN, Chattanooga, TN, USA

ABSTRACT While the accounts of the martyrdom and burial of Peter have for nearly two millennia played a significant role in the authority claims of the Roman church, an investigation of the earliest sources shows that they do not all tell the story the same way. Central elements of the later tradition include the locations of Peter’s death and burial and the agency of Nero as the agent of this death. However, the earliest account of these events, the Martyrdom of Peter, does not recount any of these details. This essay examines the contribution to the Petrine tradition of three martyrdom accounts: the second-century Greek Martyrdom of Peter, the fourth-century Latin Martyrdom of Blessed Peter the Apostle of Pseudo-Linus, and a work of the fifth or sixth century, the Latin Passion of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul of Pseudo-Marcellus. It will demonstrate that the authors increased the level of detail over time in order to raise the status of Peter and provide additional information, while also – and perhaps most importantly – arguing for the legitimacy of the Petrine cult site at the Vatican. Peter’s martyrdom and burial are therefore ‘remembered’ through certain lenses in order to legitimate the practices of the authors’ own times.

Introduction Following the death of Pope Pius XI in 1939, the Vatican decided to create a tomb for the pope in the grottoes beneath the Basilica of St Peter. The plan to build a chapel in these grottoes was hampered by the low ceiling height, so excavations were undertaken to lower the floor level by nearly a meter. This process involved digging into earlier and more ancient stratigraphical layers. A complex system of tombs, walls, and debris emerged, and while the original plan was not to undertake a full excavation, the pope at the time, Pius XII, instructed the archaeologists to expand the scope of their investigations beneath the altar. In 1942, archaeologists discovered a grave that they believed was the tomb of Peter. It was a simple burial that had been covered by stone slabs in antiquity and over which a wall had later been built. A collection of bones was found at the burial site, and the pope announced the discovery of the relics of Peter.

Studia Patristica CVII, 107-116. © Peeters Publishers, 2021.



Unfortunately for the Vatican, tests on these bones revealed that they belonged to several human beings and animals. Several years later, in a seeming stroke of good luck, a separate set of bones was rediscovered in a storage box. These bones have been ignored for more than a decade and were linked to a burial near the location previously identified as Peter’s tomb. Tests revealed that the bones belonged to a healthy male who died between the ages of 60 and 70. Margaret Guarducci was the lead archaeologist in the inquiry, and based on inscriptions found nearby argued that these were the authentic bones of Peter.1 By 1968, Pope Paul VI was convinced and announced that the real bones of Peter had in fact been found. A private ceremony was held to rebury the majority of the bones, and they remain encased in glass in a tomb beneath the Vatican.2 Nine of the bone fragments, however, were taken by Paul VI for his private chapel. They were brought out for display for the closing mass of the ‘Year of Faith’ in 2013, and in 2019 Pope Francis gave them to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of the Orthodox Church. Not surprisingly, the presence of these bones serves as a magnet for pilgrimage activities to the Vatican. Peter was one of the closest followers of Jesus, and he is a figure who still plays a significant role in the ecclesiastical authority claims of the Roman church. Since at least the turn of the third century, Rome has used the alleged presence of Peter’s relics as political capital in its disputes with ecclesiastical rivals. At the center of these claims, however, lies a problem. We actually do not know if these are Peter’s bones, and there is no way to prove the case either way. What we do know is that the presence of these bones invigorates belief in the sanctity of a particular shrine. The stories of Peter’s death and burial are told and retold in ways that reinforce the validity of this sacred site, but the site initially gained its importance as a product of tradition, not of historical evidence. This is one way in which social or collective memory functions. Stories are ‘remembered’ and retold not just to privilege or perpetuate certain ideas, but also to give legitimacy to sacred spaces.3 The process of retelling stories about Peter in order to validate particular cultic sites is not new in the twentieth century, however. This essay will explore examples of the retelling of the Petrine story in late antiquity that served to justify the Vatican as a site for practices animated by collective memory.


Margherita Guarducci, Le Reliquie di Pietro (Vatican City, 1965). Margherita Guarducci, Pietro ritrovato: il martirio, la tomba, le reliquie, 2 nd ed. (Milan, 1970); Venerando Correnti, ‘Relazione dello studio compiuto su tre gruppi di resti scheletrici umani già rinvenuti sotto la confessione della Basilica Vaticana’, in Margherita Guarducci (ed.), Le reliquie di Pietro sotto la Confessione della Basilica vaticana: una messa a punto (Rome, 1967), 83-160; J.E. Walsh, The Bones of St. Peter (New York, 1982), 99-107. 3 This article summarizes arguments developed more completely in David L. Eastman, The Many Deaths of Peter and Paul, Oxford Early Christian Studies (Oxford, 2019), 103-41. 2

Sacred Story, Sacred Space


Silence in the Acts of Peter Our inquiry begins with the acknowledgement of the lack of details provided in the earliest account of Peter’s death, the Greek Martyrdom of Peter (the final section of the Acts of Peter).4 The text is typically dated to the second half of the second century CE, although it could preserve earlier oral traditions. The Acts of Peter claims that Peter is still living in the East when he sees a vision of Christ calling him to go to Rome. Peter’s old enemy, Simon Magus (Acts 8), has resurfaced and is destroying the Roman church. Peter goes to Rome and at the beginning of the Martyrdom defeats Simon in a series of supernatural showdowns, culminating in the spectacular scene of Peter striking Simon from the sky as the latter flies over the city of Rome.5 Peter’s miracles gain him a large hearing, and soon his preaching turns to the topic of celibacy. A number of people heed this call, including the wives of some high-ranking Roman men, Agrippa and Albinus. The two conspire to kill Peter and eventually succeed in having him crucified.6 Peter asks to be crucified upside-down – not out of humility, but out of a desire to enact physically the distorted nature of the human condition and human perception of reality. The Martyrdom is silent on a number of details that would become cornerstones of the later tradition: (1) The text never identifies where in Rome Peter dies, and the Vatican is never mentioned at all.7 By contrast, for example, the site of Simon’s eventual death (Aricia) is specified.8 (2) Nero plays no role in the death of Peter. Instead, he finds out about it only after the fact: ‘When Nero finally learned that Peter had departed this life, he was angry at the prefect Agrippa, because he had killed him against his will. For Nero wanted to punish him more extensively and exact even greater revenge upon him, because Peter had made disciples of some of those close to him, who had then left him’. 9 (3) The location of Peter’s tomb is never mentioned. We are told only that Peter is buried by a certain Marcellus. Earlier in the Acts of Peter, an aristocrat by that name had been a leader in the Roman church but had fallen under the spell of Simon. He eventually repents and follows Peter, and then sees to the apostle’s burial. We are given many details, but not the location: 4 David L. Eastman, The Ancient Martyrdom Accounts of Peter and Paul, Writings from the Greco-Roman World 39 (Atlanta, 2015), 1-26. While the Martyrdom is now part of the larger Acts of Peter, it likely circulated independently early on. This would explain why this section is not included the so-called Vercelli Acts. 5 Mart. Pet. 2-3. 6 On the preaching of celibacy as the cause of Peter’s death, see D.L. Eastman, Many Deaths of Peter and Paul (2019), 38-44. 7 Mart. Pet. 7. 8 Mart. Pet. 3. 9 Mart. Pet. 12; Acts Pet. 41.



As the crowd standing nearby offered up the ‘amen’ in a loud voice together with him, the apostle Peter gave up his spirit.10 But Marcellus, who had not received this idea from anyone – and this was not allowed – saw that the blessed Peter had died, and after taking the body off the cross with his own hands, he washed it with milk and wine. After he cut up fifty minas of mastic and myrrh and aloe, and another fifty minas of silphium,11 he embalmed his remains. And after filling a great stone coffin with a large amount of expensive Attic honey,12 he placed Peter in it.

This is not the simple tomb described by the Vatican archaeologists of the twentieth century; it is instead a monumental and extremely expensive burial that in some ways resembles that of Jesus.13 Peter is not happy, however, and appears in a vision to Marcellus to rebuke him for wasting his money on the burial: ‘Those things that you offered for the dead, you have lost, for you who are alive took care of the dead as if you were dead’.14 At no point is there any indication of the site in question. Thus, major components of the later Petrine tradition are absent from the Acts of Peter. We are not told where the apostle dies; Nero plays no role in the death; and the location of his tomb is unidentified. Given that more than a century separates this text from the events it purports to recount, the author could not simply expect the audience to fill in all these gaps from their assumed knowledge. Either the author was unaware of these three elements of the later tradition, or they were considered not important enough to include.

Pseudo-Linus and the Legitimacy of the Vatican In subsequent centuries, authors of accounts of Peter’s death would bring greater clarity by retroactively justifying traditions and cultic practices in place by their own times. In the latter half of the fourth century, for example, an author produced the Latin Martyrdom of Blessed Peter the Apostle, an interpretation and expansion of the Martyrdom of Peter. Traditionally, the text has been credited to Linus, whom late antique sources list as the second or third ὁ ἀπόστολος Πέτρος παρέδωκε τὸ πνεῦμα. In John 19:30, Jesus παρέδωκεν τὸ πνεῦμα. This was a rare plant from Cyrene that, according to Pliny the Elder, was highly valued by the Romans (Nat. 19.15). 12 Honey was also associated with the famous burials of Achilles (Homer, Od. 24.68) and Alexander the Great (Statius, Silv. 2.2.118). 13 John 19:39-40: ‘Also Nicodemus, who previously had come to [Jesus] at night, came and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about 100 pounds in weight. Then they took the body of Jesus and wound it in linen cloths with spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews’. In terms of the cost of Peter’s burial, in this period one mina was equal to 100 drachmae, and in classical Greece one drachma was a day’s wage for a soldier. In sum, Marcellus spent 100 minas (10,000 drachmae), which would equal a soldier’s combined salary for more than twenty-seven years. 14 Mart. Pet. 11. See Matt 8:22 and Luke 9:60. 10 11

Sacred Story, Sacred Space


bishop of Rome.15 This ascription, however, is impossible for textual reasons, so the text is anonymous.16 By the time this text was produced, a Petrine cult at the Vatican had been established. According to Eusebius, at the turn of the third century the ecclesiastical writer Caius had identified the Vatican as the site of a shrine for Peter: ‘I am able to show the trophies of the apostles (τὰ τρόπαια τῶν ἀποστόλων), for if you will go to the Vatican (ἐπὶ τὸν Βασικανόν) or to the Ostian Road [a site for the veneration of Paul], you will find the trophies of those who founded this church’.17 The term ‘trophy’ (τρόπαιον) was often used to refer to a commemorative burial monument, so here Peter’s tomb is explicitly linked to the Vatican.18 Eusebius confirms this reading by stating that the ‘most splendid monuments’ of Peter and Paul still stood in the cemeteries of Rome in his own day (εἰς δεῦρο).19 In the case of Peter, Eusebius may have had in mind not a shrine from the time of Caius but the basilica for Peter then already begun by the Emperor Constantine on the Vatican hill. By the time of Eusebius, both architectural and literary traditions linked Peter to the Vatican. Later in that same century, Pseudo-Linus retells the story of Peter’s death using the Acts of Peter as a starting point, but also expanding the account in order to justify the cultic practices of his own day (by which time St Peter’s Basilica was probably complete). The author specifically identifies the location of Peter’s death. Agrippa pronounces a death sentence, and then Peter is taken to the place of his demise: ‘A great multitude then went together with the apostle and the deputies to a place called the Naumachia, next to the obelisk of Nero on the mountain, for there a cross had been placed’.20 The term naumachia referred both to mock sea battles and to places in which these battles were staged. Suetonius and Cassius Dio record that Nero was the first emperor to stage these in an amphitheater in 57 CE. The sources suggest that the building was located close to the Vatican hill on or very near the Field of Mars.21 15 Irenaeus states that Peter and Paul together ordained Linus (Haer. 3.3.3). Peter alone ordains Linus in Eusebius (Hist. eccl. 5.6.1); the Liberian Catalog of 354 CE (Chronica minora saec. IV. V. VI.VII., ed. T. Mommsen, MGH.AA 9 [Berlin, 1892], 73); Hist. Paul 12; Hist Shim. 33; and Teach. Shim. Rom. 6. Other sources list Clement as the second Roman bishop: Tertullian, Praescr. 32; the apocryphal Epistle of Clement to James 2; and Abd. Pass. Pet. 15. 16 See D.L. Eastman, Many Deaths of Peter and Paul (2015), 27-65. 17 Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 2.25.7. 18 On the use of ‘trophy’ for apostolic shrines, see Giorgio Filippi, ‘La basilica di San Paolo fuori le mura’, in Angela Donati (ed.), Pietro e Paolo: la storia, il culto, la memoria nei primi secoli (Milan, 2000), 59; Paolo Liverani, ‘La basilica di San Pietro in Vaticano’, in ibid., 55; Christine Mohrmann, ‘À propos de deux mots controversés de la latinité chrétienne: Tropaeum - Nomen’, VC 8 (1954), 154-73, 163. 19 Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 2.25.6. 20 Lin., Mart. Pet. 10: … ad locum qui uocatur Naumachiae iuxta obeliscum Neronis in montem. illic enim crux posita erat. 21 Suetonius, Nero 12.2-6; Cassius Dio, Hist. 61.9.5.



Archaeologists have been unable to identify this structure, but they have found another building that may have been used for naumachia on the Vatican hill close to the Circus of Nero. Either one could be the structure that Pseudo-Linus has in mind.22 In either case, the author explicitly places Peter’s death at the Vatican, thus reinforcing the centrality of that site for the Petrine cult. The story therefore confirms in literary form what Constantine’s basilica claimed through architecture. Notably, Pseudo-Linus does not clarify the other two issues noted above, namely the role of Nero or the site of Peter’s tomb. Early in the narrative, the author does identify Nero as an important player in the story: ‘But when the time arrived that the faith and labors of the blessed apostle should have been rewarded, the chief of perdition – obviously the antichrist Nero, wickedness in its highest form – prevented this and ordered Peter to be bound and fettered with shackles in the foulest prison’.23 However, Nero then disappears from the action until after the apostle’s death, at which point his anger toward Agrippa (again due to the fact that he had missed an opportunity to torture Peter) forces Agrippa to retire from public life. Nero attempts to satiate his wrath by persecuting other Christians, until Peter visits him in a dream and threatens him.24 This missing connection of Nero to Peter’s death had first been suggested, according to our surviving literary records, by Tertullian in the early third century. In Antidote for the Scorpion’s Sting, Tertullian is defending claims about Christian history against those he considers heretics. He points to imperial records to support his argument: ‘If a heretic wants to place faith in a record, then the archives of the empire will speak, as will the stones of Jerusalem. We read the lives of the Caesars. Nero was the first who stained with blood the rising faith in Rome. At that time Peter was bound around the body by another when he was bound to the cross’.25 Tertullian describes Peter’s death in light of John 21:18-9, where Jesus predicts that Peter’s death will involve 22 This second structure may date from the time of Trajan, not Nero. See Eva Margareta Steinby (ed.), Lexicon topographicum urbis Romae, 5 vol. (Rome, 1996), III 338-9. The Church of San Pellegrino in Vaticano (formerly San Pellegrino in Naumachia) now sits on the site. If the topographical allusion in this text is taken to refer to the Trajanic structure, then this would be a clear anachronism, but the fourth-century author may be unaware of or unconcerned with such details. 23 Lin. Mart. Pet. 2. In the apocryphal acts, as in the New Testament, antichrist is a type of person, not a specific person. It refers to anyone who denies that Jesus is the Christ (1John 2:18, 22; 4:3; 2John 1:7) and, contrary to common misunderstanding, never appears in Revelation. Both Nero and Simon Magus are presented as antichrists in accounts of the deaths of Peter and Paul. See D.L. Eastman, Many Deaths of Peter and Paul (2015), 174-209; id., ‘Simon the Christ? The Magos as Christos in Early Christian and Apocryphal Literature’, JECH 6 (2016), 116-36. 24 Lin. Mart. Pet. 17. 25 Tertullian, Scorp. 15.3.

Sacred Story, Sacred Space


being bound against his will, and in doing so he implicates Nero in the martyrdom. He provides few details, but the central connection between Nero and the apostle’s death is present. Is Pseudo-Linus assuming that his audience is familiar with the tradition voiced by Tertullian? Perhaps so, but it is nonetheless a key plot point for Pseudo-Linus to omit. Similarly, Pseudo-Linus does not note the location of Peter’s tomb, even though the account of Peter’s burial by Marcellus is significantly expanded, even exaggerated: Immediately Marcellus did not at all wait for permission, but seeing that the blessed apostle had died, he took down the holy body from the cross with his own hands and washed it with milk and the best wine. Rubbing it with 1500 minas of mastic, aloe, myrrh, and aromatic leaves, along with another 1500 minas of myrrh oil and various other spices, he embalmed Peter with the greatest care. He also filled a new sarcophagus with Attic honey and placed the body in it coated with spices.26

Marcellus washes, embalms, and buries the body, but inflation has struck. Instead of investing 100 minas, as he did in the Acts of Peter, Marcellus spends 3000 minas, an even more astronomical amount of money. Pseudo-Linus adds that Marcellus did all this ‘with the greatest care’ (condiuit eum diligentissime), another detail not in the Acts of Peter, and the large sarcophagus in the Acts of Peter now becomes also a ‘new sarcophagus’, likely an allusion to the ‘new tomb’ of Jesus.27 The expensive Attic honey is coated with an addition layer of costly spices, driving the cost of burial even higher. Pseudo-Linus would have the audience believe that from the outset, Peter’s tomb was a monumental site venerated by Marcellus and worthy of veneration by others. Indeed, ‘Marcellus was keeping a vigil at Peter’s tomb and weeping out of his severe grief – for he had decided not to be separated in his own lifetime from the tomb of his most beloved teacher’.28 Marcellus was modelling the level of devotion of which Peter was worthy, and his vigil ends only because Peter appears to Marcellus to rebuke him for wasting his money and then instruct him to go out preaching. Peter’s tomb was ostentatious and glorious in the late fourth century, and Pseudo-Linus projects this level of grandiosity back into the first century. In doing so, this author takes us even farther from the simple grave identified by the Vatican.


Lin. Mart. Pet. 16. Matt 27:60; Luke 23:53; John 19:41. 28 Lin. Mart. Pet. 16. Vigils of this type at the tombs of saints was a common practice among early Christians, as discussed in e.g. Augustine, Conf. 6.2; Ramsay MacMullen, The Second Church: Popular Christianity A.D. 200–400, Writings from the Greco-Roman World Supplements 1 (Atlanta, 2009). These vigils raised concerns for some church leaders as opportunities for drunkenness and sexual impropriety, and Augustine also believed they might too closely resemble ‘the superstitious rites that the pagans held in honor of their dead’ (Conf. 6.2). 27



Pseudo-Marcellus and Peter’s Death and Burial In later centuries, the story of Peter’s death appears in accounts that alter the tradition by retelling the deaths of Peter and Paul not as completely independent events but as events linked closely to each other. For the sake of this brief essay, we will confine our analysis to one example, the Latin Passion of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul. This text dates from the fifth or sixth century and relies in part upon Pseudo-Linus but also includes many details not in Pseudo-Linus. A postscript to the text credits it to Marcellus, but this is clearly inaccurate. Scholars therefore typically refer to the author as Pseudo-Marcellus. Pseudo-Marcellus presents Peter and Paul together in front of Nero and locked in a battle with Simon Magus. Simon claims to be the Christ 29 and accuses the apostles of being frauds. The conflict culminates with Simon’s flight over Rome, which ends when Peter – supported by Paul’s prayers – rebukes the demons carrying Simon. The sorcerer falls to his death. Nero is furious that the apostles have killed his favorite sorcerer and orders their execution in response: ‘It is necessary to kill these impious men in a cruel way. Thus, after they have been tortured with iron claws, I order that they be killed in the Naumachia and that all people of this sort be put to death cruelly’.30 Nero’s plan is to kill both apostles in the Naumachia, that is, at the Vatican. However, Pseudo-Marcellus wants to preserve remnants of the earlier separate martyrdom traditions of Peter and Paul and keep the Vatican site unique to Peter, so he performs a subtle narrative move. The author has Agrippa speak up and state that Peter deserves the most severe punishment, since he was the one who had actually murdered Simon. Nero agrees and proceeds with his plan to kill Peter in the area of the Naumachia, but he bypasses the iron claws and moves directly to the crucifixion. Paul is led off to the Ostian Road, while Peter ‘came to the cross’.31 Immediately following Peter’s death, Pseudo-Marcellus presents a modified form of the burial narrative: Suddenly there appeared holy men, whom no one had ever seen before or was able to see afterward. They were saying that they had come from Jerusalem because of Peter. They were together with Marcellus, a nobleman who had believed and had followed Peter after leaving Simon. They took away his body secretly and placed it under a turpentine tree next to the Naumachia in a place called the Vatican.32

Marcellus is again present, but here he apparently arrives from Jerusalem for the first time along with the mysterious strangers, who I have argued elsewhere 29

See note 23 above. Pass. Holy Pet. Paul 58; Acts Pet. Paul 79. The ‘iron claws’ (Latin cardi) were torture devices designed to lacerate the skin as if one were carding wool. The Greek employs ὀγκινάραις σιδηραῖς. 31 Pass. Holy Pet. Paul 60. 32 Pass. Holy Pet. Paul 63. 30

Sacred Story, Sacred Space


are in fact not earthly visitors but heavenly ones.33 Marcellus is not a Roman nobleman but a new arrival from the East.34 Nonetheless, he still receives part of the credit for burying Peter. In this later adaptation and retelling of Peter’s martyrdom, Pseudo-Marcellus includes all three elements of the tradition highlighted above: (1) Peter is sentenced to death in the Naumachia, thus at or very near the Vatican cult site. (2) Nero, not Agrippa, is the agent of Peter’s death. Pseudo-Marcellus gestures toward the Acts of Peter and Pseudo-Linus by giving Agrippa a role in the sentencing, but the prefect does not act without Nero’s consent. He advises the emperor but does not preempt the emperor’s right to sentence Peter to death. (3) The Vatican is identified as the site of the tomb. Peter is interred ‘under a turpentine tree next to the Naumachia in a place called the Vatican’. This is, however, a different sort of burial than the ones described by the author of the Acts of Peter and Pseudo-Linus. Peter is buried under a tree, and there is no mention of expensive embalming, encasing in honey, or a lavish tomb. Peter is seemingly laid to rest in an earthen tomb, or at least in a simple one, not a monumental one. Ironically, it is this later account, produced centuries after the construction of the grand Petrine basilica, that most closely resembles the humble tomb reconstructed – or perhaps reimagined – by the Vatican archaeologists of the twentieth century.

Conclusion This brief exploration of the literary traditions concerning Peter’s death has highlighted two important themes. First and foremost, stories about Peter were ‘remembered’ in light of cultic spaces. The literary accounts often reinforce practices focused on certain places that had been designated as holy sites. Thus, while the Acts of Peter is silent on the precise location of Peter’s death and burial, later authors provide greater detail in light of what was believed and practiced in their own times. Second, the sources do not always agree with each other. In our limited survey, for example, how much of a fortune did Marcellus spend? Or did he spend a fortune at all? Was Peter’s tomb monumental or simple? Did Marcellus bury Peter alone or with help from mysterious men from Jerusalem? Was he a 33

D.L. Eastman, Many Deaths of Peter and Paul (2015), 62-3. The Greek Acts of the Holy Apostles, a text that closely parallels Pseudo-Marcellus, makes the point even clearer: ‘These men said that they came from Jerusalem along with Marcellus (οὗτοι ἔλεγον ἑαυτοὺς ἀπὸ Ἱεροσολύμων παραγενέσθαι, ἅμα Μαρκέλλῳ), a nobleman who, after he had believed in Christ, left Simon and followed Peter’ (84). Marcellus is still an ex-follower of Simon, but he is new to Rome. 34



nobleman already living in Rome when Peter arrived, or did he come from Jerusalem just prior to Peter’s death? Did Peter die by the order of Agrippa or Nero? If Peter died at the hands of Nero, was he alone, or was he with Paul? And was Simon Magus there or already dead? This second point opens our eyes to the reality of competing traditions, even concerning the death and burial of figures as important as Peter and Paul. As I have shown elsewhere, there never was a single narrative concerning the death and burial of either of these apostles.35 In some cases, then, the narratives developed to justify certain cultic sites and practices, through their variety, actually undermine the alleged historical underpinnings of those sites and practices. Social memory was itself often a locus for competition, and different authors sometimes ‘remembered’ the same events in diverse ways.

35 This is the primary argument of D.L. Eastman, Many Deaths of Peter and Paul (2015). See especially 69-70 for early liturgical evidence for the Petrine cult being celebrated at the Catacombs (San Sebastiano) on the Appian Road, not the Vatican. On competing claims to Paul’s martyrdom site, see id., Paul the Martyr: The Cult of the Apostle in the Latin West, Writings from the Greco-Roman World Supplements 4 (Atlanta; Leiden, 2011), 62-9.

Johannes, Märtyrer und Nicht-Märtyrer Stephan WITETSCHEK, LMU München, Germany

ABSTRACT When authors of the 2nd and 3rd centuries mention an apostle named ‘John’, they usually refer to a composite character, in which at least three memory figures come together: ‘John the Son of Zebedee’, known from the Synoptic Gospels, the ‘Beloved Disciple’, known from the Gospel of John, and ‘John the Seer’, known from the Apocalypse of John’. This distinction becomes crucial when it comes to the question of martyrdom: The ‘Son of Zebedee’ is connected with a tradition of martyrdom (departing from Mark 10:39 par. Matt. 20:32), while both the ‘Beloved Disciple’ and the ‘Seer’ were not known to have suffered martyrdom, and by the late 2nd century the composite figure of an Ephesian ‘John’, both ‘Beloved Disciple’ and ‘Seer’, was even known not to have suffered martyrdom – contrary to the tendency to be observed in the memory of other apostles. This makes the historical question of a possible martyrdom of ‘John’ quite tricky. An approach by memory figures (‘Son of Zebedee’, ‘Beloved Disciple’, ‘Seer’), however, will allow a more differentiated and structured perspective on ‘John’.

In einem Band, der von Martyriumserzählungen handelt, mag sich der vorliegende Beitrag etwas merkwürdig ausnehmen: Von einem gewaltsamen Tod des Apostels Johannes ist in christlichen Texten des 1.-3. Jahrhunderts eher selten die Rede.1 Hier soll freilich nicht die historische Frage nach dem Geschick des Apostels Johannes im Vordergrund stehen,2 sondern die frühchristlichen Formen der Erinnerung an den Tod eines ‚Johannes‘. So werden zunächst die wenigen Belege für ein Martyrium des Johannes gesichtet (I.), sodann die Tradition von seinem nicht gewaltsamen Ende (II.). Schließlich werden die Befunde erinnerungstheoretisch eingeordnet (III.). Bevor aber unbefangen von „Johannes“ die Rede sein soll, sind einige Vorbemerkungen angezeigt:


Für eine maximalistische Sichtung aller in Frage kommenden Belege siehe Marie-Émile Boismard, Le martyre de Jean l’apôtre, CahRB 35 (Paris, 1996); für die Forschungsgeschichte im frühen 20. Jahrhundert ibid. 9-13. Ausgangspunkt ist die Studie von Eduard Schwartz, Über den Tod der Söhne Zebedäi. Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte des Johannesevangeliums, AGWG.PH 7/5 (Göttingen, 1904). 2 Siehe dazu in jüngerer Zeit – und mit negativem Urteil hinsichtlich des Martyriums – Sean McDowell, The Fate of the Apostles. Examining the Martyrdom Accounts of the Closest Followers of Jesus (Farnham, Burlington, VT, 2015), 135-56.

Studia Patristica CVII, 117-134. © Peeters Publishers, 2021.



In der christlichen Literatur am Ende des 2. Jahrhunderts erscheint ‚Johannes‘ als eine komplexe Erinnerungsgestalt, in der mindestens drei Personaltraditionen zusammenfließen: ● Johannes der Sohn des Zebedäus, ein Jünger Jesu, der nach Mk 1,19 parr.

Mt 4,21; Lk 5,10 sowie Mk 3,17 par. Mt 10,2 par. Lk 6,14; Apg 1,13 zum Zwölferkreis gehörte, nach Mk 1,29; Mk 5,37 par. Lk 8,51; Mk 9,2 par. Mt 17,1 par. Lk 9,28; Mk 10,35-45 par. Mt 20,20-28; Mk 13,3; Mk 14,33; Lk 9,54 sogar zum engsten Kreis um Jesus, und dem Paulus nach Gal 2,9 noch Ende der 40er Jahre als einer der „Säulen“ in Jerusalem begegnet sein will. Von ihm hat sich im Ausgang von der Prophezeiung eines gewaltsamen Todes in Mk 10,38-40 par. Mt 20,22-23 eine Martyriumstradition entsponnen, die z.B. bei Papias greifbar wird. Dieser Johannes soll im Folgenden ‚Zebedaide‘ heißen. ● Johannes, der Verfasser der Johannesapokalypse (Offb 1,1.4.9; 22,8). Sein Aufenthalt auf Patmos (Offb 1,9) wird in der Literatur des 2./3. Jahrhunderts gemeinhin als strafweises Exil unter Kaiser Domitian (81-96 n. Chr.) interpretiert; zu dieser Erzählung gehört regelmäßig auch die Rückkehr aus dem Exil mit Übersiedelung nach Ephesos. Von einem gewaltsamen Tod ist dabei jedoch zunächst keine Rede. Dieser Johannes sei im Folgenden ‚Seher‘ genannt. ● Der Geliebte Jünger des Johannesevangeliums (Joh 13,23-6; 18,15-7; 19,25-7; 20,2-10; 21,7.20-4), dessen möglicher Tod vor der Abfassung von Joh 21 anscheinend Gegenstand der Spekulation war (Joh 21,23), der aber vor allem als Gewährsmann des Evangeliums in Erinnerung blieb (Joh 21,24). Diese Erzählfigur bleibt im Johannesevangelium programmatisch namenlos, doch im Laufe des 2. Jahrhunderts wächst ihr durch Gleichsetzung mit dem ‚Seher‘, später auch mit dem ‚Zebedaiden‘, der Name Johannes zu. Dieser Johannes heißt im Folgenden ‚Geliebter Jünger‘. ● Hinzu kommt möglicherweise noch der bei Papias (apud Euseb, Hist. Eccl. III 39,4) genannte – und vom ‚Zebedaiden‘ unterschiedene – ‚ältere Johannes‘ (ὁ πρεσβύτερος Ἰωάννης). Er wird manchmal mit dem πρεσβύτερος von 2 Joh 1; 3 Joh 1 identifiziert.3 Im Folgenden heißt er ‚Presbyter‘. Zunächst – etwa bei Justin (Dial. 81,4) – verleitete die Namensgleichheit dazu, die Johannesapokalypse einem Apostel zuzuschreiben, mithin also den ‚Seher‘ mit dem ‚Zebedaiden‘ zu identifizieren.4 Spätestens bei Irenäus wird zudem der ‚Geliebte Jünger‘ mit dem – unter Kaiser Domitian (81-96 n. Chr.) 3 So etwa Martin Hengel, Die johanneische Frage. Ein Lösungsversuch, WUNT 67 (Tübingen, 1993), 96-113. In der Antike z.B. Hieronymus, De vir. ill. 18. 4 So etwa Régis Burnet, Les douze apôtres. Histoire de la reception des figures apostoliques dans le christianisme ancien, JAOC 1 (Turnhout, 2014), 363. Anders Martin Karrer, Johannesoffenbarung. Teilband 1: Offb 1,1-5,14, EKK 24/1 (Ostfildern, Göttingen, 2017), 111, 179: Justin

Johannes, Märtyrer und Nicht-Märtyrer


nach Patmos verbannten – ‚Seher‘ (und vielleicht auch dem ‚Zebedaiden‘)5 gleichgesetzt. Diese Gleichsetzung führte zu der Vorstellung, ‚Johannes‘ habe als Hochbetagter noch in trajanischer Zeit (98-117 n. Chr.) in Ephesos gelebt (so etwa Irenäus, Haer. II 22,5; III 3,4). Die volle, ‚kanonische‘ Johannesgestalt, in der sich diese drei Traditionslinien verbinden, begegnet am Ende des 2. Jahrhunderts bei Irenäus,6 dann auch in den Johannesakten und bei Origenes.7 Mit dieser Erinnerungsgestalt verbindet sich regelmäßig das Fehlen einer Martyriumserzählung. Tertullian (Praescr. 36,3) ersetzt sie durch das ‚Ölmartyrium‘, Origenes (Comm. in Matth. t. XVI 6) interpretiert immerhin den Aufenthalt des Sehers Johannes auf Patmos (nach Offb 1,9) als eine Art von Martyrium. Nur die Johannesakten bieten eine alternative Erzählung über sein friedliches Sterben (ActJoh 110-5). Von den vier oben beschriebenen Johannes-Gestalten erlaubte mithin nur der ‚Zebedaide‘ die Entwicklung einer Martyriumstradition. Dem ist zunächst nachzugehen: I. Johannes als Märtyrer Die älteste Spur findet sich im Markus- und Matthäusevangelium (Mk 10,39 par. Mt 20,32). Auf die Bitte der Zebedäussöhne Jakobus und Johannes (bzw. von deren Mutter: Mt 20,20) um Ehrenplätze bei Jesus reagiert Jesus mit der Ankündigung, dass ihnen diese Ehrenplätze keineswegs sicher seien, sie aber bezeichne den Johannes nur aufgrund der schriftlich niedergelegten Christus-Vision als ‚Apostel‘; damit sei keine Aussage über die Zugehörigkeit zum Zwölferkreis gemacht. 5 Gewiss ist mit R. Burnet, Les douze apôtres (2014), 366 festzuhalten, dass Irenäus ‚seinen‘ Johannes nirgends ausdrücklich mit dem Zebedaiden gleichsetzt: Der ‚Geliebte Jünger‘ wird bei ihm durchweg nicht als ‚Apostel‘, sondern als ‚Jünger des Herrn‘ bezeichnet. Das könnte ein Indiz dafür sein, dass Irenäus im Umfeld Jesu mit einem zweiten Johannes rechnete, der nicht dem Zwölferkreis angehörte. Sollte das der Platz für den von Papias genannten Presbyter sein? Diese Lösung hat den großen Vorteil, dass sie die Tradition eines Nicht-Martyriums (s.u. II.) vom ‚Zebedaiden‘ sauber getrennt hält. Auf der anderen Seite ist aber zu fragen, ob es für Irenäus denkbar gewesen wäre, dass der ‚Geliebte Jünger‘ Johannes kein Mitglied des Zwölferkreises war; das muss Burnet voraussetzen. Die ökonomischere Lösung scheint doch zu sein, dass Irenäus, wenn er den ‚Geliebten Jünger‘ mit dem Namen Johannes versah, diesen auch mit dem ‚Zebedaiden‘ identifizierte. 6 Etwas anders ist das Modell bei M.-É. Boismard, Le martyre de Jean l’apôtre (1996), 63-75: Irenäus habe zwei Johannesgestalten vermischt, die noch bei Papias (apud Euseb, Hist. Eccl. III 39,4) unterschieden waren: Den ‚Apostel‘ (der wohl mit dem ‚Geliebten Jünger‘ und ‚Zebedaiden‘ gleichzusetzen wäre, ibid. 72-5) und den bis in die Zeit Trajans in Ephesos ansässigen ‚Ältesten‘ (auf den der durch Papias vermittelte Chiliasmus des Irenäus – Haer. V 33 – zurückgehen soll), der wohl letztlich mit dem ‚Seher‘ identisch zu denken wäre. 7 Siehe dazu Stephan Witetschek, Ephesische Enthüllungen. Frühe Christen in einer antiken Großstadt. Zugleich ein Beitrag zur Frage nach den Kontexten der Johannesapokalypse, BiTS 6 (Leuven, 2008), 326-40; id., ‘Polycrates of Ephesus and the “Canonical John”’, SP 91 (2017), 12734, 131-3.



sicher den ‚Kelch‘ Jesu trinken, also einen gewaltsamen Tod erleiden würden. Während im Falle des Jakobus diese Vorhersage durch seinen Tod nach Apg 12,2 als eingelöst gelten kann,8 wird ein tatsächliches Martyrium des Johannes (wofür dieses Herrenwort ein vaticinium ex eventu wäre) in der Forschung weithin mit Skepsis betrachtet.9 Nun ist aber die Tatsache, dass Johannes nach Gal 2,9 auch nach dem Tod seines Bruders noch sehr lebendig war, kein schlagendes Argument gegen die Annahme, er sei (wann auch immer) letzten Endes gewaltsam zu Tode gekommen. Wichtiger ist freilich, dass diese Prophezeiung an beide Zebedaiden im Markus- und Matthäusevangelium unbefangen eingebunden und weiterüberliefert wurde – und dass diese Tradition eine weitere Wirkung entfaltet hat: Hier ist vor allem das verlorene Werk des Papias von Hierapolis10 von Interesse. Nach Philippos Sidetes (5. Jahrhundert) bzw. dessen Epitomator soll er im zweiten Buch seines Werkes behauptet haben, dass der ‚Zebedaide‘ Johannes von Juden getötet worden sei.11 Philippos Sidetes, Hist. Eccl. Frg. im Cod. Barroccianus 14212 … Πάπιας ἐν τῷ δευτέρῳ λόγῳ λέγει, ὅτι Ἰωάννης ὁ θεόλογος καὶ Ἰάκωβος ὁ ἀδελφὸς αὐτοῦ ὑπὸ Ἰουδαίων ἀνῃρέθησαν. …

Papias sagt im zweiten Buch, dass Johannes der Theologe und sein Bruder Jakobus von Juden beseitigt wurden.

8 Erwähnt sei der aparte Vorschlag von M.-É. Boismard, Le martyre de Jean l’apôtre (1996), 60-62 im Anschluss an Justin Taylor, Les Actes des deux apôtres. Vol. V: Commentaire historique (Act 9,1-18,22), EB.NS 23 (Paris, 1994), 116-7: Für den Text von Apg 12,2 sei, gegen alle anderen Zeugen, zwei äthiopischen Handschriften zu folgen, nach denen nicht ‚Jakobus der Bruder des Johannes‘ getötet wird, sondern ‚Johannes der Bruder des Jakobus‘. 9 So z.B. John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew. Vol. III: Companions and Competitors, ABRL (New York, 2001), 219-20; auch noch S. Witetschek, Ephesische Enthüllungen 1 (2008), 340-1. Anlass zur Skepsis besteht eigentlich nur, wenn man sich den ‚Zebedaiden‘ mit einer anderen Johannes-Gestalt kontaminiert denkt, von der das Nicht-Martyrium überliefert ist (‚Seher‘, ‚Geliebter Jünger‘). 10 Editionen: Ulrich H.J. Körtner, ‘Papiasfragmente’, in Id. und Martin Leutzsch, Schriften des Urchristentums 3. Papiasfragmente, Hirt des Hermas (Darmstadt, 1997), 1-103; Enrico Norelli, Papia di Hierapolis. Esposizione degli Oracoli del Signore. I frammenti, Letture Cristiane del primo millenio 36 (Milano, 2005). 11 Für S. McDowell, The Fate of the Apostles (2015), 152-4 habe Philippos Sidetes seine Quelle Papias hier falsch verstanden. Angesichts des Übergewichts der Tradition vom friedlichen Ende des ‚Johannes‘ ist das bei Philippos Gebotene aber der erklärungsbedürftigere und schwerer erfindbare Befund; in Analogie zur Textkritik könnte man hier auch von der lectio difficilior sprechen. 12 Erste Edition: C. de Boor, ‘Neue Fragmente des Papias, Hegesippus und Pierius in bisher unbekannten Excerpten aus der Kirchengeschichte des Philipus Sidetes’, in E. Noeldechen und C. de Boor, Die Abfassungszeit der Schriften Tertullians. Neue Fragmente des Papias, Hegesippus und Pierius in bisher unbekannten Excerpten aus der Kirchengeschichte des Philipus Sidetes, TU 5/2 (Leipzig, 1888), 165-84.

Johannes, Märtyrer und Nicht-Märtyrer


Das gleiche Fragment wird vier Jahrhunderte später auch in einer Variante der Chronik des Georgios Monachos zitiert:13 Georgios Monachos (Hamartolos), Chronikon (nach Cod. Coislin. 305) Μετὰ δὲ Δομετιανὸν ἐβασίλευε Νερούας ἔτος ἕν, ὃς ἀλακαλεσάμενος Ἰωάννην ἐκ τῆς νήσου ἀπέλυσεν οἰκεῖν ἐν Ἐφέσῳ. μόνος τότε περιὼν τῷ βίῳ ἐκ τῶν ιβ᾿ μαθητῶν καὶ συγγραψάμενος τὸ κατ᾿ αὐτὸν εὐαγγέλιον μαρτυρίου κατηξίωται. Παπίας γὰρ ὁ Ἰεραπόλεως ἐπίσκοπος, αὐτόπτης τούτου γενόμενος, ἐν τῷ δευτέρῳ λόγῳ τῶν κυριακῶν λογίων φάσκει, ὅτι ὑπὸ Ἰουδαίων ἀνῃρέθη. …

Nach Domitian regierte Nerva für ein Jahr; er holte Johannes von der Insel zurück und ließ ihn frei, in Ephesos zu wohnen. Er war damals als einziger von den zwölf Jüngern noch am Leben geblieben, und nachdem er das nach ihm (benannte) Evangelium abgefasst hatte, wurde er des Martyriums gewürdigt. Papias, der Bischof von Hierapolis, der sein Augenzeuge geworden war, behauptet nämlich im zweiten Buch der ‚Herrenworte‘, dass er von Juden beseitigt worden sei. …

Philipp von Side bietet die oben zitierte Aussage, im Anschluss an ein grobes Zitat aus Euseb, Hist. Eccl. III 39, als unverbundenes Element in einer Aneinanderreihung von Einzelinformationen darüber, was Papias über den Apostel Johannes gewusst haben soll. Die Bezeichnung des Johannes als ‚Theologe‘ stand vermutlich nicht schon bei Papias, denn wo Aussagen von Papias über einen Johannes im Wortlaut erhalten sind (v.a. apud Euseb, Hist. Eccl. III 39,4), trifft man dieses Prädikat nicht an. Erstmals nachweislich wird Johannes im Johannes-Kommentar des Origenes als ὁ θεολόγος bezeichnet (Frg. 1),14 häufiger wird der Titel im 4. Jahrhundert.15 Allem Anschein nach stammt er an dieser Stelle erst von Philip von Side oder gar von dessen Epitomator. Somit entfällt ein Indiz dafür, dass Papias den Apostel (oder Presbyter) Johannes mit dem Johannesevangelium bzw. der johanneischen Tradition16 oder der Johannesapokalypse in Verbindung gebracht haben könnte. Auch dass dem Martyrium des Johannes ein Exil auf Patmos vorausgegangen sei (so dass dieser Johannes zugleich mit dem ‚Seher‘ zu identifizieren 13

Diese singulär (nur in Cod. Coislin. 305) bezeugte und in die Edition PG 110 nicht aufgenommener Passage dürfte ein Zusatz sein, der sich seinerseits aus der Kirchengeschichte des Philippos Sidets speist; siehe C. de Boor, ‘Neue Fragmente’ (1888), 177-8; M.-É. Boismard, Le martyre de Jean l’apôtre (1996), 54-7; ähnlich auch E. Norelli, Papia di Hierapolis (2005), 436-7. Anders Dimitri Afinogenov, ‘Le manuscrit grec Coislin. 305: La version primitive de la Chronique de Georges le Moine’, Revue des études byzantines 62 (2004), 239-46: Nur im Codex Coislin. 305 sei der ursprüngliche Text der Chronik bewahrt. 14 Das fragliche Fragment ist nur in Katenen überliefert. Edition: Erwin Preuschen, Origenes Werke. Vierter Band. Der Johanneskommentar, GCS 10 (Leipzig, 1903), 483-5. 15 So G.W.H. Lampe, A Patristic Greek Lexicon (Oxford, 1961), 628 s.v. θεολόγος; auch das Suchergebnis für θεολόγος auf (22.01.2020). Ferner auch M. Hengel, Die johanneische Frage (1993), 88 Anm. 281. 16 Siehe dazu E. Norelli, Papia di Hierapolis (2005), 114-23, v.a. 123.



wäre), ist dem von Papias erhaltenen Text nicht zu entnehmen, sondern nur den Zusätzen seiner späteren Leser.17

Spätere Autoren oder Epitomatoren haben also die bei Papias gebotene Notiz über das Martyrium des Johannes präziser in die schon entwickelte JohannesTradition einzuordnen versucht. Bei Papias selbst fand sich vermutlich wenig mehr als die lapidare Aussage, dass Johannes und sein Bruder Jakobus von Juden umgebracht worden seien (etwa: *Ἰωάννης καὶ Ἰάκωβος (ὁ ἀδελφὸς αὐτοῦ)18 ὑπὸ Ἰουδαίων ἀνῃρέθησαν).19 Damit ist schlicht die Martyiumsansage von Mk 10,39 par. Mt 20,32 eingelöst und mit der Präzisierung versehen, dass Juden für den Tod des Johannes verantwortlich seien. Über das Datum und die näheren Todesumstände erfahren wir nichts. Eine andere Beobachtung ist aber für diese Untersuchung interessanter: Der Johannes, von dessen gewaltsamem Tod Papias hier berichtet, ist (als Bruder eines Jakobus) durchaus der ‚Zebedaide‘. Es findet sich keine Spur vom ‚Seher‘ oder vom ‚Presbyter‘, ganz zu schweigen vom ‚Geliebten Jünger‘. Für Papias scheint es mithin im Blick auf diese Johannes-Gestalt keine konkurrierende Tradition vom Nicht-Martyrium gegeben zu haben, also auch keinen Anlass, die Tradition vom Martyrium des ‚Zebedaiden‘ in irgendeiner Weise problematisch zu finden. Das 2. Jahrhundert kennt noch einige schwache, weil nicht eindeutige Indizien für eine Tradition vom Martyrium des Johannes. Clemens von Alexandreia referiert im vierten Buch seiner Stromateis (Strom. IV 71), dass Herakleon die Aufrufe Jesu zum furchtlosen Bekenntnis (Mt 10,32; Mk 8,38; Lk 12,8-9.11-2) in dem Sinne ausgelegt habe, dass das ‚bloße‘ Bekenntnis mit Worten (die evtl. zum Martyium führen können) nur ein teilweises sei und das Bekenntnis durch Treue in der Lebensweise (πολιτεία) vorzuziehen. In diesem Zusammenhang scheint Herakleon auch einige Jünger Jesu aufgezählt zu haben, die nicht aufgrund ihres ausgesprochenen Bekenntnisses als Märtyrer zu Tode gekommen seien, nämlich Matthäus, Philippus, Thomas, Levi und viele andere (Strom. IV 71,3). In dieser Liste von Nicht-Märtyrern nennt er Johannes mithin nicht namentlich. Daraus wird bisweilen gefolgert, dass Herakleon von einem Martyrium des Johannes gewusst und ihn deshalb nicht unter die Nicht-Märtyrer gezählt habe. Anders gewendet: Wenn ihm eine Tradition vom Nicht-Martyrium des Johannes bekannt gewesen wäre, hätte Herakleon es schwerlich versäumt, Johannes unter den Nicht-Märtyrern zu nennen.20 In dieser Form besitzt der Gedankengang eine gewisse Plausibilität, doch es bleibt eine indirekte Beweisführung.21 17

So E. Norelli, Papia di Hierapolis (2005), 440. Dieser Zusatz könnte erst durch eine nähere Qualifikation des Johannes (als ‚Theologe‘ o.ä.) stilistisch nötig geworden sein. 19 So auch die Rekonstruktion bei M.-É. Boismard, Le martyre de Jean l’apôtre (1996), 57. 20 So etwa E. Norelli, Papia di Hierapolis (2005), 372. 21 Skeptisch ist hier auch M. Hengel, Die johanneische Frage (1993), 90 mit Anm. 287. 18

Johannes, Märtyrer und Nicht-Märtyrer


Einen ebenso indirekten Beleg biete Polykarp in Pol. Phil. 9,1, wo davon die Rede ist, dass man neben Paulus auch ‚an den übrigen Aposteln‘ (ἐν τοῖς λοιποῖς ἀποστόλοις) die Geduld betrachten könne, die Märtyrer auszeichnet. Man kann annehmen, dass Polykarp jedenfalls keine konkurrierende Tradition vom friedlichen Tod des Apostels Johannes gekannt habe. Allerdings sind die Apostel hier global als ein Kollektiv genannt; eine Differenzierung wäre zumindest rhetorisch ungeschickt.22 Polykarp bietet also keinen positiven Beleg für eine Tradition vom Martyrium des Johannes, wohl aber einen frühen Beleg für die Überzeugung, dass Apostel normalerweise auch Märtyrer sein müssten. Etwas klarer wird die Situation bei Polykrates von Ephesos. In seinem Brief an Victor von Rom (apud Euseb, Hist. Eccl. V 24,2-7) führt er eine Reihe von in Asia bestatteten Autoritäten auf, mit denen er die Praxis begründet, das christliche Ostern zeitgleich mit dem jüdischen Pesach zu feiern. Dazu gehört auch Johannes, den er in 24,3 mit dem ‚Geliebten Jünger‘ gleichsetzt (ὁ ἐπὶ τὸ στῆθος τοῦ κυρίου ἀναπεσών) und dann dreifach qualifiziert: als Priester (ὃς ἐγενήθη ἱερεὺς τὸ πέταλον πεφορεκώς), Zeuge (μάρτυς) und Lehrer (διδάσκαλος). In dieser Aufzählung ist das mittlere Element interessant: Das Substantiv μάρτυς konnte am Ende des 2. Jahrhunderts schon die spezifische Bedeutung ‚Märtyrer‘ haben,23 so dass man im Hintergrund dieser Notiz eine Tradition vom Martyrium des Johannes vermutet hat.24 Dass μάρτυς in dieser Zeit ‚Märtyrer‘ heißen kann, bedeutet aber nicht, dass es immer ‚Märtyrer‘ heißen muss. Polykrates nennt in seinem Brief einige andere Gestalten, die er mit den Prädikaten (καὶ) ἐπίσκοπος καὶ μάρτυς versieht: Polykarp, Thraseas und Sagaris. Polykarp ist hinreichend als Märtyrer bekannt, und bei allen dreien steht das Prädikat μάρτυς an letzter Stelle, so dass es passend das Ende ihres Lebens markiert. Bei Johannes hingegen steht μάρτυς in der Mitte zwischen ‚Priester‘ und ‚Lehrer‘, so dass sein Zeugnis eher als etwas vorzustellen ist, das er sein ganzes Leben hindurch tat, nicht nur an seinem Ende.25 Somit thematisiert der Brief des Polykrates zwar das Begräbnis des (mit dem ‚Geliebten Jünger‘ identifizierten) Johannes in Ephesos, aber er kann nicht als Beleg für eine Tradition vom Martyrium des Johannes dienen. Ob Polykrates den ‚Geliebten Jünger‘ mit dem ‚Zebedaiden‘ gleichgesetzt hat? Aus seinem Brief geht es nicht hervor. 22

In diesem Sinne auch M. Hengel, Die johanneische Frage (1993), 91 mit Anm. 292. Die Wende zum spezifischen Gebrauch von μάρτυς als terminus technicus für ‚Märtyrer‘ wird meistens am – doch um die Mitte des 2. Jahrhunderts zu datierenden – Martyrium des Polykarp festgemacht, wenngleich dieses den Wandel im Sprachgebrauch nicht erst herstellt, sondern schon als geschehen dokumentiert; siehe z.B. Norbert Brox, Zeuge und Märtyrer. Untersuchungen zur frühchristlichen Zeugnis-Terminologie, StANT 5 (München, 1961), 227-8, v.a. aber Gerd Buschmann, Das Martyrium des Polykarp, KAV 6 (Göttingen, 1998), 39-40, 367-72. 24 So M. Hengel, Die johanneische Frage (1993), 36 (als eine von mehreren Möglichkeiten); E. Norelli, Papia di Hierapolis (2005), 369-70. 25 So Richard Bauckham, ‘Papias and Polycrates on the Origin of the Fourth Gospel’, JTS NS 44 (1993), 24-69, 32; S. Witetschek, ‘Polycrates of Ephesus and the “Canonical John”’ (2017), 130-1. 23



Einen positiven Befund bietet hingegen – wohl im 3. Jahrhundert – das manichäische Psalmenbuch26 in den Sarakoton-Psalmen: ManiPs. II 142.22-4 ⲡϣⲏⲣⲉ (sic) ⲥⲛⲉⲩ Ⲛⲍⲉⲃⲉⲇⲁⲓⲟⲥ ⲉⲧⲁⲩⲧⲥⲁⲩ ⲡⲉⲡⲁⲧ Ⲙⲡϫ.[..

Die zwei Söhne des Zebedäus, man ließ sie trinken den Becher des [Herrn?]:

ⲓⲱⲁⲛⲛⲏⲥ ⲡⲡⲁⲣⲑⲉⲛⲟⲥ Ⲛⲧⲁⲩⲧⲥⲁϥ ⲡⲁⲡⲁⲧ ϩⲱϥ ⲁⲛ Ⲙⲧⲉϥⲧⲉ Ⲛϩⲟⲟⲩ ⲉϥⲁⲧⲠ ⲁϩⲟⲩⲛ ϫⲉ ⲉϥⲁⲙⲟⲩ ϩⲁⲡϩ[ⲕⲟ]

Johannes, der Jungfräuliche: Auch ihn selbst ließ man den Becher trinken; vierzehn Tage war er eingesperrt, damit er durch Hu[nger] sterbe.

ⲓⲁⲕⲱⲃⲟⲥ ϭⲉ Ⲛⲧⲁϥ Ⲛⲧⲁⲩϩⲟⲩ ⲱⲛⲉ ⲁⲣⲁϥ ⲁⲩⲙⲁⲩⲧϤ ⲁⲩⲛⲁϫ ⲡⲟⲩⲱⲛⲉ ⲁⲣⲁϥ ⲧⲏⲣⲟⲩ ϫⲉ ⲉϥⲁⲙⲟⲩ ϩⲁⲡϭⲁⲥⲙ[ⲉ]

Jakobus, er war es, den sie steinigten, sie töteten ihn. Sie alle warfen ihren Stein auf ihn, damit er durch ‚Unwetter‘ sterbe.

Im Kontext dieses Psalms werden die Leiden der Apostel Petrus, Andreas, Johannes, Jakobus, Thomas, Paulus, ferner von Thekla und Drusiana27 in eine Reihe gestellt mit den Leiden von Gestalten der biblischen Urgeschichte sowie von Jesus. Anders als in den bisher betrachteten Texten, wird hier eine – sonst m.W. nirgends bezeugte – Todesart des Johannes in den Blick genommen: Er soll verhungert sein. Unmissverständlich wird er als Sohn des Zebedäus und Bruder des Jakobus eingeführt; insofern passen diese Verse gut in die Traditionslinie, die sich schon in Mt 10,39 par. Mt 20,23 und dem bei Philipp von Side erhaltenen Papias-Fragment zeigte: Der ‚Zebedaide‘ stirbt als Märtyrer. Weniger gut passt das Epithet ⲡⲁⲣⲑⲉⲛⲟⲥ ins Bild: Die Qualifizierung des Johannes als ‚jungfräulich‘ gehört zwar fest zum Johannes-Bild des manichäischen Psalmenbuches28 wie auch des Polykarp-Fragments.29 Sie knüpft sich aber sonst nicht an den ‚Zebedaiden‘, sondern an den ‚Geliebten Jünger‘. Näherhin wird sie in den Johannesakten in analeptischen Redestücken des Johannes entfaltet und narrativ erarbeitet (v.a. ActJoh 113). Auf dieser Stufe und in diesem Segment der Überlieferung wird also die Erinnerungsgestalt des 26 Editionen: Charles R. Allberry, A Manichaean Psalm-Book II, Manichaean Manuscripts in the Chester Beatty Collection 2 (Stuttgart, 1938); Siegfried G. Richter, Die Herakleides-Psalmen, Corpus Fontum Manichaeorum. Series Coptica I/II,2 (Turnhout, 1998). 27 Sie wird sowohl hier wie auch in den Herakleides-Psalmen (4Her 5,32 – Mani-Ps. II 192.32193.1) als vierzehn Tage Eingesperrte genannt. In unserem Kontext (143,12) wird diese Haft näher bestimmt: „wie ihr Lehrer, der Apostel“, so dass Drusiana als Schülerin des Johannes erscheint. Damit scheinen die manichäischen Psalmen das Personeninventar der Johannesakten vorauszusetzen. 28 Auch in den Herakleides-Psalmen: 4Her 5,17 – Mani-Ps. II 192.7 (‚Ein … Schiff(?) ist Johannes der Jungfräuliche‘); 4Her 6,25 – Mani-Ps. II 194.9 (‚Er fand Johannes, die Blüte der Jungfräulichkeit‘). 29 FrgPol (b) 63r: ‚In […] der Jungfrä[ulichkeit …] ihm anstelle von […] des Schwertes und […] und die Foltern der G[eric]hte.‘ (zum Text s.u. Anm. 44).

Johannes, Märtyrer und Nicht-Märtyrer


‚Zebedaiden‘, die als Märtyrer etabliert ist, durch Elemente des ‚Geliebten Jüngers‘ kontaminiert. Doch auch wenn die Johannesakten in einem heute verlorenen Teil eine Erzählung von einer vierzehntägigen Inhaftierung des Johannes enthalten haben sollten,30 kann diese in den Johannesakten keinesfalls als eine zum Hungertod führende Haft gedacht gewesen sein, denn diese Erzählung läuft ja auf den selbstbestimmten Tod des Johannes (ActJoh 115) zu. So muss man wohl die Notiz vom Hungertod des Johannes einer manichäischen Fortschreibung der Johannes-Erzählung aus dem 3. Jahrhundert zuschreiben. Demnach war auch in diesem Traditionsbereich ein Apostel ohne Martyrium nur schwer denkbar. Aus späterer Zeit sind Martyrologien zu nennen, in denen der beiden Zebedaiden gemeinsam als Märtyrer gedacht wird:31 Das Martyrologium von Edessa aus dem Jahr 411 sowie der Märtyrerkalender von Karthago von 505, wo allerdings der ‚Zebedaide‘ Johannes mit Johannes dem Täufer verwechselt wurde. Ersteres Martyrologium dürfte auf ein Martyrologium von Nikomedeia aus dem dritten Viertel des 4. Jahrhunderts zurückgehen. Damit ist zumindest eine Erinnerungsgestalt des Johannes als Märtyrer gesichert, wenn er explizit als ‚Zebedaide‘, nämlich in Verbindung mit seinem Bruder Jakobus, auftritt. Diese liturgische Erinnerungsgestalt des 4. Jahrhunderts scheint vom ‚Seher‘ und ‚Geliebten Jünger‘ nicht kontaminiert zu sein, und so war das Martyrium des ‚Johannes‘ hier unproblematisch. Für die Fragestellung dieser Untersuchung ist vor allem festzuhalten, dass die genannten Martyrologien mit ‚Johannes‘ durchweg die Erinnerungsgestalt des ‚Zebedaiden‘ (nämlich als Bruder des Jakobus) verbinden und somit ganz auf der Linie des Papias liegen. Für die Zeit zwischen Papias (frühes 2. Jahrhundert) und dem Martyrologium von Nikomedeia (spätes 4. Jahrhundert) scheinen allerdings Belege zu fehlen – wenn man von der oben besprochenen Stelle aus dem manichäischen Psalmenbuch absieht. Als Zwischenergebnis ist festzuhalten, dass die Tradition vom Martyrium des Zebedaiden im kollektiven Gedächtnis der Christenheit des 2. Jahrhunderts genau dann stabil ist, wenn, wie bei Papias, Johannes ausdrücklich der Zebedaide ist und keine andere Johannes-Gestalt diese Erinnerung kontaminiert (was in der zweiten Hälfte des 2. Jahrhunderts – greifbar bei Irenäus und Clemens von Alexandreia, später auch bei Origenes – mit Nachdruck geschehen zu sein scheint). Die Belege im manichäischen Psalmenbuch und in den spätantiken Martyriologien, schließlich auch bei Philippos Sidetes und – viel später – Georgios Monachos, manifestieren eine schwache und uneinheitliche, aber umso interessantere Johannes-Erinnerung, die sich von der geradezu kanonisch gewordenen Gleichsetzung des ‚Zebedaiden‘ mit dem langlebigen ‚Geliebten 30

So M. Hengel, Die johanneische Frage (1993), 90-1 mit Anm. 290. Zum Folgenden M. Hengel, Die johanneische Frage (1993), 89; M.-É. Boismard, Le martyre de Jean l’apôtre (1996), 21-9; E. Norelli, Papia di Hierpolis (2005), 371-2. Die Verehrung beider Zebedaiden als Märtyrer (meistens am 27. oder 29. Dezember) scheint im frühen Mittelalter in der gallischen und der mozarabischen Liturgie etabliert gewesen zu sein. Zu den einschlägigen liturgischen Texten siehe M.-É. Boismard, Le martyre de Jean l’apôtre (1996), 15-45. 31



Jünger‘ und dem ‚Seher‘ nicht beirren ließ. Auch in diesen Texten ist ‚Johannes‘ ausdrücklich der ‚Zebedaide‘, und sofern er in dieser Eigenschaft mit seinem Bruder Jakobus in Verbindung steht, treten die Erinnerungsgestalten des ‚Sehers‘ und ‚Geliebten Jüngers‘ in den Hintergrund. Belege dafür finden sich aber, nach gegenwärtigem Kenntnisstand, nur bis ins frühe 2. Jahrhundert (Papias) und dann wieder – vereinzelt – im 3. Jahrhundert (manichäisches Psalmenbuch) und ab Mitte des 4. Jahrhunderts (Martyrologium von Nikomedeia).32 In der Zwischenzeit scheint die Tradition vom Martyrium des Johannes in der ‚Krypta‘33 der frühchristlichen Erinnerungskultur verschwunden zu sein und einer Tradition vom Nicht-Martyrium Platz gemacht zu haben, von der im Folgenden zu sprechen ist: II. Johannes als Nicht-Märtyrer Von den anderen Johannes-Gestalten – dem ‚Seher‘, dem ‚Geliebten Jünger‘ und dem ‚Presbyter‘ bieten die Texte des 1. Jahrhunderts keinen ausdrücklichen Hinweis auf eine Martyriumstradition. Ansatzpunkte gibt es dennoch: ● Am Ende der Ostererzählung von Joh 21, als Petrus sich – in knappsten Wor-

ten – für das weitere Geschick des Geliebten Jüngers zu interessieren versucht (Joh 21,21), wird anhand der Antwort Jesu (Joh 21,22) auf ein Gerücht Bezug genommen, wonach der ‚Geliebte Jünger‘ bis zur Wiederkunft Jesu nicht sterben werde; das Gerücht wird aber sogleich korrigiert (Joh 21,23).34 Daraus dürfte zu schließen sein, dass Joh 21 schon auf den Tod des ‚Geliebten Jüngers‘ zurückblickt – und dass es über seinen Tod nichts zu berichten gab, was mit dem Tod des Petrus vergleichbar gewesen wäre. ● Der Autor der Johannesapokalypse kennt mit Antipas einen Christen, dessen gewaltsamen Tod er als Folge des treuen Zeugnisses erklären kann (Offb 2,13), und in Offb 6,9-11 blickt er auf eine Gruppe von Menschen, die ‚wegen (διά) des Wortes Gottes und wegen des Zeugnisses, das sie hatten‘ (6,9) gewaltsam ums Leben gebracht wurden. Er selbst ist zwar als Autor seiner Schrift durchaus lebendig, aber er begründet in Offb 1,9 seinen Aufenthalt auf Patmos mit fast denselben Worten: ‚wegen (διά) des Wortes Gottes und des 32 Erhellend ist hier die Zusammenstellung patristischer Autoren bei M.-É. Boismard, Le martyre de Jean l’apôtre (1996), 47-58: Als Zeugen für die Tradition vom Martyrium des Johannes finden sich dort neben Papias nur Autoren des 4./5. Jahrhunderts (Gregor von Nyssa, Johannes Chrysostomos, Aphrahat, Quodvultdeus). Das manichäische Psalmenbuch würdigte Boismard hingegen keiner Erwähnung. 33 Einschlägig für dieses Konzept: Hubert Wolf, Krypta. Unterdrückte Traditionen der Kirchengeschichte (München, 2015), v.a. 21-7. 34 Siehe dazu auch Tertullian, An. 50,5: Obiit et Iohannes, quem in aduentum domini remansurum frustra fuerat spes (‚Auch Johannes starb, von dem man umsonst hoffte, er werde bis zur Ankunft des Herrn zurückbleiben‘).

Johannes, Märtyrer und Nicht-Märtyrer


Zeugnisses von Jesus‘. Dies wird in aller Regel so verstanden, dass Johannes im Zuge einer Strafmaßnahme, deren Anlass er in seinem christlichen Glauben sah, auf die Insel Patmos geriet.35 Bereits Justin hatte im Dialog mit Tryphon (Dial. 81,4) den ‚Seher‘ (bei ihm zugleich: ‚einer der Apostel Christi‘) seine Apokalypse in Ephesos schreiben lassen.36 Daraus wurde im späten 2. Jahrhundert eine veritable Legende, wonach der ‚Seher‘ – nunmehr identisch mit dem ‚Geliebten Jünger‘ und wohl auch mit dem ‚Zebedaiden‘ – nach dem Tod Kaiser Domitians von seinem Exilsort Patmos auf das Festland zurückkehren durfte (Clemens Al., QDS 42,2) und dann, hochbetagt, in Ephesos wohnhaft blieb (Irenäus, Haer. II 22,5) und dort auch verstarb und begraben wurde (Polykrates apud Euseb, Hist. Eccl. V 24,3). Von einem gewaltsamen Tod ist in all diesen Quellen – die mehrheitlich aus Asia stammen37 – keine Rede, und die Autoren scheinen das auch nicht als Problem empfunden zu haben. Vermutlich verstanden sie zwar ihren ‚Johannes‘ als Mitglied des Zwölferkreises, aber das war für sie noch kein Grund, die Erinnerungsgestalt des ‚Zebedaiden‘ mit allen Details (incl. Vorhersage des Martyriums) in diesen ‚Johannes‘ einzutragen. Erst im 3. Jahrhundert scheint dies klarer als Problem gesehen worden zu sein. Jetzt finden sich in der Literatur Ansätze, beim ‚Seher‘ und ‚Geliebten Jünger‘ den Mangel eines Martyriums wenigstens begrifflich zu kompensieren und zugleich den ‚Zebedaiden‘ stärker in die Erinnerungsgestalt ‚Johannes‘ einfließen zu lassen. Tertullian bringt in seiner Praescriptio Haereticorum (Praescr. 36,3) ein apartes Traditionsstück: Zunächst zählt er einige ‚apostolische‘ Kirchen als leicht erreichbare Horte des rechten Glaubens auf, darunter Rom: Tertullian, Praescr. 36,3 Ista quam felix ecclesia cui totam doctrinam Diese so glückliche Kirche, der die apostoli cum sanguine suo profuderunt, Apostel die ganze Lehre mit ihrem Blut hingeschüttet haben: ubi Petrus passioni dominicae adaequatur, wo Petrus dem Leiden des Herrn angeglichen wurde (sc. gekreuzigt), ubi Paulus Iohannis exitu coronatur,


wo Paulus mit dem Tod des Johannes gekrönt wurde (sc. enthauptet),

Siehe dazu auch S. Witetschek, Ephesische Enthüllungen 1 (2008), 304-9. Justin, Dial. 81,4: παρ᾿ ἡμῖν – nach Euseb, Hist. Eccl. IV 18,6 soll der Dialog in Ephesos stattgefunden haben. 37 Nur Clemens von Alexandreia hält sich hinsichtlich seiner Quelle bedeckt: In QDS 42,1 nennt er die Geschichte von der Begegnung des Johannes mit einem Räuber einen ‚Mythos‘, der jedoch ein wirklicher über den Apostel Johannes überlieferter ‚Logos‘ sei. Er verrät aber nicht, von wem dieser ‚Logos‘ überliefert wurde. 36



ubi Iohannes posteaquam in oleum igneum demersus nihil passus est, in insulam relegatur.

wo Johannes, nachdem er, in brennendes Öl eingetaucht, nichts erlitten hatte, auf eine Insel verbannt wurde.

Spätestens Hieronymus (Comm. in Matth. III, CChr.SL 77, 178, Z. 10711081 ad Mt 20,23; auch Adv. Iov., PL 23, Sp. 247C) deutete diese Tradition als Erfüllung der Martyriumsansage von Mt 20,23 (und Mk 10,39).38 Ähnliches leisten auch im 6. Jahrhundert die Virtutes Iohannis, wo das Ölmartyrium allerdings – wohl nach der ursprünglichen Form dieser Tradition – in Ephesos lokalisiert ist.39 Daraus folgte eine Wirkungsgeschichte, die sich, namentlich in Rom (San Giovanni a Porta Latina), bis in die frühe Neuzeit verfolgen lässt.40 Freilich ist die Bezeichnung ‚Ölmartyrium‘ für das von Tertullian beschriebene Ereignis eigentlich nicht sachgemäß, denn das Eintauchen in siedendes Öl führt bei Johannes gerade nicht zum Tod. Genau genommen, müsste man der Sache nach von einem ‚belohnenden Normenwunder‘41 sprechen, vergleichbar mit Dan 3. Dessen ungeachtet hatte Tertullian damit ein Ei des Kolumbus, denn er konnte so den ‚Geliebten Jünger‘ und ‚Seher‘, der zu seiner Zeit schon fest als der in Ephesos ansässige Verfasser des Johannesevangeliums etabliert war, nun wenigstens ansatzweise als ein Gewaltopfer um des Glaubens willen darstellen und noch dazu Johannes – gewissermaßen als dritten apostolischen Märtyrer – für Rom reklamieren. Auf dieser Grundlage gelang (spätestens) Hieronymus die Quadratur des Kreises, die Erfüllung der Martyriumsansage Mt 20,23 mit der Tradition vom auf Patmos exilierten und in hohem Alter in Ephesos verstorbenen ‚Johannes‘ zu vereinbaren.42 Einen ähnlichen Kunstgriff – wenngleich ohne ‚Ölmartyrium‘ – hatte auch Origenes schon unternommen. In seinem Matthäuskommentar (Comm. in Matth. t. XVI 6) interpretiert er das zwangsweise Exil des Johannes auf Patmos kurzerhand als ‚Trinken‘ und ‚Getauft-werden‘ im Sinne von Mt 20,23 und somit als Martyrium. 38 Zur spätantiken und mittelalterlichen Wirkungsgeschichte bis Joachim von Fiore siehe z.B. Julia Eva Wannenmacher, Hermeneutik der Heilsgeschichte. De Septem Sigillis und die Sieben Siegel im Werk Joachims von Fiore, Studies in the History of Christian Traditions 118 (Leiden, 2005), 64-5 mit Anm. 15. 39 Siehe Acta Iohannis. Praefatio – Textus, hrsg. von E. Junod und J.-D. Kaestli, CChr.SA 1 (Turnhout, 1983), 772, 775-9. 40 Dazu etwa R. Burnet, Les douze apôtres (2014), 379-80. 41 Gerd Theißen, Urchristliche Wundergeschichten. Ein Beitrag zur formgeschichtlichen Erforschung der synoptischen Evangelien, StNT 8 (Gütersloh, 1974), 115-7; ein neutestamentliches Beispiel wäre Apg 28,1-6. 42 Hieronymus, Comm. in Matth. III (CChr.SL 77) 178, 1076-81: Sed si legamus ecclesiasticas historias in quibus fertur quod et ipse propter martyrium sit missus in feruentis olei doleum et inde ad suscipiendam coronam Christi athleta processerit statimque relegatus in Pathmos insulam sit, uidebimus martyrio animum non defuisse et bibisse Iohannem calicem confessionis, quem et tres pueri in camino ignei biberunt licet persecutor non fuderit sanguinem.

Johannes, Märtyrer und Nicht-Märtyrer


Origenes, Comm. in Matth. t. XVI 6 πεπώκασι δὲ ποτήριον καὶ τὸ βάπτισμα ἐβαπτίσθησαν οἱ τοῦ Ζεβεδαίου υἱοί,

, tranken die Söhne des Zebedäus den Kelch und wurden mit der Taufe getauft,

ἐπείπερ Ἡρώδης μὲν ἀπέκτεινεν Ἱάκω- da ja Herodes „Jakobus, den βον τὸν Ἰωάννου μαχαίρᾳ, des Johannes, mit dem Schwert tötete“ (Apg 12,2), ὁ δὲ Ῥωμαίων βασιλεὺς (ὡς ἡ παράδοσις διδάσκει) κατεδίκασε τὸν Ἰωάννην μαρτυροῦντα διὰ τὸν τῆς ἀληθείας λόγον εἰς Πάτμον τὴν νῆσον. διδάσκει δὲ τὰ περὶ τοῦ μαρτυρίου ἑαυτοῦ Ἰωάννης, μὴ λέγων τίς αὐτὸν κατεδίκασε.

der Herrscher der Römer aber (wie die Überlieferung lehrt), den Johannes, der bezeugt hatte, um des Wortes der Wahrheit willen auf die Insel Patmos verbannte. Johannes unterrichtet über sein eigenes Martyrium, wobei er nicht sagt, wer ihn verbannt hat. (Offb 1,9-10).

Hier sind der ‚Seher‘ und der ‚Zebedaide‘ ein und dieselbe Person geworden. Indem aber Origenes die beiden Söhne des Zebedäus mit ihrem Geschick parallel darstellen will, tut sich das so entstandene Problem in seiner ganzen Schärfe auf: Wenn der Zebedaide Johannes zugleich der nach Patmos verbannte und im Übrigen sehr langlebige ‚Seher‘ ist, wird es für Origenes schwierig, für ihn eine Erfüllung der Martyriumsansage von Mt 20,23 zu finden. Er löst das Problem, indem er das Wort μαρτυρέω bzw. μαρτύριον etwas schillern lässt: Johannes wird, wie aus Offb 1,9 zu entnehmen ist, wegen seines Zeugnisses auf die Insel Patmos verbannt, aber dieses Exil gilt zugleich als Martyrium im technischen Sinn. Durch die Doppelbedeutung von μαρτύριον wird Johannes zum Märtyrer (‚Zebedaide‘), ohne selbst physische Gewalt erlitten zu haben (‚Seher‘). Die beiden Erinnerungsgestalten fügen sich bequem zu einer zusammen. Ein weiterer Text aus der Tradition vom Nicht-Martyrium des Johannes sind die so genannten Polykarp-Fragmente,43 die vom Martyrium des Polykarp von Smyrna handeln. Dabei handelt es sich um die Überreste von drei Seiten aus einem Papyrus-Codex des 7. Jahrhunderts, die wohl einen griechischen Text (frühestens) des 3. Jahrhunderts wiedergeben.44 Diese sehr fragmentarisch erhaltene Polykarp-Erzählung stellt einen Versuch dar, das Sterben des Märtyrerbischofs Polykarp von Smyrna in einen größeren Zusammenhang einzuordnen. Zu diesem Zweck führt der Text die Erinnerung an ein von Polykarp überliefertes Johannes-Wort ein: 43 Es handelt sich um ein koptisches Papyrus-Fragment, das in der British Library aufbewahrt wird (BL Or. 7561, no. 55, 56, 63, 64). Edition: Frederick W. Weidmann, Polycarp and John. The Harris Fragments and Their Challenge to the Literary Traditions, Christianity and Judaism in Antiquity 12 (Notre Dame, IN, 1999). 44 So die Einschätzung von F.W. Weidmann, Polycarp and John (1999), 10-1.



FrgPol (e) 55v ⲛⲉⲁⲩⲥⲱⲧⲘ ⲅⲁⲣ ⲉⲣⲟϥ ⲡⲉ Ⲛϩⲁϩ Ⲛⲥⲟⲡ,

Sie hatten ihn ja viele Male gehört,

ⲉϥϫⲱ Ⲙⲙⲟⲥ ϫⲉ ϩⲁⲠ⳰Ⲥ ⲉⲧⲣⲁⲙⲟⲩ Ϩ⳰Ⲙⲡⲇⲓⲕⲁⲥⲧⲏⲣⲓⲟⲛ ⲕⲁⲧⲁ ⲑⲉ ⲉⲛⲧⲁϥⲧⲁⲙⲟⲓ Ⲛϭⲓ ⲡⲁⲡⲟⲥⲧⲟⲗⲟⲥ Ⲙⲡϫⲟⲉⲓⲥ

wie er gesagt hatte: Nötig ist es, dass ich durch das Gericht sterbe, so wie es mir der Apostel des Herrn mitgeteilt hat,

ⲉϥϫⲱ Ⲙⲙⲟⲥ ϫⲉ ⲉⲡⲉⲓⲇⲏ ⲁⲡϫⲟⲉⲓⲥ ⲭⲁⲣⲓⲍⲉ ⲛⲁⲓ ⲉⲧⲣⲁⲙⲟⲩ [ⲉⲓ] ϩⲘⲡⲁϭⲗⲟϭ, ϩⲁⲡⲤ ⲉⲣⲟⲕ [ⲡⲉ] ⲉⲧⲣⲉⲕⲙⲟⲩ Ϩ⳰Ⲙⲡⲇⲓⲕⲁ[ⲥⲧ]ⲏⲣⲓⲟⲛ ϫⲉ ⲉⲣⲉⲟⲩϣⲱϣ […]

indem er sagte: Weil ja der Herr mir gewährt hat, dass ich in meinem Bett sterbe, ist es für dich nötig, dass du durch das Gericht stirbst, damit ein Ausgleich …

Hier tut sich eine dritte Verbindungslinie zwischen Johannes und Polykarp auf:45 Polykarp wurde in diesem Text (FrgPol [a] 63v) bereits eingeführt als Schüler des Johannes46 und als von Johannes als Bischof eingesetzt.47 Jetzt kommt hinzu – und darin scheint dieser Text innovativ zu sein –, dass Polykarp geradezu stellvertretend für Johannes als Märtyrer sterben muss. Damit löst dieser Text zwei Probleme: Zum einen erhält das Martyrium des Polykarp einen Sinn, welcher der Würde dieses Apostelschülers und ‚Lehrers der Asia‘ mehr als angemessen ist, zum anderen wird die Tradition vom friedlichen Ableben des Geliebten Jüngers mit der – bis dahin wohl schon weit verbreiteten – Vorstellung vereinbart, dass ein Apostel normalerweise auch ein Märtyrer sein müsse. Im Falle des Johannes wird das eigentlich zu erwartende apostolische Martyrium an den Schüler ausgelagert.48 Mehr noch: Das Nicht-Martyrium des Johannes wird auf eine Verfügung des Herrn zurückgeführt, die dem Johannes anscheinend schon zu Lebzeiten bekannt war. Damit erhält dieses Nicht-Martyrium formal die gleiche Dignität wie das Martyrium des Petrus nach Joh 21,18-9. Von der Randbemerkung in FrgPol [e] 55v abgesehen, wonach Johannes (der ‚Seher‘ und ‚Geliebte Jünger‘) in seinem Bett gestorben sei, scheint der Tod des Johannes in der Literatur des 2./3. Jahrhunderts kein großes Interesse auf sich gezogen zu haben. Wie oben gesehen, weiß Irenäus (Haer. II 22,5), dass besagter Johannes bis in die Zeit Kaiser Trajans (98-117) in Ephesos lebte, und Polykrates (apud Euseb, Hist. Eccl. V 24,3) weiß, dass er in Ephesos ruhe 45

Siehe auch F.W. Weidmann, Polycarp and John (1999), 133. Angedeutet wird dies auch bei Irenäus, Haer. III 3,4 und in seinem Brief an Florinus (apud Euseb, Hist Eccl. V 20,6); dann auch Euseb, Hist. Eccl. V 24,16. 47 Weniger spezifisch war noch Irenäus, Haer. III 3,4 (Euseb, Hist. Eccl. IV 14,3), wonach Polykarp ‚von Aposteln‘ eingesetzt worden sei (ὑπὸ ἀποστόλων κατασταθεὶς εἰς τὴν Ἀσίαν ἐν τῇ ἐν Σμύρνῃ ἐκκλησίᾳ ἐπίσκοπος); explizit auf Johannes zurückgeführt wird die Bischofswürde des Polykarp dann bei Tertullian, Praescr. 32,2. 48 Siehe auch F.W. Weidmann, Polycarp and John (1999), 52, 113-4. 46

Johannes, Märtyrer und Nicht-Märtyrer


(mithin bestattet sei). Erst in den Johannesakten49 liegt eine erzählerische Ausgestaltung vor, die diese Lücke füllt: Am Ende der Erzählung (ActJoh 110-115) wird ausdrücklich von seinem selbstbestimmten, gewaltlosen Tod erzählt. Nach einer Eucharistiefeier lässt Johannes einige seiner Anhänger vor den Toren von Ephesos beim Grab eines anderen Christen eine tiefe Grube ausheben, in die er selbst seine Kleider legt und sich selbst im Untergewand hineinstellt, um zu beten (ActJoh 110-111): Nach allgemein gehaltenen Anrufungen Jesu (112) blickt er – weiterhin im Modus der Anrufung Jesu – auf seine Berufung zur Jungfräulichkeit und seine Leben als Jünger Jesu zurück (113) und bittet um einen störungsfreien Hinübergang in die Gemeinschaft mit Jesus (114). Unmittelbar im Anschluss daran wird sein Sterben geschildert: ActJoh 115 Καὶ σφραγισάμενος ἑαυτὸν ὅλον ἑστὼς καὶ εἰρηκὼς· Σὺ μετ᾿ ἐμοῦ, κύριε Ἰησοῦ Χριστέ, κατεκλίθη ἐπὶ τοῦ σκάμματος ἔνθα τὰ ἱμάτια αὐτοῦ ὑπέστρωσεν· καὶ εἰπὼν ἡμῖν· Εἰρήνη ὑμῖν, ἀδελφοί, παρέδωκε τὸ πνεῦμα χαίρων.

Und nachdem er sich selbst ganz ‚besiegelt‘ hatte, sich hingestellt hatte und gesagt hatte: ‚Du (sei) mit mir, Herr Jesus Christus‘, legte er sich in der Grube nieder, worin er seine Kleider ausgebreitet hatte. Und nachdem er zu uns gesagt hatte: Friede euch, Brüder, übergab er mit Freude den Geist.

In dieser Version hat der Tod des Johannes überhaupt keinen äußeren Anlass; in ActJoh 110 sagt er selbst unvermittelt: ‚Auch mir möge ein Anteil zukommen mit euch und Friede, Geliebte!‘50 Direkt im Anschluss schickt er schon einen gewissen Verus mit zwei ‚Brüdern‘ los, um die Grube auszuheben. In der Sterbeszene (ActJoh 115) ist Johannes der einzig Aktive; er ist das Subjekt sämtlicher Verben. Sein Sterben selbst (παρέδωκε τὸ πνεῦμα χαιρῶν) wird in engster Anlehnung an das Sterben Jesu nach Joh 19,30 (καὶ κλίνας τὴν κεφαλὴν παρέδωκεν τὸ πνεῦμα) geschildert.51 49 Edition: Acta Iohannis. Praefatio – Textus, hrsg. von E. Junod und J.-D. Kaestli, CChr.SA 1 (Turnhout, 1983). 50 ActJoh 110: Κἀμοὶ μέρος ἔστω μεθ᾿ ὑμῶν καὶ εἰρήνη, ἀγαπητοί. 51 Die Wendung παρέδωκεν τὸ πνεῦμα beschreibt auch in den Andreasakten (ActAndr 63 [9]) den Tod des Andreas, ebenso in den Petrusakten (ActPetr 40/MartPetr 11,1) den Tod des Petrus. In den griechischen Thomasakten (ActThom 168) gibt es immerhin eine varia lectio mit dieser Wendung. Vermutlich stützen sich die Apostelakten jeweils auf die johanneische Darstellung des Todes Jesu. Im Falle des Paulus ist diese Umschreibung des Todes angesichts der Todesart weniger angemessen (siehe MartPaul 5,3). Editionen: ActAndr: Acta Andreae. Textus, hrsg. von J.-M. Prieur, CChr.SA 6 (Turnhout, 1989). MartPetr und MartPaul: Otto Zwierlein, Petrus in Rom. Die literarischen Zeugnisse, Untersuchungen zur antiken Literatur und Geschichte 96 (Berlin, New York, 2009, 22010), 337-449. ActThom: Acta Apostolorum Apocrypha II/2. Acta Philippi et Acta Thomae. Accedunt Acta Barnabae, hrsg. von Maximilian Bonnet (Leipzig, 1903; Reprint Darmstadt, 1959), 99-291.



Hier begegnen wir also einer offensiven Strategie im Umgang mit dem oben beschriebenen Mangel der Erinnerungsgestalt ‚Johannes‘: Der Autor der Johannesakten versucht gar nicht, ‚seinem‘ Johannes als Ersatz für das tatsächliche Martyrium eine analoge Erfahrung von Gewalt oder Unterdrückung zu verschaffen (wie etwa Tertullian und Origenes, s.o.).52 Er inszeniert gezielt einen friedlichen Tod ohne jegliche Fremdeinwirkung. Dennoch gelingt ihm durch die Wendung παρέδωκε τὸ πνεῦμα χαίρων eine Anlehnung an das Sterben Jesu – und so stirbt Johannes auch ohne Martyrium als vorbildlicher Apostel.53 Damit löst er sich von dem im 2. Jahrhundert (etwa Pol., Phil. 9,1) etablierten Axiom, wonach ein Apostel normalerweise zugleich Märtyrer sein müsse, kann aber zugleich ein Beispiel für einen guten Tod ohne Fremdverschulden vorführen – was vermutlich für viele Christen des 2./3. Jahrhunderts ein relevantes Identifikationsangebot war. Auffällig ist, dass der Begräbnisort des Johannes keine Rolle spielt (ähnlich wie das Begräbnis des Petrus in den Petrusakten ohne topographische Konturen bleibt, siehe ActPetr 40/MartPetr 11). Das fügt sich gut in die Charakteristik der Johannesakten: Die Handlung spielt über weite Strecken in Ephesos, doch die Erzählung ist weitgehend frei von spezifischem Lokalkolorit.54 Ephesos ist somit für die Johannesakten ein literarischer lieu de mémoire, aber der Text bietet keinen Ansatz zu einer spezifischen Erinnerungstopographie am realen Ort Ephesos.55 In der Gesamtschau zeigt sich, dass es eine starke Tradition vom friedlichen Tod des ‚Geliebten Jüngers‘ wie auch des ‚Sehers‘ gab, die sich gegenüber der Tradition vom Martyrium des ‚Zebedaiden‘ gut behauptete. Besonders bemerkenswert ist, dass Irenäus zwar das Werk des Papias und seine Beziehung zu ‚Johannes‘ durchaus kannte (Haer. V 33,4), jedoch die Tradition über das Martyrium des Johannes nicht übernahm, sondern seinen ‚Johannes‘ durchweg als den ‚Geliebten Jünger‘ einführte.56

52 In dem Textbestand, der für die früheste Fassung der Johannesakten in Anspruch zu nehmen ist (nach der Ausgabe von Junod/Kaestli) kommt auch Patmos nicht vor. 53 So auch F.W. Weidmann, Polycarp and John (1999), 136. Für R. Burnet, Les douze apôtres (2014), 378 ist in dieser Szene vor allem die Indifferenz gegenüber dem leiblichen Tod hervorzuheben. 54 Die einzige nennenswerte Ausnahme ist der Artemistempel in ActJoh 37-45, doch die Gestaltung dieser Episode macht es unwahrscheinlich, dass der Verfasser eine reale Anschauung von Ephesos hatte. 55 Der Befund ist analog zur Erinnerungstopographie des Petrus in Rom: Die Petrusakten des 2. Jahrhunderts bieten wenig Lokalkolorit, erst in der Martyriumserzählung des Ps.-Linus (2. Hälfte des 4. Jahrhunderts) findet man eine konkrete Vorstellung vom Todes- und Begräbnisort des Petrus – lange nachdem Gaius (apud Euseb, Hist. Eccl. II 25,7) sich sehr selbstbewusst auf das τρόπαιον des Petrus auf dem Vaticanus berufen hatte. Siehe dazu David L. Eastman, The Many Deaths of Peter and Paul, Oxford Early Christian Studies (Oxford, New York, 2019), 103-41 sowie den Beitrag von David Eastman in diesem Band, S. 107-16. 56 Das gleiche lässt sich für Eusebius feststellen; so etwa M.-É. Boismard, Le martyre de Jean l’apôtre (1996), 58.

Johannes, Märtyrer und Nicht-Märtyrer


III. Folgerungen für die Johannes-Memoria Wie gesehen, sind hinsichtlich des Martyriums in der christlichen Erinnerung an ‚Johannes‘ zwei Stränge festzustellen: Zunächst (jedenfalls im Markus- und Matthäusevangelium sowie bei Papias) verbindet sich mit Johannes, dem Sohn des Zebedäus, eine Martyriumstradition, die durch eine Vorhersage Jesu ihre Begründung und Dignität erhält. Im frühen 2. Jahrhundert treten neben bzw. vor diese Tradition die Erinnerungsgestalten des ‚Sehers‘ Johannes (Offb 1,9) und des ‚Geliebten Jüngers‘ (Joh 21), die beide kein Martyrium kennen. Mit beiden verband sich im Laufe des 2. Jahrhunderts die Gestalt des ‚Zebedaiden‘, die dem ‚Geliebten Jünger‘ einen Namen verschafte, doch die mit dem ‚Zebedaiden‘ verbundene Martyriumsüberlieferung scheint inhaltlich von der Gestalt des langlebigen ‚Geliebten Jüngers‘ überlagert worden zu sein. Erst am Anfang des 3. Jahrhunderts, als die Johannes-Gestalt schon eine geradezu kanonische Gestalt gewonnen hatte (etwa bei Irenäus), warf sich das Problem auf, die Martyriumsvorhersage von Mk 10,39 par. Mt 20,32 in das Bild dieses ‚Johannes‘ zu integrieren. Diese Integration läuft aber in aller Regel so, dass ein Substitut für das tatsächliche Martyrium eingeführt wird, sei es das so genannte ‚Ölmartyium‘ (Tertullian bzw. die von Tertullian aufgegriffene Tradition), sei es das Exil auf Patmos (Origenes), sei es das ersatzweise Martyrium des Polykarp (FrgPol). Doch kein Autor in der uns bekannten christlichen Literatur des 1.-3. Jahrhunderts scheint auf den Gedanken gekommen zu sein, dem ‚Geliebten Jünger‘ und ‚Seher‘ Johannes ein veritables Martyrium zu verschaffen – zu stark war der ‚frame‘ der Tradition vom gewaltlosen Tod des ‚Johannes‘. Im Falle des Johannes setzte sich also, gegenläufig zu dem, was man für das 2./3. Jahrhundert erwarten würde, die Tradition von seinem Nicht-Martyrium durch, die eng mit der Erinnerungsgestalt des ‚Geliebten Jüngers‘ verbunden ist. Die unkonventionelle Tradition setzte sich also durch und wurde bestimmend für die zusammengesetzte Erinnerungsgestalt ‚Johannes‘. Die Tradition vom Martyrium des Johannes (‚Zebedaide‘) verschwand zwar nicht völlig, aber sie blieb auf Randbereiche beschränkt (man denke an das manichäische Psalmenbuch). Es hat wohl seinen Grund, dass Philippos Sidetes und ein Abschreiber von Georgios Monachos das Martyrium des Johannes nicht als Tatsache referieren, sondern als Aussage des Papias. Angesichts dieser Entwicklung stellt sich das Wachstum der Apostel-Memoria in einem anderen Licht dar: Alle anderen Apostel werden im Laufe der vorkonstantinischen Zeit sukzessive zu Märtyrern, nur Johannes wird mit Nachdruck zum Nicht-Märtyrer. Möglich war dies nur, weil der ‚Zebedaide‘ Johannes weithin von der Erinnerungsgestalt des ‚Geliebten Jüngers‘ absorbiert wurde. Insofern ist an dem von Jürgen Becker festgestellten Konstruktionsprinzip der frühchristlichen Johannestradition (‚Personen gleichen Namens werden zu einer Person‘)57 eine Modifikation 57 Jürgen Becker, Johanneisches Christentum. Seine Geschichte und Theologie im Überblick (Tübingen, 2004), 48.



anzubringen: Der ‚Geliebte Jünger‘ erhält einen Namen, doch die mit diesem Namen verbundene Tradition tritt (zunächst) in den Hintergrund. Wenn sie wieder auftaucht (wohl am Anfang des 3. Jahrhunderts), wird sie zum Problem, dessen Lösung einige exegetische Akrobatik erfordert. Das Hauptproblem scheint in dem enormen Gewicht der Erinnerungsgestalt ‚Geliebter Jünger‘ zu liegen.58 Vermutlich war seine Bedeutung als Gewährsmann des Johannesevangeliums (eben als Johannes-Evangelium) so groß, dass die christliche Erinnerungskultur, die in diesem ‚geistlichen‘ Evangelium den authentischen Ausdruck ihres Glaubens erkannte, auf den ‚Geliebten Jünger‘ mit all seinen Facetten nicht verzichten wollte. Der Preis dafür: Gerade ein Apostel, dessen Martyrium schon im späten 1. Jahrhundert fester Bestandteil seines Erinnerungsbildes war, verlor seine Martyriumsüberlieferung. Allem Anschein nach war das Gesamtbild von ‚Johannes‘, das die Quellen des 2./3. Jahrhunderts uns vermitteln, diesen Preis wert.

58 Entsprechend kommt S. McDowell, The Fate of the Apostles (2015), 155-6, 263-4 zu dem historischen Befund, dass ein Martyrium des Apostels Johannes ‚improbable‘ sei. Grundlage dieser Einschätzung ist ein maximalistisch-harmonisierendes Bild der historischen Gestalt ‚Johannes‘, in dem die oben genannten Erinnerungsfiguren ‚Geliebter Jünger‘ und ‚Zebedaide‘ zusammenfließen, wobei der ‚Zebedaide‘ dem ‚Geliebten Jünger‘ einen Namen gibt, aber im Übrigen von diesem überlagert wird.

The End of the Apostles: A Brief Response to Some Inspiring Essays Joseph VERHEYDEN, Catholic University of Leuven, Leuven, Belgium

The corpus I have been asked to respond to consists of six essays by five authors on five ‘heroes’ of the Christian faith, four of which died a violent death that qualifies as a martyr’s death. I will first focus on the essays dealing with the primary apostles, Paul and Peter, then with the two on Andrew and Thomas, and end with the essay on John. All six essays are well documented and illustrate that their authors have put much efforts and energy in their work. Not all of them pay equal attention to the theoretical framework, but by and large one can say that they have all made an effort to include a more theoretical section on memory culture or martyrdom literature. I begin with the essay by Markus Kirchner on the note about the passing away of Paul that is found in 1Clement (5:5-7). Kirchner’s essay consists of two parts. In the first, shorter, one he offers some thoughts on how ancient authors looked at an individual’s death. Two basic aspects or convictions are to be singled out. The first aspect has to do with the person whose death is related. It is assumed that there exists a close link between one’s life and the manner of one’s death. Kirchner illustrates this conviction with a passage from Valerius Maximus and speaks of death as a mirror of one’s life. Vile persons will die a vile death, noble ones a noble death. Death summarises one’s life, shows its value and offers proof of it. The second aspect has to do with the communal dimension. Remembering a hero’s (or for that sake, I guess also a villain’s death) can become a way to give a community its identity. The hero becomes an ‘Erinnerungsfigur’, a character worthy to be remembered because his life and his death are a model for the community to be followed. Both the formative and the normative aspect of this process is of importance. Remembering the death of a hero and identifying with it is a way to keep the community together and a lasting example for directing one’s life. Kirchner applies this framework to the short passage in 1Clement that deals with the death of Paul. It is part of a longer section on the death of biblical figures as a consequence of envy and jealousy that threatens to rip a community apart. Paul is given a place in this list, as is Peter. The passage is built around three elements: Paul’s ministry, his suffering for the faith, and his endurance, all of these ruled by strife and jealousy. His death is made part of this triad. Paul endured life, and he endured his death. His ministry is evoked

Studia Patristica CVII, 135-145. © Peeters Publishers, 2021.



most briefly: he taught righteousness, by which the author most probably means justification by faith. Not a word is said of the details of Paul’s teaching or of the extent of his mission, except that it covered ‘the whole world’ and was brought and defended also before the rulers of that world, hence in trial and suffering. Paul is said to be ‘a model of endurance’, which Kirchner interprets in an even stronger way in translating it as ‘an archetype’. Reading the passage in the perspective laid out in the first part of the essay, the message the author wishes to convey, according to Kirchner, is first that Paul accepted his death as he had accepted suffering in his life – in both instances for the sake of faith, and second that the community is supposed to imitate Paul in this and in turn become a model for others to follow. I have three comments. First, Paul’s death is alluded to in an invective against the lethal consequences of allowing in strife and jealousy. Paul is praised as a model of endurance and his attitude can be a model for the community, but he is not so much mentioned here as a model to solve the problem Clement is addressing than as a victim of what is causing trouble in Corinth. Paul was sacrificed to strife and envy; others may suffer the same fate. Clement is pointing out a danger, not offering a solution. His message is not that those in the community who fell victim of assaults and insults should endure, as he will make clear later on, but that the perpetrators should become aware of the tragedy they may be causing. When Paul is offered as an example for the community later on in the letter (47:1-3), it is not his heroic death that is recalled or evoked. Second, Kirchner makes little of the fact that Paul’s death is not really told, but rather hinted at, and this in terms that do not allow the reader to conclude how the apostle precisely met his end. Paul ‘was set free from this world and transported up to the holy place’. This is not the account of a martyr’s death, but an interpretation of it. There is nothing wrong with that, but it leaves one wondering why nothing concretely is said about the former. Did the author not know about the details, or were they deemed to be of no importance? Or where they left out because they were thought to be problematic for the overall picture? If Paul was executed by the sword, perhaps after a (fair) trial, as later tradition would have it, this might cast a shadow on his character. Instead of focusing on the facts, the author prefers to emphasise the attitude Paul took at the moment of his death that had also characterised his life. The decision might reflect the author’s unease with the facts. But then it raises the question whether he opted for the best interpretation. Endurance is a fine virtue for those who are persecuted, but what other sources tell us about Paul’s handling of his trial shows a different picture. Maybe in the end he may have given in to his fate, but only after he had done his utmost to defend himself and escape it. In short, the purpose for mentioning Paul in this section has completely taken the upper hand over the interest in the historical development.

The End of the Apostles


Third, it is a pity that Kirchner does not mention at all the preceding section in 1Clem. 5:4 on Peter’s death. It is shorter than the one on Paul, but equally impressive and equally vague about the details of the apostle’s death. One difference stands out, however: Peter is not called a model or archetype. Is this because his death was thought to be even more shameful? But then Paul himself had shown in his letter to the Corinthians that the most shameful death in the eyes of men can be the most honourable one in the eyes of God. Or is Paul especially singled out as he is the hero-apostle of the Corinthian community, the recipients of Clement’s letter, which is certainly not improbable? That said, Kirchner’s is a fair, though in my opinion not fully convincing, attempt at reading the little section in 1Clement in light of the noble death motif that is so well attested in ancient literature. It also shows that the oldest known reference to Paul’s fate was not so much intent on relating as on interpreting a martyr’s story. From Paul to Peter then, and to Stephan Witetschek’s substantial essay on the oldest evidence for the latter’s fate. Witetschek offers a balanced presentation of ten passages from writings, most of these dating to the second century, that all speak about or allude to the death of Peter. This presentation, which forms the major part of his essay, is followed by a short conclusion which presents the results of his analysis in a table that also contains a few passages from third-century authors and which addresses two aspects from the story about Peter’s death in more detail (under Nero and predicted by Jesus). Witetschek is not interested in establishing the historicity of the death of Peter or the details about it in the witnesses, but rather in tracing out how the collective memory about Peter’s fate was passed on and developed among various communities. That is a marked difference from many other such surveys of the evidence that are above all focused on demonstrating the authenticity of the elements related in the story of Peter. It is a viable approach in light of the problems there are in dating most of these witnesses and drawing lines of dependence between some of them. Witetschek therefore also duly emphasises that the order in which he presents them does not evoke any clear decision on his part about the date of these writings. I have five comments. First, the list of witnesses. Witetschek relies on the list of passages discussed by R. Bauckham almost thirty years ago and notes that ‘no new relevant sources have been discovered in the meantime’ (p. 78). That may be correct, but perhaps some old sources have been overlooked. In Matt. 23:34 Jesus tells the audience about the fate that will be met by those sent by him. Q identifies them as ‘prophets and sages’ (CEQ, Q 11:49). Luke speaks of ‘prophets and apostles (messengers?)’, Matthew of ‘prophets, sages, and scribes’. It is not clear whether Matthew’s present tense (if correct) or Luke’s future of the verb ‘to send’ represents the original reading, but in both cases Jesus speaks of something that is happening, or about to happen, and not about



the past. So, the prophets and co are not just figures of Israel’s past as in Matt. 23:30-1 (par. Luke 11:47-8); they are meant to refer to the present or future. That would allow for the apostles to be included in the list. If so, Matthew’s redaction of Q with regard to the description of the fate of the ‘messengers’ receives a new perspective. He expands on Q’s general ‘to kill and to persecute’ with more concrete forms of killing and harassing, including ‘being scourged in your synagogues’ and ‘being persecuted from town to town’, both elements that elsewhere in his gospel are said of the disciples (Matt. 10:17, 23). On that basis one may wonder if the mention of ‘being crucified’ in v. 34, as the sole specification of ‘being killed’, might not be taken as an indirect reference to the fate of at least one of the apostles. Peter is not mentioned by name, no one is mentioned, but he is known in slightly later tradition to have been executed in this way. So, maybe one more passage, and a very early one, is to be added to the list. Second, Witetschek is well aware of the fact that several of the passages cited offer only circumstantial evidence, in some case even of quite disputable quality. It may be useful for the sake of completeness to include in the list Polycarp’s Letter to the Philippians (Pol., Phil. 9:1-2) and Ignatius’ Letter to the Romans (Ign., Rom. 4:3), and even that to the Smyrneans (Ign., Smyrn. 3:2), which is not mentioned for itself but as part of the section on Ign., Rom., but apparently they hardly contain any useful or reliable information. That is perhaps not a problem in itself, but it has consequences for the approach Witetschek favours, as I will show in the next comment. Third, Witetschek, quite wisely, does not try to trace and reconstruct the oldest version of the story, which is indeed hardly possible on the basis of the material available. He starts, with good reason, from the assumption that no one probably had an interest in speculating about the circumstances of Peter’s death or in inventing such a story, but that from a certain moment on, most plausibly right after the facts, information about his death was circulating in Christian tradition and communities. It means that the evidence we have is to be treated as that of witnesses and not of creators of the story, at least not in its core, though it remains a reasonable question to ask what this would have looked like (e.g., was Nero mentioned by name, or is this a later addition?). This is not a moot question if one wants to reconstruct how the story was received and remembered. So, after all, Witetschek should perhaps have pushed this point a bit more. Fourth, the starting point (there is a story, but we do not know how it looked like) leads to the rather paradoxical situation that the most vaguely formulated testimonies in a sense become the strongest witnesses for the death of Peter, because their authors do not think it is necessary to remind their audience/ readers of any of the details but presuppose this is all well known by everyone. At least, that is how Witetschek presents things in these instances. This is of course not impossible, but it makes one feel slightly uneasy and one would at

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least like to hear the reason why these witnesses decided to skip most of the details. Fifth and last, a word on the table and the comments on one particular topic. The helpful table (p. 101) presents the overall results from the analysis, adding four more passages from a more recent date to the list (Acts of Peter, two testimonies from Tertullian and one from Origen). It distinguishes no less than eight elements in the story. A couple of these are attested only rarely and only in the more recent texts (Peter crucified upside down and at his own wish; killed together with Paul). The focus of the table is exclusively on content. In light of Witetschek’s interest in collective memory, one would have wished to find here also some comments on the differences in selecting and using specific elements of the story at the expense of others. In fairness, one comes across a couple of such observations in the analysis of some of the passages, but this aspect is not really systematically worked out as one might perhaps have expected, though it remains true that this is easier said than done. Two elements are singled out for some final comments in this last part of the essay. One is the mention of the emperor Nero, the other that of the prediction of Peter’s death by Jesus. Unlike the former, the latter is well attested in witnesses before the Acts of Peter (most clearly in the Apocalypse of Peter and the Gospel of John, less so in 2Peter and in the Apocryphon of James, if the latter indeed precedes the Acts). In the Acts the motif may be in the background of the famous Quo vadis scene, though it is not directly addressed (the only motif that is utterly missing in this witness is that of the company of Paul). Witetschek surmises that the motif shows a need for explaining the death of Peter ‘at a high level. It was understandable if predicted by Jesus – but for no lesser reason’ (p. 104). That is possible, though why would people have felt this was necessary for Peter but not for Paul? And why is the motif, if it is so all-important, just forgotten about by other witnesses. It may point to a quite interesting theological reason why this particular motif is retained in some witnesses and obscured in others. One is perhaps entitled to ask in how far it was really part of the ‘collective’ memory, or just that of certain groups. These comments notwithstanding, Witetschek offers a fine survey of the evidence in the commonly cited sources for the motif of the death of Peter. Peter, in particular his burial, is the subject of a second essay, this one by David Eastman, a specialist of the martyrdom traditions of Peter and Paul in late antiquity. Eastman’s essay is a summary of his recent book and picks up where Witetschek left. He looks at three accounts of the burial of Peter, starting with the Martyrdom at the end of the Acts of Peter and adding to it two more recent, equally anonymous accounts, one of the later fourth century (PseudoLinus, Martyrdom of Blessed Peter the Apostle) and the other of the fifth or sixth century (Pseudo-Marcellus, Passion of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul). Each of the later accounts contains a couple of elements that also occur in the



preceding one(s), but there is no reason to think of literary dependence. Eastman is interested in three aspects: the connection with the city of Rome, or more specifically, with the site of the Vatican, the role of Nero in the execution of Peter, and the description of his tomb. The Martyrdom is silent about each of these elements. Pseudo-Linus knows about a burial on or near to the Vatican hill, but does not grant Nero a part in the death of Peter, much to the regret of the emperor who is frustrated to hear about it afterwards. Pseudo-Marcellus offers information on all three motifs but is remarkably sober in referring to the tomb of Peter, which in the Acts and even more so in Pseudo-Linus is described in the most magnificent way. I have three comments. First, Pseudo-Linus magnifies and beautifies the burial ceremonial and the dimensions of the tomb far beyond what is found in the Acts. That is in itself not extraordinary with this kind of process in which the hero becomes ever more grandiose. But one wonders how this must have been received by the original readers/audience and who these may have been. The account of Pseudo-Linus is written in Latin and in a time there existed already a basilica for Peter in Rome. People must have been anxious to visit the ‘new sarcophagus’ Pseudo-Linus says Peter was buried in. Was there really such a sarcophagus on display in the church, or was the intended audience (and the author) simply not capable of checking this in any way? The latter seems strange for a text from the West. The story only works on condition that it can be checked or at least that ‘something’ can be shown. Eastman does not address this question. Second, Eastman tries to understand the differences between the accounts in terms of competition. Theoretically that may well have been the case, but the question remains, who was competing with whom and for what? The fact that Marcellus plays a different role in the third account is of less importance than the observation that the tomb is described differently from Pseudo-Linus. Maybe ‘competition’ is not the correct category. There are no indications to suggest that the intended readership of the third account was familiar with the first and/or the second one. So ‘competition’ there is only for one who has access to all three versions. Third, the different information that can be gathered from Pseudo-Linus and Pseudo-Marcellus on the tomb of Peter may reflect differences in opinion over time on what people imagined (or knew) this tomb looked like, hence reflect a lack of concrete knowledge in subsequent generations. But one thing they have in common: people remained interested in the issue and kept looking for the grave, a venture that found a new apogee in the twentieth century, as Eastman briefly describes in the opening pages of his essay. Florian Rösch has studied the martyrdom account of Thomas ‘the Twin’ in the apocryphal Acts of Thomas (ATh) and further evidence pointing to his death in other witnesses. His essay consists of four parts: a presentation of the

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witness given by Heracleon in a passage preserved by Clement of Alexandria and by Origen in his Commentary on Genesis; a summary of the account in ATh; an analysis of ATh for what it contains of parallels or allusions to the gospel accounts of the trial and suffering of Jesus; and a concluding section of a more theoretical nature dealing with memory theory. That makes for a coherent essay highlighting quite various aspects of the subject. My comments focus on the first, third and fourth section. First the witnesses external to ATh. Rösch does not include John 11:16 in this section, but treats it separately, though rather too briefly, in the introduction. He points out the difference in meaning among scholars in concluding whether this verse should be taken as a firm statement on Thomas’ aspiration to martyrdom or by contrast as a clear sign of the apostle’s naïve and somewhat clueless faith, comparable to that of Peter in 13:37 and in other gospels. Rösch decidedly goes with the first option, but does not offer any argument besides citing Beutler in his favour. In light of the equally ambiguous (or negative?) way Thomas is pictured in John 20, one wonders if his choice is perhaps not a bit too hasty. The fragment from Clement’s Stromata shows Heracleon warning against putting too much emphasis on the soteriological effect of martyrdom; it is not that he considers it worthless, but it is not a necessary condition for being saved. Thomas and a couple of other apostles are cited as proof. Rösch concludes from it that this probably indicates that Heracleon did not yet know about a story of the apostle’s martyr’s death, rather than that he was trying to refute such a claim. But perhaps there is another explanation. Rösch refers to Clement’s opinion somewhat later in the text, but unfortunately he does not cite it and one has to go back to the broader context to get a fuller picture of what Clement is doing. Clement does not directly tackle Heracleon’s position, but he obviously did not cite him for mere antiquarian reasons. In Strom. 4.75.1 Clement states as his own opinion that all the apostles ‘drank the same cup’ as Jesus. That cannot mean anything else than that he believes all the apostle died a (form of) martyr’s death, including Thomas. Heracleon is cited to be objected. Clement does not say that he knows about ‘a story’, but he accepts as a natural conclusion that Thomas died a martyr on the basis of the very words of Jesus as related in the gospels. Heracleon stands for the opposite opinion – the wrong one. It is not about a story – there may not yet be circulating any such story, but about the interpretation of a saying of Jesus. Second, the Thomas – Jesus parallels. I like many aspects of the analysis but wonder if the evidence is so strong and so exclusive as Rösch seems to think. Of course, Thomas continues Jesus’ work, as do all the apostles; and this may involve a violent death, as was the case with others. The fact that Thomas is said to be Jesus’ ‘twin brother’ adds a special dimension but does not make him unique. So I would have liked to see this point to be stressed a bit more. In addition, Rösch may have overstated some of the parallels. The first one he mentions is the motif of betraying the victim for money. The twist ATh gives



to this motif is all-important: now it is Jesus who does the sell-out, and this for three bars of silver, for which part of the Syriac version reads ‘twenty pieces of silver’ and one manuscript ‘thirty’, a clear allusion to Judas in Matt. 27:2, but most probably a later adaptation as Rösch admits. The twenty pieces is the amount for which Joseph was sold in Gen. 37:28. That leaves us with ‘three bars’ or ‘twenty pieces of silver’ and no clear idea which of the two is the original, and only a faint allusion to the story of Jesus’ betrayal. So if parallelism there is, and if intended, the author of ATh did his best to bring it with a twist that both complicates the parallel (Jesus becomes Judas) and introduces an aspect (the Joseph story) that is not hinted at in the gospel accounts of Jesus’ trial. It is all less straightforward than one might think, even if several of the other parallels are more convincing. Third, the application of memory theory. ATh offers an extensive account of Thomas’ martyr’s death and is our first witness for it. Previous authors do not seem to have known any kind of story about the apostle meeting his end. It is then a bit audacious or gratuitous to say that there existed ‘divergent opinions on the end of Thomas’ life’ (p. 74) that came together in the account of ATh. No evidence is cited to support this. Rather, what we see is the creation of a story in a particular community that apparently cherishes this apostle in a special way for reasons that may have to do with the message of encratic asceticism ATh wishes to convey, but of which we do not know if it was also meant to promote the apostle and the message outside of that community, nor whether it was conceived to counter alternative stories about the apostle’s fate. Again, I am afraid the (lack of) evidence does not allow us to say much more about the origins of the story. That said, I should emphasise, by way of conclusion, that there is quite some interesting material here that is worth considering. From Jesus’ twin to Peter’s brother then. Cedric Büchner studies the martyrdom account of the apostle Andrew in the Acts of Andrew (AA). I liked his approach of addressing the issue in terms of strategy, or rather, strategies, in the plural, for Büchner distinguishes no less than four strategies at work in the way the apostle’s martyrdom is told in the Acts. These four are: a narrative strategy, a success strategy, a passionate one, and an access strategy. The titles may look somewhat esoteric and I am not sure I have always seen the link between the title and the content of the section (see below). The overall thesis is that AA wishes to present and commemorate the apostle above all as a martyr, one ‘who throughout the entire course of action bears witness to his message, which leads him to death’ (p. 52). The thesis is sound, though of course not particularly unique for AA. My comments have to do with the four ‘strategies’. With ‘narrative strategy’ Büchner seems to mean that AA is a text: it offers a literary account of the apostle’s death and not an iconographic or artistic one. It seems trivial, and I

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am not sure I see the point he wishes to make. One thing that comes out of the section is that the perhaps most famous aspect of Andrew’s death – his being crucified on an X-shaped cross – is not found in AA, but in a much later troparium, and there (only) in a figurative, not a narrative form. It is perhaps good to be remembered of this, but above all it shows that the narrative aspect is not always the more influential one. The martyrdom takes an important part in AA, to the point that the latter is defined as a kind of passion story (p. 42) and that the martyrdom part has been transmitted in various forms, also separately, as proof of its popularity. If that is what Büchner means by ‘success strategy’, the name is perhaps a bit misleading, as the success is not part of the strategy, but rather a consequence of a decision to focus on the death of the apostle. In any case, part of what is dealt with in this section does not seem to have to do with ‘success’. The names of some of the protagonists are perhaps well chosen – Andrew is indeed courageous, and Aegeates may allude to the Aegean (but what is the point?) –, but it remains unclear how this is to be linked to ‘success’. Under the heading ‘passionate strategy’ Büchner comes to speak of AA’s understanding of the meaning of death and its dualistic worldview in general. Death is the only true and trustworthy way to escape this world and its rulers. Death separates the material from the immaterial, the only one that really matters. AA may be ‘passionate’ about this, but is this strategy or just plain conviction? Finally, the ‘access strategy’. By this Büchner means that the account of the apostle’s death as a result of his struggle with the demonic forces of this world, represented by Aegeates and his connection with the sea, offers an access for the reader to the figure of the apostle and the meaning of martyrdom in general. I guess that is indeed what the author of AA is aiming for, though I am not sure it includes the message that ‘death, especially martyrdom, is something to be welcomed’ (p. 52). Is it not rather something that remains to be feared and not sought? The ‘strategy’ approach is innovative, even if I am not sure I was always on the same page with the author, on condition that some aspects of it are perhaps formulated more clearly. Finally, after four martyrdoms, a normal burial. Witetschek’s second essay, on John as ‘a martyr and a non-martyr’, deals with the singular position John takes among the apostles as the only one not to have died a violent death, at least according to part of the tradition. Witetschek reviews the evidence ‘pro and con’ in the ancient witnesses and adds a few theoretical comments to it. He also duly points out the complexity of the figure of ‘John’, whose name in tradition may refer to four different historical persons. I offer a few comments on each of the three parts. First, the evidence ‘pro’. John suffering a violent death, as the core feature of being a martyr, is alluded to in the gospels of Mark and Matthew, without, however, giving any further



information on how and when this would have happened. Papias picked up on this, merely adding, without giving any evidence for it, that the culprits responsible for the death of John and James were ‘the Jews’. Not much can be gained from Heracleon’s fragment in Clement of Alexandria or from Polycarp’s Letter to the Philippians, and the same is true for the letter of Polycrates of Ephesus. The one exception is a mysterious fragment from the so-called Manichean Psalm Book that speaks of John as ‘the virginal one’ and has him die a death of exhaustion after being incarcerated without food for two weeks. The origin or purpose of such a story remain obscure. Witetschek is right when he calls this ‘eine schwache und uneinheitliche’ tradition (p. 125), but he remains silent about the possible reasons for this and the use of such a way of referring to the apostle. Could it express hesitation to send John, ‘the Beloved Disciple’, down the same path as his companion apostle (and rival) Peter? But what would be gained by it? He died a violent death, but in his case the details do not matter? John stands above such things as becoming a martyr? Rivalry, or a concern to elevate John to a level that not even Peter or Paul could reach, seems to be the reason why other ancient authors tried to ignore or utterly disclaim any allusions to John’s death, or stronger still, make him a figure that conquers his own martyrdom. This is the case with Tertullian who compares the fate of Peter, Paul and John (Praescr. 36.3), noting that the latter survived the most horrible torture with boiling oil; the fact that Tertullian situates the ‘martyrdom’ in Rome adds to the comparison and the distinction. Origen makes a similar comparison, now between the two brothers, of which one dies a martyr’s death by the sword, while the other is ‘merely’ expelled and survives (CommMatt 16.6). A different sort of comparison is made by the author of the fragmentary Coptic account of the martyrdom of Polycarp (maybe based on a Greek original) when he opposes the violent death of his protagonist to John’s peaceful death ‘in his own bed’ and, moreover, has the latter take the role of Jesus predicting Peter’s death in John’s gospel. It seems that the comparative aspect is important to all of these witnesses. The one exception are the Acts of John which have John die a peaceful death in a tomb of his own. Witetschek points out this comparative aspect, but does not really discuss its function and purpose. What could be the reason for this more successful alternative? Witetschek suggests that it may be the consequence of the enormous importance John was given as a witness to the ministry of Jesus and the guarantee of the gospel that went under his name (p. 134). That is possible, though such a witness role was also claimed for Peter (through Mark’s Gospel) and a heroic martyr’s death would certainly not have hampered his role as a witness to his own gospel. Rivalry between the apostles may have played a role and would explain why John’s Gospel ends (originally, or with an epilogue that was added shortly after) with an episode on Peter’s future ending, but not on that of John. But in later time perhaps another factor may have played a role. Martyrdom is not

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limited to suffering a violent death for one’s faith; it can also refer to bearing witness for the faith, and (miraculously or fortunately) survive the threat. The need for distinguishing between martyr and confessor may have been around before one started to use different terms. The Church in any case needed models for both types of ‘martyrdom’. John was fortunate enough to be chosen to represent the second category – those who suffered torture but were left alive. These few comments may hopefully offer some additional thoughts for readers of the corpus of articles I have dealt with on these pages. Personally I enjoyed reading the articles, the different aspects that were brought out, all while subsuming the whole under the one umbrella of collective memory, and the challenges and inspiration they offered me to compose this response. I wish the members of the ‘Memoria Apostolorum’ project success with their research and hope soon to see more results coming out of their explorations of these ancient witnesses testifying to the beginnings of a great tradition of commemorating representatives of the oldest generation of Christians that has proven to be so popular in the Church for so long already.







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