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The Fate of the Dead in Early Third Century North African Christianity: The Passion of Perpetua and Felicitas and Tertullian

Table of contents :
Preface ……………………………………………………………………. V II
Chapter 1: Introduction –
The Certainty and Uncertainty of Death ……………………........ 1
Chapter 2: Previous Scholarship on the Passion of Perpetua …… 5
A. Who Was Perpetua? ……………………………………………………… 5
B. The Latin and Greek Texts of the Passion of Perpetua …………………... 6
C. The Passion of Perpetua as a Popular Text …………………………….. 8
D. Genre and Literary Features …………………………………………… 10
E. The Authorial Authenticity of the Text …………………………………... 12
F. The Dating of the Text …………………………………………………... 18
G. The Identity of the Editor ……………………………………………….. 19
H. Is the Passion of Perpetua ‘Orthodox’ or ‘Montanist’? ……………….. 22
I. The Passion of Perpetua as Ideological Subversion:
Social and Feminist Perspectives ………………………………………….. 26
J. Observations on the Concept of Mysticism ……………………………… 33
K. The Passion of Perpetua and the Afterlife ……………………………… 36
Chapter 3: The Afterlife of the Righteous in Early Christianity 39
A. Introduction ………………………………………………...…………… 39
B. Early Christian Material Evidence ………………………...…………… 39
C. The Afterlife Before Perpetua: Literary Evidence ……………………… 44
I. The New Testament ………………………………………………….. 44
1. The Soul …………………………………………………………... 44
2. Resurrection ………………………………………………………. 45
3. Ascent …………………………………………………………….. 48
4. Canonical Apocalyptic Literature ………………………………… 52
II. The Early Church Fathers …………………………………………… 54
1. The ‘Apostolic Fathers’ …………………………………………... 54
2. The Apologists of the Second Century …………………………… 59
III. Gnosticism ………………………………………………………….. 63
D. The Afterlife After Perpetua: Literary Evidence ………………………... 69
I. Cyprian ……………………………………………………………….. 69
II. Origen ……………………………………………………………….. 71
III. Augustine …………………………………………………………… 74
IV.Anthony of the Desert ………………………………………………. 75
E. Conclusion ………………………………………………………………. 78
Chapter 4: Perpetua’s Ascent – Contexts and Sources …………. 79
A. Introduction ……………………………………………………………... 79
B. Canonical Biblical Sources …………………………………………….. 80
C. The Ladder and the Dragon: Where Do They Come From? …………… 84
D. The Passion of Perpetua Within the Context of
Jewish Apocalyptic Literature ……………………………………………. 89
I. Background …………………………………………………………… 89
II. Jewish Apocalyptic Influences ………………………………………. 90
E. Broader Background Considerations:
The Motif of Ascent in Philo and Clement …………………………………. 93
I. Judaeo-Hellenistic Ascent in Philo …………………………………… 94
II. Clement of Alexandria ………………………………………………. 97
F. The Ascent Motif in the Broader Graeco-Roman World ……………….. 99
G. Perpetua’s Education …………………………………………………. 103
Chapter 5: The Afterlife in the Passion of Perpetua
and in the Works of Tertullian ……………………………… 109
A. Introduction: Perpetua and Tertullian ………………………………… 109
B. Eschatology and the Afterlife in the Passion of Perpetua ……………... 109
I. The Afterlife in the Passion of Perpetua and
the Judaeo-Christian Apocalyptic Tradition …………………………… 114
C. Eschatology and the Afterlife in the Writings of Tertullian …………… 117
I. Did Tertullian Change His Views? ………………………………….. 123
D. Conclusions ……………………………………………………………. 126
Chapter 6: Refrigerium and the Roman Cult of the Dead
in the Passion of Perpetua ………………………………….. 129
A. Introduction ……………………………………………………………………. 129
B. The Archaeological Context:
What the Literary Evidence May Not Tell Us ……………………………. 130
C. Refrigerium: The State of Play ………………………………………… 139
D. Refrigerium in the Passion of Perpetua …………………………………… 141
I. Cheese/Milk ………………………………………………………………… 141
II. Roses ……………………………………………………………….. 144
III. The Nourishment of the Dead …………………………………….. 147
IV. The Ideology of Refrigerium in the Passion of Perpetua …………. 148
V. The Social Functions of Refrigerium ………………………………. 153
E. Conclusion ……………………………………………………………... 161
Chapter 7: The Passion of Perpetua, Tertullian,
and Ideological Conflict in Carthage ……………………….. 163
A. Textual Perspectives ………………………………………………………….. 163
B. Ideological Polemic About the Afterlife of the Righteous ……………… 164
C. Ideological Polemic About the Cult of the Dead ………………………. 169
D. Conclusion …………………………………………………………….. 175
Chapter 8: The Interim State in the Passion of Perpetua
and in the Works of Tertullian ……………………………… 177
A. Introduction ……………………………………………………………. 177
B. The Interim State in the ‘Apostolic Fathers …………………………… 177
C. Early Christian Apocalyptic Texts Dealing with the Afterlife …………. 179
I. The Apocalypse of Peter …………………………………………….. 179
II. The Ascension of Isaiah ……………………………………………. 182
III. The Shepherd of Hermas ………………………………………….. 182
D. The Interim State in the Works of Tertullian ………………………….. 186
E. The ‘Interim State’ in the Passion of Perpetua? ………………………. 190
F. Conclusion ……………………………………………………………... 194
Chapter 9: The Body, the Soul, and Continuity
in Early Third-Century Carthaginian Christianity ………….. 197
A. Introduction ……………………………………………………………. 197
B. The Importance of the Body in Early Christianity …………………….. 197
C. The Body and Material Continuity in the Writings of Tertullian ……… 199
D. Platonic Versus Aristotelian Dualism ………………………………… 202
E. The Body and Material Continuity in the Passion of Perpetua ……….. 204
F. Conclusion …………………………………………………………….. 207
Chapter 10: Conclusion – Death in Transition ………………... 209
A. Review …………………………………………………………………. 209
B. Synthesis and Further Reflections …………………………………….. 212
Bibliography ……………………………………………………………… 215
Index of Primary References ……………………………………………… 243
Index of Modern Authors ………………………………………………… 247
Index of Subjects …………………………………………………………. 251

Citation preview

Studien und Texte zu Antike und Christentum Studies and Texts in Antiquity and Christianity Herausgeber/Editors Christoph Markschies (Berlin) Martin Wallraff (Basel) Christian Wildberg (Princeton) Beirat/Advisory Board Peter Brown (Princeton) · Susanna Elm (Berkeley) Johannes Hahn (Münster) · Emanuela Prinzivalli (Rom) Jörg Rüpke (Erfurt)


Eliezer Gonzalez

The Fate of the Dead in Early Third Century North African Christianity The Passion of Perpetua and Felicitas and Tertullian

Mohr Siebeck

Eliezer Gonzalez, born 1965; 1987 BA, Macquarie; 2009 MA (Th), Avondale; 2009 MA (Early Christian and Jewish Studies), Macquarie; 2013 PhD, Macquarie; currently Honorary Associate, Department of Ancient History, Macquarie University.

e-ISBN PDF 978-3-16-152945-0 ISBN 978-3-16-152944-3 ISSN 1436-3003 (Studien und Texte zu Antike und Christentum) The Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this publication in the Deutsche Nationalbibliographie; detailed bibliographic data is available in the Internet at

© 2014 by Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, Germany. This book may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, in any form (beyond that permitted by copyright law) without the publisher’s written permission. This applies particularly to reproductions, translations, microfilms and storage and processing in electronic systems. The book was printed by Laupp & Göbel in Nehren on non-aging paper and bound by Buchbinderei Nädele in Nehren. Printed in Germany.

Gratitude I thank my wife Ana, my daughter Rebecca, and my son Benjamin for their love and for supporting my years of study and research. Since this book arises from my doctoral dissertation at Macquarie University, I also owe a debt of gratitude to my supervisors, Prof Alanna Nobbs, Prof Larry Welborn, and Rev Dr Bruce Winter, for their invaluable advice and encouragement. Additionally I thank the examiners of my doctoral dissertation, Prof Jan Bremmer, Prof. Jerónimo Leal, and Prof Andrew McGowan for their very helpful comments. Of course, the involvement of all of these exceptional scholars should not necessarily be seen as an endorsement of the arguments and positions taken in this work. If you agree in any way with my methodology, arguments, and conclusions, I am pleased to say that I have had great teachers. If you do not agree, then I humbly take sole responsibility. The book you hold in your hand was possible because of support from the Ancient History Department at Macquarie University, and the Rundle Publication Subsidy. It would also be ungracious of me not to acknowledge true friends who have helped and encouraged me when times have been tough. Prominent among these, I can name Dr Philip Rodionoff, Neal Moores, and Graham Hood.

But I have left the best till last… τῷ δὲ θεῷ χάρις τῷ διδόντι ἡμῖν τὸ νῖκος διὰ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ

Preface Life is full of wonder, and because of that, we all wonder about life… and death. This book was born out of my own wondering. The various cultural and religious traditions of this world typically reflect a refusal to accept death as the absolute end. The Christian tradition is an indispensable consideration for those who wish to try to understand the various ways in which Western culture conceptualises life and death. So I wondered, where do our key contemporary ideas about what happens after death come from? But I didn’t just stop at wondering; I did what most people don’t do when they wonder about something; I turned it into a doctoral dissertation. Of course along the way it became more and more focused, as these projects tend to do. I focussed on a critical period in the history of the development of the concepts of the afterlife, and I focussed on a critical and fascinating text. This book is the fruit of this research. Along the way, I have discovered many things; among them is that the majority of the ancients, whatever gods they worshipped, were nourished by hope. This wasn’t just hope in this life alone, or just hope in life after death, but more broadly, hope in life itself. I suspect that this is still true for most of us today, and that this quest for hope is one of the brightest elements of the human condition. Early Christianity, in its first centuries, was able to distil this hope in ways that galvanised the ancient world, and for many, still continues to do so today. I am glad that the Passion of Perpetua and Felicitas has survived, and I am glad that I have had the privilege of learning through Perpetua’s experiences, as well as from such interesting people as Tertullian. I hope that as you read and reflect on this book, you will learn things that go beyond just the words that I have written here. Perhaps you too will wonder at life and its big questions. If you do, I will be satisfied. Eliezer Gonzalez

Table of Contents Preface ……………………………………………………………………. VII

Chapter 1: Introduction – The Certainty and Uncertainty of Death ……………………........ 1 Chapter 2: Previous Scholarship on the Passion of Perpetua …… 5 A. Who Was Perpetua? ……………………………………………………… 5 B. The Latin and Greek Texts of the Passion of Perpetua …………………... 6 C. The Passion of Perpetua as a Popular Text …………………………….. 8 D. Genre and Literary Features …………………………………………… 10 E. The Authorial Authenticity of the Text …………………………………... 12 F. The Dating of the Text …………………………………………………... 18 G. The Identity of the Editor ……………………………………………….. 19 H. Is the Passion of Perpetua ‘Orthodox’ or ‘Montanist’? ……………….. 22 I. The Passion of Perpetua as Ideological Subversion: Social and Feminist Perspectives ………………………………………….. 26 J. Observations on the Concept of Mysticism ……………………………… 33 K. The Passion of Perpetua and the Afterlife ……………………………… 36

Chapter 3: The Afterlife of the Righteous in Early Christianity


A. Introduction ………………………………………………...…………… 39 B. Early Christian Material Evidence ………………………...…………… 39 C. The Afterlife Before Perpetua: Literary Evidence ……………………… 44


Table of Contents

I. The New Testament ………………………………………………….. 1. The Soul …………………………………………………………... 2. Resurrection ………………………………………………………. 3. Ascent …………………………………………………………….. 4. Canonical Apocalyptic Literature ………………………………… II. The Early Church Fathers …………………………………………… 1. The ‘Apostolic Fathers’ …………………………………………... 2. The Apologists of the Second Century …………………………… III. Gnosticism …………………………………………………………..

44 44 45 48 52 54 54 59 63

D. The Afterlife After Perpetua: Literary Evidence ………………………... 69 I. Cyprian ……………………………………………………………….. II. Origen ……………………………………………………………….. III. Augustine …………………………………………………………… IV.Anthony of the Desert ……………………………………………….

69 71 74 75

E. Conclusion ………………………………………………………………. 78

Chapter 4: Perpetua’s Ascent – Contexts and Sources …………. 79 A. Introduction ……………………………………………………………... 79 B. Canonical Biblical Sources …………………………………………….. 80 C. The Ladder and the Dragon: Where Do They Come From? …………… 84 D. The Passion of Perpetua Within the Context of Jewish Apocalyptic Literature ……………………………………………. 89 I. Background …………………………………………………………… 89 II. Jewish Apocalyptic Influences ………………………………………. 90 E. Broader Background Considerations: The Motif of Ascent in Philo and Clement …………………………………. 93 I. Judaeo-Hellenistic Ascent in Philo …………………………………… 94 II. Clement of Alexandria ………………………………………………. 97 F. The Ascent Motif in the Broader Graeco-Roman World ……………….. 99 G. Perpetua’s Education …………………………………………………. 103

XI Table of Contents

Chapter 5: The Afterlife in the Passion of Perpetua and in the Works of Tertullian ………………………………



A. Introduction: Perpetua and Tertullian ………………………………… 109 B. Eschatology and the Afterlife in the Passion of Perpetua ……………... 109 I. The Afterlife in the Passion of Perpetua and the Judaeo-Christian Apocalyptic Tradition …………………………… 114 C. Eschatology and the Afterlife in the Writings of Tertullian …………… 117 I. Did Tertullian Change His Views? ………………………………….. 123 D. Conclusions ……………………………………………………………. 126

Chapter 6: Refrigerium and the Roman Cult of the Dead in the Passion of Perpetua …………………………………..


A. Introduction ……………………………………………………………………. 129 B. The Archaeological Context: What the Literary Evidence May Not Tell Us ……………………………. 130 C. Refrigerium: The State of Play ………………………………………… 139 D. Refrigerium in the Passion of Perpetua …………………………………… 141 I. Cheese/Milk ………………………………………………………………… II. Roses ……………………………………………………………….. III. The Nourishment of the Dead …………………………………….. IV. The Ideology of Refrigerium in the Passion of Perpetua …………. V. The Social Functions of Refrigerium ……………………………….

141 144 147 148 153

E. Conclusion ……………………………………………………………... 161

Chapter 7: The Passion of Perpetua, Tertullian, and Ideological Conflict in Carthage ………………………..


A. Textual Perspectives ………………………………………………………….. 163 B. Ideological Polemic About the Afterlife of the Righteous ……………… 164 C. Ideological Polemic About the Cult of the Dead ………………………. 169 D. Conclusion …………………………………………………………….. 175


Table of Contents

Chapter 8: The Interim State in the Passion of Perpetua and in the Works of Tertullian ………………………………


A. Introduction ……………………………………………………………. 177 B. The Interim State in the ‘Apostolic Fathers …………………………… 177 C. Early Christian Apocalyptic Texts Dealing with the Afterlife …………. 179 I. The Apocalypse of Peter …………………………………………….. 179 II. The Ascension of Isaiah ……………………………………………. 182 III. The Shepherd of Hermas ………………………………………….. 182 D. The Interim State in the Works of Tertullian ………………………….. 186 E. The ‘Interim State’ in the Passion of Perpetua? ………………………. 190 F. Conclusion ……………………………………………………………... 194

Chapter 9: The Body, the Soul, and Continuity in Early Third-Century Carthaginian Christianity …………..


A. Introduction ……………………………………………………………. 197 B. The Importance of the Body in Early Christianity …………………….. 197 C. The Body and Material Continuity in the Writings of Tertullian ……… 199 D. Platonic Versus Aristotelian Dualism ………………………………… 202 E. The Body and Material Continuity in the Passion of Perpetua ……….. 204 F. Conclusion …………………………………………………………….. 207

Chapter 10: Conclusion – Death in Transition ………………... 209 A. Review …………………………………………………………………. 209 B. Synthesis and Further Reflections …………………………………….. 212

Bibliography ……………………………………………………………… 215 Index of Primary References ……………………………………………… 243 Index of Modern Authors ………………………………………………… 247 Index of Subjects …………………………………………………………. 251

Chapter 1

Introduction: The Certainty and Uncertainties of Death The certainty and uncertainties of death were a prominent theme in the discourse of antiquity.1 For this reason, it is significant that at some time in the second and early third centuries, the Christian dead moved to better premises; they were essentially upgraded in status. Although the earliest Christian documents, such as 1 Cor and 1 Thess reflect a diversity of views within their communities about the fate of their dead, the predominant belief was that they were waiting for the resurrection, at which time they would receive their reward. In the new scheme of things, however, the righteous dead were thought to ascend to be with God immediately upon their deaths. This notion of the immediate ascent of the soul increased in emphasis and overtook the idea of eschatological bodily resurrection in prominence. Of course, this idea of resurrection has also persisted, more prominently in some streams of Christianity than in others, even to this day. Generally, this upgrade in status was not a special privilege reserved for the Christian dead alone; it was part of a broader trend which had been occurring in Mediterranean and Near Eastern civilisations for hundreds, even thousands of years. Whereas the dead of many cultures, or at least their souls, had initially been believed to persist in different versions of a dreary, murky underworld, some of these cultures embarked on the process of creating a much-improved personal afterlife that was available to all, and not just to especially meritorious heroes or kings. These improved versions of the afterlife typically involved an ascent into the heavens to be with the gods. We can trace this shift in broad outline in many contexts, including ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Israelite-Jewish cultures.2 However, it is a very complex milieu of ideas, across many cultures and traditions. To attempt to examine how and when the notion of the immediate post-mortem ascent of the soul took prec1

Peter Bolt, ‘Life, Death, and the Afterlife in the Greco–Roman World,’ in Life in the Face of Death: The Resurrection Message of the New Testament (ed. R. N. Longenecker), McMaster New Testament Studies 3 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 51. 2 In reference to ancient Egypt, Rosalie David (The Two Brothers: Death and the Afterlife in Middle Kingdom Egypt [Bolton, UK: Rutherford Press, 2007], 42) calls this the ‘democratisation’ of the afterlife. For the emergence of Jewish beliefs, see Jon Levenson, Resurrection and the Restoration of Israel: The Ultimate Victory of the God of Life (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2006).

Chapter 1 – Introduction Chapter 1 – Introduction

2 2

edence over the idea of an eschatological, bodily resurrection in the thinking of early Christians might seem potentially unfruitful. Walter Ameling has noted that the martyrs, and by extension, martyrologies, made a large contribution to the conceptions of the afterlife in early Christianity.3 Indeed, among the writings that Christianity left us in the first two centuries of its existence, one text stands out as being particularly relevant and focused on the question of the afterlife: the Passion of Perpetua and Felicitas. This is a text that has been called ‘one of early Christianity’s most extraordinary documents.’4 The ecclesiastical historian and Tertullian scholar Jerónimo Leal expresses the view of many when he writes: Constituye esta passio la obra maestra de la literature hagiográfica, por su patetismo y amplitud de miras, la obra más bella y original de toda la literatura Cristiana de los primeros siglos, el arquitipo de todas las demás obras de este género.5 Therefore, for many reasons, the Passion of Perpetua has long fascinated scholars, and scholars in the fields of hagiography and comparative literature have written extensively on the text.6 In reference to the enormous scholarly output concerning the interpretation of Perpetua’s dreams, Leal writes that [l]a interpretacíon de los sueños recogidos en la Passio Perpetuae ha hecho correr ríos de tinta.7 When one surveys the history of scholarship on the Passion of Perpetua, it becomes apparent, as Erin Ann Ronsse ably demonstrates, that one of the key difficulties of dealing with this text is that it has been subjected to multiple layers of interpretative history, with ‘classical Antiquity, the Middle Ages, modern interests, and contemporary scholarly concerns all represented.’8 An illustration of this is evident in the fact that the text of the Passion of Perpetua still continues to appear in anthologies of writings of the Middle Ages.9 As Ronsse aptly remarks, the Middle Ages ‘are not quite so elastic’ as to include the late second 3

Walter Ameling, ‘Das Jenseits der Märtyrer,’ in Topographie des Jenseits: Studien zur Geschichte des Todes in Kaiserzeit und Spätantike (ed. Walter Ameling; Franz Steiner Verlag: Stuttagart, 2011), 81. 4 Marina Warner, Alone of All Her Sex: The Myth and the Cult of the Virgin Mary (London: Picador, 1978), 70. 5 Jerónimo Leal, Actas Latinas de Mártires Africanos, Fuentes Patrísticas 22 (Madrid: Editorial Ciudad Nueva, 2009), 57. 6 Emanuela Prinzivalli, ‘Perpetua the Martyr,’ in Roman Women (ed. A. Fraschetti; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999), 221. 7 Jerónimo Leal, ‘Nota Martyrologica: El Sueño de Dinócrates en la Passio Perpetuae y las Fuentes de la Passio Fabii Vexilliferi,’ Studia Patristica XLV (ed. J. Baun, A. Cameron, M. Edwards, and M. Vinzent; Leuven; Paris; Walpole, MA: Peeters, 2010), 349. 8 Erin Ronsse, Rhetoric of Martyrs: Transmission and Reception History of the Passion of Saints Perpetua and Felicitas (Ph.D. diss., University of Victoria, Canada, 2008), 3. 9 For example, Peter Dronke’s Women Writers of the Middle Ages: A Critical Study of Texts from Perpetua (203) to Marguerite Porete (1310) (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), and Elizabeth Petroff’s Medieval Womens’ Visionary Literature (New York; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986).

Chapter 1 – Introduction Introduction

3 3

century.10 To characterise Perpetua’s experience as ‘medieval,’ or even ‘late antique’ is to do it violence, and in the words of Brent Shaw, ‘completely to ignore the normal meanings of historical periodization.’11 This is one particular layer of interpretative history that obscures the original meaning of the text. Another is that since the Protestant Reformation, the text has also become a ‘confessional football.’ This is reflected in many of the ongoing debates about this text, as will be highlighted later in this work. There is of course great value in understanding the reception and transmission of the text throughout history, and some of these insights will be important to this study. However, if the study of reception and subsequent interpretation wrenches the text from its historical, social, and literary contexts, then it also distances it from its original meaning. This present work will not focus primarily on the reception and meaning of the Passion of Perpetua throughout the history of its transmission, but rather on key aspects of its meaning in its original historical context. Ronnse is correct in noting that in spite of the extensive scholarship on this text, there are still more ‘legitimate interpretative possibilities’ to be explored.12 Although this unique text has in fact been studied from many different perspectives, it has still not been fully explored in terms of its most central and explicit theme: where do Christians, both martyrs and those who are not ‘so fortunate,’ go when they die? At the same time, an attempt to study the text in its original setting allows the historian some fundamental insights into the nature of the Christian community in early third-century Carthage. This is especially the case when we read the Passion of Perpetua within the context of the much larger corpus of the works of Tertullian, who was Perpetua’s contemporary. That we have these two ‘texts’ from the same period and the same place is a rather fortuitous outworking of the vagaries of historical preservation, and this present research takes the position that neither can be properly or fully understood without the other. When read within the context of one other, Perpetua and Tertullian reveal a dynamic Christian community at Carthage: a community that found its roots in, and drew on a variety of ideological traditions from the Jewish, Christian, and Graeco-Roman contexts. Moreover, it was not a homogenous community in terms of its ideology; it was a community in the very process of transformation through polemical discourse. When, therefore, we consider the ideology of the afterlife presented in Perpetua, we are in effect exploring an example of funda10 Ronsse, Rhetoric of Martyrs, 3, referring to Dronke and others who include the Passion of Perpetua in anthologies of the writings of the saints of the Middle Ages. 11 Brent D. Shaw, ‘The Passion of Perpetua,’ in Studies in Ancient Greek and Roman Society (ed. Robin Osborne; Cambridge, University of Cambridge, 2004), 297 n.41. Ronnse’s dissertation, Rhetoric of Martyrs, focuses on the layer of interpretive history for this text that is provided by the medieval liturgical manuscripts. 12 Ronsse, Rhetoric of Martyrs, 52.

Chapter 1 – Introduction Chapter 1 – Introduction

4 4

mental ideological change within early Christianity. The importance of this to the general study of Christianity should not be underestimated. A crucial aspect of the Passion of Perpetua is that it is the first datable Christian text that describes an immediate post-mortem ascent of the soul according to the Graeco-Roman topos. Although the general notion of ascent was of course an important theme from the very beginnings of Christianity, Perpetua is the first reasonably datable text that focuses specifically on the idea of the postmortem ascent of the soul. It is evident that, within a generation of the appearance of Perpetua, this kind of personal eschatology largely won the day in North Africa over the concept of eschatological and bodily resurrection, and subsequently caught on throughout the other Christian communities. This present work will firstly review previous and current scholarship on the Passion of Perpetua. This review will be somewhat detailed, since it provides the point of departure for the proposal of a new framework within which the text should be understood. The trajectories of the afterlife of the righteous demonstrated in early Christianity up until very early in the third century (i.e., the time of the writing of Perpetua) will then be broadly described. This will be extended to a consideration of the ideologies of the afterlife evident after the writing of Perpetua, which will allow the text to be situated in the broader context of the trajectories of the afterlife in early Christianity. This work will then continue with an examination of the possible sources and influences for the complex intertextuality of the Passion of Perpetua. Following this, the discussion will move to a detailed consideration of the ideologies of the afterlife in the texts of the Passion of Perpetua, and in those of the contemporaneous Tertullian. An argument will then be made for the presence and role of traditional Graeco-Roman ideologies within the text of the Passion of Perpetua itself, and their modification within a Christian setting. This will lead to a consideration of the way in which the text of the Passion of Perpetua was used within the Christian communities of North Africa to build community and identity. From there, this research will assay a more detailed examination of the Passion of Perpetua and the works of Tertullian. The object of this will be to explore what these texts, when read carefully and alongside each other, suggest to us about ideological conflict and change within the early Carthaginian Christian communities before the controversies that split the Carthaginian church under Cyprian in the middle of the third century.13 This will allow some final observations about the fate of non-Christian dead in early Carthaginian Christianity, as well as the ways in which early Christianity sought material continuity in relation to notions of the body.


See Cyprian, On the Church: Selected Letters (ed. Allen Brent; Crestwood: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2006), 17–29.

Chapter 2

Previous Scholarship on the Passion of Perpetua A. Who Was Perpetua? According to the Passion of Perpetua and Felicitas,1 in the year 203 A.D., during the reign of the emperor Septimus Severus, five Christian catechumens were arrested, tried and sentenced to death by the procurator Hilarianus. The five martyrs were joined in prison and in their fate by Saturus, who seems to have been their catechist,2 and who had in fact handed himself in. After spending some time in prison, they were thrown to the beasts in the amphitheatre. The Passion of Perpetua purports to have been substantially written by one of these martyrs, Vibia Perpetua, who wrote of her visions and dreams while in prison. Her account was seemingly augmented by a vision that Saturus had, and the whole text was completed by an unknown editor (or editors) who wrote an introduction, an account of the actual deaths of the martyrs, and a conclusion. The text itself is relatively short, consisting of less than six thousand words in English translation. However, its brevity is no indication of the scholarly and confessional debates that the text has engendered, or of the great significance of the text for the study of early Christianity.

1 Since this present research will focus principally on the visions of Perpetua and Saturus, the Passion of Perpetua and Felicitas will subsequently be referred to as the Passion of Perpetua, or simply Perpetua. In a few instances, it will also be referred to as the Passion. This does not imply a minimisation of Felicitas’ role in the broader study of the text. It is nevertheless true that Felicitas has not received much scholarly attention, a fact that Jan Bremmer’s article ‘Felicitas’ (‘Felicitas: The Martyrdom of a Young African Woman,’ in Perpetua's Passions: Multidisciplinary Approaches to the Passio Perpetuae et Felicitatis, ed. Jan N. Bremmer and Marco Formisano [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011], 36–53) attempts to remedy. 2 Carolyn Osiek (‘Perpetua’s Husband,’ JECS 10 [2002]: 287–90) has intriguingly suggested that Saturus may have even been Perpetua’s husband.

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Chapter 2 – Previous Scholarship Chapter 2 – Previous Scholarship on the Passion of Perpetua

B. The Latin and Greek Texts of The Passion of Perpetua The Latin text of the Passion of Perpetua and Felicitas is structured as follows: sections I–II consist of a preface written by an editor, sections III–X consist of the account, purportedly written by Perpetua herself, of her time in prison and her visions, sections XI–XIII consist of an account of a vision purportedly written by Saturus, a fellow prisoner of Perpetua’s, and finally, sections XIV–XXI consist of the account of the martyrdom itself, written by the editor.3 The Latin text of the Passion of Perpetua was discovered by Lucas Holstenius in 1661.4 Then, in 1889, J. R. Harris found a shorter Greek manuscript in Jerusalem, which he subsequently published with Seth K. Gifford.5 In 1891, J. Armitrage Robinson published an edition of the Greek and Latin texts, in which he offered strong linguistic evidence for the Latin being the earlier text, and the Greek being a translation and redaction.6 One of Robinson’s principal reasons for asserting the priority of the Latin recension was the stylistic variation between the various sections of the Latin text, compared with the uniformity of the Greek. He noted that in the Greek text, the stylistic differences between the various sections of the Latin text ‘are entirely obliterated.’7 Correspondingly, this would suggest that the Greek text is a translation of the Latin. Although most scholars have followed Robinson in this view,8 Bremmer has importantly argued that the Greek translation seems at times to be based on a better text than the existing Latin version,9 and that it is possible that both the

3 For a more detailed summary of the various sections of the Passion of Perpetua, see Ronsse, Rhetoric of Martyrs, 54, Table 1. 4 Rex D. Butler, The New Prophecy & “New Visions”: Evidence of Montanism in The Passion of Perpetua and Felicitas (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2006), 45. 5 J. Rendel Harris, and Seth K. Gifford, eds., The Acts of the Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicitas: The Original Greek Text (London: C. J. Clay and Sons, 1890). 6 Butler, New Prophecy, 45, citing Joseph Armitage Robinson, ed. and trans., The Passion of S. Perpetua (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1891; reprinted Piscataway: Gorgias Press, 2004). 7 Robinson, S. Perpetua, 46–7. 8 See Ross Kraemer and S. Lander, ‘Perpetua and Felicitas,’ in The Early Christian World vol. 2 (ed. P. F. Esler; London: Routledge, 2000), 1051. 9 Jan Bremmer, ‘The Motivation of Martyrs: Perpetua and the Palestinians,’ in Religion im kulturellen Diskurs (ed. B. Luchesi and K. von Stuckrad; Berlin: De Gruyter, 2004), 535. In this regard, we may note that both Latin and Greek as well as indigenous Punic were spoken in Carthage at the beginning of the third century (Kraemer and Lander, ‘Perpetua and Felicitas,’ 1051). Latin and Greek were particularly the languages of the educated (Franz Joseph Dölger, ‘Antike Parallelen zum leidenden Dinocrates in der Passio Perpetua,’ in Antike und Christentum 1, Kultur und religiongeschichtliche Studien Band 2 [Aschen-

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Latin and the Greek versions are based on an earlier, better text.10 In this regard, Glen Bowersock’s views should be noted. He cogently argues that Perpetua wrote in Greek, adducing that in parts of Perpetua’s section of the text, the Greek ‘is far more precise than the Latin, and in my opinion…serves as a guarantee that Perpetua did indeed write in Greek.’11 Bowersock gives the examples of the Greek and Latin expression in Perpetua X.15, the use of the precise word φιλοτιμία in the Greek, and the variant naming of the amphitheatre, when the Latin has munus both times. E. R. Dodds had previously come to the same conclusion, on the basis that the Latin in Perpetua’s diary ‘is in several places less appropriate than the Greek, and looks as if it originated through misreading of (or corruption in) a Greek manuscript.’12 Walter Ameling’s assertions that the Greek words Perpetua uses in the Latin text ‘are almost certainly loan-words,’ and that ‘her own text does not attest any further knowledge of Greek’13 do not address these arguments. Saturus reports that in in his vision Perpetua spoke in Greek to Optatus and Aspasius,14 and we should also consider that Perpetua’s brother, Dinocrates, bears a Greek name. These points suggest that Perpetua knew Greek in real life, and that this was a notable enough fact to be reflected in Saturus’ vision. Obviously, in this same vision, some of the leaders of the church were also able to speak Greek. The presence of the reference to this discussion in Greek in Saturus’ vision is difficult to explain otherwise. Accordingly, the arguments for the priority of the Greek or the Latin text may all be somewhat misdirected. The text may be composite in terms of its original languages, with Perpetua’s section originally in Greek, and the editors’ sections in Latin. In addition to these issues, it is noteworthy that Bremmer also

dorff: Verlag Aschendorff Münster, 1930], 16.) On North African Christian writings in Greek, see Jerónimo Leal, ‘De Cartago a Cesarea: El Tertuliano Griego,’ in De Grecia a Roma y de Roma a Grecia: Un Camino de Ida y Vuelta (ed. Á. Sánchez-Ostiz, J. B. Terres Guerra, and R. Martínez; Pamplona: Eunsa, 2007),’ 347–59. Ultimately, Perpetua’s Roman background should be given some weight in the question of the original language of the Passion. 10 Bremmer, Motivation, 535–6. 11 Glen W. Bowersock, Martyrdom and Rome (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 34. 12 Eric Dodds, Pagan and Christian in an Age of Anxiety: Some Aspects of Religious Experience from Marcus Aurelius to Constantine (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1965), 50, n.1. Dodds provides several examples from the text. 13 Walter Ameling, ‘Femina Liberaliter Instituta―Some Thoughts on a Martyr’s Education,’ in Perpetua's Passions: Multidisciplinary Approaches to the Passio Perpetuae et Felicitatis (ed. Jan N. Bremmer and Marco Formisano; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 88. 14 Perpetua, XIII.4.

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suggests that the two other abbreviated versions of the account of Perpetua, the Acta Perpetuae, commonly dated later than the Latin and Greek texts of the Passion of Perpetua,15 may also contain authentic readings not preserved in the Latin text.16 The Latin text of the Passion of Perpetua itself has come down to us in nine manuscripts, which only differ from each other in small details.17 The Greek text consists of a single manuscript.18 Although Kraemer and Lander are correct in noting that it is difficult to reconstruct the history of the transmission of the text,19 the relative integrity of the Latin affords some level of confidence. Various critical editions of the text of the Passion of Perpetua have been prepared by J. Armitage Robinson (1891), W. H. Shewring (1931), Cornelius van Beek (1936 and 1938), Herbert Musurillo (1972), and most recently, Jacqueline Amat (1996) and Heffernan (2012). Amat’s edition has been relied upon for this present research; it is thorough and incorporates both the Latin and Greek texts.20

C. The Passion of Perpetua as a Popular Text The early popularity of the Passion of Perpetua is a vital factor which must be considered in any discussion of the meaning of the text in its contemporary context. If Perpetua were merely the expression of a small sectarian or perhaps even semi-Gnostic form of Christianity, then its significance would have to be viewed differently. The early popularity of Perpetua also suggests that the text itself does indeed go back to the time and circumstances in which it claims to have been written. Candida Moss has commented on how Perpetua was an ‘extraordinarily popular account,’ and how, as a result, it had a high level of influence on subse-

15 Bremmer (‘Felicitas,’ 39) suggests a date shortly after AD 260 for the present form of the Acta. 16 Jan Bremmer, Review of P. Habermehl, Perpetua und der Ägypter oder Bilder des Bösen im frühen afrikanischen Christentum, n. p. (cited 13 October 2010). Online: This is contra Shaw, ‘Perpetua,’ 3, n.2. 17 Leal, Actas Latinas, 68. 18 Ibid. 19 Kraemer and Lander, ‘Perpetua and Felicitas,’ 1051. 20 A detailed and helpful series of charts and lists of printed editions and translations can be found in Ronsse, Rhetoric of Martyrs, 19–31. Heffernan’s edition was not primarily used here, although it is referenced, because it was only published towards the very end of this research.

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quent Acta.21 This relevance of this is that, as Bremmer comments, ‘the Acta have the great advantage over the more apologetic works of the same period in that they allow us to observe…the ways the Christian faith was lived rather than conceived.’22 Even more specifically, the enormous respect in which the Passion of Perpetua was held in North Africa strongly suggests that the text was ‘widely acceptable as valuable representations of the life to come.’23 The rapid spread of the cult of Perpetua is materially demonstrated by the magnificent Sarcophagus of Briviesca made in Burgos, Spain.24 This sarcophagus, dating from the first half of the fourth century, depicts the martyrdom of Perpetua on one of its faces. The earliest firm evidence for Perpetua’s liturgical commemoration dates from the same time, and is provided by the liturgical Calendar of Rome in 354.25 At the end of the fourth century, Augustine also provided evidence of Perpetua’s commemoration in three of his sermons.26 He refers to a text of Perpetua that was read in his basilica,27 commemorating the dies natales28 of Perpetua and Felicitas, which he emphasises as ‘a celebration of… universal devotion.’29 The respect and popularity of this text by the end of the fourth century may also be gauged by Augustine’s warning the North Africans against giving the passion narrative the authority of Scripture itself.’30 Perpetua’s victory in martyrdom was also tangibly perpetuated for centuries by her remains in the basilica, which formed ‘the sacred space of the

21 Candida Moss, The Other Christs: Imitating Jesus in Ancient Christian Ideologies of Martyrdom (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 99. For example, Moss (ibid., 137) calls the later Carthaginian text of The Martyrdom of Marian and James ‘Perpetua’s literary offspring.’ On the popularity of the veneration of the martyrs, see also Virginia Burrus, Late Ancient Christianity (vol. 2 of A People’s History of Christianity; Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2005), 74. 22 Jan Bremmer, The Rise and Fall of the Afterlife (London: Routledge, 2002), 57. 23 Ibid., 58. 24 José María Blázquez Martínez, ‘Posible Origen Africano del Cristianismo Español,’ Archivo Español de Arqueologia 40 (1967): 41–2. The sarcophagus is held in the Burgos Museum. 25 Kraemer and Lander, ‘Perpetua and Felicitas,’ 1053. Canon 47 of the Council of Carthage allowed such non-canonical texts to be read. 26 Augustine, Serm. 280−82. 27 Augustine, Serm. 282.2. 28 Ibid. That is, their ‘birthdays,’ being the anniversaries of the martyrdoms. Note that abbreviated citations for primary references are used throughout the footnotes. Full bibliographic details of critical editions of the primary sources used are shown in the bibliography. 29 Augustine, Serm. 280.1 (for the translation, see vol. 8 of The Works of Saint Augustine: A Translation for the 21st Century [ed. John E. Rotelle, trans. Edmund Hill; New York: New York City Press, 1994], 72). 30 Ronsse, Rhetoric of Martyrs, 74, citing Augustine, An. Orig, 1.X.12.

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memory.’31 Furthermore, it is significant that the Passion of Perpetua was valued across a significant breadth of early Christianity.32 The text itself appears to have been embraced from early times firstly by Carthaginian Christianity, and then across the broader Christian communities. The Passion of Perpetua indeed seems to have been, from the start, a text that belonged, within Ramsay MacMullen’s paradigm, to what he calls ‘the Second Church’; in other words, to the majority popular Christianity rather than to the hierarchy and ‘intelligentsia’ of the church.33 It is therefore entirely reasonable to conclude that the views and ideology of the afterlife expressed in the text are most likely consonant with those of the Christian communities in which the text was accepted. The Passion of Perpetua reflects a world-view that either was, or soon became, largely normative for a significant number of the Christian communities in Carthage and North Africa, and influential even in the East.34

D. Genre and Literary Features Questions of genre in relation to the Passion of Perpetua are complex and vexed.35 One of the many issues is that, as Finn notes, Perpetua ‘appears to differ markedly from the genre of Christian biographies.’36 Perpetua seems to belong to an earlier time, and hence to an earlier literary tradition. On the other hand, there are similarities between Perpetua and the ‘genre’ of the Acta Martyrum.37 It is worth noting that Jan Bremmer has sounded an important caution regarding the usage of the genre of Martyr Acts as a modern construct, since the


Joyce Salisbury, Perpetua’s Passion: The Death and Memory of a Young Roman Woman (New York: Routledge, 1997), 176. 32 Ibid., 158. 33 Ramsay MacMullen, The Second Church: Popular Christianity A.D. 200–400 (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2009), xi–xii. This is a point that will be elaborated in Chapter 6. 34 Kraemer and Lander, ‘Perpetua and Felicitas,’ 1063. 35 See Sabine Van Den Eynde, ‘A Testimony to the Non-Believers, A Blessing to the Believers,’ in More than a Memory: The Discourse of Martyrdom and the Construction of Christian Identity in the History of Christianity (ed. Johan Leemans; Leuven: Peeters, 2005), 27. 36 Thomas Finn, ‘Mission and Expansion,’ in vol. 1 of The Early Christian World (ed. Philip F. Esler; London: Routledge, 2002), 305. 37 Keith Hopkins, A World Full of Gods: The Strange Triumph of Christianity (London: Free Press, 1999), 14–121; and Rick Altman, A Theory of Narrative (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008), 85.

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term Martyr Acts imposes an artificial unity on a heterogenous group of texts.38 Certainly, as Marco Formisano reminds us, although ‘la scrittura assume un ruolo fondamentale nella Passione’ (di Perpetua e Felicita),39 neither the socalled martyr acts nor the passions belonged to any such literary genre at the time of their composition.40 The result of categorising them together and calling them a ‘genre’ is to risk dismissing them as valuable historical evidence in their own right.41 Perhaps Van Den Eynde characterises the Passion of Perpetua best, using the term ‘genre’ in its broadest sense, and representing the text as a ‘mixed genre of autobiographical, biographical and introductory / concluding text.’42 We can also certainly agree with Brent Shaw’s remark that the Passion of Perpetua seems to belong to a very early stage in the production of narrative memoirs, which indeed were later used to reinterpret the meaning of martyrdom.43 This raises the question that if Perpetua is indeed a ‘literary prototype’ for the genre of the acta, then how can we be certain that it does not belong to another previous ‘genre,’ or merely represent a transitional form? There are therefore significant difficulties in attempting to apply the concept of ‘genre’ to the Passion of Perpetua.44 Perhaps of more importance is the question of why these kinds of narratives were written at all. If we assume that the introduction to the Passion of Perpetua was written close to the time in which the visions themselves were recorded, perhaps the introduction itself holds some indications as to the reason for at least the writing of this particular text. Moriarty points out the emphasis in the introduction ‘on the written word, literae, on reading, lectio (twice), or reenactment, repraesentatio, and a final plea to read the stories, legere.’45 Mori-

38 Jan Bremmer, ‘Perpetua and Her Diary: Authenticity, Family and Visions,’ in Märtyrer und Märtyrerakten, Altertumswissenschaftliches Kolloquium 6 (ed. Walter Ameling; Stuttgart: Steiner, 2002), 78. 39 Marco Formisano, ed., La Passione di Perpetua e Felicita. Biblioteca Universale Rizzoli: Clasici Greci e Latini (Milano: RCS Libri S.p.A., 2008), 22. 40 Formisano, Passione, 22. 41 Ibid. 42 Van Den Eynde, ‘Testimony,’ 27. 43 Shaw, ‘Perpetua,’ 296. 44 Although Jan Bremmer (‘Authenticity,’ 80) considers that the notion of ‘genre’ is ‘not entirely useless’ in relation to the study of the Passion of Perpetua. 45 Rachel Moriarty, ‘The Claims of the Past: Attitudes to Antiquity in the Introduction to Passio Perpetuae,’ Studia Patristica XXXI (ed. E. A. Livingstone; Leuven: Peeters, 1997), 312–3. Jan Den Boeft (‘The Editor’s Prime Objective: Haec in aedificationem ecclesiae legere,’ in Perpetua's Passions: Multidisciplinary Approaches to the Passio Perpetuae et Felicitatis [ed. Jan N. Bremmer and Marco Formisano; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011], 177) remarks that ‘Bastiaensen and Amat, and others, are undoubtedly right in re-

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arty validly asks whether the introduction is not only an argument about the value of the accounts, but also about their liturgical value in terms of ‘regular formal liturgical readings.’46 Based on the similar and related textual observations of Bremmer47 and Amat,48 the answer to Moriarty’s question should be settled in the affirmative. The liturgical terminology of the introduction itself also suggests the early litugical use of the text, and a key reason for its composition and early transmission. Frankfurter notes that the ‘genre’ of martyrology evolved from the Jewish apocalyptic texts, and that this process is particularly evident in the Passion of Perpetua.49 The corollary is that even if this correct, then the intentional liturgical elements evident in this text should be seen as a Christian innovation that has no parallel in Judaism. Daniel Boyarin argues that the ideology of martyrdom developed together and symbiotically within both Christianity and Judaism.50 Without denying that this may indeed be the case, the Passion of Perpetua illustrates how both traditions also developed they own unique morphologies.

E. The Authorial Authenticity of the Text The editor of the Passion of Perpetua informs the readers that the text presents the visions of Saturus and Perpetua ‘which they themselves have written’ (quas ipsi conscripserunt).51 Furthermore, the editor assures us that Perpetua’s section

garding lectio as referring to the reading of texts during an official liturgy.’ 46 Moriarty, ‘Claims,’ 312–3. Moriarty comments here, in response to her own question, ‘[i]f so, the author of the introduction was strikingly successful.’ 47 Bremmer, ‘Authenticity,’ 80. With regard to this, Bremmer also cites Hans Urner’s careful study of the liturgical elements that underly the use of liturgical terms in Die außerbiblische Lesung im christlichen Gottesdienst: Ihre Vorgeschichte und Geschichte bis zur Zeit Augustins, Veröffentlichungen der evangelischen Gesellschaft für Liturgieforschung 6 (Göttingen: Vandenhoek & Ruprecht, 1952), 25–42. 48 Jacqueline Amat, Passion de Perpétue et de Félicité: Suivi des Actes (Paris: Les Editions du Cerf, 1996), 191. 49 David Frankfurter, ‘The Legacy of Jewish Apocalypses in Early Christianity: Regional Trajectories.’ Pages 129–200 in The Jewish Apocalyptic Heritage in Early Christianity (Edited by James Vanderkam and William Adler; Assen: Van Gorcum & Comp., 1996), 193. 50 Daniel Boyarin, Dying for God: Martyrdom and the Making of Christianity and Judaism (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999), 125. 51 Perpetua, XIV.1, tr. Tilley, 394; ed. Amat, 152–4.

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of the text is as she left it, specifically stating that ipsa narrauit, sicut conscriptum manu sua et suo sensu reliquit.52 Cobb observes that most modern interpreters have tended to unconditionally accept these assertions.53 The work of Robinson, together with that of Shewring in 1928, was instrumental in establishing the idea of Perpetua’s authorship.54 Significantly, based on his consideration of the prose rhythms, Shewring noted that the Latin rhythms in Perpetua’s section of the text are markedly distinct from the redactor’s. This, he argued, made it ‘reasonably certain’ that the different sections represent two different hands, and that Perpetua’s section was not revised by the editor.55 However, some scholars have also seen in the Passion of Perpetua what Testard calls toute une série de problèmes philologiques, traditionnels dans nos études.56 Doubts about the authenticity of the text as a diary were expressed by Benjamin Aubé in 1881,57 and are not new. Aubé believed that a single author had fabricated the entire work in order to promote his Montanistic views, and was of the opinion that [l]es Actes de Perpétue et de Félicité sont plus intéressants peut-être pour le psychologue que pour l’historien.58 More recently, Heffernan, in a philological study, suggested that rather than write the account herself, Perpetua transmitted it orally to an editor, who then composed the narrative.59 Heffernan accordingly concludes that ‘[t]he character of Perpetua in the Passio is not the “authentic” person, but rather a self that has been deliberately constructed, and one in the process of being mediated by an editor and by the reader’s own experience.’60

52 Perpetua, II.2. Note that Maureen Tilley (The Passion of Saints Perpetua and Felicity in Religions of Late Antiquity in Practice [ed. Richard Valantasis, trans. M. Tilley; Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000], 389) translates suo sensu as ‘her own impressions,’ while Herbert Musurillo (‘The Martyrdom of Saints Perpetua and Felicitas,’ in The Acts of the Christian Martyrs [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972], 109) translates it as ‘according to her own ideas.’ 53 Stephanie Cobb, Dying to be Men: Gender and Language in Early Christian Martyr Texts, Gender, Theory, and Religion (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008), 95. For example, Shaw, ‘Perpetua,’ 306, and Prinzivalli, ‘Perpetua the Martyr,’ 119. 54 See Butler, New Prophecy, 47. 55 W. H. Shewring, ‘Prose Rhythm in the Passio S. Perpetuae,’ JTS 30 (1928): 57. 56 Maurice Testard, ‘La Passion des Saintes Perpétue et Félicité: Témiognages sur le Monde antique et le Christianisme,’ Bulletin de l’Association Guillaume Budé (1991): 59. 57 Benjamin Aubé, Les Chrétiens dans l’Empire Romain de la fin des Antonins au Milieu du IIIe Siècle (180–249), Studia Historica 103 (Roma: “L’Erma” di Bretschnrider, 1972), 215–29. 58 Ibid., 219. 59 Thomas Heffernan, ‘Philology and Authorship in the Passio Sanctarum Perpetuae et Felicitatis,’ Traditio 50 (1995): 324. Kraemer and Lander (‘Perpetua and Felicitas,’ 10545) suggest against authorship by Perpetua based on Heffernan’s work. 60

Heffernan, ‘Philology,’ 324.

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However, due weight should be given to Butler’s observation that neither Aubé nor Heffernan took the philological evidence presented by Robinson and Shewring, accepted by most scholars within the context of the authorial claims of the text itself, fully into account.61 The ‘stylistic variations’ argument has indeed been the most persuasive in supporting the text’s origins as being with its purported authors, Perpetua, Saturus, and an unknown redactor.62 This is based on the reality that the text consists of at least three parts, with one of these parts being possibly written by Perpetua herself, and one by Saturus.63 The stylistic differences between these three sections strongly suggest three different authors/editors.64 Further bolstering the authorial claims of the text, as Joyce Salisbury has observed, Perpetua’s dreams have a ‘dreamlike quality of compressed images and surprising associations.’65 In other words, they bear the hallmarks of authentic dreams. Specifically, Rowland refers to ‘the occurrence, in visionary literature of diverse origins, of the tendency of the visionary to mark a separation between his normal experience and his visionary life by speaking his visionary self as if it had happened to another person, what Lindblom calls die Objektivierung des Ichs.’ Lindblom believes that this sense derives from the visionary experiences themselves.66 In the canonical Scriptures, this seems evident, for example, in Isaiah 21:9. In the Passion of Perpetua, this seems to occur in III.2. In reality, the text of the Passion of Perpetua does not specify whether the recorded visionary experiences occur in the form of dreams during sleep, or while awake. Ronsse cogently argues that the terms in the manuscripts of Perpetua most often translated as ‘I awoke’67 need not be limited to the notion of awaking from sleep, and can also be reasonably translated as ‘I came to.’68 She


Butler, New Prophecy, 48. See Robinson, S. Perpetua, 46–7. See also Jean Daniélou, The Origins of Latin Christianity (trans. D. Smith and J. A. Baker), vol. 3 of A History of Early Christian Doctrine Before the Council of Nicaea (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1977), 61, and Bremmer, ‘Authenticity,’ 82. 63 Bremmer, ‘Authenticity,’ 82. 64 Ibid., 82–4. See Robinson, S. Perpetua, 46. 65 Salisbury, Death and Memory, 113. 66 Christopher Rowland, The Open Heaven: A Study of Apocalyptic in Judaism and Early Christianity (London: SPCK, 1982), 243, citing Johannes Lindblom, Prophecy in Ancient Israel (Oxford: Blackwell, 1973), 44. 67 experrecta, expergefacta sum, experta, and experta sum. 68 Ronsse, Rhetoric of Martyrs, 79. 62

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validly points out that nowhere is Perpetua actually mentioned as being asleep.69 And it is also true that Perpetua is reported as being in an ecstatic state whilst in the amphitheatre, when she is definitely not asleep. In this regard, she is described as being ‘caught up in the Spirit and in ecstasy’ (adeo in Spiritu et in extasi fuerat).70 Therefore, it is not clear whether Perpetua’s reported visions are dreams, or visionary experiences while awake.71 But if the authors of Perpetua do not specifically have dreams in mind, Perpetua’s visionary experiences are still to be understood as being closely associated with the dream state. Indeed, it could be argued that aspects of the Passion of Perpetua suggest associations with the traditional practice of incubation; recently, Robert Wisniewski has tantalisingly argued that incubation was much more widespread in early Christianity than has been traditionally believed.72 In contrast to the dreamlike qualities of the narration of Perpetua’s visions, the imagery in Saturus’ vision is different, and ‘reads more like a polished theological tract.’73 However, rather than focusing on this as evidence of inauthenticty, Daniélou suggests that the more erudite presentation is evidence of the genuineness of the transmission tradition.74 Adding to the argument, Daniélou also maintains that even if the Passion of Perpetua was edited by another hand, it still retains many elements coming from the martyrs themselves, particularly in the visions. Furthermore, the language is without doubt archaic.75 Daniélou observes that [t]his is borne out by the number of Greek words that occur in this part of the work—machaera, draco, tecnon, catasta, horoma, diastema, philela, agon, afa and fiala—which are not to be


Ibid. Perpetua, XX.8 (tr. Tilley, 396). 71 In this present work, the terms ‘dream’ and ‘visions’ are used interchangeably, since the precise nature of these phenomena is not material to the argument. 72 Presentation by Robert Wisniewski, ‘Looking for Dreams and Talking with Martyrs: Internal Roots of Christian Incubation,’ presented on 12 August 2011 at the 16th International Conference on Patristic Studies, 8–12 August 2011, at Oxford University, UK. In this regard, Shaw (‘Passion,’ 306) notes the existence of a ‘deeply rooted indigenous north African tradition of receiving dream messages from the gods, especially via incubation.’ Shaw here cites the evidence proposed by Marcel Leglay (Saturne Africain: Histoire, Bibliothèque des Écoles Françaises D’Athènes et de Rome 205 [Paris: Éditions E. de Boccard, 1966], 342), who suggests that in sacred sites, including those associated with the dead, les fidèles pouvaient – attendre dans un état de demi-sommeil la manifestation de la présence divine. However, this still seems entirely congruous with Roman customs, which may help to explain the strength of these practices in North Africa. 73 Salisbury, Death and Memory, 113–4. 74 Daniélou, Latin Christianity, 61. 75 Ibid., 59 60. 70

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found anywhere in the writings of Tertullian and are clearly evidence of a popular Christian idiom which has not yet created Latin equivalents for the original Greek words.76

On the other side of the argument, Heidi Vierow states that not many have questioned the authorial authenticity, and that ‘we cannot be so trusting.’ 77 However, merely to categorise such scholars as ‘trusting’ does not seem to give due consideration to the arguments mentioned above. While Vierow acknowledges the ‘clear distinctions’ between Perpetua’s voice and that of the editor,78 her argument is that the polyvalence is part of ‘a contrived, overall narrative strategy.’79 Similarly, Petr Kitzler describes the text not as ‘a monovocal, homogeneous narrative flow, but a dexterously composed work consisting of three distinct yet ultimately integrated narrative voices.’80 However, Vierow’s argument goes both ways, since polyvalence, and indeed dexterous literary skill, can be equally attributed to multiple authors, as claimed by the text itself.81 Ronsse also highlights the features of the Passion of Perpetua that designate it as a carefully literarily crafted text. However, rather than seeing these elements as evidence of the inauthenticity of the text, she sees them as ‘a measure of the success of its careful crafting’ by its original authors.82 A particularly salient example of the literary features Ronnse points out is the way in which the meanings of the names of the characters in the Passion of Perpetua seem to correspond with their respective roles in the text.83 Again, rather than seeing this as discrediting the historicity of the text, Ronsse argues that this makes the Passion of Perpetua ‘not necessarily less than historical record, but… also much more.’84


Ibid. Heidi Vierow, ‘Feminine and Masculine Voices in the Passion of Saints Perpetua and Felicitas,’ Latomus 58 (1999): 602–3. In support of her contention, Vierow (ibid., 605–6) also makes the interesting point that ‘[t]he writer does not make precise the temporality of her trials and imprisonment… Instead the frame of reference is often vague: for many days (multis diebus 3,9), after a few days (Post paucos dies 5,1; 7,1). This suggests the critical distance of an author rather than the immediacy of a diarist.’ 78 Ibid., 618. 79 Ibid., 619. 80 Petr Kitzler, ‘Passio Perpetuae and Acta Perpetuae: Between Tradition and Innovation,’ Listy Filologické CXXX 1–2 (2007): 4. 81 Particularly when Vibia Perpetua’s possible educational background is taken into account. This is an element that will be considered later in this present work. 82 Ronsse, Rhetoric of Martyrs, 100. 83 For detailed discussion, see ibid., 72–3. 84 Ibid. 77

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Kraemer and Lander are among those who have decided against the authorial claims of the text.85 This is largely on the basis of the rejection of the argument that Perpetua stylistically represents a ‘woman’s voice.’86 They essentially argue that there is no identifiable form and voice for women’s writing in antiquity. Therefore, as far as Perpetua’s sections of the Passion of Perpetua are concerned, they consider it possible that the text has been intentionally written so as to appear to be the work of a female.87 They maintain that the claim that women in antiquity wrote with a detectable voice is ‘existentialist,’ and cannot be supported by the sources.88 Nevertheless, in addition to accepting the identity of the authors as being those identified in the text itself, many scholars also accept Perpetua’s visions themselves as authentic.89 Cobb rightly cautions that we must be wary of ‘interpretations of Perpetua’s story [that] are wholly dependent on the authenticity of the authorial claim, a claim that in the end cannot be substantiated.’90 This important methodological observation ultimately pertains to both the authorship and to the nature of the visions. A key point that Halporn makes in this regard is that the reliability of the authorial claims of the text is a different matter to the question of the function of the text.91 Nevertheless, Jeronímo Leal summarises the view of the majority of scholars when he writes that [e]l respeto del compilador por el diario de Perpetua es indudable y que la obra es história se afirma por los críticos en general.92 At this point, we should note that the authenticity and phenomenology of the visions reported in the Passion of Perpetua are not directly relevant to this present research, which is primarily concerned with the ideology that the text represents. On the basis of the current state of the evidence, the position

85 Kraemer and Lander, ‘Perpetua and Felicitas,’ 1055–8. Ross Kraemer previously held the position that Perpetua authored her section of the Passion, but she has changed her position. See also Kraemer, Women’s Religions in the Greco-Roman World: A Sourcebook (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 357. 86 This view has been recently supported by Walter Ameling, who considers that ‘we have no reason to believe in the existence of a specific feminine style.’ (‘Liberaliter Instituta,’ 93.) 87 Kraemer and Lander, ‘Perpetua and Felicitas,’ 1055. 88 Ibid., citing particularly Pliny Ep. I.16.6. In this passage, Pliny refers to letters written by the wife of Pompeius Saturninus. He expresses ambivalence in his assessment of these letters, since he is not sure whether they have been written by the wife, or by Saturninus himself, and he notes that they sound like ‘Plautus or Terence being read in prose.’ (Betty Radice, LCL.) 89 Shaw, ‘Passion,’ 306. See also Prinzivalli, ‘Perpetua the Martyr,’ 119. 90 Cobb, Dying to be Men, 95. 91 James Halporn, ‘Literary History and Generic Expectations in the Passio and Acta Perpetuae,’ VC 45 (1991): 224, 231. 92 Leal, Actas Latinas, 58.

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taken in this present work will be that the authorship of the first-hand sections of the Passion of Perpetua rests with the martyrs themselves.

F. Dating of the Text Kraemer and Lander suggest that there is not much historical warrant for accepting the date commemorated on the Roman calendar, 7th March, as the date for Perpetua’s martyrdom.93 Following their discussions of the problems of dating the martyrdom and the Passion of Perpetua itself,94 they also comment that ‘[t]he problem of dating by itself should alert the careful reader to the difficulty of identifying the extant medieval manuscripts with a literary tradition dating back to the early third century.’95 However, there are weighty reasons for maintaining that Perpetua was put into its final form shortly after the events described within it took place.96 Firstly, in the Greek recension, we find the detail, not clear in the Latin, that the games at which the martyrs died were in honour of the birthday of Caesar Geta, Septimius Severus’ younger son.97 This strongly suggests that the Passion of Perpetua dates from the third decade of the third century, since Geta was killed by his brother Caracalla in December 211, and was then subjected to damnatio memoriae. Consequently, information about his birthday is impossible to find at a later date.98 Secondly, Tertullian mentions the Passion of Perpetua in his work On the Soul,99 which can be dated to about A.D. 206/7.100 This indicates that the story, and most probably the text itself, was already known among his readers by this date. Thirdly, the text of the Passion of Perpetua reflects a Carthaginian Chris-


Kraemer and Lander, ‘Perpetua and Felicitas,’ 1051, citing Robinson, S. Perpetua, 17. Kraemer and Lander, ‘Perpetua and Felicitas,’ 1051–3. 95 Ibid., 1053. 96 Cecil Robeck, Prophecy in Carthage: Perpetua, Tertullian, and Cyprian (Cleveland: Pilgrim Press, 1992), 13. 97 Compare the ambiguous reference to Geta’s birthday in the Latin text of Perpetua VII.9 with the Greek text (see Amat, Perpétue, 130). 98 This was pointed out by Timothy Barnes (‘Pre-Decian Acta Martyrum,’ JTS 19 (1968): 522–525). See also Sara Parvis, ‘Perpetua,’ Expository Times 120 (2009): 366. Leal (Actas Latinas, 59) comments that to use this as evidence that the text was written close in time to the historical events is un poco tortuos[o]. In Leal’s view, this is not because of any flaw in the evidence, but rather that we have many other avenues for proving the proximity of the writing of the text to the historical events. 99 Tertullian, An. LV.4. 100 Following Barnes’ chronological conclusions in Tertullian: A Historical and Literary Study (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971), 55. 94

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tian community that was still united, in contrast to the bitter rifts that were to divide it later in the third century.101 Fourthly, the Passion of Perpetua appears to have been written in the context of the impending deaths of the martyrs. In the preface, the editor explains that his purpose is ‘so that you who are present now may recall the glory of the Lord.’102 He seems to distinguish between this group, apparently eyewitnesses of the martyrdom, and ‘those who now understand by hearing.’103 The expected presence of eyewitnesses among the readers suggests that the Passion of Perpetua ‘must have been put into its final form’104 shortly after the events that it describes. These various reasons, individually, and especially in combination, make a strong case for the early dating that the text itself claims. This is relevant for this present research, which seeks to explore the ideologies of the afterlife in early third-century Carthage. More particularly, this present research explores the Passion of Perpetua and what this text can tell us, not only about early Christianity in Carthage, but also about the multiple trajectories of the afterlife in early Christianity.

G. The Identity of the Editor At the end of her account, before the fateful day in the arena, Perpetua wrote: ‘I have written what happened up to the day before the games. Anyone who wishes to write about what happened on that day should do so’ (ipsius autem muneris actum, si quis uoluerit, scribat).105 The editor who finished and redacted the narrative remains anonymous. The tradition of attibuting the editing of the Passion of Perpetua to Tertullian has a long pedigree going back to Robinson, who found parallels between the


Salisbury, Death and Memory, 158. Also see especially the work of Douglas Powell, ‘Tertullianists and Cataphrygians,’ VC 29 (1975): 33–4, and Parvis, ‘Perpetua,’ 368. Parvis nevertheless points out that ‘[t]here were certainly clear divisions in the Carthaginian church, as Saturus’ vision bears witness (13.1–6), but they had not yet become irrevocable.’ This present research will suggest that these divisions seem to have been related to ideologies of the afterlife rather than to questions of the New Prophecy. 102 Perpetua, I.6 (tr. Tilley, 389). 103 Ibid. Note that the explicit reference here to the presence of eyewitnesses tends to counter Ameling’s scepticism that Perpetua would have expected her story to be read at a yearly memorial service. See Ameling, ‘Liberaliter Instituta,’ 89, citing Paul McKechnie, ‘St. Perpetua and Roman Education in A.D. 200,’ L’Antiquite Classique 63 (1994): 279. 104 Robeck, Prophecy, 13. Christine Trevett (Montanism: Gender, Authority, and the New Prophecy [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002], 178) concurs. 105 Perpetua, X.14 (tr. Tilley, 393); Perpetua, III.2.

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thought, vocabulary, and use of Scripture in the Passion of Perpetua and the works of Tertullian.106 Robinson has been followed in this regard by more recent scholars such as Sommer107 and Farina.108 In 1907, Adhemar d’Alès also notably argued for Tertullian as the editor of Perpetua, using circumstantial and philological evidence, and concluding that it was Tertullian who turned the martyrs into Montanists through his redaction of the story. D’Alès wrote: la Passio Perpetuae presente un grand nombre de traits ou nous croyons reconnaitre avec evidence la main de Tertullien... Quant au montanisme impute a Perpetuae et a ses compagnons, a nos yeux ce n'est rien qu'une legende. La legende a du naitre de ce fait presque certain, que les martyrs de l'an 203 eurent pour hagiographe Tertullien montanisant.109

Of course, D’Alès’ argument was based entirely on circumstantial evidence. The core difficulty with the argument, however, is more fundamental. It is fair enough to say, as Sommer, that ‘[t]he style of the work [Perpetua] is not inconsistent with Tertullian’s other writings.’110 This still provides us with no evidence whatsoever as to whether Tertullian was the editor of the Passion of Perpetua. Both Perpetua and the writings of Tertullian were composed at the same time, or at most within a few decades of each other, in the same city, and within the same Christian community. Significant similarities of thought, diction, and vocabulary are only to be expected. To attribute the Passion of Perpetua to Tertullian, either as editor or author, on the basis that he is the only named Christian writer whom we know, certainly goes beyond what sound methodological considerations will allow. As Maureen Tilley has succinctly observed, ‘[p]roximity does not guarantee authorship.’111 Importantly, Timothy Barnes aligns himself with a significant number of scholars who have disagreed with the view that Tertullian was the editor of Perpetua. His view is that Tertullian’s apparent misrepresentation of the Passion of Perpetua in On the Soul LV.4 ultimatedly decides against his editorialship of the text.112 Bremmer categorically denies that the editor was Tertulli-


Robinson, S. Perpetua, 47–57. Carl Sommer, We Look for a Kingdom: the Everyday Lives of the Early Christians (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2007), 359, n.87. 108 William Farina, Perpetua of Carthage: Portrait of a Third-Century Martyr (Jefferson, McFarland and Company, 2008), 26. 109 Adhemar D’Alès, ‘L’Auteur de la Passio Perpetuae,’ RHE 8 (1907): 18. 110 Sommer, Everyday Lives, 359, n.87. 111 Maureen Tilley, ‘The Passion of Perpetua and Felicity,’ in vol. 2 of Searching the Scriptures: A Feminist Commentary (ed. Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza; New York: Crossroad, 1994), 832. 112 Barnes, Tertullian, 80. 107

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an.113 He bases this judgment on what he considers to be the convincing arguments of René Braun.114 Braun presented a considerable quantity of linguistic and stylistic evidence against Tertullian’s authorship, concluding that we should consider the hypothesis of Tertullian as the editor as d'hypothese erronee, since [r]ien, dans l'oeuvre du polemiste carthaginois, ne temoigne de la moindre proximite avec les martyrs de 203.115 Maureen Tilley also categorically denies that Tertullian was the editor, on the basis that ‘[n]either the prose rhythms nor the vocabulary is his.’116 Weinrich argues against Tertullian’s editorialship on the basis of the disparate attitudes towards childbearing in the texts.117 Pizzolato mounts a theological argument that raises doubts about both Tertullian’s identity as the editor of the Passion of Perpetua, and on the Montanist authorship of Perpetua. Pizzolato considers the latter view to be one that has been over-emphasised, writing that anche a nostro avviso, è stata forse troppo enfatizzata.118 Cogent arguments against Tertullian being the editor of the Passion of Perpetua have therefore been suggested from a variety of perspectives, and it is most reasonable to accept the current thinking in rejecting Tertullian as the editor of Perpetua.119 Placing the issue of the actual identity of the editor aside, it is however important to note that the veracity of the editor is nevertheless open to question, given the apparently novelistic and erotic elements in the depiction of the events in the arena.120 Jan Bremmer, for example points out multiple improbabilities, including the use of a cow to kill Pepetua and Felicitas, the responses of the spectators, and Perpetua’s request for a comb to readjust her hair in the midst of the action in the arena.121 As Dronke has remarked, a woman such as Perpetua would ‘hardly have gone to her death in a fit of prudery.’122 Bremmer therefore


Bremmer, ‘Authenticity,’ 82. Kraemer and Lander (Perpetua and Felicitas, 1054)

agree. 114 René Braun, ‘Nouvelles Observations Linguistiques sur le Rédacteur de la ‘Passio Perpetuae,’ VC 33 (1979): 105–17. 115 Ibid., 116. 116 Tilley, ‘Perpetua,’ 832. 117 William Weinrich, Spirit and Martyrdom: A Study of the Work of the Holy Spirit in Contexts of Persecution and Martyrdom in the New Testament and Early Christian Literature (Washington D.C.: University of America Press, 1981), 224–5. 118 Luigi Pizzolato, ‘Note alla ‘Passio Perpetuae et Felicitatis,’’ VC 34 (1980): 105–8. 119 Ronsse, Rhetoric of Martyrs, 53. Nevertheless, Butler (New Prophecy, 57) appears to prefer the supposition that Tertullian was the editor of the Passion of Perpetua, given his corresponding preference for a Montanistic background for the text. 120 See Bremmer, Review of Habermehl, Perpetua und der Ägypter. 121 Ibid. 122 Dronke, Women Writers, 5.

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suggests that the editor catered to the popular taste for violence and pornography.123 The fact that the editor’s account of the execution contains embellishments should not necessarily be seen as an argument against the historicity of his account. According to Glen Bowersock, the circumstantial detail suggests that this is an eyewitness account, and the ‘grandiose style… suggests a highly educated author… [who] certainly knew how to compose an operatic finale.’124

H. Is the Passion of Perpetua ‘Orthodox’ or ‘Montanist’? Montanism, also called the ‘New Prophecy,’ emphasised the continuing presence of the Holy Spirit, which was actively manifested through prophetic works.125 Within the context of imperial persecution, it also appears to have had a defined theology of martyrdom. Montanist ideas spread to North Africa, and they are evident in the writings of Tertullian after 207.126 Polemic over whether Perpetua is a Montanist or orthodox text appears to have commenced in 1664, when de Valois commented on Montanist overtones in the editor’s sections of the text. Then, in 1689, the editor’s catholicity was conversely asserted by Theodoric Ruinart, a Maurist monk,127 who wrote that the words of the editor were orthodoxum et fidei Catholicae plane consonum.128 These beginnings initiated a debate that since that time has largely played out along confessional lines between Catholics and Protestants. Catholic scholars have advocated the orthodoxy of the Passion of Perpetua, while Protestant scholars have tended to associate it with Montanism.129 As an illustration of this, which I would suggest continues in various forms to this day, the Anglican James C. Robertson claimed in 1876 that ‘[t]he Roman writers are


Bremmer, ‘Felicitas,’ 48–9. Bowersock, Martyrdom and Rome, 36. 125 See also Salisbury, Death and Memory, 156. 126 Ibid. Salisbury notes that this is ‘probably less because he [Tertullian] was converted than because he shared the sensibilities of the three prophets.’ 127 Butler, New Prophecy, 3. 128 Theodoric Ruinart, ‘Admonitio in Passionem SS. Perpetuae, Felicitatis, etc.,’ in Acta Martyrum sincera & selecta (ed Theodoric Ruinart; Regensburg: G. Josephi Manz, 1859), 136. 129 For more detail, see Butler, New Prophecy, 3–5. 124

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concerned to maintain the catholicity of Perpetua and Felicitas because they are commemorated in the canon of the mass.’130 From the point of view of historical research, the attribution of the labels ‘orthodox’ or ‘heterodox’ to the Passion of Perpetua is anachronistic, and methodologically flawed.131 Indeed, as will become evident in this present reseach, it appears that this confessionally-based debate has in fact hindered the understanding of the Passion of Perpetua in an appropriate historical context. This view is forcefully articulated in a dissertation by Zaida Maldonado-Pérez, who writes that the ‘[e]mphasis on the Montanist status of the work has served to demean Perpetua’s role, and to cloud other arguments that might better elucidate our understanding of the text.’132 Returning now to the issues in the debate itself, some commentators have been convinced of a ‘distinctly Montanistic tone’ in the Passion of Perpetua,133 with the preface being seen as a strident defence of Montanistic principles.134 Robinson, in the beginnings of the era of modern scholarship, was the principal advocate of this view.135 He commented on the ‘Montanistic’ tone of the preface, and also claimed to have identified the technical phraseology of Montanism in adeo in Spiritu et in extasi fuerat (‘she was actually caught up in the Spirit and in ecstasy’).136 Since Robinson’s work, the Montanistic character of the Passion of Perpetua has often been simply assumed.137 In more recent times,

130 James C. Robertson, James, History of the Christian Church from the Apostolic Age to the Reformation: A.D. 64–1517, new and rev. ed. (London: John Murray, 1876), vol. 1, 98, quoted in Butler, New Prophecy, 3. 131 The term ‘orthodox’ will appear only sparingly in this research, and primarily in quotations of other secondary sources. The term should not be understood to imply the ‘correctness’ of any views, or that they were necessarily representative of a majority position at the time; what is ‘orthodox’ today was perhaps ‘unorthodox’ in the past, and vice-versa. 132 Zaida Maldonado-Pérez, The Subversive Dimensions of the Visions of the Martyrs of the Roman Empire of the Second through Early Fourth Centuries (Ph.D. Diss., Saint Louis University, 1999), 242. 133 Frankfurter, ‘Regional Trajectories,’ 137. 134 For example, ibid. 135 Robinson, S. Perpetua, 51–2. 136 Perpetua, XX.8 (tr. Tilley, 396). See Robinson, S. Perpetua, 52. 137 For example, Andrzej Wypustek, ‘Magic, Montanism, Perpetua, and the Severan Persecution,’ VC 51 (1997), 6. So too Elaine Huber (Women and the Authority of Inspiration: A Reexamination of Two Prophetic Movements From a Contemporary Feminist Perspective [Lanham: University of America Press, 1985], 47). Antonie Wlosok (‘Passio Perpetuae et Felicitatis,’ in vol. 4 of Märtyrerakten und Passionen: Handbuch der lateinischen Literatur der Antike Von der römischen zur christlichen Literatur 117 bis 284 n.Chr. [ed. Klaus Sallmann; München 1997], 424), refers to the Montanistic colouration of the text, i.e., theologischen Rahmen montanistisch anmutender Färbung versehen.

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Rex Butler has articulately defended the view that the Passion of Perpetua is a Montanistic text,138 although his arguments have not convinced many scholars.139 Tabernee has observed that it is impossible to definitely determine whether Perpetua and her companions were members of a Montanistic group.140 However, even if the editor of Perpetua was Montanist, this does not necessarily mean that the martyrs themselves were adherents of the New Prophecy.141 Clearly the editors of the passio and the acta had no questions about the orthodoxy of the texts, and neither did the North African bishops. This should weigh heavily on the question of the supposed Montanistic origins of the text.142 The preface itself commences by referring to ‘ancient illustrations of faith’ by which the church is edified, and asking why new examples of faith should not also be collected. Indeed, it argues that the newer manifestations of the power of the Holy Spirit143 have at the very least equal authority with the ancient manifestions, since it is all of the same Holy Spirit, and it is evident we are


Butler, New Prophecy, 58–61. Note, for example, the reviews of Butler by Laura Nasrallah (JR 88 (2008): 103– 104), Straw (JECS 15 (2007): 573–74), Tilley (CHR 94 2008: 320–21), and Wilhite (JRH 32 (2008): 475–77). In relation to the Passion of Perpetua and Montanism, see also Salisbury, Death and Memory, 158. 140 William Tabernee, Fake Prophecy and Polluted Sacraments: Ecclesiastical and Imperial Reactions to Montanism, Supplements to Vigiliae Christianae 84 (Leiden: Brill, 2007), 64. 141 Note that Tertullian argues for the essential unity between the Christians of Carthage and Christians elsewhere (Virg. II.2). This supports the contention that clear divisions had not yet appeared in the church at Carthage. See also Tabernee, Fake Prophecy, 64–5. 142 Tabernee, Fake Prophecy, 64–5. See Augustine, e.g., Serm. 280.1, 281.1; and Quodvultdeus, De Tempore Barbarico, Caput V/6, ed. Migne, vol. 40, which states of Perpetua and Felicitas: Habetis virorum fortium magna exempla. Vicerunt martyres mundum. See also the unanimous evidence of the various catholic martyrologies with regard to Perpetua’s orthodoxy. However, the contrary view is expressed by Kenneth Steinhauser (‘Augustine’s Reading of the Passio sanctarum Perpetuae et Felicitatis,’ StPatr 33 (1997): 249), who argues that while Augustine knew that the Passion of Perpetua was just Montanist propaganda, he could do nothing but accept such a popular text. While this is interesting and even possible, it is not probable when placed against the abundant testimony in favour of the orthodox acceptance of the text, and the lack of any witness in antiquity to the contrary. 143 Perpetua, I.3: secundum exuperationem gratiae in ultima saeculi spatia decreta (‘in accordance with the exuberance of grace manifested to the final periods determined for the world.’ I have used Luke Dysinger’s translation in this instance, in preference to other translations, for its closeness to the text, and as better capturing the ‘apocalyptic’ tone of the preface (The Passion of Perpetua and Felicitas, n.p., (cited 5 June 2010). Online: 139

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now in the last days of the history of the world.144 The preface continues by affirming that the community to which the redactor belongs acknowledges and reverences both the ancient prophecies and the modern visions equally (itaque et nos qui sicut prophetias, ita et visiones novas pariter repromissas et agnoscimus et honoramus).145 Furthermore, the redactor considers that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are still being administered to all, as in ancient times, and that accordingly, revelations are still being given.146 Rather than pointing towards Montanistic redaction, the preface should be properly understood as indicating an apocalyptic mindset and community. Those elements in the preface and in the text that have been seen by some as Montanistic are merely characteristic of the majority of early third-century Christianity, particularly in North Africa, but most probably much further afield as well. It is certainly insufficient, as per Wypustek, to classify the text as Montanistic on the basis of the presence of visions, prophetic dreams, and apparent miracles.147 Even Christine Trevett, who strongly suspects that the martyrs belonged to the New Prophecy,148 still admits that the New Prophecy ‘was little different from much of the Christianity of its age. It was all a matter of emphasis and of degree.’149 Maureen Tilley also points out that ‘[t]he Passion lacks the central and distinctive attributes of Montanist literature; namely, asceticism, millenarianism, and ecstatic prophecies.’150 Therefore, while some core features of Montanism are missing, other features, adduced as key to identifying Perpetua as a work influenced by the New Prophecy, are merely typical of North African Christianity in this period.151 The arguments for Montanistic influence on Perpetua seem weak at best.152 Even more telling, the whole question may be anachronistic. As Salisbury points out, even if there were Montanistic influences in the Carthaginian Christian communities as early as 203 A.D., at the time that the Passion of Perpetua was written, the church in Carthage had not yet split into clear ‘orthodox’ vs Montanist distinctions.153


Here the redactor cites Joel 2:18–19 and Acts 2:17–18. Perpetua, Preface (tr. Dysinger). 146 Interestingly, although written over a century after the close of the New Testament canon, this preface arguably reflects the New Testament perspective well. 147 Wypustek, ‘Montanism,’ 6. 148 Trevett, Montanism, 178. 149 Ibid. 150 Tilley, ‘Perpetua,’ 835. 151 Ibid. Kraemer and Lander (‘Perpetua and Felicitas,’ 1061) remain skeptical on the question of any attribution of Montanism to the Passion of Perpetua. 152 Robeck, Prophecy, 15. 153 Salisbury, Death and Memory, 158. 145

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I. The Passion of Perpetua as Ideological Subversion: Social and Feminist Perspectives In recent years, scholars have tended to focus on the aspects of the Passion of Perpetua that critique social structures and hierarchies. Rosemary Rader, for example, notes an attitude of ‘defiance and rebellion against authority’ throughout the text.154 As an account of Christian martyrdom, Perpetua is of course a text that has been seen as critiquing the Roman Empire and its prevailing social and ideological structures. The text itself has been correspondingly analysed from many perspectives.155 Larissa Seelbach rightly raises the question of the extent to which Perpetua was acting for purely religious motives, and the extent to which elements of social protest should be seen in the background. Nevertheless, she observes that, given the limited opportunities within society for distancing oneself from traditional family patterns and behaviours, stellte das Deckmäntelchen der Religiosität vielleicht einen nicht zu geringen Anreiz dar.156 Judith Perkins sees the subversion of the existing hierarchical structures of the empire as being manifested in the imagery and language used in the visions of Perpetua.157 She notes, for example, that Perpetua’s vision of combat with the Egyptian clearly conveys a subversive message by describing the Christian victory in terms that overturn existing social hierarchies.158 The Passion of Perpetua may also be seen as questioning (and indeed, as a polemic against) notions of identity, as defined within existing structures of the time. In this regard, Huber notes how in the text of Perpetua, ‘class boundaries are transcended as slaves mingle freely with women and men of high families. The barriers which separate parents from children, as well as those between men and women, are broken through in the encounters between Perpetua and

154 Rosemary Rader, ‘The Martyrdom of Perpetua: A Protest Account of Third Century Christianity,’ in A Lost Tradition: Women Writers in the Early Church (ed. Patricia Wilson–Kastner; Washington, D.C.: University Press of America, 1981), 7. 155 For example, Marie-Louise Von Franz (The Passion of Perpetua: A Psychological Interpretation of Her Visions [Toronto: Inner City Books, 2004], 83), has insightfully analysed Perpetua from the perspective of Jungian psychology. 156 Larissa Seelbach, Perpetua und Tertullian: Die Märtyrerin und der Kirchenvater (Jena: IKS Garamond, 2000), 36. 157 Judith Perkins, The Suffering Self: Pain and Narrative Representation in the Early Christian Era (London: Routledge, 1995), 104, 121. These aspects will be considered in more detail in Chapter 8. 158 Ibid., 110.

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her father.’159 This latter relationship directly subverts the usual family structures of North African culture.160 Virginia Burrus notes how, after Perpetua has seemingly broken her ties with her genetic father, the great shepherd calls Perpetua, ‘daughter.’ Burrus observes that this raises ‘the question of who this “daughter” is—insisting on the question, rather than offering an easy answer.’161 Nevertheless, Seelbach notes that Perpetua understood that her [v]ersuch, sich aus der Bevormundung und dem Einfluss ihres Vaters zu lösen, konnte zu ihren Lebzeiten nicht erfolgreich sein.162 It is indeed important to note that this subversion is not solely directed against the norms of the Roman Empire and contemporary culture. In her dissertation on the subversive dimensions of the martyrs’ visions in the early centuries, Maldonado-Pérez pays particular attention to the visions in the Passion of Perpetua.163 She argues that the visions ‘provide us with a historical and theological basis for arguing on behalf of an underlying grass roots or popular theology that at times subverted the prescribed theological and, or socio-cultural norms.’164 She maintains that the content of these visions was often interpreted subversively, and that it ‘created a strong propensity for interpretations that defied theological and ecclesiastical norms.’165 This is in fact a key framework concept upon which this present research aims to elaborate. The issue of identity is inseparably tied up with gender in this text, and scholars who have viewed Perpetua from feminist perspectives have added significantly to our understanding of the text. Ian Plant has noted that the significance of accepting female authorship of this text is that it then stands as the ‘earliest extant Christian literature written by a woman.’166 Moreover, as Rosemary Rader has observed, the Passion of Perpetua is ‘a veritable rara avis among the male depictions of women in past history.’167 As such, the Passion of Perpetua has rightly attracted considerable attention from scholars highlighting feminist perspectives, of which only some examples may be given here. As Erin Ann Ronnse has observed, the ‘bodily experiences of motherhood―both parturition and lactation’ pervade Perpetua’s sections of


Huber, Women, 54. Ibid., 54. 161 Virginia Burrus, Saving Shame: Martyrs, Saints, and Other Abject Subjects (Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania University Press, 2008), 31. 162 Seelbach, Perpetua und Tertullian, 92. 163 Maldonado-Pérez, Subversive Dimensions, 89–242. 164 Ibid., 117. 165 Ibid., 245. 166 Ian Plant, Women Writers of Ancient Greece and Rome: An Anthology (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2004), 165. 167 Rader, ‘Martyrdom of Perpetua,’ 3. 160

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the text.168 Patricia Davies has noted some of the key maternal imagery in the text focused on the concept of weaning. Davies particularly examines the image of the cheese in the Passion of Perpetua and parallels the weaning of Perpetua’s child onto solid food with the weaning of Perpetua to the solid food of martyrdom.169 Davies suggests that the conversion of the milk to the cheese is the key to the interpretation of the dream: ‘the image of weaning from milk to solid food is the root metaphor of Perpetua’s first dream.’170 The relationship between Perpetua and her father has already been mentioned, and Rhee, for example, has focused on this as an overturning of the traditional patriarchy.171 Mary Lefkowitz develops similar ideas with regard to the releasing of women from the ‘hierarchical structure imposed by patriarchal society.’172 Maldonado-Pérez applies these concepts, not just to patriarchal society as a whole, but more specifically to the hierarchical structures within the church. She argues that ‘[p]opular views about martyrs… worked synergistically challenging established ecclesiastical borders by casting women and nonordained men in priestly roles. Women such as Perpetua could function in ways that defied common practice regarding women’s roles in the church, and in society.’173 Certainly, Perpetua consistently refuses to be passive, even at the moment of her death, as Fannie LeMoine emphasises.174 In the context of contrasting Perpetua’s attitude to that which Tertullian considered appropriate for women, Seelbach comments that [v]ielmehr war Perpetua aktiv,175 suggesting that Perpetua may be considered as Vorkämpferin für weibliche Selbstbestimmung.176 The concept of resistance in the Passion of Perpetua has therefore also been explored in various ways. Alvyn Pettersen wrote an article from a rather theological or spiritual perspective, in which he emphasised the resistance of Perpetua in imitation of Christ, so that ‘Perpetua, the martyr, became an alter


Ronsse, Rhetoric of Martyrs, 52. Patricia Davis, ‘The Weaning of Perpetua: Female Embodiment and Spiritual Growth Metaphor in the Dream of an Early Christian Martyr,’ Dreaming 15 (2005): 269. 170 Ibid., 262. 171 Helen Rhee, Early Christian Literature: Christ and Culture in the Second and Third Centuries: The Apologies, Apocryphal Acts and Martyr Acts (Abingdon: Routledge, 2005), 150. 172 Mary Lefkowitz, ‘The Motivations for St. Perpetua’s Martyrdom,’ JAAR 44 (1976): 421. 173 Maldonado-Pérez, Subversive Dimensions, 246. 174 F. LeMoine, ‘Apocalyptic Experience and the Conversion of Women in Early Christianity,’ in Fearful Hope: Approaching the New Millenium (ed. C. Kleinhenz and F. LeMoine; Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1999), 206. 175 Seelbach, Perpetua und Tertullian, 90–91. 176 Ibid., 93. 169

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Christus.’177 This theme has been much further elaborated upon in Candida Moss’ monograph, Other Christs. In a separate study, Moss has also traced the theme of familial abandonment in the early Christian martyr acts, with a special focus on the Passion of Perpetua. She argues that the scholarly treatment of female martyrs has largely failed to consider this important theme in the context of the masculinisation of female martyrs.178 From a different perspective, in an interdisciplinary study, Shannon Dunn compares the roles of Vibia Perpetua and the Palestinian Wafa Idris as martyrs.179 Dunn concludes that these kinds of narratives sanction the participation of women in the replacement of oppressive political orders with new ones.180 Therefore, for Dunn, martyr discourses are not to be read as historical facts; rather, they manifest the ‘political-social aims of the group that writes and circulates them.’181 Relevantly for this present research, Dunn examines these female martyrs as community symbols, who communicate the group’s collective identity. As such, ‘[t]he circulation of martyr narratives provides a powerful testimony to their practical utility as one resource for creating and sustaining community.’182 Returning now to the issue of the ‘orthodoxy’ of the Passion of Perpetua, Maureen Tilley considers that the whole question ‘is nothing but a covert attack on women’s wisdom.’183 This is an entirely relevant observation, since the Passion of Perpetua has been seen as subversive against traditional male authority from the earliest phases of its literary trajectory.184 This is evident in how the prominence of the female role in the Passion of Perpetua is smoothed over and diminished in the later Acta Perpetua, as Maud McInerney points out.185 As merely one example, in the Acta, Perpetua is given a plebian husband whom she

177 Lisa Sullivan, ‘I Responded, “I Will Not…’: Christianity as a Catalyst for Resistance in the Passio Perpetuae et Felicitatis,’ Semeia 79 (1997): 149. 178 Candida Moss, ‘Blood Ties: Martyrdom, Motherhood, and Family in the Passion of Perpetua and Felicity,’ in Women and Gender in Ancient Religions: Interdisciplinary Approaches (ed. Stephen P. Ahearne-Kroll, Paul A. Holloway, James A. Kelhoffer; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2010), 189–190. 179 See also Bremmer, ‘Felicitas,’ 50–53. 180 Shannon Dunn, ‘The Female Martyr and the Politics of Death: An Examination of the Martyr Discourses of Vibia Perpetua and Wafa Idris,’ JAAR 78 (2010): 216. 181 Ibid., 218. 182 Ibid., 216. 183 Tilley, ‘Perpetua,’ 835. 184 Rader (‘Martyrdom of Perpetua,’ 11–12) reasonably suggests that ‘[t]he church’s reversion to an essentially male hierarchical structure after the fourth or fifth century may partially explain the account’s subsequent neglect.’ 185 Maud McInerney, ‘Strange Triangle: Tertullian, Perpetua, Thecla,’ in Eloquent Virgins from Thecla to Joan of Arc (New York: Palgrave, 2003), 15–46.

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publicly rejects (5.2–6.1), which helps to mitigate the scandalousness of her circumstances.186 This same concern about the gender roles in Perpetua is also evident in Augustine’s apparent consternation over Perpetua’s authoritative role in the text. Augustine repeatedly subverts the intention of the text, highlighting Perpetua and Felicitas not as examples of strength, but as examples of feminine weakness.187 One of the key ways in which Augustine deals with the strength and authority of Perpetua is by denying her femininity. For example, he comments that ‘in the inner self they are found to be neither male nor female.’188 In this particular sermon, Augustine follows this with the statement that in the case of Perpetua and Felicitas, ‘the sex of the flesh is concealed by the virtue of the mind, and one is reluctant to think about a condition in their members that never showed in their deeds,’189 which Edmund Hill calls ‘a thoroughly sexist sentiment.’190 It is typical of Augustine’s at times subtle and at other times not-so-subtle deprecation of the Passion of Perpetua that he was the first to doubt its authorial authenticity, referring to the author as ‘the saint herself, or whoever it was that wrote the account’ (nec illa sic scripsit, vel quicumque illud scripsit).191 Peter Kitzler observes that [t]he result of Augustine’s presentation of the Pass. Perp. is, that the Pass. Perp. itself has been silenced to some extent: it is the Church dignitary and the authority of the Church which talks about it and instead of it; it is this very authority which corrects what the believers have heard during the reading, and which further explains (away) the controversial points.192

With particular reference to the Passion of Perpetua, Sardella rightly sees the public reading of the passiones, which seem to have commenced as a spontaneous public practice, as un interessante capitolo di conflittualità tra le tendene devozionali dei fedeli e la volontà della chiesta instituzionale, che su di esse


Kraemer and Lander, ‘Perpetua and Felicitas,’ 1054, citing Shaw, ‘Passion,’ 33–42. Augustine, Serm. 280.1; 281.1–3; 282.1; 282.3; 394. 188 Augustine, Serm. 280.1 (tr. Hill, 72). 189 Augustine, Serm. 280.1 (tr. Hill, 72). 190 Hill, Sermons, 76, n.4. See also Petr Kitzler, ‘Viri mirantur facilius quam imitantur: Passio Perpetuae in the Literature of Ancient Church (Tertullian, acta martyrum, and Augustine),’ in Christian and Jewish Narrative (ed. Judith Perkins, M. Futre Pinheiro, and R. Pervo; Barkhuis: Eelde, 2011), 8. 191 Augustine, An. orig. 1.12 (for the translation, see On the Soul and its Origin, vol. 5 of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series (ed. Peter Schaff, trans. Peter Holmes and Robert Ernest Wallis; Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1887), 615. 192 Kitzler, ‘Viri Mirantur,’ 9. 187

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cercò sempre di esercitare un rigido controllo.193 Patricia Cox Miller offers a fascinating and convincing feminist deconstruction of the oneiric aspects of the discourse in the Passion of Perpetua. In this regard, she notes that Tertullian was among the foremost of the representatives of the patriarchal perspective in Perpetua’s own Carthaginian community.194 Miller observes that ‘Tertullian’s construction of woman exemplifies the sexual logic that privileges the paternal metanarrative.’195 Tertullian therefore asserts: Non permittitur mulieri in ecclesia loqui, sed nec docere, nec tinguere, nec offerre, nec ullius uirilis muneris, nedum sacerdotalis officii sortem sibi uindicarent.196 Referring to those women who transgress these boundaries within the Christian communities, he exclaims: ipsae mulieres haereticae, quam procaces! Quae audeant docere, contendere, exorcismos agere, curationes repromittere, forsitan et tingere.197 Miller comments that in his sermons, by constantly underscoring the ‘virile’ quality of Perpetua’s deeds, Augustine in effect reduces, or even altogether denies ‘the possibility of conceptualising spiritual courage as female.’198 However, she suggests that when Perpetua is read as a woman’s testimony, there is sufficient evidence to indicate that there was an active debate about the authority of women, and the status of their leadership in the Carthaginian church.199 Miller then undertakes a feminist analysis of Perpetua’s dream discourse.200 Fundamental to her analysis is the notion that ‘maleness’ is the fundamental trope of Perpetua’s oneiric language. In her dreams, it is the male figures, ‘constitutive of her martyred condition,’201 who are acknowledged, although ‘they are also being subverted,’202 in the sense that Kristeva characterises oneiric lan-

193 Teresa Sardella, ‘Strutture temporali e modelli di Cultura: Rapporti tra Antitradizionalismo storico e Modello martiriale nella Passio Perpetuae et Felicitatis,’ Aug 30 (1990): 259. 194 Patricia Miller, ‘Perpetua and Her Diary of Dreams,’ in Dreams in Late Antiquity: Studies in the Imagination of a Culture (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994), 169. 195 Ibid., citing L. Irigaray (‘Così Fan Tutti,’ in This Sex Which is Not One [trans. Catherine Porter and Carolyn Burke; Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985], 90) regarding the suppression of female sexuality. 196 Tertullian, Virg. IX.2.5–8. 197 Tertullian, Praescr. 41.5. On Tertullian’s construction of womanhood, see also Cult. fem. 1.1.1–2. 198 Miller, ‘Diary of Dreams,’ 171. 199 Ibid., 175. 200 Ibid., 176–183. 201 Ibid., 175. 202 Ibid.

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guage as a discourse of the carnival.203 Furthermore, Miller also observes that in Perpetua’s dreams, the male figures are ‘not single but double, both positive and negative.’204 She suggests that this reflects both the division in her community about women, and also ‘the unhinging of the masculine from its univocal moorings in authority.’205 Consequently, ‘what dies in her dream-discourse is the master narrative of theological doctrine that so devalued female identity. In this sense, the dreams unlock theological prejudice by exposing it to the polyvalent discourse of the oneiric imagination.’206 Although this present research will not focus on these aspects of the subversive nature of the Passion of Perpetua, the value of many of these insights should be acknowledged. Feminist scholars, and scholars who have focused on the social aspects of Perpetua, have highlighted the subversion of existing structures as a key theme in the text. Indeed, Perpetua should be understood as being subversive at many levels. It will be argued here that the Passion of Perpetua was fundamentally subversive in terms of its ideology of the afterlife as well. The Passion of Perpetua, as a critique of existing ideologies, uses the language, imagery, and concepts of the prevailing society to subvert older and perhaps more traditional ideologies of the afterlife, and to present the more ‘popular’ version.

203 Julia Kristeva, ‘Word, Dialogue, and Novel,’ in Desire in language: A Semiotic Approach to Literature and Art (ed. Leon S. Roudiez, trans. Thomas Gora, Alice Jardine, and Leon S. Roudiez; New York: Columbia University Press, 1980), 83–84. 204 Miller, ‘Diary of Dreams,’ 175. 205 Ibid., citing Dronke, Women Writers, 5–6. An example of this is the way in which the Egyptian and Pomponius are each the oneiric double of the other. 206 Miller, ‘Diary of Dreams,’ 176–183.

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J. Observations on the Concept of Mysticism The Passion of Perpetua has been valued throughout history for its ‘mystical’ character. Since it is central to the literature, and there are various complex methodological difficulties associated with its use, some comments are warranted with regard to the term ‘mysticism.’ The first methodological difficulty is a problem of definition. The term ‘mysticism’ lends itself to a multiplicity of definitions, since it is a term invented by Western scholars and is ‘deeply influenced by the perspectives, backgrounds, and interests’ of these scholars.207 Peter Schäfer has echoed Boaz Huss’s ‘scathing criticism’ of the categories of mysticism, maintaining that these, and Jewish mysticism in particular, ‘are based on Christian theological concepts that, in the wake of Western imperialist and colonialist efforts, have been imposed on non-Western societies and religions.’208 For historical reasons, the term ‘mysticism’ as applied to Judaism has also been associated with anti-Semitic thinking.209 The stark reality is that there is no equivalent in the languages in which our sources are preserved for what we today call ‘mysticism.’210 These are serious issues that must be considered. Furthermore, if we take the term entirely outside of its ‘Jewish’ and perhaps ‘religious’ usage, and consider philosophical definitions, we find that these are not necessarily helpful, since they can be applied to a very wide variety of purported religious experiences in almost any tradition.211 Joseph Dan’s discussion of mysticism is perhaps more useful in this regard. Dan writes that ‘[t]he starting point of the mystical attitude to religious truth is the deep doubt—or, very often, complete denial—that communicative language


Vita Arbel, Beholders of Divine Secrets: Mysticism and Myth in the Hekhalot and Merkavah Literature (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2003), 14. 208 Peter Schäfer, The Origins of Jewish Mysticism (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2009), 354–5, citing Boaz Huss, ‘The Mystification of the Kabbalah and the Myth of Jewish Mysticism,’ Pe῾ amim 110, 2007, 9–30 (in Hebrew). 209 For more details, see Schäfer, Origins, 354. The first scholar to study Jewish mysticism in a systematic manner, and to attempt to use an objective methodology was Gershom Scholem. His monograph, Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism (New York: Schocken Books, 1954), represents a turning point in the history of research into Jewish mysticism. 210 Schäfer, Origins, 354. 211 For example, Jerome Gellman, in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (s.v. ‘Mysticism,’ Summer 2011 Edition, ed. N. Zalta; cited16 September 2010. [Online:]), confesses to a ‘degree of vagueness’ in his own definition.

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can reveal divine truth to a believer.’212 This denial of communication creates a paradoxical silencing tendency for mystics.213 Dan explains that [a]t this juncture the historian must stop explaining, if he follows the mystics, because they claim consistently that the mystical is that which cannot be conveyed in words. When a scholar tries to formulate the inner nature of mysticism in positive terms… he puts himself in the position of knowing better than the mystics themselves what they have experienced, and succeeding where they say failure is inevitable—expressing the inexpressible in communicative language.214

It therefore falls outside the historian’s brief and tools to make blanket value judgments on the reality or validity of these types of experiences, since each reported experience must be considered in its own context. Indeed, it seems that this is one of the fundamental methodological traps into which historians may fall.215 As Dan remarks, ‘[i]f the mystics insists that this is beyond words, it is the duty of the historian to accept it, and stop his research at this point. Mysticism is that which cannot be expressed in words, period.’216 This seems to intersect even more fundamentally with the kind of methodological issues Schäfer raises about the concept of ‘Jewish mysticism.’ The fact that there is no equivalent word for ‘mysticism’ in Judaism underpins the ‘noncommunicative’ aspect of such phenomena. Correspondingly, the fact that a particular source culture does not have a term for this category of phenomena does not mean that it was never believed to exist. It simply means that we must be very cautious when classifying and describing these phenomena from our contemporary perspective. It is also important for scholars of Jewish and Christian ‘mysticism’ to be able to place this class of phenomena in the broader reality that similar phenomena are evident in a very broad range of traditions throughout history. Gruenwald suggests that we should not view mysticism as an isolated and independent experience, but simply assume that ‘mysticism is expressive of the desire to have experience of God or of experiences that come as a result of an


Joseph Dan, The Heart and the Fountain: An Anthology of Jewish Mystical Experiences [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003], 2–3. 213 Ibid., 4. 214 Ibid., 5. 215 Such as discussions about whether Perpetua’s visions were ‘real’ or not. 216 Dan, Mystical Experiences, 5. While according to Dan, strictly speaking, historians may need to stop research at this point, John Pilch (Flights of the Soul: Visions, Heavenly Journeys, and Peak Experiences in the Biblical World [Grand Rapids; Cambridge: Eerdmans, 2011]), 17–227 demonstrates that the other social sciences, such as cultural anthropology, may also provide valuable insights into the nature of mysticism. Pilch fascinatingly argues that journeys into the heavens, and other forms of altered states of consciousness were not only plausible, but real and commonplace in their cultures of origin.

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immediate communion with God.’217 Implicit in Gruenwald’s understanding is that we should simply acknowledge this. As Gruenwald notes, ‘it would not be wrong to say that any form of direct and intensive communion with God entails a strong mystical element, even when that is not developed into a fully blown mystical doctrine.’218 Gruenwald’s emphasis tends to remove the discussion of mysticism away from definitions that align with specific traditions, whether they be Jewish, Christian, or other. Gruenwald suggests that if we view mysticism from this perspective, then we must treat mysticism ‘within the natural forms of religious behaviour and expression,’219 and that therefore, ‘new possibilities of understanding and evaluating its essence may present themselves to the scholar.’220 Gruenwald’s proposal has real merit. What is lost in the seemingly fruitless quest for definitional precision is gained in descriptive ability in terms of the perceptions of the relevant phenomena. Furthermore, this proposal removes the concept of mysticism from the methodological critiques highlighted above. Dan also observes, relevantly for our present purposes, that ‘the basic premises of a mystical attitude to religion are often contradictory to those of established religion.’221 McGinn highlights this same aspect in commenting that a central claim that is evident in that the way in which the mystic accesses God is ‘radically different’ from ‘usual religious observances.’222 While the mystical experience through which the divine presence can be attained can occur within the context of ‘ordinary religious observances,’223 it need not be; it is an essentially independent experience. Jacobs characterises it as being when the ‘mind is in direct encounter with God.’224 This encounter seems to be ‘both subjectively and objectively more direct,’ and immediate 225 relative to what can be attained through ‘ordinary religious observances.’226 These perspectives are entirely relevant to the Passion of Perpetua. This is a document that clearly contains ‘mystical’ aspects of early Christian apocalyp-


Ithamar Gruenwald, ‘Reflections on the Nature and Origins of Jewish Mysticism,’ in Gershom Scholem’s Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism 50 Years After (ed. Peter Schäfer and Joseph Dan; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1993), 27. 218 Ibid. 219 Ibid. 220 Ibid. Note here Gruenwald’s critique of Scholem’s Major Trends. 221 Dan, Mystical Experiences, 2. 222 Bernard McGinn, The Foundations of Mysticism, vol 1 of The Presence of God: A History of Western Christian Mysticism (London: SCM Press, 1991), xix. 223 Ibid. 224 Louis Jacobs, Jewish Mystical Testimonies (New York: Schocken Books, 1977), 1. 225 McGinn, Foundations of Mysticism, xix. 226 Ibid.

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ticism, modelled in many key respects on the Jewish apocalyptic tradition, and these are elements that must be examined. To deny these aspects of the JudaeoChristian tradition substantially removes them from the realm of examination, which is not necessarily productive for the historian. Since we currently have no better linguistic means with which to deal with these kinds of phenomena, Gruenwald’s approach will be adopted here, bearing in mind Dan’s observations about the non-communicatability of mystical revelations.

K. The Passion of Perpetua and the Afterlife The issue of the afterlife in the Passion of Perpetua, and the attendant implications for the ideologies of the afterlife in Carthage, as well as in early Christianity more generally, has been paid relatively little scholarly attention. This is in spite of Orbán reminding us that the Passion of Perpetua is the most important source we have for ‘the ‘popular, non-theological idea’ of the afterlife in the first centuries of Christianity, and particularly in North Africa.227 Orbán’s 1989 study is one of two key articles that have concentrated on what the Passion of Perpetua has to tell us about Christian understandings of the afterlife. Orbán’s focus was specifically on ascertaining the influences that informed the early Christian view of the afterlife. In this article, Orbán concludes that late Judaism seems to be the most important influence in the development of the understanding of the afterlife in early Christianity.228 Orbán’s work can be critiqued for not taking the complexity of the milieu in which early thirdcentury Carthaginian Christianity expressed itself fully into account. That ideas and imagery in the Passion of Perpetua are also found in the writings of the Judaism of late antiquity does not argue for predominantly Jewish sources, since these ideas and imagery may also be found in other traditions. The second relevant article in relation to Perpetua and the afterlife is a 2000 study by Jan Bremmer. Bremmer comments on the choice of the Passion of Perpetua as a text via which to explore the afterlife in early Christianity, asserting that ‘[t]his choice has the great advantage that it enables us to look at the beliefs of a specific person at a specific time and specific place instead of collecting indications from all different persons, places and times. Taking her be-


A. Orbán, ‘The Afterlife in the Visions of the Passio SS. Perpetuae et Felicitatis,’ in Fructus centesimus, Instrumenta Patristica 19 (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1989) 270–1. 228 Ibid., 277.

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liefs as our point of departure, we can compare them with other early Christian views.’229 This is the focus of this present research. This research is warranted because of the lack of systematic focus on the afterlife in the Passion of Perpetua, and perhaps a lack of recognition of the significance of this text in terms of the trajectories and ideologies of the afterlife in early Christianity. This present research particularly recognises the very significant work of Jan Bremmer on the afterlife in antiquity and early Christianity generally, and on the Passion of Perpetua specifically, as well as the groundbreaking work of Ramsay MacMullen in terms of what the material evidence reveals about the nature of early Christianity. This current exploration of the Passion of Perpetua and its contexts builds on the work of these scholars, and seeks to specifically identify some fundamental characteristics of Christianity in early third-century Carthage, with a particular focus on the role played by ideologies of the afterlife. In addition, this research seeks to explore what the Passion of Perpetua and the works of Tertullian can tell us about aspects of the social and ideological dimensions of these Christian communities, and about the mechanisms of ideological change that the evidence suggests. Fundamentally, we agree with Ameling, who observes that ‘Perpetua’s conception of the afterlife was not so different from the ideas the pagans held on this matter.’230 Recognising this fact is one thing; however, analysing it, understanding it, and placing it in its historical and cultural context is another, and this is what this present research seeks to do. The results of this task may not only allow us to understand more about how the afterlife was perceived by the early Christian communities in Carthage, but they may also allow us to better understand important aspects of early Christianity more generally.

229 Jan Bremmer, ‘The Passion of Perpetua and the Development of Early Christian Afterlife,’ NedTT 54 (2000): 98. 230 Ameling, ‘Liberaliter Instituta,’ 90.

Chapter 3

The Afterlife of the Righteous in Early Christianity A. Introduction This chapter will consider the principal early Christian trajectories of the afterlife, both before and after the Passion of Perpetua. The first section will examine what the material evidence has to tell us about the ideologies and trajectories of the afterlife. The second section will consider trajectories before the Passion of Perpetua in the literary evidence, commencing with the New Testament material. The third section of this survey will deal with the trajectories of the afterlife in the literary evidence after the Passion of Perpetua. This will allow us to appreciate the significance of the afterlife ideologies of Perpetua in their broader historical context. A question to be asked is, if the understandings of the afterlife were not homogenous and static within early Christianity, then where does the Passion of Perpetua fit into this mosaic?

B. Early Christian Material Evidence In this section, early Christian material evidence will be broadly considered in terms of ideologies of the afterlife.1 In the context of the afterlife, material evidence refers specifically to epigraphic and burial remains. Certainly, each of these categories of historical evidence present us with interpretative challenges in terms of understanding what people actually believed about the afterlife. It seems reasonable to assume that early Christian inscriptions and funerary art would be a prime source of evidence for the beliefs of Christians about the soul and the afterlife. However, the material evidence, although promising much, has not delivered quite as expected.2 The fundamental reason for this is that funerary evidence tends to primarily express idealised images or social conventions. Setzer observes that burial formulae and symbols do not reflect the thoughts of the people, except in the broadest ways, because they often ‘mute polemics over 1

In Chapter 6, the material evidence will be considered again, specifically in terms of the cult of the dead and refrigerium. 2 Claudia Setzer, Resurrection of the Body in Early Judaism and Early Christianity: Doctrine, Community, and Self-Definition (Leiden: Brill, 2004), 123–4.

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identity or self-construction and show a deceptively monochromatic quality of culture.’3 Setzer explains that the social, doctrinal, and religious conflicts clearly evident in the literary evidence are ‘bleached out in burial inscriptions and customs’; death tends to ‘obscure differences and show more evidence of interaction and shared customs between groups.’4 Funerary inscriptions are therefore difficult to interpret. In fact, in the Hellenistic world, it was not uncommon for pagans, Jews and Christians to share some of the same customs, formulae, and decorations. The actual nature and quantity of the ancient epigraphic evidence regarding the afterlife must also be placed in perspective. Snyder, in his work Ante Pacem, has analysed examples of all the pre-Constantinian non-literary Christian materials.5 These display little evidence of the faith of the deceased, or of a sophisticated concept of immortality, or even explicit references to resurrection. Setzer observes that [i]n reality, material evidence for resurrection among Jews is scarce, and is even scantier for early Christians. Of the Roman Jewish inscriptions, only 3% refer to afterlife at all. For Christians, the amount of epigraphic material evidence from before the fourth century, mostly from Rome and Anatolia, rarely mentions resurrection. The earliest datable Christian epitaph, for Aberkios around 200, makes no mention of the afterlife at all.6

Other key difficulty is that the evidence of funerary and commemorative rituals in the ancient world, whether in pagan, Jewish, or Christian contexts, ‘shows anything but a homogenous ritual world.7 The ritual plurality in the early Christian communities appears to parallel the evidence from pagan sources.8 In addition, we also face the vexing problem of defining and differentiating between “Christian” and “pagan” practices, and as Ulrich Volp observes, ‘[e]ven in cases of conflicts where we can observe a transformation of the formerly pagan practices into Christian ones, this often happened in some continuity with older pagan traditions.’9 In spite of the fact that many of the literary sources, and in particular the church fathers, suggest Christian-antagonism in this area, this is not reflected by the available evidence for the ritual process.10 All in all, Volp con-


Ibid., 110. Ibid., 123–4. 5 Graydon Snyder, Ante Pacem: Archaeological Evidence of Church Life Before Constantine (Macon: Mercer University Press, 2003), 302. 6 Setzer, Resurrection of the Body, 109. 7 Ulrich Volp, Tod und Ritual in den christlichen Gemeinden der Antike, Supplements to Vigiliae Christianae LXV (Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2002), 269. 8 Ibid., 268. 9 Ibid., 271. 10 Ibid. 4

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cludes that the sources suggest that ‘Christians kept pace with the Zeitgeist’ in terms of their funerary and commemorative rituals.11 Regardless, there is material evidence, and it is possible to observe some trends. It is clear that at the end of the second century, a Christian culture begins to be evident in funerary inscriptions.12 The motif of the ascension of the soul at death does not appear early in the Christian evidence, but in the fourth and fifth centuries. Most of the instances, typically in verse inscriptions, come from the western part of the empire, are written in Latin, and are quite late.13 One of the earliest examples is a possibly Christian inscription from Cologne from the late third century. Although it begins with ‘D.M.,’ the common abbreviation for Dis Manibus, ‘To the Spirits of the Dead,’14 parts of the text perhaps hint at Christian belief. In this particular inscription, the young Aurelius Timauius tries to comfort his friend with his last words, expressing the thought that ‘his body would return to earth, but his spirit would ascend to heaven’ (corpus ut terram manere, spiritum celum sequi).15 It is worth noting that in some inscriptions in this category, the ascension motif also reflects the traditionally pagan notion of the soul going to the stars after death.16 However, another category of inscriptions, apparently of earlier provenance but continuing into later times, conveys the idea of the achievement of immortality through the resurrection.17 Richmond identifies the general position of early Christianity reflected in the funerary inscriptional evidence as favouring the doctrine of the resurrection of the body rather than the ascension of the


Ibid. Snyder, Ante Pacem, 295. See also Maureen Carroll, Spirits of the Dead: Roman Funerary Commemoration in Western Europe (Oxford University Press: Oxford, 2006), 270, citing L. Johannes Baptista de Rossi and Angelus Silvagni (ed.), Inscriptiones christianae Urbis Romae septimo Saeculo Antiquiores, Nova Series II (Romae: Pont. Institutum Archaeologiae Christianae, 1935), No. 4246, p.49.. See also the collection in Rosanna Friggeri’s La Collezione epigrafica De Museo Nazionale Romano alle Terme di Diocleziano (Milan: Ministerio per i Beni e la Attività Culturali, Soprintendenza Archeologica di Roma, 2001). 13 Richmond Lattimore, Themes in Greek and Latin Epitaphs (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1962), 306. 14 This is common in Christian funerary inscriptions of the Imperial Roman period. See Tabernee, ‘Epigraphy,’ in The Oxford Handbook of Early Christian Studies (ed. Susan Ashbrook Harvey and David G. Hunter; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 128. 15 CIL XIII 8371; Also in Carroll, Funerary Commemoration, 267, n.25; and Helmut Galsterer and Brigitte Galsterer, Die römischen Steininschriften aus Köln (Köln: Greven & Bechtold, 1975), Nr. 363b, p. 84 (=). 16 Lattimore, Epitaphs, 312, citing CLE 691, 6; CLE 696, 6; and CLE 701, 1–5. 17 Alan Segal, Life After Death: A History of the Afterlfe in Western Religion (New York: Doubleday, 2004), 351. However, to put this into context, not many epitaphs from the late Hellenistic period (3rd and 4th centuries A.D.) explicitly mention either resurrection or immortality. 12

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soul.18 An example is the epitaph for Gerontion, of the late Imperial period, found in Nikaia.19 This inscription describes Gerontion as follows: ‘Godlyminded Gerontion… As father of the orthodox church, he filled with good people the whole edifice, which is a shelter for his mortal body as he awaits the resurrection’ (σκέπην σώματι θνητῷ, ἀνάστασ⟨ι⟩ν προσδεχόμενος).20 Nevertheless, to illustrate the existence of a very different view from the same area, we have the following late Imperial Christian inscription for Attia the philosopher. Certainly the inscription is influenced by Platonic thought, and Attia is clearly considered to be in Paradise immediately upon her death. The inscription reads: Attia the philosopher. Putting on virginity you fled the world’s wickedness, exalting God’s name in your faith and love. So you and your soul are in Paradise, where are holy Nous and the chorus of the saints with the rejoicing prophets. (τε ὧδέ σε καί παράδεισος ἔχει ψυχήν τε ἄγιος νοῦς καὶ χορὸς ἔνθα ἁγίον σὺν ἁγαλλομένοισι [π]ροφήταις.) Farewell, sweet child, farewell, and be benevolent to your parents… 21

Gerontion’s epitaph, discussed above, belongs to a class of inscriptions which hint at or refer to resurrection, and which imply death to be a temporary state or ‘resting period that would be altered on the day of resurrection of all believers.’22 This class of inscriptions, evident in Rome and Pontus, refer to the dead as sleeping (hic dormit).23 These inscriptions typically imply a peace in God and the certainty that there will be a day of joyful reunion. Although the metaphor of ‘sleep’ for death is not exclusively Christian,24 Christianity particularly appropriated it. Because of Christianity’s focus on the resurrection, ‘the relationship between sleep and death was especially dynamic… the boundary between the two was thin and even permeable.’25 Lattimore 18 Ian Richmond, Archaeology and the Afterlife in Pagan and Christian Imagery (Oxford University Press: London, 1950), 47. 19 SEG 1323. Discussed in G. H. R. Horsley, New Documents Illustrating Early Christianity: A Review of the Greek Inscriptions and Papyri Published in 1979, New Documents vol. 4 (Sydney: Ancient History Documentary Research Centre, Macquarie University, 1987), No. 127, pp.259–261. Many of these funerary inscriptions cannot be precisely dated. 20 SEG 1323; Horsley, New Documents 4, 259. 21 Sencer Şahin, Katalog, Katalog der antiken Inschriften des Museums von Iznik (Nikaia), vol. 9 of Inschriften griechischer Städte aus Kleinasien (IK) (Bonn: Rudolf Habelt Verlag GMBH, 1979), N o 550. Discussed in New Documents 4, 257–259. Given that Attia is called a ‘philosopher,’ ἄγιος νοῦςis likely to be a way of referring to God (Horsley, New Documents 4, 258). Note also that Horsley suggests a dating in the fifth century or later, considering Attia’s ‘intercessory role’ with regard to her parents. A later dating is also suggested by the explicit dualism and the assumption of an immediate ascent. 22 Carroll, Funerary Commemoration, 272. 23 Ibid., 273. 24 Thomas McAlpine, Sleep, Divine and Human in the Old Testament (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1987), 117–53. 25 David Eastman, Paul the Martyr: The Cult of the Apostle in the Latin West, Writings from the Graeco-Roman World Supplement Series 4 (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Litera-

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postulates that the two interpretations of death, either as sleep on the one hand, or as the separation of body and soul on the other, reflect different traditions within Christianity.26 His view is that the ‘orthodox’ inscriptions are those that refer to depositio, ‘sleep,’ or 'resurrection and judgment.’ These represent ‘an Oriental as opposed to a Greek tradition.’ He sees the dualistic passages from inscriptions as ‘heretical.’27 Nevertheless, it is significant that the Christian use of the metaphor of sleep to represent death persists throughout antiquity.28 In the third and fourth centuries, pagan or ‘neutral’ images were adopted and given a Christian meaning.29 It is interesting to speculate on the extent to which the Christian appropriation of pagan images also corresponded with the appropriation of Graeco-Roman concepts of death and the afterlife. However, for the reasons discussed above, it is difficult to ascertain any direct correlation. What seems certain is that many of the symbolic motifs used in Christian funerary art were derived from pagan eschatological symbolism.30 Exemplifying this is the Dionysiac imagery on Christian funerary artefacts from the mid-fourth century, which is particularly striking in its description of amorini, or souls in Paradise.31 How, then, may we situate the Passion of Perpetua within the context of the material evidence? We may note that Perpetua was written shortly after a Christian culture becomes evident in funerary inscriptions, which occurred late in the second century. It is also significant, however, that Perpetua reflects a view of the afterlife, with the soul ascending immediately to heaven upon death, which does not manifest itself in the inscriptional evidence until significantly later. This is congruent with the observation, noted above, that funerary inscriptions tend to be both conservative and formulaic. Therefore, Christian funerary inscriptions would not necessarily reflect the afterlife ideology of the Passion of Perpetua this early. Having touched on the material evidence, the literary evi-

ture, 2011), 83, citing the statements by John Chrysostom, Hom. Gen. 29.7 and Jerome, Vigil. 6. 26 Ibid., 309–311. 27 Ibid. 28 For example, see the epitaph to Bonifatios, from perhaps the fifth century, in IG XIV.88, discussed in G. H. R. Horsley, New Documents Illustrating Early Christianity: A Review of the Greek Inscriptions and Papyri Published in 1976, New Documents vol. 1 (Sydney: Ancient History Documentary Research Centre, Macquarie University, 1981), No. 87, p.138. This same inscription is in R. Bogaert (ed.), Texts on Bankers, Banking and Credit in the Greek World (Brill: Leiden, 1976), No. 19, pp.21–22. See also the epitaph of Zoneene from the late fourth century in Inscriptiones Graecae Aegypti V (first published in Cairo, 1907; reprinted Chicago: Ares, 1978), No. 48, p.11, discussed in G. H. R. Horsley, New Documents Illustrating Early Christianity: A Review of the Greek Inscriptions and Papyri Published in 1978, New Documents vol. 3 (Sydney: Ancient History Documentary Research Centre, Macquarie University, 1983), No. 89, pp.105–107. 29 Carroll, Funerary Commemoration, 270. 30 Richmond, Archaeology, 38, 46–7, 52. 31 Ibid., 46–47.

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dence from the origins of Christianity until the very early third century, the time of Perpetua’s martyrdom, will be reviewed in the following section.

C. The Afterlife Before Perpetua: Literary Evidence I. The New Testament 1. The Soul The New Testament texts strongly reflect the classic Semitic monistic worldview and anthropology.32 Lanzillotta specifically comments on the notable New Testament use of the term ψυχή, since ‘it shows the total absence of the meaning that for us is the most evident, to wit “soul.”’33 The human being in the New Testament is a clear unity. 34 When an interior dimension is mentioned, it is not conceived of as a separate element. It is neither more highly esteemed than the body, nor expected to survive the body after death.35 In this vein, Ferguson has noted that the idea of the ‘immortality of the soul’ simply appears to be the result of reading Greek philosophical tradition back into the text.36 It is notable that Paul’s use of language in relation to concepts of ‘body’ and ‘soul’ appears to be unique.37 In relation to Paul’s use of the term ψυχή in comparison to that of other Jewish thinkers, Jewett observes that Paul never uses it in the strict sense of ‘the God-related portion of man which survives after death.’38 Neither does he argue for the immortality of the soul using the dichotomy between sarx/soma and pneuma that was emphasised by the rabbis. As Clark-Soles points out, this popular dichotomy is absent from Paul’s works altogether.39 Correspondingly, it is notable that in his description of his visionary journey to heaven in 2 Cor 12:1–5, Paul does not know whether this journey

32 Roig Lanzillotta, ‘One Human Being, Three Early Christian Anthropologies: An Assessment of Acta Andreae’s Tenor on the basis of Its Anthropological Views,’ VC 61 (2007): 419. 33 Ibid. 34 This is reflected, for example, in Paul’s account of the resurrection in 1 Thess 4:13– 17. 35 Ibid. 36 Everett Ferguson, Backgrounds of Early Christianity (3rd ed., Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 555. 37 Alan Segal, ‘Paul’s Thinking About Resurrection in its Jewish Context,’ NTS 44 (1998): 417. 38 Robert Jewett, Paul’s Anthropological Terms: A Study of Their Use in Conflict Settings (Leiden: Brill, 1971), 448–9. 39 Jaime Clark-Soles, Death and the Afterlife in the New Testament (New York: T&T Clark, 2006), 67.

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took place in the body or not (v. 3). It is at least clear that Paul does not use the concept of a soul (ψυχή) to undertake his heavenly journey.40 Harris observes that the New Testament shows no interest in identifying ‘one “part” of the person that survives death to the exclusion of other “parts.”’41 Its anthropology is basically monistic, and for this reason, the fact that neither the New Testament nor the early Christian writers ever used the term ‘immortal soul’ or ‘immortal spirit’ should weigh heavily on our consideration of these questions. 42 As Clark-Soles has pointed out, ‘[t]he early Christians, like the rabbis, understood that union with God was union of the whole human, both soul and body.’ 43 2. Resurrection The gospels present Jesus as teaching a bodily resurrection that will take place at the end of the eschaton.44 As N. T. Wright points out, it is obvious that the entire gospel tradition belongs ‘with the Jewish view over against the pagan one; and, within the Jewish view, with the Pharisees (and others who agreed with them) over against the various other options.’45 Jesus referred to ‘the resurrection of the just’ (τῇ ἀναστάσει τῶν δικαίων; Luke 14:1446), at which the blessed would receive the reward for their faithfulness. In his reckoning, this would be part of a general resurrection of all, both the just and the wicked, occurring at a future point in time (John 5:28–29). Indeed, in the fifth chapter of John, Jesus is recorded as stating three times (John 5:40, 44, 54) that the resurrection, of which He would be the agent, would occur ‘on the last day’ (ἐσχάτῃ ἠμέρᾳ).47 It is also clear that within the teachings of Jesus, the resurrection of the body and the reception of immortality are connected; both happen together.48 40

Segal, Life After Death, 411. See also James Tabor, Things Unutterable: Paul’s Ascent to Paradise in its Greco-Roman, Judaic, and Early Christian Contexts (Lanham: University Press of America, 1981), 121. 41 Murray Harris, Raised Immortal: The Relation Between Resurrection and Immortality in New Testament Teaching (London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1983), 140. 42 Clark-Soles, Death, 42. 43 Ibid. See also Oscar Cullman, Immortality of the Soul or Resurrection of the Dead? The Witness of the New Testament (London: Epworth Press, 1958), 60. 44 Even so, there are still some scholars who maintain that the historical Jesus never spoke about a general resurrection of the dead. See, for example, John Meier, ‘The Debate on the Resurrection of the Dead: An Incident from the Ministry of the Historical Jesus?’ JSNT 77 (2000): 15. 45 Nicholas Thomas Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God (London: SPCK, 2003), 448. 46 All Biblical quotations are from the North American Standard Bible (NASB) unless otherwise indicated. 47 See also John 11:23–24 and Matt 24:29–31. 48 See John 5:21, 29.

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Yet it is also evident within the New Testament texts that there were other views of the afterlife that were current within the first-century Jewish milieu in which Jesus taught.49 All three synoptic gospels record the encounter of Jesus with the Sadducees, ‘who say that there is no resurrection’;50 authenticity is difficult to question.51 Jesus’ response to the Sadducees is clear and direct: ‘You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God.’52 He then offers a proof for the resurrection from the Jewish Scriptures.53 Precisely what the view of the Sadducees was regarding the afterlife is unclear, other than that they did not believe in the resurrection.54 However, putting the views of the Sadduccees in context, Setzer comments that the resurrection was ‘a given’ for the majority of the Jews among whom Jesus taught, and that the Sadducees were an elite group, and cannot be considered to have been representative of Jesus’ audience.’55 In spite of the diversity of views about the afterlife within first-century Judaism, and certainly in the Graeco-Roman world, N.T. Wright considers that there is virtually no spectrum of belief within early Christianity about life beyond death, and that early Christianity focused on ‘one point on the spectrum’: that of resurrection.56 Wright’s statement may be correct at a general level, however his position is surely overstated. There is still significant evidence of a diversity of views about the afterlife within the early apostolic Christian communities, as is evident even in the letters of Paul. That there were dissenting voices against Paul’s teaching of a general bodily resurrection is evident in his first letter to the Corinthian church, where he writes: ‘[n]ow if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resur49 In this regard, see also the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19–31, and the views of Wright, Resurrection, 438; also Harris, Raised Immortal, 134. However against these views, see Andreas Merkt, “Das Schweigen und Sprechen der Gräber: Zur Aussagekraft frühchristlicher Epitaphe,” in Himmel – Paradies –Schalom: Tod und Jenseits in christlichen und Jüdischen Grabinschriften der Antike, Handbuch zur Geschichte des Todes im frühen Christentum und seiner Umwelt, Band 1 (Regensburg: Verlag Schnell & Steiner GmbH: Regensburg), 42, argues that, [f]ür die Theologen der Antike steht fest, dass Abrahams Schoß nicht ein bloßes Bild in einem Gleichnis ist, sondern eine Realität beschreibt. 50 Mark 12:18–27; Matt 22:23–32; Luke 20:27–40. Peter Bolt (‘What Were the Sadducees Reading? An Enquiry into the Literary Background to Mark 12:18–23,’ Tyndale Bulletin 45 [1994]: 393) suggests that the Book of Tobit most probably provided the source of the polemical case study that the Sadducees put to Jesus. 51 The authenticity of Jesus’ saying about the resurrection in Mark 12:18–27 is supported by both Meier (‘Debate,’ 23) and Bradley Trick (‘Death, Covenants, and the Proof of Resurrection in Mark 12:18–27,’ Novum Testamentum 49 [2007]: 233–4, 255). 52 Matt 22:29. 53 Ibid. On Matthew’s anthropology, see Clark-Soles, Death, 164. 54 See Setzer, Resurrection of the Body, 53–4. 55 Ibid. 56 Nicholas Thomas Wright, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church (New York: Harper-Collins, 2008), 42.

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rection of the dead?’ (πῶς λέγουσιν ἐν ὑμῖν τινες ὅτι ἀνάστασις νεκρῶν οὐκ ἔστιν - 1 Cor 15:12.)57 Evidence of anthropological tension and a diversity of views within the Christian communities continues during the time of the ‘Apostolic Fathers’ and subsequently. The evidence of this diversity comes largely from the polemic waged against these different views in the extant writings of many of the leaders and apologists of the Christian communities. However, the reality of treating the New Testament as primary evidence is that in those passages where the topic of the afterlife is dealt with thematically,58 and not merely in passing, it is clear that the predominent hope of afterlife for the writers is in a general, eschatological, and bodily resurrection.59 With regard to the spectrum of beliefs regarding the afterlife, Paul therefore belongs within the Jewish spectrum of beliefs, and, within these, ‘with most Jews of his day,’ with the Pharisees.60 As a Pharisee, Paul continues to belong to the tradition that saw the afterlife of the righteous as commencing with an eschatological, bodily resurrection,61 and the Pauline analysis is the product a traditional Hebraic phenomenal approach.62 Lattimore argues that for Paul, any other kind of immortality than a resurrection of the body in the end-time general resurrection ‘was meaningless.’63 It is also clear that in Paul’s understanding, 57

See also 1 Cor 15:35–36. Such as John 5; 1 Cor 15; and 1 Thess 4. 59 Segal, Life After Death, 441. 60 Wright, Resurrection, 372. A key example, which some scholars see as evidence that Paul changed his mind, is 2 Cor 5:1–8. The question is: when does Paul believe that this will occur? According to Paul, this will occur when ‘what is mortal will be swallowed up by life’ (ἵνα καταποθῇ τὸ θνητὸν ὑπὸ τῆς ζωῆς [v.4]). In 1 Cor 15:54, it is clear that Paul considers this to occur at the resurrection, when ‘death is swallowed up in victory’ (τὸ θνητὸν τοῦτο ἐνδύσηται ἀθανασίαν). He believes that it occurs at the time when, using similar imagery to 2 Cor 5, ‘this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality.’ It is the granting of immortality, or the immortal body, at the resurrection that Paul longs for in 2 Cor 5:1–3. For further, see Joseph Osei-Bonsu, ‘Does 2 Cor. 5.1-10 Teach the Reception of the Resurrection Body at the Moment of Death?’ JSNT 28 (1986): 95; Wright, Resurrection, 365; and also D. Guthrie, ‘Transformation and the Parousia,’ VE 14 (1984): 50. For a contrary view see Harris, Raised Immortal, 135; and Clark-Soles, Death, 105–6. 61 Bruce Chilton, ‘Resurrection in the Gospels,’ in Judaism in Late Antiquity (ed. A. J. Avery-Peck and J. Neusner; Brill: Leiden, 2000), 226. 62 Graham Warne, The Soul in Philo and Paul (unpublished M.A. thesis, University of Queensland, 1988), 253. However, it should again be noted that there are scholars who suggest that there is a bi-partite anthropology, or at least evidence of a transition in the understanding of the nature of death and the afterlife in the writings of Paul, and in particular, in texts such as 1 Cor 15:29; 2 Cor 5:1–7; 2 Cor 8:5–10. See, for example, James Patrick, ‘Living Rewards for Dead Apostles: ‘Baptised for the Dead’ in 1 Corinthians 15.29,’ NTS 52 (2009): 71; Lanzillota, Anthropologies, 422; and David Reis, The Journey of the Soul: Its Expressions in Early Christianity. (Unpublished PhD diss.; Claremont Graduate University: Claremont, 1999), 239. 63 Lattimore, Themes, 310. 58

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the resurrection of believers and the reception of immortality are inseparably tied to the resurrection of Jesus.64 Consequently, Paul unbendingly demands that his readers accept resurrection of the body.65 For Paul, the resurrection occurs at the coming of Christ in the eschaton,66 and it is, as in the whole of the New Testament, unquestionably a bodily resurrection. As McDonald comments, ‘[t]he New Testament is not content with a disembodied immortality.’67 For this reason, in 1 Cor 15, Paul specifically addresses the question of the nature of the resurrected body. The specific question that Paul is answering is: ‘someone will say, “How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?”’ (πῶς ἐγείρονται οἱ νεκροί; ποίῳ δὲ σώματι ἔρχονται; 1 Cor 15:35.) The very fact that this question was asked is evidence that although Christianity strongly focused on the resurrection, even in this earliest phase, there were those who questioned whether the resurrected body was material or spiritual.68 Paul is adamant in his response, strikingly prefacing his response with the exclamation ‘You fool!’ (ἄφρων) to those who ask this question (1 Cor 15:36)! Paul certainly does not teach a concept of the resurrection of the ‘soul’ apart from a ‘body’ (σῶμα). Indeed, the resurrected body may be a ‘heavenly’ (ἐπουράνιος) body (v. 40), an ‘imperishable’ (ἀφθαρσία) body (v. 42), and a ‘spiritual’ (πνευματικός) body (v. 44).69 However, it is a body nonetheless.70 It is important to understand that the belief in bodily resurrection was not an isolated tenet, but rather part of an integrated ‘constellation of beliefs.’71 For this reason, Harris observes that to separate the concepts of resurrection and immortality is to do ‘an injustice’ to the evidence of the New Testament, since the sole means of gaining immortality is by the transformation that occurs at the resurrection.72 3. Ascent The notion of ascent, particularly after death, is a central one for this present research, since it is a central theme in the Passion of Perpetua. Therefore, its 64

Rom 6:5. See also Guthrie, ‘Transformation,’ 50. Setzer, Resurrection of the Body, 55. 66 1 Thess 4:15–17. This passage alludes to the teaching of Jesus recorded in Matt 24:31–31, and is also to be compared with 1 Cor 15:52. On the concept of change, which was a ‘fundamental philosophical problem’ in ancient Greek thought, see V. Songe-Møller, ‘‘With What Kind of Body Will They Come?’ Metamorphosis and the Concept of Change,’ in Metamorphoses: Resurrection, Body and Transformative Practices in Early Christianity (ed. T. K. Seim and J. Økland; Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, Berlin, 2009), 109. 67 H. Dermot McDonald, ‘The Idea of Immortality,’ VE 7 (1971): 26. 68 Segal, Life After Death, 478. 69 Ibid., 429. 70 In relation to 1 Cor 15:35, see Segal, ‘Resurrection,’ 417. 71 Setzer, Resurrection of the Body, 1. 72 Harris, Raised Immortal, 239. 65

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presence and role in the New Testament merits some attention. The most important ascent in the New Testament corpus is undoubtedly that of Jesus Himself, but beyond this, the notion of ascent becomes a little controverted. On the one hand, Harris notes the ‘relatively paucity’ of references to the ascension of Jesus, and that ‘nowhere does the New Testament use the customary Greek word for ‘ascent’ (anabasis).’73 On the other hand, we have Farrow, who, in his insightful book, is able to provide an impressive list of passages in the New Testament that touch on the ascension motif.74 Furthermore, Farrow claims that to suggest that the ascension is not prominent as an event in the New Testament outside of Luke 24 and Acts 1 is ‘entirely specious.’75 The reason scholars can come to such different opinions regarding ascension in the New Testament is that although the concept of ascension is indeed thematically highly significant in the NT, it is not the same as the concept of ascent that was prevalent in the broader Hellenistic world, and which was reflected in many of the the Jewish apocalyptic texts. Within this Hellenistic ascent topos, the focus was often on the description, often in great detail, of the ascent to heaven. This is essentially absent from the New Testament. This point may be illustrated by considering how the eleventh chapter of the gospel of John may have looked if the story of the resurrection of Lazarus had been part of a popular, mythological, or even philosophical, Graeco-Roman narrative that focused on ascent. We would have had at least a couple of chapters describing in some detail the ascent of Lazarus through the cosmos into the heavens. This would have been followed by another couple of chapters describing his recall (disappointing, I dare say) to the earth, and his journey back down. The ascents to which the New Testament appears to refer seem to be substantially phenomologically different to the ascents of the Hellenistic topos. A difference between the New Testament notion of ascent and those of the broader Hellenistic stream is that instead of emphasising ascent as a return to humanity’s original homeland, the New Testament essentially presents the notion of ascent as a one-way journey from this earth to heaven. Instead of an immediate ascent after death, the New Testament presents the notion of an eschatological ascent following the resurrection. Furthermore the entire typical cosmology of pagan ascent, with its superimposed heavens, gateways, gatekeepers, trials, and passwords, is missing from the New Testament. Finally, and perhaps fundamen-


Ibid., 86. See Douglas Farrow, Ascension and the Ecclesia: On the Significance of the Doctrine of the Ascension for Ecclesiology and Christian Cosmology (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1999), 275–80. 75 Ibid., 29. 74

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tally, the New Testament nowhere mentions the ascent of the soul; it is rather the ascent of the body, or rather, the whole person, which is envisaged.76 Within the New Testament, the most prominent uses of the idea of ascent to heaven are found in the two most mystical of the New Testament writers: John77 and Paul.78 However, these instances are not in the context of the motif of immediate post-mortem ascension, for which there does not appear to be any specific evidence in the New Testament corpus.79 There are a number of texts that theologians and other scholars have interpreted as possibly referring to some kind of ascent of the righteous dead to heaven immediately after death. But in each of these texts, even if immediate post-mortem ascent is granted, at best, the concept can only be understood as being implied. The history of the interpretation of the New Testament in this regard seems to present us with many ‘could bes,’ ‘would bes,’ and ‘maybes.’ However, the fact remains that there is not a single instance in the New Testament where the ascent of the ‘soul’ of a believer in Jesus to heaven immediately after death is actually described, or even stated, apart from what some have seen as being perhaps exegetically implied. The understanding that Paul’s afterlife hope focuses on the resurrection of the body, rather than the immediate ascent of the soul after death is not, of course, shared by all scholars. Even where it is, it is nuanced in different ways. This is illustrated in a fascinating dialogue between Markus Bockmuehl and N.T. Wright, in which Bockmuehl, while not denigrating the concept of resurrection, asserts that Paul went straight to heaven when he died.80 He considers that Paul’s writings appear to ‘entail a compatible belief both in a future bodily resurrection and in the departed believer’s immediate and permanent entry into the presence of the exalted Christ in heaven.’81 Furthermore, Bockmuehl appeals for this same compatible belief in the writings of the fathers.82 76 These differences are analysed in more detail in Eliezer Gonzalez, ‘Christian and Pagan Ascent in New Testament Times,’ Journal of Asia Adventist Seminary 13.2 (2010): 145–65. 77 On ascent in the Gospel of John, see Godfrey Nicholson, Death as Departure: the Johannine Descent-Ascent Schema (Chico, California: Scholars Press, 1983), 16, and particularly John 1:51; 13:36; 14:2–3; 15:4; 17:20–23. 78 For example, regarding Phil 2:6–11, see the work of Reis (Journey of the Soul, 247– 254). It is worth noting that Reis is working firmly within a dualistic understanding. In fact, the word ‘soul’ is not used in this passage at all; rather, Reis reads this into the text using comparative Hellenistic ascent narratives as justification. 79 Even though Jesus refers to the saints ‘rising’ (e.g., John 5:28–30, 11:24) and Paul refers to them ‘rising and ‘ascending’ ‘in the air’ (1 Thess 4:16–17), these references occur within the context of a general resurrection of the body at the end of time, rather than immediately after death. 80 Markus Bockmuehl, ‘Did St. Paul Go to Heaven When He Died?’ in Jesus, Paul and the People of God (ed. Nicholas Perrin, Richard B. Hays, and N.T. Wright; Downer’s Grove: IVP Academic, 2011), 213. 81 Ibid. 82 Ibid.

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Responding to Bockmuehl, N. T. Wright emphasises his own view, that he sees no tension between the resurrection of the body and the existence of some kind of interim state before the resurrection.83 With regard to appealing to the church fathers’ interpretation of Paul on matters of the afterlife, Wright responds by commenting that ‘[t]he “continuum of tradition,” though currently fashionable, is not necessarily the best guide to what Paul meant in the first century,’ since the early fathers were already making ‘significant shifts.’84 Undeniably, there are a number of passages that appear to suggest the immediate ascent of the righteous into the presence of God.85 Part of the difficulty for the modern reader of these ancient texts is that, as Clark-Soles has noted, ‘[t]here is no systematic theology in the NT regarding death and afterlife,’ apart from the fact that ‘resurrection appears throughout.’86 This seems to be principally because the writers of the New Testament had no need to develop one, as they were not postulating a new scheme in relation to the afterlife, but rather working with one which was understood, though not necessarily universally accepted, by their readers. The New Testament texts therefore appear to be silent with regard to any journey of the soul to heaven immediately after death.87 The ‘journey’ of ascent that occurs after death occurs in the context of an eschatological, bodily resur83

Nicholas Wright, ‘Response to Marcus Bockmuehl,’ in Jesus, Paul and the People of God (ed. Nicholas Perrin, Richard B. Hays, and N.T. Wright; Downer’s Grove: IVP Academic, 2011), 232. 84 Ibid., 233–234. 85 These include Luke 23:43; Eph 2:6 (cv. Col 2); Heb 12:18–23; Rev 6:9–11. Those who wish to understand these passages as referring to an immediate post-mortem ascent to heaven must also necessarily classify them as exceptions to the explicit majority teachings of Jesus and Paul. Rather, it is far preferable to attempt to understand these references, as with 2 Cor 5:1–8, within the traditional, Pharisaic and Jewish terms of an eschatological resurrection within the context of an essentially monistic anthropology. As an example, Luke 23:43 represents a particularly interesting statement by Jesus to the thief on the cross. However, it should not be decontextualised, in its exegesis, in a way that sets it against Jesus’ explicit teachings on the afterlife, and the balance of the explicit teachings of the New Testament. The formalisation of notions of an interim state within Christianity, as with immediate post-mortem ascension to heaven, should also be seen as belonging to a period after the New Testament. For a sympathetic survey of passages in the New Testament that suggest the existence of an interim state between death and the resurrection, see Terence Nichols, Death and Afterlife: A Theological Introduction (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2010), 46–51. 86 Clark-Soles, Death, 1. 87 On passages that have been understood as referring to possible journeys of Jesus’s ‘soul’ after his death, see John 20:17 and 1 Pet 3:19. On this latter passage, see particularly William Dalton, Christ’s Proclamation to the Spirits: A Study of 1 Peter 3:18-4:6 (Roma: Editrice Pontificio Istituto Biblico, 1989), 140. Dalton concludes that ‘[t]here is no ground for seeing in 1 Pet 3:19 the activity of Christ’s soul in the interval between his death and resurrection. Later church tradition may be interested in such activity, but the thought of 1 Peter is far from such categories.’

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rection, within a monistic paradigm. This accords little with the Greek and Hellenistic view of the post-mortem ascent of the soul. 4. Canonical Apocalyptic Literature In the apocalyptic tradition in the canonical Scriptures, a focus on resurrection is prominent, although given the nature of apocalyptic literature these texts do not necessarily provide explicit definitions of anthropological concepts.88 Levenson makes an observation, regarding the first mention of resurrection in this tradition in Dan 12:1–3, that holds true for resurrection throughout the later trajectories of apocalyptic literature, that in ‘the clear prediction of resurrection with judgment in Daniel 12, resurrection does not simply vindicate the justice of God. It also fulfils the promise to Israel of the God of life.’89 The other key canonical apocalyptic passage is found in Rev 6:9–11. Moss comments that it is in the Apocalypse of John that, ‘we begin to see, for the first time, what is commonly referred to as a “theology of martyrdom.”’ 90 For some scholars, this also seems to include the use of the term ὁ μάρτυς as a title.91 Moss comments, on the perspective of Revelation, that, ‘Christ may have been the true and first martyr, but this remains a status to which members of the community could aspire… Members of the Jesus movement can emulate the conquest of Christ in their own sufferings and death and receive the same heavenly reward as the result.’ 92 It was the idea of this ‘same heavenly reward’ that would later cause difficulties for early Christian church as the distance from the apostolic period became greater. This was particularly true in the case of the timing of the reward, and later in terms of the saving function and heavenly status as well.93 On Rev 6:9–11, John sees souls under the altar; however, as Pattemore asks, ‘which of the many senses of ψυκή is intended, and how can they be seen?’94 Pattemore goes on to observe, on the basis of other comparable canonical passages, and the context, that it is not necessary here to ‘invoke an anthropology involving separate bodies and souls.’95 In this sense, the ‘souls’ may be simply a reference to ‘people’ who have died.96


Setzer, Resurrection of the Body, 13. Levenson, Restoration of Israel, 200. 90 Moss, Other Christs, 37. 91 Ibid., 38. 92 Ibid., 39, citing Rev. 3:21. 93 Moss, Other Christs, 46. 94 Stephen Pattemore, The People of God in the Apocalypse: Discourse, Structure, and Exegesis. Monograph Series, Society for New Testament Studies (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 76. 95 Ibid., 77. 96 Ibid. 89

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There has been considerable scholarly debate about why these souls are depicted as being under the altar, and what this suggests about the author’s anthropology. Scholars have noted the sacrificial connotations in this passage. Davis, for example, notes that in v.9, the Greek verb used to describe the Christians who have been slain is σφάζω, which is the same word used in Rev. 5:6 to describe the crucified Jesus. 97 He continues to observe that this is a sacrificial term communicating the idea of being ‘slaughtered as sacrifice.’98 Pattemore also comments that the images used in Rev. 6:9–11 all ‘express, in one way or another, that the sacrificial death of the martyrs links them closely with heaven and the throne of God,’99 and importantly, that the key comparison being made in this passage is that the martyrs ‘will be treated like Christ himself was treated.’100 Stevenson argues for the context for this passage being the concept of ‘altar asylum,’ which appears both within the Greek and Jewish traditions.101 He sees this reference to the souls under the altar as being a ‘merging of cultural traditions.’102 Being protected by God, who is in ultimate control, the martyrs will receive their ‘reward and vindication’ in the future.103 Rather than a reference to the Jewish sacrificial ritual, Prigent sees here merely ‘the idea of the particular privilege accorded by God to a certain category of individuals.’104 He extrapolates from this that ‘God reserves a dwelling place in immediate proximity to himself for those to whom he wants to show particular favor after their death.’105 Common to all of these views is the understanding that the martyrs are somehow shown special favor. The author’s understanding of the afterlife of the martyrs is difficult to discern from this passage. The fact that there is an allusion to Gen 4:10 suggests that this passage should be understood metaphorically. However, Pattemore while noting the allusion, also comments that, ‘it is also significant that here the voice of the martyrs is described in similar terms to other heavenly voices,’106 97

Christopher Davis, Revelation, The College Press NIV Commentary (Joplin: College Press, 2000), 185. 98 Ibid. 99 Pattemore, People of God, 81. 100 Davis, Revelation, 185–186. 101 Gregory Stevenson, Power and Place: Temple and Identity in the Book of Revelation, Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft und die Kunde der älteren Kirche / Beihefte, (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2001), 107. Stevenson, Temple and Identity, 288. 102 Ibid. 103 Stevenson, Temple and Identity, 289. 104 Pierre Prigent, Commentary on the Apocalypse of St. John (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2004), 273. Prigent here refers to the treatise Sabbath 152c and Debarim r.11 in which the souls of the righteous are “admitted” under the throne of God. Similarly Aboth R. Natan 26. 105 Prigent, Apocalypse, 273. 106 Pattemore, People of God, 82.

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thus implying that the usage here is more than merely metaphorical. Other questions that need to be considered in terms of the underlying eschatology and anthropology of this passage are: What is the function of an altar in heaven that is described in a sacrificial context? If this altar is to be understood in any way literally, then what is its nature such that the souls of the martyr are described under it? Finally, what does the cry of the martyrs (ἔκραζον φωνῇ μεγάλῃ λέγοντες, Ἕως πότε ὁ δεσπότης) tell us about their condition?107 Whatever may be their state, it is clear that it is not yet one of blissful happiness, and that they have not yet received their ultimate reward. Revelation has a number of depictions of the righteous in heaven. In Rev 7:4–8 John sees one hundred and forty-four thousand who have been sealed. These are mentioned again in Rev 14:1–5. In Rev 7:9–17 John sees a great multitude clothed in white robes and with palms in their hands who are described as having come out of great tribulation. In Rev 15:2–5, John sees those who had gotten the victory over the beast standing on the sea of glass. In each of these cases, however, given that the Apocalypse of John is clearly presented as a prophetic text, we cannot with any confidence affirm that the author intends us to understand that what John sees is the present reality; rather, these visions must be understood in terms of the general temporal framework of the book; in other words, they are visions of what is to come.108 Therefore none of these visions can be understood as depicting the dead as already having ascended to heaven. II. The Early Church Fathers 1. The ‘Apostolic Fathers’ The texts traditionally denominated as belonging to the ‘Apostolic Fathers’ are by no means a homogenous group; nor are they merely a continuation of the New Testament message.109 The justification for considering these texts as a group is that they have been seen as representing, as Brox notes, ‘a stage in Christian self-understanding which stands on the threshold of the transition from the first generation to the subsequent age of the Church.’110 However, it is nevertheless true that the term ‘Apostolic Fathers’ is essentially an anachronistic denominator for a group of texts that have been popularly, if not altogether logi-


See also v.11. Note Rev 4:1: “what must take place after these things” (σοι ἃ δεῖ γενέσθαι μετὰ ταῦτα.) 109 Brox, ‘Apostolic Fathers,’ in Encyclopedia of Theology: A Concise Sacramentum Mundi (ed. Karl Rahner; London: Burns and Oates, 1977), 34. On the relationship between the ‘Apostolic Fathers’ and the NT, and on their hermaneutics, see also ibid., 36, and Roger Olson, The Story of Christian Theology: Twenty Centuries of Tradition and Reform (Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 52–3. 110 Brox, ‘Apostolic Fathers,’ 34. 108

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cally, categorised together.111 While most of them are certainly early, they do not include pseudepigraphic and explicitly apocalyptic Christian texts that are also probably early. It is noteworthy that many of the texts of the ‘Apostolic Fathers’ were treated as Scripture by some churches in the second century.112 Since the majority of these texts have been either authored by or attributed to leaders of the early Christian communities, and have been regarded as representing authoritative teaching since antiquity (at least to the extent of having been considered worthy of transmission to our day), they can be thought to reflect some perspectives and ideologies that were significant in their communities. Above all other considerations, it is evident that patristic eschatology is characterised by ‘an overriding emphasis on hope,’113 with this hope focusing on the resurrection of the body that is ‘assumed and is simply part of the hortatory, catechetical language throughout this literature.’114 In this regard, Wright notes that the ‘Apostolic Fathers’ ‘stay quite close to their canonical predecessors,’115 and their different emphases are occasioned by the new challenges that they faced.116 Wright goes on to observe that in many passages they confirm that, for the vast majority of early Christians known to us, ‘resurrection’ was the ultimate Christian hope, and was meant in a definitely bodily sense… There was no attempt to use the language of ‘resurrection’ metaphorically… ‘Resurrection’ remained literal in use, concrete in referent, and foundational to early Christian theology and hope.117

It is true, as Fudge observes, that there has been fierce debate about the precise meaning that the fathers attached to the immortality of the soul.118 It is, however, abundantly clear that the fathers overwhelmingly insisted that the soul is not inherently immortal, and that the Christian writers continually distinguish their notions of the ‘immortality’ of the soul from those of contemporary Platonist philosophers.119 The Didache clearly embraces an eschatological resurrection.120 2 Clement (mid-90s) is likewise unequivocal.121 Ignatius of Antioch (c. 35-107), battling


The term will nevertheless be used here as a convenient reference to these texts. Olson, Christian Theology, 42. 113 Josephine Laffin, ‘What Happened to the Last Judgement in the Early Church?’ in The Church, The Afterlife and the Fate of the Soul (ed. P. Clarke, and T. Claydon; Suffolk: The Ecclesiastical History Society, The Boydell Press, 2009), 29. 114 Setzer, Resurrection of the Body, 71. 115 Wright, Resurrection, 494. 116 Ibid. 117 Ibid. 118 Edward Fudge, The Fire That Consumes: A Biblical and Historical Study of Final Punishment (Houston: Providential Press, 1982), 68. 119 Ibid., 67. 120 Did. XVI.6, 8. 121 2 Clem. IX:1–6. 112

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against the Docetists, is likewise firm.122 In fact, Ignatius rejects the Greek idea of the immortality of the soul by neatly saying that those who think like the Greeks will get the Greek version of the afterlife; they will become nothing but evil spirits, and the same goes for Christians who teach that the resurrection will be only spiritual.123 The Epistle of Barnabas (late 1st–early 2nd century) presents the same view.124 Papias (c. 60-130) appears to have also held to the view of a bodily resurrection at the eschaton. Eusebius describes Papias’ view that the resurrection of the dead would be followed by a time of a thousand years, when the kingdom of Christ would be established bodily (somatikos) on the earth. It is worth noting Eusebius’ comments, although obviously Eusebius did not agree with Papias’ views. He writes that [h]e says that after the resurrection of the dead (ἐκ νεκρῶν ἀνάστασιν) there will be a period of a thousand years, when Christ’s kingdom will be set up on this earth in material [σωματικῶς] form. I suppose he got these notions by misinterpreting the apostolic accounts and failing to grasp what they had said in mystic and symbolic language. For he seems to have been a man of very small intelligence (τοι σμικὸς ὤν τὸν νοῦν), to judge from his books. But it is partly due to him that the great majority of churchmen [πλείστοις ὅσοις τῶν ἐκκλησιαστικῶν] after him took the same view, relying on his early date; e.g. Irenaeus and several others, who clearly held the same opinion.125

In spite of Eusebius’ own views, more representative of a later age, it is noteworthy that he refers to Papias’ view as being the majority view of church leaders in the time after Papias. This seems to be supported by the extant texts, with the Epistle to Diognetus being a notable exception, since its argument suggests that the author maintained the ‘standard Hellenistic view of an immortal soul shut in in a physical body.’126 However, the Epistle to Diognetus may not belong to the period of the ‘Apostolic Fathers’ at all, and instead be dated to the late second or third century.127 In addition to those texts already noted, 5 Ezra teaches the condition of death as ‘sleep’ while awaiting resurrection.128 The Epistula Apostolorum (early to mid-2nd century) strongly maintains the teaching


Ign. Smyrn. III.1–3. Segal, Life After Death, 546, citing Ign. Smyrn. II–III. 124 Barn. XXI.1. 125 Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 3.XXXIX.12–13 (for the translation, see The History of the Church From Christ to Constantine [trans. G. A. Williamson; London: Penguin, 1989]). 126 Wright, Resurrection, 493. 127 Ibid. In a recent assessment, Michael Bird (‘The Reception of Paul in the Epistle to Diognetus,’ in Paul and the Second Century [ed. Michael F. Bird and Joseph R. Dodson; London and New York: T&T Clark, 2011], 70) argues that the ‘probable date for the work is the mid-latter half of the second century and we cannot be more specific than that.’ 128 5 Ezra 2.30. On the dating of 5 Ezra to the period after Bar Kochba, see Graham Stanton, ‘5 Ezra and Matthean Christianity in the Second Century,’ in A Gospel for a New People: Studies in Matthew (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1992), 356–63. 123

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of the bodily resurrection of Jesus and the embodied life of His followers in the future. The early church fathers tend to support the view that the martyrs, through some means, and within a context of an anthropology that is never defined, go straight to heaven at their deaths. In the earlier chapters of 1 Clement, reference is made to Peter and Paul, who were martyred and who are respectively described as having gone ‘to his appointed place in glory’ (εἰς τὸν ὁφειλόμενον τόπον της δόξης,)129 and ‘departed from this world and went to the holy place’ (οὕτως ἀπηλλάγη τοῦ κόσμου καὶ εἰς τὸν ἅγιον τόπον ἐπορεύθη).130 1 Clement also refers to the martyrs as having received ‘a noble reward’ (ἔλαβον γέρας γενναῖον).131 There is some ambiguity in this matter, however. It is notable (and rather overlooked) that 1 Clement never explicitly describes the martyrs or the righteous dead as having ascended or as specifically having gone to heaven. The extent to which the state in which the martyrs exist is merely blessed in anticipation rather than in reality is unclear. It may be either that the immediate admittance of the martyrs to heaven is simply assumed, or that this idea has not yet fully matured in the concept of early Christianity. The afterlife of the martyrs compared to the fate of the other believers therefore manifests a degree of anthropological tension, also evident in the Polycarp texts. The letters of Polycarp (c. 69–155) himself certainly seem to teach the eschatological resurrection of the dead,132 although there is again some ambiguity as far as the martyrs are concerned, with Polycarp referring to them as those who εἰς τὸν ὀφειλόμενον αὐτοῖς τόπον εἰσὶ παρὰ τῷ κυρίῳ, ᾧ καὶ συνέπαθον.133 In the Martyrdom of Polycarp, this tension is even more apparent, with the writer rather unclear about whether to emphasize an immediate life after death or the future resurrection.134 Therefore, on the one hand, Polycarp, in the Martyrdom, affirms a ‘resurrection to eternal life, of both body and soul’ (εἰς

129 1 Clem. 5:4 (for the translation, see The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations [trans. Peter Holmes; Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007], 51). 130 1 Clem. 5:7 (tr. Holmes, 53). 131 1 Clem. 6:2 (tr. Holmes, 53). 132 See for example, Pol. Phil. II.1–2. 133 Pol. Phil. IX.2 (tr. Holmes, 290–1). 134 Wright, Resurrection, 487. It should also be noted that the reference to the dove emerging from Polycarp’s body at the moment of his death (Mart. Pol. XVI.1) is considered to be a later interpolation. On this, see Paul Hartog, Polycarp and the New Testament: The Occasion, Rhetoric, Theme, and Unity of the Epistle to the Philippians and its Allusions to New Testament Literature. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zun Neuen Testament, Reihe 2 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2002), 20, citing Wilhelm Reunig, Zur Erklärung des Polykarpmartyriums (Darmstadt: Winter, 1917), 1–9. On this, Reunig was followed by Joseph Lightfoot (Life of Polycarp, vol. 3 of The Apostolic Fathers [Hildesheim; New York: Georg Olms Verlag, 1973], 390–393).

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ἀνάστασιν ζωῆς αἰωνίου ψυχῆς τε καὶ σώματος)135 in the context of martyrdom, in his prayer as he goes to the fire. On the other hand, in spite of this confident affirmation of holistic resurrection, the writer of the Martyrdom refers to the glorious life that Polycarp is already enjoying in heaven after his death.136 Similarly, the Martyrdom refers to the martyrs as those who are ‘no longer human, but already angels’ (οἵπερ μηκέτι ἄνθρωποι ἁλλ᾽ ἥδη ἄγγελοι ἦσαν).137 Although there is no explicit statement to the effect that the martyrs have ascended to heaven, this understanding would seem to be clearly apparent.138 With regard to the fate of the martyrs, there is a distinct difference in tone between the letters of Polycarp, which emphasise bodily resurrection, and the Martyrdom, which seems to be more definite about the immediate afterlife of the martyrs. Indeed, Polycarp’s reference to resurrection in his prayer as he goes to the fire may reflect something of his own teachings, while the author’s statements may be considered commentary. This may be explained via Candida Moss’ recent proposal that the Martyrdom of Polycarp should be redated to the third century with a fourth-century redaction, since it is not ‘consonant with second-century forms of Christianity.’139 From what we have seen, the concept of the immediate post-mortem ascent of the soul itself is not explicitly found in the writings of the ‘Apostolic Fathers.’ Perhaps it may be assumed in 1 Clement, and in the Martyrdom of Polycarp with regard to the martyrs. However, in relation to the martyrs as discussed in 1 Clement and the Polycarp texts, there is still no concept of a soul as separate from the physical body, nor of the motion of ascent of the martyrs to God. The martyrs are portrayed as receiving an immediate reward upon death, although the tension with the teaching of the resurrection is at times quite apparent.


Mart. Pol. XIV.2 (tr. Holmes, 321–3). Mart. Pol. XIX.2. 137 Mart. Pol. II.3 (tr. Holmes, 309). As Wright (Resurrection, 487) observes, this is certainly a new idea within Christian thought. This appears to be the first clear reference within Christian writings to human angelification, which was an established concept within Judaism. 138 Wright, Resurrection, 487. 139 Candida Moss, ‘On the Dating of Polycarp: Rethinking the Place of the Martyrdom of Polycarp in the History of Christianity,’ Early Christianity 1 (2010): 574. 136

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2. The Apologists of the Second Century We will now turn our attention to the apologists of the second century, commencing with Justin Martyr, who wrote in the middle of that century. Justin makes his position quite clear, memorably writing Οὐδὲν ἐμοί, ἔφη, μέλει Πλάτωνος οὐδὲ Πυταγόρου οὐδὲ ἁπλῶς οὐδενὸς ὅλως τοιαῦτα δοξάζοντος.140 In his treatise on resurrection, which is not completely preserved, Justin describes a denial, apparently reasonably common, of ‘the resurrection of the flesh’ that seems to come from within the Christian community. In this work, Justin explicitly mentions the Docetists,141 and argues against the view that it is only the soul that is saved. He correspondingly asserts that the resurrection is only spiritual in nature.142 Following the ‘Apostolic Fathers,’ Justin does not use the language of resurrection in a metaphorical sense. In his Dialogue with Trypho, he refers to ‘some so-called Christians’ (τισι λεγομένοις Χριστιανοῖς),143 who, οἳ καὶ λέγουσι μὴ εἶναι νεκρῶν ἀνάστασιν, ἀλλὰ ἅμα τῷ ἀποθνήσκειν τὰς ψυχὰς αὐτῶν ἀναλαμβάνεσθαι εἰς τὸν οὐρανόν.144 Justin then says to Trypho: ‘do not suppose that they are Christians’145 (μὴ ὑπολάβητε αὐτοὺς Χριστιανούς), and asserts that ἐγὼ δέ, καὶ εἴ τινές εἰσιν ὀρθογνώμονες κατὰ πάντα Χριστιανοί, καὶ σαρκὸς ἀνάστασιν γενήσεσθαι ἐπιστάμεθα.146 Hill considers that there is ‘confusion in Justin’s eschatology,’147 in that although he argues vigorously against the position of these false Christians, in other passage he seems to assert that same belief. As evidence for Justin’s belief in the immediate post-mortem ascent to heaven, Hill notes that in the Martyrdom of Justin, when he is asked: ‘[i]f you are scourged and beheaded, do you believe that you will ascend to heaven?’ (πέπεισαι ὅτι μέλλεις ἁναβαίνειν εἰς τὸν οὐρανόν;) Justin responds ‘I do not think… but I am fully convinced of it.’148 Hill accordingly asserts that ‘[t]here are problems then for assuming that Justin held a consistent “martyr elitist” view akin to what we later find in Tertullian.’149


Justin, Dial. VI.1. Justin, On the Resurrection, II. 142 Ibid. 143 Justin, Dial. LXXX.4.21. 144 Ibid. 23–5. 145 Justin, Dial. LXXX.4 (for the translation, see Justin Martyr, The Dialogue with Trypho: Translation, Introduction, and Notes [tr. A. Lukyn Williams; London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1930), 170. 146 Justin, Dial. LXXX.5.31–2. 147 Charles Hill, Regnum Caelorum: Patterns of Millenial Thought in Early Christianity (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001), 27. 148 Martyrdom of Justin 5 (Recension B; for the translation, see The Acts of the Early Christian Martyrs [tr. Anthony Musurillo; Oxford Early Christian Texts Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972]), 46–7. 149 Hill, Regnum Caelorum, 26. 141

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This passage certainly deserves to be highlighted, in that it is one of the very few texts from the period that explicitly refers to post-mortem ascension. However, the crux of the issue is all in the timing: when was this ascent to take place? Was it to take place immediately after death, or at a later time? If Justin held to the ‘martyr elitist’ view, which seems to have been widespread, then this readily provides the context for this passage. If this was the case, then it is selfevident that as a prospective martyr, Justin believed that he would ascend to heaven to enjoy the companionship of his fellow-martyrs immediately upon his death. In this regard, Hill does not mount a convincing case that Justin did not subscribe to a ‘martyr elitist’ view.150 While Hill’s work is generally quite insightful, his arguments in relation to Justin’s eschatology appear to be special pleading in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.151 After Justin Martyr, it is appropriate to mention his pupil Tatian (c. AD 120−180). In Tatian’s Oration to the Greeks, he demonstrates ‘the utter rejection of the immortality of the soul.’152 For Tatian, immortality is wholly theocentric,153 and he maintains that, ‘[w]hatever immortality a man may obtain is thus by participation in the immortality and incorruptibility of God.’154 Tatian can therefore argue: [f]or just as, not existing before I was born [῞Ωσπερ γάρ οὐκ ὣν πρὶν ἢ γενέσθαι], I knew not who I was, and only existed in the potentiality (ὑπόστασις) of fleshly matter, but being born, after a former state of nothingness [δὲ ὁ μὴ πὰλαι], I have obtained through my birth a certainty of my existence; in the same way, having been born, and through death existing no longer [μηκέτ ὢν αὗθίς], and seen no longer, I shall exist again, just as before I was not, but was afterwards born.’ [ἔσομαι πάλιν ὥσπερ μὴ πάλαι γεγονώς, εἶτ ⟨ἀνα⟩ γεννηθείς.]155

Tatian’s understanding of the nature of man is holistic, with the body and soul being inseparable.156 He strikingly writes: Οὐκ ἔστιν ἀθάνατος, ἄνδρες Ἕλληνες, ἡ ψυχὴ καθ’ ἑαυτήν, θνητὴ δέ·157 Athenagoras, who, according to the traditional dating of 127−190 AD, may have been a younger contemporary of Justin Martyr, could have been the first of the church fathers to advance the view of the immortality of the soul based on 150

The ‘martyr elitist’ view refers to the belief that it is only the martyrs who enter heaven immediately after death, and that the other righteous enter heaven at a later time. Hill’s argument is also based on Justin’s references to ‘receiving the kingdom,’ and the unwarranted assumption that this takes place immediately upon death. 151 See Wright, Resurrection, 503. 152 Frances Young, ‘Naked or Clothed? Eschatology and the Doctrine of Creation,’ in The Church, The Afterlife and the Fate of the Soul (ed. P. Clarke and T. Claydon; Suffolk: The Boydell Press, 2009), 12. 153 Tatian, Address to the Greeks VI.3. 154 Jaroslav Pelikan, The Shape of Death: Life, Death and Immortality in the Early Fathers (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1978), 18. 155 Tatian, Address to the Greeks VI.3, tr. Ryland, 67. 156 Tatian, Address to the Greeks XV.2–3. 157 Tatian, Address to the Greeks XIII.

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Plato’s philosophical construct.158 However, Athenagoras does not in any way use the language of resurrection metaphorically.159 He upholds the goodness of materiality, and he insists that the union of body and soul constitutes a created person.160 Athenagoras’ view of the immortality of the soul does not at all lead him to disparage resurrection; indeed, he argues that resurrection is necessary because it is the only way in which the right soul will be reunited with the same body.161 On this question, Athenagoras makes the relevant observation on the state of the polemic both outside and inside the church that Καί γὰρ ἐν τούτοις εὑρίσκομεν τοὺς μὲν ἀπιστοῦντας πάντῃ, τινὰς δέ ἀμφιβάλλοντας καὶ τῶν γε τάς πρώτας ὑποθέσεις δεξαμὲνων τινὰς ἐπ ᾿ἴσης τοῖς ἀμφιβάλλουσιν ἀποροῦντας.162 By embracing of the immortality of the soul, Athenagoras stands apart from the other apologists of the second century. However, David Runia’s view, that it is probable that The Resurrection of the Dead was not written by Athenagoras, should be noted. Runia argues that the work should be dated to a later period, after the second century, and that it probably has roots in Alexandrian theology.163 Two further apologists dating approximately to the second century are Theophilus (late 2nd century) and Minucius Felix (2nd or 3rd century). Both of these unquestionably expound the resurrection of the flesh together with the soul. It is at the resurrection that immortality is received, before coming into the presence of God.164 In his work, Minucius Felix uses a spokesman (‘Octavius’) to respond strongly to anti-Christian arguments against the resurrection.165 Irenaeus, who wrote in the late second century, may also be mentioned here. Rather than defending the resurrection of the body against external, nonChristian critiques, he wrote against those who, in his view, denigrated the resurrection from within the Christian communities. His work, Against Heresies, is the longest extant discussion of the resurrection to that date, notably combatting ‘heretical,’ probably gnostic views, within the church.166 In a sustained argument in this work, Irenaeus advocates for the reality of the resurrection of the body in a renewed world.167 158

See Athenagoras, Res. XV.2. Wright, Resurrection, 506. 160 Young, Eschatology, 11. 161 Athenagoras, Res. XXV. 162 Ibid., 1. 163 David Runia, ‘Verba Philonica, ’Αγαλματοφορειν, and the Authenticity of the De Resurrectione Attributed to Athenagoras,’ in Philo and the Church Fathers, Supplements to Vigiliae Christianae 32 (Leiden: Brill, 1995), 115. 164 Theophilus, Autol. I.7. Hippolytus (Against Plato, 2) argues that in the end, God will work the resurrection, by raising the bodies themselves, and ensuring that every body receives its proper soul. 165 Wright, Resurrection, 509. 166 Segal, Life After Death, 565. 167 See Irenaeus’ reasoning in Haer. V.9–V.15. See comments by Anders-Chr. Lund Jacobsen, ‘The Philosophical Argument in the Teaching of the Resurrection of the Flesh,’ in 159

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The apologists and theologians of the second century were writing within a culture in which those who believed in the resurrection of the body were very much a minority.168 The idea of the reality of bodily resurrection was almost impossible for Hellenistic society to comprehend. Indeed, it was often met with scorn, as illustrated by Celsus’ question: ‘[w]hat sort of human soul would have any further desire for a body that has rotted?’169 In fact, this is part of the reason that Celsus viewed Christians as lower class, uneducated simpletons.170 Such an attitude is also reflected in Caecilius’ diatribe, which refers to the Christians’ lack of learning and intelligence, and related to this, their inferior social status.171 It was in the face of these perspectives that the apologists persisted. It was these kinds of pressures, not merely from without, but also from within the Christian communities, that influenced the shape of the arguments of the apologists.172 Within this context, after the second century, the later apologists began to not emphasise some previously clear-cut boundaries between Christianity and the Graeco-Roman world.173 From this time, Christian writings exhibit a shift from the experiential nature of the Jewish roots of their religion to the philosophical and metaphysical nature of Greek thought. Their focus accordingly turns more and more to the attempt to reconcile the resurrection of the body with the intellectual milieu of their day.174 We must recognise that to focus only on the group of texts that have been traditionally called ‘the Fathers’, and on the apologists, gives an inaccurate view of the complexity of early Christianity. There are, for example, the apocalyptic and early pseudepigraphic Christian texts, some of which will be considered

Critica et philologica, Nachleben, first two centuries, Tertullian to Arnobius, Egypt before Nicaea, Athanasius and his opponents (ed. Maurice F. Wiles, Edward Yarnold, and P. M. Parvis; Leuven: Peeters, 2001), 256. 168 Setzer, Resurrection of the Body, 2. 169 Origen, Cels. V.14, trans. Henry Chadwick (Contra Celsum, [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1953], 274. 170 See Celsus’ views in Origen, Cels. III.34, 56. For a recent critique of the accuracy of Celsus’ perceptions, see Andreas Köstenberger and Henry Kruger, The Heresy of Orthodoxy (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), 185–6. 171 Minucius Felix, Oct. V.3, 4, 6; VIII.4; XII.7; XIII.4. 172 See Segal, Life After Death, 534. Judith Lieu (‘The Audience of Apologetics: The Problem of the Martyr Acts,’ in Contextualising Early Christian Martyrdom [ed. Jakob Engberg, Uffe Holmsgaard Eriksen, and Anders Klostergaard Petersen; Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2011], 218) argues that the audience of early Christian apologetics was not merely external, but internal as well. 173 Rhee, Christ and Culture, 190. 174 See Jeffrey Russell, A History of Heaven: The Singing Silence (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997), 64.

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later. These represent somewhat different ideologies of the afterlife. Furthermore, however we might conceive of the place of Gnosticism in early Christianity, we must acknowledge it played a significant role in the context of the trajectories of the afterlife in early Christianity. Certainly, those who subscribed to these different views all considered themselves to be ‘orthodox’ and to belong to the ‘church.’ On the other hand, the fact that there was obviously a variety of views and polemic does not negate the significance and broad consistency of the general tradition maintained by the New Testament, early Fathers and apologists, a tradition that was focussed on an eschatological, literal, resurrection of the body. We have also noted how those non-canonical texts, which appear to represent the immediate presence of the righteous in heaven after death, or of the immortality of the soul, can arguably be ascribed a relatively late date in the third century. This is the case with the Martyrdom of Polycarp, the Epistle to Diognetus, and On the Resurrection of the Dead (traditionally ascribed to Athenagoras). The eschatological, bodily resurrection of the dead is therefore presented as the early majority tradition in the extant writings, most often from a position of authority within the Christian communities. However, given the great importance and influence of Gnosticism, it is to this milieu of beliefs to which we will turn our attention in the next section. III. Gnosticism An appreciation of Gnostic views is important in understanding the context of the writings of Tertullian, Clement and Origen. The Valentinians of early thirdcentury Carthage would not have significantly disagreed with the Passion of Perpetua’s notions of the afterlife, although it cannot at all be classed as a Valentinian text. Certainly, we know from Tertullian that elements of Gnostic Christianity were active and influential in Carthage, whether manifested as Valentinianism, Marcionism, or other forms. Of course, the principal Gnostic texts that have survived, notably the Nag Hammadi corpus, are from Egypt, rather than Carthage,175 but they may be reasonably considered as belonging to a ‘broader’ context of Gnostic tendencies that were also evident in North Africa. Valentinus (c. AD 100-175) represents a rare, identifiable figure from the other side of the struggle within the Christian fold. He was from the Egyptian Delta, and was educated at Alexandria, in the great school of Neoplatonism, where Clement and Origen would also be educated some decades later.176 Some 175 Of course, climatic considerations in terms of the preservation of papyri account almost totally for this disparity. 176 On Gnosticism in Egypt, see Birger Pearson, ‘Gnosticism as a Religion,’ in Gnosticism and Christianity in Roman and Coptic Egypt, Studies in Antiquity and Christianity (New York: T&T Clark, 2004), 223. For different viewpoints on the nature of earliest Egyptian Christianity, see Pearson, ‘Current Issues in the Study of Early Christianity in Egypt,’ in Gnosticism and Christianity in Roman and Coptic Egypt, Studies in Antiquity

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time between 136 and 140 CE, Valentinus moved to Rome, and by 180, Irenaeus was accusing him of Gnosticism.177 The origins of Gnosticism appear to have included a fusion of a number of different philosophical and religious traditions. These may have included Platonism,178 elements of the Greek mysteries, and Judaism.179 It is important to note the persistent difficulty in defining what a Gnostic was in antiquity.180 There were indeed a great many Gnostic systems,181 and any given Gnostic system did not necessarily incorporate the same elements that were associated together in other systems.182 There is also the difficulty of working out the relationship of Gnostic elements to orthodox elements in any given text.183 In spite of these many difficulties, Gnosticism, especially in its earliest period, manifests a ‘fundamental indebtedness to Jewish concepts and traditions,’184 with the Gnostic texts frequently preserving exegetical traditions that are recorded elsewhere in written form (sometimes only much later) within rabbinic Judaism.185 However, in spite of some points of striking similarity between both and Christianity (New York: T&T Clark, 2004), 12–80; Walter Bauer, Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity (trans. by a team from the Philadelphia Seminar on Christian Origins; Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1971), xxii–xiv, 45–53; Colin Roberts, Manuscript, Society, and Belief in Early Christian Egypt (London: Oxford University Press, for the British Academy, 1979), 26–48; Frankfurter, ‘Regional Trajectories,’ 162; and Wilfred Griggs, Earliest Egyptian Christianity: From its Origins to 451 C.E. (Leiden: Brill, 1991), 32–3. 177 Bentley Layton, The Gnostic Scriptures: A New Translation with Annotations and Introductions (London: SCM Press, 1987), 222. For Basilides’ career and dating, see Pearson, ‘Basilides the Gnostic,’ in A companion to second-century Christian "heretics" (ed. Antti Marjanen and Petri Luomanen; Leiden: Brill, 2008), 1–4. 178 Ferguson, Backgrounds, 307. 179 On the origins of Gnosticism, see Pearson, ‘Current Issues,’ 26. For Eusebius’ account of the origins of Gnosticism, see Chron. 283F, Romans, 228 th Olypmiad. See also Irenaeus, Haer. I.11.1. 180 Griggs, Egyptian Christianity, 59. 181 Pearson, ‘Gnosticism as a Religion,’ 209. 182 Setzer (Resurrection of the Body, 156) notes that some scholars question Gnosticism being ‘a distinctly identifiable religious movement.’ Against this view, see Layton, Gnostic Scriptures, 9, 12. 183 Griggs, Egyptian Christianity, 59. These problems have driven some, such as Karen King, to even conclude that ‘there was and is no such thing as Gnosticism.’ (See What is Gnosticism? [Cambridge, Massachussets: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, USA, 2003], 1–2.) 184 Birger Pearson, ‘Jewish Sources in Gnostic Literature,’ in Jewish Writings of the Second Temple Period (ed. M. E. Stone), Compendia rerum iudaicarum ad Novum Testamentum 2.2 (Assen: Van Gorcum/Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984), 443. Gruenwald (‘Merkavah Mysticism,’ 204) suggests that Gnosticism is more likely to have developed in closer connection to early Christianity within an apocalyptic milieu. 185 Pearson, ‘Jewish Sources,’ 479, citing the convincing work of Guy Stroumsa, Another Seed: Studies in Gnostic Mythology, Nag Hammadi Studies 24 (Leiden: Brill, 1984). In this work, Stroumsa (ibid., 18) demonstrates that the literary milieu against which the

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the Jewish and Gnostic writings, the question of lines of transmission is extremely problematic,186 with little concludable beyond the broadest generalisations.187 Recent scholarship has however recognised that Gnosticism has ‘deep roots,’ specifically in Jewish apocalypticism.188 This would seem to be nowhere more evident than in Gnosticism’s preoccupation with cosmological matters,189 which of course prominently feature the notion of ascent. The post-mortem ascent of the immortal soul is still a major feature of Gnostic eschatology.190 However, Van Baaren cautions that in spite of the evident similarities between ‘[t]he myth of the “Himmelsreise der Seele’” and ‘the gnostic myth of the ascension of the soul,’ ‘the differences are so fundamental as to exclude a fruitful comparison.’191 The significance of the ‘differences’ should not be stretched too far; in terms of the afterlife, we are still dealing with the same core elements that were prevalent in Hellenistic times, albeit put to different uses and in different contexts. The notion of the ascent of the soul after death is still a fundamental thread that runs through all of these traditions. The Gnostic notions of resurrection, ascent, and the afterlife are clearly illustrated in the Nag Hammadi texts.

emergence of Gnostic mythology should be understood is the Jewish apocalyptic and pseudepigraphic literature. 186 See Frankfurter, ‘Regional Trajectories,’ 161–2. 187 Ithamar Gruenwald, ‘Jewish Sources for the Gnostic Texts from Nag Hammadi?’ in From Apocalypticism to Gnosticism: Studies in Apocalypticism, Merkavah Mysticism and Gnosticism (Frankfurt am Main: Verlag Peter Land, 1988), 219. On the debates concerning this, see also Gruenwald, ‘Jewish Merkavah Mysticism and Gnosticism,’ in From Apocalypticism to Gnosticism: Studies in Apocalypticism, Merkavah Mysticism and Gnosticism (Frankfurt am Main: Verlag Peter Lang, 1988), 111, 204, 228; Layton, Gnostic Scriptures, xxii; and Pearson, ‘Jewish Sources,’ 444. 188 Frankfurter, ‘Regional Trajectories’ 151. See also Fallon, ‘Gnostic Apocalypses,’ in Apocalypse: The Morphology of a Genre, ed. J. J. Collins, Semeia 14 (1979): 123–47; the discussion by Pearson (‘Jewish Sources,’ 471) of the Gnostic Revelation of Adam; and also Stroumsa, ‘Secret Myths,’ 56. 189 Gruenwald, ‘“Knowledge” and “Vision”: Towards a Clarification of Two “Gnostic” Concepts in Light of their Alleged Origins’ in From Apocalypticism to Gnosticism: Studies in Apocalypticism, Merkavah Mysticism and Gnosticism (Frankfurt am Main: Verlag Peter Lang, 1988), 79. 190 Gruenwald, ‘Priests, Prophets, Apocalyptic Visionaries, and Mystics’ in From Apocalypticism to Gnosticism: Studies in Apocalypticism, Merkavah Mysticism and Gnosticism (Frankfurt am Main: Verlag Peter Lang, 1988), 134. On the non-symbolic nature of ascent within Gnosticism, see Pearson, ‘Gnosticism as a Religion,’ 207. On Gnostic cosmology, see Adela Yarbro Collins, ‘The Seven Heavens in Jewish and Christian Apocalypses,’ in Cosmology and Eschatology in Jewish and Christian Apocalypticism, Supplements to the Journal for the Study of Judaism 50 (Leiden: Brill, 1996), 53. 191 Th. Van Baaren, ‘Towards a Definition of Gnosticism,’ in Le Origini dello Gnosticismo (ed. Ugo Bianchi; Leiden: Brill, 1967), 176.

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In the Treatise on Resurrection, dating from the late second century,192 the author asserts the importance of the resurrection in the introductory remarks.193 However, the author proceeds to argue for a concept of the resurrection194 that is somewhat removed from that which Paul or the early church fathers would have understood, in spite of the New Testament citations provided. Believers participate proleptically in Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension,195 but immediately upon death, they are spiritually resurrected and restored to the Pleroma196 via ascent, in the form of a spiritual body.197 This ascent of the believer is possible because of the ascent of the Saviour.198 The Treatise on Resurrection reveals that there was an appreciable degree of concern over these issues within the communities to which this text belongs. The author writes that ‘[m]any are awaiting what I have written to you.’199 One of the key issues addressed by the author is whether the ascent (‘salvation’) is immediately after death, or at some future time, with the specific question being ‘whether one will be saved immediately, if the body is left behind.’200 The answer is that this is certainly the case; however, this is only because the ‘living members’ within believers have already ‘risen’ and ascended in life.201 Van Baaren refers to the ascent of the soul within Gnosticism as ‘a symbolic expression of the liberation of the spiritual part of man from the shackles of this material world.’202 However, within Gnosticism, ascent should not be seen as

192 Pearson, ‘Current Issues,’ 67. So too H. Attridge in M. Peel (The Treatise on Resurrection, in Nag Hammadi Codex I (The Jung Codex) [notes ed. H. Attridge; Leiden: Brill, 1985], 146), who also notes (ibid., 145) that although the Treatise is of unknown geographic provenance, most scholars believe the author belonged to the Valentinian Gnostic School. 193 Treat. Res. XLIV.1 (tr. Peel, 149). 194 Ibid., XLV.23–XLVI.2 (trans. Marvin Meyer; see The Nag Hammadi Scriptures: The Revised and Updated Translation of Sacred Gnostic Texts [New York: HarperCollins, 2008], 53). 195 The ‘spiritual ascent’ of believers in life is described in Treat. Res. XLV.23– XLVI.19 (tr. Meyer, 53). 196 See ibid., XLIV.30–35 (tr. Meyer, 52). 197 Ibid., XLVII (tr. Meyer, 54). 198 See ibid., XLV (tr. Meyer, 53). 199 Ibid., L (tr. Meyer, 55). 200 Ibid., XLVII (tr. Meyer, 54). 201 One of the themes of the Treatise on the Resurrection is the typically Gnostic theme of ‘rest,’ received in the present through the knowledge of the truth. See XLIII.35–7; XLIV.1–6. On the concept of ‘rest’ in these passages, see Attridge in Peel, ‘Treatise,’ 141– 3. The nature of the resurrection is described in Treat. Res. 47–9. 202 Van Baaren, ‘Definition,’ 167. Werner Foerster (‘Vom Ursprung der Gnosis,’ in Christentum am Nil [ed. Klaus Wessel; Recklinghausen: Verlag Aurel Bongers, 1964], 129) writes that for the Gnostic, [e]ntscheidend ist aber immer daß die Welt aus einem Fall – oder einem uranfänglichen Gegensatz – enstanden ist und den Menschen so gefangen hält, daß er sich nicht selbst daraus befreien kann. For further on Gnostic soteriology, see Pear-

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merely symbolic or proleptic in an entirely spiritualised sense in this life, since it is clear that ascent is also closely associated with the afterlife. The Exegesis of the Soul203 apparently refers to what can only be ultimately completely realised after physical death. We are told that ‘[t]he soul needs to regenerate herself and become as she formerly was. So the soul stirred, and she received the divine from the Father, that she might be restored and returned to where she was before. This is resurrection from the dead. This is freedom from captivity. This is ascent to heaven. This is the way up to the Father.’204 The motif of the ascent of the soul is also found in the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, from the early to late second century,205 which contains a description of the ascent of the soul to the ‘Rest in Silence.’206 This is likely to be an earlier account of the immediate ascent of the soul than that found in the Passion of Perpetua, although its date cannot be fixed. The ascent here appears to occur immediately upon the death of the physical body, since the soul speaks and says: ‘[w]hat binds me is slain, surrounds me has been overcome.’207 It is notable that in this text Andrew refers to Mary’s presentations of these hidden teachings as being ‘certainly strange ideas.’208 The ‘strangeness’ of these ideas points to the controversial nature of these teachings, and to the polemic with nonGnostic Christianity.209 The element of the interrogation of the ascending soul that is found in The Gospel of Mary is also found in The First Apocalypse of James.210 This latter work refers to seventy-two heavens that must be traversed son, ‘Gnosticism as a Religion,’ 203–7, and Abraham Bos, ‘Aristotelian and Platonic Dualism in Hellenistic and Early Greek Philosophy and in Gnosticism,’ VC 56 (2002), 291. 203 Probably from Alexandria in the early third-century. See M. Scopello, introduction to The Exegesis of the Soul (trans. W. Robinson), in The Nag Hammadi Library in English (ed. J. M. Robinson and R. D. Smith; Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1996), 191–2. 204 Exeg. Soul CXXXIV (trans. Marvin Meyer; see The Nag Hammadi Scriptures: The Revised and Updated Translation of Sacred Gnostic Texts [New York: HarperCollins, 2008], 231). 205 Darrell Bock, The Missing Gospels: Unearthing the Truth Behind Alternative Christianities (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2006), 66. See also Pearson, ‘Current Issues,’ 74. Note that Esther De Boer (The Gospel of Mary: Listening to the Beloved Disciple [London: Continuum, 2005], 30–4) questions whether the Gospel of Mary Magdalene is really Gnostic, arguing that the work cannot be classified as such on the basis of the motif of an ascent to God. However, the notion of ascent to ‘rest’ clearly points to a Gnostic context. 206 Gos. Mary XV.1–17 (trans. De Boer; see Beloved Disciple, 30–4). 207 Ibid., 18–24 (trans. Marvin Meyer; see The Gospels of Mary: The Secret Tradition of Mary Magdalene the Companion of Jesus [New York: HarperCollins, 2004], 21–2). 208 Ibid., 17 (tr. Meyer, 22). 209 See Young, ‘Eschatology,’ 14, referring specifically to the Treatise on the Resurrection. Note that the ‘Thomas’ literature, i.e., The Gospel of Thomas (2nd century), the Book of Thomas the Contender (3rd century), and the Acts of Thomas (3rd century) are all negative to the physical resurrection and to the body. See Setzer, Resurrection of the Body, 158–64. 210 The First Revelation of James XXXIV (trans. Marvin Meyer; see The Nag Hammadi Scriptures: The Revised and Updated Translation of Sacred Gnostic Texts. [New York: HarperCollins, 2008], 328).

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in ascent,211 and a corresponding system of secret passwords, which savour of Jewish esotericism, and other esoteric and magical traditions.212 Connections have been noted between Egyptian religious ideas and Gnosticism, including in the self-conscious textuality of Gnostic literature, which Frankfurter parallels with the magical papyri and the Hermetic literature.213 Furthermore, Frankfurter notes that the Gnostic texts attempt to ‘establish a secure locus of authority,’214 and to this end, use paradigms from Egyptian religion, together with the apocalypses provided by Judaism.215 In terms of the specific literary parallels, Mosjov observes that Gnosticism employed magical spells and mystical writings with numbers and letters that touched on the world of ancient Egyptian magical texts. Emphasis was laid on secret knowledge through which, in the Egyptian tradition, salvation and redemption could be achieved. “I know, therefore I am pure,” proclaimed the souls in the Book of the Dead.216

Pearson describes the teaching of Marsanes, from Sethian Gnosticism, in which ‘the letters of the alphabet and their syllabic combinations are understood to have their counterparts in the angelic world of the Zodiac and the planetary spheres. The gnostic adept, in order to ascend beyond these spheres, must know their natures and be able to chant the proper names.’217 Although this text obviously reflects the views of late antiquity, one cannot help but be struck by the echoes of the traditional Egyptian funerary texts. Points of similarity are the focus on ascent, and the various obstacles that must be overcome through magic, involving the knowledge of names and passwords.


Ioan Culianu, Psychanodia I: A Survey of the Evidence Concerning the Ascension of the Soul and its Relevance (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1983), 11. 212 Ibid. 213 Frankfurter, ‘Regional Trajectories,’ 151. 214 Ibid., 153. 215 Ibid. 216 Bojana Mojsov, Osiris: Death and Afterlife of a God (Oxford: Blackwell, 2005), 117. 217 Birger Pearson, ‘Gnostic Ritual and Iamblichus’s Treatise On the Mysteries of Egypt,’ in Gnosticism and Christianity in Roman and Coptic Egypt, Studies in Antiquity and Christianity (New York: T&T Clark, 2004), 245, citing Marsanes 19–39. Although Marsanes is from the late third or early fourth century (John Turner, Marsanes, in The Nag Hammadi Scriptures: The Revised and Updated Translation of Sacred Gnostic Texts [New York: HarperCollins, 2007], 629), Sethian Gnosticism derives from earlier times. On this, and on the complex issues concerning Sethian Gnosticism generally, see Alistair Logan, Gnostic Truth and Christian Heresy: A Study in the History of Gnosticism (London: T & T Clark International, 2004), 16–23.

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D. The Afterlife After Perpetua: Literary Evidence I. Cyprian If the Passion of Perpetua is indeed a key text in reflecting changing afterlife ideologies in Christian North Africa, then we should expect to see a transition of some kind in the period after the production of this text. This is not because the text was necessarily inherently influential, but rather in that it represented the view of the popular church that challenged the more formal view expressed by the preceding fathers of the church, and indeed, Tertullian himself. This indeed appears to be the case. Tertullian is the last of the Christian writers in the West to emphasise the eschatological resurrection of the material body in explicit contrast to the idea of the immediate post-mortem ascent of the soul. Furthermore, in the very next generation after Perpetua’s martyrdom, Daley asserts that Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage from 248/9–258, was the first of the church fathers to explicitly state that all the Christian righteous are granted access to heaven immediately upon death.218 In support of this, Daley cites Cyprian’s eleventh treatise, addressed to Fortunatus, where Cyprian refers to Paul, who was ‘caught up into the third heaven and into paradise.’ Cyprian continues: [w]ho, then, does not with all his powers labour to attain to such a glory… that he may at once rejoice with Christ [ut cum Christo statim gaudeat] …the world is taken away from him that is slain, but paradise is set forth to him restored; the life of time is extinguished, but the life of eternity is realized. What a dignity it is, and what a security, to go gladly from hence… in a moment to close the eyes… and at once to open them [et aperire eosdem statem] to look upon God and Christ! Of such a blessed departure how great is the swiftness! [quanta velocitas!] You shall be suddenly taken away from earth, to be placed in the heavenly kingdoms. [terris repente subtraheris, ut in regnis coelestibus reponaris.]219

Cyprian is clearly referring to the immediate presence of the deceased in heaven with God. It must be conceded that this passage is in the general context of martyrdom; however Daley is probably correct that Cyprian is also referring to the experience of all the righteous dead. This view is supported by the fact that the specific requirements for the immediate entry into Paradise upon death, as specified by Cyprian, are not martyrdom, but rather, incorruptam fidem et virtutem mentis incolumen, laudem devotionis illustrem.220 We can further contextualise this passage in To Fortunatus 13 via Cyprian’s treatise on Mortality. In this treatise, after having noted the Christians’ desire for the kingdom of God to come quickly so that they may reign with Christ,221 Cyprian does not situate this reigning with Christ in the eschaton, but rather at 218 Brian Daley, The Hope of the Early Church: A Handbook of Patristic Eschatology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 36. 219 Cyprian, Fort. 13, tr. Wallis, 506–7; ed Migne, 675–676. 220 Cyprian, Fort. 13. 221 Cyprian, Mort. III, XVIII.

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the departure of the Christian from this world at death. Cyprian writes here that when we die, we pass by death to immortality [ad immortalitatem morte transgredimur]… This is not an end, but a passage… a crossing over to eternity… Who would not pray to be more quickly changed and reformed to the image of Christ and to the dignity of heavenly grace…? He who is to come to the abode of Christ, to the glory of the heavenly kingdom, ought not to grieve and mourn, but rather… to rejoice in this his departure and translation [in profectione hac sua et translatione gaudere].222

Although Cyprian does not otherwise significantly focus on the afterlife, the influence of the Passion of Perpetua upon Cyprian’s circle has been highlighted by Aronen, who has demonstrated a clear relationship between the Passion of Perpetua and the Vita Cypriani, the biography of Cyprian supposedly written by the deacon Pontius.223 Aronen suggests that the nature of the Vita Cypriani may be largely due to the existence of the Passion of Perpetua, and that this seems to be true both in the ‘literal loans’224 as in the motifs that ‘occur in the same order and in the same parts of the work as in P. Perp.’225 Moreover, we should not necessarily negate the influence of Perpetua itself in the development of the cult of the martyrs more broadly, and perhaps even specifically in the ideological change in the Western church with regard to the afterlife and eschatology. Aronen reminds us that because of the authority of the Passion of Perpetua in North Africa, it was a ‘direct source of inspiration’ for the North African passiones, the Passio Montani et Lucii and the Passio Mariani et Iacobi, which are contemporary with the Vita Cypriani.226 Petr Kitzler has highlighted the seminal nature of the Passion of Perpetua in North African hag222 Ibid., XXII (trans. Roy J. Deferrari; see Saint Cyprian, Treatises, vol. 36 of The Fathers of the Church [New York: Fathers of the Church, Inc., 1958], 217; ed. Migne 597– 598). 223 Jaakko Aronen, ‘Indebtedness to Passio Perpetuae in Pontius’ Vita Cypriani,’ VC 38 (1984): 67. 224 Ibid., 73. 225 Ibid., 74. See also ibid., 68, citing Adolf Harnack’s references to the Passion of Perpetua in Das Leben Cyprians von Pontius: die erste Christliche Biographie (Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs’sche Buchhandlung, 1913), 5, 19. However, there are scholars who have adopted a negative position to such influence. See Peter Corssen, ‘Das Martyrium des Bischofs Cyprian,’ Zeitschrift fur die Neutestamentliche Wissenschaft und die Kunder der Älteren Kirche 15 (1914): 221–33; and Hippolyte Delehaye (Les Passions des Martyrs et les Genres litteraires [Brussels: Bureaux de la Societé des Bollandistes, 1921], 97), who believes that the resemblances are assez superficielles. Michele Pellegrino (Vita e Martirio di San Cipriano [Roma: Edizione Paoline, Alba, 1955], 91) believes that the influence of the Passion of Perpetua on the Vita Cypriani has been fortemente esagerato. See also Christine Mohrmann (introduction to Vita di Cipriano, Vita di Ambrogio, Vita di Agostino [Verona: Arnoldo Amondadori Editore, 1975], xxvi), who attributes similarities between the texts merely to the fact that [g]li stessi procedimenti letterari dei racconti di Passioni divennero, ben presto, più o meno tradizionali. 226 Aronen, Indebtedness, 67.

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iography, observing that Perpetua became ‘a paradigmatic and, at least in North Africa, a ‘canonical’ martyrological text, imitated in its macrostructure as well as in its microstructure.’227 Against this general background, it is significant to be able to identify the formal teaching by Cyprian of the immediate post-mortem ascent of the soul as an important step in the history of the early Christian ideology of the afterlife. In this regard, it should not be forgotten that ‘[t]he African church led the west intellectually for centuries.’228 From Cyprian on, the trajectories of the immediate ascent of the soul can be traced through a multiplicity of Christian traditions. However, they then seem to be championed, not merely by ‘popular’ Christianity, but by the intellectual thought-leaders of the Christian church, particularly in North Africa, and especially in Alexandria. We will now therefore turn our attention to Origen. II. Origen Origen (c. AD 185 – 254), Cyprian’s contemporary, was young when Perpetua was martyred. He belongs to the same Alexandrian Christian philosophical tradition as his teacher Clement, and shares the same basic exegetical tradition as Philo. Guy Stroumsa makes the pointed observation that ‘the integration of Platonism and Judaism was… an Alexandrian phenomenon.’229 The connection with Alexandria is therefore no coincidence. Nor, perhaps, is the affinity with the afterlife tradition in North Africa that emphasised the immediate postmortem ascent of the soul.230 It is well known that Alexandria in the second century was one of the leading intellectual centres in the Roman world, and that in this environment, the Alexandrian church had a distinctly ‘Platonizing intellectualist tradition.’231 Even though the views of Origen were considered by some to be on the fringes, or even outside of acceptable Christianity,232 key aspects of his thought were subsequently formative for Christian theology.233 It is notable that Alexandrian Christians in the pre-Constantinian era were thoroughly imbued by Jewish apocalyptic literature.234 Both Clement and Ori227

Kitzler, ‘Viri Mirantur,’ 4. Hans Von Campenhausen, The Fathers of the Latin Church (California: Stanford, 1964), 36. 229 Guy Stroumsa, ‘Clement, Origen, and Jewish Esoteric Traditions,’ in Hidden Wisdom: Esoteric Traditions and the Roots of Christian Mysticism (Leiden: Brill, 2005), 131. 230 Ibid. 231 Norman Russell, The Doctrine of Deification in the Greek Patristic Tradition, Oxford Early Christian Studies (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), 116. 232 Ilaria Ramelli, ‘Origen, Patristic Philosophy, and Christian Platonism: Re-Thinking the Christianisation of Hellenism,’ VC 63 (2009): 220. 233 See, for example, John Dillon, ‘An Ethic for the Late Antique Sage,’ in The Cambridge Companion to Plotinus (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 399–400. 234 Russell, Patristic Tradition, 117. 228

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gen refer to Jewish apocrypha as transmitting esoteric traditions,235 and these traditions were clearly valued by Origen and informed his hermeneutics.236 Furthermore, both Origen and Clement had ‘close links to Gnostic milieus and traditions.’237 Within the context of Origen’s Egyptian identity, it is also interesting that the teachings of Origen continued to be popular among the native Egyptian Christian population for many years after his death.238 In Origen’s day, the tension between a physical and an entirely spiritual concept of resurrection had not yet been resolved by the thought leaders of the church, who were still repeatedly condemning the idea of spiritual resurrection.239 It is not a straightforward matter to determine Origen’s views of the afterlife of the soul. Firstly, much of his corpus is lost.240 Secondly, his theories are subtle and controversial. Thirdly, in many areas his final positions are not fully developed.241 However, a window into Origen’s understanding of the soul and its ascent is provided by direct analogy with his discussions of the angels and of the stars. Ricklefs observes that Origen sees angels as something akin to souls,242 and that he specifically connects them with the descent of souls into human bodies. More specifically, he regards the state of being an angel as an ‘office’ of the soul.243 Origen writes that, at death, depending on one’s purity and holiness, souls ‘quickly ascend to a place in the air,’ passing through various ‘gradations,’ so as to ‘reach the kingdom of heaven.’244 Scott summarises Origen’s view as follows: [w]hen human beings rise from the dead, they ascend through the heavens. The resurrection body is ethereal and luminous, like the bodies of stars, and resurrected humanity visits heavenly bodies, to which they (it would seem) have a physical kinship… Resurrected souls, however,

235 Guy Stroumsa, ‘Paradosis: Esoteric Traditions in Early Christianity,’ in Hidden Wisdom: Esoteric Traditions and the Roots of Christian Mysticism (Leiden: Brill, 2005), 40. 236 Stroumsa, ‘Jewish Esoteric Traditions,’ 121. See also Origen, Philoc. II.3. Also see Origen, Cels. I.18, 42; and comments on this last passage by Stroumsa, ‘Paradosis,’ 36–43. Also Origen, Hom. Jer. XII.13; and Com. Jo. V.1. 237 On this, see Stroumsa, ‘Jewish Esoteric Traditions,’ 110, 128, 130, citing Jean Daniélou, ‘Les Traditions secrètes des Apôtres,’ Eranos Jahrbuch 31 (1962): 200. 238 Griggs, Egyptian Christianity, 83–4. 239 Alan Scott, Origen and the Life of the Stars: The History of an Idea (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991), 151. Whether this tension was ever resolved is an interesting, but possibly moot question. 240 Ibid., 163. 241 Ibid., 149. 242 Norman Ricklefs, An Angelic Community: The Significance of Beliefs About Angels in the First Four Centuries of Christianity (Unpublished PhD diss: Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia, 2002), 65–6. 243 Ibid., 66–7. 244 Origen, On the Principles, Book 2, Chapter XI.6.224–35 (tr. Crombie, 299). See also Scott, Life of the Stars, 159–160; and Ricklefs, Angelic Community, 67.

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have a higher destiny, and eventually go beyond the fixed sphere (‘the firmament’) and ascend to a higher earth, the ‘earth of heaven’, and even above that to the true heaven.245

Origen also considers that the resurrected righteous are not only akin to angels, but that they are also akin to stars.246 Indeed, given the prominent role of pagan cosmological traditions in Origen’s thinking,247 the conceptual connection between human souls and stars is a very natural association for him.248 He notes that just as the stars differ in their brightness, so too those who ascend to heaven have different levels of glory as they become like God.249 Origen refers to the inhabitants of the heavenly Jerusalem as those who will ascend to heaven (ἀναβεβήκασιν οἱ πολῖται εἰς τὸν οὐρανὸν) and who will become a multitude of stars (ὡς πλήθη ἄστρων αὐτοὺς γενέσθαι).250 In addition to these instructive analogies, in his Homily V on 1 Samuel, Origen reveals his understanding of the afterlife in a clear manner. This clarity is because Origen, quite unusually for him, here applies a non-allegorical exegesis to the Old Testament passage he is discussing. The issue that Origen is dealing with is the whereabouts of Samuel in the declaration of the woman at Endor. Was Samuel in Hades, or was this simply a demonic deception? Origen’s assertion is that Samuel was indeed in Hades. As Origen explains, the patriarchs and the prophets all went down to Hades upon their deaths, there to await the promised coming of Christ.251 At his death, Jesus went down into Hades and rescued the righteous from the period before His coming.252 Therefore, now, because Jesus has conquered death, ’Εὰν ἀπαλλαγῶμεν ἐντεῦθεν γενὸμενοι χαλοὶ καὶ ἀγαθοὶ… διελευσόμετα καὶ αὐτοὶ τὴν φλογίνην ῥομφαίαν καὶ οὐ κατελευσόμεθα εἰς τὴν χώραν, ὅπου περιέμενον τὸν Χριστὸν οἱ πρὸ τῆς παρουσίας αὐτοῦ κοιμώμενοι.253 Origen therefore asserts that, Jesus having died and been resurrected, all of the righteous now ascend to Paradise at their own deaths. In this respect, Origen’s personal eschatogy is much closer to that of the Passion of Perpetua, although Origen still insists on the ‘resurrection,’ although in a spiritualised sense within an eschatology that appears to be realised at death. Remaining true to the ascension motif common in the Hellenistic world, Origen also believed that the cosmic forces inspected souls as they ascended, and could prevent them from 245

Scott, Life of the Stars, 164. Ibid., 157. Indeed, in Origen’s deep interest in the stars we can see the clear resonances of the fascination of late antiquity with astral immortality. For Origen’s fascinating exposition of the sin and salvation of the stars, see his Com. Jo. 1.XXXV.255–7. 247 Scott, Life of the Stars, 125–6. 248 Ibid., 116. 249 Origen, Princ. 2.X.2. 250 Origen, Frag. Ps. CXLVII, lines 11–3. See also Hom. Num. II.2.4, citing Matt 13:43. See also Res. II; Princ. II.3.7; and Hom. Num. XXVII.2.3. 251 Origen, Homily V on 1 Samuel, 10. 252 Origen, Homily V on 1 Samuel, 6. 253 Origen, Homily on 1 Samuel, V.10, lines 4–9. 246

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ascending.254 Also remaining true to a frequent goal of ascent in late antiquity, Origen’s ultimate goal for the soul is deification.255 With regard to the afterlife, Origen’s work represents the masterful intellectual assimilation of Greek philosophy, popular Graeco-Roman culture, Jewish esotericism, and Christian tradition. With Origen’s view of the afterlife, the intermingling of Judaeo-Christian apocalypticism with Graeco-Roman culture that is found in the Passion of Perpetua rises to the surface in a new form with philosophical and esoteric dimensions, and eventually flows into that mainstream of Christian ideology that the leaders of the church were prepared to defend. III. Augustine We are still within a North African context when we come to a consideration of Augustine, Bishop of Hippo from 396–430. Dillon remarks that ‘[i]f Christianity is thought to be Neoplatonic, or to find Neoplatonism an essential explanatory tool, it must be Augustine who first saw it so, or made it so.’256 It is rather, perhaps, that Augustine ‘saw it so,’ since it appears Augustine already found Christianity to be significantly Neoplatonic. The Neoplatonic tenor of Christianity in mid-fourth century Rome is illustrated by the conversion of Marius Victorinus, the Neoplatonic philosopher, to Christianity, which is reported by Augustine.257 In a very interesting study, M. T. Clark concludes that the theology of Marius Victorinus indicates that as a result of his conversion to the Christian faith, he did not consider he needed to significantly alter his adherence to the Neoplatonism then in vogue.258 Neoplatonism, in terms of the writings of Plotinus, and even more so of Porphyry, encouraged those Christians who wished to play down the theological importance of the resurrection.259 This, consequently, was also Augustine’s marked tendency.260 Some passages in the Confessions in many ways mirror the

254 Scott, Life of the Stars, 142. See particularly Origen, Homily 27 on Numbers, IV.1; and Homily 27 on Numbers, VI.1. In Homily 27 on Numbers, VII–XII.13, Origen describes the various stages through which the soul ascends, with evil heavenly powers needing to be overcome at each different stage. 255 Scott, Life of the Stars, xv. 256 Dillon, ‘Ethic,’ 404. 257 Augustine, Conf. VIII.2.3–6. 258 Mary Clark, ‘The Neoplatonism of Marius Victorinus the Christian,’ in Neoplatonism and Early Christian Thought (ed. H. J. Blumenthal and R. A. Markus; London: Variorum Publications, 1981), 158. 259 John Rist, ‘Plotinus and Christian Philosophy,’ in The Cambridge Companion to Plotinus (ed. Lloyd P. Gerson; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 401. 260 Ibid. On the different perspectives in the significant debate over the influence of Plotinic philosophy on Augustine, see Robert O’Connell, St Augustine’s Confessions: The Odyssey of Soul (Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1969), 145–55; and Ronnie

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Neoplatonic concept of the ‘ascent of the soul’ as found in the Enneads of Plotinus.261 Augustine was also writing in the context of a long-standing popular tradition of the immediate post-mortem ascent of the soul. Furthermore, Augustine also more formally enunciates what had traditionally been the corollary of the ascent of the soul across many cultures: its divinification.262 Augustine expresses the notion of divinification quite concisely: Deus enim deum te vult facere; sed non natura, sicut est ille quem genuit; sed dono suo et adoptione.263 Augustine furthermore equates martyrdom with monasticism.264 In this he was not alone, but in the company of other Christian intellectuals of the time such as Ambrose265 and Jerome.266 In Confessions VIII.6, Augustine tells of how Ponticianus visited him, and told him about the Egyptian monk Antony, who started the eremitic movement.267 Augustine tells of how he and Alypius were ‘astounded’ ([o]mnes mirabamur)268 to hear of the wonders that Anthony had done.269 IV. Anthony of the Desert The continuity of the popular ideology of the afterlife can be highlighted by reference to Saint Anthony of the Desert (251–356), who died two years after Augustine’s birth. Anthony was living his solitary, desert life and presumably working his miracles within half a century of Perpetua’s martyrdom. Of course, Anthony was in the Egyptian desert, and Perpetua’s narrative is set in Carthage. However, this is all within a North African context. Anthony and his desert deeds might have been new to Augustine, but there would have been little new to North African or Egyptian Christians in Anthony’s visions of the ascent of the soul after death, which seems to have been congruous with popular beliefs. Anthony’s story, which was publicised in written form around the year 360, and which described Anthony’s vivid visions in the Rombs, Saint Augustine & the Fall of the Soul: Beyond O’Connell and His Critics (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2006), 7. 261 A key passage is found in Conf. VII.17. Compare this with Plotinus, Enn.VI.9.3–11. Also compare Conf. XIII.2 with Enn. I, 2.4. On the Platonic origins of Augustine’s doctrine of the soul, see Gerald Bonner, St Augustine of Hippo: Life and Controversies (2nd ed; Norwich: Canterbury Press, 1986), 86; and also Conf. VIII.9–13. 262 See Arthur Armstrong, ‘St. Augustine and Christian Platonism,’ in Plotinian and Christian Studies (London: Variorum Reprints, 1979), 8–9. 263 Augustine, Serm. 166. 264 Augustine, Enarrat. Ps. CXXXII.6, 8. 265 Ambrose, Exp. Ps. CXVIII.20.47. 266 Jerome, Epist. 108.32. More broadly, see Robert Markus, The End of Ancient Christianity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 71. 267 Arnold Jones, The Decline of the Ancient World (London: Longman, 1966), 333. 268 Augustine, Conf. VIII.4.14 (trans. Garry Wills; see Confessions [New York: Penguin, 2002], 171; ed. de Labriolle, 187). See also Conf. VI.14.24–5. 269 Ibid., VIII.4.15.

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desert, was an immediate success. It was soon translated into Latin, widely distributed, and eagerly read.270 One of the many fascinating aspects of the visions contained in the story is that their closest literary and ideological antecedents are arguably the visions recorded in the North African Passion of Perpetua. In this regard, the views of Perpetua and Anthony are ideologically very close. In terms of a personal eschatology, it is clear that as the author of the Life of Anthony, Athanasius of Alexandria271 believed that the soul ascended, in a literal manner, immediately to heaven after death. These were also most probably the beliefs of Anthony himself. In his first vision of this process, the singing and rejoicing of the angels is described, as it is in the Passion of Perpetua.272 Athanasius narrates how ‘Antony suddenly raised his eyes to the sky and saw something that appeared to be a soul moving towards heaven [εἶδεν ἐν τῷ ἀέρι ἀναγόμενόν τινα], while angels rejoiced at its approach.’273 Anthony was subsequently given a more detailed vision of this process, in the context of a discussion in which the brothers who were with him were specifically questioning him about where the soul went after death.274 The following night, Anthony heard a voice from heaven that called his name, commanding him to go outside and look. When he did so, he raised his eyes to heaven, and ‘saw someone tall and terrifying, his head reaching as far as the clouds; he also saw some winged creatures attempting to fly up to heaven [ἀναβαίνοντάς τινας ὥσπερ ἐπτερωμένους], but the tall being stretched out his arms to prevent them getting through.’275 As he watched, Anthony saw the tall being catch some of these winged creatures and throw them back to the ground, while others eluded him and flew up to heaven.276 After this vision, Anthony was given to understand that ‘these were souls that the devil was obstructing in their ascent. He realized that the devil took hold of those who were subject to him, but he was tormented by the flight of the holy ones whom he was unable to catch.’277 This again has particularly clear ideological parallels with Perpetua’s first vision of the difficulties of

270 Columba Stewart, ‘Anthony of the Desert,’ in vol. 2 of The Early Christian World (ed. Philip F. Esler; London: Routledge, 2000), 1089, citing G. Bartelink, Athanase D’Alexandrie: Vie D’Antoine (Paris: Les Éditions du Cerf, 1994), 37–42, 68–70, 95–108. 271 Athanasius was born in the final years of the third century, and therefore lived in Alexandria in the century after Origen. Affirming Athanasius as the author of the Life of Anthony, see Andrew Louth, ‘St. Athanasius and the Greek Life of Antony,’ JTS 39 (1988): 504–9, against Timothy Barnes, ‘Angel of Light or Mystic Initiate: The Problem of the Life of Anthony,’ JTS, NS, 37 (1986): 353–68. 272 Perpetua, XI.7; XII.2. 273 Vit. Ant. LX.1–2 (trans. Carolinne White; see Early Christian Lives [London: Penguin Books, 1998]), 46. 274 Vit. Ant. LX. 275 Ibid. (tr. White, 50). 276 Ibid. 277 Vit. Ant. LXVI (tr. White, 50).

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the ascent of the soul, and of the great dragon under the ladder waiting to devour those who attempted the ascent.278 We can naturally assume that the ideology of the afterlife portrayed in the Life of Anthony represents Athanasius’ own understanding of what happened to the soul after death. But to what extent did it reflect Anthony’s own notions about the ascent after death? In this regard, Thomas Head observes that the accuracy of Athanasius’s presentation is ‘open to question,’ since Anthony’s seven surviving letters reveal that ‘Athanasius did not hesitate to present Antony as he wanted him to be, not necessarily as he really was.’279 It is relevant to note with regard to the ‘quest for the historical Anthony’280 that Athanasius wrote the Life of Anthony within a year of Anthony’s death.281 Stewart’s own position on this question is that while the portrait of Anthony painted by Athanasius does resemble the portrait of Anthony in other sources, the ‘biographer has exercised his power to emphaize and to de-emphasize certain traits.’282 Even so, although not unexpectedly, Anthony writes, referring to Christ, that ‘[t]hrough his death he will resurrect us…’283 Anthony therefore retains a doctrine of the resurrection, although this perspective does not receive priority and eschatological focus in the letters, and even less in the Life. Rather, the visions of Saint Anthony are a powerful testimony to a popular ideology of the afterlife similar to that found in the Passion of Perpetua, and that persisted into the following centuries. It is also worth noting that Anthony’s letters display affinities, and even an acquaintance, with Origen’s theology.284 They also reflect elements of Origen’s cosmological perspective on anthropology.285 Anthony’s demonological framework also reflects that of Origen.286 It is not, therefore, surprising that the History of the Monks of Egypt and the Lausiac History, by Palladius, inform us that Anthony’s network of disciples and their descendants were leaders of the Origenist party.287 278

Perpetua, IV.2–4. Another similar vision is recorded in Vit. Ant. LXV.2–5. Thomas Head, Medieval Hagiography: An Anthology (New York: Routledge, 2001), 5. On the similarities between the Anthony of the Life and the Anthony of the Letters, see Samuel Rubenson, The Letters of St. Anthony: Monasticism and the Making of a Saint (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1997), 68, 136. 280 Stewart, ‘Anthony of the Desert,’ 1088. 281 Ibid. 282 Ibid., 1089. 283 Anthony, Letter 7 (tr. Rubenson, 225). See also comments by Armstrong, ‘Christian Platonism,’ 12. 284 Stewart, ‘Anthony of the Desert,’ 1090, 1092. 285 See particularly Anthony, Letter 6 (tr. Rubenson, 216–224. See also comments by Rubenson, 64–8). 286 Stewart, ‘Anthony of the Desert,’ 1097. See also Athanasius, Vit. Ant. 21–2; Anthony, Letters 6.30–62 (tr. Rubenson, 216–24). 287 See Rubenson, The Letters of St. Anthony, 178–82. 279

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E. Conclusion In general terms, Alfred Stuiber is correct in characterising the ecclesiastical writers of the pre-Constantinian age, with the exception of the Gnostics and the Alexandrians Clement and Origen, as having mit erstaunlicher Beharrlichkeit an den auf Bibel und spätjüdischen Traditionen begründeten Vorstellungen über den Zustand zwischen Tod und Auferstehung festgehalten und mit aller Kraft die Hellenisierung der christlichen Eschatologie abgewehrt.288 The early patristic authors display significant variegation in terms of their eschatology and anthropology. However, in spite of, and in dialogue with, significant polemic on these questions even within the Christian communities, the patristic evidence before Perpetua focuses principally on an eschatological resurrection of the body as the hope of the afterlife. But in the very next generation after Perpetua, and in the same city, Cyprian is the first of the church fathers known to have taught that the soul ascended immediately to heaven at death. Origen of Alexandria would have endorsed this view, although of course within a more philosophical framework. Furthermore, the subsequent popularity of this perspective of the afterlife is confirmed by the Life of Anthony. The principal focus of the conceptualisation of the afterlife in early Christianity seems to have undergone a significant transformation in the decades around and after Perpetua’s martyrdom. The material evidence is therefore broadly congruous with the transformation in the focus of the principal afterlife trajectories, from the resurrection of the flesh to the ascent of the soul at death. In spite of the interpretative difficulties, we may at least deduce that the Christians whose funerary inscriptions have survived do not begin to express their understanding of their fate in terms of the post-mortem ascent of the soul until the late third century.


Alfred Stuiber, Refrigerium Interim: Die Vorstellungen vom Zwischenzustand und die frühchristliche Grabeskunst, Theophaneia (Bonn: Peter Hanstein Verlag G.M.B.H., 1957), 201.

Chapter 4

Perpetua’s Ascent: Contexts and Sources A. Introduction The question of the sources for the ideas in the Passion of Perpetua is central to this present research. In this regard, we will do well to note Heffernan’s remark that ‘[i]n a rich, self-assured, cosmopolitan center like Carthage, education, literacy, and fashion with an Hellenic leaning comprised but one tradition among many, competing traditions, including Punic, Latin, and Semitic.’1 Within this complex context, Bremmer reminds us that there is much that ‘is still unclear about Perpetua. The background, immediate milieu and mental world of the protagonist are only known in outline.’2 This chapter will commence with an exploration of the Passion of Perpetua against the background of the contemporary culture of early third-century North Africa. It will consider the possible sources and influences on the thoughtworld that gave birth to the text, particularly the canonical (Old Testament) sources and the Jewish apocalyptic texts. The broader context of the pervasive GraecoRoman motif of ascent will also be considered. In subsequent chapters, connections with traditional Roman culture and beliefs, as well as with the JudaeoChristian apocalypses, will be further explored. Our quest for sources will commence with those that appear, at least to us, to be the most obvious: the canonical Scriptures.

1 Heffernan, ‘Philology,’ 319. James Rives (Religion and Authority in Roman Carthage from Augustine to Constantine [Oxford: Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1995], 193) considers that Greek was known by the Carthaginian urban elite, although this was probably exceptional when compared with most of Roman Africa. 2 Bremmer, ‘Authenticity,’ 77.

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B. Canonical Biblical Sources Since the Passion of Perpetua is a Christian text, it is appropriate to begin a discussion of sources and influences with the canonical Scriptures.3 However, it must be noted that the canon of the Christian Scriptures had not yet been settled. Nevertheless, this section will consider possible allusions to the canonical Scriptures found in the Passion of Perpetua, as well as in Jewish apocalypticism. In later chapters, elements of the Judaeo-Christian apocalyptic texts will be considered as possible sources, as well as sources from the broader GraecoRoman world. The Latin text of the Passion of Perpetua should be properly compared with the Vetus Latina, which is the collective name given to the Latin texts of the Bible which existed before Jerome’s translation.4 This, however, presents some difficulties, since the transmission of the Old Testament text of the Old Latin versions (Vetus Latina) is incomplete, being only ‘spotty and fragmentary.’5 Drobner observes that although both Jerome and Augustine refer to a multitude of old Latin translations, only fragments have been preserved in patristic citations.6 It is from these fragments that a partial reconstruction of the Vetus Latina texts forms has been made.7 The Acts of the Scillitan Martyrs, referring to events in Proconsular Numidia, establishes the existence of the Vetus Latina before A.D. 180.8 However, just how far the text can be traced back in time is unknown.9 The writings of Tertullian reveal that he ‘obviously knew a Latin translation.’10 Goins notes that in his translation, Jerome at times translated ‘freely’ from the original texts, while at other times he follows the Old Latin versions closely.’11 Vööbos comments that ‘[t]he Old Latin version is not written in the polished literary language of that time, but in the didactic, vernacular idiom of the cult, 3

Orbán, ‘Afterlife,’ 269. Jerome’s translation was substantially completed by A.D 405, and has been known since the 13th century as the Vulgate (Scott Goins, A Vulgate Old Testament Reader (Piscataway: Gorgias Press, 2005), xi). 5 A. Vööbos, ‘Versions,’ in vol. 4 of The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (rev. and ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), 969. 6 Hubertus Drobner, The Fathers of the Church (trans. Siegfried S. Schatzmann; Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 2007), 12. 7 This work has been undertaken by the Vetus Latina Institute in Beuron, Germany, and published through the series Vetus Latina: Die Reste der altlateinischen Bibel (Freiburg: Herder). 8 ‘The Acts of the Scillitan Martyrs,’ in The Acts of the Early Christian Martyrs (ed. and trans. Herbert Musurillo; Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972), 86–9. See also Vööbos, ‘Versions,’ 969. 9 Ibid. 10 Ibid. 11 Goins, Vulgate Reader, xi. 4

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often reflecting the dialect of the common people. This colloquial flavor is colored also by the Greek idiom, seen in its transliteration of Greek terms and occasionally even in syntax.’12 The salient point is that this is a similar style of language as is used in the Passion of Perpetua. Indeed, the use of the Vetus Latina is evident throughout the text, one example of which is the use of the Greek term agios instead of the Latin sanctus.13 On the other hand, Ameling argues that there is no evidence of Perpetua actually having read the Scriptures, or other Christian texts, and that her knowledge, ‘was not the knowledge of a reader of these texts, but rather that of a listener.’14 We may observe that Perpetua had either read the Scriptures herself, or she may have heard them read and been instructed orally as a catechumen. Both modes are possible, and the latter is almost certain. We would therefore expect that there would be evidence of the ‘reading’ of the Scriptures, and of their use in the text. The table below sets out the more salient parallels15 between the Passion of Perpetua and the New Testament, comparing the text of Perpetua with some of the text forms of the Vetus Latina. A caveat is also warranted with regard to the table of parallels below. Walter Ameling points out that scholars have long been fond of preparing long lists of quotations from the Bible that have been supposed to exist in Perpetua. He goes on to rightly note that ‘[n]one of these socalled quotations can be called a quotation in the strict sense of the word.’16 Ameling himself has a longer list than the one appearing below,17 but I have curtailed my own list significantly, limiting it to those parallels that appear to be the strongest.


Vööbos, ‘Versions,’ 970. Perpetua, IV.2. 14 Ameling, ‘Liberaliter instituta,’ 99. 15 Testard (‘Passion,’ 69–70) also discusses Biblical themes and references in Perpetua. 16 Ameling, ‘Liberaliter Instituta,’ 95. 17 Ibid., 95–7. 13

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Table 1: Parallels Between the Passsion of Perpetua and the ‘Christian Scriptures’18 Passion of Perpetua and Felicitas19

Vetus Latina20

uideo scalam auream mirae magnitudinis, pertingentem usque ad coelum et angustam, per quam nonnisi singuli ascendere possent (IV.2): ‘I saw a bronze ladder of great height reaching all the way up to heaven. It was so narrow, you couldn’t climb up unless you went single file’ (p. 390) draco cubans mirae magnitudinis (IV.4): ‘a huge dragon’ (p. 390.) sedentum hominem canum, in habitu pastoris (IV.8 ; also XII.2) : ‘a grey-haired man sitting… dressed like a shepherd’ (p. 390)

visum vidit et ecce scala stabilita super terram e cuius capud pertingebat in caelo et angeli dei ascendebant et descendabant per illam. (Gen 28:12)21: ‘And he saw in his sleep a ladder standing upon the earth, and the top thereof touching heaven: the angels also of God ascending and descending by it’22 drago rufus magnus (Rev 12:3)23: ‘great red dragon’ positi sunt et antiquus dierum… capilli capitis eius quasi lana munda (Dan 7:9)24: ‘the ancient of days sat… the hair of his head was like clean wool’

candidati milia multa (IV.8): ‘many thousands of people dressed in white’ (p. 390) et ramum uiridem in quo erant mala aurea… (X.VIII): ‘a green branch with golden apples

caput autem eius et capilli erant albi tamquam lana alba (Rev 1:14.)25: ‘And his head and his hairs were white as white wool and as snow’ turba multa… amicti solas albas (Rev 7:9)26: ‘a great multitude… clothed with white robes’ palmae in manibus eorum (Rev 7:9)27: ‘palms

18 It should be noted that the canon of the New Testament was most probably in a stage of flux in Cathage at this time. 19 Latin text, ed. Amat; tr. Tilley. 20 The two volumes of the Vetus Latina used here are: Bonifatius Fischer, ed., Genesis, Vetus Latina: die Reste der Altlateinischen Bibel 2 (Freiburg: Verlag Herder, 1951–1954); and Roger Gryson, ed., Apocalypsis Johannis, Vetus Latina: die Reste der Altlateinischen Bibel 26/2 (Freiburg: Verlag Herder, 2000). 21 Following Fischer’s “I” and “E” text forms of the Vetus Latina. “E” represents the “European” text, and “I” represents the “Italian” text. “I” is a subset of “E.” For the text used here, see Fischer, Genesis, 301–303. For a description of these texts, see ibid., 16–19, 28. In this passage, the common use of the word pertingo suggests an affinity with the “Italian” text form of the Vetus Latina. 22 The English translations of the canonical texts in this table are from the NASB. 23 Gryson’s “K” (Kassel) and “I” (Iuvenianus) manuscripts of the Vetus Latina have been followed here. For a description of the manuscripts, see Gryson, Apocalypsis Johannis, 18–19. For the text used here, see Gryson, Apocalypsis Johannis, 455. 24 The Vetus Latina manuscripts of Daniel are still unedited. The text shown here is from the Vulgate, which may also preserve some of the earlier Old Latin translations. 25 Gryson’s “J” (“Ravenna”) manuscript has been followed here. On this manuscript, see Gryson, Apocalypsis Johannis, 18–19; on the text used here, see ibid.,135–137. 26 Gryson’s “S” (“St. Gallen”) manuscript has been followed here. On this manuscript, see Gryson, Apocalypsis Johannis, 21–22; on the text used here, see ibid.,340–342. 27 “S” manuscript.,ibid., 343.

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on it’ (p. 393)

in their hands’

lucem immensam (XI.4): ‘an intense light’ (p. 393)

…claritas dei inluminavit eam et lucerna eius agnus est et ambulabunt gentes per lumen eius… (Rev 21:23–24)28: ‘…For the glory of God hath enlightened it: and the Lamb is the lamp thereof. And the nations shall walk in the light of it…’ …et requiem non habent die et nocte dicentes sanctus sanctus sanctus (Rev 4:8)29: ‘And they rested not day and night, saying: Holy, Holy, Holy’

et audiuimus uocem unitam dicentium: Agios, agios, agios; sine cessatione. (XII.2): ‘we heard one united voice saying,” ‘Holy, holy, holy’ without ceasing’ (p. 393)

Ameling does not find all of the canonical parallels that have been traditionally cited for the Passion of Perpetua to be convincing.30 While we can admit that the similarities are not always strong, the parallels cited above reveal that Perpetua is a Christian document.31 Of course, there are some important differences between the Passion of Perpetua and the canonical Scriptures. It is notable that while some concepts are indeed drawn from and aligned with the canonical Scriptures, and there are affinities with the Vetus Latina, in many cases the language used is different. Compare, for example in the table above, hominem canum in the Passion of Perpetua with capilli erant albi tamquam lana alba in the Vetus Latina. Clearly, as a Christian text, it is only natural that the Passion of Perpetua should contain imagery with which Christians could identify, and meanings which would resonate with them. But it is striking that there are not more, clearer parallels between Perpetua and the canonical Scriptures, and that the ones that are identifiable are not more closely aligned. Phillip Munoa points us toward an answer in observing that ‘biblical texts were mediated through other… texts that were used by the early Christians.’32 This in itself tends to suggest that Perpetua also drew to a very sigificant extent on other sources, and that the text is brought other paradigms to bear on its theme beyond merely the Old Testament Scriptures.


“S” manuscript, ibid., 737–738. “S” manuscript, ibid., 261–262. 30 Ameling, ‘Liberaliter Instituta,’ 98. Phillip Munoa (‘Jesus, The Merkavah, and Martyrdom in Early Christian Tradition,’ JBL 121 [2002]: 317) interestingly argues that the use of Daniel 7, mediated through the Apocalypse of John, is detectable in the visions of the Passion of Perpetua. Certainly there is some similarity between broad motifs, but the idea is rather speculative. 31 See Daniélou, Latin Christianity, 60. 32 Munoa, ‘Martyrdom,’ 319, n.57. 29

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C. The Ladder and the Dragon: Where Do They Come From? In this section, to illustrate the complexity of the intertextuality involved in the Passion of Perpetua, two of the prominent images in Perpetua’s first vision, the ladder and the dragon, will be examined. In this way, the difficulties of trying to ascribe specific images in the Passion of Perpetua to particular traditions will be illustrated. Perpetua describes the ladder in her first vision as uideo scalam aeream mirae magnitudinis, pertingentem usque ad caelum et augustam, per quem nonnisi singuli ascendere possent.33 At first sight, it seems that it should not be too difficult to find the right tradition in which to ground this image. After all, there is a ladder in the dream of Jacob in the Old Testament book of Genesis. Certainly, Robinson made this connection over a century ago, stating that ‘[w]e can scarcely doubt that the ladder in Perpetua’s first vision was suggested by the story of Jacob’s Dream.’34 Furthermore, Tertullian himself read the passage in Genesis in the context of ascent to heaven, which is a key indication that the first readers of the Passion of Perpetua would have associated the ladder in the text with the ladder in Jacob’s dream. In Against Marcion, Tertullian discusses the ladder of Jacob as the gate of heaven,35 and as the ‘ascent’ to heaven,36 writing that ‘by this ladder it is indicated that a road to heaven [scalis his iter ad caelum demonstrari, quo alii perveniant, unde alii decidant], by which some arrive there, but from which others fall away, has been set up.’37 Referring specifically to persecution and martyrdom, Tertullian writes elsewhere that haec etiam scalae, quas somniat Iacob, aliis ascensum in superiora, aliis descensum ad inferiora demonstrantes.38 However, the imagery in Perpetua’s vision also seems to allude to other sources. Indeed, Joyce Salisbury describes this vision as demonstrating a ‘creative mingling’ of several sources in Perpetua’s mind.39 The identification of Perpetua’s ladder with Jacob’s ladder has not been entirely convincing to modern scholars, particularly since, as Robeck comments, the ‘differences are at least as important as the similarities.’40 Salisbury has also commented on the significant differences between the ladder in Gen 28 and Perpetua’s ladder, and 33

Perpetua, IV.3. Robinson, S. Perpetua, 26–7. 35 Marc. 3. XXIV.9. 36 Marc..3. XXIV.11, tr. Evans, 251. 37 Marc. 3. XXIV.9 (trans. Ernest Evans; see Tertullian: Adversus Marcionem [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972], 250–1). 37 Ibid. 38 Tertullian, Fug. I.4. 39 Salisbury, Death and Memory, 101. 40 Robeck, Prophecy, 27. 34

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has suggested we should not limit ourselves to the canonical Scriptures in our search for source traditions.41 Bremmer has pointed to the need to understand the image of the ladder in terms of Perpetua’s ‘material and mental world.’42 He suggests that the ladder represents the series of steps that led to the tribunal where the Roman judge usually sat presiding over court cases,43 which was called a gradus.44 Bremmer makes a good case, and this may well have been one immediately relevant influence on the use of this image; however, it does not rule out multiple influences. Indeed, Bremmer himself suggests that Perpetua may also have had Matt 7:13–14 in mind.45 More broadly, it seems that Salisbury is on the right track in noting that [i]n the Genesis account, the ladder is not described in any detail. Yet, Perpetua sees a ladder of bronze, dangerously framed with weapons. Why would she have seen the ladder in this way? She may have been reaching for an older, non-Christian example of an ascent to heaven. There was ample precendent in the ancient world for ladders as symbols of crossing beyond to another world, and Perpetua would surely have known of them.46

Amat calls Perpetua’s ladder l'archétype le plus ancien de l'ascension.47 While recognising that [c]e passage reflète fort évidemment le souvenir biblique du songe de Jacob,48 she also observes that it coïncide aussi avec l'échelle de Mithra, celle du Livre des Morts égyptien ou l'échelle des chamans.49 Amat’s recognition of resonances with traditional Egyptian cultic symbolism is significant. In this regard, the notion of ‘archetypes’ may be further explored. This is not to say that Perpetua and Saturus drew their imagery from ancient Egypt, but rather that Egypt was possibly significant in terms of the origin of the archetype of the ladder as a stairway to the heavens. The pyramids seem to have been conceived literally as a ladder to heaven, with the concept of astral immortality also suggested by the pyramidal shape,


Salisbury, Death and Memory, 100–1. Bremmer, “Authenticity,” 97. 43 Ibid., 99–100. 44 cf. Perpetua, VI.2. 45 Bremmer, “Authenticity,” 100. 46 Salisbury, Death and Memory, 100–1. The weaponry on the ladder merits further consideration and will subsequently be discussed in more detail. In Saturus’ vision, there is also a series of ascensions, in more clearly defined stages than in Perpetua’s vision (Daniélou, Latin Christianity, 61). However, the ascent is not by means of a ladder, but by a gentle slope, sed quasi mollem cliuum ascendentes, ‘as if we were going up a gradual slope’ (Perpetua, XI.2–3, tr. Tilley, 393). 47 Jacqueline Amat, ‘Images du Martyre dans les Passions Africaines du IIIe Siècle,’ in L’imaginaire Religieux Grèco-Romain (ed. Jöel Thomas; Perpignan: Presses Universitaires de Perpignan, 1994), 277. 48 Ibid. 49 Ibid. 42

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reflecting the spreading of the sun’s rays.50 Segal notes that the steps of the pyramid ‘suggest a ladder or staircase for the king to ascend to his heavenly abode, as in one of the depictions of the ascent of the pharaoh in the tomb of Unas.’51 Furthermore, many of the spells in the Pyramid Texts, long before the Book of Going Forth By Day,52 explicitly state that the pharaoh rises to heaven by means of a ladder. Examples include: ‘Stand up, you two uprights, and descend, you crossbars, that Unis may go up on the ladder that his father the Sun has made for him’;53 ‘N. ascends on the ladder which his father Ra made for him,’ and ‘the gods who belong to the sky and the gods who belong to the earth… make for him conveyance on their arms. So, you shall go forth, Unis, to the sky and step up on it in this its identity of the ladder.’54 As Segal notes, ‘[t]he ladder, the staircase, was part of the magic of the pyramid itself.’55 Importantly, Amat argues that Perpetua’s vision should not simply be understood as an expression of dogma, but also as a window into her psychology: L'imagination de Perpétue n'est pas uniquement l'illustration d'un dogme; elle relève a la fois de la psychologie des profondurs et de la symbolique.56 Her psychology had been formed by the conceptual world in which she had been educated. In this vein, Amat saliently notes that Perpetua’s image of ascension in this vision is a closer expression of fundamental archetypes than we find in Saturus’ vision.57 It is therefore possible that the images in Saturus’ vision were mediated by his Christianity to a greater extent than the images in Perpetua’s. This makes sense given the shorter time during which Perpetua had been a Christian; after all, Perpetua was the catechumen and Saturus the catechist. Amat also makes the specific observation that Saturus’ imagery of ascent corresponds much more with l'image antique de l'âme-oiseau.58 In this regard, we may note Tertullian’s similar image of ascent that seems to vividly echo the ancient Egyptian funerary texts. Tertullian, in the specific context of ascent to heaven, quotes Isa 60:8, writing that ‘[t]hey fly as those that are hawks, as the clouds fly, and as the nestlings of doves, towards me.’ 59 We may compare this with the use of similar imagery within the specific context of ascent in the Pyr50

The astral alignment of the pyramids seems to have been important in this regard. See Segal, Life After Death, 38–9. 51 Ibid, 37. 52 i.e., The Book of the Dead. 53 Unis Spell 178 in James Allen, The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts (ed. Peter Der Manuelian (Atlanta: Brill, 2005), 50. 54 Unis Spell 211 in Allen, Pyramid Texts, 57. See also Utterance 474, ‘A Variant of Utterance 306’, 939–42, in Raymond Faulkner, The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969), 162. 55 Segal, Life After Death, (as in n.2), 38. 56 Amat, ‘Images du Martyre,’ 277–8. 57 Ibid. 58 Ibid, 278. 59 Tertullian, Marc. 3. XXIV.9 (tr. Evans, 247).

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amid Texts, such as: ‘(890) Someone flies up, I fly up from you, O men; I am not for the earth, I am (891) for the sky… I have soared to the sky as a heron, I have kissed the sky as a falcon…’60 While we should not overstate its significance, given the vast distance in millennia and traditions, Tertullian’s usage of similar imagery in this context is striking. Having considered these possible sources and layers of intertexuality, it would however, be unreasonable to conclude, as does Dronke, that ‘the ladder Perpetua sees must not be equated with Jacob’s ladder.’61 Above all, The Passion of Perpetua is still a Christian text. An interesting and fruitful question is: what kind of a Christian text is it? Another striking image in the Passion of Perpetua is her transformation into a man in the vision in which she fights with the Egyptian. This has of course elicited much comment from the point of view of social and gender subversion.62 This gender transformation is not a Biblical image; yet it is not unique. Renzo Petraglio reminds us that [t]utto ció ha radici molto antiche,63 and is prevalent in both Greek and Latin cultures.64 Petraglio therefore rhetorically asks: ‘è possible che una donna di solida cultura come Perpetua non sia venuta a contatto con questi miti?’65 It seems that Perpetua is simply drawing on the store of common images, metaphors, and indeed gender values that were available through the Graeco-Roman tradition, some of which overlapped with ‘Christian’ images, and some of which did not.66 We may similarly consider the image of the huge dragon at the foot of the ladder in Perpetua’s first vision. Scholars have here seen clear allusions to the dragon of Revelation 12. Candida Moss, for example, comments that ‘[n]owhere is the ideological dependence upon Revelation 12 more apparent than in the famous vision of the serpent in the early third-century Latin Passion of Perpetua and Felicitas 4.3–7.’67 Tertullian also discusses the ladder in the 60

Utterance 467, ‘An ‘Ascension’ Text,’ 890–1 (see Faulkner, Pyramid Texts, 156). Dronke, Women Writers, 6. 62 For example, Rhee, Christ and Culture, 154. 63 Renzo Petraglio, Passio Perpetuae et Felicitatis. Stile narrativo e Sfondo biblico, Studia Ephemeridis Augustiniarnum 50 (Roma: Institutum Patristicum Augustinianum, 1995), 188. 64 Ibid. 65 Ibid., 190. 66 See also Anders Klostergaard Petersen, ‘Gender-bending in Early Jewish and Christian Martyr Texts,’ in Contextualising Early Christian Martyrdom (ed. Jakob Engberg, Uffe Holmsgaard Eriksen, and Anders Klostergaard Petersen; Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2011), 251–256. 67 Moss, Ideologies of Martyrdom, 98. See also Robert Godding (‘De Perpétue a Caluppan: Les premières Apparitions du Dragon dans l’Hagiographie,’ in Dans la Gueule du Dragon [ed. J. -M. Privat; Sarreguemines: Editions Perrion, 2000], 146) who comments that le draco de Perpétue apparaît donc clairement comme le serpent biblique, symbole du Diable voulant empêcher Perpétue d'embrasser le martyre et, par là, d'atteindre le Paradis. 61

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specific context of the Apocalypse of John, in which he refers to persecution as haec etiam scalae, quas somniat Iacob.68 It therefore seems that the dragon of Revelation 12 may indeed have came to his mind in relation to the image of the ladder. While it is difficult to deny Scriptural allusions with regard to the dragon, many commentators have also seen other oriental influences in this vision. Habermehl writes: Bereits die frühesten altorientalischen Quellen kenne das Motiv des riesigen Baums, oder eines Bauwerks oder einer Leiter, die von der Erde in den Himmel, vom Himmel hinab auf die Erde führen.69 Similarly, Habermehl sees a possible Egyptian source for the image of the dragon, so that in Ägypten wirft der Sonnengott Re jeden Morgen den Drachen der Finsternis, Apophis, nieder.70 Although Graf feels ‘less comfortable’ with these other non-canonical oriental sources for the ladder in Perpetua’s dream, he still acknowledges the ‘vital’ differences between Perpetua’s ladder and the ladder of Gen 28, and he remarks that ‘[i]t is all the more surprising that it found no following; no other martyr texts take up the image…’71 These ‘surprises’ suggest that rather than looking for a single source for these images, we should look for a complex interplay of traditions. Within this complex thought-world, the ‘canonical’ references give the images authority within the Christian communities, although the images have deeper resonances within other traditions existing in the contemporary culture. Francesco Corsaro points us in the right direction when he observes that evidence of GraecoRoman civilisation is clearly discernible in the Passion of Perpetua, and especially in Perpetua’s dreams,72 although he seems to give far too much weight to the Christian background of the imagery and language. The Passion of Perpetua should rather be seen as the product of a Christianity that was engaging deeply with the popular culture of its time. Accordingly, it cannot be properly understood from a historical perspective if it is merely considered as a ‘Christian’ document existing in an abstract vacuum. In spite of how antithetical Christianity may have been to the general social ideologies of the empire, the Christianity depicted in the Passion of Perpetua is one that is so embued with popular culture that in many ways it was as understandable from the viewpoint of popular Graeco-Roman culture as by Christians. 68

Tertullian, Fug. I.4. Peter Habermehl, Perpetua und der Ägypter oder Bilder des Bösen im frühen afrikanischen Christentum (2nd ed; Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2004), 85. 70 Ibid., 89–90. 71 Fritz Graf, ‘The Bridge and the Ladder: Narrow Passages in Late Antique Visions,’ in Heavenly Realms and Earthly Realities in Late Antique Religions (ed. R. S. Boustan and A. Y. Reed; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 32. 72 Francesco Corsaro, ‘Memorie Bibliche e Suggestioni Classiche nei Sogni della Passio Perpetuae et Felicitatis,’ in Gli Imperatori Severi: Storia Archeologia Religione (ed. Enrico dal Covolo and Giancarlo Rinaldi; Roma: Libreria Ateneo Salesiano, 1999), 271–272. 69

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These other popular traditions that provided key sources for the Passion of Perpetua will be explored further in the following sections. We must cast our net more widely in our search for sources and influences beyond merely the Old Testament Scriptures. For that reason, our attention turns now to Jewish apocalyptic literature.

D. The Passion of Perpetua Within the Context of Jewish Apocalyptic Literature I. Background When one looks beyond possible allusions to the canonical Old Testament Scriptures, two aspects become evident. The first is that the Passion of Perpetua was written within a Christian community at a time and place in which involvement in mystical experiences73 and divine revelations from God were highly valued. The second, revealed by the ‘apologetic’ tone of the preface, is that Perpetua was written in consideration of some dispute over these mystical and revelatory experiences.74 This brings us, then, to what is one of the richest traditions that appears to have influenced the Passion of Perpetua: Jewish apocalypticism. It is within the broader context of disputes with regard to mystical and revelatory experiences that Jewish apocalyptic writings were valued by the Christian communities. The many apocalyptic elements in the visions of Perpetua are ‘genuinely apocalyptic’ in Daniélou’s view,75 demonstrating a popular Christianity in North Africa that ‘was still basically Jewish in culture.’76 Frankfurter observes that the nature of the extant texts77 suggests not merely a Christian ‘importation’ of Jewish texts, but moreso a ‘multifaceted “prophetic sectarianism” that continued with fairly consistent identity and impulse from Jewish into Christian matrices.’78 As a corollary, there was a ‘thriving lore about the biblical prophets and their powers’ ‘that had been embraced as self-defining by otherwordly sects by the end of the first century CE.’ 79 73 In this regard, Rowland, Open Heaven, 399, notes that the Passion of Perpetua is tied to the Jewish mystical tradition. 74 See LeMoine, ‘Apocalyptic Experience,’ 202. 75 Daniélou, Latin Christianity, 59. 76 Ibid. 77 Such as the Revelation of John, the Ascension of Isaiah, and possibly the witnesses to the ‘New Prophecy.’ 78 Frankfurter, Legacy, 141. 79 Ibid.

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Frankfurter points out that no evidence exists for the actual circulation of specific Jewish apocalypses, although it is highly questionable whether any such material evidence would have survived anyway.80 What is difficult to determine is the extent to which this lore about ‘biblical prophets and their powers’ was ‘self-defining’ for large sections of the Christian church even in the third century, rather than for merely ‘otherworldly sects.’ However, Perpetua stands as positive evidence in in this regard. To argue that only a small number of Christian communities valued prophetic revelations seems to go against the evidence of the widespread regard for both Jewish and Christian apocalyptic literature across large numbers of Christian communities. Frankfurter suggests that contention over prophetic authority and revelation underlies many of the disputes within the early church, and that apocalypticism was at the very heart of these disputes.81 Frankfurter also highlights that even in the third century, we cannot merely consider this regard for prophetic revelations as ‘Jewish.’ Nevertheless, the roots do appear undeniably Jewish.82 Indeed, Daniélou has argued for the existence of a prevailing Jewish Christianity in Carthage.83 Frankfurter significantly notes that the preface to the Passion of Perpetua evokes the revelations of the ancients in order to attempt to deliberately reformulate Jewish apocalyptic literature.84 For this reason, it is not surprising that the accounts of the visions of ascent in Perpetua reflect ‘a deep acquaintance with Jewish apocalyptic traditions.’85 Frankfurter sees the Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicitas as representing ‘the continuity and use, not only of the textual self-consciousness of Jewish apocalypses… they are the accounts of the revelations by which God rewarded the ancients.’86 II. Jewish Apocalyptic Influences ‘Apocalyptic literature’ is a challenging term to define, not least because we must always be careful when appending labels to ancient phenomena.87 The work of the Society of Biblical Literature Genres Project still represents the 80

Ibid. Ibid., 142. 82 Ibid. 83 Daniélou, Latin Christianity, 139–76. For a summary of the debate surrounding this issue, see Geoffrey Dunn, Tertullian (London: Routledge, 2004), 13. 84 Frankfurter, Legacy, 137. Accordingly Frankfurter (Legacy, 137) notes that the introduction to Perpetua is ‘self-consciously literary.’ See Tilley, Perpetua, I.1, 5. 85 Frankfurter, Legacy, 137–8. 86 Frankfurter, Legacy, 137–8. Phillip Munoa (‘Martyrdom,’ 323) also associates the roots of The Passion of Perpetua with Jewish mysticism, indeed calling it a ‘Christian merkavah vision.’ 87 John Collins, The Apocalyptic Imagination: An Introduction to Jewish Apocalyptic Literature (2nd ed; Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1998), 3. 81

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most systematic analysis of the morphological features of ‘apocalyptic’ texts.88 John Collins, who edited this work, wrote that [t]he thesis presented in Semeia 14 is that a corpus of texts that has been traditionally called “apocalyptic” does indeed share a significant cluster of traits that distinguish it from other works. Specifically, an apocalypse is defined as: “a genre of revelatory literature with a narrative framework, in which a revelation is mediated by an otherworldly being to a human recipient, disclosing a transcendent reality which is both temporal, insofar as it envisages eschatological salvation, and spatial insofar as it involves another, supernatural world.” 89

Semeia’s definition, which is now several decades old, does have a fundamental weakness: it does not address the important issue of the function of apocalyptic texts. The question of function is central to this present research. The pressing questions that the Passion of Perpetua sought to address are precisely the questions that had always been among the principal foci of apocalyptic literature. Prominent among them was the destiny of humans after death.90 Richard Bauckham notes that when people wanted to know about the fate of the dead and other otherworldly mysteries, ‘[i]t was to apocalypses that [they] turned to for such accounts,’91 and that a major concern of ‘the whole apocalyptic tradition from beginning to end was the fate of the dead.’92 It is entirely relevant that a key, central theme of Perpetua is the fate of the dead.93 This is certainly the theme that is highlighted by Tertullian in his mention of Perpetua in his treatise On the Soul LV.4. The Passion of Perpetua reveals what it means to have ceased ‘to have no hope in this world.’94 Heavenly ascents became one of the ‘trade-marks’ of Jewish apocalypticism,95 with one of the principal functions of the the heavenly journey being to confirm the theodicy of God’s cosmos, in the face of oppression by the enemies of God.96 This is an important aspect of the role of ascent in the Passion of Per-

88 John Collins, ‘Towards a Morphology of a Genre,’ in Apocalypse: The Morphology of a Genre, Semeia 14 (Missoula: SBL, 1979), 1–20. 89 See also J. Collins, Apocalyptic Imagination, 4–5. See also Günter Bornkamm, ‘Mystérion,’ in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament: Abridged in One Volume (ed. Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich, trans. and abridged Geoffrey W. Bromiley; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985), 616. 90 It should however be noted that notions of the afterlife do not themselves define apocalyptic. 91 Richard Bauckham, The Fate of the Dead: Studies on the Jewish and Christian Apocalypses, Supplements to Novum Testamentum XCIII (Brill: Leiden, 1988), 3. 92 Ibid., 82. 93 Ibid., 1, 86. 94 Perpetua, IV.10 (tr. Tilley, 390). 95 Note particularly Ithamar Gruenwald, ‘The Cultural Milieu of Apocalypticism,’ in From Apocalypticism to Gnosticism: Studies in Apocalypticism, Merkavah Mysticism and Gnosticism (Frankfurt am Main: Verlag Peter Lang, 1988), 5. 96 Segal, Life After Death, 340.

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petua, with the heavenly journey providing knowledge and assurance of the afterlife for the Christians of Carthage. The influence of the early Jewish apocalypses is certainly apparent in the Passion of Perpetua, and most prominently in the vision of Saturus. It is interesting to speculate whether this is so because Saturus was Perpetua’s catechist, and thus more grounded in the Christian apocalyptic tradition. The cross-over of Saturus’ vision with earlier apocalyptic literature is evident via a number of clear parallels with 1 Enoch. Appropriate clothing is required for coming before God, which is a motif found in the Jewish apocalypses, as in 1 Enoch 62:15.97 Another connection is the mention of the ‘perfumes of Paradise’ in Saturus’ vision,98 which is also found in 1 Enoch.99 The journey of the souls towards the east, and specifically to an orchard (uiridarium) also echoes early Jewish beliefs about the location and nature of Paradise, as reflected in 1 Enoch 32.100 It is not surprising to find allusions to 1 Enoch in the Passion of Perpetua, since we know that 1 Enoch enjoyed a privileged position of authority in the early Christian centuries.101 In fact, this is particularly apparent in the writings of Tertullian, the Carthaginian contemporary of Perpetua. Tertullian unequivocally calls 1 Enoch ‘Scripture’102 and mentions it frequently in his own writings,103 exhibiting an extensive knowledge of the text.104 More generally, the angels who accompany the soul in its ascent, the location of Paradise in the East, the depiction of Christ and of the angels, and the white robes of the martyrs are also images which have their sources in Jewish apocalyptic.105 Daniélou notes, however, that the most striking apocalyptic theme in 97 Noted by Rowland, Open Heaven, 401. This is also, for example, reflected in the Ascension of Isaiah IX.9, 30. 98 Perpetua, XI.5–6: factum est nobis spatium grande, quod tale fuit quasi uiridarium arbores habens rosae et omne genus flores. Altitudo autem arborum erat in modum cypressi, quorum folia canebant sine cessatione. Note that manuscripts A, B, D, and E have cadebant instead of canebant. Amat (Perpétue, 144, 233) suggests that the Greek version is superior on this point, using the word κατεφέρετο. She suggests a parallel with the Apocalypse of Paul, 24. However, preferring cadebant, Musurillo (‘Perpetua,’ 121) translates this as: ‘a great, open space appeared, which seemed to be a garden, with rose bushes and all manner of flowers. The trees were as tall as cypresses, and their leaves were constantly falling.’ 99 1 Enoch 28.2; 29.2–3; 31.4. 100 Rowland, Open Heaven, 400. See also Robeck, Prophecy, 75, citing 1 Enoch 32.2–6 and 2 Enoch 42.3. 101 Daniélou, Latin Christianity, 162. Daniélou (ibid., 167) goes on to note that the authority of the book of 1 Enoch in the Western Church is supported by ‘evidence from Commodian, Minucius Felix, Cyprian and the anonymous author of the Ad Novatianum.’ 102 Tertullian, Cult. fem. III.3. 103 Daniélou, Latin Christianity, 162. 104 Ibid., 167. 105 Ibid.., 61–2.

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Saturus’ vision is the ‘succession of abodes.’106 Erik Petersen considers that this image is ultimately from Jewish apocalyptic, as a progressive unveiling of the eschatological promises (eine allmähliche Enthüllung der eschatologischen Verheißungen).107 The vision sequences in the Passion of Perpetua conform to the descriptions of such vision sequences in early Jewish apocalyptic literature, as outlined by Aune.108 It is also evident that besides 1 Enoch and the early Jewish apocalyptic texts, other and more recent apocalyptic influences are also embraced within Perpetua. There are similarities between Perpetua and the Ascension of Isaiah, for example, with regard to the difficulties that attend the ascents.109 The motif of the threats to the ascending mystic is also well known from later Jewish material.110 When Isaiah reaches the seventh heaven, he first sees ‘a wonderful light.’111 This is similar to Saturus’ vision, in which the author writes that [e]t liberato primo mundo uidimus lucem immensam…112

E. Broader Background Considerations: The Motif of Ascent in Philo and Clement With a religious text of such sacral history as the Passion of Perpetua, it is easy to focus only, or principally, on the ‘religious’ Jewish and Christian sources. While these must be given due weight, an exclusive focus could obscure the complexity, richness, and even the functions of the text in its historical setting. Indeed, if we had started our search by looking at the text of Perpetua itself, unencumbered by almost two millennia of religious tradition, then perhaps we would have initiated our quest for sources and influences by seizing on one of the most thematically fundamental motifs in the Passion of Perpetua, that of ascent. The concept of ascent is explicitly central to Perpetua’s first vision, and to Saturus’ vision. Accordingly, it is important to consider the concept of ascent in Graeco-Roman antiquity, in a variety of contexts, in order to identify the possible role it plays in the thought-world of the Passion of Perpetua. Firstly, however, some observations will be made on the ascent motif in Philo and Clement.


Ibid., 62. Erik Peterson, Frühkirche, Judentum, und Gnosis: Studien und Untersuchungen (Freibourg: Verlag Herder, 1959), 291. 108 David Aune, Prophecy in Early Christianity and the Ancient Mediterranean World (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983), 118. 109 Rowland, Open Heaven, 398. 110 Ibid., citing Hekhalot Rabbati XVII–XXIII. 111 Ascen. Isa. 9.6 (trans. R. Wilson; see The Ascension of Isaiah, in vol. 2 of New Testament Apocrypa [ed. Wilhelm Schneemelcher; London: James Clarke & Co., 1992], 615). 112 Perpetua, XI.4. 107

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I. Judaeo-Hellenistic Ascent in Philo It does not appear that the Passion of Perpetua, being a popular text, is overly influenced by the philosophical tradition. But it was only a little later in this same century that Philo’s writings began to explicitly influence other Christian writers.113 Philo’s works illustrate how pervasive were the notions of ascent throughout all levels of society in the Graeco-Roman world, and particularly in Philo’s own socially and philosophically elite sphere. It should also be noted that the notion of ascent, in various forms, became more, rather than less, important after the time of Philo. It is important to stress that Philo cannot be advanced as a source or influence on the Passion of Perpetua. However, his thought-world is important in terms of providing a platorm that helps us to understand how notions of ascent were theologised afterwards, initially within philosophical contexts, into the early Christian church. As such, the works of Philo are an example of an intellectual framework for ideas of post-mortem ascent. The theologians of the Christian church were able to incorporate a similar framework systematically into their teachings, and thus, in a sense, to accede to the already existing popular beliefs about immediate post-mortem ascent. In the writings of Philo, we find a bridge between middle Platonic and Hellenised Jewish thought with regard to ascent. However,an examination of Philo’s work must necessarily carry with it a methodological caveat, which is as Segal points out, that he does not appear to represent mainstream first-century Judaism. Segal observes that ‘[i]t is hard to say that Philo was typical of anyone but himself. His enormous wealth and power would suggest that he represented the cynosure of Jewish Hellenism, rather than a typical example of it.’114 The first-century writings of Philo represent a strongly Hellenised version of Judaism. The Philonic conceptuality is the result of the ‘application of Greek metaphysical categories to the human phenomenon.’115 This conceptuality is essentially not reflected in the earliest Christian writings; at least, not until the

113 David Runia (‘Platonism, Philonism, and the Beginnings of Christian Thought,’ in Philo and the Church Fathers, Supplements to Vigiliae Christianae 32 [Leiden: Brill, 1995], 11) suggests that although the use of Philo is first explicitly evident in the writings of Clement of Alexandria, Philo’s influence on a number of early Christian writers is undeniable. 114 Segal, Life After Death, 368. 115 Warne, Philo and Paul, 253. On the Platonic dependance of Philo’s thought, see Runia, ‘Philo and Origen: A Preliminary Survey,’ in Philo and the Church Fathers, Supplements to Vigiliae Christianae 32 (Leiden: Brill, 1995), 14. In this regard, Philo became instrumental in establishing the attitudes of many Christian thinkers towards Platonic thought.

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late second and early third centuries. Neither were the writings of Philo themselves referred to by the church fathers until the mid-third century.116 But Philo’s importance cannot be underestimated, given that his role, even if it cannot be precisely defined, was ‘incalculably important’ in the development of Christianity.117 Philo’s works were not preserved through Judaism, but because they were adopted into the Christian tradition.118 Runia therefore also affirms Philo’s importance to the development of early Christianity,119 observing that he made such a ‘powerful contribution to the development of Christian thought,’120 that although he was Jewish, he came to be considered as one of the fathers of the Christian church.121 Certainly, the notion of ascent is central to Philo’s thought. In a number of passages, Philo reveals more than just ‘spirited religiosity’ but ‘at the very least an intellectual or theoretical form of mysticism’122 even in the form of his own mystical experiences. For example, Philo recounts how [t]here was a time when I had leisure for philosophy and for the contemplation of the universe and its contexts… I… seemed always to be borne aloft into the heights with a soul possessed by some God-sent inspiration, a fellow-traveller with the sun and moon and the whole heaven and universe. And then I gazed down from the upper air, and straining the mind’s eye beheld, as from some commanding peak, the multitudinous world-wide spectacles of earthly things…123

Given that the psychic ascent is the goal of Philo’s mysticism,124 it is also the case that the ‘central thrust and fundamental aim’ of Philo’s biblical commentary is to define, through allegorical interpretation, the return of the soul to its true home and life.125 In Philo’s conceptualisation, the soul is ‘entombed in the body, on whose death it returns to its own proper life.’126 This paradigm is exemplified in Philo’s explanation of Jacob’s ladder, in which ‘nous is at the top and matter (earth) at the bottom of the kosmos.’127 However, it is to be noted 116

Birger Pearson, ‘Christians and Jews in First-Century Alexandria,’ in Gnosticism and Christianity in Roman and Coptic Egypt (New York: T&T Clark, 2004), 99. 117 Ibid. 118 Runia, ‘Beginnings,’ 8. 119 Runia, ‘Witness or Participant? Philo and the Neoplatonist Tradition,’ in Philo and the Church Fathers, Supplements to Vigiliae Christianae 32 (Leiden: Brill, 1995), 182. 120 Runia, ‘Beginnings,’ 10. 121 Ibid. 122 For an overview of Paul’s mysticism, see David Winston, Logos and Mystical Theology in Philo of Alexandria (Cincinatti: Hebrew Union College Press, 1985), 54–5. 122 See Scholem, Major Trends, 216. 123 Philo, Spec. leg., 3. I–II, tr. Colson, 477. 124 Winston, Logos, 43, citing Zaehner, Mysticism, 5–6. 125 Winston, Logos, 36. 126 Ibid. 127 Frederick Brenk, ‘In the Light of the Moon: Demonology in the Early Imperial Period’ in Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt 36.2 (ed. W. Haase and H. Temporini; Berlin & New York: Walter de Gruyter, 1987), 2007, citing Philo, On Dreams, 1.134–5.

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that this is not merely a spiritualised conception, since Philo’s interpretation of the ladder is also grounded in a physical cosmology. He explains that κλῖμαξ τοίνυν ἐν μὲν τῷ κόσμῳ συμβολικῶς λέγεται ὁ ἀήρ, οὗ βάσις μέν ἐστι γῆ, κορυφὴ δ’ οὐρανός·128 Segal notes that ‘[e]ven a quick perusal of Philo’s biblical exegesis is enough to convince us that behind this metaphor of ascent stand traditions of an actual journey to God.’129 However, Philo’s ascent discourse is complex; as Russell has noted, it operates at four levels: ‘the religious (which is the flight from idolatry), the philosophical, the ethical, and the mystical.’130 Ascent is only possible when the human encounters the divine, and this is only possible in the state of being out of the body, ‘in this life in a state of ecstasy, in the next when the person has become pure nous.’131 For Philo therefore, while in this earthly life, ascents in ecstatic trance ‘are all that are available to man before death.’ Therefore, ‘they serve as the experiential guarantee that death is transcended in immortality.’132 For Philo, ascent before death is an ‘activity of the mind,’133 and the reward for those who have ascended in this way, ‘from down to up by a sort of heavenly ladder’ (ὅπερ ἔφην, κάτωθεν ἄνω προῆλθον οἷα διά τινος οὐρανίου κλίμακος), is a vision of God.134 Philo’s hermeneutics present the possibility of the union of the human mind with the Divine Mind. 135 Accordingly, he allegorises the figures of Abraham, Jacob, Levi, and Moses as ‘mystical voyagers’ in ascent.136 Of these, without question, the chief model for heavenly ascent is Moses. Philo comments: What is the meaning of the words, “Come up to me to the mountain and be there?” This signifies that a holy soul is divinized by ascending not to the air or to the ether or to heaven (which


Philo, Somn. 1.134.1–3. Alan Segal, ‘Heavenly Ascent in Hellenistic Judaism, Early Christianity and their Environment,’ in Aufstieg und Niedergang der Romischen Welt II, Bd. 23 (ed. H. Temporini and W. Haase; Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1980), 1356. 130 Russell, Patristic Tradition, 60. These categories were originally noticed by Thomas Billings (The Platonism of Philo Judaeus [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1919], 11, n.3) in the context of observing Philo’s ‘shifting vocabulary’ and ‘flexibility of spirit.’ 131 Russell, Patristic Tradition, 61. 132 Segal, ‘Heavenly Ascent,’ 1358. 133 Ibid., 1356. 134 Philo, Praem. XLIII.2–3 (trans. Colson, [LCL], 336–7). In section XLIV, Philo states that the name ‘Israel’ means, in the Greek language, ‘the God-seer’ (ὁρῶν θεόν). 135 Winston, Logos, 54. Although in Dodd’s terms, this is a ‘psychic ascent rather than a supernatural descent,’ (Dodds, Pagan and Christian, 71–2, citing Philo, Decal. XXXV), it would seem that Philo does not clearly distinguish between these two more modern categories. See, for example Philo’s notable description of ascent in Opif. LXIX–LXXI. 136 Segal, ‘Heavenly Ascent,’ 1357. 129

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is) higher than all but to (a region) above the heavens. And beyond the world there is no place but God…137

In Hellenistic thinking, ascent was closely associated with deification. In Philo’s understanding, Moses is the best example of this phenomenon in Scripture. Indeed, Philo uses Exodus 7:1 to call Moses a god,138 although as Russell observes, this is only by ‘title or analogy.’139 However, in spite of the importance of ascent for Philo, he does not specifically describe ascent after death; nor does he directly describe the philosophic or ecstatic ascent as an anticipation of ascent after death. What we can see in his writings is that ascent is associated with concepts of immortality and intellect, and consequently we may make connections with the afterlife through Platonic concepts, although Philo himself does not explicitly tease these out. II. Clement of Alexandria Clement of Alexandria was born in AD 150, one century after the death of Philo. He died in the second decade of the third century, and was in his later years when Perpetua was martyred. Clement belongs to the intellectual Alexandrian stream of Christianity. He is important in terms of the ideology of the afterlife, since he is the first extant Christian theologian who deals with the notion of ascent, and incorporates it into his theology. His thinking is influenced both by philosophy and Gnosticism, and within these contexts, he serves to illustrate how notions of ascent were being introduced to the formal thought of the Church in the late second and early third centuries. Undoubtedly, Plato was a major influence on Clement’s work.140 Furthermore, even though it is not explicitly stated in Clement’s texts themselves, a majority of scholars have come to consider that Clement ‘always ha[d] in front of him Philo’s work,’141 and that Philo is an ‘obvious, although concealed authority’ for his biblical hermeneutics.’142 Indeed, Clement’s indebtedness to He-


Philo, QE 2.XL (tr. Marcus [LCL], 82–3). Segal (‘Heavenly Ascent,’ 1358) observes that in this passage, Moses’ ascent of Mount Sinai is allegorised as a soul ascending to the heavens. 138 Philo, Mos., I.158. 139 Russell, Patristic Tradition, 62, commenting on Philo, QE 2.XXIX. For another instance where Philo refers to Moses as divine, see Mos. I.27. However, see also Prob. XLIV. 140 David Rankin, From Clement to Origen: The Social and Historical Context of the Church Fathers (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing, 2006), 127. 141 Piotr Ashwin-Siejkowski, Clement of Alexandria: A Project of Christian Perfection (London: T&T Clark, 2008), 67. Annewies Van den Hoek, in Clement of Alexandria and His Use of Philo in the Stromateis: An Early Christian Reshaping of a Jewish Model, Supplements to Vigiliae Christianae 3 (Leiden: Brill, 1988), demonstrated that Clement principally depended on Philo in the Stromateis. 142 Ashwin-Siejkowski, Clement, 40.

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brew imagery is evident throughout his writings.143 Clement believed that the Hebrews expressed their deep religious truths through the enigmas found in the Bible.144 Interestingly, Clement considered that these enigmas were the same as were used by other nations to conceal their esoteric truths, and he makes particular reference to the mysteries of Egypt in this regard.145 Clement’s possible connection with Jewish apocalyptic is also tantalising, given the marked esoteric nature of his writings.146 Although Clement’s adversaries may well have been Gnostics (specifically, perhaps, the Valentinians),147 Clement himself should also be placed in the midst of a gnostic milieu,148 in that he accepted the tradition of a secret gnosis.149 Indeed, in Book VII of the Stromateis, Clement even claims that ‘the Gnostic alone is truly pious’ (όνον ὄντως εἶναι θεοσεβῆ τὸν γνωστικόν.)150 Interestingly, according to Daniélou’s broader analysis, ‘[l]es doctrines secrètes attribuées aux Apôtres par les Aporcyphes et les traditions des presbytres se réferènt donc’ to the ‘voyage céleste après la mort’ ‘sous ses divers aspects.’151 Clement unquestionably valued immortality, memorably remarking, referring to most people, that οἱ δε ἄλλοι περιπεφυκότες τῷ κόσμῳ, οἷα φυκία τινὰ ἐνάλοις πέτραις, ἀθανασίας ὀλιγωροῦσιν.152 It is also unquestionable that Clement understood immortality in terms of the ascent of the soul, although this ascent was to be more emphatically developed in the work of his pupil Origen. Clement writes that ‘[w]hen the soul, rising above the sphere of generation, dwells among ideas and remains itself apart, like the leader of the choir in the Theaetetus, now becomes as an angel, it will be with Christ, being immersed in contemplation.’153 Ricklefs notes that the concept of angelic transformation, which is prominent particularly in later Jewish apocalyptic, is in Clement’s thought ‘anticipated upon earth but only truly realised after death.’154 Clement therefore presents the 143

Ibid., 40–2, 67. However, we should not reduce Clement’s Jewish sources to merely Philo. On this, see Van den Hoek, ‘Clement,’ 183–7. 144 Clement, Strom. 5.VIII. 145 Clement, Strom. 5.IV, VII. 146 See Clement in Origen, Philoc. II.3; and Clement, Strom.1.IX, 1.XII; also Clement, Strom. 5.IV, X. See also Stroumsa, ‘Esoteric Traditions,’ 124–125. 147 Ashwin-Siejkowski, Clement, 61, n.100. 148 Ibid., 143–144. 149 Griggs, Egyptian Christianity, 59, citing Clement, Strom. 7.I–III, X–XIII. 150 Clement, Strom. 7. I.1 (trans. William Wilson; see The Stromata, or Miscellanies, in The Ante-Nicene Fathers: Translations of The Writings of the Fathers Down to A.D. 325 [ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975], 523). See also Clement, from the seventh book of the Hyptotyposes, quoted by Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 2.I.4. Also Clement, Strom. 1.I. 151 Daniélou, ‘Traditions Secrètes,’ 210. 152 Clement, Protr. IX.71. 153 Clement, Strom. 4.CLV.4 (tr. Ashwin-Siejkowski, Clement, 166). 154 Ricklefs, Angelic Community, 246.

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ascent of the soul as being both a spiritual and philosophical process which occurs while alive, and which anticipates the final, irreversible ascent after death. In Clement’s thought, the ascent of the soul in life is also conceived as an inward journey, so that it can be simultaneously described as an ascent and a descent. This is a conceptualisation that was also prevalent both in Jewish Hekhaloth mysticism and in Gnostic thought.155 The thinking of Philo and Clement provides an important Judaeo-Christian background for notions of ascent. The traditions that they represent share a focus on ascent, which, from the philosophical and theological perspectives, became more prominent in succeeding generations. Although in the West, it seems that the earlier apologists and theologians did not share either Clement’s focus on ascent or Perpetua’s popular eschatology, the evidence suggests that the more popular views reflected in the Passion of Perpetua eventually forced their hand.

F. The Ascent Motif in the Broader Graeco-Roman World The net will now be cast more widely in our quest for sources and influences, specifically in terms of the motif of ascent in the Graeco-Roman world. It is appropriate to examine the Passion of Perpetua against this background, since the notion of ascent appears to have been an extremely pervasive one, both influenced and expressed by many cultures and traditions.156 Segal makes the point that ‘[i]t is true that both Greek and Roman societies from Plato to Plutarch, from one end of the span of Hellenistic culture to the other, kn[e]w of the journey to the heavens.’157 Similarly, the idea of ascent to the heavens seems to have been felt in almost every aspect of society. A prime example of the pervasiveness of the notion was the manner in which the Romans formulated the idea of the apotheosis of the emperor, which was a key element of the emperor cult from the time of the early empire. Segal has noted that ‘if astral immortality was promulgated of the emperors, it was scarcely in less demand by the people.’158 By Hellenistic times, a complex milieu of ascent traditions and myths coalesced to include some recurring themes. Ascent was understood to occur immediately after death, although it could also occur in a visionary sense while the 155

See Ashwin-Siejkowski, Clement, 62. Collins, Apocalyptic Imagination, 34. Brad Young (‘The Ascension Motif of 2 Corinthians 12 in Jewish, Christian and Gnostic Texts,’ Grace Theological Journal 9 (1988): 74) calls the heavenly ascent theme ‘the common property of the ancient world.’ In terms of methodology, Young (‘Ascension Motif,’ 77) reminds us that ‘[o]n the one hand the scholar must take care not to group unrelated texts together, but at the same time he must carefully consider parallel themes and the connections between them.’ 157 Segal, ‘Heavenly Ascent’, 1347. 158 Ibid., 1349–1350. 156

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person was alive. It was the soul that ascended, and the body that was left behind. The soul ascended though a number of superimposed heavens, and these heavens often had guardians who tested the soul at the various levels. Typically, the culmination of the ascent was some form of divinification or assimilation to divinity. These commonly recurring themes may be seen as comprising an ‘ascent motif.’159 Within the Greek tradition, we are able to identify the ascent motif well before Plato. It is notable that the theme of the otherworldly journey is found in Homer.160 Notions of the souls of the dead ascending to the sky were not uncommon in classical Greece; they are mentioned by Euripides161 and Aristophanes, in whose writings immortality in heaven is achieved by becoming stars. Indeed, Cumont identifies the first precisely datable reference to astral immortality as Aristophanes greeting the appearance of a new star as Ion of Chios, the recently dead Pythagorean poet (421 BC).162 In this passage, Aristophanes has a slave wonder whether it is true that ‘when we die we turn into stars in the sky.’ The slave asks: ‘So who’s a star there now?’163 Trygaeus then tells him that Ion of Chios is the most recent arrival. Eventually, the notion of astral immortality became popular in the Hellenistic world.164 Plato’s contribution to the ascent motif was highly significant. Plato’s tale about Er165 tells of the journey of a man, who after his apparent death, ascends into the apparently superimposed heavens. This work was highly influential, and served as a model for Cicero’s Dream of Scipio166 and for aspects of Plutarch’s works.167 Lattimore comments that before Plato, although the idea of the soul returning to the sky after death was already becoming influential, it ‘was not initially necessarily tied to the notion of a self-existent, rational soul.’168 However, Segal observes that ‘[a]fter Plato, the Greek world took the notion that the isles of the blessed are in the sky seriously. If the soul is immortal, it must return to the immortal realm.’169 Plato considered that ‘souls on leaving the body reach heaven as if going home’ (cum e corporibus excesserint, in caelum quasi in domicilium suum pervenire). He argued that ‘souls on leaving the body, whether they are ‘airy’ that 159

Some of these themes have already been noted in relation to Philo and Clement. Homer, Odyssey, Book 11. See also Culianu, Psychanodia, 1. 161 In the play Helen (1014–16), Theonoe says: ὁ νοῦς τῶν κατθανόντων ζῇ μὲν οὔ, γνώμην δ’ ἔχει ἀθάνατον εἰς ἀθάνατον αἰθέρ’ ἐμπεσών. 162 Franz Cumont, Astrology and Religion Among the Greeks and Romans (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1912. This edition New York: Cosimo), 2006, 96. 163 Aristophanes, Peace, 831–3, tr. Henderson. See also Tabor, Things Unutterable, 78. 164 Wright, Resurrection, 58–9. 165 Plato, Rep. 10.XIII–IV, 13–5. Known as the ‘Myth of Er.’ 166 The Dream of Scipio is found in Cicero, Rep. VI.9–29. 167 See, for example Plutarch’s Sera; and Gen. Socr. XXI–XXII. 168 Lattimore, Epitaphs, 26–7. 169 Segal, Life After Death, 234. 160

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is to say, consisting of breath, or fiery, are carried up on high.’ (cum e corpore excesserint, sive illi sint animals, id est, spirabiles, sive ignei, sublime ferri.)170 In Plato’s Timaeus, we are told that the creator of the world ‘assigned each soul to a star,’ (τοῖς ἄστροις ἔνειμέ ἑκάστην πρός ἕκαστον)171 and that ‘[i]f a person lived a good life throughout the due course of his time, he would at the end return to his dwelling place in his companion star (οἴκησιν ἄστρου), to live a life of happiness that agreed with his character.’172 A key cluster of elements in the ‘ascent motif,’ comprised of levels, gateways, guardians, and passwords, are of great antiquity, and are found in the early Egyptian funerary texts.173 These elements later became very important in the Greek and Hellenistic narratives of ascent to heaven, and are evident, for example, in the obstacles that Dionysos and Xanthias face in the afterlife, as depicted in Aristophanes’ play The Frogs. Dionysos and Xanthias face the challenge of getting past those who guard the doors of Hades.174 It is evident that in Roman thought, the concepts of post-mortem ascent and astral immortality were readily appropriated with regard to the apotheosis of the Roman emperors.175 Even from the beginnings of the notion of imperial apotheosis, deification was integrally associated with ascension; Suetonius writes that on the night before Caesar was murdered, he had a dream in which he ascended the heavens and was greeted by Jupiter.176 From its very beginnings, therefore, imperial apotheosis clearly embraced the notion of astral immortality.177 It is important to note that although we may distinguish between philosophical, mystical, or ecstatic ascent on the one hand, and post-mortem ascent on the other, in reality, in antiquity, the ascent before death, in whatever form, was typically closely related, in an anticipatory manner, to the ascent after death. Bousset commented that,

170 Cicero, Tusc. I.11.24; I.17.40 (trans. A. Douglas; see Cicero: Tusculan Disputations I [Warminster: Aris & Phillips, 1985], 34–5, 42–3). 171 Plato, Tim. 41e (trans. D. J. Zeyl, 29). 172 Plato, Tim. 42b. (trans. ibid.). 173 Erik Hornung, The Ancient Egyptian Books of the Afterlife (trans. D. Lorton; Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1999), 11–2. See also Terence DuQuesne, At the Court of Osiris: Book of the Dead Spell 194 (London: Darengo Publications, 1994), 46; Mojsov, Osiris, 46; Book of the Dead, 125A (tr. Faulkner, Plate 30); and Book of the Dead, 146 (tr. Faulkner, 121). 174 Aristophanes, Frogs, 2, lines 460ff. Note particularly Radcliffe Edmonds’ comments in ‘Descent to the Depths of Comedy: The Frogs of Aristophanes,’ in Myths of the Underworld Journey (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 147–8. 175 H. Bell, ‘The Preparation for Christianity,’ in Cults and Creeds in Graeco-Roman Egypt (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1953), 57. 176 Larry Kreitzer, ‘Apotheosis of the Roman Emperor,’ BA 53 (1990): 213, citing Seutonius, Iul. LXXXI.3. 177 Kreitzer, ‘Apotheosis,’ 213–5.

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[b]eide Vorstellungsreihen sind eng mit einander verbunden. Die Ekstase, vermöge deren man sich durch den Himmel zum höchsten Gott erhebt, ist ja nichts anderes als eine Anticipation der Himmelsreise der Seele nach dem Todes des Menschen. So müssen wir auf beide Vorstellungreihen unser Augenmerk richten, um so mehr, da sie sich, wie dies nur natürlich ist meistens dicht nebeneinander finden.178

The importance of this observation has been noted by many scholars, such as Collins, who observes that it can be supported by many apocalypses from the Christian era.179 There are a few exceptions, particularly in the early Jewish apocalypses,180 however Segal comments on Bousset’s insight that, His perception of the parallel between ecstatic trance journeys to heaven and the supposed journey of the soul after death is a remarkable intuition into the almost universal structure of the ascent myth…. the structural similarity between the ecstatic journey and the final journey of human after death is so widespread as to be crucially important.181

In terms of the Passion of Perpetua, we may readily make the connection between their reported visionary experiences and the ascents that they expected to make after death, because they claim to have experienced these visionary ascents specifically in the context of their impending deaths. Perpetua is an example of a text that was significantly influenced by the Judaeo-Christian apocalyptic tradition, in which the notions of pre- and post-mortem ascent are integrally connected. However, as we are observing here, this connection is widespread and certainly does not belong to the Judaeo-Christian tradition alone. Since we have noted the presence of some of the elements of the ascent motif in traditional Egyptian religion, it is worth observing that in 1966, Faulkner published a study in which he attempted to survey the ideas of the cult of the stars present in the Pyramid Texts.182 Referring to the cult of the stars manifested in these texts, Faulkner noted that ‘behind this lay a very ancient stratum of stellar religion, in which the stars were regarded as gods or as the souls of the blessed dead.’183 The Egyptian concept of the ‘ladder’ to heaven may at least be

178 Wilhelm Bousset, ‘Die Himmelsreise der Seele,’ Archiv für Religionswissenschaft 4, (1901): 136. 179 John J. Collins, “A Throne in the Heavens: Apotheosis in Pre-Christian Judaism.” Pages 41–56 in Death, Ecstasy, and Other Worldly Journeys (ed. John J. Collins and Michael Fishbane; Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995), 48. 180 Notable exceptions are the ascents in 1 Enoch and the Testaments of Levi. More broadly, but also from Second-Temple Judaism, see the works of Philo, as well as Paul’s visionary ascent in 2 Cor 12:1–3; in neither of of these is ascent explicitly associated with the afterlife. 181 Segal, “Heavenly Ascent,” 1341. 182 R. Faulkner, ‘The King and Star-Religion in the Pyramid Texts,’ JNES 25 (1966): 153–61. Four key concepts that Faulkner identified here were ‘the stars as gods,’ ‘the dead king becomes a star,’ ‘the king assumes authority over the stars,’ and ‘the circumpolar stars assist the king.’ 183 Ibid., 153.

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viewed as a candidate for the prototype of the motif of the ladder to astral immortality that recurs throughout many of the cultures of antiquity. The symbol of the ladder also occupies a venerable place within the Jewish mystical tradition.184 In the Hekhaloth literature, there is the striking possibility of one having a ‘ladder in one’s house’ by which every person could ascend to the world above.185 In Plutarch’s On Isis and Osiris, in which those associated with Osiris receive celestial immortality and divinification, the Egyptian background seems clearly evident.186 The core Mithraic myth revolved around the journey of the soul reascending to the world of light.187 This was based on a solar theology, and also displayed an affinity with traditional Egyptian beliefs and their associated imagery. In his tantalising description of the Mithraic mysteries, Celsus describes a ladder, with seven gates, and an eighth gate at the top, which allows the soul to pass through the orbits of heaven.188 After noting the relevance of the Neoplatonist interpretation of Mithraism, Brenk also comments on the suggestiveness of the ladder of the Mithraeum of Felicissimus at Ostia, and the solar ray in the Barberini fresco, which ‘emanates from Sol, passes through Capricorn (the place of the soul’s ascent and return) and through Cautes’ torch–who should be associated with the soul’s ascent from this world–to Mithras.’189

G. Perpetua’s Education Certainly, we can find resonances in the Passion of Perpetua with the Old Testament Scriptures. However, ‘surprises’ and ‘clues’ within the text force us to cast our net wider in our search for influences. The central motif of Perpetua is the ascent of the soul, a motif that was both common and popular in the GraecoRoman world. Beyond this, the nature of the text of Perpetua gives us warrant to mine the Jewish apocalyptic literature for sources for the authors. Indeed, the Passion of Perpetua was a text that was both produced by, and which would have fitted comfortably into, the apocalyptic mind-set of the Christian community in early third-century Carthage.


Moshe Idel, Ascensions on High in Jewish Mysticism: Pillars, Lines, Ladders (Budapest: Central European University Press, 2005). 185 Hekaloth Rabbati 13.2. See discussion in Rowland, Open Heaven, 22. 186 Frederick Brenk, ‘A Gleaming Ray: Blessed Afterlife in the Mysteries,’ in Relighting the Souls (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1998), 298. 187 Stanley Porter, ‘Resurrection, the Greeks and the New Testament,’ in Resurrection (ed. S. E. Porter, M.A. Hayes, and D. Tombs), Journal for the Study of the New Testament Supplement Series 186 (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1999), 76–7. 188 Origen, Cels. VI.22. 189 Brenk, ‘Blessed Afterlife,’ 297.

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The Passion of Perpetua was shaped by a thought-world in which canonical Jewish imagery was merged with imagery drawn from the Jewish apocalyptic texts. These were in turn merged with ideas drawn from traditional popular culture in Roman Carthage. The twin influences on the Passion of Perpetua, the Judaeo-Christian, and those that belonged to popular Graeco-Roman culture, seem to sit comfortably together in the text. However, as Amat has observed, it is the aspect of ascent that is particulièrement susceptible de correspondre à des archétypes.190 It is necessary to give substantial weight to the influence of Perpetua’s non-Christian education, in the context of her short time as a Christian, in terms of the sources for her understanding and depiction of ascent. It is for this reason that the Hellenistic motif of ascent has been described and examined here. Robinson made an important yet relatively unnoticed connection when he commented that ‘our dreams can frequently be traced back to… our recollections.’191 Perpetua had only been converted to Christianity for a short time, as she is identified as a catechumen at the time of her arrest.192 The implication is that whatever Perpetua recollected from Christian teachings, and which therefore became part of her visions and dreams, must have been quite prominent in the catechetical teaching of the church at Carthage. Correspondingly, she may have also drawn on her own traditional Roman education, as well as on beliefs popular in early third-century Carthage. In a perceptive article, Paul McKechnie asserts that the description of Perpetua provided by the editor (as being liberaliter instituta)193 must mean that she enjoyed a literary education, had been taught by a grammaticus, and that accordingly, ‘most of the curriculum was poetry and Greek, starting with Virgil and Homer… [a]s a minimum Perpetua studied verse literature, both in Latin and Greek.’194 Based on the use of rhythmical prose in Perpetua’s section of the Passion, McKechnie also argues strongly that Perpetua’s literary education had progressed beyond the study of the poetic classics, since rhythmical prose compostion was taught at an advanced stage in education.195 McKechnie also finds that Perpetua had been trained in formal argumentation,196 and that ‘the likelihood that her ability to speak Greek was purely heavenly seems a remote one.’197 190

Amat, ‘Images du Martyre,’ 277. Robinson, S. Perpetua, 26. 192 Perpetua, I.1. See also Rowland, Open Heaven, 398. 193 Perpetua, II.1. 194 McKechnie, ‘Roman Education,’ 280–1. Contra McKechie, see Ameling, ‘Liberaliter Instituta,’ 87, who argues that, ‘Greek was not very widespread in Africa,’ and that perhaps ‘Perpetua knew no Greek’ (ibid., 88.) However, Bowersock’s arguments (Martyrdom and Rome, 35–36) tend to support McKechnie’s view. 195 McKechnie, ‘Education,’ 281, refering to Shewring, ‘Prose Rhythm,’ 56. 196 McKechnie, ‘Education,’ 282–4. 197 Ibid., 281, with reference to Perpetua, XIII.4. 191

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Walter Ameling takes a considerably more pessimistic position on Perpetua’s likely education, largely based on the educational possibilities available in Perpetua’s birthplace, Thuburbo Minus, and to someone whose father, as a magistrate in the town, might have belonged to the ordo decurionum.198 Ameling disagrees with McKechnie’s conclusions, maintaining that although Perpetua may have studied under a grammaticus in her teens, ‘the number of so-called ‘classical authors’ read during this time was very limited–in number and in extent.’199 Ameling also disagrees with McKechnie’s assertation that Perpetua had studied with a rhetor because of her prose rhythms.200 Rather, Ameling believes that Perpetua’s education did not include literary composition, and that ‘Perpetua’s language belongs to the realm of vulgar Latin’ as reflected in its use of ‘modes, prepositions, vocabulary.’201 Ameling’s assessment of the Latin in Perpetua’s section of the text runs in the face of the assessment of a significant number of scholars who have instead praised its stylistic qualities.202 Nevertheless, the consensus is that, regardless of Perpetua’s level of education, her Latin is written in a simple style. The reason for this may well be that this was a text written for popular consumption. As far as Perpetua’s education is concerned, two possibilities have been put forward: Perpetua had either studied the poetic classics, prose composition, and formal argumentation; or her ‘classical’ education was rather limited, to the extent that she could not even read Greek. Both possibilities have been well argued,203 and it is likely that the reality lay somewhere in between. As has been argued previously, she did in fact speak Greek. As will be further explored, the Passion of Perpetua reveals the author to be thoroughly versed in the thought and imagery popular in Graeco-Roman culture. For the purposes of this present research, whether this was acquired through reading or merely by oral and experiential participation in the culture of the day is not necessarily relevant. Consequently, whatever may have been the precise nature and level of Perpetua’s education, we may be sure of one thing: Perpetua came from a thoroughly pagan background, and her education was likewise thoroughly pagan.204 In terms of what Perpetua ‘remembered’ whilst processing her experiences and transmitting them in writing, this aspect of her education should be given due weight. 198

Ameling, ‘Liberaliter Instituta,’ 83–4. Ibid., 86. Note that Habermehl (Perpetua und der Ägypter, 57, n. 19) disagrees with Ameling on this point. 200 Ameling, ‘Liberaliter Instituta,’ 91, citing McKechnie, ‘Roman Education,’ 280–1. 201 Ameling, ‘Liberaliter Instituta,’ 92. 202 See for example, Habermehl, Perpetua und der Ägypter, 245. For other similar assessments see Ameling, ‘Liberaliter Instituta,’ 92. 203 Although Ameling’s position seems overly minimalistic. 204 Tertullian complains about the close relationship between education and pagan worship in Idol. X. See comments in Ameling, ‘Liberaliter Instituta,’ 94. 199

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Perpetua was a reasonably new Christian, being described as a catechumen.205 By this, we should not understand that she had not been taught Christianity. Indeed, the training of catechumens was both long and thorough.206 We can assume that while in prison Perpetua would have been reflecting on what she had learned during her catechumenate. What then can we say about the nature of the North African catechetical instruction around the turn of the second and third centuries? If we are to take the concepts, imagery, and language used in the Passion of Perpetua as an indication, then we may venture to postulate that the North African catechumenate consisted in instruction in the New Testament Scriptures, which either included, or were supplemented by JudaeoChristian apocalyptic texts such as the Apocalypse of Peter and the Shepherd of Hermas. The influence of the Apocalypse of John, for example, is clear in the visions and the language of Perpetua. However, the dominant influence of other Judaeo-Christian apocalyptic texts suggests that these were also prominent in catechetical instruction, and that they were used by the Christian communities to make sense of the world around them and the times in which they lived. Given Perpetua’s focus on themes such as prophecy, baptism, and martyrdom,207 it is reasonable to consider that the North African catechumenate also focused on these same concerns. We may perhaps go further and suggest that the consistent and explicit use of the concepts and imagery associated with martyrdom in the text suggests that the preparation for martyrdom was explicit in catechetical instruction. There are sufficient allusions and imagery with sources in the broader classical Graeco-Roman tradition to suggest that Paul McKechnie may well be correct to a significant extent when he describes contemporary Christian education in North Africa as being based on the perfecting of classical knowledge and skills.208 He refers to the comparative example of Origen, who became a catechist in Alexandria in the very year of Perpetua’s martyrdom, and who put his pupils through a ‘rigorous program of secular teaching before they even began on the Bible.’209 We cannot know the extent to which the catechumenate in North Africa was similar to that in Alexandria, although perhaps some analogies may be drawn. It is, however, apparent that the martyrs are quite adept at con205

Perpetua, II.1. On the length and instructional content of the North African catechumenate, see Henny Hägg, ‘Baptism in Clement of Alexandria,’ in Ablution, Initiation, and Baptism: Late Antiquity, Early Judaism, and Early Christianity (ed. David Hellholm, Tor Vegge, Øyvind Norderdal, and Christer Hellholm; Berlin; New York: De Gruyter, 2011), 974–6. Ameling, ‘Liberaliter Instituta,’ 94, suggests that Perpetua may have been a catechumen for as long as a year, or perhaps a maximum of two or three years, since a catechumenate of longer than this period is not attested anywhere. 207 Ameling, ‘Liberaliter Instituta,’ 101. 208 McKechnie, ‘Education,’ 290. 209 Ibid, citing Eusebius, Hist. eccl. VI.18, 2–4. On the catechumenate in Clement’s Alexandria, see Hägg, ‘Baptism,’ 974–6. 206

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ceptually integrating both Graeco-Roman and Judaeo-Christian imagery, and this points to the possibility that this was explicitly a part of the instruction in Christianity that they received. Some further refinement may be made to these suggestions about the North African catechumenate by comparing Perpetua’s section of the text with that of Saturus. In Saturus’ section, the writing is more polished and well-developed than Perpetua’s section, and the allusions to the Scriptures and Judaeo-Christian apocalyptic texts are more ‘deliberately explicit’ than in Perpetua’s.210 Saturus appears to have a firmer grasp of the ‘essence’ of many of the concepts and imagery that he is using.211 This conforms to the idea that Saturus, as Perpetua’s catechist, was more advanced in his knowledge and more grounded in the texts. However, neither Perpetua nor Saturus are very explicit in quoting directly from the texts that they have in mind. This tends to suggest that much of the study that Perpetua had undertaken did not consist in the memorisation of texts, but rather in the repeated hearing of many readings. Saturus could be seen as simply having done this for longer. For this reason, the martyrs display a sound grasp of the concepts, and of convergent imagery, that often appears to be influenced by multiple texts. These remarks should be considered as merely speculative, in following the suggestions of the available evidence in the text; it is still the case that we have no direct evidence for the content or nature of the African catechumenate.212


Thomas J. Heffernan, The Passion of Perpetua and Felicity (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 82. 211 Amat, ‘Images du Martyre,’ 277–8. 212 Bremmer, ‘Felicitas,’ 37.

Chapter 5

The Afterlife in the Passion of Perpetua and in the Works of Tertulian A. Introduction: Perpetua and Tertullian Having considered possible sources and influences on the Passion of Perpetua, we are now ready to begin a detailed examination of the ideology of the afterlife in this text. In this regard, we are fortunate to have a substantial body of work by another Christian writer who was a direct contemporary of Perpetua. By examining the afterlife perspectives of the Passion of Perpetua in the terms of what we find in the writings of Tertullian, we will be able to more appropriately contextualise key aspects of the text. The possible relationship between the Passion of Perpetua and Felicitas and Tertullian is a fascinating one. Perpetua and her companions were martyred in A.D. 203 in the arena at Carthage. It hardly seems possible that Tertullian, who lived in Carthage from c. A.D. 160 – c. 220, would not have known of these dramatic events in his own city. But, as noted earlier, Tertullian was most probably not the redactor. An additional reason militating against this view is that the authors of Perpetua and Tertullian represented different early Christian traditions regarding the conceptualisation of the afterlife, traditions that were in polemical conflict with each other. This is the notion that this chapter will explore.

B. Eschatology and the Afterlife in the Passion of Perpetua Concerning the the conceptualisation of the afterlife in the Passion of Perpetua, Dronke warns us that we should allow the text to speak for itself, and not to let it be ‘“smoothed’ into more conventional patterns, whether of a Christian or Gnostic or Jungian kind.’1 When one looks at Perpetua in this way, it is evident that eschatology is one of the principal themes of the text;2 and the focus is chiefly on a personal (and in many respects, realised) eschatology. Although Perpetua describes visions given in life, they clearly foreshadow the events to 1

Dronke, Women Writers, 6–7. See Maureen Tilley, The Bible in Christian North Africa: The Donatist World (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1997), 43. 2

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transpire immediately upon the martyrs’ deaths, rather than at an eschatological end-time.3 The Passion of Perpetua is quite possibly the earliest description of an immediate post-mortem ascent of the soul to heaven in the early Christian texts. It is, furthermore, one of the first Christian texts to describe popular-level ideas of the afterlife, apparently before their acceptance into more formal Christian thought as reflected in the patristic tradition. The visions of Perpetua and Saturus are clearly visions of the ascent of the soul to heaven. This is also Heffernan’s understanding, in writing that, ‘Saturus’ vision… is a vision of their souls’ experience after their martyrdom. They are now dead. His is the soul’s dream… None are alive in this narrative. Saturus relates a vision of the soul’s afterlife beyond the grave… The conceit of the after-death visions owes less to Saturus’ unique imagination than to a tradition.’4 It may be objected that there is nothing new in this text in terms of the martyrs being in the presence of God immediately upon their deaths, since, as noted above, there was an early tradition that maintained precisely this idea. The tradition of the early church was that the other righteous dead waited until the final, general resurrection before ascending into heaven and enjoying the presence of God. The martyrs were exceptions to this general rule, since they had been perfected by their sufferings. In fact, by being exceptions, the martyrs demonstrated the validity of the general rule.5 An important caveat must be appended to this last statement. It holds true for the writings of the early fathers and apologists, but once we extend our consideration to other literary remains of early Christianity, as Candida Moss notes, ‘[t]here is a plethora of approaches to the nature of resurrection exhibited in the acta’ and ‘there was no single unified perspective regarding the timing of resurrection.’6 Furthermore, she warns that Gnostic views of the afterlife should not be discounted from having formed part of the milieu surrounding the literature of martyrdom.7 Even granting all this, Moss still notes the prevalence of the theme that the ‘faithful dead would be resurrected just before the final judgment.’8 So even within this complex milieu, what is it that is seemingly innovative within the Passion of Perpetua? Even beyond the fact that it is the earliest datable Christian text that actually describes, in some detail, an ascent of the soul after death in the Hellenistic conception, the Passion of Perpetua also assumes that the righteous Christians who have died previously have also already made the same journey the martyrs themselves are about to make. This makes this text 3

See Bremmer, ‘Motivation,’ 548. Heffernan, Perpetua, 273. 5 Russell, Heaven, 67–8. 6 Moss, Ideologies of Martyrdom, 123, 7 Ibid., 124. 8 Ibid., 133. 4

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the earliest datable Christian text that refers to the immediate post-mortem ascent of the soul for the righteous generally. This is evident in Saturus’ vision, in which there are many who are not martyrs in heaven. In fact, the martyrs themselves seem to be the minority, even being mentioned as an apparent afterthought: Et coepimus illic multos fratres cognoscere, sed et martyras.9 This is further reinforced by the emphasis in Perpetua’s first vision on the very large number of people in heaven (et circumstantes milia multa)10 and the lack of any need for resurrection. The question of who it was that Saturus actually saw in heaven has occasioned a divergence of views on the question of whether sed et in Saturus’ vision should be translated ‘inclusively,’ as does Tilley, or ‘exclusively.’ The ‘inclusive’ perspective has the passage include the martyrs among the ‘many brothers and sisters’ as a subset. The ‘exclusive’ perspective holds that the ‘many brothers and sisters’ are the martyrs; anyone not a martyr is therefore excluded from heaven. To illustrate the difference, a translation based on an ‘exclusive’ interpretation would be: ‘But then we began to recognize many brothers and sisters who were also martyrs.’ The difference between the two translations is clear. The significance of this is that the ‘exclusive’ view does not break new ground, since the martyrs were already considered as being in heaven. However, the ‘inclusive’ view has Saturus seeing all the righteous dead in heaven, together with the martyrs. This is certainly a novel idea, at least when compared to the views of the earlier fathers and apologists. The linguistic and contextual arguments for the ‘inclusive’ translation are considerably the more compelling; indeed, Jan Bremmer demonstrates that the translation ‘many brethren, and also martyrs’ is undoubtedly correct. He does this by adducing the use of sed et elsewhere in Perpetua, and in other contemporary writings in Latin, including those of Tertullian. For example, within the text of Perpetua, the uses of sed et in 11.1 and 15.2, 3 appear to distinguish two different categories. Bremmer explains: This is indeed a development in post-classical Latin, which can also be noticed in Tertullian and Apuleius, where the combination sed et is regularly “mehr weiterführend als adversativ,” but also seems to mention two (or more) different categories. Although in post-classical Latin sed et, in the meaning of sed etiam, can also appear without a preceding non modum, the translation “and also martyrs,” is probably more attractive than the equally possible “but also martyrs,” since the categories of brethren and martyrs are not necessarily exclusive. I would therefore conclude that Saturus saw “many brethren, and also martyrs” in heaven.11 9 Perpetua, XIII.8 (ed. Amat, 152). Note that sed et appears in the two best manuscripts, but is omitted from manuscripts B C & E. 10 Perpetua, IV.8. 11 Jan Bremmer, ‘The Vision of Saturus in the Passio Perpetuae,’ in Jerusalem, Alexandria, Rome (ed. Florentino Garcia Martinez, Gerhard P. Luttikhuizen and Anton Hilhorst; Leiden, Brill, 2003), 70. See also Leal, Actas Latinas, 123, n.80; and Perpetua, XIII (tr. Musurillo, 123).

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However, some comments about the contrary view are warranted. Dolbeau suggests that [l]’opposition revelée plus haut entre PPerp. 13,8… et l’interprétation qu’en donne Tertullien dans An. 55,4… est indiscutable, mais seulement en Anglais.12 Dolbeau concedes that car le texte latin de P.Perp. présente une certain ambiguité.13 However, Dolbeau suggests that sed et in this context could possibly mean ‘brethren who were also martyrs.’14 Amat’s French translation, mais tous des martyrs,15 conforms to this non-exclusive interpretation. Amat comments that this phrase corresponds [à] l’image des âmes placées sous l’autel et qui sont celles de ceux qui fuerent égorgés pour la parole de Dieu, dans Apoc. 6, 8.16 Bastiaensen et al. render the clause in question in Italian as e tra essi anche dei martiri.17 A close translation of the Italian into English would be that they saw ‘and among them also the martyrs,’18 suggesting a clear identification by Bastiaenen of the relatively smaller group of martyrs that Saturus sees in heaven as being comprised of a subset of the ‘many brothers.’ This conforms to Bremmer’s view of the interpretation of sed et, that Saturus saw ‘many brethren, and also martyrs’ in heaven, and not martyrs exclusively. This is the view that seems to currently command the agreement of the majority of scholars. The fact that this description of all of the righteous as being in heaven is included in the portion of the text belonging to the catechist Saturus rather than the neophyte Perpetua might be seen as significant, suggesting that this was, for a catechist such as Saturus more so than for Perpetua, the established Christian view. However in this regard, Saturus’ vision should probably be paralleled with Perpetua’s first vision, in which in the garden at the top of the ladder she sees candidati milia multa19 It is therefore reasonable to consider that both Perpetua and Saturus’ sections of the text are congruent with the same understanding that not only the martyrs, but also all of the righteous dead are in heaven. The Passion of Perpetua contains no warrant for supposing that Perpetua’s immediate afterlife represents an interim state, or merely some stage in the journey to total blessedness or final fulfilment. In fact, there is nothing preventing Perpetua’s joy being fulfilled. Later, Augustine conceptually highlighted the difference between what he calls ‘that life which the blessed martyrs enjoy now’ 12

Dolbeau, Review of Bremmer, 382. As we are seeing, this is not necessarily the case. Ibid. 14 Ibid. 15 Amat, Perpétue, 153. 16 Ibid, 241. 17 A. Bastiaensen et. al., Atti e Passioni dei Martiri (Italia: Fondazione Lorenzo Valla, 1987), 135. 18 This seems preferable to Bremmer’s suggestion (‘Vision of Saturus,’ 70) that the appropriate English rendition of Bastianen’s Italian translation is ‘those of the brothers who were martyrs’ or ‘the brothers who were also martyrs.’ 19 Perpetua, IV.8 (ed. Amat, 390). 13

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and ‘what is promised’ on the ‘day of recompsense,’ so that ‘the rest enjoyed by souls without any bodies is one thing, and the glory and felicity of angels with heavenly bodies quite another.’20 Augustine called this difference ‘all the difference in the world.’21 Ironically, Augustine writes this in his sermon On the Birthday of Perpetua and Felicity. However, in the text of the Passion of Perpetua itself, there is no explicit reference to a future ‘day of recompense,’ and arguably not even a hint of such.22 The martyrs appear to have their complete reward immediately at death. The text manifests no anticipation at all of an end-time, final, change of status in the joy of the righteous, who are already in heaven. This is highlighted in Saturus’ dialogue with Perpetua after the ascent to heaven: Et dixerunt nobis seniores: Ite et ludite. Et dixi: Perpetua, Habes quod uis. Et dixit mihi: Deo gratias, ut, quomodo in carne hilaris fui, hilarior sim et hic modo.23 The context of this dialogue supports the idea that the afterlife depicted here does not include a resurrection of the body. Note the reference to being ‘in the flesh’ (in carne)24 while alive on this earth, which by contrast demonstrates the ‘incorporeal’25 conception of the afterlife, in that it is the soul that has ascended to God. If we accept that martyrologies can often allow us a glimpse of popular Christian belief, in contrast to different, possibly more traditional views of ecclesiastical and intellectual leadership, then the Passion of Perpetua presents us with an interesting perspective. The Passion of Perpetua’s picture of what happens to the righteous when they die is different to the resurrection-focussed eschatologies reflected in the majority of the extant writings from authors such as Justin Martyr, Tatian, Theophilus, Octavius Minucius, Irenaeus, Hippolytus, and Tertullian himself.26 Although it is clear that these writers represent a range of variegated views on the afterlife, they all emphasise the importance of an eschatological resurrection of the body as the principal hope of the righteous. The views of these fathers and apologists of the early Christian communities provide us with a strik20

Augustine, Serm. 280.5 (tr. Hill, 75). Ibid., 74. 22 With the possible exception of Perpetua, XVII.1, XVIII.7–8. On this, see Bremmer, ‘Motivation’, 548. 23 Perpetua, XII.6–7. 24 Compare with exiuimus de carne in Perpetua, XI.2 (ed. Amat, 142). 25 This notion will be examined in more detail in Chapter 7. 26 Russell, Heaven, 67–8. Furthermore, this eschatology conforms to the general pattern within the passiones, in which, as Van Uytfanghe has demonstrated, the resurrection before the last judgment éclipse rarement le survie immédiate. See M. Van Uytfanghe, ‘Platonisme et Eschatologie Chrétienne. Leur Symbiose graduelle dans les Passions et les Panégyriques des Martyrs et dans les Biographies spirituelles (IIe – VIe siècles)’ in Fructus Centesimus. Mélanges offerts à Gerard J. M. Bartelink à l’occasion de son soixantecinquième anniversaire (ed. Antoon A. R. Bastiaensen, Antonius Hilhorts, and C. H. Kneepkens; Steenbrugge; Abbatia S. Petri: Dordrecht; Kluwer Academic, 1989) 69–95, 343–62. 21

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ing contrast with the views espoused in the Passion of Perpetua. None of these authorities describe an ascent to heaven in any form, nor do they explicitly refer to such. While the physical body is very significant in the Passion of Perpetua,27 the text does not require this flesh to be resurrected or saved. Even allowing for the fact that, as Bremmer notes, ‘Perpetua was not a systematic theologian,’28 it appears that a different discourse came into play in relation to the Christian afterlife. There are some key eschatological and anthropological elements, common in the New Testament and in the writings of the earlier fathers and apologists, that are striking by their absence in Perpetua. Furthermore, although we may detect in the patristic texts some notions of an interim state, Perpetua demonstrates no need for an interim state for the righteous. The Passion of Perpetua discloses an eschatology is is apparently entirely realised at the moment of death.29 I. The Afterlife in the Passion of Perpetua and the Judaeo-Christian Apocalyptic Tradition Before going on to examine the afterlife in the works of Tertullian, a question should be considered. If the Passion of Perpetua does not belong to the afterlife tradition of the ‘Apostolic Fathers’ and the early apologists, then what tradition does it reflect? While the Passion of Perpetua is the first Christian text to describe the immediate post-mortem ascent of the soul, it may not be the first Christian text to describe the righteous as all actually being in heaven immediately after death, since this is also an important idea in a class of JudaeoChristian apocalypses that includes the Ascension of Isaiah. When Isaiah reaches the seventh heaven, he sees all the righteous from Adam onwards (‘the holy Abel and all the righteous.’)30 Then he sees all the righteous draw near to worship Christ: ‘Adam, Abel and Seth and all the righteous approached first, worshipped him and praised him, all with one voice…’31 The Martyrdom and Ascension of Isaiah was written towards the end of the first century AD or very early in the second.32 Gieschen observes that this document had its origins in a ‘Jewish Christian community that revered mystical 27

Judith Perkins, Roman Imperial Identities in the Early Christian Era (Abingdon: Routledge, 2009), 166–7. 28 Bremmer, ‘Authenticity,’ 111. 29 Collins, Apocalyptic Imagination, 268, 278. 30 Asc. Is. 9.8 (tr. Knibb, in Charlesworth, Pseudepigrapha, 170). Cf. Norelli’s translation in Ascensio Isaiae: Commentarius (Brepols: Turnhout, 1995), 100. The Italian translation is: e là vidi Abele il santo e tutti i giusti. 31 Asc. Is. 9.28 (tr. Knibb, in Charlesworth, Pseudepigrapha 171; cf. Norelli, 106). The Italian translation is: e Adamo, Abele, Set e tutti i giusti per primi si avvicinarono, e lo adorarono e lo lodarono tutti a una sola voce. 32 Rowland, Open Heaven, 386. The account of Isaiah’s ascent is found in chapters 6-11 of the Ascension of Isaiah. This text will be discussed further in Chapter 8.

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ascent’ and Jewish mystical traditions.33 There appears to be more than a superficial relationship between the Passion of Perpetua and the Ascension of Isaiah. Even if the Ascension of Isaiah does not predate the Passion of Perpetua, we may assert with some confidence that the general concepts it expresses would have been well known in the Carthaginian Christian milieu in which Perpetua and Saturus lived. Another Christian apocalyptic source in the same tradition of the afterlife is the Apocalypse of Peter, which makes extensive use of traditional Jewish apocalyptic material in its descriptions of Paradise and hell.34 A critical and striking feature of the Akhmim text of the Apocalypse of Peter,35 suggesting that it belongs to the same afterlife tradition as the Passion of Perpetua and the Ascension of Isaiah, is that it represents all of the righteous as being already in heaven. Peter sees utterly beautiful beings, and he asks the Lord who they are. The Lord tells Peter: ‘[t]hese are your righteous brethren whose appearance you wished to see.’36 Peter then asks the Lord more about the condition of the righteous. The Lord answers in a description that has unmistakeable parallels with Saturus’ vision: And the Lord showed me a very great region outside this world exceedingly bright with light (κόσμου ὑπέρλαμπρον τῷ φωτί),37 and the air of that place illuminated with the rays of the sun (ἀκτῖσιν ἡλίου καταλαμπόμενον), and the earth itself flowering with blossoms that do not fade, and full of spices and plants, fair-flowering and incorruptible, and bearing blessed fruit (καὶ τὴν γῆν αὐτὴν ἀνθοῦσαν ἀμαράντοις ἄνθεσι καὶ ἁμωμάτων πλήρη καὶ φυτῶν εὐανθῶν καὶ ἀφθάρτων καὶ καρπὸν εὐλογημένον φερόντων). And so great was the blossom that the odour thereof was borne from there to where we were. And the inhabitants in that place were clad with the raiment of shining angels, and their raiment was like their land. (ἐνδεδυμένοι ἦσαν ἔνδυμα ἀγγέλων φωτεινόν, καὶ ὅμοιον ἦν τὸ ἔνδυμα αὐτῶν τῇ χώρᾳ αὐτῶν)38

33 Charles Gieschen, Angelomorphic Christology: Antecedents and Early Evidence (Leiden: Brill, 1998), 230. In support of his view that the author was familiar with Jewish mysticism, Gieschen (Christology, 239) adduces the author’s primary title for Christ being ‘the Beloved,’ as well as the reference to Christ as the ‘Elect One’ in 8.7. Compare this with 1 Enoch 40:5; 45:3, 4; 49:2, 4; 51:3, 5; 52:6, 9; 53:6; 55:4; 61:5, 8, 10; 62:1. 34 Richard Bauckham, ‘The Apocalypse of Peter: An Account of Research,’ in Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt: Geschichte und Kultur Roms im Spiegel der neueren Forschung vol. 2/25/6 (ed. H. Temporini and W. Haase; Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1988), 4741. The Apocalypse of Peter is discussed in more detail in Chapter 8. It was Robinson (S. Perpetua, 37–43) who first identified similarities between the Passion of Perpetua and the Apocalypse of Peter. 35 This text will be discussed again in Chapter 8. 36 Apocalypse of Peter (Akhmim), XII (trans. J. K. Elliot; see The Apocryphal New Testament: A Collection of Apocryphal Christian Literature in an English Translation [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2005], 610. 37 Compare this with the ‘boundless light’ (lucem immensam) in Saturus’ vision. (Perpetua, XI.4). 38 The Apocalypse of Peter (Akhmim), XV–XIX (tr. Elliot, 610–1; ed. Klostermann, 8– 11).

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In Perpetua’s vision, when the martyrs reach the top of the ladder, she sees a great garden. The text reads: uidi spatium horti immensum horti et in medio sedentem hominem canum in habitu pastoris39 (‘I saw the broad expanse of a garden, and a grey-haired man sitting in the middle of it, dressed like a shepherd’).40 In Saturus’ vision, he also sees a vast garden (factum est nobis spatium grande), with ‘rose trees and all kinds of flowers’ (quod tale fuit quasi uiridarium arbores habens rosae, et omne genus floris).41 Rowland comments that it is difficult to resist the conclusion that these are references to Paradise.42 Indeed, it is significant that both Perpetua and Saturus see a garden at the apex of their ascents, and in this, Salisbury sees the influence of the Apocalypse of Peter.43 Other parallels may be observed between the ‘light’ in the Apocalypse of Peter and the ‘boundless light’ (lucem immensam) in Saturus’ vision.44 The ‘fragrance of the flowers’ in the Apocalypse of Peter may be paralleled with the statement in Perpetua that ‘[w]e all felt as if we were nourished by an incredible scent, which satisfied us.’ (uniuersi odore inenarrabili alebamur, qui nos satiabat.)45 The ‘shining raiment of angels’ in the Apocalypse of Peter is paralleled in Saturus’ vision by the angels who ‘clothed those who entered with white robes’ (uestierunt stolas candidas).46 Another point of similarity between the Apocalypse of Peter and the Passion of Perpetua is in the depictions of the conscious suffering of people after their death. While the Apocalypse of Peter is crucial evidence in terms of its early depiction of the sufferings of hell, the Passion of Perpetua, in spite of how the


Perpetua, IV.8 (ed. Amat, 116). Note that manuscript A has sanum instead of canum. Ibid. (tr. Tilley, 390). Compare this with the description in The Testament of Abraham, Recension A. 41 Perpetua, XI.5–6. 42 Rowland, Open Heaven, 398. Bremmer’s commentary on the depictions of heaven in third-century North African texts also leave no doubt that what is depicted in the visions of Perpetua and Saturus is Paradise in heaven itself, rather than some other special place in which the martyrs wait for final glorification. See Jan N. Bremmer, ‘Contextualising Heaven in Third-Century North Africa,’ Heavenly Realms and Earthly Realities in Late Antique Religions (Ed. R. S. Boustan and A. Y. Reed; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 159–73. 43 Salisbury, Death and Memory, 102, quoting the Apocalypse of Peter, following Robinson, S. Perpetua, 37–43. With regard to the dating of the Apocalypse of Peter before c. 150. see Bauckham, ‘Research,’ 4738. 44 Perpetua, XI.4 (tr. Tilley, 393). 45 Perpetua, XIII.8 (tr. Tilley, 394). 46 Perpetua, IV.2 (tr. Dysinger). Note that Musurillo renders this as the angels being those ‘who entered in and put on white robes.’ (Perpetua, XI, tr. Musurillo, 121.) The former seems to be the better translation, even in spite of the variation in the manuscript tradition on this point (on this, see Amat, Perpétue, 146.) Amat herself translates this as quatre anges qui nos revêtirent (147). 40

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Dinocrates narrative may be interpreted, depicts one who is not among the righteous suffering in the afterlife.47 In terms of their conceptualisation of the immediate fate of the righteous dead, and the lack of an eschatological resurrection, the ‘Christian’ apocalyptic texts of the Ascension of Isaiah and the Akhmim Text of the Apocalypse of Peter themselves belong to the Jewish apocalyptic tradition represented by texts such as the Life of Adam and Eve48 and the Testament of Abraham. A focus on a personal and immediate eschatology, rather than on a future, cosmic eschatology is indeed much more the concern of the later Jewish apocalyptic texts such as these. In this regard, the Passion of Perpetua also shares very significant conceptual affinities with these later Jewish apocalyptic texts. However, as important as these connections are, as we will also see, the Judaeo-Christian apocalyptic tradition is not the only fundamental tradition reflected. The Passion of Perpetua provides us with a rare literary glimpse into the thought-world of popular Christianity in North Africa. It also points us towards positing that the Passion of Perpetua represents a popular and likely majority view of the afterlife in Carthage, which may be contrasted with the tenor of the writings of the earlier church fathers and apologists. This is a central notion that will be subsequently explored and demonstrated, particularly in terms of contrasting the ideology of the afterlife found in the Passion of Perpetua with that found in the works of Tertullian.

C. Eschatology and the Afterlife in the Writings of Tertullian Tertullian’s treatise, On the Resurrection, is the most comprehensive surviving treatment of the topic in the early church. In this treatise, Tertullian not only took on the pagan opponents of the resurrection, he also poured scorn on those within the church who considered that ‘the resurrection of the dead’ was to be understood spiritually, referring to a moral change in this life or to an escape from the body.49 For Tertullian, the resurrection is such a fundamental teaching of Christianity that he equates it with Christianity itself. He is able to say, in the


Perpetua, VII.4 and VIII.4. For further discussion, see Chapter 8. On the mingling of [d]ie biblisch-jüdische Überlieferung and typisch pagangriechischer Motive in the Greek Life of Adam and Eve, see Karl-Wilhelm Niebuhr, ‘Auf der suche nach dem Paradies: Zur Topographie des Jenseits im griechischen Leben Adams und Evas,’ in Topographie des Jenseits: Studien zur Geschichte des Todes in Kaiserzeit und Spätantike (ed. Walter Ameling; Franz Steiner Verlag: Stuttagart, 2011), 67. 49 See Russell, Heaven, 69. 48

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opening words of his treatise On the Resurrection, that fiducia Christianorum resurrectio mortuorum; illam credentes hoc sumus.50 Young does not exaggerate in remarking that ‘[t]he opening chapters of the treatise suggests that he [Tertullian] sees the resurrection as the basis of the whole Christian position…’51 The importance of the resurrection of the body for Tertullian, and not merely ‘spiritual resurrection’, is also illustrated by Tertullian’s equally impressive statement that si non integros deus suscitat, non suscitat mortuus.52 In On the Resurrection, Tertullian argues that the resurrection does not happen immediately upon death, but rather at the end of the world. He also specifically argues that the ‘resurrection of the dead’ is not simply a figure of speech,53 and that those who take it as such are heretics who are using the language without consideration for its original meaning.54 Tertullian taught that there was to be an eschatological resurrection at the beginning of the millennium in which the righteous would rise in their bodies,55 then reign with Christ for a thousand years in the new Jerusalem on earth. When the thousand years end, ‘the saved, removed to heaven, will take on the substance of angels.’56 We find here echoes of Polycarp’s view of the destiny of the righteous as angels and of Papias’ millenarian eschatological views. However, Tertullian also believed that the martyrs enjoyed the eternal happiness of heaven immediately after death.57 It is for this reason that he wrote that ‘[t]he sole key to unlock Paradise is your own life’s blood.’58 As a corollary to this, Tertullian rejected, with equal vigour, the notion that the non-martyred righteous ascended immediately after death to enjoy the presence of God in heaven,59 and it was to this purpose that he devoted his treatise On the Soul. He argues that until the resurrection, Hades is the resting place of the souls of even cur idem animas immaturas et innuptas et pro condicione aetatis puras et innocuas interim indignas inferis iudicas.60


Tertullian, Res. I.1. Young, Eschatology, 14. 52 Tertullian, Res. LVII.6. 53 Ibid., 21. 54 Ibid., 22. 55 On Tertullian’s millenarianism, see especially Jéronimo Leal, La Antropología de Tertuliano: Estudio de los Tratados polémicos de los Años 207–212 d.C., Studia Ephemeridis Augustinianum 76 (Roma: Institutum Patristium Augustinianum, 2001), 155– 73. 56 See Tertullian, Res. LVII. Also see Tertullian, Fug. 3.VI. 57 See Russell, Heaven, 69. 58 Tertullian, An. LV.5 (tr. Holmes, 231). 59 Hill, Regnum Caelorum, 27–8. 60 Tertullian, An. LVI.8. 51

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Tertullian gives a description of his understanding of the nature and purpose of Hades in On the Soul,61 in a passage that is both fascinating and significant. In arguing that the souls of all except the martyrs go to Hades at death, Tertullian also gives a clear account of his eschatological views as far as they pertain to the immediate fate of the righteous dead. In seeing the end of the world as both imminent and violent,62 Tertullian held to the millenarian tradition represented by Justin and Irenaeus.63 Tertullian’s understanding of the end of the world is above all a time of reckoning and of the settling of accounts with God.64 This is necessarily so, since for Tertullian, [b]onum factum Deum habet debitorem, sicuti et malum, quia index omnis remunerator est causae.65 The resurrected flesh is needed in Tertullian’s view of the afterlife, because, as he argues, the reason final rewards and punishments will not be given until the universal resurrection is because the bodies are required to be present for judgment.66 Similarly, in his Apology, Tertullian argues for the need for a universal resurrection, since quia neque pati quicquam potest anima sola sine materia stabili, id est carne.67 Indeed, in On the Resurrection, Tertullian commences and underpins his argument by a defence of the dignity and goodness of the flesh in general.68 It is clear that at times Tertullian does not represent the views of the ‘official’ Christianity of the leaders of the church in Carthage. A notable example is his criticism of the clergy’s response to persecution in Flight from Persecution XI.1.69 Nevertheless, with his emphasis on the importance of the flesh, and on its resurrection at the end of the world, and with his rejection of any spiritual definition of the resurrection, it is clear that he fits within the long-established Christian tradition on the question of the afterlife of the righteous, as far as the extant writings of the early Fathers and apologists may be understood to represent it.70 One wonders what Tertullian would have made of the views of those like Perpetua and Saturus, who ultimately considered the flesh a thing only to be discarded. Would Tertullian not also have included Perpetua and Saturus among those who were ‘too proud to believe that the souls of the faithful’ deserved ‘a better place than in the lower regions,’ and who spurned ‘the comfort of the resurrection’?71 61

Tertullian, An. LV.2–4. See Apol. XXXII; Cult. fem. II.6; Spect. XXX; and Bapt. VIII. 63 See Marc. III.24. Also see the discussion in Daley, Hope, 34–6. 64 Daley, Hope, 34. 65 Tertullian, Paen. II.11. 66 Tertullian, Res. XVII. 67 Tertullian, Apol. XLVIII.4. 68 Tertullian, Res. V–X. 69 Note the comments by David Ivan Rankin, Tertullian and the Church, (Cambridge: New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 151; also, generally, François Decret, Early Christianity in North Africa (trans. Edward Smither; James Clarke & Co., 2011), 37. 70 And the general tenor of the New Testament as well. 71 Tertullian, An. LV.2–4 (tr. Holmes, 231). 62

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Of course, Perpetua and Saturus unlocked Paradise with their own life-blood. As martyrs, according to Tertullian, they avoided the interlude in Hades, but it would seem that they themselves believed that the souls of the other faithful were in Paradise as well. Since the question of the resurrection is so completely ignored in their prison diary, perhaps our martyrs would indeed have been among those who spurned it. Based on the evidence in their writings, Tertullian and the authors of the Passion of Perpetua would appear to have been on opposite sides of the fence on these particular issues. Returning now to Tertullian’s statement that ‘to no-one is heaven opened,’72 we must be careful to differentiate the context of On the Soul from the context of Tertullian’s treatise The Scorpion’s Sting 10, where he paradoxically refers to heaven as being open. This passage gives the impression, unless read in context, that Tertullian is maintaining that the righteous generally ascend heaven immediately after death.73 But in The Scorpion’s Sting 10.8 he is disagreeing with those who think that heaven is still shut (nam etsi adhuc [clau]sum putas caelum).74 He writes that [h]eaven lies open to the Christian before the way [of getting there does] [Christiano caelum ante patet [quam v]ia]… if you have heard in Amos, ‘The ones who build their way up to heaven…’ [qui ascensum suum aedificat in caelos]…” know also that way [ascensum] was later made level by the footsteps of the Lord and the entrance was later opened by the strength of Christ. [et introitum exinde reseratum viribus Christi.]75

In The Scorpion’s Sting, Tertullian is dealing with the fate of the martyrs alone, and not with the rest of the righteous dead. Tertullian’s point is that heaven is open to the martyrs. In chapter 2.1, he sets out the outline of the treatise, and he indicates that his focus is squarely on the experience of the martyrs: ‘[b]ut [we] ought not to learn about the good of martyrdom, without first [learning] about its obligation; nor about the usefulness of it, as much as about its necessity.’76 However, there is something else that is very relevant to the question of the afterlife in the beginning of the tenth chapter of The Scorpion’s Sting. This chapter is specifically countering the assertion that Christians must make a con-


Tertullian, An. LV.4 (tr. Holmes, 231). Tertullian, Apol. XLVII.13 refers to Paradise as locum… recipiendis sanctorum spiritibus destinatum (a place appointed to receive the spirits of the saints). This cannot be understood as meaning that Tertullian here describes the spirits of the saints as entering Paradise at the moment of their deaths, since the focus of this clause is not to state when it is that the spirits are received into Paradise, but rather the dative of the gerundive (recipiendis) is used here to express the aim or the purpose of paradise, which is to receive the spirits of the saints. 74 Tertullian, Scorp. X.6.67. 75 Tertullian, Scorp. X.6–7 (tr. Dunn, 125–126). 76 Tertullian, Scorp. II.1 (tr. Dunn, 109). 73

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fession after death in the heavens, during the post-mortem ascent. Tertullian’s response is that it is through martyrdom, here on earth, that confession is to be made, and he mocks those who express the contrary view as follows: [with regard to] the ones who truly believe that [it is] not here, that it is not on the face of this earth, nor through this passage of life, nor before people of this shared nature, that [the requirement for] acknowledgement has been established [confessionem putant constitutam], how much is their presumption contrary to the whole order of things that are to be experienced on this earth and in this life and under human power? Undoubtedly, when the souls have departed from their bodies [cum animae d[e corpori]bus excesserint], and have begun to be evaluated concerning the return through each level of the heavens [per singula tabulata caelorum] and to be questioned about those secret mysteries of the heretics, they must offer acknowledgement before the true powers and true people, namely the Teleti [Greek: the perfect], to wit, and the Abascanti [Greek: the spell-resisting], and the Acineti [Greek: the steadfast] of Valentinus!77

Tertullian calls the view that he is deriding a ‘superstition,’ and he specifically refers to it as Valentinian.78 In doing so, he highlights several of the key elements. This view which Tertullian mocks supposes that upon death, souls depart from their bodies and traverse ‘the several stories of the heavens,’ and that during the ascent they are put through a number of trials. Indeed the subsequent sections of this chapter show that the trials involve both physical suffering as well as mental trevails, such as the answering of questions. It is fascinating, and likely no coincidence, that the view that Tertullian derides seems to have a close affinity to key aspects of Perpetua and Saturus visions. The cum animae de corporibus excesserint of Tertullian is similar to the exiuimus de carne of Saturus’ vision.79 Although in Perpetua we do not explicitly find ‘the stories of the heavens,’ in both the visions of Perpetua and Saturus we find suggestions of the existence of stages in the ascent. In the vision of Saturus, as they float upwards, Saturus reports that ‘being set free, we at length saw the first boundless light [primo uidimus lucem immensam]… And while we are borne by those same four angels, there appears to us [factum est nobis spatium grande] a vast space which was like a pleasure-garden.’80 The expression used here suggests a staged ascension, in that the mention of the ‘first boundless 77 Tertullian, Scorp. X.1.3–9 (tr. Dunn, 124–5). The translation of confessio as ‘acknowledgement’ here somewhat obscures its technical meaning and the explicit connection with torture and martyrdom that Tertullian develops in the rest of the tenth chapter. Although I have used Dunn’s translation for its greater clarity, on this point, Thelwall’s translation of ‘confession’ is preferable. To illustrate this point, later in the same chapter, Tertullian explains that confessio a persecutione deducitur et persecutio in confessione finitur (X.14). 78 On Tertullian’s use of humour, see Eric Osborn, Tertullian: First Theologian of the West (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 192–204; also Jean-Claude Fredouille, Tertullien: contre les Valentiniens (Paris: Cerf, 1981), 218. For another example of Tertullian’s use of humour in polemic, see Tertullian, Val. VI. 79 Perpetua, XI.2. 80 Perpetua, IV.l.

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light’ suggests a belief in the existence of others that the martyrs must have traversed. In Perpetua’s first vision, the very symbolism of a ladder with its rungs, and Perpetua’s emphasis that it needed to be ascended step by step,81 indicates the underlying supposition of a staged ascent. Furthermore, this was no ordinary ladder, since Perpetua wrote that ‘[a]ll sorts of weapons were attached to the sides of the ladder. There were swords, hooks, daggers, lances, and javelins, so that if someone were careless or not paying attention as they were ascending, they would be cut to pieces, and bits of their flesh would get caught on the weapons.’82 The ascent in Perpetua’s vision is therefore fraught with dangers. Specifically, the weapons depicted are weapons of execution. This aspect seems to significantly parallel the Valentinian ascent which Tertullian derides in the whole of the tenth chapter of The Scorpion’s Sting, in which the souls of the dead are exposed to confession through trials and suffering as they ascend through the various levels of heaven. It does not necessarily follow from this that in The Scorpion’s Sting Tertullian was arguing against fully-fledged Valentinians, or for that matter, that Perpetua and Saturus were themselves Valentinians. Tertullian is polemicising against concepts and beliefs that he labels as Valentinian. In other words, it is entirely possible that the views represented in Perpetua may have represented a large proportion of the Christians at Carthage, and that these Christians would themselves have roundly rejected any affiliation with Valentinianism, and considered themselves entirely orthodox. However, Tertullian may well have seen it otherwise. Tertullian probably wrote On the Resurrection, as well as other works, in opposition to the views of Gnostics and Valentinians.83 Tertullian describes the Valentinians as ‘the most commonly encountered group amongst the heretics’ (frequentissimum plane collegium inter haereticos).84 Tertullian is therefore referring to a number of collegia among the ‘heretics.’ It is in this context that Charles Hill aptly remarks that ‘Tertullian knows Christian opponents… who are neither Valentinians… nor Marcionites,’ and who profess the doctrine ‘that the saved no longer need visit Hades but may ascend immediately to Christ’s heavenly presence at death.’85 However, while Hill seemingly refers to these opponents as ‘orthodox,’86 it is significant to note that Tertullian, from the perspective of the established patristic and apologetic tradition, refers to them as haereticos and ex apostatis veritatis.87 81

Perpetua, IV.2, 7. Perpetua, IV.2–3 (tr. Tilley, 390). 83 See Segal, Life After Death, 569. 84 Tertullian, Val., I.1, ed. Riley. 85 Hill, Regnum Caelorum, 31. 86 Ibid. 87 Tertullian, Val., I.1., ed. Riley. 82

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The labels of ‘Valentinian’ and ‘Gnostic’ therefore seem to be far too narrow to classify the views that Tertullian is opposing. The striking case in point is that The Scorpion’s Sting may also be viewed as being in polemical opposition to the views presented in the Passion of Perpetua, although Perpetua can hardly be called ‘Gnostic.’ It would seem that Tertullian is confronting popular views within North African Christianity that had common tendencies, of which Gnosticism and Valentinianism may merely have been easier to ‘label.’ Since Tertullian wrote five books refuting the views of Marcion, some mention should also be made of his teachings, which were probably included in the views that Tertullian attacks in On the Resurrection. It seems that Marcion’s views on resurrection had some close affinities with those of the Gnostics, with Tertullian commenting that Marcion enim in totum carnis resurrectionem non admittens et soli animae salutem repromittens.88 Aune included the followers of Marcion among those who understood the resurrection within the context of a realised eschatology.89 I. Did Tertullian Change His Views? Returning now to Tertullian’s own views, Charles Hill argues that both chiliastic and non-chiliastic beliefs, with their respective notions of being in heaven after a general eschatological resurrection, or immediately after death, arose equally early and coexisted within Christianity since earliest times.90 In his attempts to find non-chiliastic beliefs among the church fathers, Hill asserts that ‘in his earlier writings Tertullian himself had clung to the belief that all Christians go immediately to Christ in heaven at death.’91 Accordingly, he suggests that Tertullian adopted millennialism ‘well into his Christian life through conversion to Montanism,’92 and that ‘this would put his adoption of millennialism at perhaps roughly the same time as we find his new position on the intermediate state emerging.’93 The evidence that Hill adduces to support his assertion that in his earlier writings Tertullian ‘clung to the belief’ that all Christians go immediately to heaven at death is unconvincing. Hill emphasises Tertullian’s statement in the Apologeticum, where Tertullian wrote: Tertullian, Marc. V.10.3, ed. Evans, 570. On Marcion’s denial of the resurrection of the flesh, and the salvation of the soul alone, see Markus Vinzent, ‘Christ’s Resurrection: the Pauline Basis of Marcion’s Teaching,’ in StPatr XXXI (ed. Kurt Aland, Elizabeth Anne Livingstone, Frank L. Cross; Berlin, 1997), ‘Marcion’s Teaching,’ 225–33. 89 David Aune, The Cultic Setting of Realized Eschatology in Early Christianity, Supplements to Novum Testamentum 28 (Leiden: Brill, 1997), Realized Eschatology, 208. 90 Hill, Regnum Caelorum, 253. 91 Ibid., 29. 92 In support of this view, Hill (Regnum Caelorum, 31) cites Ermoni, 1901; Gry, 1904; Leclercq, 1933; Waszink, 1933; and Bardy, 1929. It is timely for these arguments to be reviewed and revised. 93 Hill, Regnum Caelorum, 31. 88

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[a]nd if we name Paradise, a place of divine beauty, reserved for the reception of the spirits of the holy [et si paradisum nominemus, locum divinae amoenitatis recipiendis sanctorum spiritibus destinatum] kept from the knowledge of this common world by a fiery zone as it were by a wall, - the Elysian fields are before us in capturing belief.94

In fact, this statement has nothing to say about the timing and manner of the entry of the spirits of the saints into Paradise. Surely, this passage should be understood within the context of Tertullian’s own explanation, in the same work, of how and when the righteous are to enter into their eternal reward. In this regard it should be noted that this same work, the Apology, is said by Hill to represent the ‘early’ Tertullian, before his views changed.95 Therefore, what is Tertullian’s view of the afterlife of the righteous as explained earlier in the Apology? Unambiguously, Tertullian explains that God, in order that when this world shall have come to an end [ut qui prodacto aevo] he may adjudge his worshippers to the reward of eternal life, and the irreligious to a fire no less continuous and lasting, having raised all those that have died from the beginning and given them a new form and called to an account for the recompense of each man's deserts. [suscitatis omnibus ab initio defunctis et reformatis et recensitis ad utriusque meriti dispunctionem.] We too once laughed at this [haec et nos risimus aliquando]…96

Tertullian therefore makes it clear that the resurrection, judgment, and allocation of rewards, including entry into eternal life, all occur ‘when this world shall have come to an end.’97 This passage in Apology 18 certainly implies that Tertullian changed his view of the afterlife, since he once used to laugh at what he now affirms. It is merely speculation to maintain that this is either a reference to Tertullian’s pre-Christian views, or a reference to a change in his views while he was already a Christian. However, there are important points against Hill’s argument. Firstly, the Apology cannot be seen as representing Tertullian’s views before he supposedly changed them, since he specifically tells us that he has already changed them. Secondly, his views in the Apology regarding the timing and manner of entry into heaven are precisely the same as in his other works, 94

Tertullian, Apol. XLVII.13 (tr. Glover, 210–1). Hill, Regnum Caelorum, 29–30. 96 Tertullian, Apol. XVIII.3–4 (trans. Arbesmann, Daly, and Quain; see Tertullian: Apologetical Works and Minucius Felix Octavius [Washington D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1950], 54). 97 Note also that for this passage, I am prefering Souter’s earlier translation (1917) to Arbesmann et al.’s, and for good reason. Arbesmann el al. (54) translate ut qui prodacto aevo as ‘after the present life is ended.’ However, Souter’s translation, ‘when this world shall have come to an end,’ has the weightier support of long line of scholarship, viz., Bindley (1890) ‘when the allotted time of this world has come to an end’; Thelwall (1869) ‘at the end of all’; Chevalier (1851) ‘at the end of the world’; Dodgson (1842) ‘when this world shall have been brought to an end’; and Reeve (1709) ‘at the last day.’ 95

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notably, in On the Soul. Hill also attempts to find evidence for Tertullian’s ‘earlier view’ in which he ‘clung to the belief” that all Christians ascend immediately to heaven after death, for example, in Tertullian’s remark nam quod est aliud uotum nostrum quam quod et apostoli, exire de saeculo et recipi apud dominum?98 In this reference to the desire that Paul’s expresses in 2 Cor 5:6–8, Tertullian actually does not inform us as to when the time will be that he will recipi apud dominum.99 In this context, Hill also points to De Exhortatione, where Tertullian refers to the case of a man whose first wife has died. Tertullian tells him that ‘the first wife you cannot hate, for whom you retain an even more religious affection, as being already received into the Lord's presence [ut iam receptae apud dominum]; for whose spirit you make request; for whom you render annual oblations [pro cuius spiritu postulas, pro qua oblationes annuas reddis].’100 Thelwall’s translation of the Latin ut iam receptae apud dominum is clearly to be preferred over Le Saint’s. Thelwall renders the phrase more literally, as ‘as being already received into the Lord’s presence,’101 whereas Le Saint renders it ‘now that she is secure in the Lord.’102 Finé considers that the statement that the wife is in the Lord’s presence is merely rhetorical, remarking that this is [e]ine logische Unklarheit, die sich villeicht am besten mit der Annahme erklärt, daß auch hier das apud dominum nur als rhetorische Staffage dient.103 The use of ut suggests that the husband treats the wife ‘as being already received into the Lord’s presence.’ Tertullian himself is not necessarily saying that he believes that she has already been received into the Lord’s presence; he is rather referring to the husband treating her as if she had already been received into the Lord’s presence. There is no evidence to suggest that Tertullian changed his views on the afterlife within the period during which he wrote. His understanding of the timing and manner of entry into heaven remained the same as reflected in On the Soul, with the exception that by the time he wrote this text he was able to present his views on the afterlife with much greater clarity than he had done previously.


Tertullian, Spect. XXVIII.5. This is the very same issue at the exegetical crux of Paul’s statement. 100 Tertullian, Exh. cast. XI.1 (tr. Thelwall, 56). 101 Tertullian, Exh. cast. XI.1 (tr. Thelwall, 56). So too Jean-Claude Fredouille (Exhortation a La Chasteté, Sources Chrétiennes 31 [Paris: Cerf, 1985], 107), who renders this as dans la mesure où elle est dèjá reçue auprès du Seigneur. 102 Tertullian, Exh. cast. (trans. William Le Saint; see Tertullian: Treatises on Marriage and Remarriage [Westminster: The Newman Press, 1956], 59). 103 Heinz Finé, Die Terminologie der Jenseitsvortstellungen bei Tertullian. Ein semasiologischer Beitrag zur Dogmengeschichte des Zwischenzustandes. Theophaneia 12 (Bonn: Peter Hanstein Verlag GMBH, 1958), 199. 99

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D. Conclusions Den Boeft and Ameling have recently highlighted the proximity in many areas between the Passion of Perpetua and the works of Tertullian,104 and particularly in terms of the language used.105 Robeck has also noted significant similarities of imagery and language between the passages in which Saturus describes the deaths of the martyrs in terms of having ‘gone forth from the flesh’106 and Tertullian’s On the Soul LIII.6.107 That there should be proximity is understandable, given that both Perpetua and Tertullian were products of the same period, the same location, and essentially the one religious community. So why should Tertullian differ so markedly from Perpetua on the particular issues around the nature of the afterlife of the righteous? The answer must lie in the historical fact, for which we have abundant evidence in Tertullian’s polemics, that there were differing views on eschatology, anthropology, and specifically on the fate of the dead, within the North African communities in the earlymid third century; and that furthermore, Tertullian and the authors of the Passion of Perpetua represented different perspectives on these issues, and that they were most likely in polemical conflict with each other. Given the differences between the authors of the Passion of Perpetua and Tertullian on these issues, it is hardly likely that Tertullian redacted the text of Perpetua. This chapter provides compelling reasons to believe that the authors of Perpetua and Tertullian belonged to significantly different traditions,108 particularly in terms of the afterlife. While Tertullian appears to follow the broad tradition of the afterlife held by the earlier Fathers and apologists, Perpetua appears to represent another tradition allowing Christians to ascend immediately to heaven after death. It is also worth noting that in spite of Daley’s assessment, it was Tertullian who ‘really laid the foundation for Latin Christendom’s doctrine of ‘the last things,’’ and perhaps the tradition represented by the Passion of Perpetua was much more widespread than the extant literary evidence suggests. Certainly, the Passion of Perpetua was, above all, a popular text, as was demonstrated in Chapter 2, and one which the church authorities found subversive for many centuries. The dichotomy being postulated and developed here, and which will be developed further, is not between educated, literary Christianity and uneducated Christianity, but between the specific tradition of the resurrection of the body, and a popular ideology that emphasised the immediate as104

Den Boeft, ‘aedificationem ecclesiae,’ 176; and Ameling, ‘Liberaliter Instituta,’ 100. See the table in Ameling, ‘Liberaliter Instituta,’ 100. 106 Perpetua, IV.1 (tr. Dysinger). Note also Tilley’s translation (393): ‘We left our bodies.’ Robeck, Prophecy, 72, calls this ‘a clearly Platonic clause.’ 107 Robeck, Prophecy, 73–4. 108 Weinrich (Spirit and Martyrdom, 241) comes to the same conclusion, based on a comparison of attitudes to women and marriage in relation to martyrdom in both texts, as well as the erroneous comments made by Tertullian in An. LV.4. 105

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cent of the soul. In the next chapter, the practice and ideology of refrigerium, an example of the way in which popular Roman customs influenced popular Christian practice, will be explored.

Chapter 6

Refrigerium and the Roman Cult of the Dead in the Passion of Perpetua A. Introduction To this point, we have explored the background of the Passion of Perpetua largely in terms of ideologies that scholars have traditionally assumed exterted some influence over the text. We have focused on the canonical Scriptures, as well as the Jewish apocalyptic literature. However, there is another ideological background which is powerfully pervasive throughout the text, and which in the past has perhaps been overlooked. This has been alluded to in the discussion of the ascent motif in antiquity. The evidence to be considered here suggests that the Passion of Perpetua is embued with the concepts of the cult of the dead in North African Christianity in the early third century. For this reason, an understanding of the cult of the dead is important in order to appreciate the purpose and meaning of the text itself. In essence, a new contextual frame is being proposed for this important text. When read within this historical setting, the Passion of Perpetua reflects an active, pervasive, and unapologetic belief and participation in the cult of the dead by at the very least a significant component of the Christian community of Carthage. Vibia Perpetua herself ‘had grown up in a perfectly average Roman elite family.’1 In the text, she is described as belonging to the elite, and as being well educated and properly married. (honeste nate, liberaliter instituta, matronaliter nupta.)2 As such, the proper care for the cult of the dead would have been one of the most deeply engrained values in her upbringing.3


Bremmer, ‘Authenticity,’ 93. Perpetua, II.1. 3 Regina Gee, ‘From Corpse to Ancestor: The Role of Tombside Dining in the Transformation of the Body in Ancient Rome,’ in The Materiality of Death: Bodies, Burials, Beliefs (ed. Fredrik Fahlander and Terje Oestigaard; Oxford: Archaeopress, 2008), 67. 2

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B. The Archaeological Context: What the Literary Evidence May Not Tell Us Rives observes that in Roman Carthage, people actively speculated about their own mortality: ‘a number of epitaphs use the phrase ‘eternal security’, while in two epitaphs, the ‘gods of security’ are substituted for the more normal Di Manes.’4 Notions of astral immortality are also evident in North African epitaphs. Accordingly, Rives reports that ‘a woman from Mactar named Julia Modesta included in her epitaph a seven-line poem in hexameters, in which she asserts that ‘because I have always lived in a pious body, I myself by the law of the gods inhabit the gentle Elysian fields of Proserpina and aloft have known the sun and stars.’5 Rives notes the literary echoes of Virgil in this epitaph, and considers that this particular imagery suggests ‘a genuine religious conception.’6 This same epitaph also reveals ‘an opposition between the celestial afterlife in the lines quoted and the gloomy underworld mentioned in the lines that immediately precede them.’7 This kind of contrast is also displayed by a number of similar epitaphs.8 In relation to how the afterlife ideology of the Passion of Perpetua fits with the material remains of North Africa, Testard rightly notes that [a]près la philologie proprement dite, la discipline des études classiques la plus intéressée par ce texte est l'archéologie.9 Testard proceeds to examine the archaeological remains of the buildings of ancient Carthage in terms of the events that the text describes.10 However, beyond the actual physical remains of localities and buildings mentioned in the text, there is another level that illustrates the ideology expressed in the text. As Bremmer points out, it may not be merely chance that the visions in the Passion of Perpetua derive from North Africa.11 There are more funerary inscriptions from Africa that focus on the afterlife than in either Rome or Italy.12 Verhaeghe-Pikhaus emphasises the significance of this, noting that this is ‘fait remarquable, étant donné qu'aucune province n'égale la capitale de l'Empire


Rives, Roman Carthage, 191, citing ILS 6060, 8026. Rives, Roman Carthage, 192. 6 Ibid. 7 Ibid. 8 Ibid. 9 Testard, ‘Passion,’ 60. 10 Ibid., 60–62. 11 Bremmer, ‘Early Christian Afterlife,’ 100. 12 Paul-Albert Février, ‘La Tombe chrétienne et l’au-delà,’ in Le Temps Chrétien de la Fin de l’Antiquité au Moyen-Age (Paris: Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, 1984) ,171–174. 5

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quant au nombre total d'épitaphes métriques.'13 Jan Bremmer suggests, however, that this is in line with the fact that ‘in Africa there was more attention to the cult of the dead, even in Christian circles, than in Italy.’14 Specifically in terms of North African Christianity, Frend observes not only that it was characterised by the cult of the martyrs, but that it also “reflected the hopes of the great majority of Christians for their salvation and their continued life beyond the grave.”15 Ramsay MacMullen, in his work The Second Church, points out the limitations of the literary evidence with regard to early Christianity. He argues that the literary evidence tends to only represent ‘that upper stratum among the Christian population who controlled the written record, almost every one a bishop, from among whom later centuries would make choice of the most perfect thinkers and stylists, to preserve them to the present… So the cream rose to the top; the privileged and… elite spoke for all.’16 It is precisely this phenomenon that has perhaps hindered our appreciation the Passion of Perpetua. Critical aspects of this text may have been obscured both by its interpretation and sacral use since the earliest days. By considering archaeology and built structures, MacMullen’s research particularly highlights the pervasiveness, across the breadth of the early Christian communities, of the traditional rituals associated with the cult of the dead.17 It is these rituals for the dead, and especially in the context of the cult of the martyrs, 13 D. Verhaeghe-Pikhaus, ‘La Repartition Géographique de Quelques Themes de la Poésie Funéraire Latine,’ in Akten des VI Internationalen Kongresses fur Griechische und Lateinische Epigraphic (1972), 414. 14 Bremmer, ‘Early Christian Afterlife,’ 100. 15 W. H. C. Frend, ‘The North African Cult of the Martyrs: From Apocalyptic to Heroworship.’ in Jenseitsvorstellungen in Antike und Chrisentum: Gedenkschrift für Alfred Stuiber, Jahrbuch für Antike und Christentum Ergänzungsband 9 (edited by Alfred Stuiber, Münster Westfallen: Aschendorffsche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1982), 167. 16 MacMullen, Second Church, xi–xii. 17 Ibid., 51. See also ibid., xii and 57. The implications of MacMullen’s thesis are farreaching, and the evidence he puts forward still needs to be given its due weight. However, even if his characterisation of early Christianity can be shown to be limited, say, to thirdcentury North Africa, the conclusions of this present research are not compromised. MacMullen’s thesis tends to align with Walter Bauer’s view that diversity was so characteristic of early Christianity that there was no such thing as ‘orthodoxy,’ and that in fact heresy preceded orthodoxy. Bauer’s thesis, recently championed by Bart Ehrman (e.g., in Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003]), has not been without challenge; for a strong recent refutation, see Andreas Köostenberger and Michael Kruger, Orthodoxy. While I agree that for many reasons the term ‘orthodoxy’ has too many methodological problems to be useful to the historian, Bauer’s thesis oversimplifies historical reality by ignoring aspects of continuity and unity in early Christianity. This present research deals only with a specific issue, principally focusing on the third century, and beyond illustrating the complex nature of early Christianity, it does not seek to necessarily inform the debate over Bauer’s thesis.

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that are of particular interest in connection with the Passion of Perpetua. Augustine’s statement, made in A.D. 404, is striking. He writes: ‘is not Africa also full of the bodies of holy martyrs?’ (Numquid non et Africa sanctorum martyrum corporibus plena est?)18 Quasten was certainly correct when he remarked that one of the most characteristic features of Christian Africa was ‘an exceptionally developed martyr-cult.’19 Tertullian’s report of the agitation of the pagan population about the cemeteries in relation to Christians, in which the pagans cry out, ‘An end to the cemeteries!’20 is both revealing and tantalising with regard to the relationship that the Christian communities had with their dead. The statement reveals that the pagan population in the early-mid third century had issues with the Christians in relation to the cemeteries. However, it is not so easy to specifically identify what these issues were. It may be that these same objections are reflected in Tertullian’s report of a ‘hostile mob’ desecrating Christian tombs, which was apparently not uncommon.21 What were these areae that were the subject of this dispute? Decret’s view that these were cemeteries ‘where only Christians could be buried’22 is reasonable within the textual context. As such, this seems to be a reference to the beginnings of Christian cemeteries in Carthage. To put this in context, the evidence for the development of Christian cemeteries from pagan ones is ‘both ample and widespread,’ and is clearly evident, for example, in the great Christian cemetery at Tipasa, which was already in existence as a pagan cemetery in the third century.23 It is reasonable to infer that the concern of the pagan population was with the beginnings of specifically Christian burial grounds, probably within the boundaries of already-existing cemeteries. A more specific indication may possibly stem from a little after Tertullian’s time. In the Acta Purgationis Felicis, a pagan mayor, speaking to the Christians, refers to the cemeteries as the places ‘where you all make your prayers.’ [in


Augustine, Letter 78.3 (tr. J. Cunningham; see vol. 1 of A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series [ed. Philip Schaff; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956], 346). 19 Johannes Quasten, ‘‘Vetus Superstitio et nova Religio’: The Problem of Refrigerium in the Ancient Church of North Africa,’ HTR 33 (October 1940): 254. 20 MacMullen’s translation in Second Church, 52. Thelwall’s translation is paraphrased here, and does not follow the Latin closely. Thelwall’s translation has Tertullian reporting that ‘there had been some agitation about places of sepulture for our dead, and the cry arose, “No areae-no burial-grounds for the Christians!”’ (cum de areis sepulturarum nostrarum acclamassent: 'Areae non sint!) See Tertullian, Scap. III.1 (tr. Thelwall, 105–8). 21 Tertullian, Apol. XXXVII.2 (tr. Glover, 168–9). 22 Decret, North Africa, 17. 23 Mark Johnson, ‘Pagan-Christian Burial Practices of the Fourth Century: Shared Tombs?’ JTS 5 (1997): 50.

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areis ubi orationes facitis.]24 Referring to early Christianity generally, MacMullen reports that it was indeed in the cemeteries that ‘Christians were commonly known to foregather, and Christianity was indeed seen to have its being.’25 These gatherings were not merely peripheral to the Christian communities. Rather, as the Acta Purgationis Felicis suggests, it was in the cemeteries where the early Christian communities worshipped.26 In this regard, Koepping comments paradoxically that ‘[t]he cemetery, the place of the dead, was equally the place of the living.’27 Considering the statement in Acta Purgationis Felicis 5, we may speculate that the objection was not, or perhaps not merely, that the Christians buried their dead in the cemeteries, but moreso that they congregated there in large numbers to practice their rituals for their dead within the context of their worship. The earliest material and epigraphic evidence for refrigerium and the cult of the dead within North African Christianity is only datable to the late 3rd century. This is the Christian inscription on the mensa at Ain-Kebira (ancient Satafis in Mauretania Sitifiensis), dated precisely to 299 C.E., ninety-six years after Perpetua’s death, dedicated to the deceased Aelia Secundula by her children. The inscription clearly describes ‘the serving of foods, the placing of cups, and the spreading of cushions for the meal at the tomb, in other words, the funeral banquet.’28 The first part of the inscription is as follows: Memoria Aeliae Secundulae. Funeri mu[l]ta quid[e]m condigna iam misimus omneS, Insuper ar[a]equ[e] deposte Secundulae matrI Lapideam placuit nobis atponere mensaM,

24 Acta Purgationis Felicis 5 (tr. Edwards, 174). See also Ramsay MacMullen and Eugene Lane, Paganism and Christianity: 100–425 C.E.: A Sourcebook (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992), 243. 25 Ramsay MacMullen, ‘Christian Ancestor Worship at Rome,’ JBL 129 (2010): 600. 26 This is maintained by Decret, North Africa, 17. More broadly, this is indeed MacMullen’s persuasive thesis in Second Church, on the basis of his careful calculation that the vast majority of the Christian population could not have been accommodated in the city basilicas across the Empire. 27 Elizabeth Koepping, Food, Friends, and Funerals: On Lived Religion (Berlin: Münster Lit, 2008), 33. 28 Quasten, ‘Refrigerium,’ 257. The question of whether this inscription is Christian is of considerable bearing to the questions being dicussed here. It has certainly been considered Christian from the early twentieth century, and has continued to be generally considered so by modern scholars. MacMullen (Second Church, 58), for example, considers that ‘[t]he dedicants are Christians… in the old style.’ Parallels may also be made between the practices described in the Aelia Secundula inscription and the physical and epigraphic remains of Christian ritual meals in the catacombs of Rome. On this, see Eastman, Paul the Martyr, 75–84. Not all scholars, however, are convinced. François Decret (North Africa, 94), for example, remarks that Aelia Secundula was ‘certainly pagan.’

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In qua magna eius memorantes plurima factA, Dum cibi ponuntur calicesq[ue]. E[i] copertaE…29

MacMullen therefore writes that dining rooms were ‘a common feature in cemeteries. In these, the dead could be lovingly recalled in family picnics at burial sites… The sacrophagi of the deceased had holes and pipes to carry libations to them, making them participants. They still lived, in a way…’30 However, these practices were not restricted to pagans. Koepping does not equivocate about this, asserting that ‘[t]he pre-Constantinian church was… predicated on the sharing of food with the dead.’31 In this regard, MacMullen notes the prevalence of ‘funeral’ or ‘cemetery churches’32 in the third and fourth centuries, whose ‘size and number draw attention to the popularity of memorial rites for the dead’ and which progressively embraced the local martyrs resulting from the persecutions.33 These churches were typically crowded with burials, both within the church and in their surrounds, as the dead seemingly jockeyed for the best position within and without.34 Lest it be thought that this was an unusual, or merely North African, phenomenon, MacMullen has demonstrated that these cemetery churches, typically outside the cities, were the norm throughout the empire, far outnumbering the ‘in-city’ churches.35 MacMullen’s detailed survey of the material remains of early Christian churches across the empire demonstrates that ‘we are obliged to assume gigantic numbers of the faithful who exercised their religion only at the tombside, al fresco… There was no room for them inside any existing church walls.’36 Macullen refers to the ‘cemetery churches,’ outside the walls of the cities, as ‘roofed-over burial grounds.’37 These were buildings that were in time built in the cemeteries, and were indeed cemeteries themselves. As to why this was the case, MacMullen contends that ‘[t]he certain only answer is ancestor worship, to which the worship of the saints had been grafted on.’38 The calendar of the martyrs’ celebrations was commemorated with sacrifices, which Jensen pre29 The inscription is found and discussed in Franz Joseph Dölger, ‘Darstellung einer Totenspende mit Fisch auf einer christlichen Grabverschlußplatte aus der Katakombe Pietro e Marcellino in Rom,’ in Antike und Christentum 2, Kultur und religiongeschichtliche Studien Band 2 (Aschendorff: Verlag Aschendorff Münster, 1930), 91. 30 MacMullen, Second Church, 24. 31 Koepping, Food, 33. 32 MacMullen, Second Church, 52. 33 Ibid., 53. 34 This is very graphically illustrated by the schematic of the St. Salsa cemetery, basilica, and chapel, found in MacMullen, Second Church, 64. 35 Consider also the archaeological evidence put forward by MacMullen (‘Ancestor Worship,’ 601) with regard to Rome from AD 312. 36 Ibid., 608. 37 MacMullen, Second Church, 104–5. 38 MacMullen, ‘Ancestor Worship,’ 610.

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sumes also included the Eucharist39 and a banquet. This may account for the great importance that the North African Christians gave to the practice of recording and commemorating the day of the martyrs’ deaths.40 Cemetery churches and the shrines of the saints were well equipped with banqueting facilities for pilgrims.41 This points towards the accuracy of MacMullen’s characterisation of African Christendom as ‘very much a thing of memorial worship, and therefore most active and vital among the dead.’42 He calls communion with the dead by their families, and with the martyrs by believers a ‘mass phenomenon.’43 This also determined the shape of worship itself. MacMullen observes that the evidence compels us to acknowledge the ‘party atmosphere’ of these graveside rituals.44 As MacMullen remarks, ‘[w]hatever else they did, worshippers in a martyr church or chapel ate and drank as Christians had been doing at graves and shrines since the second century. Eating and drinking was worship.’45 MacMullen notes that in what must be the earliest inscription to tell us about African martyr-cult, the devout are told: ‘[here is] the mensa of Januarius the martyr. Drink up, live long!’46 Accordingly, ‘[p]eople enjoyed music in their celebrations of the dead, and even danced.’47 However, ‘this was not just picnicking. This was religion.’48 Furthermore, these festivities were not frugal affairs at all.49 It is significant that as far as the physical remains of the mensae (funerary tables) are concerned, the non-Christian are not distinguished from the Christian. Similarly, Christian mensae are not distinguished from the altar-tables intended for the martyrs, so that ‘the practices and the underlying beliefs appear identical.’50 There appears to be ‘an unbroken flow of belief and practice across all

39 Robin Jensen, ‘Dining with the Dead: From the Mensa to the Altar in Christian Late Antiquity,’ in Commemorating the Dead: Texts and Artifacts in Context: Studies of Roman, Jewish, and Christian Burials (ed. Laurie Brink and Deborah Green; Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2008), 134. 40 Cyprian, Letter 12. 41 Jensen, ‘Dining with the Dead,’ 128. 42 MacMullen, Second Church, 63. 43 Ibid. 44 Ibid., 58. 45 Ibid. 46 This inscription is found in Michael White, Texts and Monuments for the Domus Ecclesiae, vol. 2 of The Social Origins of Christian Architecture Harvard Theological Studies No. 42 (Valley Forge: Trinity Press, 1997), and is dated from 309–34 (White, Texts and Monuments, 240). The translation is from MacMullen, Second Church, 57. 47 MacMullen, Second Church, 61. Note Augustine, Letter 29.9–11; Enarrat. Ps. 32.1.5; 32.5; and Serm. 311.5. 48 MacMullen, ‘Ancestor Worship,’ 603. 49 See Lucian, Char. 17–22, C–H. See also Petronius, Sat. 65–6. 50 MacMullen, ‘Ancestor Worship,’ 606.

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these several manifestations of piety; all alike within the world of the masses and tradition.’51 Février also notes this continuity, commenting that: Surtout le lien si étroit et qui n'est pas seulement formel entre art profane et images de tombes chrétiennes incite è restituer des pratiques communes, voire des répresentations voisines nècessaires á la survie du défunt. J'ai suffisamment insisté, par le passé, sur la réalité de la pratique du repas, attestée par l'archéologie.52

This brings us to the important question of how to define the term ‘cult of the dead,’ central to this present research. The anachronistic assumption that the ‘cult of the dead’ means ‘worshipping the dead’ or ‘praying to the dead’ is methodologically flawed.53 It is clear that there was, in Roman culture, even outside the emperor-cult, some notion of the deification of the dead; and there is also evidence that one’s dead ancestors and relatives were called upon for favours. However, this was not the core purpose of the cult of the dead, which is succinctly expressed by Jocelyn Toynbee: [t]he Roman cult of the departed, whether public or private, had a double purpose: it provided that the dead survived in the memories of relatives, descendants, and friends; and it also sought to ensure, through the medium of devout attention to their mortal relics in the tomb, comfort, refreshment, and perennial renewal of life to their immortal spirits.54

The achievement of this purpose was expressed through the rituals and customs associated with the burial and commemoration of the dead, which are described in detail by Toynbee.55 The purpose of the Roman cult of the dead may be understood to be conceptually common to the pagan population, the Christian cult of the dead, as well as the Christian cult of the martyrs. As a result, it should not be surprising that the established rituals associated with the Roman cult of the dead were attractive to Christians, providing both the notion of a ritual calendar, and a symbolic language that was understood by all in society. In spite of its ‘unorthodoxy’ in the eyes of some ancient bishops or modern students of Christian history, the cult of the dead within Christianity was not solely a North African phenomenon; it appears to have been extremely widespread. MacMullen observes that within the Roman Empire, ‘[e]very province contributes to the evidence for this cult of the dead within Christianity… The proof is before us in stone.’ 56 One of the key bases for this cult was the Roman practice of refrigerium, a practice that is well attested throughout the empire.57 Indeed, Johannes Quasten referred to the way in which the early Church pre51

MacMullen, Second Church, 50. Février, Tombe Chrétienne, 165. 53 This is an assumption that is easy to make from the standpoint of Christian theology. 54 Jocelyn Toynbee, Death and Burial in the Roman World (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1996), 61–2. 55 Ibid., 43–72. 56 MacMullen, Second Church, 104–5. 57 Toynbee, Death and Burial, 51. 52

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served the custom of refrigerium, and in time replacing it with the funeral mass, as ‘a masterpiece of accommodation.’58 As evidence for the practice of the rituals associated with refrigerium, MacMullen highlights an example in the fourth-century basilica at Timgad, where there is a sarcophagus with a wine-strainer in a carved-out lip on the lid, which communicates through a tube down to the mouth of the corpse.59 MacMullen further illustrates the relevant practices by mentioning the occurrence of libation tubes and mensae in African graveyards: ‘[n]on-Christian burials with cooking and eating vessels found in fragments around them show the models and earlier generations that lay behind the later Christian practices.’60 Indeed, there is no difference in the occurrence or nature of libation tubes and mensae in African graveyards between non-Christian and Christian burials.61 Andrew McGowan comments that ‘[c]lear indications of Christian funerary meals distinct from other eucharists are few and far between until the fourth century.’62 While this is correct, we should not advance an argument from silence to the effect that they were rare or non-existent before the fourth century. As we have seen, as a popular phenomenon, the evidence for funerary meals is not likely to be prominent in the literary evidence. We could certainly expect them to be manifest in the material remains of burials, as they are in the great fourth-century Christian cemeteries (funerary churches) of Tipasa, Sitifis, and Kelibia.63 But there is an obvious reason why they are not apparent earlier in the material remains: before this time, we do not have the remains of specifically Christian cemeteries or burials, and Christian and pagan burials are not able to be ideologically distinguished in North Africa. Andrew McGowan considers that the evidence suggests that ‘funerary and commemorative meals had long been celebrated by Christians more or less in imitation of pagan models, but had been a matter of private and familial action rather than the public and corporate practice of the Christian communities as such.’64 However, he prefers the view that this is a ‘rather late, and localized phenomenon.’65 The weight of the evidence supports something more akin to the former proposition, and when the breadth of MacMullen’s analysis of funerary churches throughout the entire empire is also taken into account, overwhelmingly so. 58

Quasten, ‘Refrigerium,’ 257. MacMullen, Second Church, 59,131. 60 Ibid., 59. 61 Ibid. 62 Andrew McGowan, Ascetic Eucharists: Food and Drink in Early Christian Ritual Meals, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1999), 135. 63 MacMullen, Second Church, 59. 64 McGowan, Asthetic Eucharists, 135–6. Note, however, that David Eastman observes that a ‘sharp dichotomy between the familial and the cultic does not hold up… These meals could be both at the same time.’ (Eastman, Paul the Martyr, 81.) 65 Ibid., 136. 59

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In terms of literary evidence, we need only consider Augustine’s remark that it had been her mother’s custom in Africa to take food offerings to share at the shrines of the saints on their memorial days.66 Referring to a generation before Augustine, this strongly suggests a custom that was neither localised nor late. At least, Augustine tells us that this was a custom that was practised in Africa, and that had also been recently forbidden in Milan. Such customs take time to develop. Neither are long-established customs easy to suppress or ignore. Even stronger evidence is Augustine’s report of the typical reaction of the Christians when he attempted reforms in this regard. The people complained on the basis of why it was that the practices associated with refrigerium were being prohibited now, asking: Quare modo? Non enim, antea qui haec non prohibuerunt, christiani non errant.67 This is a relevant question indeed; undoubtedly, the practices associated with refrigerium had been long established by the time the bishops set about suppressing the Christian celebrations associated with the cult of the dead. This supports the view that the pre-Augustinian leaders of the North African church either saw nothing amiss in the Christian practice of refrigerium, or else chose to tolerate it, presumably on the basis of its entrenched nature. In Susan Stevens’ study of 5th–7th-century Christian cemeteries in Carthage, she observes that the strength of the Roman roots of the communities represented is still evident even at this late stage.68 The cemeteries studied all ‘reflect a conformity to tradition at each site that can be taken as evidence of a distinctive collective identity.’69 Even this late in antiquity, there is still a shared ideology of burials that challenges the models proposed for classifying burials as either Christian and non-Christian.70 Returning now to the earlier period in question, it is therefore no wonder that Sardella emphasises the essential similarities between the Christian cult of the martyrs and the traditional, pagan cult of the dead, observing that [a]ncora in età ciprianea il culto dei martiri no si differenzia sostanzialmente da quello dei morti, se non in solennità ed estensions, perché il primo è ancora un culto familiare, il secondo è un culto comune alla Chiesa locale ma, sostanzialmente, i due culti sono ancora identici.71 The fact that we only have Christian funerary evidence in North Africa from a later period, after Perpetua, is striking and significant in itself. The reason ma66

Augustine, Conf. VI.2. Augustine, Letter 29.9. 68 Susan Stevens, ‘Commemorating the Dead in the Communal Cemeteries of Carthage,’ in Commemorating the Dead: Texts and Artifacts in Context: Studies of Roman, Jewish, and Christian Burials (ed. Laurie Brink and Deborah Green; Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2008), 103. 69 Ibid., 81. 70 Ibid., 80. 71 Sardella, ‘Strutture,’ 259, n.1. See, similarly, Decret, North Africa, 95. 67

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terial evidence for the cult of the dead within Christianity in North Africa does not appear before the very late third century would seem to be not because Christians were not buried, but rather because they had not begun to distinguish their burials from non-Christian burials, as in later times. It was in the period shortly after Perpetua that specifically Christian cemeteries started to emerge.

C. Refrigerium: The State of Play Refrigerium is commonly understood to be the Roman belief in the ‘refreshment’ of the dead; however, beyond simplistic observations such as this, the meaning of the term is quite vague. Before we proceed to discuss the evidence for refrigerium and its ideology in the Passion of Perpetua, the scholarly state of play on the meaning of refrigerium in the Roman world generally, and within Christianity specifically, should be taken into account. This state of play is best illustrated by the work of Dagmar Hofmann, in an important article that attempts to understand the meaning of the concept of refrigerium.72 This follows the work of Christine Mohrmann, who, in her exploratory article, noted that the term ont reçu un sens technique chrétien bien defíni. 73 The issue was, and remains, to identify what this well-defined technical sense was. More particularly for this present research, exactly how different this ‘Christian’ sense was from the ‘non-Christian’ sense is also important. Hofmann’s own investigation commences by noting that the term refrigerium is largely unknown in the classical Latin literature.74 As far as Christian remains are concerned, Hofmann observes that the term refrigerium and its corresponding verbal forms also appear in numerous Christian grave inscriptions and graffiti.75 She cites Deske Weiland as cataloguing 58 such inscriptions, of which 45 are from the catacombs of Rome, six from the rest of Italy, five from Africa, and two from Gaul.76 Hofmann also importantly observes that this distribution corresponds approximately to the distribution of Christian inscriptions in the Roman Empire as a whole.77 The majority of the datable ‘refrigerium’ Christian 72 Dagmar Hofmann, ‘„Der Ort der Erfrischung“: Refrigerium in der fruhchristlichen Literatur und Grabkultur,’ in Topographie des Jenseits. Studien zur Geschichte des Todes in Kaiserzeit und Spätantike (ed. Walter Ameling), Altertumswissenschaftliches Kolloquium 21 (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2011), 103. Also Christine Mohrmann in ‘Locus Refrigerii,’ in L’Ordinaire de la Messe: Texte critique, Traduction et Études (ed. Bernard Botte and Christine Mohrmann), Études Liturgiques 2 (Paris; Louvain: Les Editions du Cerf, 1953), 123–32. 73 Mohrmann, ‘Locus Refrigerii,’ 123 74 Hofmann, ‘Ort der Erfrischung,’ 103. 75 Ibid., 111. 76 Deske Weiland, ‘Vorstellungen von Tod und Jenseits in den frühchristlichen Grabinschriften der Oikumene,’ Antiquité tardive 15 (2007), 286. 77 Hofmann, ‘Ort der Erfrischung,’ 112.

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inscriptions date from before the fourth century.78 Indeed, Hofmann’s view is that references to the resurrection and to eternal life are lacking in the third century, and they increase greatly in the fourth century, when references to refrigerium significantly lessen.79 Hofmann suggests that this may represent an evolution from the idea of an interim state, characterised by refrigerium, to immediate resurrection after death (direkten Auferstehung nach dem Tod).80 The key question that she attempts to address is how this trend can be reconciled with the literary tradition of early Christianity.81 Hofmann’s interpretation of the funerary evidence is both valid and insightful. However, it should still be treated with caution, because of the significant difficulties noted earlier with regard to correlating funerary inscriptions with actual beliefs about the afterlife. It is worth noting here that although earlier scholars, such as Lattimore, did not focus specifically on the epigraphic evidence for refrigerium, Hofmann’s observation that there is a significant emphasis, from the fourth century onwards, on immediate eternal life for the righteous still broadly supports their findings. Hofmann notes that the quantity of Christian refrigerium inscriptions in the third century has led researchers to try to find connections with the notion of refrigerium in the work of Tertullian,82 although these connections have been quite elusive. Indeed, Hofmann acknowledges the difficulties in attempting to correlate the funerary inscriptions with the works of Tertullian, namely daß es kaum möglich ist, die Vorstellungen in der Literatur und der Grabkunst auf einen gemeinsamen Ursprung zurückzuführen, geschweige denn einen direkten Einfluß Tertullians.83 This present research suggests that the reason for this is because Tertullian belongs to a significantly different tradition about the afterlife, in key respects opposed to popular Christian notions of refrigerium both as a concept and as a practice. We should certainly expect to see some commonality between popular Christian notions of refrigerium, and Tertullian’s idea of refrigerium interim. However, we should also note the key differences between these two different understandings of the afterlife, and these will be subsequently explored in more detail in this present work. Hofmann makes the point that on the Christian funerary inscriptions, the notion of refrigerium as honouring the dead through banquets and such, and the notion of refrigerium as an otherworldly state, are related much more closely


Ibid. Ibid. 80 Ibid. 81 Ibid. 82 Ibid., 114–5. 83 Ibid., 115. Interestingly, Hofmann (ibid.) also highlights that the idea of ‘sleep’ in connection with refrigerium appears frequently in the inscriptions, although this connection is missing in the literature of early Christianity. 79

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than has previously been assumed.84 Consequently, it is not possible to maintain that, in these inscriptions, refrigerium refers purely to an eschatological notion.85 Having discussed the funerary inscriptions, Hofmann then considers the artistic representations of refrigerium on the sarcophagi. She concludes that: Auch hier ist eine Komplexität an Vorstellungen und entsprechenden Bildern, allegorisch wie real interpretierbar, möglich und offenbar sogar nötig.86 The complexity of ideas on the sarcophagi therefore begs an interpretation. However, this has eluded scholars due to the lack of understanding of the ideology of refrigerium.

D. Refrigerium in the Passion of Perpetua If we accept that the Passion of Perpetua represents a popular Christian ideology, then it is reasonable to look within the text for allusions, or even references, to the North African cult of the dead, and in particular to refrigerium. Dagmar Hofmann rightly identifies the water in Perpetua’s vision of Dinocrates as a reference to refrigerium.87 However, I would beg to differ from Hofmann’s remark that it is only in Perpetua’s vision of Dinocrates that refrigerium is dealt with in the text.88 I. Cheese/Milk Andrew McGowan has made the point that ‘Perpetua’s visions all involve eating and drinking.’89 This should not be seen as mere coincidence. In her first vision, she sees God in the form of a white-haired man (hominem canum), sitting, dressed as a shepherd (in habitu pastoris) and milking sheep (oves mulgentem). Perpetua recounts: Et clamauit me, et de caseo quod mulgebat dedit mihi quasi buccellam, et ego accepi iunctis manibus, et manducaui: et uniuersi circumstantes dixerunt, Amen. Et ad sonum uocis experta sum, conmanducans adhuc dulce nescio quid.90 He called me over and gave me the cheese he milked, just enough for a small mouthful. I took it in my cupped hands, and ate it, and everyone around standing said: ‘Amen.’ I woke up at the sound of their voices, still tasting something sweet, which I could not identify.91


Ibid. Ibid. 86 Ibid., 120. 87 Hofmann, ‘Ort der Erfrischung,’ 108. This was earlier identified by Christine Mohrmann (see ‘Locus Refrigerii,’ 129). 88 Ibid. 89 McGowan, ‘Eucharistic Meals.’ See Perpetua, IV.9–10; VIII.2; IX.8–9. 90 Perpetua, IV.9–10. Note that Manuscript C 3 has caseo de lacte (see Amat, Perpétue, 116). 85

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This is a pivotal passage, not only being the climax of this vision, but also the turning point of the narrative. Maureen Tilley accordingly writes that ‘Perpetua’s acceptance by the heavenly shepherd in her first dream had transformed her.’92 As soon as Perpetua awakens, she reports this vision to her brother, and et intelleximus passionem esse futuram: et coepimus nullam spem in saeculo habere.93 Bremmer draws parallels between this scene and the post-baptismal rites that Tertullian describes, in which after baptism, the newly initiated Christian received a mixture of milk and honey.94 The difficulty with this and similar views is that caseo directly translates as ‘cheese.’ Of course, Butler is quite supportive of the traditional translation of caseo as ‘cheese,’ since he is making a case for the Montanistic origins of the Passion of Perpetua, and is thus able to relate this scene to the eucharistic use of cheese that was attributed to Montanists by Epiphanius.95 There is, however, another explanation for this passage that appears to fit much better into the direct historical, and indeed textual, context of the text. In this regard, Maureen Tilley points us perhaps in the right direction, observing that ‘[g]iven Perpetua’s status as a recent convert and her social and educational status… the accent ought to be placed on eating food in another world as a way of ensuring one’s link to the world; for instance, Persephone / Prosperina eating pomegranate seeds in the Underworld linking her to her new home.’96 Indeed, in the narrative, the eating of the cheese certainly does have a linking effect. As we have intimated above, the lingering sweetness serves as a link for Perpetua between her heavenly existence after death (in vision though it may be), and the ‘physical’ world. On this basis, the suggestion may be made that the eating of the cheese is a direct and explicit reference to the practice of refrigerium, and would have been understood as such by the North African Christian communities. The cheese should be considered as one of the foods that


Perpetua, IV.9–10 (tr. Tilley, 390). Note that Musurillo’s translation of the last clause is preferable, to the effect that Perpetua awoke, ‘with the taste of something sweet still in my mouth.’ See Perpetua, IV.4 (tr. Musurillo, 113). 92 Tilley, ‘Perpetua,’ 847. 93 Perpetua, IV.10. 94 Bremmer, “Perpetua and her Diary,” 104. Tertullian refers to lactis et mellis concordiam praegustamus (Cor. III.3) In this regard see Marc. 1.XIV.3; and Scorp. I.12. 95 Butler, New Prophecy, 68,130. See Epiphanius, Pan. IXL.2.3, ‘Against Quintillianists.’ McGowan (Ascetic Eucharists, 95) comments that, ‘Epiphanius’ witness is too odd to be a convenient invention, yet his information amounts to very little evidence for the practice.’ 96 Tilley, ‘Perpetua,’ 387–8.

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formed part of an agape meal97 indeed, a love feast for the dead, and in this specific case, a glorious martyr. It is as a result of this event, in this vision, that Perpetua is transformed, and enjoys the powers that belonged to the martyrs. McGowan is right in observing that ‘[t]he interpretation given in the text itself seems to give the liturgical aspect of Perpetua’s experience an initatory character.’98 It is from the time that Perpetua eats of the cheese that she knows that she will be martyred, and in effect, she already ‘becomes’ a martyr. We see this clearly in Perpetua’s subsequent visions, dreams, and intercessory powers as a confessor,99 as well as in the subsequent focus on refrigerium in the text. It would appear to be no coincidence that milk products featured prominently in the foods and drinks that were served and left for the dead to enjoy on days commemorating the deaths of the departed,100 since these were common and valued. From early times, Hesiod describes the typical country fare as μάζα τ᾽ἀμολγαίη γάλα τ᾽αἰγῶν σβεννυμενάων.101 Virgil provides evidence that goat cheese cakes and goats’ milk were customarily used as sacrificial offerings. In Virgil’s Eclogue VII, he has Thyrsis say to Priapus, within the context of goat-herding: Sinum lactis et haec te liba, Priape, quotannis exspectare sat est.102 Augustine writes of his mother Monica that ‘[i]t had been her custom in Africa to take meal-cakes and bread and wine to the shrines of the saints on their memorial days (itaque cum ad memorias sanctorum, sicut in Africa solebat, pultes et panem et merum attulisset)… She used to bring her basket full of the customary offerings of food.’103 Pultes offers a broad range of translation possibilities, and MacMullen considers it to be best translated as ‘cheese-cakes.’104

97 Tabernee, Fake Prophecy, 359. Note that McGowan (Eucharistic Meals) cites Perpetua, XVII.1 in observing that the Greek word agape ‘was the actual name of the Carthaginian Christians’ communal meals.’ 98 McGowan, Ascetic Eucharists, 101. 99 Tabernee, Fake Prophecy, 177. See also Agape, Irene, and Chione, I.3. 100 See Charles Seignobos, History of Ancient Civilization (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1907), 188. McGowan (Ascetic Eucharists, 101) is perceptive in noting that the scenario in which Perpetua eats the cheese at the hand of the great shepherd ‘must owe something to the sacral meal practice with which Perpetua and her companions were familiar.’ However, the sacral meal referred to here may be the ritual meal for the dead, rather than what has been more traditionally understood as a eucharistic meal. 101 Hesiod, Op. 590; ed. Solmsen. M. L. West (Hesiod: Theogony, Works and Days [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988], 54) sees μάζα as referring to a milk cake; however, Apostolos Athanassakis (Theogony, Works and Days, and Shield [2nd ed; Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2004], 80) translates this as ‘bread.’ 102 Virgil, Ecl. VII.33 (ed. Mynors, 21). 103 Augustine, Conf. 6.II.2 (trans. R. Pine-Coffin; see Confessions [Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1961], 112; ed. de Labriolle, 118). 104 MacMullen, Second Church, 57.

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In the Apostolic Tradition, composed early in the third century and therefore roughly contemporary with Perpetua, Hippolytus of Rome mentions the offering of cheese [caseum] that believers made, as part of an eucharistic meal. Hippolytus specifies the words that the bishop is to say, namely: ‘[s]anctify this solidified milk [quoagulatum est], solidifying [conquaglans] us also unto Thy charity.’105 This suggests that at least in the early third century in Rome, cheese was understood as a symbol of the unity of the Christian community. From a Christian perspective, this also tends to suggests that it would have been a particularly appropriate offering to the dead as well, for after all, the celebration of the eucharist was closely associated with the banquets for the dead, which were fundamentally about community between the living and the dead. The suggestion that we view Perpetua’s eating of the cheese in heaven as a reflection in the belief in the refrigerium associated with the cult of the martyrs seems simpler and more reasonable than other interpretations, and it certainly fits better with what we know of contemporary culture in North Africa. Its clear use as a connection between this world and the next reinforces this suggestion, as well as the fact that Perpetua and her brother immediately associated this vision and its climax with martyrdom. II. Roses It is not mere coincidence that roses are mentioned twice in the vision of Saturus. Indeed, the first thing that catches the attention of the martyrs upon ascending to heaven is that factum est nobis spatium grande, quod tale fuit quasi uiridarium, arbores habens rosae… Altitudo arborum erat in modum cypressi…106 Furthermore, when Perpetua and Saturus speak to Optatus and Aspasius, they ‘took them over to one side in the garden under a rose tree’ (sub arbore rosae).107 It is also likely that it was the scent of the roses to which Saturus referred when he related, at the end of the vision, that uniuersi odore inenarrabili alebamur, qui nos satiabat. Tunc gaudens expertus sum.108 It should be noted that this occurred immediately after the recognition by the martyrs of many of their brothers and sisters in heaven. The uniuersi who are nourished by the

105 Hippolytus, Trad. ap. VI.2 (trans. Gregory Dix and Henry Chadwick; see The Treatise on The Apostolic Tradition of St Hippolytus of Rome, Bishop and Martyr [rev. ed.; London: The Alban Press, 1992], 10. 106 Perpetua, XI.5–6. Dysinger’s translation is to be preferred to Musurillo’s on this point, since Musurillo seems to distinguish between the rose bushes and the trees, so that it is the trees that are as tall as cypresses, rather than the rose bushes. However, in the Latin text, the arborum in XI.6 would appear to refer back to the arbores in XI.5, a point that Amat does not seem to observe in her own translation into French. See Perpetua, XI.6 (tr. Amat, 144). 107 Perpetua, XIII.4 (tr. Tilley, 394). 108 Perpetua, XIII.8.

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odore inenarrabili are therefore all of the dead who are in heaven, and not merely the martyrs. The offering of flowers, and particularly roses, at tombs was highly entrenched in Roman culture, and even associated with the founding stories of Rome. Accordingly, Virgil recounts how on the anniversary of the death of his father Anchises, Aeneas wreathed his head in myrtle, went to the tomb and poured ‘two ritual goblets, one each of pure wine’ and ‘fresh milk’ (duo lacte nouo) on the ground,109 and also threw down purpureosque iacit flores,110 ‘brilliant red roses―a rosatio, before saluting ‘the paternal shades.’’111 Turcan notes that the various elements of this offering, ‘the wine and milk (considered to feed the deceased), the flowers that associated him with the annual renewal of plant life, and symbolically (through the red of the roses) with invigorating blood, had to conform to custom.’112 The custom of offering of roses to the dead was so influential within Roman ritual, and the festival of the Rosalia113 became so widely spread, that as a result Chaniotis uses it as a prime example of the transfer of ritual throughout the Roman Empire.114 MacMullen likewise observes that ‘[w]herever Rome had sent out its colonizers, the Roses settled in with them; families or burial-club members gathered their bouquets and brought them to the graveside, there to sit down and eat and drink and remember.’115 We have, for example, the epitaph of a man who provided financially in his will for offerings in his memory on four annual occasions: his dies natales, the Rosalia, the Violaria, and the Parentalia (dies natalis sui et rosationis et violai et parentalia).116 Toynbee remarks that those who could afford it did indeed leave sums of money in their wills for the consumables needed for the cult of the dead, including ‘flowers of all kinds, particularly violets (violae) and roses (rosae, escae rosales).’117 Correspondingly, we also find that roses figure significantly in the North African funerary iconography, and Robin Jensen remarks

109 Virgil, Aen. V.78 (ed. Mynors, 14; trans. Sarah Ruden; see The Aeneid [New York: Yale University Press, 2008], 93). 110 Virgil, Aen. V.79. Ruden (93) translates this as ‘scattered purple flowers.’ Lee Fratantuono (Madness Unchained: A Reading of Virgil’s Aeneid [Lanham: Lexington Books, 2007], 135) suggests ‘purple flowers (violets perhaps).’ 111 Virgil, Aen. V.72-80 (trans. Robert Turcan, in The Gods of Ancient Rome [New York: Routledge, 2000], 30–1). 112 Turcan, Gods, 30–1. 113 Celebrated in May or June. 114 Angelos Chaniotis, ‘The Dynamics of Rituals in the Roman Empire,’ in Ritual Dynamics and Religious Change in the Roman Empire (ed. Olivier Hekster, Sebastian Schmidt-Hofner, and Christian Witschel; Leiden: Brill, 2009), 20. 115 MacMullen, Second Church, 37. 116 Inscriptiones Latinae Selectae 8366, ed. Dessau, 914, from Rome. 117 Toynbee, Death and Burial, 62.

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that these images most probably refer to the festival of the Rosalia.118 It does not appear to be a coincidence that Jerome subsequently refers to the martyrs as being crowned with ‘with roses and violets’ (rosis et violis).119 In the light of this cultural background, is it not suggestive that upon reaching heaven, Saturus and Perpetua are struck by the rose trees as tall as cypresses? Moreover, when they engage in dialogue with Optatus and Aspasius, it is specifically under a rose tree. The salient point here is that Optatus and Aspasius are clearly alive and on earth, while in vision, Saturus and Perpetua have suffered martyrdom and are in heaven. This is evident in that Optatus and Aspasius beg Saturus and Perpetua to make peace between them, complaining that ‘you have died and left us this way.’120 This dialogue between the living and the dead therefore takes place under one of the prime Roman symbols of community with the dead: under a covering of roses. Not surprisingly, scent, in the form of incense, was prominently used in the Roman cult of the dead.121 In Virgil’s Aeneid, for example, Aeneas offers ‘ritual flour and a full box of incense’122 (farre pio et plena supplex ueneratur acerra)123 to the ghost of the Trojan Lar.124 The use of incense also seems to have played a prominent role in the festival of the Feralia, from what can be ascertained from Ovid’s reference.125 During the Feralia, which was a public holiday, people visited the graves with gifts for the dead, and this festival ‘ended the cycle that had begun with the Parentalia nine days earlier.’126 In the Passion of Perpetua, it is notable that it is the physical senses of taste (in Perpetua’s vision) and smell (in Saturus’ vision) that serve as connections between the afterlife and this world; after all, the martyrs are specifically said to have died and to have ‘gone forth from the flesh…’127 Within the text, these connections are formed specifically through the use of the consumables that


Jensen, ‘Dining with the Dead,’ 118. Jerome, Epist. 108.32 (trans. W. Fremantle; see St. Jerome: Letters and Selected Works [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1952], 211). 120 Perpetua, XIII.2 (tr. Tilley, 394). 121 The role of scent is evident within early Christianity in the cult of the martyrs in the rebuke with which Paulinus of Nola, Ambrose’s deacon, chides Christians for believing ‘that saints are delighted to have their tombs doused with reeking odoriferous wine.’ (Paulinus of Nola, Poems, 27.563–7, trans. Patrick Walsh; see The Poems of St. Paulinus of Nola [New York: Newman Press, 1975], 290–1). 122 Virgil, Aen. V.745 (tr. Ruden, 112). 123 Virgil, Aen. V.745 (ed. Mynors, 222). 124 Fratantuono, Madness, 152. 125 Ovid, Fast. II.571–4 (trans. Betty Nagle; see Ovid’s Fasti: Roman Holidays [Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995], 72). 126 Sarolta Takáks, Vestal Virgins, Sibyls, and Matrons: Women in Roman Religion (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2008), 39. See also James Rives, Religion in the Roman Empire (Malden: Blackwell, 2006), 118. 127 Perpetua, XI.2 (tr. Musurillo, 119). 119

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seem to have been regularly offered by both pagans and Christians in their veneration of their dead in North Africa, and indeed across the Roman empire. III. The Nourishment of the Dead As we follow the ‘scent’ of refrigerium in the Passion of Perpetua, we therefore logically arrive at the concept of the nourishment of the dead within the text itself. We cannot fail to be struck by the fact, that as with the sweetness in Perpetua’s mouth when she awoke from her first vision, so too, Saturus reports that in his vision the martyrs experienced an indescribable scent just before awaking. This is a commonality in both visions of which we must take note. It is apparent that both of the visions of heaven of the martyrs climax with the concept of their being ‘satisfied’ or ‘nourished.’ In Perpetua’s vision, she awoke ‘still tasting something sweet’ (conmanducans adhuc dulce). The word manducans directly refers to the very ‘physical’ action of chewing, and hence eating. For this reason, it would appear to be directly tied to the food that Perpetua receives from the great shepherd in her vision immediately before she awoke.128 Saturus’ vision likewise culminates with the nourishment of the dead in heaven, for he reports that the martyrs were therefore ‘nourished’ (alebamur) by the scent, and satisfied (satiabat) by it, so that they woke up full of joy (gaudens).129 The rhetorician late-mid-second century Lucian of Samosata mentioned the practice of refrigerium in writing of the ‘popular beliefs on the subject of death’130 (εἰπεῖν βούλομαι ἅστινας περὶ αὐτοῦ τοῦ θανάτου δόξας ἔχουσιν),131 which profoundly impressed the common people.132 Ταῦτα οὕτως ἰσχυρῶς περιελήλυθε τοὺς πολλοὺς ὥστε ἐπειδάν τις ἀποθάνῃ τῶν οἰκείων.133) Lucian wrote that the deadτρέφονται δὲ ἄρα ταῖς παρ’ ἡμῖν χοαῖς καὶ τοῖς καθαγιζομένοις ἐπὶ τῶν τάφων· ὡς εἴ τῳ μὴ εἴη καταλελειμμένος ὑπὲρ γῆς φίλος ἢ συγγενής, ἄσιτος οὗτος νεκρὸς καὶ λιμώττων ἐν αὐτοῖς πολιτεύεται.134 Lucian himself was not Roman, but what he describes is typical of beliefs across the Roman world, though doubtless regionally coloured. The practice of nourishing the dead with physical food and drink is well attested in Virgil’s Aeneid.135 In Perpetua, it is the nourishment of the martyrs that represents, or even 128

The use of the word conmanducans again suggests cheese rather than milk. Perpetua, XIII.8. 130 Lucian, Luct. 1. 131 Ibid., 1. 132 Ibid., 10. 133 Ibid, 10. 134 Ibid., 9. This was a common and ancient understanding. As Glenn Holland (Gods in the Desert: Religions of the Ancient Near East [Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2009], 73) observes, in ancient Egypt, the eternal welfare of the dead depended on the provisions and rituals of the living. 135 Virgil, Aen. III.301; V.77, 81; and VI.380. 129

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facilitates, the unity of the community between this life and the afterlife, this world and the world to come. It is therefore appropriate that we go on to examine this ideology of refrigerium in the Passion of Perpetua. IV. The Ideology of Refrigerium in the Passion of Perpetua Candida Moss observes that although inscriptional evidence from North Africa indicates that refrigeria were common, and that they were clearly derived from pagan rituals, ‘this does not mean that the ideological significance of the refrigerium has been exhausted or explained.’136 Certainly Hofmann’s work, as we have already noted, provides ample evidence of this reality. Our focus here is on the Passion of Perpetua, so we will commence by considering the specific use of the word refrigerium in the text itself. It is surprising, in fact, to see how frequently cognates of the word refrigerium are actually used in Perpetua; in fact seven times, within what is a relatively short text. Prior to Perpetua’s first vision there are two instances. The first reference is with regard to her being comforted by her father’s absence (et refrigerauit absentia illius).137 Next, the prisoners are ‘refreshed’ by virtue of their Christian friends who bribe the guards so that the prisoners are moved to a better part of the prison (locum carceris refrigeraremus).138 It should be noted that on this occasion, the ‘refreshment’ occurs as the result of community, and can be viewed as the result of an act of intercession. After Perpetua’s first vision of heaven, the next mention of refrigerium occurs in relation to Perpetua’s brother Dinocrates, whom she sees ‘refreshed’ (refrigerantem)139 after her intercession. In this instance, refrigerium is also the result of intercession and therefore of community. Subsequently, Pudens, the centurion overseeing the prison, allows a number of fellow Christians into the prison, and both the prisoners and the visitors are mutually refreshed (ut et nos et illi inuicem refrigeraremus).140 The word refrigerium next occurs in Saturus’ vision of heaven, when Optatus and Aspasius are holding a dialogue with Saturus and Perpetua about their troubles. The angel says to Optatus and Aspasius: ‘[l]et them alone, that they may refresh themselves’ ([s]inite illos, refrigerent).141 To be troubled by the cares of this world is therefore not to enjoy refrigerium. In this case, an angel ‘intercedes’ on behalf of Perpetua and Saturus. The final two references to refrigerium are found in relation to Perpetua’s petition to the military tribune that they be allowed to ‘refresh themselves 136

Moss, Ideologies of Martyrdom, 134. Perpetua, III.4. 138 Perpetua, III.7. 139 Perpetua, VIII.1. 140 Perpetua, IX.1. 141 Perpetua, IV.3 (tr. Dysinger). 137

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properly’ ([q]uid utique non permittis refrigerare).142 As a result of Perpetua’s intercession, the tribune relents, and, according to Musurillo’s translation, ‘allowed her brothers and other persons to visit, so that the prisoners could dine in their company.’143 Interestingly, Musurillo translates et refrigerandi cum eis144 as a specific reference to dining together, whereas Amat understands this as merely being comforted by each other’s company, i.e., et avoir le réconfort de leur compagnie.145 It would seem that the context for understanding them as dining together is most appropriate, since this is the scene of the very next episode in the text.146 We may broadly agree that the term refrigerium is used in the context of the Passion of Perpetua in a way that is congruous with its contemporary meaning of ‘nourishing the dead.’ It is not surprising that the concept of refrigerium appears often in the Roman and Christian funerary inscriptions in the North African provinces.147 However, in most cases in this text, the word refrigerium means far more than merely physical refreshment or comfort. In the Passion of Perpetua, the concept of refrigerium is intimately connected with the notion of community, and refrigerium is actually primarily provided through community. Within this, intercession plays an important role, and is intimately connected with most of the uses of refrigerium in the text, whether this intercession is provided by the Christian community, Perpetua herself, or even an angel. There are many reasons, then, not to be surprised at Koepping’s comment that refrigerium, reflected in ‘[t]he meal for the dead,’ ‘was one of the most powerful social forces in the early Church.’148 In this regard, Andrew McGowan notes the ‘enthusiasm for feeding the martyrs’ that was prevalent in Carthage, remarking that Tertullian writes disapprovingly about the excesses of this practice.149 A careful study of the concept of refrigerium and its associated language in the Passion of Perpetua requires a reconsideration of Bremmer’s view that ‘the verb [refrigerantem] normally indicates physical well-being in the Pas-


Perpetua, XVI (tr. Musurillo, 125). Ibid. 144 Perpetua, XVI.4. 145 Perpetua, XVI.4 (tr. Amat, 161). 146 Perpetua, XVII. 147 As a search of the Epigraphik–Datenbank reveals, particularly in Africa Proconsularis. 148 Koepping, Food, 33. 149 Andrew McGowan, ‘Discipline and Diet: Feeding the Martyrs in Roman Carthage,’ HTR 96 (2003): 465–9, citing Tertullian, Jejun. XII.2–3, in which Tertullian writes of the habit of furnishing cookshops in the prisons for the martyrs. With regard to this, McGowan here points us in the right direction, observing that the Passion of Perpetua offers insights into the probable purpose of the feeding of the martyrs, with the issue being one of ‘peace,’ considering the position of the martyrs as brokers of spiritual power. 143

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sion.’150 Rather, the concept of refrigerium stands in the middle of a complex ideology that needs to be fully uncovered. It is also significant that it is after Perpetua’s first vision, after she has been accepted by the great shepherd into the company of the martyrs, and after she has received refrigerium personally at the hand of god, that Perpetua’s role in relation to refrigerium changes. She has now received refrigerium as one of the dead. Now, as a confessor, the martyr Perpetua has abandoned all hope in this world, and her role changes. This is the commencement of her intercessory role; she may provide refrigerium for others. Leaving aside the visions themselves, the next references to refrigerium in the text refer to the Christian visitors to the prison in some way receiving refrigerium because of the contact with the martyrs (in other words, because of their contact with the dead). Refrigerium here is a reciprocal concept, since both the living Christian community and the martyrs are refreshed through their contact with each other. The relationship between the living and the dead was one that was intended to continue after the deaths of the martyrs.151 This is evident, for example, in inscriptions in the Roman catacombs from the second half of the third century, in which Paul the martyr is addressed in relation to funerary banquets that were held in his honour.152 David Eastman comments that the participants in these meals ‘probably expected Paul to be among them, although he was “asleep.” … The result was a sense of communion that included both the banquet partipants and the apostle himself.’153 The banquet area therefore became a ‘holy space in which Paul joined their celebrations.’154 Eastman suggests that this may also be reflected in the Aelia Secundula inscription in Ain-Kebira, which refers to her in the following way: ‘[t]he elderly woman sleeps’ (uetula dormit).155 Eastman comments that ‘the flexibility of this wordplay left open the possibility that Aelia Secundula was somehow in the midst of her family members whenever they gathered.’156 Morris’ work on ancient ritual is instructive in understanding the ideology of refrigerium. Morris observes that on the whole, ancient historians have neglected the study of ritual,157 although ‘[i]t was through ceremonies such as funerals 150

Bremmer, ‘Early Christian Afterlife,’ 108. Moss, Ideologies of Martyrdom, 138. In this regard, Moss (ibid., 135) also acknowledges something of the reciprocal nature of refrigerium, writing that ‘the practice of offering refrigerium to the martyrs was not only a ritual offering on behalf of the dead drawn from pagan tradition but also a means of ritualistically sharing in the heavenly banquet in which the martyrs already partook.’ 152 See Eastman, Paul the Martyr, 72–84. 153 Ibid., 84. 154 Ibid. 155 Latin in Dölger, ‘Katakombe,’ 91, tr. Eastman, Paul the Martyr, 83. 156 Eastman, Paul the Martyr, 83. 157 Ian Morris, Death-Ritual and Social Structure in Classical Antiquity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 1. 151

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that the Greeks and Romans constructed and debated the meanings of their worlds.’158 In antiquity, funerals, burials, and the afterlife were intimately described and controlled by rituals. Morris accordingly observes that this ‘has major implications for the historian,’159 since the evidence of ritual in burials provides perspectives not available through the written record. This is because ‘[t]he textual evidence’ reduces ‘dynamic structure to stable mentality.’ In this regard, Morris observes that burials ‘can be used to augment the written record, giving us for the first time a dynamic account of social structure and how it changed in antiquity.’160 It is from the connections between the material evidence of ritual in burials and the literary evidence that the historian can best construct meaning. The difficulties in interpreting the evidence of funerary inscriptions in isolation have already been discussed. This present research is based on the premise that the material evidence and the literary evidence must be interpreted together, thereby providing a meaningful context for understanding the Christian Carthaginian communities in the early third century. To the material and literary evidence for refrigerium, therefore, we can also add the evidence of ritual, which can be discerned in both the material and literary evidence. The reality that a distinct Christian material funerary culture only fully emerges in the fourth and fifth centuries highlights the importance of integrating these different strands of evidence. The Roman rituals associated with burial have been well described by Toynbee,161 and the nature of the associated North African material remains have already been discussed. It remains to consider the Passion of Perpetua as a ritual text associated with the ideology of refrigerium. This is our objective, but first of all, the actual ideology of refrigerium, in the context of Roman burial rituals, must be explored further. Regina Gee discusses the Roman rituals associated with refrigerium precisely within the context of its reciprocal public nature; in other words, the desire to watch and to be watched in return. She suggests that this desire to watch and to be watched in return was the result of the concept of the ‘transformative role of memory.’ In other words, ‘the presence of witnesses created a memory of the event simply by viewing it and the larger the audience the greater the potential for the creation of an event memory.’162 The creation of event memories ‘was a way of participating in communal identity while at the same time, through acts of pietas, contributing to the stability of the community itself.’163 In this vein, Gee also observes that the festivals of the Parentalia, Rosaria and Violaria 158

Ibid., 2. Ibid., 1. 160 Ibid. 161 Toynbee, Death and Burial, 43–72. 162 Gee, ‘Corpse to Ancestor,’ 67. 163 Ibid. 159

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were about repeated expressions of collective identity.164 It is not surprising that the evidence also indicates that the ancient Roman ‘associations’ played a key role in the festivals associated with refrigerium.165 The festivals associated with the cult of the dead were essentially a manifestation of the overall stability and well being of the community. This aligns with one of the fundamental concerns of Roman ritual, as identified by Christine Kondoleon, which was a deep concern with communitas.166 The Roman ritual calendar evoked ‘events from different chronological periods and arrange[d] them in a meaningful sequence’ so that ‘the calendar created an identity for the Roman people that merged past and present, religion and culture, history and myth, and that could be reconstructed and elaborated upon through each calendar cycle.’167 In this sense also, the Passion of Perpetua, through and within the text, merges past and present, religion and culture, and history and myth. Text and ritual share the same purpose: to co-ordinate experience and communal identity. Dagmar Hofmann certainly points us towards a better understanding of the concept of refrigerium by noting that in the literature and funerary art, the concept of refrigerium encompassed both the banquets for the dead and the otherworldly state, both the underworld and the heavenly Paradise.168 She observes that [e]s scheint sich eher um eine Kombination von Qualität und Lokalität zu handeln, wobei mit den versiedenen Qualitäten… nicht immer notwendigerweise auch eine Lokalisierung.169 Ultimately, it is not the purpose of this present research to elucidate a complete ideology of refrigerium and its metaphors throughout Roman and early Christian culture in its entirety. However, this present analysis is at least suggestive, and it appears to significantly address some of the key paradoxes posed by Hofmann’s analysis. Refrigerium is neither solely a single, defined activity such as a banquet for the dead, nor solely a single, defined place in heaven, earth, or elsewhere. Refrigerium is not even a discrete time, whether it be now, or the hereafter. At its core, refrigerium consists of community in its broadest sense, the fundamental nature of which is transcendence, be it of time or space. Central to the notion of refrigerium seems to be the act of being in this transcendent community, encapsulated both metaphorically and in actuality by the sharing of meals. In this 164

Ibid., 66. Robert J. White, tr. The Interpretation of Dreams (2nd ed. Torrance, Calif.: Original Books, 1990), 7. See Artemidorus, Interpretation, V.82 (tr. White, 7). Also Rives, Roman Carthage, 226. 166 Christine Kondoleon, ‘Timing Spectacles: Roman Domestic Art and Performance,’ in The Art of Ancient Spectacle (ed. Bettina Bergman and Christine Kondoleon; Washington D.C.: National Gallery of Art, 1997), 321. 167 Ibid., 336. 168 Ibid., 120. 169 Ibid. 165

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sense, it fits integrally into Roman culture, understanding of community, and of the rituals for the dead. This understanding may perhaps go part of the way towards accounting for the elusiveness and complexity of the concept of refrigerium. It is not necessary to support the ideology of refrigerium with a specifically Christian rationale; it is not an inherently Christian concept. Food was an important focal point of the rituals concerned with refrigerium. Food gives life and power, and it is centrally about community. The practice of refrigerium was not merely about the earthly community sharing heavenly food with the righteous dead; it was also about the righteous dead sharing the earthly food with the living. The sharing of food maintained the community of the faithful, both dead and alive, both in heaven and in earth. Food gave strength to the living to carry on in the face of adversity, and food gave strength to the martyrs to intercede on behalf of the living. This is an important aspect of the role of refrigerium in the Passion of Perpetua. Ultimately, refrigerium seems to have been fundamentally about the continuity of community. V. The Social Functions of Refrigerium This leads us to a more detailed discussion of the social functions of refrigerium. Within the context of preoccupation with the body evident in the Passion of Perpetua, Judith Perkins reminds us of Gager’s observation that doctrines that focus on the body are especially concerned with social relationships and with society.170 The active transformation of the community is evident within the text, in the way, for example, in which language is used in the vision of the Egyptian. In this, as Judith Perkins has observed, the Christian victory is described ‘in terms that emphasize the subversion of the top by the bottom, metaphorically conveying a subversive social message.’171 Rhee typifies recent studies dealing with Perpetua in the context of gender inversion, women’s empowerment, and social resistance.172 Rhee uses the accounts of Perpetua’s confrontations with her father to note how Perpetua ‘overturns the traditional patriarchy―the fundamental hierarchy of the society.’173 The martyrs are not passive; as Fannie LeMoine notes, they refuse to play the role of willing victims.174 This is deliberately emphasised by the editor in the account of Perpetua’s death, in which ‘she herself carried the wavering right hand of the youthful gladiator to her throat. Possibly such a woman could not


John Gager, ‘Body Symbols and Social Reality,’ Religion 12 (1982), 347, quoted in Perkins, Suffering Self, 121. 171 Perkins, Suffering Self, 110. See also Burrus, Shame, 31. 172 Rhee, Christ and Culture, 153. 173 Ibid., 150. 174 LeMoine, ‘Apocalyptic Experience,’ 206.

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have been slain unless she herself had willed it.’ (Fortasse tanta femina aliter non potuisset occidi.)175 In emphasising the community in the Passion of Perpetua, Maureen Tilley observes that Perpetua and her companions are always subservient to the main function of the narrative, which is to provide ‘a construction of the world’ that would help the Christian community ‘make sense of systematic persecution.’176 What Perpetua experienced in life and death, and indeed in vision, was for the benefit of the whole Christian community.177 The main point that is important here is that the Passion of Perpetua is fundamentally and actively about the community. Indeed, the Christian community is pervasive throughout Perpetua, and this is foundational for the notion of refrigerium. The community is clearly included in the ‘we’ in the preface as the recipients, and in the community to which these revelations belong: ‘[s]o we who consider these new visions promised just as much as those prophecies (itaque et nos qui sicut prophetias ita et uisiones) acknowledge the rest of the virtues of the Holy Spirit as provisions for the Church.’178 The community is present at the arrest (2.1) and in the dungeon (3.7). The community is present at Perpetua’s trial, in her affirmation of solidarity with the Christian community by declaring, ‘I am a Christian.’ (Christiana sum [6.4]). In Perpetua’s first vision, she ascends the ladder together with Saturus, representing the community of the martyrs (4.2). The community prays together in prison (7.1). In Perpetua’s third vision, the Christian community is represented by Pomponius the deacon, who says to her, ‘Perpetua, we are waiting for you; come!’ (Perpetua, te exspectamus, veni [10.3]). Who are the ‘we’ if not the Christian community? Furthermore, the essential unity between the martyrs and the surviving community is emphasised by the fact that Pomponius in vision holds Perpetua's hand through the rough and winding places on the way to the amphitheatre. (Et tenuit mihi manum, et coepimus ire per aspera loca et flexuosa [10.3].) Pomponius’ words of encouragement when, in vision, they arrive at the amphitheatre are significant: noli pauere, hic sum tecum, et conlaboro tecum.179 This is followed immediately by the statement that [e]t abiit (‘and he departed’). This is the point; Perpetua was apparently alone, but she was not really 175 Perpetua, VI.4 (tr. Dysinger; ed. Amat [XXI.9–10], 180). Note that Latin manuscripts B and C have posuit instead of transtulit. This variation is of minor importance in terms of Perpetua’s refusal to be passive. 176 Tilley, North Africa, 43. 177 Ibid. 178 Perpetua, I.1 (tr. Tilley, 388). 179 Perpetua, X.4. Regarding conlaboro tecum, Amat (Perpétue, 223) observes that [l]e verbe, comme d’autres composés du préverbe con, est exclusivement chrétien. Dysinger’s translation of conlaboro tecum as ‘I am laboring with you’ is more literal.

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alone, for through and within her was represented the entire Christian community. In this way, Perpetua was assured that even though she would not see them all with her physical eyes, her whole community would be there in the amphitheatre, suffering, and overcoming, with her. Indeed, when Perpetua is taken, wounded, from the arena to the Sanavivarian Gate, the text tells us that [i]llic Perpetua a quodam tunc catechumino, Rustico nomine qui ei adhaerebat, suscepta.180 We can say that it is true in a metaphorical sense that the community is present in the text, but can we say more than this? As we continue now in exploring the social functions of refrigerium, some analogies may be drawn with apocalyptic literature. We have already noted that the redactor of the Passion of Perpetua self-consciously positions the text within the apocalyptic tradition, and that the text has marked affinities with the apocalyptic tradition, so to look to that tradition for ideological affinities is not unwarranted. Within the Judaeo-Christian tradition, it was particularly during times of persecution that the apocalyptic perspective tended to be highlighted. As Rowland observes, ‘[w]hat was required was a direct and authoritative answer to man’s most pressing questions… Many would have echoed the cry of the unknown prophet who, in Isaiah 64.1, pleads with God to rend the heavens to solve the many riddles of existence...’181 It was in the apocalyptic knowledge that these answers were sought. Not surprisingly, Gruenwald observes that the ideas of the apocalypticists were often in counterposition to those of those in power.182 Among the Jews, apocalyptic literature was often the product of communities that were ‘denied an active role in shaping the religious, social, and political character of a new expression of Judaism’ in the face of wicked rulers.183 Parallels to these themes are clearly evident in the Passion of Perpetua. As Maureen Tilley notes: ‘[t]he present was the day of tribulation when prophecies came to pass and all God’s children prophesied. Then they would trample on evil, represented as a hideous dragon, and play in a heavenly garden, constantly signing the praises of God.’184 Even here, however, we are merely peeling the very outer layers of the social role of Perpetua. In spite of their explicit narrative, apocalypses are always ultimately about the community that their concerns represent. They involve an active interplay between the community and the ‘other reality’ represented in 180

Perpetua, XX.8. Rowland, The Open Heaven, 11. 182 Ithamar Gruenwald, ‘Prophecy, Jewish Apocalyptic Literature and the Problem of Uncanonical Books.’ Pages 13–52 in From Apocalypticism to Gnosticism: Studies in Apocalypticism, Merkavah Mysticism and Gnosticism. Beiträge Zur Efrroschung Des Alten Testaments und des Antiken Judentums (Frankfurt am Main: Verlag Peter Lang, 1988), 24. 183 Leo Perdue, The Sword and the Stylus: An Introduction to Wisdom in the Age of Empires (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008), 358. 184 Tilley, North Africa, 43. 181

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the apocalypse. In this regard, David Barr insightfully suggests that ‘an apocalypse functions to transform the audience by their experience of the other reality of the apocalypse.’ The closest analogy that Barr can suggest is ‘the transforming power of religious rituals.’185 Barr argues that the act of hearing an apocalypse took the oppressed community ‘behind the veil of limited human experience to the secret world where all meaning becomes clear,’186 and it was precisely this that the community expected when they heard an apocalypse. The community experienced this other world through the transformative power of language, and in this way they were assured of the existence of a ‘more real world… that already existed and that would thus control both the future and the present.’187 This helps us understand why in the text of the Passion of Perpetua, as is made explicit in the preface, the community includes both the past, present, and the future communities. However, it goes beyond this, and also involves the community of the ‘other reality,’ which is the present realm of the righteous dead, including, but not limited to, the martyrs. In this regard, the experience for the community that generates these kinds of apocalyptic texts is therefore not a passive one; it is instead actively transformational. This insight is entirely relevant to the Passion of Perpetua, and to the early liturgical use of the text. In Sermon 282.2, Augustine refers to his hearers having ‘committed to memory’ (sicut memoriae traditum nouimus) the Passion that was read,188 highlighting the liturgical importance of the text itself.189 However, even more than this, Augustine refers to the communal and liturgical reading of the text as having a psychologically experiential effect. He writes that uerborum digesta et illustrata luminibus, aure percepimus, mente spectavimus.190 Katharina Waldner suggestively points us in this direction by noting that the editor’s proposed use for the text was Lektüre in christlichen Versammlungen,191 and that these community readings were to allow those who had wit185 David Barr, ‘Beyond Genre: The Expectations of Apocalypse,’ in The Reality of Apocalypse: Rhetoric and Politics in the Book of Revelation, Symposium Series 39 (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2006), 86. 186 Ibid., 87. 187 Ibid., 88. 188 Augustine, Serm. 282.2, ‘On the Birthday of the Martyrs Perpetua and Felicity’ (tr. Hill, 81). 189 Bremmer (‘Felicitas,’ 282) suggests that in Sermon 282, Augustine is referring to the acta, because of Augustine’s use of this same word in his sermon. 190 Augustine, Serm. 280.1. See also Burrus, Shame, 30. 191 Katharina Waldner, ‘Was wir also gehört und berührt haben, verkunden wir auch euch….’ Zur narrativen Technik der Körperdarstellung in Martyrium Polycarpi und der Passio sanctarum Perpetuae et Felicitatis,’ in Die Christen und der Körper: Aspekte der Körperlichkeit in der christlichen Literatur der Spätantike (ed. Barbara Feichtinger and Helmut Seng; Leipzig: K.G. Saur München, 2004), 62.

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nessed the events to ‘recall’ the ‘glory of the Lord.’192 However, it is highly significantly that there is also another parallel purpose, that those who had not been there, should enjoy ‘communion with the holy martyrs’ (communion cum sanctis martyribus).193 This is certainly reminiscent of Augustine’s remarks about hearing the Passion of Perpetua read in its ritual context. Waldner emphasises that it is only the combination of the readers, the visions, and the narrative by the editor (nur durch die Lekture der Kombination von Visions-berichten und Erzählung der Hinrichtung durch den Herausgeber) that makes this possible.194 Ronsse comments that ‘the narrator explicitly challenges those who read the Passion in the future to do so by vivid re-creation (or, representation) of the events [repraesentatione rerum] (I.1).’195 It should be understood that in early North African Christianity, prayer was closely associated with the imitation of exemplary Chrisians, and with ‘extracting, [and] abstracting the actions of religious models and remaking these into their own forms and disciplines.’196 With the goal of repraesentatione rerum, ritual is at the core of this practice of commemoration, prayer, and consecration. It was within this ritual context that the text of Perpetua was used to create a community that embraced the visible world of Christian believers, yet which also transcended time and mortality itself, to include the world of the righteous dead. Indeed, an important part of the fundamental meaning of the text is that death cannot break the bond between the martyrs and their community. Incredibly to modern readers, it seems in Saturus’ vision that the Christian community is present even in heaven itself. Saturus and his companions find Optatus the bishop and Aspasias the presbyter, who were in conflict about some matter. They throw themselves at the martyrs’ feet and say: Componite inter nos, quia existis, et sic nos reliquistis.197 Frend’s assertion that ‘[n]either Aspasius nor Optatus entered Paradise even after they had settled their dispute. Perpetua saw only martyrs there, as Tertulli-


Perpetua, I.6 (tr. Tilley, 389). Perpetua, I.6 (tr. Tilley, 389). Note here also that it is through communion with the martyrs that the community is to enter into communion with Christ. 194 Waldner, Körperdarstellung, 62. 195 Ronsse, Rhetoric of Martyrs, 60. See also ibid., 74. Ronsse suggests here that Musurillo inappropriately ‘emphasizes writing rather than reading’ in his translation of lectione eorum quasi repraesentatione rerum: ‘by the recollection of the past through the written word.’ 196 Ibid., 88. In the context of the editors’ remarks that have been noted above, it is appropriate to consider Ronsse’s insightful comment (ibid., 62) that rather than seeing the editor as ‘somehow blocking access to Perpetua,’ we should rather rather see his work as a window into the enthusiastic reception and celebration of the Passion of Perpetua in its early Christian context. 197 Perpetua, XIII.2. 193

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an emphasized’198 seems entirely untenable. Appealing to Tertullian’s opinion does not actually help in ascertaining what the text of the Passion of Perpetua portrays. Certainly, the interview with Aspasius and Optatus occurs outside the gates (XIII.1) that open up to the throne of God (XII.5). However, the interview occurs within the garden, which seems to be an unmistakeable reference to Paradise. Moreover, it is in this same place that Saturus recognises ‘even some martyrs,’ among ‘many brothers and sisters.’199 The use of the verb exeo by Aspasius and Optatus in the phrase quia existis makes it clear that from the perspective of the vision, Saturus and his companions are actually dead. This is the same verb used by Saturus in the beginning of his vision, where referring to their deaths. He writes that they had ‘gone forth from the flesh… (exiuimus de carne).200 This is an amazing picture of the squabbling Christian community being present even in heaven. This can only be because the martyrs represent, and further, encompass in themselves, the entire Christian community after their martyrdoms. The corollary of this is that one community exists between the faithful in heaven and earth. Not only does Perpetua reject or ignore historical time,201 but space as well. Maldonado-Pérez notably comments that ‘[t]his dynamic ability of the martyr to exist between present-future horizons, in turn, defied all boundaries of time and space, life and death, powers and principalities. The result is a subaltern existence that is uniquely subversive.’202 In this regard, Ronsse’s observations regarding the use of the word uideo (‘I see’) in the narrative of the Latin version are relevant. This verb persistently reoccurs in the present tense in the Latin manuscripts to initiate Perpetua’s vision narratives, as in IV.3, VII.4, VIII.1 and X.1, while Saturus’ visions can be initiated by the plural present tense uidemus.203 However, Ronnse notes that English translations never use the present tense to initiate Perpetua’s visions. Furthermore, she observes that the ending of uideo in one manuscript even appears to been deliberately altered in order to make it appear to be uidi (‘I saw’).204


William Frend, Martyrdom and Persecution in the Early Church: A Study of a Conflict from the Maccabees to Donatus (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1965), 365. 199 Perpetua, XIII.8 (tr. Tilley, 394). 200 Perpetua, XI.2 (tr. Musurillo, 119). 201 Rader, ‘Martyrdom of Perpetua,’ 7. 202 Maldonado-Pérez, Subversive Dimensions, 103–4. She continues (116) by commenting that the martyrs’ ‘ability to evoke an interstitual - - here now yet still to come - - domain subverted all earthly notions of time and space. For the seer/recorder or reader, the present “reality” was subverted by that new reality represented by the “otherwise” than– now–or–later visual interstice. In this subaltern existence - - from this spatio-temporal margin - - all other centers of thought and being are minimized, and their persuasive powers relativized.’ 203 Ronsse, Rhetoric of Martyrs, 81. 204 Ibid, citing BL Cotton Nero E.1, f. 162r.

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It is of course not unusual to translate the Latin historic or ‘dramatic’ present tense as past action. Why may it matter in this case? The Latin historic present is not merely another form of the past tense; as Ronsse notes, the historic or ‘dramatic’ present tense in Latin ‘can shade into the oracular (as does the famous Sybil’s speech in Virgil’s Aeneid).’205 Ronsse argues that the translation of the historic present in Perpetua matters because ‘the past tense reading tends to lend itself to modern historical emphases while sacrificing interpretive resonance and hermeneutic depth.’206 She goes on to comment that by refusing to smooth over the strangeness of present tense action, Perpetua’s visions become less historical and more literary, more prophetic, performative even, and more participatory… By keeping a present tense focus on what she sees, she also creates an image that her audience sees with her, and in this way her voice remains relevant: her vision and its interpretation are about something that exists both then and now.207

This obviously supports the argument being made here for the social and ritual function of the text of the Passion of Perpetua. Ronsse further notes that [b]ecause this present tense alters or plays with the sense of time, it challenges notions of presence and absence, creating a seemingly impossible experience for listeners. The dramatic, or oracular, present tense thus challenges interpretations of historical events: they are not wholly of the past and cannot be understood without their continual recreation in the present.208

This transcendence of time by Perpetua and her fellow martyrs seems to be an important aspect of the power and authority of the martyrs as ‘mediators between time and eternity,’209 encompassing both the earthly and heavenly communities. When the church at Carthage prayed to Perpetua and to Felicitas, they prayed to them as ‘major intercessors.’210 However, as we have seen, the text itself suggests more than merely a unio liturgica, perhaps moving towards a unio mystica. It is more in this sense that the Christians of Carthage may have venerated their newly dead heroes. The foundations of these concepts appear to have deep roots in Jewish apocalyptic. This focus on the mediator joining the heavenly community of angels, indeed ‘angelification,’ was a notable motif in a number of key Jewish apocalyptic texts,211 particularly the Enochic texts. The concepts of participation with the angels and angelification also appear to have been embraced by 205

Ibid., 82. Ibid., 81. 207 Ibid., 82. 208 Ibid., 83. 209 LeMoine, ‘Apocalyptic Experience,’ 201. This role is foreshadowed by Perpetua’s vision of Dinocrates. 210 Ibid., 204. 211 See 1 Enoch 39:7; 62:15–6; 104:2–62; 2 Enoch 22:7–10; 30:8–11; Testament of Moses 1:14,15–9; and Prayer of Joseph, lines 7–9. See also John Collins, ‘The Angelic Life,’ in Metamorphoses: Resurrection, Body and Transformative Practices in Early Christianity (ed. Turid Karlsen Seim and Jorunn Økland; Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2009), 291–2. 206

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the Qumran community.212 This suggests that the community-oriented themes evident in the Passion of Perpetua have their roots in the Jewish apocalyptic/mystical tradition, and that in Perpetua, these are now partially expressed through the symbolic language of Roman culture. Although the sharp focus on intercession in Christianity probably stems from Christianity’s apocalyptic Jewish background,213 the teachings of Jesus and Paul in this regard should also not be underestimated.214 Specifically in the case of the martyrs, we are dealing with intercession by the dead. In this regard, Fontaine remarks that ‘[t]he cult of the dead, the ancient veneration for the mediae potestates, which literally “intercede” between the human beings and the divinity, were beliefs and ritual forms too profoundly anchored in Roman spirituality for the laity to be able to content themselves with basilical liturgies,’215 however the lack of real evidence for this makes it difficult to situate this view within the Graeco-Roman traditions.. We may perhaps observe that in some respects the idea of the dead as having intercessory competence notionally sits well within the ideology of the traditional Roman cult of the dead,216 and that the idea more broadly was itself of great antiquity;217 however in terms of the Roman cult of the dead specifically, it is difficult to say more than this. However, it is true that the Graeco-Roman afterlife is rather diffuse in its conception. This is readily evident from the common dedication on Roman 212 See particularly the ‘Angelic Liturgy,’ consisting of IIQShirshab and the other fragments found in cave 4; also Community Rule XI.7–8. Note also War Scroll XII, I,6–7; Blessings Scroll, 4Q289, frg.Ia,5; and 4Q381, frg.I,10–1; and 1 QH 11:19–21. Note also the angelomorphism in 1QSb 4:24–28. On this notion, see also Crispin Fletcher-Louis, ‘Jewish Mysticism, the New Testament, and Rabbinic-Period Mysticism,’ in The New Testament and Rabbinic Literature (ed. Riemund Bieringer et al.), Supplements to the Journal for the Study of Judaism 136 (Leiden: Brill, 2010), 443; and earlier, Fletcher-Louis, Luke-Acts: Angels, Christology, and Soteriology (Tübingen: Mohr/Paul Siebeck, 1997), 198; also Rachel Elior, The Three Temples (Oxford: Littman Library, 2004), 172–181, 183, and Collins, Angelic Life, 301, 308. 213 See Bremmer, Afterlife, 65–6, citing Richard Bauckham, ‘The Conflict of Justice and Mercy: Attitudes to the Damned in Apocalyptic Literature,’ in The Fate of the Dead: Studies on Jewish and Christian Apocalypses (Boston: Brill, 1998), 136–148. Bremmer notes here that ‘in both Jewish and early Christian apocalypses exemplary figures, like Ezra or Paul, intercede on behalf of the damned.’ 214 For example, John 14:13 and Rom 8:34. 215 Jacques Fontaine, ‘The Practice of Christian Life: The Birth of the Laity,’ in Christian Spirituality: Origins to the Twelfth Century (ed. Bernard McGinn, John Meyendorff, and Jean Leclercq) World Spirituality, Volume 16 (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1986), 468–9. 216 Jon Davies, Death, Burial, and Rebirth in the Religions of Antiquity, Religion in the First Christian Centuries (London: Routledge, 1999), 18. 217 We also find it, for example, in ancient Egypt, where akhs were thought to be able to intercede with the gods on behalf of the living, and to this end, family members left food offerings for the akh in the afterlife. See Emily Teeter, Religion and Ritual in Ancient Egypt (Cambridge: Cambridge Univesity Press, 2011), 150–8.

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tombs, Dis Manibus (‘To the Spirits of the Dead’). Intercessory competence was therefore generally diffused among one’s ancestors. While the living could offer the dead refrigerium in return for benefits, the notion of deriving particular personal benefits from a specific deceased person outside one’s ancestors seems to have been unknown. This was the difference between Christianity and traditional Roman thought. For the notion of a ‘major intercessor,’ the authors of Perpetua therefore drew particularly on their Judaeo-Christian roots.

E. Conclusion The Passion of Perpetua must be understood within the context of the culture of its time. As Larissa Seelbach reminds us, Perpetua und Tertulliann lebten und schrieben als Christen ihrer Zeit, nicht der unsrigen.218 This does not negate the clearly Christian aspects that have been traditionally understood in the text. Rather, it highlights the setting of Perpetua within a culture in which the cult of the dead had a paramount place within both pagan and Christian society. Therefore, the Passion of Perpetua cannot be understood as a sacred and timeless liturgical text, in the sense of divorcing it from its historical context. Rather, Perpetua should be symbiotically understood within the context of the other contemporary evidence provided by North African culture. Corsaro is correct in noting that Perpetua’s dreams are ancora pregni delle memorie di quella cultura che ella aveva sdegnosamente rinnegato.219 Perhaps, however, Corsaro understates the reality when he suggests that these traces of Perpetua’s Roman culture are più o meno remota.220 An understanding of the popular culture of Perpetua’s day is indeed a fundamental requisite for understanding the text and its role in the Christian communities. On the basis of the material evidence, Ramsay MacMullen remarks that it is ‘necessary to think of “Christians” in terms and practices not familiar or welcome among the religious authorities then, or now,’221 since ‘the evidence, contrary to apologetic assumptions, shows a natural flow of past traditions’ into Christian practices.222 He also notes that with regard to these issues, ultimately, ‘the questions outnumber the answers.’223 This chapter suggests that a close reading of the Passion of Perpetua starts to yield some of these answers. A final thought may be appropriate as to why the presence of the cult of the dead has previously not been highlighted in the text of Perpetua. Perhaps a significant part of that reason is suggestively captured in the title of Robin Jensen’s 218

Seelbach, Perpetua und Tertullian, 93. Corsaro, ‘Suggestioni Classiche,’ 272. 220 Ibid., 271. 221 MacMullen, ‘Ancestor Worship,’ 608. 222 Ibid., 611. 223 Ibid., 613. 219

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study 'Dining with the Dead: From Mensa to Altar in Christian Late Antiquity.’ This title refers the conversion of the popular mensae of refrigerium for the dead, into ‘approved’ eucharistic altars under the control of the bishops,224 a transition that somewhat demolishes popular notions of an ‘ideologically pure’ Christianity. However, subsequent re-interpretation cannot erase the material evidence, and neither has it erased the evidence of the text of the Passion of Perpetua and Felicitas itself.


See Éric Rebillard, The Care of the Dead in late Antiquity (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2009), 151. Also Augustine, Letter 22.3–4; Faust. XX.21; and Jerome, Vigil. IV.

Chapter 7

The Passion of Perpetua, Tertullian, and Ideological Conflict in Carthage A. Textual Perspectives When we place Perpetua against the writings of Tertullian, we are able to make some instructive observations about the Christian community in Carthage in the early third century. The evidence suggests an ideologically divided community. We will consider the evidence for a polemical discourse between Perpetua and Tertullian firstly regarding the fate of the righteous, and secondly regarding the cult of the dead. However, it is evident that even if there were ideological divisions, both the writings of Tertullian and the Passion of Perpetua were produced at a time when the Christian communities in Carthage were not yeßt strongly divided along sectarian lines. This may be deduced from Tertullian’s argument about the essential unity between the Christians of Carthage and Christians elsewhere.1 It is also clear in the fact that the text of the Passion of Perpetua was valued by both the ‘orthodox’ and the ‘heterodox’ alike.2 It is important to recognise that the Passion of Perpetua and the writings of Tertullian are very different kinds of texts. While the writings of Tertullian reflect his own idiosyncratic views on some issues, and what might be called ‘orthodox’ views on others,3 the Passion of Perpetua was, as we have already established, a popular text.4 It is therefore reasonable to maintain that the ideologies of the afterlife that the text reflects are those that were popular in North Africa at the time. Conversely, Tertullian tends to present his view of how the church should be. The Passion of Perpetua belongs properly to what Ramsay MacMullen has called the ‘Second Church,’ which he considers consisted of the ‘ninety-five percent.’5 MacMullen comments that the elite 1

Tertullian, Virg. II.2. See Salisbury, Death and Memory, 158. 3 Here I use the term ‘orthodox’ in terms of being in broad agreement with the patristic tradition up until Tertullian’s day. 4 Moss, Ideologies of Martyrdom, 99; and Robin Young, ‘Martyrdom as Exaltation,’ in Late Ancient Christianity (ed. Virginia Burrus; Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2010), 74. 5 MacMullen, Second Church, 111. MacMullen’s figure seems to be at the extreme upper end of the possible range. 2

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liked to speak of religious practice as it should be. Theirs was a sometimes theoretical, often normative view… What the bishops didn’t see, however, we ourselves can and ought to see, with an effort. What they saw but were not interested in or chose to ignore, purposefully, we can recognize as actual practice, differing from exalted norms…6

For this reason, Perpetua is valuable evidence for early Christianity in Carthage. Both Perpetua and Tertullian’s writings were written in the same place, approximately at the same time, and within the same Christian communities. Naturally, there is significant shared thematic material. However, the interests and perspectives of the authors of Perpetua are not identical to those of Tertullian. These writings give us windows into two different ideologies within the same community, and into the issues in the polemic between them.

B. Ideological Polemic About the Afterlife of the Righteous Given that Tertullian and Perpetua were contemporaries, living at the same time, and in the same place, how can we account for the fact that he barely mentions her at all? Furthermore, how can we account for the fact that the only time she is mentioned in the works that can be securely ascribed to Tertullian, in On the Soul LV.4, he famously completely misquotes her?7 Butler’s various defenses of Tertullian’s statement, including that this was a ‘detail’ that Tertullian ‘easily forgot,’8 ultimately do not weigh sufficiently against the starkness of Tertullian’s own words. He writes: Quomodo Perpetua, fortissima martyr, sub die passionis in reuelatione paradisi solos illic martyras uidit.9 It should be remembered that in this chapter of On the Soul, Tertullian is zealously arguing that no one at all enters heaven except the martyrs.10 Conversely, commenting on the visions of heaven in Perpetua, Jan Bremmer observes that it is striking that both the visions of Perpetua and Saturus emphasise the presence of many others in heaven.11 Bremmer’s view of On the Soul LV.4 is that ‘Tertullian’s reproduction of this passage… deviously canvasses his own exclusivist views about admission into heaven, since Perpetua does not contain such a passage and the vision of Saturus explicitly contradicts his words…’12


Ibid., xii. McInerney, ‘Strange Triangle,’ 28. 8 Butler, New Prophecy, 53–6. 9 Tertullian, An. LVI.4. 10 See also the previous comments in Chapter 7 on the translation of sed et in Saturus’ vision. 11 Bremmer, ‘Vision of Saturus,’ 70. 12 Ibid. 7

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Bremmer is right in noting that ‘both the idea of an immediate entry into heaven and the admission of all Christians did not go undisputed.’13 As Alfred Stuiber observes, other than the martyrs, Eine vorläufige Aufnahme der Seele in den Himmel wird abgelehnt, weil dadurch die leibliche Auferstehung gefährdet erscheint: entgegen der heilsgeschichtlichen Ordnung wäre die Seele bereits an ihrer endgültigen Stätte der Seligkeit und die Bedeuntung der leiblichen Auferstehung als des entscheidendenden Endereignisses wäre aufgehoben.14 It is significant that the first known literary references to the Passion of Perpetua should use the text in a polemical way to argue for a particular view of the afterlife. Bremmer also observes that Tertullian was not unique in wanting to limit entry into heaven to martyrs alone.15 This was precisely because he was following in the tradition of the church fathers who preceded him, or at least of those who were considered sufficiently worthy (and fortunate) for their writings to be preserved until our day. The textual history of Perpetua also tends to support the notion that the Passion of Perpetua’s presentation of all the righteous in Paradise was considered polemical from early times. In this regard, Bremmer observes that ‘[i]n our tradition, the words sed et are attested only in the two best manuscripts, Amat’s A (Van Beek’s 1) and D (Van Beek’s 2), whereas they are omitted in the other testimonies. This omission suggests that, like Tertullian, their scribes preferred a heaven with only martyrs.’16 There have been, not unexpectedly, a number of inventive explanations of Tertullian’s sole and puzzling reference to the Passion of Perpetua. Principal among these is that Tertullian was in fact referring to Saturus’ vision, and that he somehow mistakenly attributed it to Perpetua.17 However, Bastiaensen observes that Waszink very forcibly expressed doubts about this view in his com13

Bremmer, Afterlife, 59. Stuiber, Refrigerium Interim, 201. 15 Bremmer, ‘Vision of Saturus,” 70. 16 Ibid., 70–1. 17 Those who have held the view that Tertullian mistakenly referred to Saturus’ vision include Luigi Gatti (‘La Passio SS. Perpetuae et Felicitatis,’ in Didaskaleion: Studi di Letteratura e Storia cristiana antica N.S. 1 [ed. Sisto Colombo and Paolo Barale; 1923; repr. Amsterdam: John Benhjamins N.V., 1969], 36) who wrote that Tertullian commette un errore, attribuendo a Perpetua ciò che invece vien narrato de Saturo nella sua visione. Eugenio Corsini (‘Proposte per una Lettura della ‘Passio Perpetuae,’’ in Forma Futuri: Studi in Onore del Cardinale Michele Pellegrino [Torino, 1975], 513, n.74) was of the view that [c]he Tertulliano però alluda alla visione di Saturo e non a quella di Perpetua (4, 8) mi pare difficilmente contestabile. Franz Dölger (‘Parallelen,’ 40, n.108) considered that Tertullian’s reference aus der Passio Perpetuae kann nur gemeint sein die Vision des Saturus 11,9 und 13,8. See also Ernst Rupprecht, ‘Bemerkungen zur Passio SS. Perpetuae et Felicitatis,’ in Rheinisches Museum für Philologie N.G. 90 (1941), 182; Åke Fridh, Le Problème de la Passion des Saintes Perpétue et Félicité, Studia Graeca et Latina Gothoburgensia 26 (Stockholm, Götteborg, Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Gothoburgensis, 1968), 9–10; Pierre de Labriolle, La Crise Montaniste (Paris: Ernest Leroux, 1913), 341, n.1; and Delehaye, Genres Littéraires, 50–2. 14

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mentary.18 Bastiaensen himself tends to follow Waszink’s view that Tertullian was referring to Perpetua’s first vision, and that the mistake is in the contents rather than in the attribution.19 Assuming this is the case, the question of why Tertullian would have so grossly misrepresented the contents of the vision still remains. Robeck explains On the Soul LV.4 as a memory lapse on Tertullian’s part.20 This seems highly unlikely, given the timing and the location of Tertullian’s work. There certainly does seem to have been a mistake, in fact, a deliberate mistake, in order to advance Tertullian’s own polemical position on the afterlife.21 Apart from this, Perpetua is totally ignored by Tertullian, which is all the more interesting considering that the community they moved in was still only relatively small.22 That Tertullian did not agree with fundamental aspects of the ideology expressed in the Passion of Perpetua in general, and with the ideology of the afterlife in particular, must figure highly among the possible reasons. Leal rightly observes that if Tertullian had been the editor of the Passion of Perpetua, the question of the martyrs as the only ones in heaven would have been settled more clearly. Leal writes that la poca decision del escrito en la defensa de los mártires como únicos merecedores del paraíso, es explícita en cuanto a lo que se refiere a la autoría. Tertuliano habría aprovechado bastante mejor la situación si hubiera sido el compilador del texto definitivo.23 It is therefore almost inconceivable that Tertullian could have been the redactor of Perpetua. To Tilley’s assessment that the editor of the Passion of Perpetua was not Tertullian, based on the prose rhythms and vocabulary,24 we can also add the critical fact that the conceptualisation of the afterlife is not Tertullian’s either. The question that Tertullian rhetorically asks his opponents in On the Soul LV.4 makes it evident that he is specifically engaged in polemic regarding the immediate afterlife of the righteous. He asks his opponents where it is that they will have to sleep after death, and he parrots their answer: ‘in Paradise, you tell me’ (inquis, in paradiso).25 That Tertullian should have used (or abused?) the Passion of Perpetua in this specific polemical context considerably bolsters the argument that he and the authors of Perpetua represent two completely different and competing perspectives on the afterlife.

18 Antoon Bastiaensen, ‘Tertullian’s Reference to the Passio Perpetuae in De Anima 55,4,’ StPatr XVII/2 (ed. E. A. Livingstone; Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1982), 790–1. 19 Ibid. For Waszink’s arguments, see Waszink, De Anima, 561–2. See also Bastiaensen, ‘Tertullian’s Reference,’ 793. 20 Robeck, Prophecy, 108. 21 See the discussion in McInerney, ‘Strange Triangle,’ 28. 22 This is in spite of Tertullian’s polemical assertations in Apology XXXVII.4 about the number of Christians in Carthage. 23 Leal, Actas Latinas, 63. 24 Tilley, ‘Perpetua,’ 832. 25 Tertullian, An. LV.4 (tr. Holmes).

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Andreas Merkt describes the early Christian understanding of Paradise as die Brücke von der Zeit in die Ewigkeit (‘a bridge of time into eternity,’)26 and as such, essentially an interim state into which the elect come after death to await the general resurrection, when they will again receive their bodies and therefore be entirely fulfilled. According to this conception, [d]as Paradies gehört also noch irgendwie zu dieser Welt (‘Paradise belongs somehow to this world.’)27 However, if the earliest Christian understandings of Paradise are drawn Judaism, then Paradise should not necessarily be seen principally as a form of ‘interim state.’ Furthermore, the concept of Paradise must be understood in the same way as the afterlife: as being highly variegated in early Christianity. In On the Soul LV.4, Tertullian reflects this same polemic in his own time. It is true that the case for the significance of the Passion of Perpetua being made in this present work is partially an argument from silence: it is not what Perpetua says about bodily resurrection, but rather what it doesn’t say that is important. Arguments of this nature are admittedly weak. However, when placed in the context of the contemporaneous writings of Tertullian, with their evident polemic over the nature of the afterlife, and the nature of Tertullian’s specific engagement with Perpetua, the significance of the Passion of Perpetua becomes apparent. The argument for the significance of the Passion of Perpetua in terms of reflecting ideological change in the trajectories of the afterlife can only be considered to be weak if the text of Perpetua is considered in isolation; in context, the case for the significance of the Passion of Perpetua is considerably bolstered. Interestingly, in terms of subsequent ecclesiastical and theological developments, Kitzler’s analysis indicates that the subsequent Acta were intentionally purged ‘of certain potentially grating features contained in the Passio Perpetuae…’28 and that ‘[t]hese attempts to smother all innovative and revolutionary features of the text’29 reflect the tension between what Kitzler has termed ‘tradition and innovation.’ In this same framework, this present research suggests that the conceptualisation of the afterlife in Perpetua represents ‘innovation’ as against the ‘tradition’ of the earlier church fathers and apologists. Candida Moss has critiqued Segal on the basis that he ‘mistakenly frames martyrdom within… [the] orthodox tradition about bodily resurrection.’30 The reality is that in many ways, the Passion of Perpetua has also been read as if it 26 Andreas Merkt, “Das Schweigen und Sprechen der Gräber: Zur Aussagekraft frühchristlicher Epitaphe,” in pages 13–70 in Himmel – Paradies –Schalom: Tod und Jenseits in christlichen und Jüdischen Grabinschriften der Antike, Handbuch zur Geschichte des Todes im frühen Christentum und seiner Umwelt, Band 1 (edited by Jutta Dresken–Weiland, Andreas Angerstorfer, Andreas Merkt; Regensburg: Verlag Schnell & Steiner GmbH), 33. 27 Ibid. 28 Kitzler, ‘Tradition and Innovation,’ 16. 29 Ibid., 13. 30 Moss, Ideologies of Martyrdom, 123.

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belongs to this same tradition of bodily resurrection, of which Tertullian was one of the greatest apologists. A re-appraisal of Perpetua is therefore required. The authors of Perpetua are, in key respects, engaged in a different discourse with regard to the afterlife. The subversive discourse of the Passion of Perpetua is not merely against pagan, imperial ideology, and against patriarchal cultural hierarchies, but is also directed against elements within the Christian community itself. The martyrs’ encounter with Optatus the Bishop and Aspasius the Presbyter represents a subversion of the existing ecclesiastical hierarchy. In this regard, Barnes’ view is to be noted; his assessment is that Saturus’ dream ‘manifests a subversive attitude towards the clergy.’31 On the other hand, Weinrich’s view was that ‘the vision of Saturus seems to ‘support and reinforce’ the clergy rather than subvert it.32 However, the textual and social contexts provide greater support for Barnes’ view. The authority of the martyrs, Perpetua and Saturus, is clearly represented as being above that of the highest earthly ecclesiastical authorities. Saturus relates how Optatus the bishop and Aspasius the presbyter and teacher ‘threw themselves at our feet…’ (et miserunt se ad pedes nobis).33 Certainly, the issue of gender is at the heart of this episode, as Huber highlights. In the scene described in Saturus’ vision the ecclesiastical officials are reprimanded by angels and given pastoral advice by a woman. One of the important elements at stake here was the challenge to “official” authority. As depicted, the situation reflects the troubling questions about authority in the rapidly growing Christian church…. Scenes such as the one in Saturus’ vision must have troubled the clerical leaders.34

We should note, however, that the resonances of this scene in Saturus’ vision go far beyond gender issues. The situation represented in Saturus’ vision has its roots in Jewish apocalyptic. In this regard, Candida Moss observes that in being given the power to judge in ecclesiastical disputes, the associated ‘[e]nthronement elevated the martyr in the heavenly hierarchy.’35 The concepts of ‘enthronement’ and ‘elevation to the heavenly hierarchy’ clearly derive from Jewish apocalyptic.36 Jan Den Boeft asks: ‘Why does our editor go to such lengths to hammer away at the value of the Passio which he is introducing and why does he engage in polemics?’37 It is partially correct, as we have noted before, to maintain that the preface reflects a struggle over the apocalyptic perspectives in early third31

Barnes, Tertullian, 78. Weinrich, Spirit and Martyrdom, 227. 33 Perpetua, XIII.1–2 (tr. Tilley). 34 Huber, Women, 55. 35 Moss, Ideologies of Martyrdom, 155. 36 See particularly 2 Enoch 22–37; 3 Enoch 9:1–5; 10:1–3; 15:1–2; 16:1. Also the Prayer of Joseph, lines 7–9, and the ‘Angelic Liturgy’ (IIQShirshab and other fragments found in cave 4). 37 Den Boeft, ‘aedificationem ecclesiae,’ 177. 32

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century Carthage. Teresa Sardella is also partially correct in interpreting the preface to Perpetua as part of the debate on the role of the passions of the martyrs in the liturgy of the Church.38 The text is certainly reflecting these issues of apocalypticism as well as questions about which texts should be included in the Christian liturgy, but these should be understood as merely part of a larger concern. This present analysis suggests that the Passion of Perpetua more broadly reflects a chapter of the multifaceted struggle of popular Christianity against the traditionalistic forces of the church in North Africa. The text displays a multifaceted subversion at many levels, and it is for this reason that the editor sets the whole of the narrative in an ‘anti-traditionalistic’ frame from the start. Sardella has observed that [n]egando i valori assoluti ed esclusivi dell'antiquita il prologo si attesta dunque su una decisa posizione anti-tradizionalistica, che richiama un concetto di tradizione estraneo all definizione teologica di traditio.39

C. Ideological Polemic About the Cult of the Dead Having considered the evidence for polemic regarding the immediate afterlife of the righteous in the Passion of Perpetua and the writings of Tertullian, we now turn to the evidence for a divergence in attitudes towards the Christian cult of the dead. Recognising this divergence allows us to deduce significant additional insights into the ideologies of the North African Christian communities in the early third century. A comparison of these texts demonstrates aspects of both the suppression and absorption of aspects of the cult of the dead within early Christianity. It is true, as Quasten wrote, that ‘the increasing penetration of that region by Christian elements was purchased at the exhorbitant price of numerous martyrdoms.’40 However, the devotion of the Carthaginian Christians to their dead seems to have extended well beyond their martyrs. The Christian practice of the cult of the dead, which, as has been argued above, is hardly distinguishable from Roman practices, is present in Tertullian’s writings, although not often evident. When it is evident, it is ususally only obliquely. There are two fundamental possibilities: that this is either because the cult of the dead within the Christian communities was not an issue that Tertullian wanted to deal with prominently in his writings, or because it did not occur. Multiple lines of evidence have already been examined to support the proposition that it did occur and was prominent in early North African Christianity. 38

Sardella, ‘Strutture.’ See also Den Boeft, ‘aedificationem ecclesiae,’ 178. Sardella, ‘Strutture,’ 263. As noted previously, this stance that has been mistakenly interpreted as ‘Montanistic.’ 40 Quasten, ‘Refrigerium,’ 253. 39

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An important question to be considered, therefore, is why the Christian practice of the cult of the dead does not feature more prominently in the works of Tertullian. The manner in which Tertullian refers to the cult of the dead will perhaps help us to suggest an answer. We will firstly identify and consider some likely references to the cult of the dead in the works of Tertullian. In Exhortation to Chastity, Tertullian describes the Christian man who dies: relictis filiis, forsitan, qui illi parentent.41 When Tertullian refers to this Christian practice of parentalia, translated as ‘last rites’ by Thelwall,42 he uses the same term that he uses in describing the practice of the pagans in Testimony of the Soul IV.4: si quando extra portam cum obsoniis et matteis tibi potius parentans ad busta recedis aut a bustis dilutior redis.43 In this passage, Tertullian refers to the pagans in their festivities for the dead at the tombs by stating that [n]am in conuiuio eorum quasi praesentibus et conrecumbentibus.44 Furthermore, he says to them that debes adulari propter quos laetius uiuis.45 Although he uses the same word, Tertullian would not have equated his use of parentent in Exhortation to Chastity XXII.3 and in Testimony of the Soul IV.4 in a strictly absolute sense. He may have been describing what he perceived as two conceptually different practices, the former a Christian commemoration, and the latter a pagan ceremony. However, these two notions are likely to have been much closer together in early third-century Carthage than we might assume from our contemporary vantage point. It is unquestionable that in Tertullian’s culture, this term had a specific reference to the Roman custom of parentalia and its associated ideology, sharing common semantic fields, and would have been principally understood in this way. The reference in Exhortation to Chastity suggests the existence of rituals for the dead in the Christian community that were referred to in similar terms as the pagan rituals. We have already noted the material evidence for the commonality of burial customs, even into late antiquity. In two of his treatises, Tertullian gives us parallel descriptions of how the Christian dead are to be remembered and honoured, and we can deduce from these passages that Tertullian’s description, as far as it goes, is quite acceptable to him as representing the proper commemoration for the dead. One of these is found in Exhortation to Chastity XI.1, where Tertullian refers to a husband who 41 Tertullian, Exh. cast. XII.3. Le Saint (61) translates this as ‘the sacrifices at his grave.’ 42 Tertullian, Exh. cast. XII.4, tr. Thelwall, 57. Fredouille (Chasteté, XII.4, 111) translates parentalia as derniers devoirs (‘last respects.’) In the cultural context of antiquity, parentalia would certainly seem to mean something more than this. 43 Tertullian, Test. IV.4. See also Exh. cast. XII.3; and Spect. XIII.4. 44 Tertullian, On the Testimony of the Soul, 4.5, tr. Howe; ed. Reifferscheid and Wissowa, 139. 45 Ibid.

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prays for his deceased wife’s spirit, and offers annual oblations for her (pro cuius spiritu postulas, pro qua oblationes annuas reddis).46 A very similar passage is found in Monogamy X, where Tertullian refers to a wife who prays for the soul of her deceased husband, that ‘he may find rest [refrigerium interim] and that he may share in the first resurrection.’ She also ‘offers the Sacrifice each year on the anniversary of his falling asleep’ (et offert annuis diebus dormitionis eius).47 Tertullian therefore seems agreeable to prayers for the dead, and an annual oblation; for him, these are not aspects of the pagan cult of the dead, of which he is strongly and consistently critical. Tertullian calls the worship of the dead a ‘second idolatry’ (secunda idolatria).48 In The Shows, Tertullian compares pagan and Christian practices, and writes that propterea igitur, quoniam utraque species idolorum condicionis unius est, dum mortui et dei unum sunt, utraque idololatria abstinemus. Nec minus templa quam monumenta despuimus: neutram aram nouimus, neutram effigiem adoramus, non sacrificamus, non parentamus; sed neque de sacrificato et parentato edimus, quia non possumus cenam Dei edere et cenam daemoniorum.49

Notably in this passage, Tertullian equates temples and tombs in terms of idolatry, which is significant in terms of the material and literary evidence previously considered that indicates that many, if not most, early North African Christians congregated to worship in the cemeteries. In this passage, Tertullian is clearly condemning the practice of parentalia. He uses the word twice, and categorically states that as Christians, non parentamus. The difficulty with this is that to understand this passage to mean that Christians in Carthage did not practice the customs associated with parentalia is to fly in the face of the material evidence, and of Tertullian’s own indications, as in De Exhortatione XII.3, where he uses a direct cognate of parentalia.50 Indeed, Tertullian seems to have written The Shows for a Christian readership, promoting his own understanding of Christianity specifically to convince his fellow-Christians not to do precisely the things that they were doing. For example, as far as attending the shows is concerned, Philip Rousseau comments that ‘Tertullian had not expected his fellow Christians to accept his argument readily. His heaping on of recherché references to antiquarian writings merely underscores how unrepresentative his work was of the general attitude among Christians who were his contemporaries.’51 We therefore have some significant grounds on which to doubt Tertullian’s assertions that Christians did not prac46

Tertullian, Exh. cast. XI.1. Tertullian, Mon. X.5 (tr. Le Saint, 91–2). 48 Tertullian, Cor. X.2 (tr. Thelwall, 98). 49 Tertullian, Spect. XIII.3–4. 50 Such as in Exh. cast. XXII.3. 51 Philip Rousseau, A Companion to Late Antiquity (Chichester: John Wiley & Sons, 2009), 504. 47

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tice parentalia, because according to Tertullian, true Christians did not go to the shows either! The statement in The Shows XIII.3–4 should therefore be understood as reflecting the wishful thinking of the ‘First Church,’52 rather than as a description of the way things actually were. Having taken note of what Tertullian might really have been meaning when he says that (true?) Christians do not do certain things, we may also similarly note his assertion in his Apologia that Christians do not buy incense. He writes: Tur plane non emimus; si Arabiae queruntur, sciant Sabaei plures et cariores suas merces Christianis sepeliendis profligari quam deis fumigandis.53 Rutherford and Barr comment that this statement has been interpreted as meaning that Christian funerals in the second and third centuries did not involve the use of incense.54 However, when the context is taken into account, it is clear that, incense was indeed used by Christians in great quantity and at great cost at their burials. The point that Tertullian is making here is that incense was not used for ‘fumigating gods.’ It was only natural that incense, an important component of pagan rituals for the dead, would also become part of Christian funeral rituals.55 Dölger noted that perhaps Tertullian’s references to the cult of the dead are not all that they seem: [w]enn man den strengen Terullian hört, so möchte man fast annehmen, daß um das Jahr 200 die Christen sich noch völlig ferngehalten hätten von der Art der antiken Totenfeier.56 On the contrary, it appears that [e]ine alte Gewohnheit hält sich oft und setzt sich durch gegen den Ernst der Prediger.57 In Tertullian’s wishful thinking, it would seem that the cult of the dead did not exist in North African Christianity. However, the evidence indicates otherwise. The cult of the dead seems to have been particularly connected with the cult of the martyrs in early Christianity, and Tertullian’s attitudes towards the cult of the martyrs are instructive in this regard. We may presume that the concerns and practices surrounding the cult of the martyrs brought the cult of the dead much ‘closer to home’ for Tertullian. In On Modesty, Tertullian launches into a strident diatribe against Christians who pray to the martyrs for forgiveness of their sins.58 In this most striking passage, Tertullian asserts that, with regard to the forgiveness of sin, Domini enim, 52 To use a name derived from MacMullen’s terminology. Of course, this does not mean that Tertullian necessarily represented the ‘First Church’ on every issue. 53 Tertulian, Apology XLII (ed. Glover, 192–3). 54 Richard Rutherford and Tony Barr, The Death of the Christian: The Order of Christian Funerals (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1990), 10. 55 Ibid. 56 Dölger, ‘Katakombe,’ 91. 57 Ibid. 58 Tertullian, Pud. XXI.1–4.

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non famuli est ius et arbitrium; Dei ipsius, non sacerdotis.59 Tertullian goes on to accuse these Christians of believing the martyrs to be able to forgive sin even before their deaths: At tu iam et in martyras tuos effundis hanc potestatem. Vt quisque ex consensione uincula induit adhuc mollia in nouo custodiae nomine, statim ambiunt moechi, statim adeunt fornicatores, iam preces circumsonant, iam lacrimae circumstagnant maculati cuiusque, nec ulli magis aditum carceris redimunt quam qui ecclesiam perdiderunt.60

Tertullian asserts that martyrs cannot forgive sins before their deaths. He argues: ‘who on earth and in the flesh is faultless?’61 According to him, not only do martyrs not have the power to forgive sins before their deaths, but neither do they have this power after their deaths, for, ‘[w]ho has redeemed another's death by his own, but the Son of God alone?’62 In this passage, Tertullian is clearly arguing against a popular belief within the Christian communities, which we find explicitly expressed in the very next generation in Carthage by Cyprian, that the deceased martyrs were indeed able to forgive sins.63 As Young has observed, ‘[m]artyrdom was a spectacle played on the terms of Graeco-Roman society.’64 Execution in the Roman arena itself was a highly ritualised form of entertainment.65 Young describes martyrdom as a ‘public liturgical sacrifice’ 66 and it was therefore only natural that it would tend to have been interpreted within the Christian communities ‘in the context of Roman ceremonial.’67 This was a layer of meaning that existed below the Christian understanding of martyrdom as ‘predicated upon and joined to Christ’s sacrificial death.’68 Given the focus of ancient ritual on seeking favour from the dead, combined with the context of the Jewish apocalyptic tradition of heavenly inter59

Tertullian, Pud. XXI.17. Tertullian, Pud. XXII.1. For a discussion of the theological issues, particularly in the sentence At tu iam et in martyras tuos effundis hanc potestatem, see Charles Munier, La Pudicité (De pudicitia) (Paris: Les Éditions du Cerf, 1993), 93–98. 61 Tertullian, Pud. XXII.3 (tr. Thelwall, 100). 62 Tertullian, Pud. XXII.1 (tr. Thelwall, 100). 63 Cyprian, Letter 21, 3.2 64 Robin Young, In Procession before the World: Martyrdom as Public Liturgy in Early Christianity (Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 2001), 12. 65 Jesper Carlsen, ‘Exemplary Deaths in the Arena: Gladiatorial Fights and the Execution of Criminals,’ in Contextualising Early Christian Martyrdom (ed. Jakob Engberg, Uffe Holmsgaard Eriksen, and Anders Klostergaard Petersen; Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2011), 78. This is evident, for example, in Perpetua and her companions being dressed in the costumes of the priests of Saturn and of those dedicated to Ceres in the arena. See Perpetua, XVIII.4. 66 Young, Martyrdom as Public Liturgy, 11–12. 67 Young, Martyrdom as Public Liturgy, 11–12. 68 Perkins, Imperial Identities, 166. See also especially Moss, Ideologies of Martyrdom. This is, for example, exemplified in the Passion of Perpetua in Felicitas’ response to the guard who taunts her in XV.5–6. 60

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cessors, it would have been difficult for the Christian communities not to have seen the martyrs as having favours to bestow, especially the forgiveness of sin. It is also not difficult to see how the practice of refrigerium would lend support to the idea that the dead could aid the living.69 It is, of course, not coincidental that in Perpetua’s next vision, she intercedes for her dead brother Dinocrates, consequently referring to him with the participle refrigerantem. Bremmer considers that this verb normally indicates physical well being in the Passion;70 however, as will be argued here, the most appropriate way to understand Perpetua calling Dinocrates refrigerantem is simply in the context of the accepted traditional ideology of refrigerium.71 Refrigerium concerned the transcendence of death, through the continuity of identity through community. Because of this, the martyrs were popularly understood as being able to enter into the enjoyment and privileges of refrigerium even before their deaths, at the time in which they embraced martyrdom. The martyrs’ earthly lives and their ascension into heaven overlap in early Christianity.72 We have, for example, the striking statement about Agape, Irene, and Chione, when before their martyrdom, they flee to a mountain to pray. The writer of the Martyrdom states that through their prayers, καὶ τὸ μὲν σῶμα τῷ ὕψει του ὅρους πρασῆπτον, τὴν δὲ ψυχὴν ἐν οὐρανοῖς εἶχον πολιτευομένην.73 The closest that Tertullian comes to this idea is when he writes to the imprisoned martyrs that: Though the body is shut in, though the flesh is confined, all things are open to the spirit. In spirit, then, roam abroad in spirit walk abroad [Vagare spiritu, spatiare spiritu], not setting before you shady walks or long colonnades, but that way which leads to God [sed illam viam, quae ad deum ducit]. As often as in spirit your footsteps are there, so often you will not be in bonds. Quotiens eam spiritu deambulaveris, totiens in carcere non eris.] The leg does not feel the chain when the mind is in the heavens. [Nihil crus sentit in nervo, cum animus in caelo est.]74

Later leaders of the church, such as Augustine and Jerome, were quite prepared to become technical in their definitions of adoration and worship so as defend Christians against charges of ever having adored the martyrs. Certainly a popular enthusiasm for the martyrs is evident in the works of Tertullian. That this became, over time, an extremely sensitive issue is clear from Jerome’s response to Vigilantius’ accusations, so that he rails against Vigilantius with the words Quis enim, o insanum caput, aliquando martyres adoravit?75 69 MacMullen, Second Church, 59. Although there is no explicit indication in the Passion of Perpetua that the martyrs themselves have the ability to forgive sins. 70 Bremmer, Afterlife, 65. See Perpetua, VIII.1. 71 Furthermore, there is certainly no ‘interim’ aspect to Perpetua’s phrase in the sense of an ‘interim state’ within an eschatological framework. 72 Moss, Ideologies of Martyrdom, 132. 73 The Martyrdom of Saints Agape, Irene, and Chione at Saloniki I.3. 74 Tertullian, Ad Martyras, II.9–10 (tr. Thelwall, 694). 75 Jerome, Vigil. 5.

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It was during this same period, two centuries after Tertullian, that refrigerium within Christianity was repressed by bishops such as Ambrose and Augustine, and metamorphosed into approved eucharistic celebrations for the dead in the city basilicas. MacMullen comments that these later bishops deplored the rites of the cult of the dead, the funerary picnics, and all that was associated with them, ‘on grounds not of morals or doctrine, but of style.’76 Given the social dimensions of the cult of the dead, one suspects that the concerns of the bishops may have been more ideological and sociological in nature than was publicly announced. Tertullian’s own concerns with the cult of the dead, at least as he expresses them in De Spectaculis seem, as is often the case with him, to be more fundamentally theological in nature.77 Later, Augustine notably called refrigerium a ‘grave moral corruption’ (tantam morum labem),78 to be ‘rooted out and put down’ by the bishops who ‘think truly of the life to come.’79 This statement by Augustine is rather polemical. It certainly should not be understood as indicating that refrigerium was a minority practice among Christians, particularly given the extensive material evidence that MacMullen brings to our attention.80 That Augustine refers to these bishops who are presumably engaged in opposing the cult of the dead as those who ‘think truly about the life to come’ is also worth some reflection. By implication, there are those who do not ‘think truly about the life to come.’ Once again, there seems to be two traditions represented here, involving both a theological and ideological divide; it was not merely a ‘matter of style.’ One tradition was the predominant position championed by the ‘Apostolic Fathers,’ the early apologists, and Tertullian himself, involving an eschatological resurrection of the flesh as the principal hope of the believer. The other, popular, tradition was able to comfortably embrace a more traditional understanding of refrigerium and its rituals.

D. Conclusion Gee rightly observes that the writings of later Christian leaders ‘reveal a struggle between absorption and rejection of the pagan burial customs that flowed almost seamlessly into Christian funerary ritual, in particular activities surrounding martyr cults.’81 In this context, Augustine, for example, clearly high76

MacMullen, ‘Ancestor Worship,’ 611. See Tertullian, De Spectaculis, VI.3–4, XII.4–5, and XIII.3–4. 78 Augustine, Letter 22.4 (tr. and ed. J. Baxter, 47). 79 Ibid.: et vere de vita futura cogitantium. In other words, these bishops hold the true views of the afterlife. Compare this translation with that of Baxter: ‘truly contemplating the life to come’ (47). 80 See MacMullen, Second Church, especially the Appendix, 117–41. 81 Gee, ‘Corpse to Ancestor,’ 65. 77

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lights the accusation that was made against Christians regarding the similarity of the traditional cult of the dead with the Christian cult. In replying to Faustus, he writes that ‘[a]s to our paying honor to the memory of the martyrs [quod martyrum memorias honoramus], and the accusation of Faustus, that we worship them instead of idols [in hoc dicens nos idola convertisse] … in saying that we have turned the idols into martyrs [[c]um enim dixisset nos vertisse idola in martyres], he speaks of our worshipping them with similar rites, and appeasing the shades of the departed with wine and food’ [inquit, similibus colitis, defunctorum umbras vino placatis et dapibus].82 The Passion of Perpetua, when read together with the writings of Tertullian, provides a perspective into this ‘struggle between absorption and rejection of pagan burial customs,’ and moreso, ideology, from an earlier period than Augustine. They reveal a community that presented itself as being united, and perhaps considered itself to be so. However, Tertullian provides evidence of different currents of thought and practice with regard to the views of the afterlife and the cult of the dead. While eventually the explicit practice of the cult of the dead was suppressed, key aspects of its underlying ideology and piety became in many respects normative through the success of the hierarchy of the church in mutating key elements of this cult into forms that were more palatable to the bishops and theologians.


Augustine, Faust. XX.21 (tr. Schaff, 261). See also Zeno, Tractatus I.2 (I.16).

Chapter 8

The Interim State in the Passion of Perpetua and in the Works of Tertullian A. Introduction Since we are considering the ideologies of the afterlife in early Christianity, i.e., the afterlife of believers, the corresponding issue is the afterlife of nonChristians. As we have seen, Tertullian taught that all souls, whether good or evil, go to Hades at death to await the final judgment. In fact, Tertullian ‘coined the phrase refrigerium interim,’1 and he elaborates the Christian notion of an interim state, to which this phrase refers, more clearly than any Christian writer before him.2 Although the Passion of Perpetua is predominantly concerned with the fate of the righteous, it also includes an episode dealing with the fate of Perpetua’s presumably pagan brother Dinocrates. Before commencing, it is important to note that the application of the medieval concepts of ‘purgatory’ and ‘hell’ to earliest Christianity is quite anachronistic. Care must be exercised by scholars who attempt to trace the origins of these later Christian ideas in the ancient world.3 Hill comments that ‘the infernal intermediate state cannot be called “the common Christian view” in the first through the third centuries.’4 As far as hell is concerned, Kyrtatas notes that this notion, in its traditional, and medieval, Christian conceptualisation, is ‘absent from the New Testament.’5

B. The Interim State in the ‘Apostolic Fathers’ In this section, as a preface to a consideration of the interim state in Tertullian, and its possible presence in the Passion of Perpetua, the suggestions of an interim state in the earliest post-canonical Christian writings of the ‘Apostolic Fa1

Russell , Heaven, 69. See Tertullian, Mon. X.5. Daley, Hope, 36. 3 E.g., Nicholas Wyatt, ‘The Concept and Purpose of Hell: Its Nature and Development in West Semitic Thought,’ Numen 56.2 & 3 (2009): 161. 4 Hill, Regnum Caelorum, 252–3. 5 Dimitris Kyrtatas, ‘The Origins of Christian Hell,’ Numen 56 (2009), 282–3. 2

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thers’ will be briefly reviewed.6 As noted above, we find a very cautious early Christian attempt to refer to an immediate life after death in the Polycarp texts.7 The Polycarp texts, and particularly the Martyrdom, seem to simultaneously espouse the view of an immediate afterlife following death and a belief in an eschatological resurrection.8 In this regard, we have also noted previously that the Martyrdom of Polycarp itself may date from a later period, and was possibly redacted considerably after the time of Tertullian.9 Be that as it may, a similar tension is also evident in 1 Clement, which, although arguing strongly for the resurrection, also appears to theorise the existence, in N.T. Wright’s terms, of a ‘two-stage post-mortem life: first, a time of rest, and then a ‘making manifest’ when the kingdom comes.’10 The relevant passage is found at 50.3–4: those who by God’s grace were perfected in love have a place among the godly, who will be revealed when the kingdom of Christ visits us. For it is written: “Enter into the innermost rooms for a very little while [Εἰσέλθετε εἰς τὰ ταμεία μικρὸν ὅσον ὅσον], until my anger and wrath shall pass away, and I will remember a good day and will raise you from your graves” [καὶ ἀναστήσω ὑμας ἐκ τῶν θηκῶν ὑμῶν].11

There is considerable ambiguity in this passage. Is it referring to an immediate post-mortem life, or merely a ‘waiting’ for the resurrection? Similarly ambiguous is 1 Clement’s description of ‘those presbyters who have gone on ahead, who took their departure at a mature and fruitful age, for they no longer fear that someone may remove them from their established place.’12 It is perhaps significant that Clement never actually describes the martyrs or the righteous dead either as having ascended or having gone to heaven. As far as these texts are concerned, it is unclear whether this ‘intermediate state’ consists merely of what we might call ‘blessed anticipation’ in the sense of the surety of the ultimate reward, rather than of any form of actuality of an immediate life after death in an interim state. Even if we grant that these ‘Apostolic Fathers’ were expressing belief in an interim state, they certainly do not seem to be expressing them in a clear or consistent manner. We do not find a clear teaching of an interim state before Tertullian.


See the previous discussion in this work on the afterlife in the writings of the ‘Apostolic Fathers.’ Irenaeus will be discussed later. 7 See Mart. Pol. XIX.2. 8 See Mart. Pol. XIV.2. 9 Moss, ‘Dating of Polycarp,’ 574. 10 Wright, Resurrection, 483. 11 1 Clem. 50:3–4 (tr. Holmes, 113). 12 1 Clem. 44:4 (tr. Holmes, 105).

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C. Early Christian Apocalyptic Texts Dealing with the Afterlife Having considered the ‘Apostolic Fathers,’ we turn now to three early Christian apocalyptic texts that deal with the afterlife: the Apocalypse of Peter, the Ascension of Isaiah, and the Shepherd of Hermas. These texts appear to belong to a similar tradition with the Passion of Perpetua in terms of their understanding of the afterlife. I. The Apocalypse of Peter The Apocalypse of Peter is a significant text. There is evidence of its early translation into Latin, and of its use in western (Latin) Christianity; it is included in the Muratorian Canon.13 It is certainly an early text, and should be dated before c. 150.14 Inordinate claims have been made about the influence of the Apocalypse of Peter, including, as Bauckham notes, that ‘it is the source of the whole of the Christian tradition of visions of heaven and hell.’15 As Bremmer notes, Himmelfarb’s work has demonstrated that the genre of the tours of hell have a Jewish origin,16 and that the Apocalypse of Peter is the earliest extant Christian example of this type of text. In the context of the accounts of the torments of hell, Richard Bauckham specifically suggests that the account of the punishments in hell in the Apocalypse of Peter must be based on an earlier, lost Jewish apocalyptic text, which he suggests may be the Apocalypse of Elijah.17 However, the impression that there was somehow a monolithic, or even predominant, tradition within Jewish apocalyptic which can be neatly filed under the category ‘tours of hell’ would not be correct.18 Nevertheless, Himmelfarb has demonstrated the continuity between the broad Jewish and Christian tradi-


See Daniélou, Latin Christianity, 11. This is largely on the basis that it is used by both Clement of Alexandria in Eclog. 41, 48, 49 and in the Sibylline Oracles 2. See Bauckham, ‘Research,’ 4738; and Edwin Broadhead, Jewish Ways of Following Jesus: Redrawing the Religious Map of Antiquity (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 2010), 277 15 Bauckham, ‘Research,’ 4737. Here Bauckham is critiquing these claims. See also Martha Himmelfarb, The Apocalypse: A Brief History (Malden: Chichester, 2010), 98. 16 Jan Bremmer, ‘The Apocalypse of Peter: Greek or Jewish?’ in The Apocalypse of Peter (ed. Jan N. Bremmer and István Czachesz; Peeters: Leuven, 2003), 14. See also Himmelfarb, Tours of Hell: An Apocalyptic Form in Jewish and Christian Literature (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1985), 127, 139. 17 Richard Bauckham, ‘Apocalypses in the New Pseudepigrapha,’ JTS 26 (1986), 82, fn.16. 18 Daniel Harlow, The Greek Apocalypse of Baruch (3 Baruch) in Hellenistic Judaism and Early Christianity, Studia in Veteris Testamenti Pseudepigrapha 12 (Leiden: Brill, 1996), 68. The Judaeo-Christian ‘tours of hell,’ for example, are not at all uniform in their conceptualisation and timing, as the Apocalypse of Peter itself illustrates. 14

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tions of visionary tours of hell.19 Furthermore, Bremmer is of the view that both Himmelfarb and Bauckham overrate the Jewish influence, on the basis of the many obviously relevant Orphic texts that have come to light in recent decades.20 Neither need we restrict the possible Graeco-Roman antecedents of hell to Orphism; Virgil also describes the eternal punishment of the wicked in Aeneas’ journey through the underworld of Dis.21 There are therefore backgrounds to the tours of hell in the Graeco-Roman world that are quite independent of Jewish apocalyptic.22 Adamik notes that the background of the description of Paradise in the Apocalypse of Peter is Greek, as are the function of the Acherusian Lake in the text and the notion of salvation after purification.23 The Apocalypse of Peter certainly graphically describes the eternal torments of the wicked.24 The original milieu in which the Apocalypse of Peter was written is in fact quite complex to define, with Egyptian ideas being clearly detectable, and ‘references to Hades, Tartarus, the Elysian Fields and the Acherusian Lake suggest[ing] that its author was competing with Orphic, Platonic and Pythagorean ideas.’25 Tobias Nicklas suggests, contra Bauckham, that the Apocalypse of Peter may have had its origins in a Jewish-Christian community in Alexandria in the first half of the second century, on the basis of the nature of the Motive in der Beschreibung der Hölle.26 This suggestion has the merit of providing a suitable context for the complex imagery in the text, including Jewish, Egyptian, and Greek elements; and perhaps also for the use of the work by Clement of Alexandria. Kyrtatas’ approach is different, arguing that the Apocalypse of Peter is a multi-layered text, and that in its earliest layers, it seems to have been principally concerned, ‘just like the New Testament, with salvation rather than everlasting chastisement.’27 Kyrtatas’ view is that the text was redacted at a much later stage, and that its original meaning was consequently ‘twisted almost beyond 19 Bauckham, ‘Visions of Hell,’ 74, citing Himmelfarb, Tours of Hell. See especially 167–170. 20 See Bremmer’s succinct discussion in ‘Tours of Hell: Greek, Jewish, Roman and Early Christian,’ in Topographie des Jenseits: Studien zur Geschichte des Todes in Kaiserzeit und Spätanike (ed. Walter Ameling; Franz Steiner Verlag: Stuttagart, 2011), 14–7. 21 Virgil, Aen. 6.548–76. On the heroic convention of katabasis, see Bremmer, ‘Greek or Jewish?,’ 13–4. 22 Ibid., 14. 23 Tamás Adamik, ‘The Description of Paradise in the Apocalypse of Peter,’ in The Apocalypse of Peter (ed. Jan N. Bremmer and István Czachesz; Peeters: Leuven, 2003), 86. 24 Apocalypse of Peter, Ethiopic and Akmim texts. 25 Kyrtatas, ‘Hell,’ 294. 26 Tobias Nicklas, ‘„Insider” und „Outsider”: Überlegungen zum historischen Kontext der Darstellung „jenseitiger Orte” in der Offenbarung des Petrus.’ Pages 35–48 in Topographie des Jenseits: Studien zur Geschichte des Todes in Kaiserzeit und Spätantike (ed. Walter Ameling; Franz Steiner Verlag: Stuttagart, 2011), 47–8. 27 Kyrtatas, ‘Hell,’ 282.

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recognition.’28 The implication of Kyrtatas’ hypothesis is that the notions of infernal, everlasting punishment in the Apocalypse of Peter may be significantly influenced by traditions later than the composition of the original text. Part of the complexity of studying the Apocalypse of Peter stems from the fact that it consists of two texts, the Ethiopic and the Akhmim (Greek) texts. Although the shared title implies a unitary text, this is not the case. A close inspection of these texts reveals that they reflect two different traditions of the afterlife. The Ethiopic text, on the one hand, is clearly framed by the author as ‘revelation of the Second Coming of Christ and Resurrection of the Dead.’29 It is a vision of ‘what shall come upon [sinners] in the last days when the day of God and the day of the decision of the judgement of God comes.’30 This is a perspective that is reflected throughout the Ethiopic text. In its non-depiction of the suffering of the wicked in an interim state, it refuses to reflect the view of the immediate fate of the wicked that the Jewish tours of hell reflect,31 and also the view of the immediate fate of the wicked in later Christianity. The account is entirely and specifically focused on the state that results after the second coming and final judgement. However, the Greek Akhmim text, though not complete, does not seem to be similarly framed, and appears to reflect a different understanding of the afterlife. The visions of Paradise and of the condition of the righteous are introduced by an account of Jesus on earth asking his disciples to go with Him to a mountain to pray: ‘And going with him, we the twelve disciples besought him to show us one of our righteous brethren who had departed out of the world [ῶν ἀδελφῶν ἡμῶν δικαίων τῶν ἐξελθόντων ἀπὸ τοῦ κόσμου], that we might see of what form they are, and take courage and encourage the men who hear us.’32 After showing the disciples all the righteous who have died and who are actually present in Paradise,33 Jesus says to them, ‘This is the place of your leaders, the righteous men.’34 The authorial framing, and the consistent use of the present tense in this context indicate that the Akmim text, in contrast to the Ethiopic text, portrays a vision of what actually is, rather than of a future eschatological reality. In terms of the trajectories of the afterlife, with its focus on an eschatological resurrection and judgment, the Ethiopic text appears to reflect an earlier stream within the Christian tradition, probably before c. AD 150. Conversely, the Akhmim text, in its representation of all the righteous in heaven and assumed immediate post-mortem ascent, appears to be a subsequent redaction of the 28

Ibid. Apocalypse of Peter, Ethiopic text, I (trans. Elliot, 600). 30 Apocalypse of Peter, Ethiopic text, IV (tr. Elliot, 602). 31 Bauckham, ‘Visions of Hell,’ 80. 32 Apocalypse of Peter, Akhmim text, V–VI (tr. Elliot, 609–10). 33 The relevant passages have been quoted and discussed earlier in this present work. 34 Apocalypse of Peter, Akhmim text, XX (tr. Elliot, 611). 29

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Ethiopic text.35 This suggestion, on the basis of the afterlife ideology of both texts, strongly supports the general opinion of scholars who have come to similar conclusions on textual grounds.36 Where the Ethiopic and Akhmim texts both agree is in that neither of them depict nor require an interim state: the Ethiopic text because its focus is solely in terms of apocalyptic eschatology, and the Akhmim text because it represents a fully realised eschatology at death. Nevertheless, both texts prominently feature the sufferings of the damned in hell. In the Ethiopic text, this occurs after the second coming and last judgment, and in the Akhmim text, the timing is indeterminate. Although the genesis of the Apocalypse of Peter is difficult to determine, it is nevertheless important to note that the concepts inherent in this text were influential in the development of later ideas regarding the interim state and of hell.37 II. The Ascension of Isaiah Although the Ascension of Isaiah has been relatively little studied,38 it is significant because, as does the Apocalypse of Peter, it offers important evidence about the state of Christianity in the second century.39 Enrico Norelli’s assessment is that chs. VI–XI40 originate with un gruppo cristiano nell’ambito della missione giudeocristiana ellenista ad Antiochia verso la fine del I secolo41 who practised l’ascensione al cielo in connessione con liturgie pneumatiche.42 In this environment, l’ascensione al (settimo) cielo era accettata come un mezzo adeguato per recivere rivelazioni autentiche e autorevoli.43

35 However, given the nature of the Apocalypse of Peter as a popular text, we need not necessarily assume a significantly later date for the Akhmim text either. However, on the popularity of the Apocalypse of Peter see Attila Jakab (‘The Reception of the Apocalypse of Peter in Ancient Christianity,’ in The Apocalypse of Peter [ed. Jan N. Bremmer and István Czachesz; Peeters: Leuven, 2003], 184), who defines some limitations of the texts’ popularity contra Bauckham, Fate of the Dead, 160–1. 36 J. Elliot, The Apocryphal New Testament: A Collection of Apocryphal Christian Literature in an English Translation (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2005), 594. Bauckham’s observations (‘Visions of Hell,’ 80) that the Apocalypse of Peter is a ‘prophecy of the future’ should be seen as applying solely to the Ethiopic text. 37 See A. Klijn, The Acts of Thomas: Introduction, Text, and Commentary, Supplements to Novum Testamentum 108 (Leiden: Brill, 2003), 136. 38 On the reasons for this, see Jonathan Knight, The Ascension of Isaiah (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1995), 23. 39 Ibid., 12–13. 40 The account of Isaiah’s ascent is found in Chapters VI-XI of the Ascension of Isaiah. 41 Norelli, Commentarius, 65. 42 Norelli, Commentarius, 43. See also Gieschen, Christology, 230. 43 Norelli, Commentarius, 43.

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It is worth nothing that Charles’ older source-critical division of this text,44 which posited a Jewish source directly behind the ‘Vision of Isaiah,’ has been rejected by important recent studies. In the most extensive of these, Norelli calls chapters 6–11 a un testo cristiano unitario.45 Similarly, Robert Hall, according to Schäfer, argues convincingly for the text’s unity.46 Hall warns ‘against using the labels “Jewish,” “Christian,” or “Gnostic” with regard to the vision,’ noting that ‘[p]erhaps the group behind the Vision has not yet had to define itself over against other groups. They may have never had to decide whether they are Jewish or Christian.’47 Whether or not the text has a direct Jewish source, what is important is that it is clearly closely aligned with Jewish apocalyptic thought. The very close affinities between the Ascension of Isaiah with Jewish apocalyptic texts are undeniable.48 The Ascension of Isaiah does not deal at all with the fate of the wicked; however, it does have something to say about the afterlife of the righteous, as noted previously. In the text, when Isaiah reaches the seventh heaven, he sees there all the righteous from Adam onwards (‘the holy Abel and all the righteous’).49 The righteous who have died are already in heaven; in fact, they are in the seventh heaven itself (9:1), and gathered around the throne in the presence of God, specifically Jesus Christ. However, the glorification of these saints is not fully complete, for even though they are ‘stripped of flesh’ and clothed with garments of glory (9:8–9), still, ‘they were not sitting on their thrones, nor were

44 Followed by Knibb in J. H. Charlesworth (ed.), Apocalyptic Literature and Testaments, vol. 1 of The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1983), 143– 54. Also Michael Jensen, ‘The Genesis of Hell: Eternal Torment in the Consciousness of Early Christianity,’ RTR 65 (2006): 142; Gruenwald, Merkavah Mysticism, 62; and Rowland, Open Heaven, 386–7. 45 Norelli, Commentarius, 43. Note his supporting argument in 13–43. In spite of the various languages in which sections of the Ascension of Isaiah have been preserved, Norelli (Commentarius, 12) considers that the original language was undoubtedly Greek. 46 Schäfer, Origins, 94, citing Robert Hall, ‘Isaiah’s Ascent to See the Beloved: An Ancient Jewish Source for the Ascension of Isaiah?’ JBL 113 (1994): 465–84. See also comments in Bauckham, ‘Visions of Hell,’ 74. In this context, Mauro Pesce (‘Presupposti per l’utilizzazione storica dell’Ascensione di Isaia. Formazione e Tradizione del Testo; Genere letterario; Cosmologia angelica,’ in Isaia, il Diletto e la Chiesa: Vision ed Esegesi profetica cristiano-primitiva nell’Ascensione di Isaia [ed. Mauro Pesce; Brescia: Paideia Editrice, 1983], 35) refers to Charles’ prematura interpretazione… sulla formazione del testo di AI. 47 Hall, ‘Isaiah’s Ascent,’ 484. However, note the quite different reading in Greg Carey, ‘The Ascension of Isaiah: Characterization and Conflict,’ in Violence and Persuasion: Rhetorical Dimensions of Apocalyptic Discourse (ed. L. Gregory Bloomquist and Greg Carey; St. Louis: Chalice Press, 1999), 166. 48 Rowland, Open Heaven, 386–7; Gieschen, Christology, 239, 244; Norelli, Commentarius, 43, 55. 49 Asc. Is. IX.8 (tr. Knibb in Charlesworth, Pseudepigrapha, 170); See also Asc. Is. IX.28.

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their crowns of glory on them.’50 When Isaiah asks why they have not yet received their crowns and thrones of glory, Isaiah’s guiding angel explains that they will receive these when Jesus ascends back to heaven after his death and resurrection on earth (9:14–8). What is significant here is that from the perspective of the community that produced this text, this has already been acheived. While this representation in the Ascension of Isaiah can hardly be called an ‘interim state’ as traditionally understood, it illustrates one of the plethora of views that existed in early Christianity on the fate of the dead. Peter Schäfer remarks that this text ‘is solely concerned with the destiny of the individual,’51 and that the message of this ascent apocalypse is that the righteous ascend to the seventh heaven after their deaths, where they become superior even to the angels.52 III. The Shepherd of Hermas The Shepherd of Hermas is a Judaeo-Christian apocalyptic text that dates within a range from the late first century to the mid-second century.53 Robinson considered that after the canonical Scriptures, it was the Shepherd of Hermas that was responsible for suggesting to the author(s) ‘a multitude of details’ that are found in the Passion of Perpetua.54 Some of these parallels, among the many to which Robinson pointed, include the image of the dragon/beast,55 the shepherd,56 the four angels/glorious virgins,57 the huge man who appears to Perpetua as the trainer,58 and the apple/fruit.59 Robinson considered that these instances established the ‘strong possibility that the Martyrs were familiar with the visions of Hermas,’60 and many scholars since have also commented on some of the parallels.61 Katharina Waldner also points to another kind of connection between Perpetua and the Shepherd, suggesting that the author and the editor of Perpetua ‘consciously staged the authority of the visions within the framework of contemporary debates,’ and she 50

Asc. Is. IX.10 (tr. Knibb in Charlesworth, Pseudepigrapha, 170). Schäfer, Origins, 99. 52 Ibid., 98–9. 53 ,Apostolic Fathers, 447. 54 Robinson, S. Perpetua, 27. For the parallels see ibid., 28–34; however, it must be said that some of the parallels are rather strained, such as Robinson’s discussion, S. Perpetua, 30, of the role of water in the Shepherd III.7.3, and his attempt to relate it to the afterlife in Parable IX.15.5, in terms of the Dinocrates episode in the Perpetua VIII.2–4. 55 Perpetua, IV.4–7; cv Shepherd of Hermas, IV.1.6. 56 Perpetua, IV.8; cv Shepherd of Hermas, V.1. 57 Perpetua, XI.4; cv Shepherd of Hermas, IX.2.3. This parallel seems rather tenuous. 58 Perpetua, X.8; cv Shepherd of Hermas, Parable IX.6.1. 59 Perpetua, X.8; cv Shepherd of Hermas, Parable IX.28.1–4. Note that in this passage from the Shepherd, the fruit is the reward for confessors. 60 Robinson, S. Perpetua, 34. 61 For example, Frend, Martyrdom, 296; and Farina, Perpetua of Carthage, 119. 51

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considers that the Eleventh Commandment in the Shepher, dealing with true and false prophecy, forms part of this polemical context.62 Robinson’s view that the authors of the Passion of Perpetua were familiar with the Shepherd and its language has been most recently also argued by Heffernan, who considers that particularly in Saturus’ section, the allusions to ‘the Shepherd of Hermas are intentionally transparent.’63 Robinson also hypothesised that the Shepherd of Hermas was included in the canonical books of the New Testament in the African churches towards the end of the second century.64 If the Shepherd of Hermas was an authoritative text in the North African Christian communities, then it is all the more significant that it is also another early Christian apocalyptic text in which it appears that all of the non-martyred righteous dead are in a paradisiacal existence. In Parable IX.27.2–3, the Shepherd refers to the ‘bishops and hospitable people who were always glad to welcome [ὑπεδέξαντο] God’s servants into their homes without hypocrisy.’65 It is said of these that they ‘will be sheltered by the Lord forever; the ones who have done these things are glorious in God’s sight, and their place is already [ἤδη] with the angels, if [ἑάν] they continue serving the Lord to the end.’66 Presumably, the people who are being described here are already deceased, since they are described in the past tense, although it must be admitted that the text is not entirely clear on this; the blessings promised here are described as being contingent on their continual service to the Lord. However, the idea of ‘already’ having a place with the angels suggests a present reality. In this regard the Shepherd’s vision of the immediate afterlife of the righteous seems to be similar to that of the Passion of Perpetua. In suggesting that the Shepherd is here describing an immediate afterlife for the non-martyred righteous, it is worth noting that this may not necessarily have implied a denial of the resurrection in the mind of the author. The argument in Parable 5.6–7 appears to require a resurrection of the flesh (σὰρχ67). We may, however, at least say that the author of the text appears to be relatively uninterested in the resurrection. In referring to both the immediate afterlife of the righteous and the resurrection of the flesh, the author of the Shepherd may however 62

Katharina Waldner, ‘Visions, Prophecy, and Authority in the Passio Perpetuae,’ Pages 201–219 in Perpetua's Passions: Multidisciplinary Approaches to the Passio Perpetuae et Felicitatis (edited by Jan N. Bremmer and Marco Formisano; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 212–213. 63 Heffernan, Passion of Perpetua, 82. 64 Robinson, S. Perpetua, 36. 65 Shepherd of Hermas, Parable IX.27.2 (tr. Holmes, 669). 66 Shepherd of Hermas, Parable IX.27.3 (ed. & tr. Holmes, 668–669). 67 Shepherd of Hermas, Parable V.6.5–V.7.4 (ed. Holmes, 581–582). Hill, Regnum Caelorum, 94, is of the view that, “[t]he near silence of Hermas on the resurrection is thus due to the accepted and uncontroverted place that the doctrine had with Hermas and his readers.”

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be giving us an example of how these ideas were not always incompatible in early Christianity. It is, however, difficult to say much more about the Shepherd’s conception of the afterlife. Unlike the Passion of Perpetua, the afterlife is not a theme that the Shepherd seeks to develop. We must concur with Wright, who observes that in this text, questions of the afterlife are ‘at best muted,’68 and that ‘[a]ll in all, we have a strong sense that we are asking a question that Hermas was not interested in.’69 Each of these texts; the Apocalypse of Peter, the Ascension of Isaiah, and the Shepherd of Hermas, in terms of their apparent conceptualisation of the immediate presence of the non-martyred righteous in heaven, provide evidence of this view in the post-canonical texts of early Christianity. At least in this sense, they belong to a similar eschatological tradition as the Passion of Perpetua. We do not find emergent notions of an interim state in these texts that might also generally be considered to reflect popular Christian views.70 Rather, we find suggestions of the interim state more in the writings that have been traditionally denominated as the ‘Apostolic Fathers,’ whose interests were more directly theological and ecclesiastical. One writer, who was certainly theological in his perspectives, was Tertullian, to whose writings we now turn.

D. The Interim State in the Works of Tertullian Daley points out that Tertullian ‘elaborates more clearly than any Christian writer before him a theory of an “interim state.”’71 Indeed, it was he who defined the Christian notion of an interim state through his concept of refrigerium interim.72 In On the Soul, Tertullian argues for Hades as the interim state as follows: you must suppose Hades to be a subterranean region [regionem inferum subterraneam], and keep at arm’s length those who are too proud to believe that the souls of the faithful deserve a place in the lower regions [inferis]. These persons, who are “servants above their Lord, and disciples above their Master,” would no doubt spurn to receive the comfort of the resurrection, if they must expect it in Abraham’s bosom…73

Beyond being merely a place of waiting until the resurrection and final judgment,74 Hades, in Tertullian’s conception, is also a place where sinners begin to 68

Wright, Resurrection, 491. Ibid., 492. 70 This question will be discussed with relation to the Passion of Perpetua below. 71 Daley, Hope, 36. 72 See Tertullian, An. LV–LVIII. 73 Ibid., LV.2 (tr. Holmes, 231; ed. Waszink, 73). 74 A somewhat similar idea is found in the later Vision of Saint Paul, in which the interim state involves more than just “waiting” (“bedeuten mehr als nur einen Wartezustand.”) See Ernst Dassmann, “Paulus in der >>Visio sancti Pauli,