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The Ancient Martyrdom Accounts of Peter and Paul

The Ancient Martyrdom Accounts of Peter and Paul

Translated with an Introduction and Notes by David L. Eastman
  • Book Info
    The Ancient Martyrdom Accounts of Peter and Paul
    Book Description:

    New English translations based upon the most up-to-date critical editions

    This book for the first time collects the various ancient accounts of the martydoms of Peter and Paul, which number more than a dozen, along with more than forty references to the martyrdoms from early Christian literature. At last a more complete picture of the traditions about the deaths of Peter and Paul is able to emerge.


    Greek, Latin, and Syriac accounts from antiquity translated into EnglishIntroductions and notes for each textOriginal texts are produced on facing pages for specialists

    eISBN: 978-1-62837-092-8
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  2. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xvii-xxvi)

    According to Gal 2:9, an important deal was struck in Antioch that was to determine the shape of early Christian missionary activity. Peter would focus his efforts on evangelizing “the circumcised,” while Paul would go and preach to the gentiles. As a result, Peter is remembered as theapostle to the Jews,¹ while Paul is remembered as theapostle to everyone else. This vision of the apostles as the two pillars of the church is witnessed as early as the Acts of the Apostles, in which act 1 (Acts 1–12) features Peter in Jerusalem and its vicinity, and act...

  5. Part 1. The Martyrdom of Peter

    • 1. Martyrdom of the Holy Apostle Peter CANT 190.iv / BHG 1483–1485
      (pp. 1-26)

      The texts of the New Testament do not provide details of Peter’s later life or death. In the absence of good evidence, various stories arose of the apostle’s later adventures and eventual martyrdom. The Martyrdom (or Passion) of Peter represents one such story. It is traditionally treated as the final section of a larger cycle of legends known as the Acts of Peter; chapters 1–12 of the Martyrdom of Peter correspond to chapters 30–41 of the Acts of Peter.

      Prior to the beginning of the Martyrdom of Peter, Peter has already been in Rome for some time strengthening...

    • 2. Pseudo-Linus, Martyrdom of Blessed Peter the Apostle CANT 191 / BHL 6655
      (pp. 27-66)

      At its core this is primarily a Latin revision of the Greek Martyrdom of Peter. The text includes many of the same elements we find in the earlier Greek text. Peter’s preaching of chastity reaches the aristocratic women of Rome, including four concubines (not “wives” as in the Greek Martyrdom of Peter) of the prefect Agrippa and Xanthippe, the wife of Albinus. The sexually frustrated husbands plot against Peter, but Xanthippe alerts Peter to the impending threat. The believers plead with Peter to flee Rome, and he finally agrees. However, he meets Christ on the road and understands that Christ’s...

    • 3. Pseudo-Abdias, Passion of Saint Peter CANT 195 / BHL 6663–6664
      (pp. 67-102)

      This Latin text is part of a larger cycle recounting the lives and deaths of the apostles. The section on Peter is always first in the sequence and begins with a retelling of selected stories from the Gospels. It then moves to an account of a conflict in Caesarea Maritima between Peter and Simon the sorcerer that eventually leads Peter to Rome and his martyrdom. This is the point at which this translation joins the story.

      Simon has been actively trying to undermine Peter and finally proposes a public debate. A crowd of Simon’s followers joins the sorcerer in the...

    • 4. History of Shimeon Kepha the Chief of the Apostles CANT 200 / BHO 935
      (pp. 103-118)

      Our translation picks up the story of Peter, also identified by his Aramaic name Shimeon Kepha, at the point of the apostle’s successful preaching in Rome. The reference to his strengthening of the churches there serves to establish Peter as the de facto founder of Roman and Italian Christianity.

      Shimeon’s preaching attracts members of the imperial household and various aristocratic women, including two wives and two concubines of the prefect. His message of sexual renunciation causes them to withdraw from Agrippa’s bed, despite the prefect’s violent threats. Then Xanthippe, the wife of Albinus, is swayed by the apostolic preaching such...

  6. Part 2. The Martyrdom of Paul

    • 5. Martyrdom of the Holy Apostle Paul in Rome CANT 211.v / BHG 1451–1452
      (pp. 121-138)

      The story opens with Luke and Titus, two of Paul’s closest disciples, waiting for him in Rome. Upon arrival, Paul rents a dwelling outside the city and begins preaching freely. This is presumably meant to connect this text with the end of Acts (28:16–31), where a similar story is told. The apostle’s preaching attracts large crowds, including a young man named Patroclus, a servant of the Emperor Nero. Like the young man Eutyches in Acts 20, Patroclus falls asleep while listening to Paul’s preaching and plummets from an open window to his death. Nero hears of this tragic event...

    • 6. Pseudo-Linus, Martyrdom of the Blessed Apostle Paul CANT 212 / BHL 6570
      (pp. 139-170)

      This is primarily a Latin revision and expansion of the Greek Martyrdom of the Holy Apostle Paul in Rome, so many of the same elements are present. Paul is preaching unfettered in a barn outside Rome, and crowds are coming out to him, including some from the household of Caesar. Nero’s cupbearer, Patroclus, goes out to listen to Paul but has to sit in a window because of the large crowd. Sleep eventually overtakes him, and he dies after falling from the window. Nero hears of this and is deeply grieved, but he does not know that Paul has already...

    • 7. Pseudo-Abdias, Passion of Saint Paul CANT 213 / BHL 6574–6577
      (pp. 171-188)

      This text was produced and transmitted as part of a cycle of apostolic lives and martyrdom accounts. It is consistently second in the series, following a version of the life and death of Peter (Pseudo-Abdias’sPassion of Peter). The opening chapters are largely taken from the Acts of the Apostles and recount the stories of Paul’s call and preaching up to the time he was taken to Rome. Our translation picks up the account as the apostle is sailing across the Mediterranean.

      Paul miraculously survives a snake bite on the island of Malta and then travels to Rome and remains...

    • 8. History of the Holy Apostle My Lord Paul BHO 889
      (pp. 189-202)

      The first seven chapters of this history of Paul are a resume of the material in the Acts of the Apostles. The author acknowledges as much and states that he had quickly passed over those stories, because Luke had accurately portrayed them. We pick up the story in the period after Paul’s initial defense before the emperor Nero. The apostle is released and reaches his goal of going to Spain to preach the gospel. Ten years later Paul hears of the death of Shimeon (Peter) in Rome and returns to encourage the Christians there. He converts many along the way,...

    • 9. Martyrdom of Paul the Apostle and the Discovery of His Severed Head BHO 884, 898
      (pp. 203-218)

      This Syriac text may be divided into three distinct sections. In part one the author provides a brief summary of Paul’s biography, recounting his Jewish ancestry and eventual baptism by Ananias. After suffering many persecutions Paul comes to Rome and finds Peter there. They agree that Paul should focus his mission on the gentiles, while Peter will focus on the Jews. Nero sentences both of them to death, and as they are on the way to the executions, they lay hands on their disciples— Peter on Mark and Paul on Luke. After Paul and Peter are killed, their bodies are...

  7. Part 3. Joint Martyrdom Accounts of Peter and Paul

    • 10. Pseudo-Marcellus, Passion of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul CANT 193.1 / BHL 6657–6659 and Acts of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul CANT 193.2 / BHG 1490–1491
      (pp. 221-316)

      These two texts generally follow each other very closely, so they will be introduced together.

      One of the places they diverge, however, is at the beginning of the text, where the Greek Acts of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul (Greek Acts) includes twenty-one additional chapters relating the travels and adventures of Paul between Malta and Rome. Most notable among this additional material is a plot by some of the Jews in Rome to have Paul assassinated by the order of the emperor. Nero issues an edict to kill Paul on sight. The captain of one of Paul’s ships happens...

    • 11. Passion of the Apostles Peter and Paul CANT 194 / BHL 6667
      (pp. 317-342)

      Peter and Paul enter Rome, seemingly together, and are received by the many Christians already in that city. They renew their acquaintance with a relative of Pontius Pilate, whom they had known in Judea. Meanwhile, a skilled sorcerer named Simon comes to Nero’s attention. Nero initially orders his arrest but ends up inviting him into his household. He asks Simon where he comes from, and the sorcerer claims that he comes from the East, was rejected and crucified by the Jews, and rose on the third day. He offers to prove to Nero that he can rise from the dead,...

    • 12. Pseudo-Dionysius, Epistle to Timothy on the Death of the Apostles Peter and Paul CANT 197 / BHL 6671
      (pp. 343-366)

      The author (“Dionysius”) opens the text, which is presented as a letter, with praise for Timothy because he had endured many hardships alongside Paul. He then turns to an encomium of Paul himself as a great teacher, a destroyer of sin and demons, an enemy of the Jews, and a builder of the church. However, Paul will no longer be able to send letters, and the author laments the loss of such a great spiritual father. The disciples of Paul are left destitute by the death of their teacher, who was able to open and explain the Scriptures to them....

    • 13. Teaching of Shimeon Kepha in the City of Rome CANT 199 / BHO 936
      (pp. 367-376)

      The text had opened with a summary of some stories from the Gospels and an account of the arrival of Peter, here called Shimeon Kepha, in Rome (chs. 1–5). In the midst of a sermon, where this translation begins, Shimeon turns his attention to Simon the sorcerer. He admonishes the crowd not to be fooled by Simon’s deceptions; rather, they should bring him to a public competition, where the true worker of miracles will be identified by his ability to perform a sign. Some people go to Simon and invite him to this confrontation, confident that he can do...

    • 14. Doctrine of the Apostles BHO 81–82
      (pp. 377-386)

      In the sections prior to what is translated here, the author asserts that after the events of Pentecost, the apostles put in place certain regulations concerning worship, the church calendar, the roles and qualifications of church leaders, and various other issues. Then follows a gazetteer of apostolic missions. Different regions from Britain to India are described as having received “the apostles’ hand of priesthood” from certain apostles, probably a reference to the ordination of bishops through the laying on of hands.

      The final section of the text refers to the apostolic deaths. The author specifies that Luke reported the deeds...

  8. Part 4. Patristic Literature

    • 15. Early Christian and Patristic References to the Deaths of Peter and Paul
      (pp. 389-444)

      The martyrdom accounts of the apostles are not the only references to these events in early Christian literature. As early as the end of the first century CE, other authors refer to these events, even if only obliquely at first. In the patristic period such references become more common and explicit as the legacy of apostolic martyrdom is evoked in various contexts and for various reasons.¹ This chapter presents a broad selection of the most significant examples, without making any claims to being exhaustive.

      ἀλλ’ ἵνα τῶν ἀρχαίων ὑποδειγμάτων παυσώμεθα, ἔλθωμεν ἐπὶ τοὺς ἔγγιστα γενομένους ἀθλητάς· λάβωμεν τῆς γενεᾶς ἡμῶν...

  9. Scripture Index
    (pp. 457-462)
  10. General Index
    (pp. 463-470)