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The Acts Of Paul

c. 150-200 C.E.

The Acts of Paul were by far the most popular of the apocryphal acts, spawning a great deal of Christian art and secondary literature, as well as a cult which venerated Thecla, the young girl who accompanies Paul on his missionary journeys. The Acts were considered orthodox by Hippolytus, as well as other writers as late as the mid-fourth century, but were eventually rejected by the church when heretical groups like the Manichaeans began to adopt them. Still, some late Greek texts of the Epistles to Timothy contain alternate passages that appear to be derived from the Acts.

The Acts of Paul were often coupled with the Third Letter of Paul to the Corinthians, which was regarded as authentically Pauline by the Syrian and Armenian churches. Originally a separate work, it was likely written around the time of the pastoral epistles and conjoined with the later Acts only after it had been excluded from most Pauline collections. The letter was written primarily to combat Gnostic and Marcionite doctrine which utilized other Pauline works for anti-semitic means. This epistle has survived in several extant manuscripts, as have the stories of Thecla and the account of Paul's beheading in Rome; the remainder of the Acts exist only in fragmentary Greek texts from the third century, and Coptic texts from the fifth.

The author, who is unknown, does not appear to show any dependence upon the canonical Acts, instead utilizing other oral traditions of Paul's preaching and missionary work. He likely wrote in Asia Minor near the end of the second century.

(A translation of III Corinthians, as well as an analysis of its relationship to the rest of the Pauline corpus, can be found in Gerd Lüdemann's Heretics, Wesminster John Knox Press, 1996.)