For Anonymous Dissident (who removed my link to Acta Pauli from the article herein critiqued)
In view of the extended correspondence that I’ve been able to have with Anonymous Dissident, a Wikipedia editor, I’ve decided to begin to critique the Acts of Paul related articles in Wikipedia. Let’s start with the French. Please bear in mind that I am evaluating the French article as it looked today but that it can change at any time.
Title: Acts of Paul and Thecla (Actes de Paul et Thècle) — I suppose there is nothing wrong with the title of the article. Shall we move to line 1?
Part One: Origine du texte
Line 1: The Acts of Paul is an apocryphal story “of the influence of Paul on young virgin named Thecla and the novelized life of the girl” (de l’influence de Paul sur une jeune vierge nommée Thècle et la vie romancée de celle-ci.) The Acts of Paul and Thecla is not a novelized “life” of Thecla, because it only recounts her two martyrdom experiences in Iconium and Antioch, with a short summary of how she went down to Seleucia (IV, 18), illumined many and slept a beautiful sleep. However, the 5th century text of Ps. Basil is entitled, “Life and Miracles of Thecla”. A part of this text is presented at “Le Champ du Midrash” as though it were the second century text (see the external link). The proper title in Greek, however, is ΠΡΑΞΕΙΣ, “Acts” (See text in Dagron, title).
Line 2: The probable date is 2nd century. This is true. It is cited by Tertullian by about 205 so it must have existed before then. But I know of no scholars who would date it before 100. Thus, the text is second century beyond a reasonable doubt.
Line 3: It was part of an apocryphal writing known in Coptic as the Acts of Paul, which included, in addition to the story of the life of Thecla, the third epistle to the Corinthians and the Epistle of the Corinthians to Paul. (Il fait parti d’un ouvrage apocryphe connu en copte sous le nom d’Actes de Paul comprenant, outre le récit sur la vie de Thècle, la troisième épître aux Corinthiens et l’Épitre des corinthiens à Paul.) To say that it was known in Coptic under the name of Acts of Paul is an understatement. It was also known by this name in the Greek church. The statement also fails to mention the Martyrdom of Paul, which was a part of the original Acts of Paul. The French Wikipedia repeats the error of English Wikipedia of separating 3 Corinthians from “The Epistle of the Corinthians to Paul”. The complete name of this apocryphon would be “The apocryphal correspondence between Paul and the Corinthians“; scholars have dubbed the two “letters” as 3 Corinthians. Yet it is inappropriate that they should have separate Wikipedia entries, since we are dealing with single literary text. It is especially false because of the title given to the letter of the Corinthians: “The Epistle of the Corinthians to Paul”. We know from 1 Cor that Corinthians had written at least one letter to Paul. But the contents of that letter, which can be deduced by what Paul says about it, do not corresond at all to what Wikipedia has dubbed, “The epistle”; at most optimistic it is “An epistle of the Corinthians to Paul”. But it is an apocryphal correspondence and therefore not authentic.
Line 4: According to Tertulian, this work was a forgery, ca. 160, to the glory of Paul by a Presbyter of Asia Minor, whose fraud was discovered (Selon Tertullien, cet ouvrage est un faux écrit vers 160 à la gloire de Paul par un presbyte d’Asie mineure dont la fraude a été découverte.) In Bapt. 17.5 (the article leaves out the primary source reference), Tertullian says that the author was a presbyter who composed the text and resigned his office of presbyter (priest). Tertullian implies it was a fraud by saying went spuriously under Paul’s name. The main error here is that Tertullian provides no date, and the author of the line obviously has not read de Bapt. 17.5, which I reproduce here from ANF
But if the writings which wrongly go under Paul’s name, claim Thecla’s example as a licence for women’s teaching and baptizing, let them know that, in Asia, the presbyter who composed that writing, as if he were augmenting Paul’s fame from his own store, after being convicted, and confessing that he had done it from love of Paul, was removed [decisse = resigned, stepped down] from his office.
Line 5: The author recognized his falsification, and he was condemned and “dechu” (deposed) of his office. “Decisse” means to step down, while “dechu” is ambiguous, but primarily signifies, “deposed”.
Line 6: However a number of versions were published in Greek, Syriac, Armenian, and even in Latin, which explains that an number of works of the Fathers of the Church make allusion to it. “Cependant de nombreuses versions furent diffusées en grec, syriaque, arménien et même en latin, ce qui explique que nombre d’ouvrages des Pères de l’Église y fassent allusion.” The term “numerous versions” is imprecise. Typically, a “version” is a translation of the text. A “recension” would be the text transmitted in a particular form. There is for the Acts of Paul and Thecla different textual groups (W. Rordorf, forthcoming edition of CChrSA), but it is probably not proper to call them recensions. There are versions properly called in Latin, Syriac, and Armenian; why one would say, “even in Latin” as though Latin was some obscure language, is beyond me. Von Gebhardt identified five independent translations in Latin. Greek however is not a version but the original language. Wikipedia fails to mention that there is significant papyrus of the Acts of Paul, including the part called the Acts of Paul and Thecla, in Coptic.
Part two: Le récit
line 7-8: several days (plusieur jours): actually three days and nights.
line 9: Paul teaches that it is necessary to worship a single God and to live chastely. (Paul enseigne que l’on ne doit vénérer qu’un seul Dieu et vivre chastement.) Actually the content of Paul’s teaching is a series of beatitudes on sexual continence and the resurrection.
Line 10-11: Ok.
Line 12: Thecla listen to Paul teach all night the story of the miracles of Jesus (toute la nuit, le récit des miracles de Jesus): the Greek text does not clarify the content of what Thecla learned, except the “great acts of God”.
Line 13-15: ok.
Line 16: Thecla rejoins Paul at Antioch. Not quite, they meet at an open tomb on the road from Iconium to Daphne.
Line 17-22: ok
Line 23: Thecla returns to Iconium and finishes her days in a little hermitage which she created (Thècle revint à Iconium et finit ses jours dans un petit ermitage qu’elle créa.) This information may be based on Ps.Basil, “Thecla chose as her dwelling the summit of a mountain near this city, like Elijah and John the Baptist had chosen for their residence, the first Mt. Carmel, and the second the desert; …” (Thècle choisit pour sa demeure le sommet d’une montagne près de cette ville, ainsi qu’Elie et Jean-Baptiste avaient choisi pour leur résidence, l’un le Carmel et l’autre le désert ; … trans. from Encyclopedie Theologique, see below). But of course, this takes place in Seleucia of Isauria not Iconium. All of the MS in Greek that we have say that Thecla lived out her days not Iconium, but Seleucia.
Part 3: Sa signification — no mistakes in that section, but that’s because it is empty.
Part 4: Notes et references
A note from Bart Ehrman, Lost Christianities / Les christianismes disparus; Ehrman is notable scholar of NT textual criticism, though not a specialist of the Acts of Paul. This is not the beginning of a proper list of references to the Acts of Paul. The first work in French that should be on such a list is: Willy Rordorf, “Actes de Paul”, Ecrits Apocryphes Chretiens, vol. 1, Bovon and Geoltran , editors, pp. 1117-1188.
Part 5: External Links
Sur le site Le Champ du Midrash: This actually takes you to a Google (FR) search with the terms, “Actes de Paul et Thecle.” The first hit is Le champ du Midrash, a page which contains an excerpt from Ps. Basil of Seleucia of Isauria, a fifth century rewriting and elaboration of the Acts of Paul and Thecla. This text is plagiarized without credit from Encyclopedie Theologique, Migne, vol 28 961f. which expressly indicates that the text purports to be from Basil, bishop of Seleucia at about the beginning of the 5th cent. So the link sends a reader to site that has committed plagiarism and presents a 5th century text as though it were the 2nd century Acts of Paul and Thecla.
Evaluation: If I were to rank this as a first-year university report (out of 100%)
Completeness: 70% A number of serious omissions make this article defective. For example, it may be interesting to know that Carl Schmidt published in 1904 the an edition of the Coptic Heidelberg Papyrus which made it clear that the Acts of Paul and Thecla once belong to the ancient Acts of Paul, known to us from Origen and Eusebius of Caesarea. This is one of several interesting MS finds that has greatly enhanced the critical knowledge of this ancient Christian text.
Accuracy: 50%: Incorrectly cites Tertullian (as written in AD 160) without giving primary source reference. Gives impression that Acts of Paul and Thecla was originally written in Coptic. Twice includes factual errors in the summary of the story itself (content of Paul’s teaching to Thecla in prison; where Thecla catches up to Paul); yet anyone who has read the story should be to summarize without making errors of this nature. It also incorrectly identifies 3 Cor as two texts with separate Wikipedia entries.
Sources: 10%: Cites one secondary source which is tangential (Ehrman), while omitting the most seminal introduction written in French (Rordorf). Cites no other sources.
Links: 0% Links to a website that commits plagiarism and incorrectly identifies a 5th cent text as the 2nd cent. Acts of Paul and Thecla
Language and Organization: 83% No serious errors in French (as far as I can tell as a second-language speaker; one category is left blank, and that is awkward. Apart from that there is no serious error of organization.
Total: 213/500 = 43%, Failing, F