Tertullian and the Acts of Thecla or Paul? Readership of the Ancient Christian Novel and the Invocation of Thecline and Pauline Authority

Tertullian is uncomfortable with an authoritative text, entitled the Acts of Paul, which records a tradition of Paul, where Paul authorizes a woman to teach, and as a result of her teaching authorization, she also has the right to baptize. This Pauline tradition is threatening to Tertullian because it threatens to undermine the necessity of a Bishop, who plays a significant role in the baptismal process. I am going to make the argument that Tertullian is concerned that the Cainite woman and others have found and are using a Pauline tradition that threatens to eliminate the need for the hierarchical episcopate of the early church, rendering the dominant orthodox model as useless. Read More (pdf) ….

One Response to Tertullian and the Acts of Thecla or Paul? Readership of the Ancient Christian Novel and the Invocation of Thecline and Pauline Authority

  1. P. W. Dunn says:

    Jeremy Barrier wrote (p. 4):

    I think the ambiguity of Tertullian’s language is over whether or not to consider the text as a respectable or disrespectable writing. In the text, Tertullian suggests that “they” know “that in Asia the presbyter who compiled16 that document, thinking to add of his own to Paul’s reputation was found out.” First, one cannot overlook the fact that the verb “compiled” (construxit), is clearly not a verb indicating “to write,” which would typically go back to scribo, and does so in Tertullian as demonstrated in the previous sentence in De Baptismo 17.5.18 This suggests that the Asian presbyter did not write these Acta, but rather is an arranger, a compiler, or as one might say within the modern era, a redactor.”

    That seems to me to make too much of the verb construo, which basically means to “heap together”. As we would say in English, “piled higher and deeper” (meaning of the abbreviation “PhD”). I’d like to see evidence that the term ever means “to redact”. Otherwise, I am very inclined to believe that Tertullian is using the term more to disparage the Acts of Paul than to reveal anything about the manner in which the author “redacted” it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: