Review of Elisabeth Esch-Wermeling, Thekla – Paulusschülerin wider Willen? Strategien der Leserlenkung in den Theklaakten, by Richard Pervo

Richard I. Pervo has sent me this link to his review of Elisabeth Esch-Wermeling.  Thekla—Paulusschülerin wider Willen? Strategien der Leserlenkung in den Theklaakten. Neutestamentliche Abhandlungen 53.  Münster: Aschendorff, 2008. Pp. 376. Hardcover.  €56.00. ISBN 3402114364.

Pervo writes:

The most complete text of the Acts of Paul is to be found in Willy Rordorf et al., “Actes de Paul,” in Écrits apocryphes chrétiens 1 (ed. F. Bovon and P. Geoltrain; Paris: Gallimard, 1997), 1115–77, supplemented by Rodolphe Kasser and Philippe Luisier, “Le Papyrus Bodmer XLI en Édition Princeps l’Épisode d’Èphèse des Acta Pauli en Copte et en Traduction,” Le Muséon 117 (2004): 281–384. This translation is a preview of Rordorf’s forthcoming edition.

Kasser-Luiser text is the editio princeps of the Coptic Bodmer Papyrus of the Ephesian Episode; Pierre Cherix will be providing a fresh look at Bodmer Papyrus XLI in his text for the CChrSA, which will contain with some differences from the Kasser-Luiser translation and text.  Pervo is correct to say that the translation of Rordorf in Écrits apocryphes chrétiens is a preview of the coming edition, because it is based upon the Greek text which Rordorf has not yet published.

As Esch-Wermeling demonstrates, chapters 3 and 4 have different theological, ethical, and ecclesiological orientations. They rely upon different literary models. With the brief and partial exception of Paul, they share one major character. That character, Thecla, is, to a large degree, two different persons who happen to share the same name.

This point alone will make the monograph of Esch-Wermeling worth reading.  I wonder to what degree it would be an elaboration of Anne Jensen‘s view that the Antiochean episode is the more historical unit.

If ecclesiology were the basis for dating Acts of Paul, they would be considered earlier than the canonical Acts, for church officers do not exist. The local house church appears to be an independent entity. One of its functions is to serve as a base for itinerant missionaries, including Titus, Paul, and, to at least a degree, Thecla.

I’ve used  the ecclesiological argument to say that the Act of Paul is earlier (100-125) than most scholars have previously admitted.  That date I think is earlier or at least contemporaneous with Pervo’s date for Acts.  Now I would be interested to know if Pervo now believes that Acts is later than Acts of Paul.  I argued the contrary at the Ottawa Workshop two years ago, and I hold an early date for Acts.  But I wonder now, Richard, if you would still insist that the Acts of Paul has the intention of supplanting Acts?

Thanks Richard for reviewing this book and signalling it to me for addition here.  I look forward to receiving a copy and working through Esch-Wermeling’s work.  Cheers.


2 Responses to Review of Elisabeth Esch-Wermeling, Thekla – Paulusschülerin wider Willen? Strategien der Leserlenkung in den Theklaakten, by Richard Pervo

  1. Dave Lincicum says:

    Thank you all for such an interesting and informative site. It is quite helpful – especially the uploaded theses and articles. As one who is just completing a doctoral thesis in Paul but interested in expanding my knowledge about the Pauline legacy, I wonder if I could register a personal desideratum that might be useful to others as well: a post or perhaps series of shorter posts with some recommendations for entering the scholarly fray on these Acts. Having read, e.g., Klauck’s intro to the apocryphal Acts, I’m not necessarily asking for a full-blown introduction to the Acts of Paul, but more of an insider’s perspective on things to look at and things to avoid on certain issues – maybe some broad brush state-of-the-question type remarks on things like text, provenance, theological hot-buttons, relationship to canonical traditions, etc. (Perhaps including some positions one might encounter in the older scholarly literature but are now considered passé?) Obviously you have already discussed a lot of these on the blog already, but general orientating remarks would be equally welcome.

    No pressure – just a thought.

  2. I’ve opened this thread to discuss David Lincium’s comment.

    […] Thread: State of the the question David Lincicum wrote the following suggestive comment: Thank you all for such an interesting and informative site. […]

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