The best way to cite the Acts of Paul

November 11, 2011

Some have experienced the situation when reading the Bible that someone asks where to find a particular passage, and someone else will volunteer, “That’s on page 1123.”  This is an absurdity, and often just a little joke, because most experienced Bible readers know that many versions, editions, and prints of the same editions differ in their pagination, and that it is proper when citing the Bible to use the primary sources reference, i.e., a convention of chapter and verse which is mostly the same in every modern edition and translation.

Violations of this principle of properly citing primary sources can cause confusion and consternation.   If for example a scholar cites an English edition by page number instead of the primary source reference. It implies two unfortunate failures: (1) that the writer does not know the correct manner to cite primary sources; (2) that the scholar is unacquainted with the original text but depends wholly on a translation.

The question remains as to how to go about citing the Acts of Paul, since so many MS discoveries have increased our knowledge of the whole, adding new chapters as our knowledge increases.  The answer, for now, is to consult Willy Rordorf (Greek), Pierre Cherix (Coptic) and Rudolphe Kasser (Coptic of Bodmer XLIX)“Actes de Paul”, in François Bovon and Pierre Geoltrain, eds., Écrits apocryphes chrétiens (Bibliothèque de la Pléiade,  Saint Herblain: Gallimard, 1997).  Rordorf divides the Acts of Paul into 14 acts.  These are indicated by Roman numeral followed by a comma, and then the paragraph (e.g., III, 3 = Acts of Paul and Thecla 3; Acts of Paul IX, 10 = Ephesian episode, 10 paragraph).  Now this may seem arbitrary.  Why not use the numeration in Schneemelcher or Elliot?  The answer is that Rordorf et al. are preparing a text of the Acts of Paul for CChrSA (Corpus Christianorum Series Apocryphorum, Brepols) and it will be the most complete and up-to-date text of all the available evidence.  This edition has been long in coming but should imminently see the light of day.  It is thus better to use this system, to which translations will eventually conform, than to use older translations like Schneemelcher, which are already out of date the moment “Actes de Paul” (in E.A.C. vol 1) was published in 1997.

Here is a complete list of episodes and their chief witnesses:

  • I. Damascus: John Rylands Vellum
  • II.Antioch (of Syria?) – Coptic Heidelberg Papyrus (PHeid)
  • III. Iconium – PHeid, Greek miniscules
  • IV. Antioch (of Pisidia?) – PHeid, Greek miniscules
  • V. Myra – PHeid
  • VI. Sidon – PHeid
  • VII. Tyre – PHeid
  • VIII. Jerusalem (?) – PHeid (Smyrna is also probable, cf. Life of Polycarp, in Lightfoot part 2, vol. 3
  • IX. Ephesus – Hamburg Papyrus bil. 1 (PHamb); Coptic Bodmer Papyrus XLI
  • X. Philippi (3 Corinthians) PHeid
  • XI. Philippi – PHeid
  • XII. Corinth – PHamb, PHeid
  • XIII. Voyage to Italy – PHamb, other papyri, PHeid
  • XIV. Martyrdom of Paul – PHamb, PHeid, miniscules, Coptic

Response to the SBL 1994 Seminar Papers of Richard I. Pervo and Julian V. Hills

January 24, 2009

In Semeia 80 (1997) 147, Julian Hills writes:

Responses were invited from Richard J. Bauckham (1994), who had recently written on the Acts of Paul as a sequel to Acts (1993), and from Rordorf (1994). These responses have not been published, but were duplicated and distributed among those attending the November 19 meeting.

As the translator of that essay, I am pleased to publish that essay here on Acta Pauli:

Response to the SBL 1994 Seminar Papers of Richard I. Pervo and Julian V. Hills,

by Willy Rordorf

To begin with, I would like to thank my friend Dennis R. MacDonald for having sent me the two seminar papers in advance of the meeting at Chicago. I will use this opportunity by responding with a few brief comments. The American whom I have at hand, Peter W. Dunn, kindly produced the English translation of this text. By the way, he has just handed in, at the University of Cambridge, his doctoral thesis entitled, “The Acts of Paul and the Pauline Legacy.”

I am thrilled to realize the growing interest of some American researchers in the Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles, but especially in the Acts of Paul. I am convinced that we here on the “old continent” can only profit from the fresh contribution which comes from these Americans, even though we cannot always agree with all of their hypotheses.

Concerning the papers of Pervo and Hills, I will limit myself here to a few general considerations which nevertheless seem important to me.

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