The lives of the apostles after Pentecost are described in the books of the New Testament only in part. Details of their missionary wanderings to the remote corners of the world are found in writings not included in the biblical canon, known as the Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles. In the early Middle Ages these originally Greek writings were translated and rewritten in Latin and circulated under the title Virtutes apostolorum. These texts became immensely popular. They were copied in numerous manuscripts, both as a comprehensive collection with a chapter for each apostle and as individual texts, echoing the needs of monastic and other religious communities that used these texts to celebrate the apostles as saints.

The First International Summer School on Christian Apocryphal Literature (Strasbourg, 2012) concentrated on the transmission of the Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles in the Latin world. This volume also highlights the use of the Bible in the apocryphal Acts, the imagination of the apostles in early Christian art and poetry, and the apocryphal Acts in early medieval print. Other contributions concern the study of Christian apocryphal literature in general and in the context of the Strasbourg Summer School in particular.


The extensive chains of excerpts from the Scriptures and other sources in two of the narratives prominent in the Virtutes apostolorum, the Acts of Peter (BHL 6663) and the Acts of Paul (BHL 6575) are studied in order to come to a clearer understanding of the origin of these Latin texts. The Virtutes apostolorum is an amalgam of textual material with a complex history, but a thorough examination of both text-internal elements and relations of intertextuality allows us to draw some conclusions about its development. BHL 6663 and 6575 stand out, both with respect to other narratives about Peter and Paul and within the series of the apostles covered by the Virtutes apostolorum, on account of the chains of excerpts with which these narratives open. Analysis of the sources of these excerpts seems to indicate that they were added to an older layer of material, itself a compilation, sometime after the fifth century, and most likely in Italy. Moreover, the parallelism between BHL 6663 and BHL 6575 seems to indicate that the two Acts were conjoined before they were inserted into the Virtutes apostolorum. At least two other narratives in the collection, BHL 4089 and BHL 4318, have a similar structure and might therefore be related to the Acts of Peter and of Paul.

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The Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles in Latin Christianity: Proceedings of the First International Summer School on Christian Apocryphal Literature (ISCAL), Strasbourg, 24-27 June 2012

Publisher: Brepols Publishers
Published: January 2014
e-ISBN: 978-2-503-55302-3

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