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Implied Reader Response and the Evolution of Genres


The Evolution of Genres

It seems to be universally acknowledged among scholars that the Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles owe much in the way of both inspiration and form to the Hellenistic romances. [1] Basically it seems that early Christians indulged a guilty pleasure in reading the novels and were eventually motivated to write their own safe, sanitized versions in the form of the Apocryphal Acts.  In the present paper I would like to explore a couple of significant aspects of this process that seem to have received little attention.

I am going to deal with some factors which facilitated the evolution of the first genre into the second. But first I must note that B.E. Perry rejects the very notion that one genre evolves into another, deeming the evolutionary model drawn from biology to be inappropriate. He believes that a genre must be defined by the intention of the author, not by the component elements the author uses. [2]  Thus, e.g., Philostratus's The Life of Apollonius of Tyana does not qualify as a novel like the Leucippe and Clitophon of Achilles Tatius despite the fact that both use many stock plot devices such as exotic travel reports and climactic rescues. Philostratus meant to defend the dubious figure of Apollonius the mage/sage, whereas Achilles Tatius simply meant to tell a rousing tale. Again, Perry does not deny that Pseudo-Callisthenes's Alexander Romance shares much with the genuine histories it seeks to ape. But the Alexander Romance means to entertain and to edify, not primarily to recount the historical exploits of a great man as do Arrian and Plutarch in their accounts of Alexander.

Perry grows indignant at the suggestion of many critics that the romance grew out of the history, albeit perhaps in stages no longer discernible to us, given the fragmentary state of the evidence. [3]  The literary "fossil record" may no longer contain all the transitional forms. So goes the theory. But Perry, like a "scientific creationist," asks how history is simply to have evolved into romance. Are we to imagine that historians just grew sloppier and ever more extravagant in their mistakes, adopting legend as easily as fact into their accounts, until only romance remained?

No, Perry insists, new genres, works of a new intentionality, must have emerged with the impetus of a new inspiration, some great new cultural or spiritual factor that gave authors something new to want to say.

But instead of rejecting the evolution model outright as Perry does, we might better adopt the model of "punctuated equilibrium" proposed by Niles Eldridge. Here it is suggested that evolutionary changes cluster in times of major environmental change and then slow down in a long period of taking up the slack. During this time, slower and more subtle changes gradually accumulate. It is such a pattern of change that I venture to find in the evolution of the novel into the Acts genre. And besides, on Perry's own account we can speak of familiar elements coming to be used in new genres, even if we cannot speak of old genres being bent to new purposes. I cannot see much of a difference between saying that once Christian faith came on the scene novelistic elements were taken over into a new Acts genre on the one hand, and on the other saying that under Christian influence the novel genre was used as a vehicle for Christian edification in the production of the Acts.

In any case, I think that the evolution model is important because we can in fact delineate some transitional stages in the process, some literary archaeopteryxes amid the fossil record.


Edifying Novels

Perry himself notes how in Heliodorus's An Ethiopian Story the conventions of the romance (star-crossed lovers enduring great reverses and threats to chastity, finally to be united by Fate in a happy ending) serve to tell a story primarily not of young and determined love, but rather of the inscrutible ways of Providence, of all things working together for good for those whom the gods love. Can we not here see already the kind of shift in intentionality that will become clear with the appearance of the Acts?

Perry notes that early Christians fancifully made both Achilles Tatius and Heliodorus into Christian converts, then bishops (!), regarding their novels as products of their pre-enlightened youth. I suspect this posthumous induction was occasioned by the fact that Christians had already found it handy to regard these novels as "noble pagan" works bearing signs of greater, more Christian things to come.

In the case of Achilles Tatius, it is difficult to see how popular tradition could have fancied him to have been or to have become a Christian bishop; but in the case of Heliodorus it was almost inevitable that he should be mistaken for such. He was a kindred spirit. In him, more easily than in any other ancient romancer, they could find spiritual values of the kind that they wanted to find, while enjoying at the same time that element of sensational adventure which is always popular with readers who have time for it, and which was abundantly featured - though not on its own account – in their own biographies of the saints and martyrs. [4]

From these facts and Perry's acute observations on them we can conclude two things. First, the reading of the Hellenistic romance novels by early Christians was widespread, hence the baptism after the fact of some of their authors. Second, we can conclude that these works were considered redeemable. The novels were not proscribed as were heretical works and pagan dramas which treated of the affairs of the false gods. Actors and teachers converting to Christianity were required to renounce their livelihoods as these were perceived to be permeated with pagan mythology. Why were the novels, which after all swim in pagan religious references, not similarly rejected? I conclude there must have been a Christian way of reading them.

Further, I suggest that such a Christian hermeneutic can have had little to do with the author's intention. It is Perry's definition of genre according to authorial intent that causes his puzzlement over the Christian fondness for the bawdy sophist Achilles Tatius.

The early Christian, lacking Perry's critical acumen, simply remained oblivious to the novelists' "true" intention. I propose to indicate some factors, hitherto given insufficient attention as far as I know, that must, I think, have led Christian readers to see the novels as allegories of Christian ascetical piety, not just works of "kindred spirits."

Early Christians usually tended to view pagan counterparts to features of their own faith hardly as evidence of "kindred spirits," but rather as the work of demonic spirits, Satanic counterfeits, as when Justin Martyr so explains away the birth legends of Perseus and Heracles, both so similar to the gospel myths of Jesus. Had they not come somehow to view the romances as in some sense Christian works, they too would have been tossed on the pyre.

I believe that certain clues discerned in the texts (though manifestly not so intended by their pagan and sophistic authors) moved their Christian readers to appropriate the novels for themselves, much as they had co-opted the Jewish scriptures. Again, Justin felt free to wrest the scriptures away from his debate partner Trypho, claiming them as "our scriptures, not yours."

It is this Christian re-reading, analogous to the Stoic allegorizing of the Iliad, that furnishes us with a transitional form, a literary archaeopteryx, on the way between the Hellenistic romance and the Christians' own novels, the Apocryphal Acts. The Acts will be seen as attempts to make explicit what Christian readers found implicit in the novels.

To view the evolution of the Acts out of the romances in its proper light we must also note that the Acts constituted but one among the new sub-species of religious novels. The DNA for this development was already visible in Heliodorus, as Perry has noted, and I think we can point to three other distinct cases where the novel has mutated into a work of religious edification.

First, we must briefly consider The Golden Ass of Lucius Apuleius. This Latin work affords us a priceless opportunity for redaction-critical analysis. As it happens, this novel is based

squarely on the earlier Greek comic novel The Ass by Pseudo-Lucian (or on a previous common source of both novels, a moot distinction for my purposes). It may thus be quite clearly seen just what and where Apuleius has added to the earlier novel. He has added several bawdy and otherwise entertaining tales, having them told round the campfire by other characters in the story.  These tales form interludes, time-outs from the progress of the main plot which concerns the magical transformation of the over-curious narrator into a donkey and his tribulations until he can negate the spell.

Some vignettes of this kind flesh out the ribs of the plot in The Ass, but nowhere nearly as many. It might be speculated that Pseudo-Lucian cut out many of them appearing in the common source, and that Apuleius simply retained them. But two particularly striking episodes of The Golden Ass which do not appear in its Greek counterpart certainly seem to be redactional supplements by Apuleius.

The first is the mini-novel of Cupid and Psyche, which fairly threatens to tip the whole book over on its side. It is in spirit and form utterly unlike the various Canterbury tales which decorate the plot elsewhere.

The second is the conclusion, which is actually a new continuation of the plot, not another barnacle clinging to it. It constitutes a new and different ending by the redactor himself, based on his own religious experiences (we know from other sources that Apuleius had been initiated into the priesthood, as the new conclusion describes).

In The Ass the hero regains his happiness and his human shape in this wise: he has become a side-show attraction, a donkey aping human behavior with uncanny skill, extending even to coupling with human females. The Golden Ass runs parallel with The Ass up to this point, whereupon the two part company. In The Ass, the hero is about to commence sporting with a jaded matron before the eyes of spectators in an arena, when he chances to spy a garland of roses, the one thing he may eat in order to break the assomorphic spell. Availing himself of the opportunity, he regains human shape in dramatic fashion.

But in The Golden Ass the hero flees the stadium before the sex show gets off the ground, leaving behind a disappointed and drooling crowd. He pauses to rest at a lakeside and there prays to Isis to come to his aid. He is there and then vouchsafed an epiphany of the mighty goddess, who commands him to enter the city and wait for a religious procession in her honor. There he will see a priest of Isis whom she will have forewarned in a dream to expect the ass. The priest will offer him a garland of roses. All this happens on schedule, and the hero changes form and commits himself to the service of the divine Lady. At length he is triply initiated into the orders of Isis and Osiris.

J.P. Sullivan is surely right in seeing that the final transformation of the protagonist signals Apuleius's appropriation of the older folktale for purposes of religious propaganda. The recovery of human form and the dropping of the donkey's form symbolizes the sloughing off of mere humanity (recall how St. Francis used to call the body "Brother Ass") through the miracle of Mystery-initiation. [5] Losing the ass's shape is like stripping off the soiled Egyptian garment in The Hymn of the Pearl.

And Elizabeth Hazelton Haight insightfully notes that the interpolated story of Cupid and Psyche, a transparent allegory of the love of the soul for the divine, has been made to serve as a prefiguration of the hero's own final spiritual transformation into the lover of Isis. [6]

Cupid and Psyche, recounting as it does the vicissitudes of star-crossed lovers, one mortal but the fleshly image of Venus, the other immortal, is a miniature of the Hellenistic romances.  In them, too, we follow the vicissitudes of young lovers as they are separated by misunderstandings, acts of God, and fate. The heroine is usually a spitting image of a goddess (Aphrodite, Andromeda, etc.) and is sometimes mistaken for a theophany in the flesh. The one difference in Cupid and Psyche is that the male lover is one of the gods himself. After various trials, Psyche overcomes the spite of Cupid's jealous mother Venus.  After journeys to heaven and hell, Psyche proves her merit and is welcomed among the gods.

Haight has surely grasped what Apuleius intends: Psyche's obstacles on the way to joyous union with Cupid mirror those of Apuleius's own psyche on its difficult path to mystical union with his beloved Isis. [7]  The Hellenistic novel, here represented by one specimen, The Ass, is being transfigured into the romance of the soul with its god, here represented in The Golden Ass. Essentially this, I suggest, was the operative principle controlling the Christian reinterpretation of the novels, to be discussed below.

Philostratus's The Life of Apollonius of Tyana adapts the conventions of the novel in the service of both exalting the reputation of Apollonius (commonly thought to be a mere goetes) by casting him in the role of a theios aner and Neo-Pythagorean sage and of holding up the Neo-Pythagorean ideal in Apollonius, its chief incarnation. Here the novel, with its travel-log of exotic marvels and close shaves is pressed into service for edifying hagiography, only without any Christian coloring. Pretty much the same transformation, in a Christian direction, led to the Apocryphal Acts.

Joseph and Asenath is no less a Hellenistic romance novel than the others for the fact of its setting in Jewish rather than Greek antiquity. For its star-crossed lovers it chooses the biblical pair Joseph and Asenath the daughter of Potiphera (or Pentephres) hierophant of the gods of Egypt. Here the obstacle separating the lovers is the (really rather noble) paganism of the virgin Asenath. Though the original version of Genesis does not indicate that she renounced the teratocephalic gods of the Nile to marry Joseph, it was incredible to later Jewish and Christian imagination that she would not have converted, and so here she does.

Equally, nothing of a real love story can be detected in Genesis, but to spin one out of that meagre clothe required no greater imagination (much less documentation) than it took to make King Ninus and Queen Semiramis into teenaged lovers in the Ninus Romance.

Contemporary scholars understand Joseph and Asenath as a product of Hellenistic Judaism. If this scholarly consensus is correct, then the Joseph and Asenath novel must be seen as yet another instance of the romance form coming to be used for religious edification, again, the same tendency that produced the Apocryphal Acts. But below I will return to Joseph and Asenath to suggest that an earlier, and now despised, theory about the origin and intent of Joseph and Asenath, namely that it is a Christian work, is closer to the truth, and that as a Christian work it forms still another transitional stage on the way to the composition of the Apocryphal Acts.


Celibate Signals

Recent studies by Stevan L. Davies, Dennis Ronald MacDonald, and Virginia Burrus have shown to my satisfaction that we must look to the early communities of celibate women, the orders of widows and virgins, as the matrix of the celibacy stories in the Apocryphal Acts, and perhaps of the Acts as whole documents, [8] since as literary wholes the various Acts certainly promote encratite ideals and serve the interests of celibate women.  What is the bearing of this hypothesis on attempts to reconstruct the process whereby the Acts as a genre evolved out of the novels?

Implicit in the discussion of Davies is the notion that the celibate women enjoyed the novels and began to write (or at least, when they became available from whatever source) to read their own versions, the Apocryphal Acts. The thread of continuity was that both groups of texts exalted chastity and chaste heroines.

In the case of the novels, it was a question of preserving virginity till marriage against temptations to the contrary. The heroine preserved her chastity for her betrothed, usually admirably chaste himself. [9]  In the Acts, the heroine, someone like Thecla, Xanthippe, or Polyxena, embraces absolute sexual abstinence in favor of a hieros gamos with her spiritual bridegroom, Jesus Christ. On earth the stand-in for the invisible groom is one of the Apostles. That Paul, Andrew, and the rest are supposed to function as vicars of Christ in this sense is made clear by the astonishing fact that in every one of the major Acts, there comes a scene in which the exalted Christ appears on earth in the form of the apostle.

There are no sweet nothings whispered between the apostle and his female devotee, but she exhibits all the marks of romantic devotion, including dizzy palpitations, following him to new locations, visiting him in prison, and suffering various tortures sooner than renouncing her allegiance to him and his gospel. But in all these cases the apostle is clearly but the friend of the bridegroom who rejoices to hear the bridegroom's voice (John 3:29).

But that the earthly affection of the novels has been transformed into the heavenly devotion of the Acts is evident. And the implications for the readership of the latter is equally clear. The Acts must have been read (and likely written) by those who thrilled at the exploits of the spiritual lovers described therein.

What has not been so clear is what these virgins and widows, these encratites, could ever have seen in the romance novels to make them want to emulate them or to read substitutes! Were they like some modern women, who are addicted to the soap-operatic sentiments of Harlequin Romance novels? This would scarcely have been compatible with a single-minded devotion to Christ, the only bridegroom of the encratite! Must we imagine these supposedly consecrated women guiltily devouring romances that were not only thoroughly pagan religiously, but also dripping with the earthly eroticism they had supposedly left behind at conversion? Did they secretly cherish a scarcely sublimated pining for the arms of an earthly lover?

We might imagine that the widows/virgins had indeed put away such worldly desires upon consecration to the Order, but now they sought an innocent Christian equivalent and read or wrote Acts of Apostles as their substitute. But I think that certain clues, as I have already anticipated, make it likely that the Christian celibate communities had come to appreciate the novels as Christian works, even as encratite works, by reading them in light of certain hermeneutical keys they believed they could discern with the eye of faith, much as the evangelist Matthew believed that, once discipled unto the kingdom of heaven, he was able to bring forth from the scriptures treasures both new and old (Matthew 13:52). I wish now to examine those keys.

First, there are various individual statements, avowals of chaste love for the earthly lover, that might be read by Christians out of context as encratite paranaesis. Let me quote several.

We have acted like sage philosophers, Father [Clitophon's father, but read as the heavenly Father?], while we have been     away from home [read as meaning heaven, cf. 2 Corinthians 5:6]. Passion was hot on our trail; we fled as lover and beloved [cf. 1 Corinthians 6:17-18], but in our exile [cf. 1 Peter 1:17] we were like brother and sister [cf. 1 Corinthians 9:5; Shepherd of Hermas, Similitude 9: 10-11, "'Thou shalt pass the night with us, {the virgins} said, 'as a brother, not as a husband.'"]. (Leucippe and Clitophon,  p. 271) [10]

from the start I gave myself to you not like a woman yielding to her lover ... To this day I have kept myself unstained by carnal contact... (An Ethiopian Story, p. 373)

So they ate a meal of nuts, figs, dates fresh from the tree, and other fruits of this kind, which formed the old man's customary diet, for he refused to take the life of any living thing for the sake of food; he washed his food down with water, Knemon with wine. [Cf. the Edenic vegetarianism of the encratites, and their abstinence from wine] (ibid., p. 396)

"You see, she has renounced marriage and is resolved to stay a virgin all her life; she has dedicated herself to the sacred service of Artemis ... I had hoped to marry her to my     sister's son..., but his hopes have been thwarted by her cruel decision. I have tried soft words, promises, and reasoned arguments to persuade her, but all to no avail. [She has chosen] the best way of life [cf. 1 Corinthians 7:34]. 

Virginity is her god, and she has elevated it to the level of the immortals, pronouncing it without stain, without impurity, without corruption. (ibid., p. 406)

"this was revealed to me by a voice from heaven - ...  never to have felt love's touch is a blessing, but once caught it is wisest to keep one's thoughts on paths of virtue." (ibid., p. 435)

But the love they consummated was sinless and undefiled; their union was one of moist, warm tears; their only intercourse was one of chaste lips.... "To live in union with one    another, Charikleia, to possess that which we have come to value above all things and for which we have undergone so many travails, such is our prayer... But the human condition    is full of uncertainty and subject to constant change; we have endured much and can expect to endure more... a long and seemingly infinite distance still separates us from the land   we hope to reach." [Cf. Hebrews 11:13-16; Acts 14:22] (ibid.., p.448-449)

"It is no depraving desire such as ordinary people feel that makes me act as I did in my distress, but rather a pure and chaste longing for the one who, in my eyes is nonetheless my    husband for never having consummated our love... [cf. 1 Corinthians 7:36-38, NEB]" (ibid.., p.481)

"There is, I imagine, a school of natural philosophers and theologians who do not disclose the meanings embedded in these stories to laymen but simply give them preliminary    instruction in the form of a myth. But those who have reached the higher grades of the mysteries they initiate into clear knowledge in the privacy of the holy shrine, in the light    cast by the blazing torch of truth. Well, may the gods pardon me for saying this much. The greatest mysteries may not be spoken of: let us respect their sanctity as we continue our    story of the events at Syene." [read as a hint that this very text contained deeper, unspoken mysteries, known by the initiated Christian to be the truths of encratite paranaesis?] (ibid.., pp. 543-544)

"We [the Amazons] virgins who live here are under arms [like Perpetua, armed for the struggle against the dragon Satan]. There is nothing male among us... All of us who wish to end our virginity stay with the men [cf. 1 Corinthians 7:28]." (Alexander Romance, p. 27)

When she tearfully pleaded that she not be touched by any man, he granted her wish and placed her within the cloistered confines of the priestesses of the goddess Diana, where all the virgins were able to preserve their chastity. (Story of Apollonius King of Tyre, p. 754)

"Have pity on me, master. Help me preserve my virginity." [Read as a prayer to the master Jesus Christ, as with similar "prayer language" smuggled into the narrative by Matthew     {e.g., "Lord, save, we perish!" "Lord, save me!"}] [11] (ibid., p.759)

Plotina, a woman of rare faith... despised all worldly pomp and delicacy of living in cities, and determined to follow her husband, and to be a partaker of all his perils and dangers: wherefore she cut off her hair, disguised herself like a man [just as Thecla did, to follow Paul's example preaching the gospel], ... passing through the bands of soldiers that guarded him and the naked swords without any fear; whereby she shared all his dangers and endured many miseries with the spirit of a man, not of a woman [as in the Gospel of Thomas 114, and elsewhere in early ascetical literature], and was a partaker of much affliction to save the life of her husband. (The Golden Ass, p. 159)

And in general, the picaresque nature of the narratives, with providential escapes from deadly perils, all the while keeping chastity inviolate, would be seen as an elaborate allegory of the celibate Christian life.

Crosses and Empty Tombs

But what would have been the clue that such a deeper level of meaning existed to be plumbed by the Christian reader? I believe the answer lies in a striking pattern of phenomena running through the various romances. In novel after novel we read of the heroine ­emerging alive from the tomb­, as well as frequent accounts (though not quite so many) in which the hero ­comes down alive from a cross­! Failing this, we still find remarkable scenes involving empty tombs thought to be occupied, crucifixions at the sites of tombs, filled or empty, or other variations on the theme.

I cannot but believe that Christian readers would fairly have been forced to "recognize" in such passages hidden, allegorical references to the cross and empty tomb of their Christ, much as Matthew "recognized," against the plain meaning of the text, a reference to the virgin birth of Jesus in Isaiah 7:14.

The heroes and heroines of the romance novels would then seem not merely to be prototypes of the faithful encratite Christian, but also Christ-figures in the fullest sense. From such reinterpretations it would have required no long step to the Apocryphal Acts with their Christomorphic apostles. Herewith, a review of the relevant passages in the novels.

In Chariton's Chaereas and Callirhoe, Chaereas is falsely incited to rage against his wife Callirhoe and delivers a kick which seems to kill her. She is entombed alive. Soon pirates (who are virtually ubiquitous in these novels) appear to rob the tomb. They discover Callirhoe alive, now having revived in the cool of the mausoleum, and they kidnap her to sell her as a slave. In her captivity, Callirhoe pities her doubly vexed husband in terms strikingly reminiscent of the New Testament empty tomb accounts:  "You are mourning for me and repenting and sitting by an empty tomb..." (p. 37).

But the resemblance to the gospel accounts only grows stronger a little later when in fact poor Chaereas discovers the empty tomb.

When he reached the tomb, he found that the stones had been moved and the entrance was open. He was astonished at the sight and overcome by fearful perplexity at what had happened. Rumor - a swift messenger - told the Syracusans this amazing news. They all quickly crowded round the tomb, but no one dared go inside until Hermocrates gave an order to do so. The man who went in reported the whole situation accurately. It seemed incredible that even the corpse was not lying there. Then Chaereas himself determined to go in, in his desire to see Callirhoe again even dead; but though he hunted through the tomb, he could find nothing. Many people could not believe it and went in after him. They were all seized by helplessness. One of those standing there said, "The funeral offerings have been carried off [Cartlidge's translation reads: "The shroud has been stripped off" -- cf. John 20:6-7] - it is tomb robbers who have done that; but what about the corpse - where is it?" Many different suggestions circulated in the crowd.  Chaereas looked towards the heavens, stretched up his arms, and cried: "Which of the gods is it, then, who has become my rival in love and carried off Callirhoe and is now keeping her with him...?" (p. 53)

The parallels to the empty tomb accounts, especially to John 20:1-10, are abundant and close. Chaereas even suggests that Callirhoe has been (like Jesus) translated to heaven. Later Callirhoe, reflecting on her vicissitudes, says "I have died and come to life again" (p. 62). It is obvious how this line would have struck a Christian reader. Later still, she laments, "I have died and been buried; I have been stolen from my tomb." Note the parallel to 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, "that Christ died..., that he was buried, that he was raised..." Scholars debate whether the "buried" reference in 1 Corinthians means to imply a tomb emptied by the resurrection. I would venture that the parallel with Chaereas and Callirhoe does suggest such an implication, since in the latter, disappearing from the tomb is equal to rising from the dead.

Again, towards the end of the novel Callirhoe recounts, not simply her regaining of consciousness, but "how she had come back to life in the tomb" (p. 111).

In Miletus Callirhoe comes to believe that Chaereas perished while searching for her. To console her and to lay her fond memory of his rival to rest, Dionysius, her new husband, erects a tomb for Chaereas. It lacks his body, but this is not, as all think, because the corpse is irrecoverable, but rather in fact because he is still alive elsewhere. His tomb is empty because he is still alive. Why seek the living among the dead?

But elsewhere poor Chaereas is "imitating Christ" a bit too closely for his comfort, as he is condemned to the cross!

Without even seeing them or hearing their defense the master at once ordered the crucifixion of the sixteen men in the hut. They were brought out chained together at foot and neck, each carrying his cross.... Now Chaereas said nothing when he was led off with the others, but [his friend] Polycharmus, as he carried his cross, said: "Callirhoe, it is because of you that we are suffering like this!" (p. 67).

At the last minute Chaereas' sentence is commuted.

Mithridates sent everybody off to reach Chaereas before he died. They found the rest nailed up on their crosses; Chaereas was just ascending his. So the executioner checked his gesture, and Chaereas climbed down from his cross... (p. 69)

As he later recalls, "Mithridates at once ordered that I be taken down from the cross - I was practically finished by then." Here, then, is a hero who went to the cross for his beloved and returned alive. In the same story, a villain is likewise crucified, though gaining his just deserts, he is not reprieved. This is Theron, the pirate who carried poor Callirhoe into slavery.   "He was crucified in front of Callirhoe's tomb" (p. 57). We find another instance of a crucifixion adjacent to the tomb of the righteous in ­The Alexander Romance­ when Alexander arrests the assassins of his worthy foe Darius. He commanded them "to be crucified at Darius's grave" (p. 703). We cannot help, any more than the ancient Christian reader could, being reminded of the location of Jesus burial "in the place where he was crucified" (John 19:41).

We meet with the familiar pattern again in the Ephesian Tale of Xenophon. The beautiful Anthia seems to have died from a dose of poison but has in fact merely been placed in a deathlike coma. She awakens from it in the tomb.

Meanwhile some pirates had found that a girl had been given a sumptuous burial and that a great store of woman's finery was buried with her, and a great horde of gold and silver. After nightfall they came to the tomb, burst open the doors, came in and took away the finery, and saw that Anthia was still alive. They thought that this too would turn out very profitable for them, raised her up, and wanted to take her (pp. 151-152).

Later on, her beloved Habrocomes goes in search of her and winds up being condemned to death through a series of misadventures too long to recount here. "They set up the cross and attached him to it, tying his hands and feet tight with ropes; that is the way the Egyptians crucify. Then they went away and left him hanging there, thinking that the victim was securely in place." But Habrocomes prays that he may yet be spared such an undeserved death. He is heard for his loud cries and tears. "A sudden gust of wind arose and struck the cross, sweeping away the subsoil on the cliff where it had been fixed. Habrocomes fell into the torrent and was swept away; the water did him no harm; his fetters did not get in his way." (p. 155).

At length Habrocomes returns to a temple where, in happier days he and Anthia had erected images of themselves as an offering to Aphrodite. Still deprived of Anthia and thinking her to be dead, he sits there and weeps. He is discovered by old friends Leucon and Rhode.

They did not recognize him, but wondered who would stay beside someone else's offerings. And so Leucon spoke to him. 'Why are you sitting weeping, young man...?' Habrocomes    replied, 'I am ... the unfortunate Habrocomes!' When Leucon and Rhode heard this they were immediately dumfounded, but gradually recovered and recognized him by his appearance and voice, from what he said, and from his mention of Anthia" (p. 167).

Here I see a striking resemblance to the New Testament empty tomb accounts, where Jesus or an angel accosts a weeping mourner, and a dramatic recognition results; Cf. John 20:11-16, where we also have the question "Why are you weeping," the initial failure of recognition, and the recognition being sparked by the mention of a woman's name.  Luke 24:13 ff. is only slightly less close.

In Achilles Tatius' Leucippe and Clitophon the heroine twice appears to be disemboweled in climactic scenes worthy of a Saturday afternoon movie serial. But both times it was sleight-of-hand or mistaken identity. On the former occasion Leucippe had to lie in a coffin until her faked sacrifice. She is warned by her confederate to "stay inside the coffin as long as it was daylight and not try to come out even if she woke up early" (p. 220). And of course she does eventually emerge alive from the coffin, giving us another resurrection scene. Referring later to this scene in a letter to Clitophon, she recalls "For your sake I have been a sacrificial victim, an expiatory offering, and twice have died" (p. 242). What must Christian readers made of such language save to read it as an allegory of Christ's atonement?

Another character marvels over Leucippe's many adventures, including "those sham deaths." "Hasn't she died many times before? Hasn't she often been resurrected?" (p. 262).

Eventually Leucippe must prove her virginity  by means of an old local ritual, described thusly:

If she has lied about her virginity, the syrinx is silent,  and instead of music, a scream is heard from the cave. At once the populace quits that place, leaving the woman in the     cave. On the third day a virgin priestess of the place enters and finds the syrinx lying on the ground, with no trace of the woman.

On the third day a woman comes to cave in which someone was entombed but now finds no trace of a body! Did early Christian readers peruse such lines without remark?

In Longus' Daphnis and Chloe we find only traces of the pattern, but they are worth noting. "He ran down to the plain, threw his arms around Chloe, and fell down in a faint. When he was, with difficulty, brought back to life by Chloe's kisses and the warmth of her embraces..." (p. 315) Later in the tale we hear that in the bleak midwinter Daphnis, deprived of the sight of his beloved Chloe, "waited for spring as if it were a rebirth from death" (p. 319). Later, when some vandalism mars the garden tended by the happy pastoral folk of the story, there is fear of harsh reprisal:

"'There's an old man [the master will] string up on one of the pines, like Marsyas; and perhaps he'll ... string up Daphnis, too!'... Chloe mourned... at the thought that Daphnis would be strung up... When night was already falling, Eudromus brought them the news that the old master would arrive in three days' time..." (p. 336), but all ends well.

The pattern comes into sharper focus again in Heliodorus' Ethiopian Story, where Knemon hides Charikleia, lover of Theagenes, in a cave for safekeeping.

“Put her in, my friend, close the entrance with the stone in the normal way, and then come back...” This stone dropped effortlessly into place and could be opened just as easily.... Not a sound passed Charikleia's lips; this new misfortune was like a deathblow to her, separation from Theagenes tantamount to the loss of her own life. Leaving her numbed and silent, Knemon climbed out of the cave, and as he replaced the threshold stone, he shed a tear in sorrow for himself at the necessity that constrained him, and for her at the fate that afflicted her; he had virtually entombed her alive... (p. 375).

There are two more cases of apparent death and resurrection in The Story of Apollonius King of Tyre. The king's wife seems to expire during childbirth while on a sea voyage, though the text baldly says, "she suddenly died" (p. 752). They secure her body in a carefully sealed coffin and commit her to the sea. "Three days later waves cast up the coffin" (p. 753). A medical student examines the body and is able to tell from subtle indications that she still lives. He manages to revive her, though it will be years before her loved ones learn she is not dead after all. The baby daughter grows up and is committed to care of foster parents by the grief-stricken Apollonius. Out of envy for her royal possessions, her foster-mother conspires to have young Tarsia assassinated. The hired killer cannot bring himself to commit the crime, but instead sells her into a brothel as a slave. Meanwhile, the wicked foster-mother, thinking Tarsia dead, trumps up a false story of how she died and builds an "empty tomb" (p. 758) to honor her memory.

Tarsia contrives to maintain her virginity even in the midst of a brothel and is eventually hired to visit a despairing old man (Apollonius, of course) to cheer him up. This she tries to do with nothing more salacious than moral exhortations, bidding him to "come out of the darkness and into the light" (p. 763). Once the two recognize one another, he says, "my hope has been brought back to life" (p. 767). The townspeople, learning of Tarsia's identity avenge the outrage perpetrated upon royalty, killing the pimp whose slave Tarsia was. Apollonius responds, "Thanks to you, death and grief have been shown to be false" (p. 769) Once he has also been reunited with his wife, who has in the meantime become a priestess of Diana, Apollonius prays to Diana, thanking her that "you restored me to life" (p. 770). 

Iamblichus, in his Babylonian Story (of which the summary of the Patriarch Photius is all that remains), features both an empty tomb story and yet another apparent death.

The grave of the young woman is left empty, and there are left behind several robes that were to be burned on the grave, and food and drink. Rhodanes and his companion feast on the food and drink, take some of the clothing, and lie down to sleep in the young woman's grave. As daylight comes, those who set fire to the robber's house realize that they have been tricked and follow the footprints of Rhodanes and Sinonis, supposing that they are henchmen of the robber. They follow the footprints right up to the grave and look in at     the motionless, sleeping, wine-sodden bodies lying in the grave. They suppose that they are looking at corpses and leave, puzzled that the tracks led there. [Cf. Luke 24:12]

The maid Sinonis is missing. Her father discovers a half-devoured female corpse and hastens to the conclusion that it is that of his lost daughter. He hangs himself on the spot, but not before inscribing in blood, "Lovely Sinonis lies buried here." Arriving on the scene not long after Sinonis' lover Rhodanes despairs and is about to stab himself, but another woman appears and shouts, "It is not Sinonis lying these, Rhodanes." A friend of the two lovers, Soraechus, "is condemned to be crucified," but while "being led away to be crucified," Soraechus is rescued by a band of soldiers who drive away his guards. But in the meantime, Rhodanes, too,

was being led to and hoisted onto the cross that had been designated for him by a dancing and garlanded Garmus, who was drunk and dancing round the cross with the flute players and reveling with abandon. While this is happening, Sacas informs Garmus by letter that Sinonis is marrying the youthful king of Syria. Rhodanes rejoices high up on the cross, but Garmus makes to kill himself. He checks himself, however, and brings down Rhodanes from the cross against his will (for he prefers to die [seeing that his beloved is to marry another])" (p. 793).

Apuleius's The Golden Ass contains two scenes which bear an uncanny resemblance to the gospels' scenes at the empty tomb of Jesus, though neither is exactly analogous to them. First is a scene of forbidden necromancy. Those assembled seek to interrogate the shade of a murdered man in order to discover the identity of his slayer.

“Behold here is one Zatchlas, an Egyptian, who is the most principal prophesier in all this country, and who was hired of me long since to bring back the soul of this man from hell    for a short season, and to revive his body from the threshold of death for the trial hereof", and therewithal he brought forth a certain young man clothed in linen raiment... (p. 62).

The dead man is briefly reanimated and supplies the desired information. I have thus far omitted the occasional scenes of actual raising of corpses for purposes of necromancy. We find it occasionally in the novels, but I include this one because of the association with a resurrection of a young man in white as in Mark's gospel.

Second, in the interpolated romance of Cupid and Psyche, we find a scene in which Psyche's sisters seek her out, fearing her dead.   

After a long search made, the sisters of Psyche came unto the hill where she had been set on the rock, and cried with a loud voice and beat their breasts, in such sort that the rocks and stones answered again their frequent howlings: and when they called their sister by her name, so that their lamentable cries came down the mountain unto her ears, she came forth, very anxious and now almost out of her mind, and said: "Behold, here is she for whom you weep; I pray you torment yourself no more, and dry those tears with which you have so long wetted your cheeks, for now may you embrace her for whom you mourned" (p. 118).

A typical sham death and resurrection due to poisoning meets us later in the novel. An evil step-mother has sought from a doctor poison with which she intends to despatch her step-son who has rebuffed her illicit advances. But the doctor, suspecting some chicanery, sells her only a potent knock-out formula. So in the midst of the inquest, he leads everyone to the coffin where a surprise awaits them (though by now we know full well what to expect).

every man had a desire to go to the sepulchre where the child was laid: there was none of the justices, none of any reputation of the town, nor any indeed of the common people, but went to see this strange sight. Amongst them all the father of the child removed with his own hands the cover of the coffin, and found his son rising up after his dead and soporiferous sleep: and when he beheld him as one risen from the dead he embraced him in his arms; and he could speak never a word for his present gladness, but presented him  before the people [cf. Luke 7:15] with great joy and consolation, and as he was wrapped and bound in the clothes of the grave [cf. John 11:44], so he brought him before the judges (p. 241)

The step-mother is exiled, her henchman "hanged on a gallows," or literally, crucified. Again we have the immediate association of crucifixion with an empty tomb.

Petronius's Satyricon repeats a widely disseminated tale which juxtaposes the same two features again, and in a striking fashion. A woman of Ephesus is so devoted to her late husband that she resolves to enter the tomb with him, there to starve herself to death and so join him in the great beyond. A servant keeps vigil with her. Meanwhile a company of thieves are crucified nearby.

Next night the soldier who was guarding the crosses to prevent anyone removing one of the corpses for burial noticed a light shining among the tombs and, hearing the sound of someone mourning, he was eager to know ... who it was and what was going on. Naturally he went down into the vault and seeing a beautiful woman, at first stood rooted to the spot  as though terrified by some strange sight.

The soldier brings some food and urges her to eat. He seeks to comfort her in her loss. The servant accepts the food and begins to join in the soldier's urgings. "What good is it ... for you to drop dead of starvation, or bury yourself alive...? ... Won't you come back to life?" This counsel proves persuasive. In fact, not only does the widow refresh herself with the food, but she is so infused with the joi de vivre that she has sex with the soldier right there in the tomb. "The doors of the vault were of course closed, so if a friend or a stranger came to the tomb, he thought that the blameless widow had expired over her husband's body."

While all this is going on, the family of one of the crucified thieves, noticing that the crosses are unattended, "took down the hanging body in the dark and gave it the final rites." The soldier finds one cross empty and knows what must become of him for failing his post. He is about to kill himself when his new lover suggests he "take the body of her husband from the coffin and fix it to the empty cross." This is what he does. (pp. 120-122)

Here a dead man exits his tomb only to be crucified and thus save the life of the soldier and to bring a new lease on life to his now no longer grieving widow! Here the elements of the story of the crucified and resurrected savior in the gospels are reshuffled but all present. There is even the element of a crucified dead man disappearing despite the posting of guards, somewhat recalling Matthew's empty tomb account!

Another Matthean peculiarity finds its parallel in an account in Book IV of Philostratus's The Life of Apollonius of Tyana. In chapter XVI the divine sage makes a pilgrimage to the tomb of Achilles. He calls out, like Jesus to Lazarus,

“'O Achilles, ...  most of mankind declare you are dead, but I cannot agree with them... show... yourself to my eyes, if you should be able to use them to attest your existence.' Thereupon a slight earthquake shook the neighborhood of the barrow [cf. Matthew 28:1-2], and a youth issued forth five ubits high, wearing a cloak of Thessalian fashion... but he     grew bigger, till he was twice as large and even more than that; at any rate he appeared .. to be twelve cubits high just at that moment when he reached his complete stature, and     his beauty grew apace with his length. [Cf. the gigantic risen Jesus in the Gospel of Peter] (Vol. I, pp. 377, 379)

Here, then, are the parallel texts. What are we to make of them? As is well known, Merkelbach began from such passages (though I have no idea which he quoted) to form his theory that all the ancient novels were intended by their authors as coded ritual/paranaetic texts for use in the Mystery Religions. [12] He took references to resurrection and rebirth to denote ritual regeneration on the pattern of the ancient myths of the resurrected nature divinities like Attis, Adonis, Tammuz, and Osiris. The central theme of the separation of the lovers and their long quest for reunion Merkelbach derived from the fundamental myth of the murder and dismemberment of Osiris by Set and the quest of loyal Isis to recover her husband's sundered parts in order to resurrect him.

Most scholars have not followed Merkelbach, judging that one need not reach so far to explain the writing of picaresque tales of star-crossed lovers in a world where death did often come by poisoning, premature burial, and crucifixion. It is worthy of note that even scholars who dissent from Merkelbach seem to feel impelled on occasion to refer to the scenes we have outlined as "episode[s] of death and resurrection" (Heiserman). [13]­­

The most Hagg is willing to admit is that it is not "inconceivable that an ancient reader of the ­Ethiopica­ might have read the novel in the same way as Merkelbach: allegorical interpretation of literary works, however profane, was much practised in late antiquity, Homer, of course being its main object." [14] I mean to argue along similar lines: while I do not dismiss Merkelbach's theory (in the nature of the case it would be impossible to prove even if true!), my point is that for a certain segment of the novels' ancient readership the many references to protagonists emerging alive from the tomb or appearing alive after crucifixion can have seemed no accident. Regardless of authors' intentions, the early Christian readers must have allegorized the novels as catechisms of the imitatio Christi.

I will go a step further and suggest that not only did the novels, thus allegorized, form the basis for the Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles, with their Christomorphic heroes and heroines, but that the novels' device of only apparent death and of rescue from the cross may help to explain the frequent Docetic treatment of Jesus and his cross in the Acts. This is clearest in the Acts of John where the true Christ summons John from Golgotha to a cave in the Mount of Olives, where he tells him he only seems to be crucified on Calvary (97-102). In the Nag Hammadi Apocalypse of Peter the crucified Jesus is depicted as "glad and laughing on the tree" (81:4-30), laughing at the folly of mere mortals who thought thus to be rid of him. Here I cannot help thinking of the striking scene in A Babylonian Story where Rhodanes laughs high atop the cross.

But the study of the empty tomb scenes of the novels has important implications not only for the Apocryphal material. I am coming more and more to embrace the opinion of Johannes Leipoldt [15] ­­ that the empty tomb narratives of the canonical gospels represent borrowings either from the novels themselves or from the mythological sources upon which these latter draw. For instance, just as Merkelbach saw a parallel between the searching of the parted lovers and the search of Isis for the slain Osiris, Leipoldt sees the Isis and Osiris myth as the origin of the gospel traditions of the women searching for the body of Jesus on Easter morning. In both cases, "the third day" motif occurs, as we have had occasion to notice in various novels as well. I am about convinced he is right, though it may be the novels themselves from which the gospel accounts are borrowed. The parallels are just too close. The golden age of the Hellenistic novel was the second century AD, but there are earlier specimens, and it is far from clear that the gospels are not later than the first century.


Jesus and Asenath

There is one Hellenistic romance novel that demands separate consideration, and that is Joseph and Asenath. I have already commented that if the consensus view of its origin as a Jewish work be accepted then we at least have in the work another example of the novel form taking on religious coloring. But I wish to challenge the placing of Joseph and Asenath in a Jewish context. It seems to me rather that the earlier view of Batiffol was correct: that the novel is a Christian product.

C. Burchard notes that Batiffol dated his Christian Joseph and Asenath to the fifth century AD, but that "Every competent scholar has since affirmed that Joseph and Asenath is Jewish, with perhaps some Christian interpolations; none has put the book much after A.D. 200, and some have placed it as early as the second century B.C." [16] One wonders if Burchard's yardstick for scholarly competency is precisely whether one calls the book Jewish or Christian. At any rate, I believe that while he may have dated it too late (though a fifth century date seems not unreasonable to me), Batiffol was right as to the Christian origin of the work and probably about its birthplace as well. It seems overwhelmingly clear to me that the book means to present the drama of spiritual romance between Christ, thinly veiled as Joseph, "the first-born son of God" (XXI:3) and the Christian encratite virgin in the person of Asenath. Asia Minor was a hotbed of encratism, so perhaps the novel was indeed written there.

I will attempt to support my judgment below, but to anticipate, let me say that on my reading of the text, Joseph and Asenath represents a transitional stage between the Christian allegorical reading of the pagan Hellenistic romances and the writing of explicitly Christian romances such as Paul and Thecla. Intermediate between the two was the writing of a work ­intended by its Christian author as an allegory of Christian encratite devotion­. Someone wrote what she thought she was reading in Heliodorus and Chariton, a Christian celibate allegory, set in pre-Christian times. Only a pious Christian would never write a story employing the props of pre-Christian paganism, hence the Old Testament setting of Joseph and Asenath. All that remained was to bring the allegory out into the open, in full Christian dress. This final step was taken with the writing of the Apocryphal Acts.

The preconversion Asenath is already a model of committed celibacy: "Now Asenath despised all men and regarded them with contempt." (II:1). Like the ecclesiastical widows and virgins, but unlike any sectarian Jews we know of, she lives in a community of celibate women: "And seven virgins had the remaining seven rooms" of Asenath's dwelling "... and no man or boy ever had anything to do with them" (II:10,12).

Joseph, lieutenant of Pharaoh, arrives to dine with Pentephres the priest, Asenath's father. She appears dressed in splendor, "adorned as the bride of God" (IV:2), surely language suggesting

the celibate Christian woman's betrothal to Christ (1 Timothy 5:11-12). Yet she is none too eager even to meet Joseph, as he belongs to the accursed male gender. But even she cannot help but be overwhelmed by the sight of him. As Pentephres describes him, "Joseph is ... a virgin..., and the spirit of God is upon him and the grace of the Lord is with him" (IV:9).

What better husband could a girl ask? Asenath soon agrees, bitterly repenting of her first disdain of him: "And how will Joseph, the son of God, regard me, for I have spoken evil of him? Where can I flee and hide myself, for he sees everything, and no secret is safe from him, because of the great light that is in him?" (VI:2-3) "I spoke evil of him and did not know that Joseph is the son of God.  For who among men will ever father such beauty, and what mother will ever bear such a light? ... now let my father give me to Joseph as a maidservant and a slave, and I will serve him for ever" (VI:6-8).

I cannot miss either the transparent Christological references or the suggestions that what we have here is a prayer of repentance and conversion, preparatory to initiation into the celibate community of the maidservants of Christ. Burchard says there is nothing in the text that cannot be Jewish, though he admits certain passages might be Christian interpolations. [17]  The "son of God" references are no doubt on his list! Is he not saying that in fact the text does contain clear pointers to a Christian origin? It might be different if the Christological passages ran against their context, but they seem to me quite consistent with their context, and it is a Christian encratite context.

Once betrothed to Asenath, Joseph speaks with the classic language of the virgines subintroductae: "she is my sister, and I will regard her as my sister from today" (VII:11). Even so, Pentephres says to Asenath, "Greet your brother, for he too is a virgin as you are today..., a man who worships God... and eats the blessed bread of life, and drinks the blessed cup of immortality, and is anointed with the blessed unction of incorruption..." (VIII:1,5). Momentarily, in what I believe to be an initiation liturgy for Christian celibate women, we will hear that she, too, is to partake of both bread and cup. Do these references make any sense in any form of Judaism we know of? Are they not rather clearly Christian references? Why not place them in the only natural Sitz-im-Leben we know, a Christian one? [18] Here is the liturgy, a prayer spoken over Asenath by Joseph.

"And he lifted up his right hand above her head and said,

O Lord, the God of my father Israel, the Most High, the Mighty One,

Who didst quicken all things, and didst call them from darkness unto light,

And from error into truth, and from death into life;

Do thou, O Lord, thyself quicken and bless this virgin

And renew her by thy Spirit, and remould her by thy secret hand.

Quicken her with thy life.

And may she eat the bread of thy life,

And may she drink the cup of thy blessing,

She whom thou didst choose before she was begotten;

And may she enter into thy rest, which thou hast prepared for thine elect." (VIII:10-11)

Note the theme of salvation as "rest," familiar from the Gospel of Thomas, an encratite work. As in Acts 2:44-45­­, initiation is accompanied by renunciation of wealth. Asenath "took her best robe... and threw it out of the window, for the poor. And she took all her innumerable gold and silver gods and broke them up into little pieces, and threw them out of the window for the poor and the needy" And for seven days she mourns in sackcloth and ashes (X:12-20).

In a prayer of repentance, Asenath expresses the distinctly Christological sentiments that Joseph is God's "son" and "elect one" (XIII:10). From now on, she is content to "wash his feet," the very task the ecclesiastical order of widows is to perform (1 Timothy 5:10).

Shortly Asenath beholds the apparition of a glorious angel, "like Joseph in every respect, with a robe and a crown and a royal staff" (XIV:8 ff.). It is apparent that it is really the transfigured Joseph, in his true heavenly form that she sees. The figure closely parallels the epiphany of the exalted Christ in Revelation 1:12-18, down to details, even saying to Asenath, as to John, "Take heart and do not be afraid; but stand up and I will speak to you." I would guess the epiphany of Joseph the son of God here has been borrowed from that of Jesus the Son of God in Revelation, itself an encratite work which speaks of celibates (14:4) as the Bride of Christ (22:17). Also compare XV:3, "your name is written in the book of life," with Revelation 3:5.

In XV:1, Asenath is told, "Take now the veil off your head, for today you are a pure virgin, and your head is like a young man's." Compare this with the prophesying women who go unveiled in 1 Corinthians 11.

There are further parallels to Revelation and others to the Acts of Paul, as when a jealous villain, deprived of the holy virgin, determines to kill her. Nowhere can I see the characteristic traits of Hellenistic Jewish missionary propaganda familiar from The Epistle of Aristeas, Philo, and kindred works, e.g., lampoons of idolatry and rationalizing apologetics for the Torah. [19] Instead everywhere we hear the voice of Christian encratism. And what surprise that Christians should clothe Jesus Christ in the mantle of the Jewish patriarch Joseph? This was a standard feature of Christian typology from ancient times.

In conclusion, I have suggested in this paper we need not content ourselves with the commonly held judgment that the Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles have somehow been influenced by the Hellenistic novels. We can, I think, be more specific than that in explaining how the one evolved from the other. We can trace a first stage of Christian allegorizing of the novels based on the many striking crucifixion and empty tomb passages, followed by a second stage of writing Christian allegories based on the Old Testament heritage of Christianity (Joseph and Asenath being the sole surviving example), and finally a third stage of composing explicitly Christian versions of the picaresque romantic adventure novels, namely the Apocryphal Acts.




1. Elizabeth Hazelton Haight, More Essays on Ancient Fiction (NY: Longmans, Green and Co., 1945), 48; Ben Edward Perry, The Ancient Romances, A Literary-Historical Account of Their Origins (Berkeley: U. of California Press, 1967), 31-32; Thomas Hagg, The Novel in Antiquity (Berkeley: U. of California Press, 1983), 160-161 (though both Perry and Thomas are loathe to say that the Acts simply evolved from the novels or that they can be considered Christianized novels; still neither denies some connection or influence); Arthur Heiserman, The Novel Before the Novel, Essays and Discussions about the beginnings of Prose Fiction in the West­ (Chicago: U. of Chicago Press, 1977), 205; B.P. Reardon, "General Introduction" to Reardon (ed.) Collected Ancient Greek Novels (Berkeley: U. of California Press, 1989), 3; W. Schneemelcher and K. Schaferdiek, "Second and Third Century Acts of Apostles, Introduction" in Edgar Hennecke and Wilhelm Schneemelcher (eds.) New Testament Apocrypha, Vol. 2 (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1965), 176; Rosa Soder, Die apokryphen Apostelgeschichten und die romanhafte Literatur der Antique (Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer Verlag, 1932), 148, quoted in Stevan L. Davies, The Revolt of the Widows, The Social World of the Apocryphal Acts (Carbondale: Southern Illinois U. P., 1980), 85; Virginia Burrus, Chastity as Autonomy, Women in the Stories of Apocryphal Acts (Lewiston: Edwin Mellon Press, 1987), 58, sees the connection as between common folklore sources, not direct literary dependence between the two genres.

2. Perry, 9 ff.; Schneemelcher and Schaferdiek, 176; Hagg, 160-161; Heiserman, 204-205.

3. Perry, 16-17; Perry himself is well aware of the fragmentary state of the evidence, 118.

4. Ibid., 108.

5. J.P. Sullivan, "Introduction" to The Ass in Reardon, Collected Ancient Greek Novels, 589.

6. Elizabeth Hazelton Haight, Essays on Ancient Fiction (NY: Longmans, Green and Co., 1936), 193.                  

7. Ibid.

8. Davies, The Revolt of the Widows, Chapter VI, "The Authorship of the Acts," 95-109, argues that the entire works were written by celibate women; Hagg, 162, deems it quite likely that a woman wrote at least Paul and Thecla. Dennis Ronald MacDonald, "The Role of Women in the Production of the Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles," The Illif Review, 40. 4 (Winter 1984), 21-38 rejects  Davies's theory, but in MacDonald, The Legend and the Apostle: The Battle for Paul in Story and Canon (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1983), Chapter II, "The Storytellers Behind the Legends," 34-53, he agrees that the pericopes about celibate women are the work of their real-life counterparts in the widows' communities. Burrus, in Chastity as Autonomy, Chapter III, "The Chastity Stories' Tellers," 67-80 comes to the same conclusion.

9. Perry observes that in some of the novels, celibacy is not quite so perfectly preserved as the oft-heard generalizations would lead one to believe. See his examples, 122-123.      

10. The following page references are to the novels as published in Reardon's Collected Ancient Greek Novels, except for the references to works not included there, in which case the refer ences are to the Adlington translation of The Golden Ass edited by Harry G. Schnur (NY: Collier, 1962), the Loeb edition of Philostratus, The Life of Apollonius of Tyana, vols. I and II, and the Penguin edition of Petronius' ­Satyricon­, translated by J.P.  Sullivan.  The translation of Joseph and Asenath used here is that of D. Cook, in H.F.D. Sparks (ed.), The Apocryphal Old Testament (New York: Oxford University Press, 1984).

11. Heinz Joachim Held, "Matthew as Interpreter of the Miracle Stories" in Gunter Bornkamm, Gerhard Barth, and Heinz Joachim Held, Tradition and Interpretation in Matthew (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1963), 265-266.

12. Merkelbach's theory is discussed in Hagg, 101-104.

13. Heiserman, 190.

14. Hagg, 103.

15. Johannes Leipoldt, "Zu den Auferstehungsgeschichten,"­ ThLZ LXXIII (1948), 737-742, discussed in Wolfhart Pannenberg, Jesus - God and Man (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1977), 91.

16. C. Burchard, Introduction to Joseph and Asenath in James H. Charlesworth (ed.), The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Vol. 2 (Garden City: Doubleday, 1985), 187. I have not used Burchard's translation in what follows, however, preferring that of D. Cook in H.F.D. Sparks, The Apocryphal Old Testament (Oxford U.P., 1984). No important point hinges upon any difference between the two renderings.

17. Burchard, 187, 191.

18. Burchard's attempt to make something of these bald-faced sacramental references in a Jewish context is unconvincing (191). Like Russell Spittler, I would place The Testament of Job, too, in a Christian prophetic (perhaps Montanist, as Spittler suggests) Sitz-im-Leben, rather than a Jewish one: R.P. Spittler, Introduction to Testament of Job in Charlesworth (ed.), The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Vol. 1, 1983, 834. Where do we find other references to speaking in the tongues of angels? Not in Judaism, but in Christian sources including 1 Corinthians. See Stuart D. Currie, "'Speaking in Tongues, Early Evidence Outside the New Testament Bearing on 'Glossais Lalein'," Interpretation, Vol XIX, no. 3, July 1965, 274-294; George H. Williams and Edith Waldvogel, "A History of Speaking in Tongues and Related Gifts" in Michael P. Hamilton (ed.) The Charismatic Movement (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975), 61-113.

19. Graham Anderson, Ancient Fiction, The Novel in the Graeco-Roman World (Totowa: Barnes & Noble, 1984), 81, sees Joseph and Asenath as conversion propaganda, while Burchard, 186, would hesitate to restrict the intent of the work so narrowly.

 By Robert M. Price



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