Mention has already been made above (pp. 304, 338–45) of the Apostolic History attributed to Abdias, bishop of Babylon. M. R. James (ANT 462–9) provided summaries of the books that do not occur elsewhere in his collection. This apostolic history was probably put together, perhaps in France, in the sixth–seventh century.
The subjects of the ten books are as follows (for those marked with an asterisk James's summaries are given below):
1. Peter (see Acts of Peter).
2. Paul (see Acts of Paul).
3. Gregory of Tours' version of the Acts of Andrew, together with a version of the Passion taken from Conversante et Docente (see Acts of Andrew).
4. *James the Great, taken probably from a Greek original (not to be confused with the Acts of James the Great referred to in Lipsius, ii.2, 201–28 and dismissed by James, ANT 470, as ‘without interest’. It is this text that is related to the Armenian translated by Leloir CCA 3, 270–88).
5. John (see Acts of John).
6. *James the Less. This includes the Acts of Simon and Jude, taken from a larger work that presumably dealt with their activities in Babylonia and Persia. See Lipsius, ii.2, 142–200, esp. 164–8.
7. *Matthew. This differed from the Passion of Matthew (above 3).
8. Bartholomew (see above 2).
9. Thomas (see Acts of Thomas).
10. *Philip. This account differs from the Greek Acts of Philip. 5 According to M. McNamara, Irish Biblical Apocrypha (Edinburgh, 1989), 182, the Passion of the Apostle Philip in the Irish tradition is close to Pseudo‐Abdias 10 (cf. also F. Bovon ANRW 2.25.6, 4443).
[F. Nausea], Anonymi Philalethi Eusebiani in vitas, miracula passionesque apostolorum rhapsodiae (Cologne, 1531).
Most conveniently to be found in
Fabricius, ii. 387–742, which includes Lazius' expansions (W. Lazius, Abdiae Babyloniae episcopi et apostolorum discipuli de historia certaminis apostolici libri decem (Basle, 1552)).
James, 462–9 (summaries of certain books).
Migne, Dictionnaire, ii:
Moraldi, ii. 1431–1606.
Lipsius, i. 117–78.
(a) James the Great
1. Describes James's preaching. 2. In the course of it he was opposed by Hermogenes and Philetus. Philetus was converted by James, and told Hermogenes he should leave him. Hermogenes in anger bound him by magical incantations and said, ‘We will see if James can free you.’ Philetus found means to send a servant to James, who sent back his kerchief, and by it Philetus was freed and came to James.
3. Hermogenes in anger sent devils to fetch both James and Philetus to him, but when they got there they began to howl in the air and complain that an angel had bound them with fiery chains. James sent them to bring Hermogenes bound. They tied his arms with ropes and brought him, mocking him. ‘You are a foolish man,’ said James, ‘but they shall not hurt you.’ The devils clamoured for leave to avenge themselves on him. ‘Why do you not seize Philetus?’, said James. ‘We dare not touch so much as an ant in your chamber’, they said. James bade Philetus loose Hermogenes, and he stood confounded. ‘Go free,’ said James, ‘for we do not render evil for evil.’ ‘I fear the demons’, he said. And James gave him his staff to protect him.
4. Armed with this, he went home and filled baskets with magical books and began to burn them. ‘Not so’, said James, ‘lest the smoke vex the unwary; cast them into the sea.’ He did so, and returned and begged for pardon. James sent him to undo his former work on those he had deceived, and spend in charity what he had gained by his art. He obeyed, and grew in faith so much that he even performed miracles.
5. The Jews bribed two centurions, Lysias and Theocritus, to seize James. And while he was being taken away, there was a dispute between him and the Pharisees. He spoke to them first of Abraham, 6. and went on to cite prophecies. Isaiah: Behold a virgin . . . Jeremiah: Behold, your redeemer shall come, O Jerusalem, and this shall be the sign of him: he shall open the eyes of the blind, restore hearing to the deaf, and raise the dead with his voice. Ezekiel: your king shall come, O Zion, he shall come humbly, and restore you. Daniel: As the son of man, so shall he come and receive princedoms and powers. David: The Lord said to my Lord . . . Again: He shall call me, you are my Father . . . I will make him my first‐born. Of the fruit of your body . . . Isaiah again: Like a sheep to the slaughter. David: They pierced my hands . . . They gave me gall . . . My flesh shall rest . . . I will arise and be with you . . . For the comfortless trouble's sake . . . He is gone up on high . . . God is gone up. He rode on the cherubim . . . The Lord shall come, and shall not keep silence, . . . 7. Isaiah: The dead shall rise. David: God spoke once . . . They rewarded me evil for good . . . He that did eat my bread . . . The earth opened and swallowed up Dathan. 8. The people cried out, ‘We have sinned.’ Abiathar the high priest stirred up a tumult, and a scribe cast a rope about James's neck and dragged him before Herod, who sentenced him to be beheaded. On the way he healed a paralytic.
9. The scribe, named Josias, was converted, and prayed for pardon. And Abiathar procured that he should be beheaded with James. Water was brought, James baptized him, they exchanged the kiss of peace, and were beheaded.
(b) James the Less
The first six chapters are from the canonical Gospels and Acts and from Hegesippus as quoted by Eusebius (Rufinus).
7. Simon and Jude, going to Persia, found there two magicians, Zaroës and Arfaxat, whom Matthew had driven out of Ethiopia. Their doctrines were that the God of the Old Testament was the god of darkness, Moses and the Prophets deceivers, the soul the work of the good God, the body the work of the god of darkness, so that soul and body are contrary to each other; that the sun and moon are gods, and also water; that the incarnation of Christ was in appearance only.
8. On entering the country they met Varardach, the general of King Xerxes, with an army preparing to repel an invasion of India. He had many priests and diviners with him; their gods explained that they could give no answers because of the presence of Simon and Jude. Varardach sent for them and they offered to expound their teaching: he said he would hear them after the campaign. Jude urged him to hear now. He asked them to foretell his success or failure.
9. Simon said, ‘We will allow your gods to answer your diviners.’ So they prayed, and the prophets said, ‘There will be a great battle, and many will fall on either side.’ The apostles laughed, though Varardach was impressed; and they said, ‘The truth is that to‐morrow the Indians will send and offer you peace and become tributaries to Persia.’ After some dispute with the priests it was agreed (10) that both parties should be kept in custody till the morrow—(11) when the apostles' prediction was fulfilled. But they interceded for the priests, whom Varardach would have killed. ‘At least’, said he, ‘you will receive their goods.’ Their pay was reckoned up: one‐hundred and twenty talents in all, besides the chief priest's, who had four pounds of gold a month: and a lot of clothing. 12–13. On his return, Varardach reported all this to the king; but Zaroës and Arfaxat made light of it, and proposed a test before the apostles came. The lawyers of the land were to be summoned to dispute with them. And first they made them unable to speak, then restored their speech but took away their power of motion, and then made them unable to see. The lawyers retired in confusion. 14. Varardach told the apostles, and they asked him to send for the lawyers, and proposed a second trial. If the lawyers would believe in their God, they would sign them with the cross and enable them to overcome the wizards. The lawyers were at first inclined to despise them for their mean appearance; but, convinced by Simon's words, they believed. 15. The apostles prayed over them, ‘O God of Israel, who confounded the magic illusions of Jannes and Mambres and gave them over to confusion and sores and caused them to perish: let your hand be also on these magicians Zaroës and Arfaxat.’ The contest took place and the magicians were powerless. One of the lawyers, Zebeus, explained to the king how they were the instruments of the evil angel, and defied them to do as they had done the day before. 16. They were enraged and called in a host of snakes. The apostles were hastily summoned, and made the snakes all turn on the magicians and bite them; they howled like wolves. ‘Kill them outright’, said the king; but the apostles refused, and instead made the serpents suck out all their venom, which hurt still more. 17. And for three days, in the hospital, the wizards continued screaming. When they were on the point of death, the apostles healed them, saying, ‘Our God does not ask for forced service; if you will not believe, you may go free.’ They wandered about Persia, slandering the apostles and telling the people to kill them when they came.
18. The apostles stayed in Babylon, healing the sick and ordaining clergy. A deacon, Euphrosinus, was accused of incontinence by the daughter of a satrap who had been seduced by another. The parents clamoured against the deacon. The apostles sent for the infant who had been born that day, and on their bidding it spoke and cleared Euphrosinus: but the apostles refused to question it about the guilty man.
19. Two fierce tigers had escaped from their cages and were devouring everybody they met. The apostles, appealed to, made the beasts follow them home, where they stayed three days. Then the apostles called the people together, and announced that they were going to leave them, to visit the rest of Persia. On the urgent prayer of the people they stayed fifteen months longer, baptized sixty thousand people, (20) ordained Abdias bishop and set out, accompanied by many disciples. For thirteen years they travelled, and Craton their disciple recorded their acts in ten books, which Africanus the historian translated into Latin, and from which we have here made extracts.
Zaroës and Arfaxat always went before the apostles and warned people against them, but were as regularly confuted.
At Suanir there were seventy priests, who received a pound of gold apiece from the king at each of the feasts of the sun (at the beginning of each of the four seasons). The magicians warned these men that two Hebrews were coming, who would deprive them of all their gains: they should be compelled to sacrifice immediately on their arrival.
21. After travelling through all the twelve provinces the apostles came to Suanir and lodged with a chief citizen, Sennes. The priests and mob flocked thither, crying out, ‘Bring out the enemies of our gods.’ So they were taken to the temple of the sun; and as they entered, the devils began to cry out that they were being burned. In the east, in the temple, was a four‐horse chariot of the sun in silver, and on the other side a four‐oxed chariot of the moon, also silver. 22. The priests would now compel the apostles to sacrifice. Jude said to Simon, ‘I see the Lord calling us.’ Simon said, ‘I see him also among the angels; moreover, an angel has said to me, “Go out hence and the temple shall fall”, but I said, “No, for some here may be converted” ’ As they spoke (in Hebrew) an angel came and said, ‘Choose either the death of all here or the palm of martyrdom.’ They chose the palm. As the priests pressed on them they demanded silence. After a few words Simon commanded the devil to leave the chariot of the sun and break it, and Jude spoke likewise of the moon. Two hideous black men appeared and fled howling. The priests and people attacked the apostles and slew them. 23. This was on the first of July. Sennes suffered with them. Lightning struck the temple and split it into three pieces and burnt Zaroës and Arfaxat to coal. After three months Xerxes sent and confiscated the priests' goods and translated the bodies to his city, and built a marble basilica, octagonal, and eight times eighty feet in circumference and one hundred and twenty feet high, plated with gold inside, and the sarcophagus of silver in the middle. It took three years to build.
1. Matthew came to Naddaver in Ethiopia, where King Aeglippus reigned. There were two magicians, Zaroës and Arfaxat, who could make men immovable, blind, or deaf, as they pleased, and also charmed serpents, like the Marsi. 2. Matthew counteracted all these acts, sent the snakes to sleep, and cured their bites with the cross. A eunuch named Candacis, whom Philip had baptized, took the apostle in, and he did many cures. 3. Candacis asked him how he, a Hebrew, could speak other tongues. Matthew told him the stories of Babel and of Pentecost. 4. One came and announced that the magicians were coming with two crested dragons breathing fire and brimstone. Matthew crossed himself and rose to meet them. ‘Speak from the window’, said Candacis. ‘You can be at the window; I will go out.’ When the dragons approached, both fell asleep at Matthew's feet, and he challenged the magicians to rouse them. They could not. Then he adjured them to go quietly and hurt no man, and so they did. 5. The apostle then spoke, describing Paradise at length, and (6) the Fall. 7. It was now announced that Euphranor the king's son was dead. The magicians, who could not raise him, said he had been taken up among the gods, and an image and temple ought to be built. Candacis said, ‘Keep these men till Matthew comes.’ He came; the queen Euphenissa fell at his feet. He consoled her and raised Euphranor. 8. The people came to sacrifice to him as a god. He persuaded them to build a church; eleven thousand men did it in thirty days; it was called the Resurrection. Matthew presided there twenty‐three years, ordained clergy, and founded churches; baptized the king, queen, prince, and princess Ephigenia, who vowed chastity. Zaroës and Arfaxat fled the country. It would be long to tell of all Matthew's cures and miracles: I will proceed to his martyrdom. 9. Aeglippus was succeeded by his brother Hyrtacus, who wished to marry Ephigenia, now presiding over more than two hundred sacred virgins. He offered Matthew half his kingdom to persuade her. Matthew said, ‘Assemble all the virgins tomorrow, and you shall hear what good things I will speak of marriage.’ 10. His address on the divine institution and merits of matrimony. 11. Loudly applauded by Hyrtacus and his followers; he then pointed out that it would be sacrilege to marry Ephigenia. Hyrtacus went away in a rage. 12. But Matthew exhorted them not to fear man. 13. Ephigenia prayed for him to consecrate her and the other virgins. And he veiled them (with a long prayer). 14. And as he stood at the altar praying, a soldier sent by Hyrtacus pierced him in the back and he died. The people threatened to burn the palace, but the clergy restrained them. 15. Ephigenia gave all her wealth to the church. Hyrtacus sent the nobles' wives to her, then tried to send demons to carry her off, then surrounded her house with fire. But an angel, and Matthew, appeared and encouraged her. And a great wind rose and drove all the fire on the palace, and only Hyrtacus and his son escaped. The son was seized by a devil, and rushed to Matthew's tomb and confessed his father's crimes. Hyrtacus was attacked with elephantiasis, and stabbed himself. Beor, the brother of Ephigenia, a Christian, succeeded and reigned twenty‐five years, dying at eight‐eight, and appointing successors in his lifetime, and he had peace with the Romans and Persians, and all Ethiopia was filled with churches, unto this day.
1. He goes to Scythia twenty years after the Ascension. 2. Before a statue of Mars: a great dragon comes out from beneath the statue and kills the priest's son and two tribunes, and makes many ill with its venomous breath. Philip banishes the dragon and raises and heals the dead and sick. 3. He teaches them for a year; they break the image, and many thousands are baptized. After ordaining bishop and clergy he returns to Asia, to Hierapolis, where he extinguishes the malignant heresy of the Ebionites, who said that the Son of God was not born as a man, but took his humanity from the Virgin. 4. And he had two daughters who converted many. Seven days before his death he calls the clergy together, exhorts them, and dies, aged eighty‐seven, and is buried at Hierapolis, and his two daughters after a few years are laid at his right and left. Many miracles are done there by his intercession.
5 According to M. McNamara, Irish Biblical Apocrypha (Edinburgh, 1989), 182, the Passion of the Apostle Philip in the Irish tradition is close to Pseudo‐Abdias 10 (cf. also F. Bovon ANRW 2.25.6, 4443).