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The Oxford Study Bible Study Bible supplemented with commentary from scholars of various religions.

Apostolic Legends

Between 160 and 225 C.E. Christians produced many narratives concerning the lives, teachings, and deaths of the apostles Peter, John, Paul, Andrew, and Thomas. Scholars have proposed various literary ancestors to these “acts,” such as Luke's Acts of the Apostles, or Greek romantic novels, or lives of philosophers, but the closest parallels are found in gospels, especially in Matthew and John. Each of these acts begins with an apostle leaving Jerusalem after Jesus' resurrection to missionize various regions, where they, like Jesus, preach, heal, cast out demons, attract followers, and, with the exception of John, suffer martyrdom. According to The Acts of Peter, the apostle traveled to Rome in order to protect the church there from Simon Magus (mentioned also in Acts 8 ). After a series of magical contests between the two, Peter overcomes the magician, alienates a politician by persuading his lovers to cease sexual relations with him, and dies by crucifixion upside down.

According to The Acts of John, that apostle taught and performed wonders in Ephesus, where he died of old age. This composite document, rich in language and imagery drawn from the Gospel of John, suggests how Christians who denied Jesus' physical embodiment might have interpreted that Gospel.

The Acts of Paul sends Paul from Jerusalem to Rome through Asia Minor and Greece. Along the way he convinces many of his converts, including a young woman named Thecla, to reject sex. Thecla nearly dies twice for her decision to pursue celibacy, but in the end, Paul ordains her to teach and to care for the poor. In Rome, after teaching and raising Nero's cupbearer back to life, Paul is beheaded. The author seems to have recorded several of these stories from oral tradition which in some cases may derive from the first century. The story of Thecla was told to legitimate women's ministries of teaching and baptizing.

According to The Acts of Thomas, Thomas left Jerusalem for India. Thomas' radical insistence on chastity stirs up the anger of authorities. Thomas dies, stabbed by four soldiers. The Acts of Thomas provides valuable information concerning Christianity in bilingual Syria at the beginning of the third century. Apart from Luke's Acts, it is the only example of this genre still extant in its entirety.

The Acts of Andrew, unlike the other acts, is an elaborate product of early Christian philosophy fashioned to be a Christian Odyssey with Andrew as a new Odysseus, the hero of Homer's famous epic poem. The apostle fights demons and a monstrous serpent, endures shipwreck, and converts people who remind the reader of pagan heroes and gods. Andrew dies in Greece, lashed to his cross next to the sea, like Odysseus at the mast in Homer. With the possible exception of the writings of Clement of Alexandria, no document witnesses more extensively to early Christian attitudes toward classical mythology than The Acts of Andrew.

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