Tag Archives: Apocryphal Acts

Jesus’ Inner Circle: James (Part 4)

The Death of James

James is specifically mentioned just three times after the resurrection of Jesus.  He’s among the apostles who spent all night fishing, catching nothing until Jesus (the next morning) told them to let the net down on the right side of the ship.  Then they caught so many fish, they couldn’t bring the net into the boat.  James was one of the apostles who helped bring the boat to shore, dragging this massive catch with them.  Then Jesus invited James and the others to “come and dine,” which they did.1

Just a matter of days later, James watched as Jesus ascended into heaven after telling all the apostles to stay in Jerusalem until they received the Holy Spirit.  He went into an upper room with his fellow-apostles and other disciples where a replacement was chosen for Judas.  Then, on the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came upon James and the other apostles, and they all began to preach the word of God in different languages.  No doubt, James spent a large part of that day happily baptizing some of the 3,000 who gladly received the word of God.2

But things didn’t continue on their positive streak.  Saul of Tarsus and the Jewish leaders stirred up the people in antagonism against the church.  Herod the king, who wanted the Jews to like him, began to persecute the church.3  Some of them he arrested,4 and James was among them.  Since James was a leader of the church, Herod had him killed with the sword.5

So ends the life of a man who was Jesus’ cousin, Jesus’ disciple, and Jesus’ friend.

Traditions About James

Since his life ended in AD 42-44, and the Bible records it, there’s not much in the line of traditions about this member of the “inner circle.”  One writing says that “Zebedee was of the house of Levi, and his wife of the house of Judah.  Now, because the father of James loved him greatly, he counted him among the family of his father Levi, and similarly, because the mother of John loved him greatly, she counted him among the family of her father Judah.  And they were surnamed ‘Children of Thunder,’ for they were of both the priestly house and the royal house.”6

A writing that claims to be written by Clement (the man mentioned in Philippians 4:3) records this incident:

But a certain Samaritan, speaking against the people and against God, and asserting that neither are the dead to rise, nor is that worship of God to be maintained which is in Jerusalem, but that Mount Gerizim is to be reverenced, added also this in opposition to us, that our Jesus was not He whom Moses foretold as a Prophet to come into the world. Against him, and another who supported him in what he said, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, strove vigorously; and although they had a command not to enter into their cities, nor to bring the word of preaching to them, yet, lest their discourse, unless it were confined, should hurt the faith of others, they replied so prudently and so powerfully, that they put them to perpetual silence. For James made an oration concerning the resurrection of the dead, with the approbation of all the people; while John showed that if they would abandon the error of Mount Gerizim, they should consequently acknowledge that Jesus was indeed He who, according to the prophecy of Moses, was expected to come; since, indeed, as Moses wrought signs and miracles, so also did Jesus. And there is no doubt but that the likeness of the signs proves Him to be that prophet of whom he said that He should come, ‘like himself.’ Having declared these things, and more to the same effect, they ceased.7

The Acts of James in India says that James and Peter went to preach to the Jews in India, where they healed a blind man, were imprisoned, were released, and converted the people.8

The Martyrdom of James says that the son of Zebedee preached to the diaspora, the twelve tribes who lived outside the Promised Land, convincing them to give their “first-fruits” to the church as opposed to Herod, which then led to the murder of James by Herod.9

-Bradley S. Cobb

1 This incident is recorded in John 21:1-14.

2 These events are recorded in Acts 1 and 2.

3 Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 18-19, says that this Herod (Herod Agrippa I) was zealous for the Jewish law.  He, like his grandfather, Herod the Great, wanted the Jews to like him.  This is why he persecuted the church, and why he continued when he saw that killing James please the Jews.  See Chuck Northrop’s comments on Acts 12:1-2 in Preaching School Notes (Bible Institute of Missouri) for e-Sword.  Available at TheCobbSix.com.

4 See The NET Bible footnotes on Acts 12:1.

5 Most likely, this means that he was beheaded.

6 See The Genealogies of the Twelve Apostles in Budge, Contendings of the Apostles, Vol. 2, page 49.

7 The Recognitions of Clement, Book 1, chapter 57.  This writing is classed among the pseudo-Clementine literature, because its authenticity is rejected by almost all scholars.  It can be found in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, page 92.

8 See The Acts of James in India, in Budge, Contendings of the Apostles, Vol. 2, pages 295-303.  This work, among other things, seeks to elevate the status of Peter, having James call him “my father” multiple times.

9 See Budge, Contendings of the Apostles, Vol. 2, pages 304-308.  This writing is shown to be a forgery because it is historically inaccurate.  James was killed between AD 42-44, yet The Martyrdom of James claims that James was teaching people not to serve Nero—who was at that point no more than seven years old, and who wouldn’t become emperor for at least another ten years.  See also International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, “James.”

The Replacement Apostle (Part 2)

Matthias in Tradition

Almost all the early writers who deal with the topic say that Matthias was one of the seventy men chosen by Jesus in Luke 10 to proclaim the coming of the Kingdom of God, and heal sicknesses.1 These men were “sent”2 by Jesus Christ with a mission very similar to the apostles in their “limited commission.”3  Some believe that it is this group of people that Paul was referencing when he said that Jesus appeared to all the apostles (after already mentioning “the twelve”) in 1 Corinthians 15:7.4

It is said by some that the selection of Matthias was a mistake, a “blunder” made by the apostles, and that the real heir to Judas’ spot was Saul of Tarsus.5 In the face of the biblical evidence, however, it’s impossible to take such a view seriously.  (1) Peter properly applied biblical prophecy to say Judas needed to be replaced.  (2) They prayed for the Lord to make the selection, and there is no indication that the Lord ignored the prayer.  (3) God approved of the choice, for Peter stood up “with the eleven” (which would include Matthias) as ones who were speaking in tongues by the power of God.6 (4) Paul never once classed himself as one of the twelve—in fact, he showed that he was not one of them in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8.

After Matthias disappears from the biblical stage, there are traditions that say he spent time evangelizing Ethiopia with Rufus and Alexander, the sons of Simon of Cyrene, who bore the cross of Jesus in Mark 15:21.7  A work entitled “The Acts of Andrew and Matthew” is, in a significant number of manuscripts, titled “The Acts of Andrew and Matthias.”8  Because of the similarity in their names, the traditions tend to overlap, with no real certainty about which apostle is supposed to be under consideration.9  In one version of this work, Matthias, Rufus, and Alexander all go to Ethiopia to a city of cannibals, where Matthias is captured, blinded, and thrown into prison before he is healed by God and rescued by Andrew.  After they were both captured and thrown back into prison, they caused a flood to come on the inhabitants of the city, and then as they walked out of the prison, the waters divided in front of them like the Red Sea.  Though many died in the flood, the apostles prayed and all those who died were raised up.  Afterwards, many were baptized.10

The Preaching of Thomas in India claims that Matthias was taken by Peter to Persia.11

The Martyrdom of Matthias12 says that he preached in Damascus, where the people rose up against him, fastened him to a bedstead of iron, and tried to burn him alive on it for 24 days straight, but like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, the flames didn’t harm him.  Thus, the people in Damascus began to follow Christ.  After some more time working among the people, he moved to Judea and there died.13

Though it is now lost to time, a heretical gospel account was written by someone who attached Matthias’ name to it.  Meanwhile, a second-century Gnostic sect falsely claimed that they got all of their doctrines from Matthias.  Some traditions say he worked in Jerusalem and died there,14 while others say he was martyred in Ethiopia,15 and still others believe he was martyred in Colchis.16

People have been tempted to identify Matthias as someone else in the biblical narrative.   At least one writer has suggested that Matthias is the same as Nathanael.17 Clement of Alexandria was of the opinion that Matthias was another name for Zacchaeus, the tax collector mentioned in Luke 19.18

-Bradley S. Cobb

1 Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, Book 1, chapter 12.

2 The Greek word for “sent” in Luke 10:1 is the verb form of “apostle.”  Thus, Jesus “apostled” these men, and they were, in a very real sense, apostles of Jesus Christ—just not counted among “the twelve.”

3 Compare the words of Jesus in Luke 10:1-16 with Matthew 10:1-16.

4 See the commentaries of Adam Clarke; Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown; Henrich Meyer; and John Wesley.  If this is the case, then it fits together with the requirement that the nominees for Judas’ vacant spot was to be one who had seen the risen Lord.

5 See David Smith’s article in James Hasting’s Dictionary of the Bible, “Matthias.”

6 See Acts 2:1-14.

7 See Budge, Contendings of the Apostles, Vol. 2, page 163-164.

8 Unfortunately, there is confusion on whether it is Matthias or Matthew that is under consideration in some of ancient Apocryphal Acts.  In the stories about the cannibals, some manuscripts say Matthew, while others say Matthias.  As such, many of the traditions about Matthias are also said to be traditions about Matthew, simply because no one knows for certain which one is under consideration.  See the section “Matthew, According to Tradition” in the chapter on that apostle for more details.

9 The Ethiopian traditions, which were translated by Budge in Contendings of the Apostles say that it was Matthias who went to the city of cannibals, which is what is described in “The Acts of Andrew and Matthew/Matthias.”

10 This version of the story is contained in Budge’s Contendings of the Apostles, Vol. 2, pages 267-288.  Pages 370-403 give a fuller version of the story, called The Preaching of Matthias.

11 See Budge, Contendings of the Apostles, Vol. 2, page 320.  This work appears to be a slightly enlarged edition of the Acts of Thomas, at least of the opening sequence.

12 The title for this work is rather ironic, considering that it records Matthias dying a natural death.

13 Budge, Contendings of the Apostles, Vol. 2, pages 289-294.

14 See the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, “Matthias.”

15 See Smith’s Bible Dictionary, “Matthias.”

16 See Richard Watson’s Biblical and Theological Dictionary.

17 See the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, “Matthias.”

18 This according to John Gill, in his notes on Acts 1:23.

What Happened to the Other Judas?

Traditions about Thaddaeus (aka “Judas, not Iscariot”)

The apocryphal Genealogies of the Apostles says that Thaddaeus was of the house of Joseph (thus of Ephraim or Manasseh),1 while a 13th century collection of biblical legends, called The Book of the Bee, says he was from the tribe of Judah.2

There was once a work entitled The Gospel of Thaddaeus, but no surviving copies exist.  A third or fourth century work, called the Constitutions of the Apostles, which falsely claims to be a joint-effort of the twelve, has Thaddaeus teaching that a widow who recently lost her mate is not to be taken in by the church until she had proven that she was going to stay godly.  The same writing claims that Thaddaeus said exorcists were not ordained (given that role by the church), but anyone who could prove they were truly an exorcist was to be ordained as a bishop, presbyter, or deacon.3

The Acts of Thaddaeus says that the apostle was born in Edessa, northwest of Asia Minor, and that he returned there after the ascension of Jesus to teach the king, Abgar, and the other inhabitants of the city, about the Lord.  He had a very successful mission trip, and the king helped to destroy the idol temples in the area.  Afterwards, it is said that he went south into Syria and preached there for five years before dying a natural death.4

Other traditions, however, include Arabia, Mesopotamia, and Persia among Thaddaeus’ mission fields.  One early church historian says that Thaddaeus was martyred in Syria.5

Assadour Antreassian, in his book Jerusalem and the Armenians, states:

[A]ll Christian Churches accept the tradition that Christianity was preached in Armenia by the Apostles Thaddaeus and Bartholomew in the first half of the first century… Armenia was among the first to respond to the call of Christ so early.  Thus, the above mentioned Apostles became the first illuminators of Armenia.  The generally accepted chronology gives a period of eight years to the mission of St. Thaddaeus (35-43 AD) and sixteen years to that to St. Bartholomew (44-60 AD), both of whom suffered martyrdom in Armenia (Thaddaeus at Ardaze in 50 AD and Bartholomew at [Derbend] in 68 AD).6

Roman Catholic tradition says that in Persia, Thaddaeus was “martyred with a javelin or with arrows or by being tied to a cross.”7  Some claim that traditions have him murdered and buried in Egypt or Beirut.8 The most specific record of his death says that he was killed with arrows on Mt. Ararat.9

1 See Budge, Contendings of the Apostles, Vol. 2, page 50.

2 See International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, “Thaddaeus.”

3 Apostolic Constitutions, Book 8, chapters 25-26.  The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 7, page 493.  Since the Bible describes bishops and presbyters (elders) as the same people, this later work cannot be considered authoritative at all.

4 The Acts of the Holy Apostle Thaddaeus, One of the Twelve.  See The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, pages 558-559.  The legend regarding King Abgar (or Abgarus) is fascinating.  Abgar wrote to Jesus after hearing about the miracles He had done, inviting Him to come to Edessa to escape the horrible Jews.  Jesus sent word back that after He ascended, He would send Thaddaeus to Edessa to preach.  There are some documents which have a variation on this legend, making Thomas the missionary instead of Thaddaeus, or which have Thomas sending Thaddaeus.  Eusebius (Ecclesiastical History, Book 1, chapter 13) claims to have seen the original documents and translated them himself, including a response from Jesus.

5 See McBirnie, The Search for the Twelve Apostles, page 198.  The church historian is Nicephorus Callistus.

6 Assadour Antreassian, Jerusalem and the Armenians, page 20, as quoted in McBirnie, The Search for the Twelve Apostles, page 199.  McBirnie goes on to relate that other traditions date Thaddaeus’ missionary work in Armenia from 43-66.

7 Mary Sharp, Traveler’s Guide to Saints in Europe, as quoted by McBirnie, The Search for the Twelve Apostles, page 202.

8 International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, “Thaddaeus.”  McBirnie, however, investigated these supposed traditions and discovered that the various religious groups in those areas had never heard of those traditions.  See his The Search for the Twelve Apostles, pages 202-203.

9 McBirnie, The Search for the Twelve Apostles, page 204.

The Anti-Government Apostle

Beyond his name and epitaphs, we know nothing about Simon except that he was an apostle.  But, there is something to be said for the epitaphs themselves.

Simon the Canaanite

Most writers seem to think that the descriptive name “Canaanite” or “Cananaean”1 is a political term instead of a geographical term.2  It seems more likely that it is both.  Canaan was the name of the Promised Land (Exodus 6:4; Leviticus 25:38; Acts 13:19), which was given to the Jews by God as their inheritance.  But by the time of Jesus, the Jews were ruled over by the Romans.  So, while the Jews still lived in Canaan, they certainly didn’t feel like it was theirs alone.  But there were Jewish patriots, nationalists, who wanted to re-take control over their Promised Land—Canaan.  They were called “Canaanites,” or, as Luke describes them, “Zealots.”  They were very “conspicuous for their fierce advocacy of the Mosaic ritual.”3

The Cananæans or Zealots were a sect founded by Judas of Gamala, who headed the opposition to the census of Quirinius (AD 6 or 7). They bitterly resented the domination of Rome, and would fain have hastened by the sword the fulfilment of the Messianic hope. During the great rebellion and the siege of Jerusalem, which ended in its destruction (AD 70), their fanaticism made them terrible opponents, not only to the Romans, but to other factions amongst their own countrymen.4

Josephus, however, describes the Zealots who brought the wrath of Rome upon the Jews as a collection of criminals who overthrew the high priest, murdered prominent men, and falsely accused them of consorting with Rome.  This group of people took upon themselves the name “Zealots,” as though they were zealous of the Law, but were really just zealous of murder and mayhem.5  This being the case, the connection between the Zealots of Jesus’ day and the Zealots of 40 years later may be one of name only.

Other Facts about Simon

Simon was a disciple of Jesus Christ who, one morning, was called to meet the Lord on a mountain.  That day, Jesus selected twelve men for a special task—and Simon was one of those men chosen.6  He was given miraculous abilities to heal the sick and to cast out demons, which he used when he was sent out on the so-called “limited commission.”7  On that apostolic mission, Jesus sent them out “two by two,” or in pairs.8 When Matthew records this event, he doesn’t say “two by two,” but he does group the apostles into pairs when he lists them:

  • “Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother”
  • “James, the son of Zebedee, and John his brother”
  • “Philip and Bartholomew”
  • “Thomas and Matthew the publican”
  • “James, the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddeaus”
  • “Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him.”9

It seems, therefore, that when Simon was sent out on the limited commission, his preaching partner was none other than Judas Iscariot himself!10

Simon witnessed many miracles of Jesus, but it still wasn’t enough to keep him from abandoning Jesus when Judas showed up with soldiers to arrest Him.11  He ran away, and after learning that Jesus was dead, he was sad, but also scared that the Jews might come after him as well.  So, when he met with the other apostles that Sunday, the doors were shut tight.  The joy, surprise, and excitement must have been incredible when Jesus—very much alive—appeared in the middle of the room.  Soon after that event, Simon was one of the ones who tracked down Thomas to share the news of the resurrection.12

Simon spent a large portion of the next month in the company of the resurrected Lord, trying to soak in everything that Jesus had to say to them.  When He ascended into heaven, Simon was one of the ones staring up into the clouds.  Just a few days later, Simon was in a room with the rest of the apostles when it sounded like a tornado blew through, and he began to speak the wonderful works of God in another language.13

After baptizing people on Pentecost, Simon also helped distribute money to the needy saints who were in Jerusalem,14 and also helped in ordaining “the seven” who would take a more hands-on role in caring for the Grecian widows.15  He remained in Jerusalem after the persecution by Saul of Tarsus began, and is again seen in Jerusalem some years later in regards to the circumcision controversy among Gentile converts.16

However, Simon didn’t stay in Jerusalem the rest of his life.  He had received a commission from Jesus Christ to “go into all the world” and to “teach all nations.”17  He would have obeyed his Lord’s command and went about working as a missionary.  He died as a faithful servant of Jesus Christ, whose name is on the foundation of the holy city, New Jerusalem.18  That much, we can know for certain.

Traditions about Simon the Zealot

The apocryphal work, The Genealogies of the Twelve Apostles, identifies Simon as Nathanael, and claims he is from the tribe of Benjamin.19  Catholic Church tradition says that he is one of the “brethren of the Lord” mentioned in Mark 6:3, and that his father is Cleopas/Alphaeus.20

According to one writing, his work was among the Samaritans,21 after which he returned to Jerusalem to lead the church there following the death of James, the brother of the Lord,22 though this appears to be an instance of confusing people with the same name.23  A different tradition says he preached in “Egypt, Cyrene, and Mauritania.”24

One tradition says that he was taken by the Jews in Jerusalem and crucified, but that they also scourged him (i.e., beat him with skin-tearing whips) the whole time he was on the cross until he died.25

-Bradley S. Cobb

1 Matthew 10:4, Mark 3:13.  “Canaanite” (KJV), “Cananaean” (ASV).

2 See the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, “Simon the Cananaean.”

3 McClintock and Strong’s Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, Vol. 9, page 754.

4 James Hastings’ Dictionary of the Bible, “Cananaean.”

5 Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Book 4, Chapter 3, Paragraphs 9-13.  The Zealots defiled the sanctuary in the temple and had no regard for human life or the Law of Moses.

6 Luke 6:12-16.

7 Matthew 10:1-4.  The phrase “limited commission” is used because Jesus sent them exclusively to the Jews (Matthew 10:5-6), whereas after the resurrection He sent them to “all nations” (Matthew 28:18-19), earning the latter the name “the Great Commission.”

8 Mark 6:7; compare Mark 6:7-13 with Matthew 10:1-42 for evidence that these are parallel.

9 Matthew 10:2-4.

10 This makes for some interesting study, since some believe “Iscariot” could be a reference to an assassin group whose name, Sicarii, translated, means “dagger bearers.”  They, like the Zealots, were very interested in overthrowing the Roman government, but instead of being bold about it, they discretely murdered high-ranking officials in crowds, and were gone before anyone realized what had happened.

11 Matthew 26:56

12 See John 20.

13 These events can be found in the first two chapters of Acts.

14 Acts 4:32-35.

15 Acts 6:1-6.  This group is referred to as “the seven” in Acts 21:8.

16 Acts 8:1; Acts 15.

17 Mark 16:15-16, Matthew 28:18-20.

18 Revelation 21:14.

19 See Budge, Contendings of the Apostles, Vol. 2, page 50.

20 See the previous chapter on James, the son of Alphaeus, for a fuller description of this issue and for the evidence showing it is false.  Suffice it to say, Jesus had already chosen His twelve apostles prior to John’s saying that His “brethren” still didn’t believe in Him (John 6:67-7:5).  Therefore, Simon the apostle cannot be the same as Simon the brother of the Lord.

21 See “The Preaching of Simon, the Son of Cleopas,” in Budge, Contendings of the Apostles, Vol. 2, pages 70-74.  This tradition, while ancient, contains some obvious Catholic influence, including the ordination of “priests” and a “bishop” over the church in a certain city.

22 See “The Martyrdom of Simon, the Son of Clopas,” in Budge, Contendings of the Apostles, Vol. 2, page 75.  This, like the other tradition, is highly suspect because it is also said that he commanded “churches to be built” and named one of them after the virgin Mary.  Eusebius (Ecclesiastical History, Book 3, chapter 11, and Book 4, chapter 22) quotes Hegesippus in saying that a man named Simon (the son of Cleopas) succeeded James in Jerusalem, though these are certainly not the same men (Eusebius himself makes a distinction between the apostles and the brethren of the Lord in Book 3, chapter 11, of the same work.  The Simon described by Hegesippus was the leader of the Ebionites, a Jewish sect which completely rejected the apostle Paul and only used Matthew’s gospel—they also rejected the possibility that Gentiles could be right with the Lord.  Certainly no one could believe that this group was led by one of the apostles.

23 See the previous footnote for more information, as well as McClintock and Strong’s Cyclopedia under “Simon (10)” and the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, “Ebionism.”

24 McClintock and Strong’s Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, Vol. 9, page 754.

25 Budge, Contendings of the Apostles, Vol.2, page 77.  The problem with this is that this same writing also claims that Simon lived to be 120 years old, and that he died under the rule of Trajan—at which time Jerusalem had already been destroyed and the Jews were forbidden to enter that area any longer.  McClintock and Strong reference “an annotation preserved in an original copy of the Apostolical Constitutions (viii, 27), [where Simon is said] to have been crucified in Judaea in the reign of Domitian.”

What Happened to the IRS Agent?

Matthew, According to Tradition

With Matthew, perhaps more than any of the other apostles, there is confusion about some of the traditions surrounding him.  This is due, for the most part, to confusion among some ancient writers between him and Matthias (whose name is almost identical in Greek).  So there is uncertainty as to which of the two apostles is spoken of.

It is said by Clement of Alexandria (AD 153-217) that “the apostle Matthew partook of seeds and nuts [hard-shelled fruits], and vegetables, without flesh [meat].”1  The same author asserts that Matthew was one of the apostles who did not die a martyr’s death.2

The Gnostics had a tradition that, “Matthew the apostle constantly said, that ‘if the neighbor of an elect man sins, the elect man [also] has sinned.  For had he conducted himself as the Word prescribes, his neighbor also would have been filled with such reverence for the life he led as not to sin.’”3

A man claiming to be Clement of Rome (who lived in the first century)4 recorded that Matthew engaged the high priest at the temple in Jerusalem in a public debate.  The priest began:

…exalting with many praises the rite or sacrifice which had been bestowed by God upon the human race for the remission of sins, he found fault with the baptism of our Jesus, as having been recently brought in in opposition to the sacrifices.  But Matthew, meeting his propositions, showed clearly, that whoever will not obtain the baptism of Jesus shall not only be deprived of the kingdom of heaven, but shall not be without peril at the resurrection of the dead, even though he be for-titled by the prerogative of a good life and an upright disposition.  Having made these and such statements, Matthew stopped.5

The Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew

This writing, whose date is unknown, was written to try to advance the importance of Mary.  It details the miraculous birth of Mary to Anna (probably meant to be the same one who prophesied in Luke 1), and how Joseph got her as a wife.  It is a Catholic Church production through and through, which claims to have been written in Hebrew and translated into Latin by Jerome, though most scholars doubt both parts of that claim.6

The Acts of Andrew and Matthew

There are discrepancies in the Greek manuscripts of this apocryphal work.  Most have “Matthew,” though one manuscript reads “Matthias.”7  Most of the Latin writers who referenced this work believed it was talking about Matthew.  In the story, the apostles got together to decide who was going to which place to preach the gospel.  Matthew’s lot was to go to the country of cannibals.  Instead of eating meat and drinking wine, they ate human flesh and drank blood.  Matthew, upon arriving, was captured and his eyes were thrust out, and he was given a drug to make him deranged, but it didn’t affect him.  Instead, he kept praying, and then a light shone around him and he heard a voice say “receive your sight,” and Matthew could see again.  He was instructed, then, to stay in that city and preach for 27 days.  At the end of 27 days, the Lord sent Andrew to go rescue him.

After Andrew was captured as well, they both prayed and began to heal the blind men in the prison whose eyes had also been thrust out.  They then freed the prisoners and sent them out to safety, and Andrew “commanded a cloud, and the cloud took up Matthew and the disciples of Andrew; and the cloud set them down on the mountain where Peter was teaching.”

The sequel to this story, The Acts of Peter and Andrew, finds Matthew on the mountain with Peter, but doesn’t give any other details about him.8

The Acts and Martyrdom of Matthew

In this tale, Jesus sends Matthew back to deal with more cannibals.  He casts out a demon named Asmodaeus from the king’s wife, son, and daughter-in-law, and for a time the king was happy until they started following Matthew.  He sent soldiers to capture the apostle, but Jesus appeared in the form of a little boy with a torch, and burned out the eyes of the men.  The king pretended repentance, using it as a ruse to capture him.  Matthew, rebuking the king, was afterwards sentenced to a painful death.

[Telling the soldiers], “Having laid him, therefore, on the ground on his back, and stretched him out, pierce his hands and feet with iron nails, and cover him over with paper, having smeared it with dolphins’ oil, and cover him up with brimstone and asphalt and pitch, and put … brushwood above. Thus apply the fire to him; and if any of the same tribe with him rise up against you, he shall get the same punishment.”

But when the fire was lit, it simply turned to dew.

Then he ordered a multitude to carry coals of fire from the furnace of the bath in the palace, and the twelve gods of gold and silver; and “place them,” says he, “in a circle round the sorcerer, lest he may even somehow bewitch the fire from the furnace of the palace.” And there being many executioners and soldiers, some carried the coals; and others, bearing the gods, brought them. And the king accompanied them, watching lest any of the Christians should steal one of his gods, or bewitch the fire. And when they came near the place where the apostle was nailed down, his face was looking towards heaven, and all his body was covered over with the paper, and much brushwood over his body to the height of ten cubits. And [the king] ordered the soldiers to set the gods in a circle round Matthew, five cubits off, securely fastened that they might not fall, again he ordered the coal to be thrown on, and to kindle the fire at all points.

Matthew prayed, and the fire did not consume him, but instead burned up the idols and chased the king as a dragon, destroying everything in its path until the king in fear truly repented.  It was soon thereafter that Matthew gave up the ghost.  But he appeared in a vision that Jesus gave the king, and when the king awoke, he came to the elders of the church and begged for baptism, and changed his name to King Matthew, and changed his son’s name to Matthew as well.9

Other Traditions

[Another] tradition states that he preached for 15 years in Palestine and that after this he went to foreign nations, the Ethiopians, Macedonians, Syrians, Persians, Parthians and Medea being mentioned. He is said to have died a natural death either in Ethiopia or in Macedonia.10

-Bradley S. Cobb

1 Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, chapter 1.  Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 2, page 241.

2 However, Clement gives “Matthew” and “Levi” as different men in the list.  The Stromata, or Miscellanies, Book 4, chapter 9.  The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 2, page 422.

3 Clement of Alexandria, The Stromata, or Miscellanies, Book 7, chapter 13.  The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 2, page 547.

4 There is debate as to whether this is truly written by Clement, one of his hearers, or someone over 200 years later.  See The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, pages 73-74 for more details.

5 “Pseudo-Clement,” Recognitions, Book 1, chapter 55.  The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, page 92.

6 See The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, pages 351-352, 368 for more details.

7 The editors of the Ante-Nicene Fathers, following Tischendorf, chose to go with “Matthias,” though all the Latin writers use “Matthew.” (See the introduction to the apocryphal Gospels and Acts in volume 8 of the Ante-Nicene Fathers.  The spelling in the original is very similar: Matthaios or Mattheias

8 This work only exists in fragment form, there being no known complete manuscript.  The name “Matthias” shows up halfway into the extant portion, and it may be that it should read “Matthew” as well, but there aren’t multiple manuscripts to compare.  What there is of this story appears in the Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8.

9 See The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8.

10 International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, “Matthew.”

So, Whatever Happened to Thomas?

Traditions about Thomas

Who was Thomas’ Twin?

The name Thomas is the Aramaic word for “twin,” and John informs us that he was “called Didymus,” which also means “twin.”  Thus, this was his nickname as well.  Guy N. Woods says, “It seems most likely that Thomas had a twin brother or sister; how else may his name be accounted for; but, there is no mention of either in the sacred writings.”1  But that hasn’t stopped people from making guesses.

One tradition is that he had a twin sister named Lysia, while another tradition says he was the twin brother of Jesus Himself, and is to be identified as Jude2 (there is a lot of extra-biblical evidence to suggest his name was Judas Thomas). 3 Another tradition is that his twin brother was named Eliezer.4

The “Gospel of Thomas”

There are two different writings with this title.  One of them makes up stories about Jesus as a youth, such as these:

Jesus, when five years old, was playing in the fjord of a mountain stream; and He collected the flowing waters into pools, and made them clear immediately, and by a word alone He made them obey Him.  And having made some soft clay, He fashioned out of it twelve sparrows.  And it was the Sabbath when He did these things.  And there were also many other children playing with Him.  And a certain Jew, seeing what Jesus was doing, playing on the Sabbath, went off immediately, and said to His father Joseph: “Behold, your son is at the stream, and has taken clay, and made of it twelve birds, and has profaned the Sabbath.”  And Joseph, coming to the place and seeing, cried out to Him, saying, “Why are you doing on the Sabbath what it is not lawful to do?”  And Jesus clapped His hands, and cried out to the sparrows, and said to them, “Off you go!”  And the sparrows flew, and went off crying…

And the son of Annas the scribe was standing there with Joseph; and he took a willow branch, and let out the water which Jesus had collected.  And Jesus, seeing what was done, was angry, and said to him, “O wicked, impious, and foolish!  What harm did the pools and the waters do to you?  Behold, even now you shall be dried up like a tree, and you will not bring forth either leaves, or root, or fruit.”  And immediately that boy was dried up.  And Jesus departed and went to Joseph’s house.  But the parents of the boy that had been dried up took him up, bewailing his youth, and brought him to Joseph, and reproached him because, they said, “You have such a child doing these things.”

After that, He was again passing through the village; and a boy ran up against Him, and struck His shoulder.  And Jesus was angry, and said to him, “You shall not go back the way you came.”  And immediately he fell down dead. … The parents of the dead boy went to Joseph, and blamed him, saying, “Since you have such a child, it is impossible for you to live with us in the village; or else teach Him to bless, and not to curse, for He is killing our children.”5

This work, usually referred to as The Gospel According to Thomas, was a favorite among the Naasseni, a second-century Gnostic sect. 6

Another work, titled The Gospel of Thomas is a collection of 114 sayings attributed to Jesus which was discovered in the Nag Hammadi Library.  About half of the sayings are similar to things found in the true gospel accounts, while the others seem to have a Gnostic origin/slant to them.

“Acts of Thomas”

This work, which some experts date to the first century, was held in high esteem among some of the heretical groups.7  “The main heresy which it contained was that the apostle Thomas baptized, not with water, but with oil only.”8  This work may be the origin of the tradition that Thomas evangelized in India.

The story begins with the apostles gathered together to assign regions of missionary work.  Thomas got stuck with India, and wasn’t happy about it.  He complained, then prayed, saying, “Wherever You wish to send me, send me elsewhere; for I am not going to the Indians.”

So, Jesus appears and finds a traveling Indian merchant who is looking for a carpenter, then tells him, “I have a slave, a carpenter, and I wish to sell him.”  And He points to Thomas at a distance, and then writes out a bill of sale that says, “I, Jesus, the son of Joseph the carpenter, declare that I have sold my slave, Judas by name, to you Abbanes, and merchant of Gundaphoros, the king of the Indians.”  Then Jesus went to Thomas and began walking with him to Abbanes.  The Indian merchant asked Thomas, “Is this your master?”  Thomas said, “Yes.”  The Indian says, “I have bought you from him.”  And Thomas was silent.

They go to a wedding feast in India where Thomas is hit on the head by a wine-pourer for using too much perfume, then Thomas prophesies that the man will be forgiven for this action in the world to come, but on the earth, he was going to be killed.  Thomas then sings a song in Hebrew (so no one there understands), and a lion kills the wine-pourer.

Later, Jesus appears to the groom, who thinks He is Thomas, for they looked identical.9  The wedded couple is converted to the Lord, which greatly upsets the king of India, and he demands Thomas be arrested.  But Thomas had already sailed away to other parts of India.

Some time afterwards, the merchant who had bought Thomas went to see the king because the king wanted a new palace built.  He hired Thomas to build it, and provided him with money to buy materials and to pay the workers.  Several months later, Thomas sends him a message that the temple is done.  So the king comes to the city, and asks where the temple is, and the people told him, “He has neither built a palace nor done anything else of what he promised to do; but he goes around the cities and districts, and if he has anything, he gives all to the poor and teaches that there is one God, and heals the diseased and drives out demons…”  So the king tracks down Thomas and asks him directly, “Have you built me a palace?”  And Thomas replies, “Yes, I built it.”  The King says, “When, then, are we to go and see it?”  Thomas’ reply is, “You can’t see it now; but when you have departed this life, then you will see it.”  So Thomas and the merchant are thrown into jail while the king decides how he wants to kill them.

But, in the night, the king’s brother dies, is taken to heaven, and sees the palace that was built in heaven for his brother, and demands to be taken back to the land of the living so he can buy it from the king.  The king, seeing his brother come back from the dead believes about the heavenly palace, and frees Thomas and follows him.10

Other Traditions about Thomas

A work attributed to Clement of Rome states that Thomas argued before Caiaphas that what Jesus taught was exactly what the Old Testament prophets believed.11  Later, the same writer said that seven years after the Lord’s ascension, Thomas was preaching to the Parthians.12

Clement of Alexandria seems to argue that Thomas did not die a martyr’s death.13  But Hippolytus says:

Thomas preached to the Parthians, Medes, Persians, Hyrcanians, Bactrians, and Margians, and was thrust through in the four members of his body with pine spears at Calamene, the city of India, and was buried there.14

This story about his death is also recorded in Consummation of Thomas the Apostle.15

The Christians of St. Thomas

In India, in the 1500s, Portuguese sailors landed and discovered a group who called themselves “Christians of St. Thomas.”  This group taught the necessity of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and were governed by elders.  The rejected the authority of the pope, and rejected celibacy for their ministers.  They rejected praying to saints, and rejected images.  As a result, they came under heavy persecution from the Catholics, including torture and death.  Well over half of the Christians of St. Thomas finally accepted Catholicism.16

But their existence does seem to give some validity to the missionary work of Thomas in India.

-Bradley S. Cobb

1 [amazon text=A Commentary on the Gospel According to John&asin=0892252618], page 234.

2 McClintock and Strong’s Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, Vol. 10, page 367.  Eusebius seems to make this connection as well, though he doesn’t say that this Judas is the brother of Jesus.  [amazon text=Ecclesiastical History&asin=082543307X], Book 1, Chapter 13, paragraph 10.  The east Syrian (Mesopotamian) churches still identify Thomas with Jude, and call him the twin brother of Jesus.

3 In the apocryphal Acts of Thomas, he is called “Judas Thomas,” and the names are used of him interchangeably.  The Old Syriac translation of the New Testament reads “Judas Thomas” instead of “Judas, not Iscariot” in John 14:22.

4 See Homily II, Chapter 1, in the Pseudo-Clementine Literature section of The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, page 229.  It is possible that this is a different Thomas, but it is noteworthy that he is a twin and accompanies Peter and Zacchaeus.

5 The Gospel of Thomas, first Greek form, 2-4.  See The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, page 395.

6 This quote is given by Hippolytus in The Refutation of All Heresies, Book 5, Chapter 2.  See Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 5, page 50.

7 There is debate among scholars whether this was originally written in Syriac, then translated to Greek, or if it was first in Greek, then in Syriac, and then back into Greek when the original Greek writing was lost.  It is highly doubtful that this book is to be dated any later than the middle second-century.

8 From Professor M.B. Riddle’s “Introductory Notice” to the Apocryphal Acts in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, page 357.

9 If this were true, it would explain why the Jewish leaders needed Judas to identify Jesus.  They wouldn’t want to accidentally grab Thomas instead.

10 The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, pages 535-549.

11 Recognitions of Clement, Book 1, Chapter 61.  See The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, page 93.

12 Recognitions of Clement, Book 9, Chapter 29.  See The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, page 189.  Origen agreed with this assessment, see Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, Book 1, Chapter 13.

13 Clement of Alexandria, Strata, or Miscellanies, 3.4.25.  Found in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 2. Page 385.

14 Hippolytus on the Twelve Apostles.  Where Each of Them Preacher, and Where He Met His End.  See The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 5, page 255.

15 This work is a sequel of sorts to Acts of Thomas, and many consider it to be part of the same writing.

16 This information comes from McClintock and Strong’s Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, Vol. 10, page 368.

Further Adventures of the Guile-less Apostle with Two Names

Bartholomew, According to Tradition

With some of the apostles, tradition is generally in agreement.  With Bartholomew, the traditions are all over the place.  He is said by some “ancient authorities” to have been a nobleman in Galilee prior to becoming a disciple of Jesus.1  He is said to have worked in India, Phrygia, and Armenia.2  Others place him side-by-side with Peter, Andrew, and Matthew around the Black Sea.3  Traditionally, it is believed that Bartholomew took the gospel also to Arabia.4  There is a work entitled “The Acts of Andrew and Bartholomew” placing the two working among the Parthians, and includes Jesus telling Bartholomew “Rise up, O good Bartholomew, and go to the countries of the Greeks…”5

One of the many stories surrounding Bartholomew actually records a demon describing his appearance:

He has black hair, a shaggy head, a fair skin, large eyes, beautiful nostrils, his ears hidden by the hair of his head, with a yellow beard, a few grey hairs, of middling height (neither tall nor stunted, but middling), clothed with a white under-cloak bordered with purple, and on his shoulders a very white cloak; and his clothes have been worn twenty-six years, but neither are they dirty, nor have they waxed old.  Seven times a day he bends the knee to the Lord, and seven times a night does he pray to God.  His voice is like the sound of a strong trumpet…his face, and his soul, and his heart are always glad and rejoicing.6

According to The Martyrdom of Saint Bartholomew in Naidas, the apostle angered a king by converting his wife to Christ, resulting in his death:

It came to pass that when Akrepos heard these words from him, he was angry with a great anger, for he had kept in his mind how his wife had separated herself from him.  Then he commanded the officers of his guards to fill a sack with sand, and to put Saint Bartholomew therein and to cast him into the sea; and they did as the king commanded them.  Now he died on the first day of the month Maskarram, and afterwards the waves of the sea cast him up, and on the day following, certain believing men, who had confessed the faith God through him, swathed him in swathings and laid him in a fair place.7

But, according to another work with a similar title, a king in India was upset because his idols had been broken:

The king…ordered the holy apostle Bartholomew to be beaten with rods; and after having been thus scourged, to be beheaded.

And innumerable multitudes came from all the cities, 12,000 in number, and they took up the remains of the apostle with singing of praise and with all glory, and they laid them in the royal tomb, and glorified God.  And the king Astreges, having heard of this, ordered him to be thrown into the sea; and his remains were carried into the island of Liparis.8

Herbert Lockyer gives some other traditions, including that Bartholomew was murdered in Armenia in AD 44,9 and that he was either “crucified with his head downwards, of flayed to death at Albanopolis or Urbanapolis in Armenia at the command of King Astyages after the conversion of King Polymios.”10  Coxe says that “the general tradition is that he was flayed alive, and then crucified.”11

Perhaps the most interesting of the stories surrounding Bartholomew is that he went into India with a Hebrew copy of the gospel of Matthew,12 which was found around AD 170 by Pantnus, who was sent to India as a missionary.13

One ancient writing called the “Gospel of Bartholomew” is no longer in existence, but it was labeled as heretical by the Catholic Church.14

-Bradley S. Cobb

1 Whyte, Alexander, Bible Characters, chapter 22.

2 See Zondervan’s Bible Encyclopedia, entry “Bartholomew.”

3 See The Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1, Ecclesiastical History (Eusebius), Book 3, part 1, footnotes 1.

4 International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, “Arabia.”

5 See Budge, Contendings of the Apostles, Vol. 2, Pages 183-184.

6 Martyrdom of the Holy and Glorious Apostle Bartholomew, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, page 553.

7 Budge, Contendings of the Apostles, Vol. 2, pages 109-110.

8 Martyrdom of the Holy and Glorious Apostle Bartholomew, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, page 557.

9 Lockyer, Herbert, All the Apostles of the Bible, page 58.  Unfortunately, Lockyer did not state where this date or the traditions originated, leaving us to wonder if this is one of his many “embellishments” from this book.

10 Lockyer, Herbert, All the Apostles of the Bible, page 250.

11 The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Book 5, page 255, footnote 2.

12 Hippolytus, Hippolytus on the Twelve Apostles.  See The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 5, page 255.

13 Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, Book 5, chapter 10; see also International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, “Matthew, The Gospel of.”

14] International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, “Apocryphal Gospels.”

The Further Adventures of the Disciple with “Horse” in His Name

Philip According to Tradition

Clement of Alexandria, in passing, claims that Philip is the man who asked for time to go bury his dead father, and to whom Jesus said, “Let the dead bury their dead.”1

The Acts of Saint Philip the Apostle When He Went to Upper Hellas(2)

This writing gives the tradition that Philip went around wearing the clothes “of a recluse” and that the philosophers of Athens thought he was one of them because of it.  After hearing Philip preach, the philosophers requested three days to research about this Jesus.  Instead, they wrote a letter to the Jewish high priest Ananias, describing the miracles that Philip was doing, and asking for help.  Ananias, enraged, took an army of five hundred men and went to Athens, joined with the philosophers, and went to kill Philip, whom they said was called “the son of thunder.”3

Ananias then gives a speech, saying that Jesus caused people to leave the Law of Moses, and so they crucified Him to keep His teaching from being fulfilled, after which the disciples stole the body and performed fake miracles, claiming it was by the power of the risen Jesus.  As Ananias ran to grab Philip to scourge him, he was suddenly blinded and his hand withered.  The five hundred soldiers were blinded as well.  And after Philip uttered a prayer that these men might believe, Jesus descended from heaven, causing all the idols of Athens to fall to the ground, demons to cry out, and people to flee.  Yet the high priest refused to recognize Jesus.  Philip restored the high priest’s sight, but still he refused to believe, so the 500 soldiers requested to be healed as well so they could “cut off this unbelieving high priest.”4

Instead, Philip caused the ground to open up and swallow the high priest to the knees, then the stomach, then the neck, each time giving him the opportunity to repent.  Finally, when he refused, the ground swallowed him whole, leaving nothing but the high priest’s garment.

It is then said that Philip founded a church there in Athens, where he remained for two years, appointing elders, before going to preach in Parthia.5

The Journeyings of Philip the Apostle
(aka “The Acts of Philip”)

This writing places Philip in Hierapolis with Bartholomew (Nathanael), Stachys (possibly a reference to a man mentioned in Romans 16:9) and Philip’s sister, Mariam.6 The focus of his preaching there dealt with snake-worship that was prominent in that city.7  After converting the wife of the proconsul, Philip and company were arrested, beaten, scourged, and then drug through the streets.  The next day, the proconsul prepared to put Philip and Bartholomew to death.  Philip, according to the story, was stripped of his clothing, and iron hooks were driven through his ankles and heels, and he was hung upside-down in a tree, while Bartholomew was stretched out and nailed to the gate of the temple of the serpent.  Philip said to John, who had just then arrived, “I shall not endure it any longer; but I will accomplish upon them my threat, and will destroy them all [with fire from heaven]!”8

After Bartholomew, John, and Philip’s sister begged him to remember Jesus’ attitude on the cross, Philip responds by saying, “Go away and do not mollify [attempt to soothe] me; for I will not bear they that hanged me head-down and pierced my ankles and heels with irons.  And John…Go away from me, and I will curse them, and they shall be destroyed utterly to a man.”  Then Philip utters a curse, “Let the great Hades open its mouth; let the great abyss swallow up these the ungodly, who have not been willing to receive the word of truth in this city.”  And then it happened, the ground opened up, and over 7,000 people fell into the abyss—alive.  Then the people cried out to God, asking for forgiveness.  It’s then that Jesus appears.

Jesus chastises Philip for returning evil for evil, but Philip responds with “Why are you angry with me, Lord?  Because I have cursed my enemies?  For why do you not tread them underfoot, because they are yet alive in the abyss?  And do you know, Lord, that because of you I came into this city, and in your name I have persecuted all the error of the idols, and all the demons?  The dragons have withered away, and the serpents.  And since these men have not received your light, therefore I have cursed them, and they have done down to Hades alive.”

Jesus responds by saying that when Philip dies, he will have to spend 40 days outside of Paradise, in terror under the flaming and turning sword before he will be allowed in.  After Jesus returned the people up from the abyss, Philip gave them a final message before finally dying,9

Other Traditions

Polycrates (AD 130-196), bishop in Ephesus, records as accepted fact that Philip died in Hierapolis,10 and an inscription has been discovered there showing that their church building was dedicated to the memory “of the holy and glorious apostle and theologian Philip.”11

Hippolytus says, “Philip preached in Phrygia, and was crucified in Hierapolis with his head downward in the time of Domitian, and was buried there.”12

One ancient writing says that Philip was of the tribe of Zebulon.13  Later writings mention Galatia (Gaul) as his area of mission work.

Legends of a later origin record that Joseph [of Arimathaea] was sent by Philip from Gaul to Britain along with 11 other disciples in 63 AD, and built an oratory at Glastonbury, that he brought the Holy Grail to England, and that he freed Ireland from snakes.14

-Bradley S. Cobb

1 Matthew 8:21-22. Clement of Alexandria, Strata, or Miscellanies, 3.4.25.  Found in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 2. Page 385.  Note: The editors of The Ante-Nicene Fathers, for some reason, published book three (from which this information comes) in Latin instead of English (like the rest of the volumes).  The Latin quote is: Quod si usurpent vocem Domini, qui dicit Philippo: “Sine mortuos sepelire mortuos suos, tu autem sequere me:” at illud considerent, quod similem carnis formationem fert quoque Philippus, non habens cadaver pollutum.  Translated, it reads: If they quote the Lord’s words to Philip, “Let the dead bury their dead, but you do follow me,” they ought to consider that Philip’s flesh is also formed in the same way; [the] body is not a polluted corpse.  This was written in opposition to the heresies of Marcion.

2 Hellas was “the city of Athens” (The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, page 503).

3 This name was given by Jesus to James and John, not to Philip.  The Journeyings of Philip the Apostle also attributes this name to Philip.

4 The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, page 506.

5 The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, page 507.  It is worth pointing out that the biblical record refutes the idea of Philip first bringing the gospel to Athens.  The apostle Paul stated clearly in Romans 15:20 that he did not build on another man’s foundation (that is, labor where another apostle had begun the work); yet Paul preached in Athens (Acts 18).  Thus the “Acts of Saint Philip the Apostle when He went to Upper Hellas” is clearly a work of fiction.

6 The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, page 497. Philip’s family was never discussed in the biblical record, so there is no way of knowing if he had a sister and what her name really was.

7 The Journeyings of Philip the Apostle says that Hierapolis was called “Ophioryma,” which means “Serpent Town.”

8 The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, pages 499-500.

9 The Journeyings of Philip the Apostle was apparently written by Christians in Hierapolis, possibly seeking to elevate their standing in the universal church by claiming apostolic origins.  The book relates that Philip commanded a church building (which they call a “church,” proving its late date of composition) to be built by Bartholomew on the site where Philip died.  It is important to note that there are multiple sources (some earlier than this work) which place the death of Andrew in Hierapolis.  This work also seems to argue that Christians must live in complete chastity.

10 See The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, pages 773, 748.  This information also appears in Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 5.24.  However, Clement of Alexandria appears to claim that Philip did not die a martyr’s death (see his The Stromata, or Miscellanies, book 4, chapter 9).  It should be pointed out, though, that Clement also views Levi and Matthew as two different people in this same sentence, when they were in fact the same man.

11 Sir William Ramsay, Cities and Bishoprics of Phrygia, Vol. 1, part 2: West and West-Central Phrygia, pages 552-553.  Ramsey gives the inscription in Greek.

12 Hippolytus on the Twelve Apostles.  See The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 5, page 255.

13 Genealogies of the Twelve Apostles, see Sir E.A. Wallis Budge’s Contendings of the Apostles, Book 2, page 50.  See also, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia entry on Philip.

14 International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, “Joseph of Arimataea.”  See also Fausset’s Bible Dictionary, “Joseph,” 9.

The Further Adventures of Simon Peter’s Brother

Otherwise known as: Andrew According to Tradition

Eusebius reports that Andrew’s area of work was Scythia,1 which is north of the Black Sea in part of modern-day Russia.  It is because of this tradition that the Roman Catholic Church lists him as the patron saint of Russia.  An early Christian writing titled “The Martyrdom of Andrew” records that he was stoned to death while working in this area. 2

The Acts of Andrew and Matthias in the City of Man-Eaters3

This ancient work describes Matthias as a prisoner in an Ethiopian4 city of cannibals, who is then rescued by Andrew, but then they are both captured until Andrew causes a statue to gush acidic water throughout the city, killing cattle and children, and causing the adults of the city to writhe in pain as their skin was being eaten into by the acid that was now up to their necks.  When the people finally began to pray to the “God of the stranger [Andrew],” Andrew told the statue to “Stop the water, for they have repented.”5

The Acts and Martyrdom of the Holy Apostle Andrew

Another ancient work entitled “Acts and Martyrdom of the Holy Apostle Andrew,”6 supposed to have been written by the “bishops and deacons of the churches of Achaia,”7 records a conversation between Aegates, the proconsul, and Andrew which came about because Aegeates’ wife would not follow the pagan gods after hearing Andrew’s preaching.  After proclaiming the “mystery of the cross,” and telling the proconsul that the only way he could learn the truth was to “take the form of a disciple,” Aegeates threw Andrew into prison.  This only served to make the Christians incredibly angry, for they came together from the whole province with the mission of killing Aegeates and freeing Andrew.  The apostle, however, calmed them down and they left.  The next day, Aegeates brought him back and commanded him to offer a “libation” offering to the gods, since it was Andrew’s fault that “not even one city has remained in which their temples have not been forsaken and deserted.”  After Andrew called him “O son of death, and chaff made ready for eternal burnings,” the proconsul, enraged, said “[I]f thou wilt not hearken to me, I shall cause thee to perish on the tree of the cross.”

According to this work, the command was given “that he should be bound hand and foot, as if he were stretched on the rack, and not pierced with nails, that he might not die soon, but be tormented with long-continuing torture.”8  But Andrew wasn’t tortured; instead smiling and happy, he preached to nearly 20,000 people who gathered around to hear from him for four days.  On the fourth day, many came to Aegeates and demanded that Andrew be released, and through fear of the mob, the proconsul went to free him.  However, Andrew prayed that he not be released, and the arms of those who tried to release him from the cross were numbed until finally, after a bright light shone on him from heaven for half an hour, Andrew gave up the ghost.

Other Traditions

Tradition holds that this cross was turned to resemble an “X,” and has for centuries been known as “St. Andrew’s Cross.”9

One final note of interest comes from the Muratorian Fragment.  This early writing (some date it as early as AD 170) is one of the primary sources for the study of which books belong in the New Testament.10  It says:

The fourth Gospel [was written by] John, one of the disciples. When his fellow-disciples and bishops urgently pressed him, he said, “Fast with me today, for three days, and let us tell one another any revelation which may be made to us, either for or against [the plan of writing].” On the same night it was revealed to Andrew, one of the Apostles, that John should relate all in his own name, and that all should review [his writing].11

-Bradley S. Cobb

1 Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, Book 3, Chapter 1, Paragraph 1.

2 International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, “Andrew” (II. In Apocryphal Literature).

3 “The oldest MS. Has Matthias; the four or five others have Matthew” (footnote 1, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, page 517).

4 See Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, page 356.

5 Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, pages 517-526.

6 Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 8, pages 511-516.

7 Achaia is the southern half of Greece, including the cities of Corinth and Athens.

8 The Bodleian Manuscript of this work includes the words quoted.  It appears as a footnote in the Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, page 513.

9 Holman Bible Dictionary: “Andrew”

10 Practically all books dealing with the issue of canonicity will mention this document.  However, it must be noted that the only surviving copy of it is a 7th-century Latin translation.  The early date is suggested due to some historical references as being recent to the author.

11 This quotation was given in James Hastings’ Dictionary of Christ in the Gospels, “Andrew.”