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A PHENOMENON OF REREADING
University of Lausanne, Switzerland
The model of literary intertextuality identified as "hypertextuality" by
Gerard Genette and designated "rereading" in this essay explains the simul-
taneous closeness and distance observed in the relationship between the
Acts of Paul and the canonical Acts of the Apostles. The Acts of Paul neither
ignores nor rejects the canonical Acts; rather, it transforms the narrative in
light of new theological interests and changed historical circumstances. The
author of the Acts of Paul was motivated by a desire to complete the story of
Paul's life, but also sought to elevate the status of the apostle in keeping
with the developing hagiographie tradition. In the later part of the second
century, the enemies of Christianity were no longer Jewish, but rather
Roman authorities. Therefore, debates with Jews fade in the Acts of Paul, but
conflict with Roman society is reflected in stories of persecution at the hands
of Roman officials. Finally, as the apostle became more closely associated
with the divine figure of Christ, other characters, in particular Thecla,
moved into the role of ideal disciple.
"It is understandable that the relation of the API [Acts of Paul] to Luke's
Acts (and to the rest of the NT) has always been the subject of special inter-
est." This statement by Schneemelcher (1992:232) announces the perplexity
of all those who investigate the mysterious relation of the similarities and
differences between the Acts of Paul and the canonical Acts, at least in the
Pauline sections (Acts 9:13-28). We can count among the similarities in the
two documents: the missionary itinerancy of Paul, the shared geographical
field, the same title "Acts" (Πράξεις; del Cerro: 215-16). Among the differ-
ences, we find in the Acts of Paul a different constellation of characters, a
different itinerary, different interlocutors, a more hagiographie treatment of
the figure of the apostle, and a different proclamation (Bauckham: 107-11).
This fascinating play of proximity and distance finds an equally enigmatic
analogy within the canon of the New Testament, the relationship between
the synoptic tradition and the Gospel of John.
Radical solutions have been proposed. In 1904, Carl Schmidt defended
the thesis of utilization: the author of the Acts of Paul plunders and falsifies
the canonical data (215). On the other side, in 1988 Willy Rordorf denied all
contact between the two documents, but the price paid is a manipulation
of the calendar. Ignorance of Acts on the part of the author of Acts of Paul is
rendered plausible by dating the Acts of Paul late and dating the Lukan Acts
early, thus separating them by twenty or thirty years.
Between these two extremes, the position of Schneemelcher opens a mid-
dle way, namely, the editing of the Acts of Paul was done with the knowledge
of the Acts of Luke but without depending literarily on it; the author knew
of independent Pauline traditions (1974; 1992:212). The solution is clever,
because it considers the undeniable relationship as well as the incontestable
dissimilarity, but it leaves open both the question of the modalities (how did
the author of Acts of Paul both know and ignore the Acts of Luke?) and the
question of motivation (why edit a rival version of the life of Paul side by side
In my view, these different hypotheses are burdened by the same meth-
odological error: the literary dependence between two passages is under-
stood exclusively in terms of similitude. Either, identical elements can be
found in the two texts and dependence is admitted, or there is no real proof
that the Acts of Paul takes over of elements of the Lukan account and auton-
omy is declared. In both cases, it is postulated that a relationship of depen-
dence can only be identified by the presence of similar narrative sequences
or by language common to both texts.
However, the linguistic approach to
the notion of intertextuality encourages us to think of literary dependence
in a much more flexible manner: the whole system of similarities and dif-
ferences becomes the indicator of the second document' s dependence on
the source document. The thesis I defend here is that the rapport between
the Acts of Paul and the Acts of Luke must be understood as a phenomenon of
rereading and that this phenomenon necessarily implies both a relation and a
distance between the Acts of Paul and the Lukan writing.
My demonstration will have three steps. First, I will set out the literary
approach of intertextuality. Then, I will apply these categories to the narra-
tive sequences in the Acts of Paul that have been the subject of contention (i.e.
those where the proximity between the two texts is strongest). Finally, I will
attempt to explain the reasons for rereading the Acts of Luke at the end of
the second century.
1 Schneemelcher stops short by considering the Acts of Paul as "intended in the first instance
for the edifying and entertainment of the community" (1992:233). Such a degradation of Acts
of Paul in relation to the canonical version is not only anachronistic at the end of the second
century—the mention by Tertullian dates the Acts of Paul toward the last decade of the second
century, but it does not consider the rivalry created between the two parallel versions of the life
of the apostle.
2 See the work of Julian Hills (1994, and the essay in this volume) for a detailed discussion of
the verbal similarities between the canonical Acts and the Acts of Paul.
MARGUERAT: THE ACTS OF PAUL AND THE CANONICAL ACTS 171
I. REREADING AND INTERTEXTUALITY
The aporia from which Scheneemelcher's position came has been noted
in a brilliant contribution by Richard Bauckham, "The Acts of Paul as a Sequel
to Acts." The why and how left unresolved by Schneemelcher are elucidated
in the following manner: the author of Acts of Paul narrates the last period
of the life of the apostle between his first visit to Rome (Acts 28) and his ar-
rival for martyrdom; his account exploits the data of the Pastoral Epistles,
the Corinthian correspondence, and 1 Clem. 5.5-7, which he employs accord-
ing to the rules of a narrative exegesis (Bauckham: 112). It is necessary to see
that Bauckham's whole construction is founded on a historical postulate, the
narrative difference between Acts of Paul and Acts goes back to a difference
in the stories, the one (Acts of Paul) being the sequel to the other. But this pos-
tulate is orchestrated—this is what precisely interests me—by a hermeneutic
thesis that touches intertextuality. According to Bauckham, the account of
Acts of Paul concretizes narrative creativity, coming directly from the line
of the "rewritten Bible" in the extracanonical Jewish literature (Biblical An-
tiquities of Pseudo-Philo, Joseph and Aseneth, Artapanus, 4 Baruch, etc.).
a heuristic point of view, the perspective opened here advances the debate
greatly; to speak of a narrative rewriting of a first text (the Pauline correspon-
dence according to Bauckham) is to propose a new kind of relationship
between the source-text and the second-text, one which breaks with classic
literary criticism centered on the study of verbal identities.
Let us continue with Bauckham. From his equation, Acts of Paul-Acts-
Pastoral Epistles, I set the third item aside for the moment, to concentrate
on the relationship between the Acts of Paul and Acts. The motivation Bauck-
ham attributes to the author of Acts of Paul, the fruit of his historical postu-
late, is not convincing. Four reasons lead one to the conclusion that the Acts
of Paul does not aim to fill a lack of information concerning the end of the
a) In the text of Acts of Paul that has come down to us there is no evidence
supporting the idea of a sequel to a "first volume" of a biography of Paul,
which would be the Book of Acts.
b) Even if the text of the Acts of Paul presents great gaps and its begin-
ning is lost, the manuscript tradition,
and the example of the other apoc-
3 Bauckham' s key example (132-34,145) is the
in the Hamburg Papyrus
(PH2) and the Bodmer Coptic Papyrus (PG) of the fight with the lion attested in 2 Titus 4:7.
4 A Coptic fragment from Manchester (11 lines edited by Crum) evokes an event in Damas-
cus, that C. Schmidt postulates to the account of Paul's conversion which would be at the begin-
ning of the Acts of Paul (1936:117-27); W. Schneemelcher followed him (1992:214). The discovery
of the Bodmer Coptic Papyrus confirms Schmidt's thesis, since the two fragments share a sermon
of the apostle and his entry into the assembly of the Damascan brothers. One difficulty is the
sending of Paul to Jerusalem according to the Manchester fragment, to Jericho according to PG. It
lead us to presume the presence of an initial vocational ac-
c) The narrative sequences that the Acts of Paul and Acts share suggest a
rereading rather that an account of different events.
d) From the point of the view of the effect on the reader, the narrative sce-
nario of the Acts of Paul and its outcome in Rome undeniably create the
impression of modeling after the canonical Acts.
If the idea of a continuation of Acts does not find grounds for accep-
tance, the hermeneutic thesis demands follow-up. The linguist Gerard Ge-
nette (7-12) has thought through the question of intertextuality and has laid
out a typology distinguishing five types of transtextual relation, in an ascend-
ing order of abstraction and globality:
1) The term "intertextuality" is limited to the effective presence of a text in
another (by citation or plagiarism);
2) Paratextuality accompanies the text with a title, a preface or notes.
3) Metatextuality is a critical rapport that comments on the text by citing it (or
by not citing it).
4) Hypertextuality designates any relation linking a text Β (hypertext) and an
earlier text (hypotext) "onto which it is grafted in a manner that is not
5) Architextuality represents the most abstract form, at the limit of percepti-
bility, of reference to a primordial text.
I believe that the relationship between the Acts of Paul and Acts corre-
sponds to what Genette calls "hypertextuality" and that this concept leads to
an understanding of Acts of Paul as a rereading rather that as a historical sup-
plement to the Acts of Luke. Genette describes the reception of a reread text
into the text doing the rereading as an operation of transformation at the term
of which the second "evokes (the reread text) more or less, without neces-
is improbable that the Heidelberg Papyrus (PHeid) could have contained an account of the trip to
Jerusalem in these lacking pages. The placement of this fragment after the Sidon and Tyre
episodes (Bauckham: 109) does not convince. I am obliged to the competence of my colleague,
J.-D. Kaestli, and thank him for having indicated to me the existence of the Manchester fragment
and helping me with the conclusions that can be drawn concerning the beginning of the Acts
5 The beginnings of the oldest of the apocryphal Acts of the apostles (AcAnd, Acjohn, AcPet)
remain unknown, except for the Acts of Thomas. The latter and the later Acts (from the 4th century
on) begin by relating the attribution of the mission fields to the apostles and this scene corre-
sponds to a sending out to mission; one can think that the initial account of Paul's conversion at
Damascus plays the same role in the Acts of Paul (Kaestli: 1981).
6 For a detailed critique of Bauckham's thesis, see the penetrating article by Richard I. Pervo,
MA RGUERA T : THE ACTS OF PAUL AND THE CANONICAL ACTS I 7 3
sarily mentioning or quoting it" (11), as, for example, the Aeneid of Virgil and
Ulysses by James Joyce reread the Odyssey (12). To say it differently, the re-
lationship of the hypertext to the hypotext is characterized by a perceivable
dialectic of continuity and shifting of accent, modeling and distance.
This model of rereading is not foreign to Biblical and parabiblical litera-
ture. In addition to the haggadic literature mentioned by Bauckham, Steck
has seen this movement at work in the prophetic tradition. Within the New
Testament, viewing the composition of the Johannine farewell discourses
(John 13-17) from the angle of a rereading proves to be fruitful (Dettwiler),
and examination of the relation of Paulinism and deutero-Paulinism (Colos-
sians, Ephesians) should also be helpful. But, in my opinion, the privileged
field for the application of this model of rereading is the Christian apocryphal
literature and especially the apocryphal Acts of the apostles, in their relation
to the writings that became canonical, for the phenomenon of rereading lies
in three axioms that make possible a judicious clarification of this relation-
ship (cf. Dettwiler: 46-52):
1) The text that rereads distinguishes itself from the text reread by a dialecti-
cal game of explicatory amplification or a shift of emphasis.
2) The rereading does not abrogate the validity of the text being reread; on
the contrary, it presupposes the latter.
3) The motivation to reread comes from the internal evolution of the tradi-
tion and changes in the historical situation.
Let us return to the Acts of Paul and its relation to the canonical Acts.
Can we identify the presence in the Acts of Paul of the phenomenon Genette
calls the "hypotext"? Beside the common theme of the two documents (the
πράξβις of the venerable apostle), there is, in my view, a structural indicator
leading in this direction, the plot of Acts of Paul. Whatever stood in the (now
lost) beginning, the itinerary of Paul in the Acts of Paul is grafted onto the
itinerary of the canonical Acts. Carl Schmidt already observed that even if the
sites visited are not in the same order, they remain the same (1904:207-14).
More than once, the related incidents are similar (though not identical):
Paul's expulsion from Antioch of Pisidia (AcPaul 2; Acts 13:50), the conflict
with the silversmiths in Ephesus (AcPaul 7 and PG; Acts 19:40), the apostle's
imprisonment in Philippi (AcPaul 8 and 3 Cor 2.2; Acts 16:16-40), Paul's ar-
rival in Rome, where he rents a lodge to preach (AcPaul 11:1; Acts 28:16, 30).
More than once, missionary activity is mentioned where the Lukan account
only signals a brief stopover by the apostle (Myra: Acts 27:5, AcPaul 4; Sidon:
Acts 27:3, AcPaul 5), as if the narrator of the Acts of Paul seized on a narrative
gap present in the Lukan hypotext to slip in the tradition at his disposition.
Beside this, the apostle's activity is reported according to a schematic struc-
ture: voyage-preaching-persecution-miracle-departure (Kasser: 48 n. 31). It is
easy to identify the echo of the stereotyped presentation of Paul's preach-
ing to the Jews in Acts (Acts 13:42-52; 14:1-7; 17:1-9,10-14; 18:1-10; 19:8-10).
The Acts of Paul adds the miraculous to the Lukan stereotype.
In short, appeals to the memory of the readers of the Acts of Paul are not
lacking in the disposition of the plot. We rejoin Schmidt's intuition, accord-
ing to whom the presbyter of the Acts of Paul took over the geographic frame
of the Acts but freely composed his own itinerary and network of charac-
ters within it (Schmidt, 1904:207; 1936:112)7 This tension between taking over
a model and creative freedom, typical of a hypertext, does not imply a re-
jection of the hypotext by the author rereading; I insist on this point, despite
R. Pervo's recent proposition that the Acts of Paul wants to correct, rival, and
supersede the Acts of Luke.
II. THE REREADING AT WORK (ACPAUL 7; 11.1; PG)
The procedure has to be demonstrated in more detail. How does the dia-
lectic interplay of the taking over and displacement manifest itself? With
this in mind, I choose to examine the sequences where the two documents
seem to overlap; there are three such passages. The first common passage is
the Ephesian riot (Acts 19:1-40; AcPaul 7 and PG).
A great number of con-
vergences can be found in the two versions: the riot is set off by an anti-
idolatrous sermon given by Paul in the house of Aquila and Priscilla (accord-
ing to PG; cf. Acts 18:26); Paul is dragged to the theater, where he is faced
with the anger of the craftsmen (Acts 19:24: άργυροκόττος; PH 1.28: χρυσοχόοι),
a representative of the authorities tries to minimize the apostle's offense. But
the divergences are just as numerous: the Paul of the Acts of Paul defends
himself with a speech in the theater (the emphases are taken over from the
speech in Lystra (Acts 14) or the Athenian speech (Acts 17) concerning pro-
phetic criticism of idolatry); on the contrary, in the Lukan account Paul's
person is almost completely obscured by Demetrius' speech and the inter-
vention of the γραµµατ€ύς. Moreover, Paul according to Luke is declared in-
7 Considering the relative stability of the geography, the change of population in pass-
ing from Acts to the Acts of Paul is impressive: with the exception of Aquila and Priscilla, none
of the characters cited by Luke in Philippi, Ephesus, and Corinth (Silas, Timothy, Lydia, Titus,
Justus, Crispus, Gallio, Sosthenes, Apollos, Tyrannus, Seva, Erastus, Demetrius, Gaius, Aris-
tarchus, Alexander) can be found in the apocryphal account; in their place, twenty-two new
8 While Bauckham eliminates any idea of competition by making the Acts of Paul the sequel
of Acts, Pervo (17, 31) suggests rightly that Acts of Paul is modeled on the Lukan account, but he
overestimates on the opposite side the critical relationship to the point of making the Acts of Paul
into the theological enemy of Acts. On the contrary, the second axiom of rereading states that
rewriting presupposes a recognition (even if critical) of the validity of the hypotext.
9 Rordorf (1988:232-36) and Pervo (12-15) present comparisons of this sequence, but the re-
sults they arrive at are frankly contradictory.
MARGUERAT: THE ACTS OF PAUL AND THE CANONICAL ACTS 175
nocent, whereas the Acts of Paul has him thrown to the lions. Like Rordorf
(1988:236), we could postulate the independence of the two versions and at-
tribute their similarities to a common account carried by oral tradition. But
the analogy of the plots and the accumulation of shared details induce us
to think that we have an instance of rereading and invite us to observe in
what the displacement consists. The main operation is the reorganization of
the (more complex) account of Luke around the figure of the apostle, who
plays the main role, while the account of Acts tends rather to hide him behind
those who want to lynch him or to protect him from the lynching. In addi-
tion, the plot is enriched with facts gleaned from the Corinthian correspon-
dence; 2 Cor l:8-9a contributes the imprisonment in Ephesus, and 1 Cor 15:
52, the fight against the lions in Ephesus.
My second example comes from two accounts of resurrections from the
dead: Acts 20:7-12 and Acts of Paul 11.1 (MartPaul 1): on the one hand, Eu-
tychus and Patrocles on the other.
Both are called παις, both fall from a
wi ndow (θύρις) while listening to Paul preach, both die and are reanimated
through the apostle's intervention. Here and there the setting changes. Euty-
chus, the believer, is not Patrocles, the cup-bearer of Caesar. On the one hand,
the believing assembly celebrates its service under the care of the apostle
who is soon to be martyred; on the other hand, Paul is also close to his end,
but the fall of Patrocles the pagan is interpreted as a diabolical aggression to
test the love of the brothers (MartPaul 1). For Acts, ecclesiology is at stake,
whereas for the Acts of Paul, the miracle has an apologetic purpose.
Beyond these differences, the focalization of the account on the character
and action of Paul is obvious in the Acts of Paul, which indulges in a narrative
dramatization around his prayer. While the Paul of Luke declares soberly:
"Do not be alarmed, for his life is in hi m" (this statement points to the Lukan
theology of the power of the word), the Paul of the Acts of Paul theatrically
proclaims: "Now, brethren, let your faith appear; come all of you, and let us
weep to the Lord Jesus Christ, that this lad may live and we might continue
in tranquility." We have passed from a theology of the life-giving word (the
miracle is certified by the apostle) to a theology of effective prayer (the mir-
acle is orchestrated by the apostle).
Other indications of an evolution from Acts to the Acts of Paul are worth
mentioning: a) the disappearance in the Acts of Paul of the (symbolic) motif of
the lamps in the Lukan account to the benefit of a concentration on the life-
death passage; b) the fall of Patrocles is no longer attributed to simple sleepi-
ness but to diabolic action; c) the initiative is given to Paul in the Acts of Paul
(cf. Acts 20:10); d) high social status is attributed to Patrocles. Note that the
author of the Acts of Paul has given this event a decisive function in the plot
10 See also the essay of MacDonald on these passages, especially pp. 9-11.
of his narrative, since the reanimation of Patrocles provokes, by way of the
anger of Nero, the death of the apostle. It is an impressive reorientation
which preserves the scheme of the original book.
The case of the conversion of Paul, which constitutes my third example,
is much more complex. It is known that Luke presents three versions (Acts 9,
22, and 26). The beginning of the Coptic papyrus (PG) refers to this event in
a speech of the apostle, and this concise mention has lead scholars to imagine
the existence of a more detailed account in the lost beginning of the Acts of
It is understandable that Rordorf chose it to reaffirm his thesis of the
autonomy of the Acts of Paul
The hero of the Acts of Paul reports the charis-
matic experience where God announced "his Son . . . , so that I might live in
Him, since there is no life outside the life in Christ."
He continues by telling
how he entered "the great assembly, helped by Judas, the blessed, the brother of the
Lord, who, from the beginning gave me the great love of the faith," before leaving
at nightfall toward Jericho.
A glance at the version in Acts 9 reveals the blatant differences: the
Christophany on the road to Damascus, the temporary blinding of the apos-
tle (9:8-9), the imminent role played by Ananias (9:10-19), the apostle's
baptism (9:18), the confrontation with the Jews of Damascus (9:20,22-24), and
the flight, after being lowered in a basket, toward Jerusalem (9:25-26) are not
found in the parallels in the Acts of Paul. On the other hand, this version im-
mediately calls to mind the text in Gal l:15-16a: "when God, who had set me
apart before I was born and called me through his grace, was pleased to
reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim (evayyeXLCeiv) him among
the Gentiles." So, in my opinion, neither the autonomy of the two writings,
nor the synthesis of Acts 9 and Galatians 1 provides a good explanation. For,
as I said, Acts 9 is not the only version of the conversion of Paul in Damascus;
the author of the Acts of the Apostles presents two rereadings of this event
(chaps. 22 and 26) that are attributed to Paul (as in PG). The speech before
Agrippa (Acts 26) presents the maximal narrative transformation of Acts 9,
since it makes the character of Ananias disappear and places the revelation
of the apostle's vocation to the Gentiles in the mouth of Jesus (26:16-18);
the fading away of Ananias in no way implies that the author of Acts contra-
dicts himself in the space of fifteen chapters; rather, he recomposes the event
il Erbetta (257) and Schneemelcher (1992 214-15) hold this hypothesis, which goes back to
Schmidt (1936 117-19) R Bauckham (115-16) contests it
12 See Rordorf's "Paul' s Conversion in the Canonical Acts and m the Acts of Paul" m this
13 Here is the translation, kindly communicated by the author, that W Rordorf proposes for
the beginning of the text "My brothers, listen to what happened to me while I was in Damascus
at the time I persecuted the faith in God When His mercy that proceeds from the Father reached
me, it is his Son that announced (ευαγγελίων) it to me so that I might live in Him, since there is
no life outside of the life m Christ This is how I entered the great assembly (εκκλησία)
MA R G U E R A T : THE ACTS OF PAUL AND THE CANONICAL ACTS I 7 7
by modifying the narrative point of view.
This fact is of capital importance,
for it establishes that a process of rereading had begun within the confines of
the Lukan account. The version of the Acts of Paul connects like a later link in
How should we understand the displacements of the apocryphal ac-
count from the Lukan chain?
a) In Acts 9, Ananias plays a determining role of mediation between the
enemy who has been turned around by God and the Christian community.
His replacement by Judas (the host of Paul in Acts 9:11 is metamorphosed
into the brother of the Lord) corresponds to the known tendency in tradi-
tion to heighten the status of secondary roles (Bultmann: 67-68, 241, 310).
The same phenomenon has been noted in the metamorphosis of Eutychus
(Acts 20) into Patrocles (AcPaul 11).
b) Thrown to the ground, blinded and fasting, repugnant in the eyes
of Ananias, contested by the Jews, and condemned to flee Damascus in a
basket, the Paul of Acts 9 already emerges as a much better figure in Acts 22
and 26. The hieratization of the character is only heightened in the Acts of
Paul, where the venerated apostle has found in Judas, an initiatory master at
his own level. Here there emerges an image of the apostle modeled on the
figure of Christ, but I will come back to this later.
c) The audience and the Jewish adversaries of the Lukan Paul disappear
in the apocryphal account; the conflict with the Synagogue has become obso-
lete for Christianity in the last decade of the second century.
d) As to the reason for the substitution of Jericho for Jerusalem, I haven' t
the slightest idea.
Let us conclude on this point. It has appeared, in comparing the three
sequences common to these writings,
that the rereading by the Acts of Paul
plays freely on narrative variations of a plot that is identifiable in the Acts of
Luke. But this phenomenon is the continuation of a process that had already
begun in the canonical Acts.
The example of Acts 9-22-26 touches on the techniques of reread-
ing, which not only plays on variants and narrative amplification but also
remains silent concerning motifs that are supposedly known to the readers
14 The disappearance of Ananias in Acts 26 and the multiple other transformations between
Acts 9, Acts 22 and Acts 26 have remained for a long time a crux interpretum of classical literary
criticism, which postulates the existence of different sources and questions the author' s coher-
ence. On the contrary, from a narratological perspective, one should valorize these variations,
which can be attributed to the author and his desire to shift the viewpoint of the enunciator from
one version to the other. I presented such a reading in "Saul's Conversion (Acts 9.22.26) and the
Multiplication of Narrative in Acts."
15 Pervo (15-16) adds to this list the farewell discourse of Paul (Acts 20:17-21:14; AcPaul 9),
by bringing out three common motifs: 1) the sadness of the assistance; 2) the premonition of Paul
on what awaits him; 3) the prophetic revelations concerning the destiny of the apostle. We think
that these motifs are more specific to a farewell situation than to this precise event.
of the text that rereads. One understands that the author of the Acts of Paul
does not describe an apostle, the founder of communities, but an itinerant
preacher welcomed by believers wherever he goes.
The portrait of the
missionary-founder, already painted by the author of the work addressed to
Theophilus, does not have to be redone. Again, the author of the Acts of Paul
neither replaces nor overlaps the Lukan narrative; he rereads it.
I am conscious that by situating the Acts of Paul as a rereading of the
canonical Acts, I rejoin an old, indeed very old, thesis, since it is already pos-
tulated by the Muratorian canon. The author of the Muratorian canon seems
obliged to justify the incompleteness of Luke' s work by evoking his eye-
But the Acts of all the apostles are written in one book. For the "most excel-
lent Theophilus" Luke summarizes the several things that in his own pres-
ence have come to pass, as also by the omission of the passion of Peter he
makes quite clear, and equally by (the omission) of the journey of Paul, who
from the city (of Rome) proceeded to Spain. (Translation of Schneemelcher,
If the author of the Muratorian canon felt this incompleteness, why does the
writing of the Acts of Paul not proceed from the same sentiment?
III. WHY REREAD?
As I have noted above, the motivation for rereading comes from an
internal evolution of the tradition and changes in the historical situation. In
the reading of the Acts of Paul, in my view, one perceives four reasons why
the Lukan biography of the apostle needed to be rewritten. The first reason
comes from the need to complete the apostle's biography; the second resides
in the hagiographie thrust; the third reason is to be sought in the changed
historical circumstances; and I discern a fourth reason in the connection that
the tradition makes between Christ and the apostle.
First, there was a desire to complete the biography of the venerated
apostle. From a narrative point of view, Luke' s work terminates with a sus-
pended end. Although Paul's stay in Rome is described as an imprisonment
limited to two years (Acts 28:30), and although the term of his death is an-
nounced in the farewell speech (Acts 20:22-25), the account of Acts does not
narrate the death of the apostle. Luke has good theological reasons for this
choice: his work magnifies the course of the Word and the promise which
Paul's arrival in Rome signifies, in the figure of the chained apostle.
16 The disappearance of the pioneer dimension in the activity of Paul in the Acts of Paul has
always surprised investigators; we would nonetheless mention that this feature is already present
in Acts 28:14-15 (Paul's arrival in Rome).
17 By arranging his work with an open ending, Luke uses a literary pattern attested in
Graeco-Roman literature (Marguerat, 1993).
MARGUERAT: THE ACTS OF PAUL AND THE CANONICAL ACTS 179
Acts of Paul adopts a more deliberately biographical perspective; the neces-
sity of filling in the silence of the Luke's narrative with an account of the
martyrdom of the apostle imposed itself, much like supplying the Gospel of
Mark with the long ending (Mark 16:9-20) had previously imposed itself.
Two other deficiencies must have also been felt. On the one hand, the
canonical Acts pass over the epistolary activity of Paul in silence. The frag-
ment of the Acts of Paul dedicated to the correspondence between Paul and
the Corinthians reestablishes the missing link between the Paul of Acts and
the Paul of the Epistles. On the other hand, the refusal of the Book of Acts to
assign Paul the title of απόστολος violated the use of the "apostle" found in
both Paul's letters and the second century tradition that appealed to him.
Second, comparison of the figure of Paul as painted by Luke to the one
created by the Acts of Paul betrays a clear progression of hagiographie ten-
dency. In the Acts of Paul, the personage becomes hieratic: Paul intervenes
alone, without collaborator, without relying upon the protective role of Barn-
abas (cf. Acts 9:27; 11:25), but with his travel companions, Demas and Her-
mogenes, who are false friends and will betray him through jealousy (AcThe-
cla 12-14). With the exception of the Acts of Thecla, Paul appears constantly
in the account as the solitary, admirable, infallible hero, persecuted for his
courage to announce Christ. No evolution in his character is perceptible,
such as the Acts of Luke shows in the account of the conversion of the perse-
cutor and the abandonment of his name Σαυλος (Acts 13:2). In spite of the
uncertainty that the gaps in the text leave us, it is improbable that the ac-
count of the Acts of Paul gave the conversion of the apostle in Damascus the
importance that assures the triple mention of the event in the canonical Acts.
From the Acts of Luke to the apocryphal account, veneration of the apostle
has moved up a notch.
Third, motivation for a rereading of the Lukan Acts is to be sought in
the changed historical situation. We have already noted the disappearance
of Paul's conflict with the Jews, which occupied an important place in the
canonical Acts. With the exception of a fragment of PHeid 40, the apostle is
never contested by the practitioners of the Torah. This change militates in
favor of an actualization of the figure of Paul in second-century conditions
rather than a duplication of the account in Acts. Paul's activity in Rome (res-
urrection of Eutychus and confrontation with Nero [MartPaul]) shows that
the account has been modeled in a period when, for Pauline Christianity,
the enemy is the Roman Empire and Jerusalem can be forgotten. The horizon
of Lukan theology is quite different; Jerusalem represented the theological
origin, while the empire holds the promise of Christian expansion. We must
note that in giving Paul the status of the exemplary pastor and making him
enter Rome as a free man (AcPaul 10), the author of the Acts of Paul does
not simply contradict the Lukan account (where the apostle goes to Rome in
chains) but chooses a feature present in the canonical Acts where the apostle
though a prisoner, acts as a man sovereignly free (28:16-31; cf. already
ι 8ο SEMEIA
27:9-10, 21-26, 33-35, 43; 28:6). It is easier to imagine the reconfiguration of
Acts 28 in the Acts of Paul than that Paul arrived in Rome twice.
Fourth, a reason that has hardly held the attention of exegetes is particu-
larly apparent in the Acts of Paul and Thecla. There, the hieratism of the apos-
tle's figure mentioned above provokes a transfer of the figure of the exemp-
lary disciple to Thecla, and, consequently, the apostle is modeled after the
figure of Christ. Let us go into detail. Comparison with the Lukan account
forces us to see a transfer of paradigm. Thecla inherits the status of exemplary
disciple that Acts attributes to Paul. This transfer is especially striking when
we note the terminology: Thecla "listened day and night to the word of God
announced by Paul (AcThecla 7);" "she was brought to the faith (τη ττίστβι
έπήγ^το; AcThecla 7)" "she remained fixed to the word of Paul (άτ€νί£ουσα;
AcThecla 10);" "she sat at his feet to hear the wonders of God (καθίσασα παρά
τους πόδας αύτου: AcThecla 18)." In the Acts of Luke, the word is not Paul's but
God' s; but above all, it is Paul who was reared at the feet of Gamaliel (παρά
τους πόδας Γαµαλιήλ π^παίδβυµένος: Acts 22:3). The faith of Thecla increases
(κάκβίνης ν\υξαν€ν ή πίστις: AcThecla 18), while in Acts, it is Paul who affirms
himself after his conversion and gains more and more confidence in the con-
troversy with the Jews in Damascus (Act 9:22: Σαυλος δέ µάλλον έι^δυναµουτο).
But there is more. In the curious episode of the Acts of Paul and Thecla 21,
Thecla is brought to the theater of Iconium to be burned. Then "as a lamb in
the wilderness looks about for the shepherd, so Thecla sought for Paul."
Then, in the crowd, she "sees the Lord with the features of Paul seated and
says: 'as if I could weaken, Paul has come to look after me.' And she stared
at him in the ecstasy, but he ascended to heaven." The fact that Christ takes
on human features is not unique, since we find this process in the Acts of
Thomas, of Andrew, of John and of Peter.
However, we cannot avoid com-
paring this passage with Paul's vision of Christ on the Damascus road, at
least in the version that he gives in the speech of Acts 26:14-18. Here it is
Thecla who has the vision, and the figure of Paul superimposes itself on the
Lord's. The function is, however, quite different on both sides: Christ restores
Paul's life in Acts 9, while the appearance of Paul comforts Thecla at the
prospect of martyrdom (AcThecla 21-22).
To this play of analogies, let us add the scene in Antioch. During her tor-
ture, Thecla throws herself into a pit full of water, but she is miraculously
saved (AcThecla 33). Again, it could be that a theme of the canonical Acts
18 So Rordorf (:466-74) and Bauckham (108 n6, 131) join together on the thesis of a
second voyage of Paul to Rome confirming the data of the Pastorals (cf. 2 Tim 4:16).
19 Christ takes on the features of Thomas in the AcThom (151-55), of a young handsome
man in the Ac And (32), of John and a young man in the Ac John (87); in the AcPet, he takes on the
face of the apostle (22) or a young mart shining with light (5) or of a man of an undefinable age
(21). In AcPaul 7 (PH 3-4), the Lord manifests himself in the figure of a very good-looking boy.
MARGUERAT: THE ACTS OF PAUL A N D T HE C A N O N I C A L ACTS 181
(Paul saved from the waters during the shipwreck of Malta; Acts 27) has
been transferred to the heroine of the Acts of Paul.
Clearly the figure of Paul is actualized here in a way that renders him
fit for the new level of the veneration the apostle received during the second
century (Marguerat and Rebell). He is no longer the disciple, but the saint,
the blessed one; his image rejoins that of Christ until it temporarily fuses
The Acts of Paul here fits into a trajectory which we can identify in
the other apocryphal Acts of the apostles: by successive shifts, the Christ
draws nearer to the divine, the apostle tends to be identified with the savior,
and new figures take on the role of witness.
A literary approach to intertextuality, with the help of the categories set
out by Genette, makes possible a new approach to the relationship between
the Acts of Paul and the canonical Acts. Differing from classical literary cri-
ticism, which does not locate literary dependence outside of verbal or nar-
rative similarities, hypertextextuality designates a phenomenon of rereading
in which the source text is recomposed and reinterpreted within a second
text. It is then that the ensemble of similarities and divergences becomes sig-
nificant in the rereading operation. My contribution consists in showing how
this category accounts for the dialectical play of closeness and divergence
that is observed between the Acts of Paul and the Acts of Luke.
The rereading of the biography of Paul in the Acts of Paul witnesses to
the veneration of the apostle within the Pauline movement. This recompo-
sition of the figure of the saint has used creativity and delved into Christian
imagination; but it has also used traditions preserved among the apostle's
followers, as demonstrated by the memory of the place of women crystal-
lized in the Acts of Paul and Thecla, without which our knowledge of the
Pauline mission, reduced to the Pastorals, would be denatured. The reception
of the Acts of Paul in ancient iconography equally attests to the popular suc-
cess of this rereading in the Middle Ages. No matter what Tertullian thought
(De baptismo 17.5), the presbyter who wrote "for love for Paul" did not miss
(I wish to thank Ken McKinney for the translation of this article)
20 Brock has noted this (122-25); but she concludes wrongly that the genre of Acts of Paul
is to be sought in an imitation of the gospels. The determination of a literary genre depends
on formal criteria rather than indication of content; it would be better to investigate the common
dependence of the gospels and the apocryphal Acts on the Lives of the Graeco-Roman phi-
21 Junod and Kaestli have noted the phenomenon of the polymorphic Christ in the apoc-
ryphal Acts of the apostles, remarking that he manifests himself in situations of distress of the
hero to liberate him or permit him to reach the imprisoned apostle (88-90).
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