This book resembles the genre of the romance novel, except that the theme of encratism occurs repeatedly. Paul's consistent missionary message is the need for conversion to a life of celibacy in Christ. Featured prominently in the surviving account is Thecla, a woman from a influential family in Iconium, who is converted through the ministry of the Apostle. As a result of Paul's exhortation to her to remain sexually abstinent, she breaks her engagement, is persecuted, and sentenced to face beasts in the arena and then to burn at the stake. But she is rescued from death, baptizes herself, and is commissioned as a teacher and evangelist by Paul. The story concludes after many miracles and a report of Paul's final journey to Rome and martyrdom under the Emperor Nero.
The second century church father Tertullian opposed both sexual abstinence as a requirement for Christian holiness and the authority of a celibate woman to baptize and preach. This book is important for the interpretation of the so-called Pastoral Epistles (1 and 2 Timothy and Titus) and other NT passages which treat the ministry of women in the early church. Some information about the Apostle Paul in this book confirms and supplements biographical and autobiographical descriptions given in the NT. But most is purely speculative narrative theology.
Canonical Status: New Testament Apocrypha
Author:Anonymous Christian Probably a presbyter of the church in Asia Minor
Date: AD 100-200
Original Language:Greek Perhaps a third of the original work has not survived.
Notes prepared by Mark Seitz (Junior Biblical Literature Major)
for the Wesley Center for Applied Theology at Northwest Nazarene University
Copyright 2000 by the Wesley Center for Applied Theology
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