More Christian Apocrypha Updates 14: Acts of Timothy

[This is the latest in a series of posts on texts to be featured in New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures edited by Brent Landau and I. The material here is incorporated also into the information on the texts provided on my More Christian Apocrypha page].

The Acts of Timothy recounts Timothy’s tenure as bishop of Ephesus. The Latin version of the text attributes its authorship to a certain presbyter named Polycrates. Timothy is said to have been born to a Greek father and a Jewish mother in Lystra. He was converted by Paul and traveled with him until he settled in Ephesus. After Paul’s martyrdom under Nero, the apostle John, equated here with John of Patmos, arrives in Ephesus. Followers of the disciples bring to John various traditions about Jesus on loose sheets of paper, which he organizes into three gospels and assigns to them their traditional names. Then he composes his own to fill in details missing in the other three. John is then exiled to the island of Patmos by Domitian. Timothy, who is still ruling as bishop, publicly attacks a local pagan festival called the Katagogia. In response, the revelers use their clubs and stones to kill Timothy. The local Christians take the bishop and bury him outside of the city in a place called Pion. Some Greek manuscripts add that his body was later removed to Constantinople. Under the reign of Nerva John returns from exile and becomes bishop in Ephesus until the reign of Trajan.

The Acts of Timothy is extant in Latin  and Greek (edition by Hermann Usener, Natalicia regis augustissimi Guilelmi imperatoris Germaniae ab Universitate Fridericia Guilelmia Rhenana […] Insunt Acta S. Timothei [Bonn: Programme de l’université de Bonn, 1877]); since Usener’s day an additional six Greek manuscripts have been recovered and these are divided into two families. The introduction and translation of the text for MNTA was produced by Cavan Concannon based primarily on Usener’s Latin and Greek edition.

Though the text is named for Timothy, the apostle John plays a crucial role in the text. The description here of the composition of the canonical Gospels is similar to that of Eusebius (Hist. eccl. 6.14.7), and Eusebius may be the source of Acts Tim.’s tradition, though in Acts Tim. John does not merely approve the Synoptics and then write his own text, but he had a hand in the composition of all four texts.

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