THE ACTS OF PAUL AND THECLA
1. Demas and Hermogenes become Paul's companions. 4. Paul
visits Onesiphorus. 8. Demas and Hermogenes become envious.
11. Paul preaches to the household of Onesiphorus. 12. His
1. When Paul went up to Iconium after his flight from
Antioch, Demas and Hermogenes became his companions, who were
then full of hypocrisy.
There are two Antiochs in the New Testament:
Antioch in Syria, east of the Mediterranean, and
Antioch in Pisidia (modern Turkey). Paul's flight
mentioned here was from the latter, during his first
missionary journey: "And the word of the Lord was
published throughout all the region. But the Jews
stirred up the devout and honorable women, and the
chief men of the city, and raised persecution against
Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their
coasts. But they shook off the dust of their feet
against them, and came unto Iconium." (Acts 13:49-51)
Jesus instructed his disciples that when
persecuted in one place, to shake off the dust from
their feet as a testimony against them. See Matthew
10:14; Mark 6:11; Luke 9:5. Fleeing rejection was not
cowardice, but obedience to Christ: "But when they
persecute you in this city, flee ye into another..."
Iconium, located off the Roman military highway
between Antioch and Lystra, was the capital of Lycaonia
in Asia Minor (modern Turkey) and had a large Jewish
population. The city twice figured dramatically in
Paul's missionary word. At Lystra, a small mountain
town that served as a Roman garrison, he was stoned at
the instigation of persecutors from Iconium, but
Compare with: "And there came thither [certain]
Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the
people, and, having stoned Paul, drew [him] out of the
city, supposing he had been dead. Howbeit, as the
disciples stood round about him, he rose up, and came
into the city: and the next day he departed with
Barnabas to Derbe. And when they had preached the
gospel in that city, and had taught many, they returned
again to Lystra, and [to] Iconium, and Antioch,
Confirming the souls of the disciples, [and] exhorting
them to continue in the faith, and that we must through
much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God." Acts
Iconium was young Timothy's home town. On Paul's
second missionary journey, at Derbe and Lystra he found
Timothy, who "was well reported of by the brethren that
were at Lystra and Iconium." (Acts 16:2)
On Paul's third missionary journey, he again
passed through Iconium, but nothing notable is
mentioned in the New Testament, except "And when he had
landed at Caesarea, and gone up, and saluted the
church, he went down to Antioch. And after he had
spent some time [there], he departed, and went over
[all] the country of Galatia and Phrygia in order,
strengthening all the disciples." (Acts 18:22,23)
In his epistle to Timothy, Paul again mentions the
town: "Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at
Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I
endured: but out of [them] all the Lord delivered me.
Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall
suffer persecution." (2 Timothy 3:11)
Demas and Hermogenes (of whom it is said in the
very first verse that they "were then filled with
hypocrisy") present a sobering note to Paul's ministry.
Although they were privileged to travel with him as
trusted co-laborers (Demas is mentioned in the same
breath as Luke and Mark), within a few years both
proved to be false disciples.
See how highly they were esteemed in Paul's
epistles to Philemon (written about A.D. 61-62) and to
the Colossians (written about A.D. 61-63): "Marcus,
Aristarchus, Demas, Lucas, my fellowlaborers."
(Philemon 24); "Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas,
greet you." (Colossians 4:14)
Notice their disgrace in Paul's second epistle to
Timothy, written about A.D. 65-67: "This thou knowest,
that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me;
of whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes." (2 Timothy 1:15); "For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this
present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica..."
(2 Timothy 4:10)
2. But Paul looked only at the goodness of God and did them
no harm, but loved them greatly.
3. Accordingly, he endeavored to make agreeable to them all
the oracles and doctrines of Christ, and the design of the Gospel
of God's well-beloved Son, instructing them in the knowledge of
Christ as it was revealed to him.
4. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] And a
certain man named Onesiphorus, hearing that Paul was coming to
Iconium, went out speedily together with his wife Lectra and his
sons Simmia and Zeno, to meet him and invite him to their house.
5. For Titus had given them a description of Paul's
personage, for as yet they did not know him in person but were
only acquainted with his character.
6. They went in the king's highway to Lystra and stood
there waiting for him, comparing all who passed by with that
description which Titus had given them.
7. At length they saw a man coming (namely Paul), of a
small stature with meeting eyebrows, bald [or shaved] head, bow-
legged, strongly built, hollow-eyed, with a large crooked nose;
he was full of grace, for sometimes he appeared as a man,
sometimes he had the countenance of an angel. And Paul saw
Onesiphorus and was glad.
At Lystra, Barnabas apparently had an impressive
stature and is thus viewed as Zeus, chief of the Greek
gods, whereas Paul took the initiative in speaking and
is thus viewed as Hermes, the gods' messenger. (Acts
14:12) In the King James Version, Zeus is called
Jupiter, and Hermes called Mercury.
8. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] And
Onesiphorus said: Hail, servant of the blessed God. Paul
replied, The grace of God be with you and your family.
9. But Demas and Hermogenes were moved with envy, and under
a show of great religion, Demas said, And are not we also
servants of the blessed God? Why did you not salute us?
10. Onesiphorus replied, Because I have not perceived in
you the fruits of righteousness; nevertheless, if you are of that
sort, you shall be welcome to my house also.
Onesiphorus proved to be a true friend to Paul.
Compare with: "The Lord give mercy unto the house of
Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not
ashamed of my chain: But, when he was in Rome, he
sought me out very diligently, and found [me]. The
Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord
in that day: and in how many things he ministered unto
me at Ephesus, thou knowest very well.... Salute Prisca
and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus." (2
Timothy 1:16-18; 4:19)
11. Then Paul went to the house of Onesiphorus, and there
was great joy among the family on that account; and they employed
themselves in prayer, breaking bread, and hearing Paul preach the
word of God concerning temperance and the resurrection, in the
12. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts]
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
13. Blessed are they who keep their flesh undefiled, for
they shall be the temple of God.
14. Blessed are the temperate, for God will reveal himself
15. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts]
Blessed are they that abandon their secular enjoyments, for they
shall be accepted of God.
16. Blessed are they who have wives, as though they had
them not, for they shall be made angels of God.
Paul believed the end of the age was imminent and
therefore it was better to minimize obligations in this
age (without being irresponsible) in order to better
serve Christ and be prepared for the age to come.
Compare with: "But this I say, brethren, the time [is]
short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be
as though they had none." (1 Corinthians 7:29)
17. Blessed are they who tremble at the word of God, for
they shall be comforted.
18. Blessed are they who keep their baptism pure, for they
shall find peace with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
19. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts]
Blessed are they who pursue the doctrine of Jesus Christ, for
they shall be called the sons of the Most High.
20. Blessed are they who observe the instructions of Jesus
Christ, for they shall dwell in eternal light.
21. Blessed are they, who for the love of Christ abandon
the glories of the world, for they shall judge angels, and be
placed at the right hand of Christ, and shall not suffer the
bitterness of the last judgment.
22. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts]
Blessed are the bodies and souls of virgins, for they are
acceptable to God and shall not lose the reward of their
virginity, for the word of their Father shall prove effectual to
their salvation in the day of his Son, and they shall enjoy rest
The emphasis on younger women's continued
virginity in order to serve God must be understood in
the context of the unremitting threat of severe
persecutions in uncertain times and the belief that the
end of the age was at hand.
1. Thecla listens anxiously to Paul's preaching. 5. Thamyris,
her admirer, concerts with Theoclia her mother to dissuade her,
12. in vain. 14. Demas and Hermogenes vilify Paul to Thamyris.
1. While Paul was preaching this sermon in the church which
was in the house of Onesiphorus, a certain virgin named Thecla
(whose mother's name was Theoclia, and who was betrothed to a man
named Thamyris) sat at a certain window in her house.
Compare "the church which was in the house of
Onesiphorus" with "to the church in thy house" in
2. From where, by the advantage of a window in the house
where Paul was, she both night and day heard Paul's sermons
concerning God, concerning charity, concerning faith in Christ,
and concerning prayer;
Verses 11-22 in chapter 1 was only a sample of
Paul's teaching; he kept at it nearly nonstop "night
3. Nor would she depart from the window till with exceeding
joy she was subdued to the doctrines of faith.
4. At length, when she saw many women and virgins going in
to Paul, she earnestly desired that she might be thought worthy
to appear in his presence and hear the word of Christ; for she
had not yet seen Paul's person, but only heard his sermons.
5. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] But
when she would not be prevailed upon to depart from the window,
her mother sent to Thamyris, who came with the greatest pleasure,
as he hoped now to marry her. Accordingly he said to Theoclia,
Where is my Thecla?
6. Theoclia replied, Thamyris, I have something very
strange to tell you. Thecla, for the space of three days, will
not move from the window not so much as to eat or drink, but is
so intent in hearing the artful and delusive discourses of a
certain foreigner, that I am completely astonished, Thamyris,
that a young woman of her known modesty will suffer herself to be
so prevailed upon.
7. For that man has disturbed the whole city of Iconium,
and even your Thecla, among others. All the women and young men
flock to him to receive his doctrine; who, besides all the rest,
tells them that there is but one God who alone is to be
worshipped, and that we ought to live in chastity.
8. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts]
Notwithstanding this, my daughter Thecla, like a spider's web
fastened to the window, is captivated by the discourses of Paul,
and attends upon them with prodigious eagerness and vast delight;
and thus, by attending to what he says, the young woman is
seduced. Now you go and speak to her, for she is betrothed to
9. Accordingly Thamyris went, and saluted her with care not
to surprise her, and said, Thecla, my spouse, why are you sitting
in this melancholy posture? What strange impressions are made
upon you? Turn to Thamyris, and blush.
10. Her mother also spoke to her after the same manner and
said, Child, why do you sit so melancholy, like one astonished,
and make no reply?
11. Then they wept exceedingly: Thamyris, that he had lost
his future spouse; Theoclia, that she had lost her daughter; and
the maids, that they had lost their mistress; and there was
universal mourning in the family.
12. But all these things made no impression on Thecla to
incline her so much as to turn and take notice of them, for she
continued to contemplate on the discourses of Paul.
13. Then Thamyris ran into the street to observe who they
were who went in to Paul and came out from him; and he saw two
men engaged in a very warm dispute, and said to them;
Why were these two false disciples "engaged in a
very warm dispute?" Evidently they not only disagreed
with Paul, but planned to undermine him by
misrepresenting his message.
14. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] Sirs,
what business have you here? And who is that man within,
belonging to you, who deludes the minds of men, both young men
and virgins, persuading them that they ought not to marry but
continue as they are?
15. I promise to give you a considerable sum if you will
give me a just account of him, for I am the chief person of this
16. Demas and Hermogenes replied, We cannot so exactly tell
who he is, but we know that he deprives young men of their
intended wives, and virgins of their intended husbands, by
teaching, There can be no future resurrection, unless you
continue in chastity and do not defile your flesh.
This was a wonderful opportunity for Demas and
Hermogenes to witness to their Christian faith, if they
had any; instead, they deliberately distort Paul's true
message, which is recorded in I Corinthians 7.
1. They betray Paul. 7. Thamyris and officers arrest him.
1. Then Thamyris said, Come along with me to my house and
refresh yourselves. So they went to a very splendid
entertainment where there was wine in abundance and very rich
2. They were brought to a table richly spread, and made to
drink plentifully by Thamyris, on account of the love he had for
Thecla and his desire to marry her.
3. Then Thamyris said, I desire you would inform me what
the doctrines of this Paul are, that I may understand them; for I
have no small concern about Thecla, seeing she so delights in
that stranger's discourses that I am in danger of losing my
4. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] Then
Demas and Hermogenes together answered and said, Let him be
brought before the governor Castellius as one who endeavors to
persuade the people into the new religion of the Christians, and
he, according to the order of Caesar, will put him to death, by
which means you will obtain your wife;
5. While we at the same time will teach her that the
resurrection that he speaks of is already come and consists in
our having children, and that we then arose again when we came to
the knowledge of God.
The two counterfeit disciples now sink to teaching
false doctrine. Compare with the spreading cancer Paul
warned of a few years later: "And their word will eat
as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus;
Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the
resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith
of some." (2 Timothy 2:17, 18)
6. Upon getting this account from them, Thamyris was filled
with hot resentment,
7. And rising early in the morning he went to the house of
Onesiphorus, attended by the magistrates, the jailor, and a great
multitude of people with staves, and said to Paul;
8. You have perverted the city of Iconium, and among the
rest, Thecla, who is betrothed to me, so that now she will not
marry me. You must therefore go with us to the governor
9. And all the multitude cried out, Away with this
impostor, for he has perverted the minds of our wives, and all
the people pay attention to him.
The word for "imposter" also may mean "magician,"
one who deceives by enchantment.
1. Paul accused before the governor by Thamyris. 5. Defends
himself. 9. Is committed to prison, 10. and visited by Thecla.
1. Then Thamyris stood before the governor's judgment-seat
and spoke with a loud voice in the following manner.
2. O governor, I know not where this man comes from, but he
is one who teaches that matrimony is unlawful. Command him
therefore to declare before you for what reason he publishes such
3. While he was saying thus, Demas and Hermogenes whispered
to Thamyris and said: Say that he is a Christian, and he will
presently be put to death.
Now they degenerate into accomplices of murder.
Apparently Paul never learned of the depth of their
depravity, or he would not have been so circumspect in
2 Timothy 1:15, 4:10.
4. But the governor was more deliberate, and calling to
Paul, he said, Who are you? What do you teach? They seem to lay
gross crimes to your charge.
5. Paul then spoke with a loud voice saying, As I am now
called to give an account of my doctrines, O governor, I desire
6. That God, who is a God of vengeance, and who stands in
need of nothing but the salvation of his creatures, has sent me
to reclaim them from their wickedness and corruptions, from all
sinful pleasures, and from death; and to persuade them to sin no
7. On this account, God sent his Son Jesus Christ, whom I
preach, and in whom I instruct men to place their hopes as that
only person who had such compassion on the deluded world, that it
might not be condemned, O governor, but have faith, the fear of
God, the knowledge of religion, and the love of truth.
8. So that if I only teach those things which I have
received by revelation from God, where is my crime?
9. When the governor heard this, he ordered Paul to be
bound and to be put in prison till he could be more at leisure to
hear him more fully.
10. But in the night, Thecla took off her earrings and gave
them to the turnkey of the prison, who then opened the doors to
her and let her in;
On the value of earrings, see Genesis 24:22.
11. And when she made a present of a silver looking-glass
to the jailor, she was allowed to go into the room where Paul
was; then she sat down at his feet and heard from him the great
things of God.
12. And as she perceived Paul not to be afraid of
suffering, but that by divine assistance he behaved himself with
courage, her faith so far increased that she kissed his chains.
1. Thecla sought and found by her relations. 4. She is brought
with Paul before the governor. 9. She is ordered to be burned,
and Paul to be whipped. 15. Thecla miraculously saved.
1. At length Thecla was missed and sought for by the family
and by Thamyris in every street as though she had been lost, but
one of the porter's fellow-servants told them that she had gone
out in the night.
2. Then they examined the porter and he told them that she
was gone to the prison to the strange man.
3. They therefore went according to his direction and found
her there; and when they came out, they got a mob together and
went and told the governor all that happened.
4. Then he ordered Paul to be brought before his judgment-
5. Thecla in the meantime lay wallowing on the ground in
the prison, in that same place where Paul had sat to teach her.
Then the governor also ordered her to be brought before his
judgment-seat. She received the summons with joy and went.
6. When Paul was brought there, the mob cried out with more
vehemence, He is a magician, so let him die.
7. Nevertheless the governor attended with pleasure upon
Paul's discourses of the holy works of Christ, and after calling
together a council, he summoned Thecla and said to her, Why do
you not, according to the law of the Iconians, marry Thamyris?
8. She stood still with her eyes fixed upon Paul, and
finding she made no reply, Theoclia her mother cried out, Let the
unjust creature be burned; let her be burned in the midst of the
theatre for refusing Thamyris, so all women may learn from her to
avoid such practices.
A chilling insight into the mentality of those
9. Then the governor was exceedingly concerned and ordered
Paul to be whipped out of the city and Thecla to be burned.
10. So the governor arose and went immediately into the
amphitheater; and all the people went forth to see the dismal
11. But Thecla, just as a lamb in the wilderness looks
every way to see his shepherd, looked around for Paul;
12. And as she was looking upon the multitude, she saw the
Lord Jesus in the likeness of Paul, and said to herself, Paul has
come to see me in my distressed circumstances. And she fixed her
eyes upon him, but he instantly ascended up to heaven while she
looked on him.
13. Then the young men and women brought wood and straw for
the burning of Thecla; who, being brought naked to the stake,
extorted tears from the governor, who was surprised to see the
greatness of her beauty.
14. And when they had placed the wood in order, the people
commanded her to go upon it, and she did so, first making the
sign of the cross.
The symbolic gesture of "making the sign of the
cross" has been commonplace in one form or another
since gospel times. The Gospel of Nicodemus 12:24 says
that Charinus and Lenthius (the resurrected sons of
Simeon) "made the sign of the cross with their fingers
on their tongues." Secret believers isolated in
hostile places put their hand before their face,
breathed into it and moved it in a cross-like pattern.
The ritual as we know soon was part of church
services, done at specified times by the officiating
minister (bishop or priest) and by the congregation in
response to prayers. By tradition, the minister thus
blesses the congregation and things; the individual
thus blesses himself or herself.
The clergy always makes the horizontal gesture
from right to left. In the Western Church, the
congregation when blessed that way mirrored this by
making their horizontal motion from left to right.
However, the individual Christian of the Eastern Church
still follows the earliest convention by touching the
forehead, the heart, and then the right and left
shoulder. The symbolism in the Orthodox Church of
touching the right shoulder first is because the
repentant thief was crucified on Christ's right, and
the sign is used with the "Jesus Prayer," or "God, be
merciful to me a sinner." (Later devotional writers
criticized the careless way believers made the sign.)
Making the sign of the cross is not mentioned in
the New Testament because there was no need to state
the obvious. Christians greeted each other by kissing
the cheeks alternately three times, and this is the
meaning of the "holy kiss" or "kiss of charity"
mentioned in Romans 16:16, 2 Corinthians 13:12, I
Thessalonians 5:26, and 1 Peter 5:14. (You may notice
in TV news clips this same practice between Eastern
That Thecla is recorded here making the sign of
the cross signifying her faith "in the Father, the Son,
and the Holy Spirit" shows it was practiced by Paul and
the church meeting in the home of Onesiphorus.
15. Then the people set fire to the pile; though the flame
was exceeding large, it did not touch her, for God took
compassion on her and caused a great eruption from the earth
beneath, and a cloud from above to pour down great quantities of
rain and hail;
16. So that by the rupture of the earth, very many were in
great danger and some were killed, but the fire was extinguished
and Thecla preserved.
Compare with those who by faith "quenched the
violence of fire," mentioned in Hebrews 11:34.
1. Paul with Onesiphorus in a cave. 7. Thecla discovers Paul;
12. offers to follow him; 13. he exhorts her not to for fear of
1. In the meantime Paul, together with Onesiphorus, his
wife and children, was keeping a fast in a certain cave which was
in the road from Iconium to Daphne.
2. And when they had fasted for several days, the children
said to Paul, Father, we are hungry and have nothing with which
to buy bread; for Onesiphorus had left all his substance to
follow Paul with this family.
3. Then Paul, taking off his coat, said to the boy, Go,
child, and buy bread, and bring it back.
4. But while the boy was buying the bread, he saw his
neighbor Thecla and was surprised, and said to her, Thecla, where
are you going?
5. She replied, I am in search of Paul, having been
delivered from the flames.
6. Then the boy said, I will take you to him, for he is
greatly concerned on your account, and has been in prayer and
fasting these six days.
7. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] When
Thecla came to the cave, she found Paul upon his knees praying
and saying, O Lord Jesus Christ, grant that the fire may not
touch Thecla, but be her helper, for she is your servant.
8. Thecla, standing behind him, cried out in the following
words: O sovereign Lord, Creator of heaven and earth, the Father
of your beloved and holy Son, I praise you that you have
preserved me from the fire to see Paul again.
9. Paul then arose and when he saw her, said, O God, who
searches the heart, Father of my Lord Jesus Christ, I praise you
that you have answered my prayer.
10. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] And
there prevailed among them in the cave an entire affection to
each other; Paul, Onesiphorus, and all that were with them were
filled with joy.
11. They had five loaves, with some herbs and water, and
they solaced each other in reflections upon the holy works of
12. Then said Thecla to Paul, If you be pleased with it, I
will follow you wherever you go.
13. He replied to her, Persons are now much given to
fornication, and you being handsome, I am afraid you might meet
with greater temptation than the former one, and would not
withstand it, but be overcome.
After her miraculous deliverance, Paul surely must
not concerned that Thecla's faith will succumb to her
own sexual temptation, but he is used to being waylaid
by robbers (see 2 Corinthians 11:26) and fears she may
get raped. He seems to considers that a worse
"temptation" (trial or testing) than the "former one"
of being burned alive!
14. Thecla replied, Grant me only the seal of Christ, and
no temptation shall affect me.
15. Paul answered, Thecla, wait with patience, and you will
receive the gift of Christ.
This "seal" or "gift of Christ" cannot be
understood except by referring to a traditional
Apostolic practice. When people at Pentecost asked
Peter how they might receive salvation, he said:
"Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name
of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall
receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." (Acts 2:28)
When Philip, the deacon and evangelist, preached
in Samaria (Acts 8:5-8) and many believed and were
baptized (Acts 8:12), the apostles came and later
confirmed these new believers with the gift of the Holy
Spirit though the laying on of hands (Acts 8:14-17).
When Paul met some disciples of John the Baptist
who had not been present when Peter spoke at Pentecost
(Acts 19:1-7), they believed in Christ, "were baptized"
(Acts 19:5) and "the Holy Spirit came upon them" (Acts
19:6), again through the hands of an apostle.
From earliest times the sacrament of baptism was
followed by the sacrament of "chrismation" (anointing),
in which the officiating clergyman anoints the
candidate with holy "chrism" (oil consecrated by a
bishop for anointing) in the sign of the cross: on the
brow, and on the eyes, and the nostrils, and the lips,
and on both ears, and the breast, and the hands, and
the feet, saying each time: "The seal of the gift of
the Holy Spirit. Amen."
Ephesians 2:8, 9 states: "For by grace are ye
saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it
is] the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should
boast," but every believer is expected to participate
fully in the life of the church, including appropriate
sacraments. Only in an emergency does the Church allow
baptism to be performed by a layman; chrismation
(called Confirmation in the Western Church) is always
performed by clergy, and with an adult sponsor
(godparent) from the congregation, in the presence of
the faithful as witnesses.
Paul, momentarily living in a cave, naturally
considered it best for Thecla to be baptized and
chrismated in the usual way.
1. Paul and Thecla go to Antioch. 2. Alexander, a magistrate,
falls in love with Thecla; 4. kisses her by force: 5. she
resists him, 6. is carried before the governor and condemned to
be thrown to wild beasts.
1. Then Paul sent back Onesiphorus and his family to their
own home, and taking Thecla along with him, he went to Antioch;
In light of the next verse, apparently the Antioch
in Syria, not Pisidia, is meant, although that seems
hardly to fit the story.
2. And as soon as they came into the city, a certain Syrian
named Alexander, a magistrate in the city, who had done many
considerable services for the city during his magistracy, saw
Thecla and fell in love with her, and endeavored by many rich
presents to engage Paul in his interest.
3. But Paul told him, I do not know the woman of whom you
speak, nor does she belong to me.
Paul's behavior seems inexplicable, even
reprehensible, unless it represented some cultural
factor we cannot fathom. However, it is fair to note
that Abraham tried to pass his wife Sarah off as his
sister (Genesis 12:13-20), and Isaac did the same with
his wife Rebecca (Genesis 26:7-11).
4. But he, being a person of great power in Antioch, seized
her in the street and kissed her; which Thecla would not bear,
but looking about for Paul, cried out in a distressed loud tone,
Force me not, who am a stranger; force me not, who am a servant
of God; I am one of the principal persons of Iconium, and was
obliged to leave that city because I would not be married to
5. Then she laid hold on Alexander, tore his coat, and took
his crown off his head, and made him appear ridiculous before all
6. But Alexander, partly because he loved her and partly
being ashamed of what had been done, led her to the governor; and
upon her confession of what she had done, he condemned her to be
thrown among the beasts.
Something is lacking here in the old Greek
manuscript, but it is supplied out of the old Latin
version in the Bodleian Library, rather than out of
Simeon Mataphrastes, a writer of the eleventh century.
2. Thecla entertained by Trifina; 3. brought out to the wild
beasts; a she-lion licks her feet. 5. Trifina, upon a vision of
her deceased daughter, adopts Thecla, 11. who is taken to the
1. When the people saw this, they said: The judgments
passed in this city are unjust. But Thecla desired only the
favor of the governor that her chastity might not be attacked,
but preserved till she should be cast to the beasts.
2. The governor then inquired who would lodge her, and a
certain very rich widow named Trifina, whose daughter was lately
dead, asked that she might have the keeping of her; and she began
to treat her in her house as her own daughter.
3. At length a day came when the beasts were to be brought
forth to be seen, and Thecla was brought to the amphitheater in
the presence of a multitude of spectators, and put into a den in
which was an exceeding fierce she-lion.
4. Trifina, without any surprise, accompanied Thecla, and
the she-lion licked the feet of Thecla. The title written which
denoted her crime was Sacrilege. Then the woman [Trifina] cried
out, O God, the judgments of this city are unrighteous.
5. After the beasts had been shown, Trifina took Thecla
home with her, and they went to bed. And behold, the daughter of
Trifina, who was dead, appeared to her mother and said: Mother,
let the young woman Thecla be reputed by you as your daughter in
my place, and ask her to pray for me, that I may be translated to
a state of happiness.
6. Upon which Trifina, with a mournful air, said, My
daughter Falconilla has appeared to me and ordered me to receive
you in her place; wherefore I desire, Thecla, that you would pray
for my daughter that she may be translated into a state of
happiness and to life eternal.
7. When Thecla heard this, she immediately prayed to the
Lord and said: O Lord God of heaven and earth, Jesus Christ, Son
of the Most High, grant that her daughter Falconilla may live
forever. Trifina hearing this groaned again and said, O
unrighteous judgments! O unreasonable wickedness that such a
creature should again be cast to the beasts!
8. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] At
daybreak the next morning, Alexander came to Trifina's house and
said, The governor and the people are waiting; bring the criminal
9. But Trifina ran in so violently upon him that he was
affrighted and ran away. Trifina was one of the royal family;
and she thus expressed her sorrow and said: Alas! I have trouble
in my house on two accounts, and there is no one who will relieve
me, either for the loss of my daughter, or for being unable to
save Thecla. But now, O Lord God, you be the helper of Thecla
10. While she was thus engaged, the governor sent one of
his own officers to bring Thecla. Trifina took her by the hand,
and going with her, said: I went with Falconilla to her grave and
now must go with Thecla to the beasts.
11. When Thecla heard this, she prayed weeping and said: O
Lord God, whom I have made my confidence and refuge, reward
Trifina for her compassion to me and for preserving my chastity.
12. Upon this there was a great noise in the amphitheater:
the beasts roared, and the people cried out, Bring in the
13. But the woman [Trifina] cried out and said: Let the
whole city suffer for such crimes; and order all of us, O
governor, to the same punishment. O unjust judgment! O cruel
14. Others said, Let the whole city be destroyed for this
vile action. Kill us all, O governor. O cruel sight! O
Trifina's cry is echoed by other sympathetic
women. This is both surprising and unsurprising in a
city where a woman could be thrown to wild beasts
simply for refusing an official's unwanted advances.
1. Thecla thrown naked to the wild beasts; 2. they all refuse
to attack her; 8. throws herself into pit of water. 10. Other
wild beasts refuse her. 11. She is tied to wild bulls. 13. She
is miraculously saved, 21. released, 24. and entertained by
1. Then Thecla was taken out of the hand of Trifina,
stripped naked, had an encircling cloth put on, and was thrown
into the place appointed for fighting with the beasts. Then the
lions and the bears were let loose upon her.
2. But a she-lion, which was of all the most fierce, ran to
Thecla and fell down at her feet. At that, the multitude of
women shouted aloud.
3. Then a she-bear ran fiercely toward her; but the she-
lion met the bear and tore it to pieces.
4. Again, a he-lion who had been accustomed to devour men,
and which belonged to Alexander, ran toward her; but the she-lion
encountered the he-lion, and they killed each other.
5. Then the women had a greater concern because the she-
lion that had helped Thecla was dead.
6. Afterwards they brought out many other wild beasts, but
Thecla stood with her hands stretched towards heaven and prayed.
When she finished praying, she turned about and saw a pit of
water and said, Now is a proper time for me to be baptized.
7. Accordingly she threw herself into the water and said,
In your name, O my Lord Jesus Christ, I am this last day
baptized. Upon seeing this, the women and the people cried out
and said, Do not throw yourself into the water. And the governor
himself cried out to think that the sea-calves were likely to
devour so much beauty.
8. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts]
Notwithstanding all this, Thecla threw herself into the water in
the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9. But when the sea-calves saw the lightning and fire, they
were killed and floated dead on the surface of the water, and a
cloud of fire surrounded Thecla so the beasts could not come near
her, and the people could not see her nakedness.
10. Yet they turned other wild beasts upon her, at which
the women made a very mournful outcry. Some of them scattered
spikenard, others cassia, others amomus, others ointment; so that
the quantity of ointment was large in proportion to the number of
people; and upon this all the beasts lay as though they had been
fast asleep and did not touch Thecla.
Amomus is a sort of spikenard, or the herb of
Jerusalem, or ladies-rose. The account becomes more
fantastic than before.
11. Whereupon Alexander said to the governor, I have some
very terrible bulls; let us bind her to them. To which the
governor, with concern, replied, You may do what you think fit.
12. Then they put a cord around Thecla's waist, which bound
also her feet, and with it tied her to the bulls, to whose privy-
parts they applied red-hot irons so that they, being even more
tormented, might more violently drag Thecla about till they had
13. The bulls accordingly tore about, making a most hideous
noise; but the flame which was about Thecla burned off the cords
which were fastened to the members of the bulls, and she stood in
the middle of the arena as unconcerned as if she had not been
14. But in the meantime Trifina, who sat upon one of the
benches, fainted away and died; then the whole city was greatly
15. And Alexander himself was afraid and implored the
governor, saying: I entreat you, have compassion on me and the
city, and release this woman who has fought with the beasts; for
fear that both you and I, and the whole city be destroyed:
16. For if Caesar should have any account of what has now
taken place, he certainly will immediately destroy the city
because Trifina, a person of royal extract and a relation of his,
is dead upon her seat.
17. Then the governor called Thecla from among the beasts
to him and said to her, Who are you? And what are your
circumstances, that not one of the beasts will touch you?
18. Thecla replied to him, I am a servant of the living
God, and as to my state, I am a believer on Jesus Christ his Son,
in whom God is well pleased. For that reason none of the beasts
could touch me.
19. He alone is the way to eternal salvation and the
foundation of eternal life. He is a refuge to those who are in
distress, a support to the afflicted, a hope and defence to those
who are hopeless, and in a word, all those who do not believe on
him shall not live, but suffer eternal death.
20. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] When
the governor heard these things, he ordered her clothes to be
brought and said to her, Put on your clothes.
21. Thecla replied, May that God who clothed me when I was
naked among the beasts, in the day of judgment clothe your soul
with the robe of salvation. Then she took her clothes and put
them on; then the governor immediately published an order in
these words: I release to you Thecla the servant of God.
22. Then the women cried out together with a loud voice,
and with one accord gave praise unto God and said: There is but
one God, who is the God of Thecla; the one God who has delivered
23. Their voices were so loud that the whole city seemed to
be shaken, and Trifina herself heard the glad tidings and arose
again, and ran with the multitude to meet Thecla; and embracing
her, said: Now I believe there will be a resurrection of the
dead; now I am persuaded that my daughter is alive. Come home
with me, my daughter Thecla, and I will turn over all that I have
24. So Thecla went with Trifina and was entertained there a
few days, teaching her the word of the Lord, whereby many young
women were converted. So there was great joy in the family of
25. But Thecla longed to see Paul, and inquired and sent
everywhere to find him; and when at length she was informed that
he was at Myra in Lycia, she took with her many young men and
women. She dressed herself in the habit of a man and went to him
in Myra in Lycia. There she found Paul preaching the word of
God, and she stood by him amid the throng.
1. Thecla visits Paul. 6. She visits Onesiphorus. 8. She
visits her mother 9. who repulses her. 12. She is tempted by
the devil; she works miracles.
1. It was no small surprise to Paul when he saw her and the
people with her, for he imagined some fresh trial was coming upon
2. When Thecla perceived this, she said to him: I have been
baptized, O Paul, for he who assists you in preaching, has
assisted me to be baptized.
3. Then Paul took her and led her to the house of Hermes,
and Thecla related to Paul all that had befallen her in Antioch,
insomuch that Paul was greatly amazed, and all who heard were
confirmed in the faith and prayed for Thecla's happiness.
4. Then Thecla arose and said to Paul, I am going to
Iconium. Paul replied to her, Go and teach the word of the Lord.
5. But Trifina had sent large sums of money to Paul, and
also clothing by the hands of Thecla, for the relief of the poor.
6. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] So
Thecla went to Iconium. When she came to the house of
Onesiphorus, she fell down upon the floor where Paul had sat and
preached, and, mixing tears with her prayers, she praised and
glorified God in the following words:
7. O Lord the God of this house, in which I was first
enlightened by you; O Jesus, son of the living God, who was my
helper before the governor, my helper in the fire, and my helper
among the beasts; you alone are God forever and ever. Amen.
8. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] On her
return, Thecla found Thamyris dead, but her mother living. So
she called on her mother and said: Theoclia, my mother, is it
possible for you to be brought to a belief that there is but one
Lord God who dwells in the heavens? If you desire great riches,
God will give them to you by me; if you want your daughter again,
here I am.
9. These and many other things she represented to her
mother, endeavoring to persuade her, but her mother Theoclia gave
no credit to the things which were said by the martyr Thecla.
10. Thecla perceived that she discoursed to no purpose, so
she signed her whole body with the sign of the cross, left the
house and went to Daphne. When she arrived there, she went to
the cave where she had found Paul with Onesiphorus, fell down on
the ground, and wept before God.
11. When she departed from there, she went to Seleucia and
enlightened many in the knowledge of Christ.
Seleucia was near Antioch in Syria.
12. [New paragraph in the oldest extant manuscripts] And a
bright cloud conducted her in her journey.
13. And after she had arrived at Seleucia, she went to a
place out of the city about the distance of a furlong, because
she was afraid of the inhabitants because they were worshippers
A furlong was a Stadion, one-eighth of a Roman
mile, or in modern terms, 606 feet.
14. And she was led by the cloud into a mountain called
Calamon, or Rodeon. There she abode many years and underwent a
great many grievous temptations of the devil, which she bore in a
becoming manner by the assistance which she had from Christ.
15. At length certain gentlewomen heard of the virgin
Thecla and went to her to be instructed by her in the oracles of
God, and many of them abandoned this world and led a monastic
life with her.
16. A good report was spread everywhere of Thecla, and she
wrought several miraculous cures, so that all the city and
adjacent countries brought their sick to that mountain, and
before they came as far as the door of the cave, they were
instantly cured of whatever they had.
17. The unclean spirits were cast out, making a noise; all
received their sick made whole and glorified God, who had
bestowed such power on the virgin Thecla;
18. Insomuch that the physicians of Seleucia were now of no
more account and lost all the profit of their trade because no
one regarded them; this so filled them with envy that they began
to contrive what methods to take with this servant of Christ.
1. Thecla is threatened with rape. 12. She escapes by a rock
opening, 17. and closing miraculously.
1. The devil then suggested bad advice to their minds on a
day they met to consult. They reasoned among each other thus:
The virgin is a priestess of the great goddess Diana, and
whatever she requests from her is granted, because she is a
virgin and is therefore beloved by all the gods.
Paul also had his problems with followers of "the
great goddess" Diana (in Greek she is called Artemis)
"whom all Asia and the world worshippeth." See Acts
2. Let us procure some rakish fellows, and after we have
made them sufficiently drunk and given them a good sum of money,
let us order them to go and debauch this virgin, promising them,
if they do it, a larger reward.
3. (For they thus concluded among themselves, that if they
were able to debauch her, the gods would no more regard her, nor
Diana cure the sick for her.)
4. They proceeded according to this resolution, and the
fellows went to the mountain, and as fierce as lions to the cave,
they knocked at the door.
5. The holy martyr Thecla, relying upon the God in whom she
believed, opened the door, although she was before apprized of
their design, and said to them, Young men, what is your business?
6. They replied, Is there anyone within whose name is
Thecla? She answered, What do you want with her? They said, We
intend to lie with her.
7. The blessed Thecla answered: Though I am a humble old
woman, I am the servant of my Lord Jesus Christ; and though you
have a vile design against me, you will not be able to accomplish
it. They replied: It is impossible for us not to be able to do
with you what we intend.
8. And while they were saying this, they laid hold on her
by main force and would have raped her. Then she with the
greatest mildness said to them: Young men, have patience and see
the glory of the Lord.
9. And while they held her, she looked up to heaven and
said: O God most reverend, to whom none can be likened; who makes
yourself glorious over your enemies; who delivered me from the
fire, and did not give me up to Thamyris, or give me up to
Alexander; who delivered me from the wild beasts; who did
preserve me in the deep waters; who have everywhere been my
helper and have glorified your name in me;
10. Now also deliver me from the hands of these wicked and
unreasonable men, nor suffer them to debauch my chastity which I
have always preserved for your honor; for I love you and long for
you, and worship you, O Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
11. Then came a voice from heaven saying, Fear not, Thecla,
my faithful servant, for I am with you. Look and see the place
which is opened for you; there your eternal abode shall be, and
there you will receive the beatific vision.
12. The blessed Thecla looked and saw the rock opened to as
large a degree as that a man might enter in. She did as he was
commanded, bravely fled from the vile crew, and went into the
rock, which instantly closed so that there was not a crack
visible where it had opened.
13. The men stood perfectly astonished at so prodigious a
miracle and had no power to detain the servant of God, but only
caught hold of her veil, or hood, and tore off a piece of it;
14. And even that was by the permission of God, for the
confirmation of their faith who should come to visit this
venerable place, and to convey blessings in succeeding ages to
those who would believe on our Lord Jesus Christ from a pure
15. Thus suffered that first martyr and apostle of God, the
virgin Thecla, who came from Iconium at eighteen years of age;
afterwards, partly in journeys and travels, and partly in a
monastic life in the cave, she lived seventy-two years, so that
she was ninety years old when the Lord translated her.
16. Thus ends her life.
17. The day which is kept sacred to her memory is the
twenty-fourth of September, to the glory of the Father, and the
Son, and the Holy Spirit, now and forevermore. Amen.
Tertullian (A.D. 160-230) says that the Acts of
Paul and Thecla were forged by a presbyter of Asia, who
"confessed that he did it out of respect for Paul," and
Pope Gelasius, in his Decree against apocryphal books,
inserted it among them.
Notwithstanding this, a large part of the history
was credited, and looked upon as genuine among the
primitive Christians. Cyprian, Eusebius, Epiphanius,
Austin, Gregory Nazianzen, Chrysostom, and Severus
Sulpitius, who all lived within the fourth century,
mention Thecla, or refer to her history.
Basil of Seleucia wrote her acts, sufferings, and
victories in verse; and Euagrius Scholasticus, an
ecclesiastical historian about 590, relates that "after
the Emperor Zeno had abdicated his empire, and Basilik
had taken possession of it, he had a vision of the holy
and excellent martyr Thecla, who promised him the
restoration of his empire; for which, when it was
brought about, he erected and dedicated a most noble
and sumptuous temple to this famous martyr Thecla, at
Seleucia, a city of Isauria, and bestowed upon it very
noble endowments, which are preserved even till this
Cardinal Baronius, Locrinus, Archbishop Wake, and
also the learned Grabe, who edited the Septuagint and
revived the Acts of Paul and Thecla, considered them as
having been written in the Apostolic age and containing
nothing disagreeing from the opinions and belief of
those times, and for the most part as a genuine and
What is presented here is not the original book of
the early Christians; but however that may be, it is a
translation from the Greek manuscript in the Bodleian
Library at Oxford, which Dr. Mills copied and
transmitted to Dr. Grabe.
Regardless of the merits of this book, we should
remember that Thecla was a real person in Apostolic
times, and for her story to have been so widely
believed and written about, she indeed must have been a
remarkably holy and outstanding woman.