Acts of John

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The Acts of the Apostles
a collection of
apocryphal stories of the Apostles

The Acts of John or Latin Acta Ioannis , abbreviated AJ or ActJoh, is a fragmentary apocryphal book of Acts that describes the deeds of the apostle John . The original Greek title alternates between Πράξεις Ιωάννου (Acts of John) and Περίοδοι τοῦ Ιωάννου (The Travels of John). Its date of origin in question is dated to the years around 150–175 AD.

Place and time of origin, early evidence

The Acts of John are certainly cited for the first time from the Manichaean Book of Psalms from the last third of the third century. This indicates an origin and spread in the Syrian area. The Syrian work Liber graduum , which states that John died of natural causes , also has reference to the Acts of John. Statements from the Acts of John can also be found almost verbatim in the 13th century in Gregorius Bar-Hebraeus (1225/26 - 1286), in the book of the candlestick of the Holy of Holies, who quotes from a much older source.

Eusebius of Caesarea attests it for the first time in the Greek area together with the Acts of St. Andrew and the other Acts of the Apostles as apocryphal literature. Epiphanios writes in his Panarion that the Enkratites use the Acts of Andrew, John and Thomas. Amphilochius of Iconium dealt with the Acts of John in a script that has not survived. The existence of the work is evidenced by a reference at the 2nd Council of Nicaea (787). There is also a quotation in the Acts of Philip . The Passio Joannis , which was probably originally written in Greek, was written around the middle of the 5th century, supposedly under the name of Bishop Melito of Laodikeia , it takes up and revises stories from the Acts of John, but it is possible that this writing does not refer directly to the John has accessed files, but has used isolated circulating materials from the John files.

In Latin the testimony begins only towards the end of the fourth century in the form of the collection of the Manichaean Acts of the Apostles, e.g. B. Filastrius von Brescia and Faustus von Mileve , as well as Augustine . The writing was used in Spanish circles of the Priscillianists in the monarchian prologue of St. John and in the pseudo-Titus letter .

Overall, the Acts of John are for the first time reliably tangible in the last third of the 3rd century as part of the Manichaean collection of apocryphal acts of the Apostles . The work is known to the earliest churchmen only as a sectarian script, but it also circulated in special Christian groups in Asia Minor and Syria. In the west, the script was known by the Manicheans in the 4th century and used in Priscillian circles in the Aquitaine-Gallic area, but the trace is lost in the west in the 5th century.

Part of the work, including the proclamation of the Gospel (chap. 94-102) consisting of the dance hymn and the revelation of the secret of the cross, as well as chapter 109, the Eucharistic prayer of the metastasis, was assigned to a Valentine Syrian circle according to Junod and Kaestli , the remaining parts, however, to a pagan Christian Egyptian Milieu of the second half of the 2nd century, with the incorporation of the Gnostic parts in the third century.

Schäferdiek considers the first third of the 3rd century to be the most likely time of origin of the Acts of John, but believes it is possible that older parts were taken from tradition. He is looking for the place of origin in Eastern Syria, probably in Edessa.


The old authors named Leucius Charinus variously as the author . In the fictional prologue of the pseudo-Matthew Gospel of the text family A, Hieronymus allegedly writes to the bishops Chromatius and Heliodorus of Trikka in Thessaly that a student of Leucius published the Acts of the Apostles in a falsified manner. Leucius is said to have been a student of the apostle John, but it is extremely unlikely that the scripture came from this student, if there was a student of that name. The acts of John were written as pseudepigraphy or under the pseudonym of this Johanness pupil. Unfortunately, the introduction to the work has not survived, but it is assumed that Leucius was named there as the author of this work. From there the authorship was transferred to the remaining writings of the Manichaean collection of the Acts of the Apostles.


Leo the Great condemns the apocryphal writings of the Acts of the Apostles, and with it the Acts of John in a letter to Turibius of Astorga in AD 447.The fifth session of the Second Council of Nicaea condemns the Acts of John in 787 and decides that this book should not be copied and existing specimens are to be handed over to the fire . This explains well why the writing is no longer completely preserved. On the one hand, this synod is the cause of the fragmentary transmission of the work, but on the other hand the acts of the council also retain quotations and contents of this work, so that they are an important secondary source and a parallel tradition. According to Nikephorus' engravings, the collection still preserved today comprises around 70 percent of the original font with a volume of 2500 engravings. After the writing was officially banned, parts of it were incorporated into other diverse hagiographies , especially into the Acts of John of the Pseudo-Prochoros.


Since the assumed place of origin is Syria , there is a certain probability that the work was originally written in Syriac but was then translated into Greek quite quickly . The only Syrian textual witness of the metastasis known today is based on a translation from the Greek. Another non-preserved Syrian text version formed the basis for a translation into Arabic .


The Greek text that is still preserved today is mainly preserved in several parts in hagiographical compilations and represents the oldest still accessible text form, since nothing is left of the possibly underlying Syrian text. An important, but now outdated text edition of the Greek version was published in 1898 by Richard Adelbert Lipsius and Maximilian Bonnet . Chapters 1–17 of the Lipsius edition include a text under the title Πράξεις τοῦ ἀποςτόλου καὶ εὐαγγελστοῖ Ίωάννου τοῦ θεολόγου ( Acts of the Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian ), which does not belong to the original text of the acts of John the Theologian . The division into chapters by Lipsius and Bonnet has been retained in the literature since then, so that the actual writing begins with chapter 18.

There are four main narrative complexes:

  1. AJ chapters 18-36; 37-55; 58-86; and 106-115. These parts were added to a review of the Acts of John of the Pseudo-Prochoros .
  2. An Armenian translation of the Pseudo Prochorus files results in another piece AJ chapters 56 to 57.
  3. The so-called metastasis of the Acts of John AJ 106–115 was passed down both in the Pseudo-Prochorus files and several times in isolation. The metastasis depicts the apostle's natural demise and burial. The metastasis is the most widespread part and is known in three different text forms. It forms part of the acts of John in Rome and is also available in various old translations.
  4. The so-called Gospel proclamation of John AJ 67-105 was only included in a hagiographic collective manuscript in 1319 under the title Wonderful Report of the Deeds and the Face that St. John the Theologian saw .

There are individual pieces of text in parallel transmission from the acts of the Council of the Second Council of Nicaea , including chapter 27 and part of chapter 28, chapter 93 and part of 94, chapter 97 and part of 98.

Half an excavated sheet of P. Oxy 850 , a Greek Oxyrhynchus papyrus from the 4th century, comes from the Egyptian Oxyrhynchos . The Liber Flavus Fergusiorum (Cod. 23 0 48 at the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin ) contains the work Beatha Eoin Bruinne , in it there are 33 parts on folio exactly from the episode described in P. Oxy 850 translated from Latin into Early Modern from Uidhisdín Mac Raighin († 1405). This piece from the Early Neo-Irish and from P. Oxy 850 is not taken into account by Lipsius, the chapter references are based on the Irish manuscript Liber Flavus Fergusiorum. In this episode it is reported that John turned a truckload of straw into gold and then threw it into the river out of contempt for material goods.


A Latin translation of the Acts of John is attested to from the end of the 4th century. Augustine quotes from the Hymn of Christ from a Pricillianist work, and the pseudo-Titus letter can also be viewed as an indirect testimony, because there are three quotations.

AJ 63–86 and the metastasis AJ 106–115 are transmitted directly in Latin. These pieces are embedded in the Virtutes Johannis , a hagiographic compilation from the 6th century, which in turn is based on the Latin version of the Passio Johannis by Melito von Laodikeia, which has been supplemented by further parts. The Latin version is also the template for the early Neo-Irish piece by Uighidin Mac Raighin.

Other languages

An Armenian translation from the 5th century is based on a Greek original. This translation was even included in some Armenian Bible manuscripts. There is a Coptic - Sahid translation that probably dates from the 6th century. There is also a Coptic- Bohairian translation, which has been handed down in a manuscript from the Makarios monastery in Wadi Natrun . It contains the metastasis embedded in an Egyptian collection of Acts of the Apostles. A Georgian translation from the 6th century appears as part of the Pseudo Prochosrus files. The metatstasis is available in two Arabic versions, one of which is from the Syriac and the other from the Coptic-Bohairian version. The translation into Ethiopian is based on Arabic and dates back to the early 14th century at the earliest. An Old Slavonic translation is not based on the Acts of John, but on pseudo-Prochorus.


The reconstruction of Lipsius and Bonnet is no longer generally accepted today and the fragments are arranged in a different order, but the chapter count remains after the edition of Lipsius and Bonnet. The content is not completely preserved, especially a piece is missing from the beginning. The apostle's trip to Miletus and his stay there is probably reported in this play . The starting point of the trip is probably Jerusalem . The fictional Johanness pupil Leukos was probably named as the author of the files in this part. In chapter 18, with which the preserved part begins, John is on his way to Ephesus and experiences a divine vision similar to the one reported about Paul in the Acts of the Apostles in Luke.

There are seven miracle stories:

  • 1. The healing and resurrection of Lycomedes and Cleopatra (19-25);
  • 2. The healing of the old women (30-32 and 37.1-2). Inserted into this story are lengthy discussions;
  • 3. Destruction of the Temple of Artemis (37–45);
  • 4. The raising of the priest of the Temple of Artemis (46–47).
  • 5. The conversion of the patricide and the raising of the dead father (48–54).
  • 6. The obedient bedbugs (60–61);
  • 7. Drusiniana and Callimachos (63-86).

In chapters 26–29 the picture of John is reported, the picture is wreathed and has candlesticks and altars. In chapters 87-105 there is the so-called preaching of the gospel by John. This includes the so-called Hymn of Christ in chapters 94–96. The hymn is followed by the revelation of the mystery of the cross in chapters 97-102 before the final exhortations in 10-105 conclude this piece. The hymn has its own form and protrudes from the narrative, so that it has already been assumed that a tradition is included here. There is a gap after this piece.

The metastasis in chap. 106–115 describes how John calls his disciples together and celebrates the Eucharist with them . Subsequently, from 111 onwards, Johannes has a pit dug in the cemetery, where he puts his clothes and says long prayers. In chapter 115 he lies down in the pit and dies in peace. The piece from Beath Eoin Bruinne and P. OXy 850 can no longer be assigned to exactly one place. It should be somewhere between the episodes, but it is no longer clear where exactly.


Text output

References and comments

  1. a b c Wilhelm Schneemelcher : New Testament Apocrypha. Vol. II, 6th edition, p. 139.
  2. Knut Schäferdiek : Johannesakten p. 255
  3. Schäferdiek: Johannesakten. P. 251
  4. a b c d Schneemelcher: New Testament Apocrypha. Vol. II, 6th edition, p. 140.
  5. a b Schneemelcher: New Testament Apocrypha. Vol. II, 6th edition p. 141.
  6. Schneemelcher: New Testament Apocrypha. Vol. II, 6th ed. P. 142.
  7. Schäferdiek: Johannesakten. P. 247.
  8. Schäferdiek, p. 263.
  9. ^ Theodor Zahn : Acta Joannis. Foreword p. LXVhttp: //vorlage_digitalisat.test/1%3D~GB%3D~IA%3Dactajoannisunter00tisc~MDZ%3D%0A~SZ%3Dlxv~doppelseiten%3D~LT%3DPreface%20S.%20LXV~PUR%3D
  10. Schneemelcher: New Testament Apocrypha. Vol. II, 6th edition p. 92.
  11. a b Schneemelcher: New Testament Apocrypha. Vol. II, 6th ed. P. 144.
  12. " Stichiometry " is the name given to the number of lines in literary texts in ancient manuscripts.
  13. Other readings: 2600 or 3600 stitches. 2500 engravings is roughly the size of the Gospel of Matthew. Schneemelcher: New Testament Apocrypha. II, p. 142.
  14. Schneemelcher: New Testament Apocrypha. Vol. II, 6th ed. P. 146.
  15. a b c Schneemelcher: New Testament Apocrypha. Vol. II, 6th edition, p. 150.
  16. ^ Richard Adalbert Lipsius, Maximilian Bonnet: Acta Apostolorum Apocrypha. Part 2.1, Leipzig 1898 digitizedhttp: //vorlage_digitalisat.test/1%3D%20S.%20151%E2%80%93160.~GB%3D~IA%3Dactaapostolorvm02tiscgoog~MDZ%3D%0A~SZ%3Dn221~ double-sided%3D~LT%3D~ PUR% 3D
  17. The Oxyrhynchus Papyri . In: Grenfell and Hunt (Eds.): The Oxyrhynchus Papyri . tape IV , 1908, p. 12 ( ).
  18. Schneemelcher: New Testament Apocrypha. Vol. II, 6th edition. German translation of the piece on pp. 191–192.
  19. Schneemelcher: New Testament Apocrypha. Vol. II, 6th ed. P. 147.
  20. Schneemelcher: New Testament Apocrypha. Vol. II, 6th edition, p. 148.
  21. a b Schneemelcher: New Testament Apocrypha. Vol. II, 6th edition, p. 151.