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Manichean Acts of Leucius Charinus

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Estimated Range of Dating: 300-350 A.D.

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Knut Schäferdiek presents the evidence that Manicheans had gathered together a collection of five apocryphal Acts (by the end of the fourth century) and states: "The first-hand evidence available in the Manichean Psalm-book and in Faustus cannot be discredited by reference to the fact that the patristic testimonies for Manichean use of apocryphal Acts do not mention any collection, and that none of their enumerations includes all five of the Acts in question. The extent to which anti-heretical writers possessed an exact and direct knowledge of the literature of the groups opposed certainly varied from case to case, and also their readiness to provide themselves and their readers with factually accurate and basic information about them is, in view of their preconceived opinions about this literature, frequently limited. Their notices are not a corrective to the Manichean witnesses, but must rather be interpreted on the basis of the latter. The Manicheans, so Philaster of Brescia writes towards 390 in his heresiological compendium, used the report about what the apostle Andrew brought aobut on his journey from Pontus to Greece, and 'therefore', so it continues, 'the Manicheans also and others have such Acts of the blessed Andrew and the blessed evangelist John and likewise those of the apostle Peter as well as the blessed apostle Paul'. In them the apostles worked 'great signs and wonders, so that (tame) animals (pecudes), dogs and (wild) animals (bestiae) spoke'. This notice betrays a knowledge, whether acquired by Philaster himself or mediated to him by another source, of the itinerary in the ancient Acts of Andrew as well as various stories of talking animals, the enumeration of which matches the stock of such stories contained in the extant five ancient Acts. There is mention of a talking dog in the Acts of Peter - the plural may be understood as pure generalisation. In addition talking pecudes and bestiae are mentioned, and this distinction forbids our thinking solely of the talking lion in the Acts of Paul. Rather the stories about talking asses in the Acts of Thomas are also in view. That the latter Acts do not appear in the series of the apostolic Acts named by Philaster can then only be the result of a defective or superficial enumeration." (New Testament Apocrypha, vol. 2, pp. 90-91)

Schäferdiek concludes, "The name of Leucius probably fell into such discredit because he was claimed by the Manicheans as guarantor of tradition for the collection of apocryphal Acts used among them and disseminated by them. It has often been conjectured that he was originally associated with the Acts of John and only from there passed over to the corpus as a whole. It fits well with such an assumption that in Innocent I and Turribius of Astorga, in whose notices the information about the corpus itself has already become uncertain or even been lost, the name of Leucius in any case still attaches to the Acts of John. What above all tells in favour of his original attachment to these Acts is on the one hand the fact that there was a developing tradition about a disciple of John named Leucius, which from the context of its reflection in Epiphanius and Pacian points to the 2nd century and to Asia Minor, and on the other the fact that the Acts of John themselves from the point of view of controversial theology hark back precisely to the tradition which was developing in the 2nd century about John's activity in Ephesus and Asia Minor. They could evidently take from this the name of a putative disciple of John, as they did the geographical framework of their narrative. He does not however appear in the only remains of this text extant today. They stand apart from the other ancient Acts, however, in that to a considerable extent they are written in the 'we' style of a fictional reporter, who moreover also makes use of the first person singular in one of his narratives (AJ 61). This ostensible reporter, presenting himself as an intimate companion of the apostle, must have been introduced in the lost opening section of the document, and in view of the indications given it is certainly no far-fetched conjecture that this was done under tha name of the putative disciple Leucius from the John tradition of Asia Minor." (New Testament Apocrypha, vol. 2, p. 94)

J. K. Elliott writes, "The five [Acts of Andrew, John, Paul, Peter, and Thomas] are the most influential and among the oldest of the apocryphal Acts, although they were not composed as a collection. It was originally held that all five were written by the same author. The name Leucius, the companion of John the Apostle, was given originally to the author of the Acts of John and then to the author of all five major acts. From the time of Photius he was named as Leucius Charinus. The names Leucius and Charinus (Karimus) appear in the Latin versions of the Descensus, and it may perhaps be assumed that there is some connection between these and the names given by Photius." (The Apocryphal New Testament, p. 229)

A date for the collection in the first half of the fourth century accounts both for the absence of any reference to Leucius in earlier notices regarding the component apocryphal Acts and for the appearance of references to the Manichean collection, attributed to a Leucius, in the latter half of the fourth century. The earliest possible date (late third century) is set by the Manichean origin of the collection.


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Kirby, Peter. "Manichean Acts of Leucius Charinus." Early Christian Writings. <http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/leucius.html>.