Apocryphal Acts of Peter, Paul & Perpetua

The Apocryphal “Acts of Peter and Paul with the story of Perpetua” expand on the tradition.

Written between Second and Fifth Centuries,

probably the fourth .

{It has proven difficult to locate on-line translations of these works with commentary and sources.  The New Advent web site appends “The Story of Perpetua” to the “Acts of Peter and Paul” without comment or interruption.  It may well be that they are continuous parts of the same document, but I cannot verify this.   The “Acts of Peter and Paul” are listed within the “Church Fathers-Apocrypha” section of the New Advent site.  Also note that this Perpetua is not to be confused with the Perpetua from the “Acts of Perpetua and Felicitas” who along with three others was martyred in Carthage around the year 200 and whose diary from prison is. }

http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0815.htm

from

The Acts of Peter and Paul

It came to pass, after Paul went out of the island Gaudomeleta, that he came to Italy; and it was heard of by the Jews who were in Rome, the elder of the cities, that Paul demanded to come to Caesar. Having fallen, therefore, into great grief and much despondency, they said among themselves: It does not please him that he alone has afflicted all our brethren and parents in Judea and Samaria, and in all Palestine; and he has not been pleased with these, but, behold, he comes here also, having through imposition asked Caesar to destroy us.

Having therefore made an assembly against Paul, and having considered many proposals, it seemed good to them to go to Nero the emperor, to ask him not to allow Paul to come to Rome. Having therefore got in readiness not a few presents, and having carried them with them, with supplication they came before him, saying: We beseech you, O good emperor, send orders into all the governments of your worship, to the effect that Paul is not to come near these parts; because this Paul, having afflicted all the nation of our fathers, has been seeking to come hither to destroy us also. And the affliction, O most worshipful emperor, which we have from Peter is enough for us.

And the Emperor Nero, having heard these things, answered them: It is according to your wish. And we write to all our governments that he shall not on any account come to anchor in the parts of Italy. And they also informed Simon the magician, having sent for him, that, as has been said, he should not come into the parts of Italy.

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{Now skipping most of the document with its magical/miraculous confrontations and competitions with Simon the Magician, the reading from a letter by Pontius Pilate, quotations from many of Paul’s epistles as well as many fantastic stories to get to the martyrdoms …}

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Then Nero ordered a lofty tower to be made in the Campus Martius, and all the people and the dignities to be present at the spectacle. And on the following day, all the multitude having come together, Nero ordered Peter and Paul to be present, to whom also he said: Now the truth has to be made manifest. Peter and Paul said: We do not expose him, but our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, whom he has falsely declared himself to be.

And Paul, having turned to Peter, said: It is my part to bend the knee, and to pray to God; and yours to produce the effect, if you should see him attempting anything, because you were first taken in hand by the Lord. And Paul, bending his knees, prayed. And Peter, looking steadfastly upon Simon, said: Accomplish what you have begun; for both your exposure and our call is at hand: for I see my Christ calling both me and Paul. Nero said: And where will you go to against my will? Peter said: Whithersoever our Lord has called us. Nero said: And who is your lord? Peter said: Jesus the Christ, whom I see calling us to Himself. Nero said: Do you also then intend to go away to heaven? Peter said: If it shall seem good to Him that calls us. Simon said: In order that you may know, O emperor, that these are deceivers, as soon as ever I ascend into heaven, I will send my angels to you, and will make you come to me. Nero said: Do at once what you say.

Then Simon went up upon the tower in the face of all, and, crowned with laurels, he stretched forth his hands, and began to fly. And when Nero saw him flying, he said to Peter: This Simon is true; but you and Paul are deceivers. To whom Peter said: Immediately shall you know that we are true disciples of Christ; but that he is not Christ, but a magician, and a malefactor. Nero said: Do you still persist? Behold, you see him going up into heaven. Then Peter, looking steadfastly upon Paul, said: Paul, look up and see. And Paul, having looked up, full of tears, and seeing Simon flying, said: Peter, why are you idle? Finish what you have begun; for already our Lord Jesus Christ is calling us. And Nero hearing them, smiled a little, and said: These men see themselves worsted already, and are gone mad. Peter said: Now you shall know that we are not mad. Paul said to Peter: Do at once what you do.

And Peter, looking steadfastly against Simon, said: I adjure you, you angels of Satan, who are carrying him into the air, to deceive the hearts of the unbelievers, by the God that created all things, and by Jesus Christ, whom on the third day He raised from the dead, no longer from this hour to keep him up, but to let him go. And immediately, being let go, he fell into a place called Sacra Via, that is, Holy Way, and was divided into four parts, having perished by an evil fate.

Then Nero ordered Peter and Paul to be put in irons, and the body of Simon to be carefully kept three days, thinking that he would rise on the third day. To whom Peter said: He will no longer rise, since he is truly dead, being condemned to everlasting punishment. And Nero said to him: Who commanded you to do such a dreadful deed? Peter said: His reflections and blasphemy against my Lord Jesus Christ have brought him into this gulf of destruction. Nero said: I will destroy you by an evil taking off. Peter said: This is not in your power, even if it should seem good to you to destroy us; but it is necessary that what our Master promised to us should be fulfilled.

Then Nero, having summoned Agrippa the propraetor, said to him: It is necessary that men introducing mischievous religious observances should die. Wherefore I order them to take iron clubs, and to be killed in the sea-fight. Agrippa the propraetor said: Most sacred emperor, what you have ordered is not fitting for these men, since Paul seems innocent beside Peter. Nero said: By what fate, then, shall they die? Agrippa answered and said: As seems to me, it is just that Paul's head should be cut off, and that Peter should be raised on a cross as the cause of the murder. Nero said: You have most excellently judged.

Then both Peter and Paul were led away from the presence of Nero. And Paul was beheaded on the Ostesian road.

And Peter, having come to the cross, said: Since my Lord Jesus Christ, who came down from the heaven upon the earth, was raised upon the cross upright, and He has deigned to call to heaven me, who am of the earth, my cross ought to be fixed head down most, so as to direct my feet towards heaven; for I am not worthy to be crucified like my Lord. Then, having reversed the cross, they nailed his feet up.

And the multitude was assembled reviling Caesar, and wishing to kill him. But Peter restrained them, saying: A few days ago, being exhorted by the brethren, I was going away; and my Lord Jesus Christ met me, and having adored Him, I said, Lord, whither are You going? And He said to me, I am going to Rome to be crucified. And I said to Him, Lord, wast Thou not crucified once for all? And the Lord answering, said, I saw you fleeing from death, and I wish to be crucified instead of you. And I said, Lord, I go; I fulfill Your command. And He said to me, Fear not, for I am with you. On this account, then, children, do not hinder my going; for already my feet are going on the road to heaven. Do not grieve, therefore, but rather rejoice with me, for today I receive the fruit of my labours. And thus speaking, he said: I thank You, good Shepherd, that the sheep which You have entrusted to me, sympathize with me; I ask, then, that with me they may have a part in Your kingdom. And having thus spoken, he gave up the ghost.

And immediately there appeared men glorious and strange in appearance; and they said: We are here, on account of the holy and chief apostles, from Jerusalem. And they, along with Marcellus, an illustrious man, who, having left Simon, had believed in Peter, took up his body secretly, and put it under the terebinth near the place for the exhibition of sea-fights in the place called the Vatican.

And the men who had said that they came from Jerusalem said to the people: Rejoice, and be exceeding glad, because you have been deemed worthy to have great champions. And know that Nero himself, after these not many days, will be utterly destroyed, and his kingdom shall be given to another.

And after these things the people revolted against him; and when he knew of it, he fled into desert places, and through hunger and cold he gave up the ghost, and his body became food for the wild beasts.

And some devout men of the regions of the East wished to carry off the relics of the saints, and immediately there was a great earthquake in the city; and those that dwelt in the city having become aware of it, ran and seized the men, but they fled. But the Romans having taken them, put them in a place three miles from the city, and there they were guarded a year and seven months, until they had built the place in which they intended to put them. And after these things, all having assembled with glory and singing of praise, they put them in the place built for them.

And the consummation of the holy glorious Apostles Peter and Paul was on the 29th of the month of June—in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be glory and strength.

The Story of Perpetua

And as Paul was being led away to be beheaded at a place about three miles from the city, he was in irons. And there were three soldiers guarding him who were of a great family. And when they had gone out of the gate about the length of a bow-shot, there met them a God-fearing woman; and she, seeing Paul dragged along in irons, had compassion on him, and wept bitterly. And the name of the woman was called Perpetua; and she was one-eyed. And Paul, seeing her weeping, says to her: Give me your handkerchief, and when I turn back I shall give it to you. And she, having taken the handkerchief, gave it to him willingly. And the soldiers laughed, and said to the woman: Why do you wish, woman, to lose your handkerchief? Do you not know that he is going away to be beheaded? And Perpetua said to them: I adjure you by the health of Caesar to bind his eyes with this handkerchief when you cut off his head. Which also was done. And they beheaded him at the place called Aquae Salviae, near the pine tree. And as God had willed, before the soldiers came back, the handkerchief, having on it drops of blood, was restored to the woman. And as she was carrying it, straightway and immediately her eye was opened.

And the three soldiers who had cut off the head of Saint Paul, when after three hours they came on the same day with the Bulla bringing it to Nero, having met Perpetua, they said to her: What is it, woman? Behold, by your confidence you have lost your handkerchief. But she said to them: I have both got my handkerchief, and my eye has recovered its sight. And as the Lord, the God of Paul, lives, I also have entreated him that I may be deemed worthy to become the slave of his Lord. Then the soldiers who had the Bulla, recognizing the handkerchief, and seeing that her eye had been opened, cried out with a loud voice, as if from one mouth, and said: We too are the slaves of Paul's master. Perpetua therefore having gone away, reported in the palace of the Emperor Nero that the soldiers who had beheaded Paul said: We shall no longer go into the city, for we believe in Christ whom Paul preached, and we are Christians. Then Nero, filled with rage, ordered Perpetua, who had informed him of the soldiers, to be kept fast in irons; and as to the soldiers, he ordered one to be beheaded outside of the gate about one mile from the city, another to be cut in two, and the third to be stoned. And Perpetua was in the prison; and in this prison there was kept Potentiana, a noble maiden, because she had said: I forsake my parents and all the substance of my father, and I wish to become a Christian. She therefore joined herself to Perpetua, and ascertained from her everything about Paul, and was in much anxiety about the faith in Christ. And the wife of Nero was Potentiana's sister; and she secretly informed her about Christ, that those who believe in Him see everlasting joy, and that everything here is temporary, but there eternal: so that also she fled out of the palace, and some of the senators' wives with her. Then Nero, having inflicted many tortures upon Perpetua, at last tied a great stone to her neck, and ordered her to be thrown over a precipice. And her remains lie at the Momentan gate. And Potentiana also underwent many torments; and at last, having made a furnace one day, they burned her.


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