Acts of Andrew

ANDREW, ACTS OF. The Acts of Andrew are first mentioned by Eusebius (Hist. III. xxv. 6) among writings put forward by the heretics, of which, he says, no writer in the ecclesiastical succession has condescended to make any mention; in his opinion they are not even to be ranked with the spurious (νόθα) but rejected as altogether absurd and impious. According to Epiphanius the book was current among the Encratites and other groups, while Philastrius and others later mention its use by the Manichees. References in the Coptic Manichean Psalm book, however, do not necessarily show knowledge of the book in its original form.


The knowledge of this document rests largely on an epitome by Gregory of Tours, since the full text has not survived. There is a long series of texts, mainly Byzantine, relating the fate of the apostle, but these have been revised to conform with later theology. Martyrdoms frequently circulated independently of the works to which they originally belonged, and in varying forms. Part of the original Acts is preserved in Codex Vaticanus graecus 808, and a further fragment in a Coptic papyrus in Utrecht. A second coptic fragment in Oxford is doubtful, since it relates a conversation between Andrew and Jesus, and looks more like part of a gospel. Further fragments appear in the pseudo-Titus epistle (NTAp. II. 141ff.) and in Evodius of Uzala. The Acts of Andrew and Matthias and the Acts of Peter and Andrew are separate works of later date.


The Acts of Andrew was prob. the longest of the five major books of Acts. Gregory speaks of its excessive verbosity, and states his intention to extract and set out the “virtues” only (i.e., the miracles), omitting all that bred weariness. His outline of a journey from Pontus to Achaea, with miracles at various stages, is confirmed by Philastrius, but there is evidence also of considerable modification; e.g. Gregory says that Andrew did not forbid marriage, and that it is a divine institution, which is inconsistent both with Codex Vaticanus gr. 808 and with the fragment in pseudo-Titus (see NTAp. II. 161). To judge from the extant fragments, the narrative was punctuated by lengthy and sometimes tedious speeches, and was severely ascetic in tone. Some incidents are related in divergent forms in different texts, and the martyrdom in particular, of which Gregory gives only a hint, has to be pieced together from various sources. The chief theme is that of turning away from the world of transitoriness and illusion, and the realization of true being in return to God. Special interest attaches to the speculations on the cross as the symbol of the Logos (Mart. I. 14), which go back ultimately to Platonic and Stoic ideas.


On the character of the work opinions have differed. Some scholars have thought it Gnostic, others have regarded the author as an orthodox Christian strongly influenced by Neo-Platonism. Against the first view is the absence of the more characteristic traits of Gnosticism (e.g. cosmic dualism); against the second it has been objected that the contacts noted are not sufficient to make Neo-Platonic influence probable. The ascetic element is not necessarily Gnostic, for such tendencies were strong in some quarters; and allowance must be made for the fluidity of thought in the early centuries, and the extent to which an “orthodox” author could assimilate alien ideas without actually going beyond the limits recognized by the contemporary church. More recently attention has been drawn to close contacts with the theology of Tatian. Such features, with the speculations on the cross already mentioned, are typical of the syncretism of the period.


There is no complete agreement on the date. Those who detect Neo-Platonic influences favor the second half of the 3rd cent., others place the book before a.d. 200. A probable terminus a quo is the reign of Hadrian (117-138), and a terminus ante quem is provided by the Acts of Paul (c. 190-200), which prob. used the book. This gives a range between a.d. 120 and 200, but the book should prob. not be dated too early within this period. The second half of the 2nd cent. is perhaps the closest approximation possible. The place of writing may be somewhere in Achaea, but one has no conclusive evidence, nor is it possible to say anything about the personality of the author.


Texts in Bonnet, Acta apostolorum apocrypha I. 2 (1898); trs. in ANT 337ff., NTAp. II. 390ff. See further R. A. Lipsius, Die apokryphen Apostelgeschichten I (1883), 543ff.; J. Flamion, Les actes d’André et les textes apparantés (1911); P. Peterson, Andrew, Brother of Simon Peter (1958).

See also

  • Apocryphal New Testament