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The Acts of John

Some of the most entertaining stories found among the apocryphal accounts of the apostles are in the “Acts of John,” stories of the missionary adventures of the son of Zebedee, the disciple commonly regarded as Jesus’ closest companion.1 Many of the stories demonstrate the uncanny power of God at work within his great apostle, as he is able to perform remarkable miracles by healing the sick and raising the dead—evidence of the truth of his proclamation of the gospel of Christ. The following excerpts narrate some of the apostle’s most remarkable deeds, including a tale in which he raises from the dead a prominent leader in the city of Ephesus, Lycomedes, and his beautiful wife, Cleopatra (chaps. 19–25). A second resurrection account involves a gripping tale of passion gone awry, in a love triangle involving the beautiful but ascetic Christian, Drusiana, her loving husband, Andronicus, and the unbeliever Callimachus, whose unsatisfied lust becomes known to Drusiana, causing her to die of grief for being the object of temptation. In a fit of passion, however, Callimachus bribes his way into the burial vault, where he plans to fulfill his lust on Drusiana’s corpse, only to be attacked by a preternatural serpent that stands as her guardian (chaps. 63–86). Razor-sharp in its contrast between ascetic virtue and lustful vice, this intriguing Acts of John stresses both the need for purity before God and the power of the apostle, who is able to raise the dead and to right all that has gone wrong in the world (the pure Drusiana too, it should be noted, performs a resurrection in the account). Other stories found here are somewhat more amusing—including John’s encounter with a host of unwanted bed-bugs at a roadside inn (chaps. 60–61). Yet other accounts, probably from a different source, involve more mystical reflections on the nature of Christ, who is described in ways that appear docetic—that is, suggesting that he did not have a real flesh-andblood body (see esp. chaps. 85–103).

1

See further Ehrman, Lost Christianities, 41–44.

Translation by J. K. Elliott; Apocryphal New Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993) 311–26; 328–35; used with permission.

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