"The Acts of Paul and Thecla" is a writing in the New Testament Apocrypha. The word apocrypha is a Greek word used to describe an important group of religious writings which are not fully accepted as belonging to the original New Testament and are found only in the manuscripts of the Septuagint, the ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures. The name itself means "things hidden away". They are also part of the Pseudepigrapha,a body of Jewish and Judeo-Christian books which were penned under assumed names. The authors of these books had very diverse intentions. There were those who wanted to supplement the books of the New Testament, and others who thought to replace them. Some books could be viewed as a more entertaining viewpoint for believers, while others were meant to share and spread ideas not sanctioned by the church.
The Apocrypha is also called the Intertestament and, until 1643, appeared in the King James Version of the Bible, between the Old and New Testaments. The fourteen or fifteen (accounts vary) books are still included in some versions of the English Bible in the same location. They are presented in the same four types as the New Testament literature: gospels, acts, letters and apocalypses. Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches which still use some or all of the these texts in their canon, i.e.,their rule as to the correct list of biblical books, refer to them as "Deuterocanonical".
Thecla,the daughter of Theocleia and the fiancee of Thamyris, was a seventeen year old virgin who encountered the Apostle Paul when he came to her home town of Iconium after he fled Antioch. A gentleman named Onesiphorus and his family, upon hearing that Paul was coming, met him on the road to Lystra and invited hime to share the hospitality of their home. There was great joy in their home over the arrival of Paul and many people came to hear him speak on the Word of God, self-control and of the Resurrection. Paul preached:
Thecla sat outside the window of Onesiphorus's home for three days and three nights, not eating, drinking or sleeping, just listening to Paul discourse on virginity and prayer. She listened carefully to what he said as it brought her feelings of joy and comfort. A great many women came and went from the house and she wanted to sit in the Apostle's presence and listen to him speak the gospel of Christ. Her mother, distrustful of Paul's influence and concerned by her daughter's strange behaviour, sent for her daughter's fiancee. Thamyris, who was a powerful young man in the city, went to where Thecla was sitting outside the window and questioned her as to what this feeling was that had overpowered her and was causing grief to her family. Thecla didn't turn around, she just kept listening.
Paul had arrived in Iconium in the company of two hypocrites, Demas and Ermogenes. Thamyris encountered them in the marketplace and demanded to know more about the man who was "leading astray the souls of young men, and deceiving virgins, so that they do not marry, but remain as they are." He promised to give them money for information about Paul. They replied, "Who this is, indeed, we do not know; but he deprives young men of wives, and maidens of husbands, saying, There is for you a resurrection in no other way, unless you remain chaste, and pollute not the flesh, but keep it chaste." Thamyris invited them to his home to eat, drink and to help come up with a plan to win back Thecla's affection. Deas and Ermogenes advised him to take Paul "before the governor Castelios on the charge of persuading the multitudes to embrace the new teaching of the Christians, and he will speedily destroy him, and thou shalt have Thecla as thy wife." Thamyris, his anger fueled by drink and these men's words, gathered authorities and an armed mob and went to the house of Onesiphorus. The mob was calling Paul a magician who was taking power over their women. Thamyris stated his case and the two hypocrites encouraged him to say that Paul was Christian, which would have meant his death. The proconsul rejected the complaint and chose to imprison Paul and question him in his own good time.
Thecla bribed the gatekeeper with her bracelets and the prison guard with a silver mirror to gain entry to the prison cell where Paul was being held. She sat at Paul's feet and listened to him speak. Her family and friends searched for her and she was found at the prison, entranced and overjoyed by Paul's teachings. They were both brought before the tribunal. Thecla was questioned, "Why dost thou not obey Thamyris, according to the law of the Iconians?" but she gave them no answer and only continued to look at the apostle. Her mother condemned her for not replying, "Burn the wicked wretch; burn in the midst of the theatre her that will not marry, in order that all the women that have been taught by this man may be afraid." The governor was moved by the mother's words and, while Paul was scourged and thrown out of the city, Thecla was sentenced to be burned in a spectacle at the ampitheatre.
Thecla was brought into the arena to face her death naked, she made the sign of the cross and climbed on the pyre. She saw God in the likeness of Paul sitting in the stands. The fire was lit and "Though a great fire was blazing, it did not touch her; for God, having compassion upon her, made an underground rumbling, and a cloud overshadowed them from above, full of water and hail; and all that was in the cavity of it was poured out, so that many were in danger of death. The fire was put out, and Thecla saved." Thecla was released and thrown out of the city and went in search of Paul. Six days later she came upon the son of Onesiphorus, who was searching for food, and he took her to where Paul and the rest of his family were in hiding. Paul was glad to see her as he had been praying constantly for her to be spared. The family of Onesiphorus returned to Iconium and Paul and Thecla travelled to Antioch.
Thecla was a beautiful woman and upon arriving in Antioch a man named Alexander, who had considerable wealth and influence, became quite enamoured with her. He offered Paul gifts and money for her, which were refused. Thecla rejected his advances, tearing his cloak and knocking off his crown which made him a laughing stock. Alexander took her before the governor and she confessed what she had done. For her crime she was sentenced to be torn apart by wild animals. Many women protested this judgment as evil. Tryphaena, whose daughter Falconilla had died, offered to take her in to her keeping so that Thecla would not be violated in prison and could remain pure to fight the animals. Falconilla had appeared to her in a dream saying: "Mother, thou shalt have this stranger Thecla in my place, in order that she may pray concerning me, and that I may be transferred to the place of the just."
Thecla was tied to a lioness, but the lioness merely licked her feet. A second exhibition was set up, Thecla was stripped, given a girdle and placed in the theatre with bears, lions and a fierce lioness. When the lioness was set upon her, it ran up to Thecla and lay at her feet. The bear attacked and the lioness tore the bear the pieces. The lion was tuned loose on her and the lion and the lioness fought to the death. They sent in more wild animals and Thecla prayed. She turned and saw a ditch full of water . She threw herself in, saying: "In the name of Jesus Christ I am baptized on my last day." The women in the crowd and the governor were weeping as the ditch was full of seals which would devour her. The seals "having seen the glare of the fire of lightning, floated about dead. There was round her, as she was naked, a cloud of fire; so that neither could the wild beasts touch her, nor could she be seen naked." More wild beasts were thrown in, and immediately fell asleep. They bound her feet and tied her between two bulls who had hot irons placed on their genitals. The heat from the irons burned the ropes that bound her and she wasn't harmed. Tryphaena was so overwhelmed that she fell down and was thought to have died, at this the governor called an end to the spectacle.
The governor called Thecla before him and asked her who she was and why none of the wild animals had touched her. She replied,"I indeed am a servant of the living God; and as to what there is about me, I have believed in the Son of God, in whom He is well pleased; wherefore not one of the beasts has touched me. For He alone is the end of salvation, and the basis of immortal life; for He is a refuge to the tempest-tossed, a solace to the afflicted, a shelter to the despairing; and, once for all, whoever shall not believe on Him, shall not live for ever." The governor on hearing her words, ordered her clothing brought and made a declaration which released Thecla.
Thecla, dressed in men's clothing, left Antioch in search of Paul. She left with many followers and found Paul at Myra of Lycia. After telling Paul and his followers her story, Paul told her to "Go, and teach the word of God." Thecla returned to Iconium where she found out that Thamyris was dead, but her mother was still alive. She sent for her mother, and said: "Theocleia, my mother, canst thou believe that the Lord liveth in the heavens? For whether thou desirest wealth, God gives it to thee through me; or thy child, I am standing beside thee." She moved to Seleucia, and lived in a cave for seventy-two years, eating only herbs and water. She healed and enlightened many with the word of God and His gifts of spirit..
Greek physicians of Seleucia, who were losing business because of Thecla's ability to heal, incited a gang of disorderly young men to destroy her. They plied them with alcohol, bribed them with gold and told them: "She is a virgin, and serves Artemis, and from this she has virtue in healing." and promised them more money if they corrupted and defiled her. These men came to the cave which was at Calamon or Rhodeon. She and many other women who had followed her lived an ascetic life there and crowds gathered seeking healing. Thecla, who was an old woman now, greeted them, having been forwarned of the danger that was coming. The men attacked her and as she prayed for God's help, God spoke and said, "Fear not, Thecla, my true servant, for I am with thee. Look and see where an opening has been made before thee, for there shall be for thee an everlasting house, and there thou shalt obtain shelter." Needless to say, this distracted her attackers and a rock split open enough for her to slip into it, leaving only a piece of her veil and no mark of a split in the rock. She entered into the rock alive, and went underground.
Thecla made one more journey to Rome to see Paul, and found that he had been martyred. Shortly after on September 24 at the age of 90 , she died and is buried close to the tomb of her master Paul.
A strong woman works out every day to keep her body in shape... but a woman of strength kneels in prayer to keep her soul in shape.
A strong woman isn't afraid of anything... but a woman of strength shows courage in the midst of her fear.
A strong woman won't let anyone get the best of her... but a woman of strength gives the best of herself to everyone.
A strong woman makes mistakes and avoids the same in the future... a woman of strength realizes life's mistakes can also be God's blessings and capitalizes on them.
A strong woman walks sure footedly... but a woman of strength knows God will catch her when she falls.
A strong woman wears the look of confidence on her face... but a woman of strength wears grace.
A strong woman has faith that she is strong enough for the journey... but a woman of strength has faith that it is in the journey that she will become strong.
This page was created April 10, 2002.