Thursday, 2 April 2015

Jason Robert Combs: Christophany as Ecclesiology: Christ Manifest as Apostle in the Apocryphal Acts

In four of the earliest Apocryphal Acts--those of Paul, John, Peter, and Thomas--Christ appears in different forms including as one or another of the apostles. Although some christophanies have been studied for their christological significance, the manifestations of Christ in the form of apostles has not been given sufficient consideration. Christ's appearance in the form of Thomas has been explained by the tradition that Thomas was Jesus' twin, but this does not account for Christ's appearance as other apostles in the other Acts. I argue that the manifestation of Christ in the form of individual apostles is a literary motif that serves the ecclesiological purpose of affirming Christ's continued work within his Church in various geographical locations. By situating the Apocryphal Acts within their broader Greco-Roman context, I show how Christ's manifestation in the form of an apostle contrasts with descriptions of other divine epiphanies from this period. This is not the Homeric motif of divine disguise because Christ does not hide his identity. On the contrary, Christ's identity is revealed through his appearance in the form of the particular apostle who is the protagonist of the text: e.g., in the Acts of Paul, Christ appears in the form of Paul (3.21) and in the Acts of Peter, in the form of Peter (22). I conclude that these manifestations visually affirm the apostles' claims within the text that their deeds are Christ's (e.g., APet 24, 26, 28). The literary function of this motif is more ecclesiological than christological.

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