Early Christian Hagiography & Roman History

By Timothy D. Barnes
March 2010
Mohr Siebeck
Distributed by Coronet Books Inc.
ISBN: 9783161502262
437 pages
$57.50 Paper Original

Timothy D. Barnes combines the techniques of critical hagiography and modern historical research to reach important and original results for the history of Christianity in the Roman Empire. In an introductory chapter, he advances an unassailable proof that the Apostle Peter was burned alive in Nero's deadly entertainments in 64, not crucified as legend asserts, and argues that the Apostle Paul was probably executed in Spain and that the book of Revelation was written in the winter of 68/69.

The next two chapters consider the contemporary and authentic documents from the period of the persecutions and show that the Christian church achieved full legal recognition from the Roman state in 260, not half a century later, as has usually been assumed. Barnes then investigates the beginnings of fictitious hagiography as illustrated by the Life of Antony and Jerome's invention of Paul of Thebes as a predecessor of Antony, and demonstrates that Sulpicius Severus' Life of Martin of Tours is a Fälschung in the technical sense as defined by Ernst Bernheim. Barnes then assesses a variety of hagiographical documents from the fifth and sixth century, discovering significant anachronisms in Mark the Deacon's Life of Porphyry, Bishop of Gaza which previous investigations have failed to detect. A final chapter analyses the development of critical hagiography, applies the modern historical technique of prosopography to a range of problems posed by hagiographical texts, and illustrates the enduring value (and necessity) of critical hagiography.

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