The Acts of John, the Acts of Andrew and the Greek Novel


  • Jan N. Bremmer



Since the 1930s, it has been observed that the Greek novel and the Christian Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles (AAA) display a series of similarities. This is not surprising, as the earlier AAA all belong to about the same period of time as the latest novels, except for Heliodorus, and derive from Asia Minor, the same area in which most of the surviving novels seem to have originated. Consequently, some of the similarities may well have been determined by the fact that the authors of the novel and the AAA lived in the same world. Yet there are clearly also scenes and motifs, which the AAA derived from the novel. In this contribution, I note the impact of the novel on the Acts of John and the Acts of Andrew and identify an influence from Chariton, Xenophon’s Ephesiaca and Achilles Tatius despite the fact that the novel ends in the reunion of the couple, who will enter now a happily married life with plenty of sex, whereas the couples in the AAA ideally end up in a chaste Platonic relationship. The surprising influence of the novel on the AAA may well be explained from a similar intended readership, that is, well educated higher-class women.

Author Biography

Jan N. Bremmer

Jan N. Bremmer is Emeritus Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Gronin­gen. He mainly works on Greek, Roman and Early Christian religion and its historiography in modern times. His most recent publications include Initiation into the Mysteries of the Ancient World (2014), Maidens, Magic and Martyrs in Early Christianity: Collected Essays I (2017), The World of Greek Religion and Mythology: Collected Essays II (2019), and, as co-editor, The Materiality of Magic (2014), The Ascension of Isaiah (2016), Figures of Ezra (2018), Marginality, Media, and Mutations of Religious Authority in the History of Christianity (2019), and The Protevangelium of James (2020).


2020-01-28 — Updated on 2021-01-26