Singing Thomas: Anatomy of a Sympotic Scene in Acts of Thomas

in Vigiliae Christianae
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This article examines one of the few musical scenes in ancient Christian literature, the description of a wedding banquet in act 1 of Acts of Thomas, in which a female piper pays special attention to Thomas, and Thomas sings a “hymn to the bride.” The inner dynamics of the scene are explored, and its contribution to the wider themes of Acts of Thomas is considered.

Vigiliae Christianae

A Review of Early Christian Life and Language




J. Bremmer, “The Five Major Apocryphal Acts: Authorship, Place, Time, and Readership,” in The Apocryphal Acts of Thomas, ed. J.N. Bremmer (Leuven 2001) 160-70; in the same volume, see also Bremmer, “The Acts of Thomas: Place, Date, and Women,” 74-90.


Bremmer, “The Five Major Apocryphal Acts,” 168.


Fear (Dan. 10,15; Lucan, Phar. 6,777-78; Heliodorus, Aeth. 2,15); distress for another (Euripides, Iph. Aul. 1577-78); shame or embarrassment for oneself (Leuc. et Clit. 5,25; 7,14; 8,4); modesty or desire to avoid a sexual encounter (Greek Acts of Andr. 14,8; Plutarch, Mor. 706b); defiance (Sophocles, Ant. 441); contemplation, gathering one’s thoughts (Heliodorus, Aeth. 1,21; 8,15; Philostratus, Vit. Apoll. 1,10); the desire to avoid a decision (Letters of Themistocles 10 in P.A. Rosenmeyer, Ancient Greek Literary Letters: Selections in Translation [London and New York 2006], 67); the effects of a prophetic trance (Philostratus, Vit. Apoll. 8,26).


See I. Czachesz, “Eroticism and Epistemology in the Apocryphal Acts of John,” Nederlands Theologisch Tijdschrift 60 (2006) 59-72; Schröder, “Embracing the Erotic in the Passion of Andrew.”


West, Ancient Greek Music, 180.


E. Beck, “Ephräm des Syrers Hymnik,” in Liturgie und Dichtung: ein interdisziplinäres Kompendium, vol. 1: Historische Präsentation, ed. H. Becker and R. Kaczynski (St. Ottilien 1983) 345-79; McVey, “Were the Earliest Madrāšē Songs or Recitations?” 186, 188-90.


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