The Acts of Andrew

By Mary Jane Chaignot

Of the five or six apocryphal accounts of the Acts of the Apostles, most scholars think Andrew was the earliest. Unfortunately, there are no actual copies of this text, so scholars aren't even certain about its length (though many think it was also probably the longest). Of course, there are many fragments and plenty of polemics directed against the book. This suggests that it was quite popular over the centuries. The first mention of it is by Eusebius (ca 263 – 339 CE), who immediately declared it to be heretical and absurd. The Manichaeans quoted from it quite often, and were much more accepting of its theology. Gregory of Tours (ca 538 – 594 CE) found a copy and wrote a Latin abstract of the book (possibly the year before his death). Scholars think he also highly edited the text, leaving out parts that were "repetitive," adding statements that made it more orthodox, and expunging some of the more controversial parts. The text apparently flourished until the ninth century in the Eastern Church; the Western Church makes no mention of it after the sixth century. It was not included in the canon, so by the fourth century, it was relegated to the Apocryphal writings. Scholars used to call it a Gnostic text, that is, until the Nag Hammadi discovery from which they gained a better understanding of Gnostic texts. Its emphasis on martyrdom, for example, is not in line with Gnostic thinking.

We hear little about the apostle Andrew in the Gospel texts, but these Acts expound upon his ministry and extraordinary martyrdom. From the beginning, the Acts were thought to consist of two parts: the first involved his travels through Asia Minor; the second described his ministry and martyrdom in Achaea.

The author, of course, remains anonymous. He was, however, well educated. The depth of his understanding of rhetoric and philosophy allowed him to be subtle and enigmatic. Some think he was probably raised as a pagan, and found Christianity later in life. He writes with considerable skill.

In his introduction, Gregory of Tours stated that he came upon a book extolling the miracles and deeds of St. Andrew, the apostle. He claimed it was deemed to be apocryphal "because of its length." So he set about trimming it, leaving only its "virtues" and descriptions of the wonderful miracles. His interest involved not only its length, but also its "soundness of reason and purity of mind." Other fragments have been harmonized with Gregory's abstract, providing more details and expanding the ending.

Gregory stated that after the Ascension, the disciples divvied up the territory. Andrew began in the province of Achaia while Matthew went to Mermidona. Within a short time, Matthew ran into trouble, and Andrew had to rescue him. On his way back to his district, Andrew met a blind man who asked him for proper clothing and food. Andrew knew it was the devil talking and immediately healed the man of his blindness. He then ordered that the man be given new clothes. Apparently, all the people around him were willing to strip themselves in order to comply. The man received what he needed.

A series of healings follow, one right after another. Not all were physical healings. One scene involved a lad who rebuffed his mother's advances. She accused him before the proconsul, who sentenced the lad to death. Andrew prayed, and an earthquake threw the proconsul off his throne; the proconsul then saw the error of his ways, and converted. The mother "withered and died."

Many other healings involved demon possession. In one situation, seven demons were harassing bypassers. The city implored Andrew to help them. He prayed and commanded the demons to appear. They came in the form of dogs that were then banished. The dogs, however, didn't go far. In a nearby town, they attacked and killed the only son of an elderly couple. Andrew asked what the man would give him if he raised his son. Mimicking Hannah's story in Samuel, the man said he would give the son. Andrew raised the son from the dead, and the son subsequently journeyed with him for instruction.

Other healings included the stilling of a storm, prevention of incest, quenching of fire, more raisings of the dead, and the killing of serpents. Philosophers also came and debated with him, but no one could resist his teaching. This is not to say, however, that all were enamored of his teaching. One man who opposed him went to the proconsul, and charged Andrew with abolishing the ancient law and not worshipping God. The proconsul sent soldiers to arrest him. The soldiers were unsuccessful, and after sending more and more troops, the proconsul went in person. After accusing him of being a sorcerer, the proconsul had him arrested and brought to the praetorium, where Andrew was beaten and dragged by his hair. Beasts were let in, but instead of attacking Andrew, they killed all the hunters. An angel was sent to encourage Andrew. The proconsul sent in his most ferocious leopard, which ignored Andrew but promptly killed the proconsul's son. When Andrew raised the son, the proconsul was left "confounded."

The following night, Andrew had a vision in which he was standing with Peter and John upon a high mountain that shone with a great light. John told him that he would soon "drink Peter's cup." He added that he would shortly hang on a cross for "his name's sake whom you preach." Many other things were said, but Andrew said those would be made known when he came unto the sacrifice. The people with him wept, whereupon Andrew took bread, blessed it, and shared it with them.

He and his group then sailed to Achaea, where more healings occurred. This led them to Patras, where he met the proconsul, Aegeates. His wife lay dying and his intention was to kill himself the moment she expired. Andrew healed his wife, Maximilla, on the spot. That was the first of many healings in that city. Then one day, Aegeates' brother, Stratocles, arrived from Italy. One of his favorite slaves was near death. Maximilla told him about Andrew, who was brought in and immediately healed the slave. The brother converted at once. While Aegeates was away, Maximilla invited Andrew to teach daily in the praetorium.

Aegeates had left because he had been very angry with his wife since she no longer was interested in him. There are several stories highlighting the tricks used by Maximilla to keep her from "giving her due" to Aegeates. One involved substituting her maid; another had men speaking in a woman's voice complaining of "a headache." The longer Aegeates was gone, the more enraged he became. He surprised them one afternoon, and caused Andrew to be imprisoned. Then he offered Maximilla a deal. If she would agree to resume all aspects of their marriage, he would release Andrew from prison. If she refused, he would not harm her because he could do nothing that would hurt her. He would, however, greatly afflict Andrew.

Maximilla went to Andrew in grave distress and told him what had happened. Andrew encouraged her not to give in to Aegeates' demands. He had no fear for his own life or body. He would stand tall knowing that God had mercy upon him. Maximilla returned to Aegeates with her decision to remain chaste, and he made arrangements to follow through on his threats against Andrew. In the meantime, Andrew continued to teach from his prison cell. After a few days, he was scourged and then crucified. When the people heard about it, they were outraged. Stratocles tried to save him, but Andrew refused his efforts. He was ready for the cross. He was bound on the cross, but not nailed. He continued to teach while he hung on the cross. After a day and a night, the people appealed to Aegeates for mercy. Initially, he ignored them, but the crowd kept growing until two thousand (some fragments read twenty thousand) people were clamoring for justice. Hoping to placate the crowd, Aegeates promised to release Andrew.

Andrew, however, challenged him. He questioned his motives, reaffirmed his commitment to the Lord, called Aegeates many names, and basically told him to leave. The Proconsul was stunned and speechless. The crowd kept clamoring for him to release Andrew. Andrew cried out in prayer, expressing his love for Jesus and the Father. With that he "gave up the ghost." Maximilla and Stratocles buried him. Maximilla never did go back to Aegeates even after he offered her his kingdom. Despondent over her rebuff, Aegeates threw himself down from a great height and perished. The people rejoiced over his death, and ceased their

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