Brill Encyclopedia of Early Christianity Online

Get access Subject: Biblical Studies and Early Christianity
General Editors: David G. HUNTER, University of Kentucky, United States, Paul J.J. van GEEST, Tilburg University, Netherlands, Bert Jan Lietaert Peerbolte, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Netherlands.

The Brill Encyclopedia of Early Christianity focuses on the history of early Christian texts, authors, ideas. Its content is intended to bridge the gap between the fields of New Testament studies and patristics, covering the whole period of early Christianity up to 600 CE. The BEEC aims to provide a critical review of the methods used in Early Christian Studies and to update the historiography.

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Pachomius of Tabennese

(4,306 words)

Author(s): Timbie, Janet
Often regarded as the founder of cenobitic monasticism, Pachomius of Tabennese (d. 347 CE) has been a difficult subject for historians and for others interested in early Christian ascetic practice. What were his contributions to organized asceticism in Egypt? Did he invent rule-based communal monasticism in Egypt? Antony appears to be a simpler problem because the Life of Antony clearly expresses the views of Athanasius of Alexandria and only a small collection of Antony’s letters survives, which provide limited information and few biographical details (Rubenson, 1995). The Life …
Date: 2020-12-17


(1,662 words)

Author(s): Ferreiro, Alberto
Pacian of Barcelona ( Barcino) was born (4th. cent. CE) and lived in a city that positioned him to be knowledgeable of the developments in the church of the greater Mediterranean. His renown was such that even the far removed (relative to Hispania) Jerome dedicated an entry to him in his famous De viris illustribus (ch. 106), and a second reference in chapter 132. This in light of the fact that Jerome had literally dozens of potential candidates to pick from for his work on prominent men. What is significant is that this brief notice is the only su…
Date: 2020-12-17


(3,790 words)

Author(s): Kahlos, Maijastina
The concept of “pagans” was developed and used by ancient Christian writers to refer to their religious others. Pagans is a concept that only exists in relation to, and in most cases in contrast with, the concept of “Christians.” Christian authors made ample use of the term “pagans,” harnessing it to the project of constructing Christianity. Pagans were used to define the confines of being Christian. Thus, the development of the concept of pagans illustrates the evolving Christian self-conscious…
Date: 2020-12-17


(3,745 words)

Author(s): Schwartz, Joshua
The name Palestine is sometimes used to describe the geographic area of the eastern Mediterranean region comprising parts of modern-day Israel and the Palestinian territories of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank (for geographic usage, see Israel). The present entry will deal with the ancient usage of the term Palestine, although at times it will be necessary for comparison and explanation to juxtapose it with the geographic entity Israel.Palestine reflects the Greek form ( Palaistinē) of biblical peleshet ( Prst/Plst of ancient Egyptian texts; Pilišti/Palaštu of Assyrian sources)…
Date: 2020-12-17


(1,979 words)

Author(s): Barclay Lloyd, Joan
Pancras (Lat. Pancratius) was 14 years old when he was martyred in Rome, beheaded near the Via Aurelia on May 12 (the year being given variously as 304, 293, or 257 CE; ( AASS, May, vol. III, May 12, 17; Drobner, 1988, 14–15). He was buried in a cemetery close to the clivus Rutarius, which linked Via Vitellia to Via Aurelia Vetus (Fiocchi Nicolai, 2000, 228). The site was not far from the gate in the Aurelian Walls called “Porta Aurelia,” which was renamed “ Porta Pancratiana” (Porta S. Pancrazio) after him from the 6th century CE onward (Pro. Bell. Goth. 1.18). Pancras is known from some monu…
Date: 2020-12-17


(1,647 words)

Author(s): Murcia, Thierry
Yeshua ben Panthera is the most ancient name attributed to Jesus in the rabbinical literature (c. 300 CE). The name “Pantera” is also known by Celsus (c. 170 CE), and several ecclesiastical authors have counted a Panthera among the ancestors of Jesus. What is the origin and historical value of this tradition?Origin of the NameIn his Against Celsus (c. 240 CE), Origen frequently mentions a certain Panthera, presented by the Greek antichristian Celsus (170 CE) as the father of Jesus. Many hypotheses have emerged to explain this name. The two most popular are the following:Firstly, Panthera…
Date: 2020-12-17


(3,491 words)

Author(s): Erlemann, Kurt
The Greek word parousia (Lat. adventus) is an early Christian technical term denoting the coming of the Messiah (Matt 3:10–12) as well as the eschatological coming of the Son of Man or the second coming of Christ (24 times, esp. 1 Thess; 1 Cor; Matt 24; 2 Thess 2; 2 Pet 3). Synonyms are: “the day” (of God, Christ, salvation, judgment; Matt 24:42; Rom 2; 1 Thess 5:2; 2 Cor 6:2 etc.), epiphaneia (esp. Pastoral Epistles; 2 Thess 2:8), as well as apokalypsis of Christ (Rom 2:5; 8:19; 1 Cor 1:7; see Oepke, 1954; Plevnik, 1997). On the parousia of Satan, compare 2 Thess 2:9 (Mell, 2012). Parousia (from parei…
Date: 2020-12-17

Passio Martyrum Scillitanorum

(2,003 words)

Author(s): Hunink, Vincent
The Acta Martyrum Scillitanorum, also known as Passio Martyrum Scillitanorum, is the earliest extant non-biblical Christian Latin text, composed in Carthage and dating from the early 2nd century CE.The short text (counting merely 360 words) records the interrogation by the Roman proconsul Saturninus of a group of Christians from the African town of Scilli, apparently accused of adhering to the Christian religion. It ends with the formal death sentence as pronounced by the proconsul, a public announcement of this death sentence, and a succinct description of the actual execution.Bei…
Date: 2020-12-17

Passion of Perpetua and Felicity

(3,666 words)

Author(s): Heffernan, Thomas J.
The Passion of Perpetua and Felicity ( Martyrium vel Passio Perpetuae et Felicitatis; trans. Heffernan, 2012) is one of the earliest and most significant of the Acta Martyrum ( Acts of the Martyrs) genre. It is unique in all the Acts of the Martyrs because it contains four distinct voices – two of which claim to be autobiographical, and one of these is that of the upper-class educated woman Vibia Perpetua, whose reflections, constitute the first autobiographical memoir by a women in the West. Perpetua’s account is redolent with concern f…
Date: 2020-12-17


(4,357 words)

Author(s): Colautti, Federico
Passover ( Pesaḥ; Pesach ) and the exodus story seem to be inseparable. The Pentateuch has connected these two traditions so intimately that only through attentive reading can the tensions and incongruities within the exodus story be discerned. Ancient authors took for granted that all references to Passover were necessarily related to the exodus story. Modern scholars, certainly, have distinguished different layers of redaction in Exod 1–15: that is, this text is the product of a combination of diff…
Date: 2020-12-17


(7,617 words)

Author(s): van Geest, Paul
The words “patrology” and “patristics” are derived from the Latin noun pater (“father”). In early Christianity, this word was used to refer to the bishops as being primarily responsible for the teaching of the faith (Altaner, 1960). From the 4th century CE onward, the term was no longer exclusively reserved for bishops. Vincent of Lérins (d. before 450 CE), in his Commonitorium ( Memoriale), summarizes the characteristics that a father, a “church father,” had to meet. A church father expressed the ancient doctrine, was orthodox, had a holy life, and his doc…
Date: 2020-12-17


(1,451 words)

Author(s): Kleinkopf, Kathryn
Paula (May 5, 347–Jan 26, 404 CE) was born in Rome to a wealthy senatorial family. Her mother, Blesilla, purportedly descended from the Gracchi and the Scipiones, while her father, Rogatus, traced his lineage back to Agamemnon (Jer. Ep. 108.1.1; 108.13.1). While little is known of Paula’s childhood, she married Iulius Toxotius in the 360s CE when she was still a young teenager. From this union resulted five children: Blesilla, Paulina, Eustochium, Rufina, and Toxotius.In 381 CE, the death of her husband allowed Paula to choose celibacy and to dedicate herself entirely…
Date: 2020-12-17

Paul and Thecla, Acts of

(3,714 words)

Author(s): Barrier, Jeremy W.
The Acts of Paul and Thecla is the name given to a subsection of the 2nd century CE Christian literary work known as the Acts of Paul. The Acts of Paul and Thecla highlights the travels of the apostle Paul along with a female traveling companion by the name of Thecla (or Thekla) as they passed through the central Anatolian towns of Iconium and Antioch. The setting for the story presumes that the events are taking place sometime around the middle of the 1st century CE, yet most attempts at historically reconciling this story wi…
Date: 2020-12-17

Paulinus of Nola

(2,926 words)

Author(s): Roesch, Laura Kathleen
Meropius Pontius Paulinus (c. 352/353–431 CE) was born to an aristocratic Roman family in the Gallic provinces. He enjoyed the benefits that attended such elite status, including an extensive education with Ausonius in Bordeaux, one of the leading teachers of the 4th century CE. Paulinus’ relationship with his teacher was deep and lasting, despite their eventual parting of ways concerning classical and Christian literary models (Paul. Carm. 10; Ep. 16). Following his education, the young Paulinus embarked upon a career path suitable for someone of his rank, beco…
Date: 2020-12-17

Paulinus of Pella

(1,800 words)

Author(s): Waarden, Joop van
Paulinus of Pella (376/377–after 459/460 CE) was an Aquitanian landed nobleman with properties in Gaul and Greece, grandson of Ausonius, who ended his life in precarious circumstances due both to a family feud and to his not being able to cope with the disruptive Germanic presence in Gaul. He is the author of an autobiographical poem giving thanks for God’s providence, the Eucharisticos, which he finalized at the age of 83, and putatively also of a short poem called the Oratio. The Eucharisticos makes him one of the best-known Gallic individuals of late antiquity, whose work …
Date: 2020-12-17

Paul, Philemon

(2,978 words)

Author(s): Focant, Camille
The shortest Pauline letter is also one of the least known. Its theological interest is poor. It looks like a private letter in which Paul intercedes with a friend to solve a domestic problem between him and his slave. In addition, the letter suffers from some opacity about the nature of the problem. So that many wonder: how could this private and obscure letter have been incorporated into the biblical canon? The wide attention it has nevertheless received in recent research is probably due to t…
Date: 2020-12-17

Paul, Philippians

(5,808 words)

Author(s): Focant, Camille
Sent from prison, the letter to the Philippians is the most poignant among those Paul wrote. He reveals his feelings and emotions more than anywhere else. This time, he does not write to fight against a misguided interpretation of the gospel advanced by false brothers (Galatians), nor to develop his own synthesis on justification by faith (Rom.), nor to meet problems faced by a community he founded (1 Corinthians). Philippians appears more selfless in some way. It is the letter of a friend who t…
Date: 2020-12-17


(1,315 words)

Author(s): Kleinkopf, Kathryn
Pelagia (late 2nd, and early 3rd cent. CE) was an Antiochene virgin who lived presumably around the time of the Diocletianic persecutions in 303 CE (Burrus, 2003, 149). She resided in a house with her mother and sisters, where they dedicated themselves to a life of chastity and asceticism. When Pelagia was 15 years old, a mob came to her home in order to haul her out onto the street and possibly to court (Ambr. Virg. 3.33; Chry. Pelag. 1). Both Ambrose of Milan and John Chrysostom, her only biographers, cast these aggressors as would-be rapists who sought to defile the bo…
Date: 2020-12-17


(5,876 words)

Author(s): Malavasi, Giulio
The Pelagians are the followers of Pelagius, condemned as a heretic in the 5th century CE. This term, however, was not used by any followers of Pelagius, but by their adversaries, such as Jerome ( Ep. 154.3) and especially Augustine of Hippo. At the beginning of the Pelagian controversy, Augustine preferred to keep the anonymity of his adversaries, or to name some of them individually, never using the term Pelagian. For instance, in Augustine’s first anti-Pelagian treatise, De peccatorum meritis et remissione, only Pelagius is mentioned by name, but in a laudatory manner for…
Date: 2020-12-17


(5,677 words)

Author(s): Malavasi, Giulio
Pelagius was probably born around 350 CE in Britain (Aug. Ep. 186.1; Marius Mercator, Commonitorium lectori adversum haeresim Pelagii et Caelestii vel etiam scripta Iuliani in ACO; Oros. Lib. apol. 12) or, less probably, in Ireland, according to Jerome ( Comm. Jer. 3, prologue 4). He is described by his adversaries as a robust and fat man (Oros. Lib. apol. 31; Jer. Comm. Jer. 1, prologue 4; 3, prologue 3), though the reliability of this description cannot be completely assured. Nonetheless, Augustine of Hippo recognized with respect his Christian fai…
Date: 2020-12-17

Pelagius I

(1,720 words)

Author(s): Neil, Bronwen
Pelagius I (556–561 CE) was long thought to have held the see of Rome from 555 to 560 CE, but the correct dates were established by P.M. Gassó and C.M. Batlle (1956), editors of the sole modern edition of Pelagius’ letters. The confusion over his dates is a sign of the tumult of the times. In the first half of the 6th century CE, socioeconomic conditions had worsened in Italy, as the Gothic war left many dioceses unable to provide for their clergy or others in their district. Nevertheless, 96 le…
Date: 2020-12-17


(3,256 words)

Author(s): Dunn (†), James D.G.
Luke’s account of the first Christian Pentecost (Acts 2:1–13) is one of his most famous and influential narratives. When the feast of Pentecost dawned, the disciples were all together (presumably all 120; see Acts 1:15?). Suddenly a sound like a violent wind comes from heaven and fills the whole house where they were sitting (2:2). And “divided tongues, just like fire,” appear to them, one sitting on each of them. They are all “filled with the Holy Spirit” and begin to speak with “other tongues”…
Date: 2020-12-17

Perfect Discourse, Excerpt from the

(1,234 words)

Author(s): Bull, Christian
The eighth and final text in NHC 6 is a Coptic translation of an excerpt from The Perfect Discourse, a dialogue between Hermes Trismegistus and his disciples, Asclepius, Tat, and Ammon; this dialogue is said to occur in the inner sanctuary of an Egyptian temple. The full treatise was originally written in Greek around the 3rd century CE, but is only preserved in a Latin translation, commonly known as the Asclepius, which was transmitted alongside the philosophical works of Apuleius of Madaura. This fact led to the now mostly abandoned idea that Apuleius was the La…
Date: 2020-12-17

Persecution of Christians

(6,379 words)

Author(s): Simmons, Michael Bland
Christianity was born in an atmosphere of persecution and hostility. According to the New Testament, Herod attempted to kill Jesus shortly after his birth in Bethlehem to prevent the rise of the messianic kingdom that the prophets of the Old Testament had predicted (Matt 2:13–23). All of the canonical gospels portray an acute hostility between Jesus and his disciples and various Jewish sects of 1st-century CE Palestine. At the beginning of his Gospel, John informs his readers that Jesus was reje…
Date: 2020-12-17

Peter and the Twelve Apostles, Acts of

(3,227 words)

Author(s): Czachesz, István
The Acts of Peter and the Twelve Apostles is the first tractate in NHC 6, written in the Sahidic dialect of Coptic. There are indications that the Coptic text was translated from Greek (Schenke, 1992, 413). The unique style of the writing has prompted different suggestions about its genre. H.-M. Schenke (1992, 414) compared it to Lucian of Samosata’s True Story; A.L. Molinari (2000, 83–92), referring to Macrobius’ Commentary on the Dream of Scipio, categorized it as a fabulous narrative ( narratio fabulosa); M.J. Smith (2002) argued that the text is a parable. According to H.…
Date: 2020-12-17

Peter, Apocalypse of

(2,836 words)

Author(s): Kraus, Thomas J.
Among the Christian texts outside the canon of the New Testament, the Apocalypse of Peter (or Revelation of Peter) has been the most popular apocalypse and one of the most influential texts at all. Its depiction of heaven and the detailed description of hell, of sins and punishment, had a deep impact on apocalyptic texts to follow, above all on Apocalypse of Paul and Dante Alighieriʼs Divina Commedia. The Apocalypse of Peter tells about Peter’s tour of heaven and hell guided by the risen Christ (Greek version) or Jesus unveiling a prophetic description of future ev…
Date: 2020-12-17

Peter Chrysologus

(1,436 words)

Author(s): Koperski, Andrew R.
Peter Chrysologus (c. 380–c. 450 CE), “the golden-worded,” was bishop of Ravenna, prominent during the first half of the 5th century CE. Born in nearby Imola and ostensibly spending most of his life in Ravenna, this churchman is mainly known to us through his extensive homiletic collection, which offers insight into the development of Latin theology and rhetoric, as well as a more general window into the 5th-century CE Ravennan society in which Chrysologus moved.BiographyAs for many premodern figures, the basic facts of Chrysologus’ life remain open to some question a…
Date: 2020-12-17

Peter (Patriarch of Jerusalem)

(1,780 words)

Author(s): Segni, Leah Di
Peter occupied the patriarchal see of Jerusalem from 524 to 552 CE. Nothing is known of his background except that he came from Eleutheropolis in southern Judea and had a sister, Hesychia, who lived in Jerusalem in the 520s CE (Cyr.Scyt. Vita Sab. 68). He succeeded John III (516–524 CE; Bishops of Rome, Pre-Constantinian), who had been a faithful follower of Sabas and Theodosius, the leaders of the monks of the Judean Desert. From Cyril’s statement that the new patriarch continued showing Sabas the same zealous attendance as his predece…
Date: 2020-12-17
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