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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(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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