Sun, Nov 21 | San Antonio Convention Center

Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting

Elizabeth presents her paper "Subsuming Sophia: Thecla’s Legacy as a Means of Gnostic Erasure" at the Christian Apocrypha section of the SBL Annual Meeting.
Tickets are not on sale
Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting

Time & Location

Nov 21, 2:00 PM – Nov 22, 12:30 PM
San Antonio Convention Center, 900 E Market St, San Antonio, TX 78205, USA

About the event

In a fifth- or sixth-century homily attributed to Pseudo-Chrysostom, the panegyrist describes the plight of Thecla as she is persecuted by a demonic suitor. “As the noble woman continued on her way, the suitor, with the lewdness of a horse, lying in wait behind her, shouted for joy at the thought of seizing her…The maiden’s help was quick; immediately she became invisible and the suitor went away…The bride presents herself to the Bridegroom, perhaps singing: ‘Truly my help is from the God who saves the upright in heart’ (Ps 7:10).” Of course, nowhere in the second-century Acts of Paul and Thecla does Thecla become invisible, nor does she sing psalms. Such references in the Pseudo-Chrystostom homily have puzzled commentators. Yet there is a clear intertext with this scene: the vastly understudied gnostic treatise known as the Pistis Sophia. Like Thecla, the heroine Pistis Sophia must escape a demonic force who is likened to both a horse and a lion; like Thecla, Pistis Sophia cries out for help in the words of Psalm 7; like Thecla, Pistis Sophia is saved and then able to escape her persecutors by becoming invisible. Rhetorical connections between Thecla and Pistis Sophia seem to abound in the Pseudo-Chrysostom homily and other early Christian literature, suggesting patristic familiarity with the gnostic Sophia myth. For example, although Thecla’s status as “bride” is rejected in the second-century Acts of Thecla, Methodius’ late third-century Symposium presents her as the head virginal “bride of Christ” who leads the way to the “bridal chamber.” Thecla even becomes the mouthpiece for Methodius’ condemnation of Valentinus. Was the eventual orthodox embrace of Thecla partly a response to the popularity of the gnostic Sophia myth? This paper explores whether the legacy of an early Christian saint may have been utilized to help subsume and erase the pervasive Sophia myth in early Christianity.

Share this event