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European Science Foundation ranking A

Zeitschrift für Antikes Christentum / Journal of Ancient Christianity

Ed. by Brennecke, Hanns Christof / Drecoll, Volker Henning / Heil, Uta / Markschies, Christoph

Together with Elm, Susanna / Gemeinhardt, Peter / Meier, Mischa / Perrone, Lorenzo / Pollmann, Karla / Riedweg, Christoph / Schöllgen, Georg / Williams, Rowan / Wischmeyer, Wolfgang

3 Issues per year

CiteScore 2017: 0.14

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2017: 0.108
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2017: 0.447

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Volume 19, Issue 2


Wer ist der Jüngling? Die Taufe des Gundaphor in den Thomasakten und der Kult des Asklepios

Clemens Leonhard
Published Online: 2015-10-22 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/zac-2015-0020


The Acts of Thomas relate the Apostle Thomas’ missionary journey to India and his missionary successes. The narrative tells that Thomas baptized important persons of the Indian society. The description of king Gundaphor’s baptism ends in a vision: “And when they had come up out of the water, a youth appeared to them, and he was holding a lighted taper; and the light of the lamps became pale through its light.”1 The following essay discusses the question of the identification of this literary figure of the young man in the context of similar evidence from the cult of Asclepius. It also reflects on the explanation of this figure from a methodological point of view. It analyzes the modern perception of these texts and its contribution to the understanding of the ancient liturgies of baptism and their ritual shape. While the rituals, procedures, places, and notions of the cult of Asclepius were firmly embedded in Christian world views of late antiquity and the early middle ages, the allusions to the cult of Asclepius in the Acts of Thomas rather suggest the reverse situation for that earlier epoch: The Acts of Thomas explain Christian baptism in terms of the theory of the cult of Asclepius. As it becomes difficult, furthermore, to distinguish between elements of ritual description and ritual explanation in the guise of the narrative, these observations advise caution in the use of the descriptions of the liturgies in the Acts of Thomas for reconstructions of the history of Christian baptism.

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Published Online: 2015-10-22

Published in Print: 2015-10-01

Citation Information: Zeitschrift für Antikes Christentum / Journal of Ancient Christianity, Volume 19, Issue 2, Pages 237–259, ISSN (Online) 1612-961X, ISSN (Print) 0949-9571, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/zac-2015-0020.

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