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A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography

Scillitan Martyrs

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Scillitan Martyrs, 12 martyrs at Carthage (one of them Felix) from the African town of Scillita. According to their Acta, one of the women, Donata, when they were called upon by the consul, Saturninus, to sacrifice, replied, "We render honour to Caesar as Caesar, but worship and prayers to God alone." On receiving their sentence they thanked God. It was Ruinart's theory that the Scillitan Martyrs suffered under Sept. Severus between 198 and 202. M. Léon Renier, an eminent French archaeologist, however, noticed that the first line of the received codices of the Acts of these martyrs gave the names of the consuls for the year of the martyrdom very variously, a fragment published by Mabillon ( Vet. Analect. t. iv. p. 155) reading, "Praesidente bis Claudiano consule." He therefore suggested that the word "bis" ought to follow a proper name indicating a second consulship, and that the word "consule" ought to be replaced by "consulibus." Finding, moreover, in the Fasti the names Praesens II. and Condianus as consuls for 180, he proposed that the first line of our Acts should be read, "Praesente bis et Condiano Consulibus." Then in 1881 Usener, a Bonn professor, published a hitherto unknown text of these Acts from a Greek MS. in the Bibl. Nat. of Paris, dating from the end of 9th cent., and explicitly naming the very two consuls Renier suggested, Praesens II. and Condianus. There is no mention of Severus. It quite correctly speaks of one emperor, since Commodus on July 17, 180, was sole emperor. The proconsul of Africa is Saturninus. He continues the policy of the previous reign, which is not yet modified by the domestic influences which led Commodus to favour the Christians. In 177 persecution had raged at Lyons. It was now the turn of Africa. Usener regarded the Gk. text discovered by him as a translation from Latin. Aubé, viewing the Gk. text of Usener as an original document and the source of all the Latin texts, replied to Usener's arguments, pointing out that Greek was largely spoken at Carthage in the latter half of 2nd cent., and urging many critical considerations from a comparison of the Latin and Greek texts which seem to support his view. For a further discussion of the question see Aubé and Usener. To the Biblical critic these Acts in both shapes are interesting, as indicating the position held by St. Paul's Epp. in 180 in the N. African church. The proconsul asked the martyr Speratus what books they kept laid up m their bookcases? He replied, Our books, or, as the Latin version puts it, the four Gospels of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in addition the Epistles of Paul the holy man. Etude sur un nouveau texte des Actes des Martyrs Scillitains (Paris, 1881); cf. Lightfoot's Ignatius, t. i. p. 507.


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Bibliography Information
Wace, Henry. Entry for 'Scillitan Martyrs'. A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography. 1911.

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Sunday, September 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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