Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Thecla, St

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THECLA, St, virgin, is commemorated by the Latin Church on September 23. The Breviary relates that she was born of illustrious parentage at Iconium, and came under the personal teaching of the apostle Paul. In her eighteenth year, having broken her engagement with Thamyris, to whom she had been betrothed, she was accused by her relations of being a Christian, and sentenced to be burned. Armed with the sign of the cross, she threw herself upon the pyre, but, the flames having been extinguished by a sudden rain, she came to Antioch, where she was exposed to the wild beasts, then fastened to bulls that she might be torn asunder, then thrown into a pit full of serpents, but from all these perils she was delivered by the grace of Christ. Her ardent faith and her holy life were the means of converting many. Returning once more to her native place, she withdrew into a mountain solitude, and became distin guished by many virtues and miracles, dying at the age of ninety. She was buried at Seleucia.

The substance of the foregoing narrative, with many other curious incidents, occurs in the very ancient apocryphal book entitled the irtpitSot of Paul and Thecla (Acta Pauli et Theclse). Tertullian tells us that this work was written by a presbyter in Asia, "out of love to Paul," but that his conduct was not ap proved, and led to his deposition. What caused special offence was its recognition of the right of women to preach and baptize. There is no doubt that the present differs very considerably from the original form of the Acta, but even now its Gnostic origin is betrayed in several features which it still retains for example, the rejection of marriage. For the text, see the Ada Apost. Apocr. of Tischendorf, who in the Prolegomena gives a large body of evidence for its great antiquity. A translation is given in the Ante-Nicene Christian Library.