« Probus, Sextus Anicius Petronius Prochorus, a deacon Proclus, a Montanist Teacher »

Prochorus, a deacon

Prochorus (Πρόχορος), the name of one of the seven deacons in Acts vi. 5. Later tradition makes him one of the 70 disciples, and afterwards bp. of Nicomedia in Bithynia (cf. the list of the 70 in the so-called Dorotheus).

Under his name has been preserved an apocryphal History of the Apostle John, first published in the Greek text by Michael Neander in the appendix to the 3rd ed. of his Graeco-Latin version of Luther's Short Catechism, along with a Latin trans. by Sebastian Castalio (Catechesis Martini Lutheri parva graeco-latina postremum recognita, Basileae, 1567, pp. 526–663).

The narrative begins with the parting of the apostles and St. John's mission into Asia. In punishment for a first refusal to go by sea John suffers shipwreck, but arrives safely at Ephesus, accompanied by Prochoros his disciple. Here he takes service in a public bath; restores to life the owner's son, who has been slain by a demon, destroys the image of Diana (Artemis) and expels the demon which had harboured there; is banished himself, but soon returns to be again exiled to Patmos by command of the emperor. On the voyage thither he restores a drowned man to life, stills a tempest, and heals a sick guardsman. The greater part of the subsequent narrative is occupied with the wondrous deeds of the apostle in his banishment, his victorious encounters with demons and sorcerers, his refutation of a learned Jew in a public dispute, numerous miracles of healing and raising from the dead, and triumphant issues out of every conflict in which his persecuting enemies involve him. After a residence in Patmos of 15 years he has converted almost the whole island. Receiving permission to return to Ephesus, he first retires to a solitary place in the island (κατάπαυσις) and there dictates his gospel to Prochoros, and when finished leaves it behind as a memorial of his work in Patmos. He then goes by ship to Ephesus, and dwells there in the house of Domnus, whom he had formerly in his youth raised to life. After residing 26 years more at Ephesus he buries himself alive. Prochoros and six other disciples dig his grave, and when he has laid himself in it, cover him with earth. On the grave being subsequently reopened, the apostle has disappeared.

This writing of the alleged Prochoros is, in its main contents at least, in no way a recension of the old Gnostic Acts of John, but the independent work of some Catholic author. Though the writer makes some use of the Gnostic Acts, he can hardly have known them in their original text. Its purpose seems to be to supplement the Ephesian histories of the apostle which already existed in a Catholic recession by a detailed account of his deeds and adventures in Patmos. The author can have had no local interest in its composition. His notions of the situation, size, and general characteristics of the island, which he certainly never saw, are most extraordinary. In constructing his narrative he has made only partial use of older materials. By far the most of these narrations of the pretended Prochoros are free inventions of his own. None betray any leaning towards Gnosticism. The author shews no tendency to ascetic views except where he draws from older sources; and even in discourses attributed to the apostle the theological element is quite subordinate. He takes no notice of the Apocalypse, and, in opposition to the older tradition, places the composition of the gospel in Patmos. The account given of this is certainly not derived from the Gnostic Περίοδοι.

The date of composition cannot be later than the middle of 5th cent., since it is made use of, not only in the Chronicon Paschale (pp. 761, 470, ed. Bonn; cf. Zahn, pp. 162 sqq.), but also in the accounts of the apostles attributed to Dorotheus, Hippolytus, and others. The terminus a quo is the end of the 4th or beginning of the 5th cent., since, from that time onwards and not before, Catholic writers appear to have known the Gnostic histories of the apostles. With this, moreover; agrees the fact that the author can assume a universal diffusion of Christianity in Ephesus and the Aegean Archipelago. It is more difficult to determine the place of composition. The 862author is certainly not a native of Asia Minor, but rather perhaps of Antioch, or the coast region of Syria and Palestine. He is better acquainted with the topography of those parts than with the neighbourhood of Ephesus. Of his personal circumstances we can only say that he certainly was not a monk; perhaps he was a married cleric, possibly a layman. Cf. Zahn, Acta Joannis (Erlangen, 1880); Lipsius, Die Apocryphen Apostelgeschichten, i. 355–408.

[R.A.L.]

« Probus, Sextus Anicius Petronius Prochorus, a deacon Proclus, a Montanist Teacher »
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