Various Heresies (Transcript)

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Chris Sims: "Go! Say unto Simon, Peter, because of whom thou fledest out of Judea, waiteth for thee at the door." The Acts of Peter, chapter 4.

Hello, friends and neighbors, and welcome to Apocryphals, the podcast where two non-believers read through the Bible, but we try not to be jerks about it. My name is Chris Sims, and with me, as always, is the other set of footprints, Benito Cereno. Benito, how are you today?

Benito Cereno:I am excellent today because I'm very excited about the text that we will be covering in this very fine episode. How about you?

C: Can I just say, they're hard to read. We've been reading a modern translation of the Bible, which is very easy to read, very simply put, very nicely translated. What we have read today, since we're getting into the actual apocrypha for the very first time, right? Like, nobody counts this.

B: Yeah, this is real little A apocrypha. This is not a part of anyone's canon. Like, last week, the stuff we did, big A Apocrypha, that's Deuterocanon, secondary canon, like the Orthodox and the Catholic churches, they're into the stuff we read last week. Nobody considers this scripture what we're looking at today.

C: Yeah, so if you go and find it, and there's links to it on our website, it's very difficult to read. It's kind of not translated super well in a lot of places. It's worth it, trust me. Because today we are doing the Apocryphal Acts of Peter and Acts of Peter and Paul, and they're great. We're gonna get so many wizard battles, so many miracle offs. We're gonna get a talking dog, and that's not the wildest thing that happens in this.

B: Yeah, these books are very wild. So wild, in fact, that our listeners are gonna be like Moses, because they're gonna be spending 40 years wandering in that wilderness. That's how wild they are. That wild.

C: But before we get into that, I do have a little announcement here at the top of the show. If all went according to plan, you've already seen it, but our good friend Jordan Witt did some new art for us. So no longer are we Peter and Paul just getting real close, just hugging, you know, in the way that bros do. We are now, you and me, you as a bishop, me as a snake handler, just the way it always happens.

B: Just like in real life.

C: So thank you to Jordan and check it out. have a larger version of that on the Tumblr as well if you want to see it. And you can always check out Jordan at @jordannwitt is her Twitter and she's great.

B: Jordan is great. I agree. And the people all said, "Amen." I had a couple of things I wanted to mention up here at the top of the show before we got too much into the thick of it. So as you know, Chris, the show updates on Sunday mornings, 10.05, church time. I have had people ask me that, "When do new episodes go up?" They go up at church time, y'all. That's where they go up.

C: They go up at church time unless I forget to set them to go up at church time, in which case they go up on Saturday night as a nice little treat for everybody.

B: That's true, that did happen with episode two. But as it happens, you know, well, if you listen to episode zero, you know that I'm probably not usually up at church time on Sundays, and I do tend to sleep late 'cause I don't have anywhere to go till the afternoon. But this past Sunday, had a little bit of a stress dream because in my mind, I knew that the new episode was gonna be going up and I was like, oh man, I gotta be, I gotta get up and be ready to tweet about the new episode or retweet Chris about the new episode or whatever. And so I'm kind of in and out of sleep thinking about the new episode coming out and how people are gonna react to the new episode. Had a little bit of a stress dream about the show that the new episode had come out and someone wrote a review of the show as a whole, which was just an animated gif of like three cartons of milk in a row that had been like slashed through the middle such that they were violently spewing milk out like like a like a fire hydrant of milk.

C: Who can who can interpret this dream? Shall we call Daniel?

B: Yeah we could call Daniel in but on the other hand I'm pretty sure I got this one on lock. Pretty sure it was a little bit of stress of me going like oh this is definitely another podcast about two white guys just pontificating for 90 minutes. And someone's review was, here it is, couple more milk jugs, spewing some milk out. Very good podcast.

C: A couple more milk jugs. That's us. Honestly, it really is.

B: Yep. That's what it is. Just pure, two percent, baby. Very good. One other note before we get started, this one is an issue you brought up to me that I wanted to hit on. In the last week's episode, I did say concerning a couple of the figures from the story we're looking at, namely Daniel, the primary figure of the books we were reading, and also Darius the Mede and maybe a couple of others, where I said some things like flat out, I said, you know, Daniel didn't exist, right? Darius the Mede did not exist. And you pointed out to me that saying something like that as flatly is maybe a little contrary to our mission statement in which we're trying not to be jerks about things. And obviously I want people who do very much believe in the books that we're reading, I want them to feel comfortable and don't want them to feel like we're saying you're an idiot who believes in made up ghost people or whatever.

C: 'Cause you can get that in any other podcast where two white guys are talking about anything.

B: Absolutely, no shortage of that. But also, if people did listen to episode zero, I hope they know that from where I'm coming from, that was me just trying to, trying to offer both the traditional view and the historical view of a lot of these things. And that was, in my case, trying to balance out the traditional view we'd been talking about with the more historical view, which is to say: historical scholars believe that there's not historical evidence for figures such as Daniel and Darius the Mede and those kind of things. It's more what I'm trying to offer. And so, also, if you listen to that episode, I hope people would realize that to me, a guy who in a real way believes in, say, for example, Superman and Santa Claus, to me the historicity of Daniel is probably the least important thing about him. But nevertheless, for some people that would be a lot more important.

And so I've decided that in the future I'm going to try and institute a new set of terminology that I'm going to try and be consistent and use instead of saying that someone doesn't exist, instead of saying that Daniel didn't exist. The distinction I'm going to try and make is strictly one between traditional versus historical perspectives. And so I'm gonna refer to people not as real and unreal, but rather there are gonna be people who are Julius Caesar real, like Nebuchadnezzar, and there's gonna be people who are Robin Hood real, like say Daniel or Darius the Mede. That is to say the historical record does not necessarily reflect them as literally real people. However, they do have an influence, they do have an impact. And if you choose to believe in them, dope. So Caesar real, Robin Hood real. New terminology for this very good show that we are building new traditions for every day.

C: I like that. And I like that we're doing that on this particular episode. Because, spoiler warning, towards the end of this episode, the Justice League shows up. Like the actual Justice League. Like Batman and them.

B: Yeah, we're covering some stuff that does not even reach the level of Robin Hood real particularly today. But yeah, we're comfortably within that realm. Even the literal Caesar who appears in the stories we're reading today is barely Caesar real in the way that he's depicted.

C: But there's another really good reason that that comes up here in this episode. And it came up a little bit in the last episode when we were talking about Bel and the Dragon and Susanna. There's a a lot of art out there. You posted a bunch of Daniel and the dragon, which was great because medieval people thought drawing a dragon about the size of a dog was a really good idea. And I love that. That's a dragon I want. I love an adorable little guy who just wants to eat his cakes.

B: Yeah, eating cakes and all of them. Yeah, it's great.

C: There's a very famous piece of art based on the book of Susanna by Artemisia.

B: Yep.

C: And that goes to show that even though these stories are not considered strictly canonical, and like you said, those are deuterocanonical, those are pretty close for a lot of people.

B: Right.

C: There's gonna be a lot of medieval art based on these stories that we're gonna be talking about today, which are definitely not in your copy of the Bible.

B: Sure, and the thing is, these stories that we're reading today, despite their apocryphal nature, are nevertheless hugely influential, even up to today, in terms of what people do actually believe. Right? We're going to hit some things and you're going to go, "Oh yeah, I know that fact. I know how Peter died. I know how Paul died." Right? Those stories aren't in the canonical Bible. They come from a tradition like what we're reading now. So the things you people know or think they know about Peter and Paul, and even if they think they know things about Simon Magus, for example, ideas that they have, those don't come from the canonical Bible. They come from these stories that, despite never having been part of any kind of canon, were hugely influential, hugely believed, hugely accepted. And so they affect us even today, not just the stories we're going to do now, but we're going to hit all sorts of different apocryphal stories that do influence thought and belief even through today.

Like, for example, we were talking on Twitter, you said, "Hey, the harrowing of hell, that's not in the Bible." And the fact is, hell is barely in the Bible. And so a lot of that stuff comes from stuff outside of canon and that's some stuff we're going to be exploring as we keep going on the show.

C: Yeah, so let's go ahead and get into it. Like I said, we're going to be reading The Acts of Peter and Paul, and we're also going to be reading The Acts of Peter. They are available online if you want to follow along. I suggest you do. They're super dope.

B: Right.

C: But we're not going to be going through these in chronological order. The Acts of Peter is the earlier text, as you have told me. And an easy way to look at it is that the Acts of Peter and Paul is sort of like the modern age retelling where it's a little more realistic. It's the, it's the Dark Knight.

B: That feels real.

C: To the Acts of Peter's Batman 66 if that makes any sense. So we're gonna start in with Acts of Peter and Paul but let's go through this. Where do these come from?

B: Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles is a whole genre and will hit tons of other ones. Created to answer the question, you know, Acts of the Apostles is over, what comes later? We ended the book with Paul still in the middle of his mission. He's at the height of his power. We know he's going to die eventually, but in the Acts of the Apostles, we only see one of the 12 apostles martyred, and that's James, James the son of Zebedee, not James the Just. But we know that eventually, according to tradition at least, all but one of the apostles are martyred. And so, where did these stories come from?

Well, they come from these apocryphal acts of the apostles. And they're a whole genre because people wanted to write about them. They eventually become... They're very popular literature, right? Because once Christianity is the main thing, it's the thing that it's cool to write about and to talk about. And so it becomes the source of literature and that's where you start to get, they're even called apostolic romances because they are not romance in the sense of, you know, like say a Chuck Tingle romance. That's my go-to romance author, but romance in the sense of like swashbuckling, Robin Hood, King Arthur style adventures with, you know, pirates and what have you. That kind of adventure story, that kind of romance.

But while we're on the topic of the apostles and how important they are. It did make me think of a note. I wanted to give a shout out to friend of the show Ben Rowe, friend of the show Ben Rowe, who's the co-host of the excellent podcast that I recommend, Scream Scene, which he co-hosts with his wife Sarah. He's been very good with each episode to send a couple of notes and always say, "Hey, here's a thing maybe you should think about, or..." And he's right.

A couple of notes on the apostles. One, your question was about how strange it is to see the apostles doing full-on miracles, raising the dead, and that kind of stuff, right? You may recall that being a question you had. He makes the excellent point that the reason why that's so important, and we'll see that here as well, obviously, as Peter has several miracle-offs, the reason why it's so important is to make a distinction between Christianity as opposed to the cults of other first-century miracle workers like, for example, Apollonius of Tyana or Rabbi Mendoza who were also guys going around the eastern half of the Roman Empire doing miracles and that kind of stuff. And then also to separate it from other mystery cults in terms of what they can do because it's not just we have one guy who does miracles, you should pay attention to him. It's: he did miracles but now we as his followers can also do this. And so that's your idea of, so to speak, the apostolic succession. Jesus passes this stuff on, and now it continues even without our main guy. And so that's an important point why it's so important to show the apostles being able to do miracles as well.

C: So again, not to be disrespectful, but there is kind of a straight line between Peter going around and raising the dead and giving the power of speech to things that we will see later, and say the power team tearing a phone book in half and telling you that it's because they can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

B: I would say absolutely, yeah, there's a straight line from that to this, yeah, for sure. Another excellent note from Ben Rowe is that he sent me a link to a really interesting article that I'll link on our Tumblr, answering the question, "How did Paul get his Roman citizenship?" And the thesis of this paper that he sent me is that maybe Paul was related to Herod. Maybe he was in Herod's family, not directly, but like a cousin or something like that, and that might be why. And there's a couple of compelling pieces of evidence to consider that. I'll try and post that up on our Tumblr so you guys can see if you want to read more about Paul and maybe his connection to Herod.

But a couple of other things that he pointed out. One question that he answered that you had, we were talking about the Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Why are they in that order? And I said they were almost chronological, but not.

C: I'm sorry, I'm sorry. Could you rap that?

B: Could I rap that? I could. The first four books that come along, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and John. And why are they in that order? I said they were almost chronological, but not. Well, Ben pointed out, quite rightly, that they thought that was chronological. They used to believe that Mark was a summary of Matthew rather than the source for Matthew and so they they thought they had them in the correct chronological order and it's only through later scholarship that we realized that Mark is actually the earlier--the earliest of the four Gospels.

So that answers that question and then finally one more point that he had that I was right on the tip of mentioning I almost got to it from last week's episode this one has nothing to do with the Apostles but rather the story of Bel and the dragon he points out Daniel versus the dragon is actually a Jewish appropriation and retelling of the story of the god or the hero the Babylonian hero Marduk fighting the dragon Tiamat and so we even see Bel Marduk I talked about him that's who that's who Bel is and so that would have been a Babylonian story of a Babylonian hero deity fighting a dragon and that's retold and even to a certain extent and euhemerized for a Jewish audience, that's a term in which you take a mythological story and you remove the mythological elements from it. So it's not fully euhemerized, but partially, because it's no longer a god versus a dragon, but a prophet versus probably a large snake or a jackal or something.

C: A dog.

B: A dog.

C: A big old friendly lizard dog.

B: That loves cake.

C: Who will eat whatever cakes you give him.

B: Yeah, absolutely. So yeah, so Acts of Peter and Paul here we get to further adventures of the two main dudes of Christianity. Why wouldn't you want to read those? And yeah, Peter and Paul, this is a discussion you and I were having outside of the show. I asked you if you knew when you look at art, like for example, the cover art that we have had up till now on the podcast, how can you tell which one's Peter and which one's Paul? And this is something that I can give as a little bit of an art history lesson for our listeners, because like I said, Peter and Paul, they are the two main dudes of Christianity. They're everywhere and they're everywhere together. If you see two saints, it's a very good chance that it's those two guys.

One way that you can identify different saints is to look for iconographic signifiers. And Peter and Paul both have those. Peter and Paul both have beards, but you can usually identify Paul because he has a long beard, like a philosopher. That was symbolic of his role as the great philosopher of Christianity. So he has a long philosopher's beard. He's also generally, but not always, he's generally depicted as bald or balding, which is an important and very strange plot point in Peter and Paul. Peter has a short beard, like a blue collar working man. He was a fisherman, and so he's got a shorter beard. Peter is also frequently shown holding keys, sometimes large, comically large, oversized keys to represent the fact that Jesus told him that he would have the keys to heaven and hell. Paul frequently is carrying a sword, which is not uncommon for saints to be carrying the instrument of their own demise, and not to spoil the book we're about to read, but Paul does get beheaded, and so he's frequently shown with the sword. Now that I'm saying that, I realize it might also be metaphorical for his role in scripture, the sword representing the sword of the spirit, aka the Bible. So if you see two guys with beards, one's got a long beard, one's got a short beard. Long beard is Paul, short beard is Peter. Keep that in mind. So when you see our two dudes rubbing faces in our cover art, you know which one's Peter and which one's Paul.

C: So how do we know that this is expanded universe stuff and not the more important story?

B: Well, for one thing, yeah, this one's written really late. Possibly one source I found says after the fourth century, other sources I've seen say maybe, you know, second or third century, but this one is quite late. And one thing that distinguishes Apocrypha, both capital A and lowercase a Apocrypha from things that are considered primary canon, is how much other books in the primary canon refer to it. And if something is not commonly quoted or referred to, that's generally taken as a serious criterion when they were considering what went into canon. But yeah, in this case, not only because it's very late, but ultimately because this and its source, Acts of Peter, were both deemed heretical for various reasons. Sometimes it can be very small plot points, but sometimes these early Christian fathers would look at things and they would say that that's too wild. Or very frequently, these things would include Gnostic ideas, and we'll talk about Gnosticism in just a second, but various heresies usually are why things don't make canon. Yeah.

C: Various heresies.

B: Various heresies.

C: Should have been the name of this podcast. (laughing)

B: It's too late now, but yeah, you're not wrong.

C: Is that it? Is that all the preamble? Do we know who wrote these?

B: We don't. Most of these are gonna be anonymous. Some of them are pseudonymous, written under pseudonyms, and that's one of the things that distinguishes something from being strictly apocryphal to being pseudepigrapha, and we'll look at examples of pseudepigrapha later. Pseudepigrapha means works that are falsely signed, and we'll see some of those later. But the Acts of Peter, which is the main source for the Acts of Peter and Paul, was part of a cycle of Acts of the Apostles that were attributed to a figure named Lucius Carinus, who was believed to be a companion of the Apostle John. And to him were attributed a a whole cycle of Acts of the Apostles including not just the Acts of Peter but also the Acts of John, the Acts of Paul, the Acts of Andrew, and the Acts of Thomas. And that's not even all the Acts of the Apostles. There's a ton and we're gonna hit as many as we can.

But yeah, Lucius Carinus is the pseudepigraphical author of a lot of these even though he is even beyond Robin Hood real as far as those things go. He's the traditional author for the Acts of Peter. We do not at any point have a name for an author for the Acts of Peter and Paul. This was written in Greek, translated into Latin. I probably read it in either Latin or translated in English when I originally read it in college, but I can't remember which one. I definitely didn't read it in Greek, but it would have originally been that way.

C: So we pick up, as you remember, Paul is in Rome, speaking in full boldness, unhindered, for now. But there are sinister doings on the horizon for our two main dudes of early Christianity.

B: Yeah, absolutely. In fact, this book actually starts with Paul leaving from an island called Gaudo Mileta, which is not a place. I don't know where that is, and I was wondering when I was reading it if that was supposed to be a reference to him leaving Malta, which we remember happens near the end of Acts, the birthplace of snake church. I was wondering if that was supposed to be a reference to that since obviously he left Malta and went to Rome. I'm a little unclear if the beginning of this is supposed to kind of slot in somehow to the end of Acts or what. But yeah, we see Paul and he's sailing and he's on a ship with a captain whose name is Dioscurus, a Greek name that references the Gemini, Castor and Pollux, right? The twins. Dioscuri means the sons of Zeus. And so that's his name. His name actually means son of Zeus, but he's the ship captain. Paul converts him. And yeah, we have a very... We have a mix-up, tragic mix-up, not even a comical mix-up, because while this is happening, while Paul is traveling and he converts his ship captain, the Jewish people of Rome come to... I can't remember... Yeah, it's Nero. It is actually Nero. So we are...

C: It's Nero, who is literally Caesar real.

B: He is literally Caesar real, absolutely. And they go to Nero and they say, "Hey, we hear that Paul is on his way here, and we hate that guy because he stirs up a lot of trouble. He foments revolution, he spreads false ideas about religion, blah, blah, blah.

C: And Nero turns around and goes, "Got it. Somebody go tell Simon." That's right, he's back. Simon Magus, our favorite super villain from the Book of Acts, he's here.

B: You talking about the Bad Samaritan?

C: Yes!

B: You talking about the father of all heresies? Simon Magus?

C: That's who I'm talking about.

B: Yeah, he's known as those things. Yeah, we were talking about, if you recall, episode one, I said, "Put a pin in Simon Magus. "We're coming back to him." We are, here we are. We're coming back to him.

C: We will be coming back to him periodically throughout the run of the show.

C: I believe that we will, yeah. And so, yeah, he's actually called that. Early Christian fathers do refer to Simon Magus as the father of all heresies, which is, I'm actually a little jealous that that's not my nickname or yours, you could have that, Chris. You know, internet's foremost Batmanologist, pretty good. Father of all heresies, dope.

C: I mean, it's a strong, like Simon shows up in acts. Again, he's in one chapter. He shows up and he's like, they're like, "Hey, he's Simon, he's a sorcerer. He thought Jesus was very impressive and all these miracles. So he tried to buy his way into the church." That's, we do have a word based on him, simony, the sin of paying for a church position. but like, there's not a small step between that and the father of all heresies.

B: It's true. And in fact, Simon has, there's a whole sect or cult or whatever of people who follow Simon Magus known as the Simonians. They are a heretical sect. They are tied to Gnosticism, which might as well talk about Gnosticism a little bit here.

This is a very simplistic explanation of Gnosticism, but it's a very important early development in Christianity that is considered one of the major heresies. And in fact, the reason that so many of the extra canonical Gospels are extra canonical is because they include elements of Gnosticism, which the early church fathers did not care for at all. And the super basic idea of Gnosticism is that the physical world, including our bodies, are a lesser creation compared to the spiritual world. And that our spirits, which are perfect and platonic, they're our platonic forms, right? The perfect ideal forms of ourselves are trapped inside basically flesh prisons and the only way that we can escape the physical world is through a gnosis, G-N-O-S-I-S, that's where the word Gnosticism comes from, it means a knowledge, a knowledge that comes through personal interaction and revelation with the divine.

And that is a super simple explanation of it and it has led me to say a new all the time maxim for the show, for people listening to the show, this caveat that I got a place out that's always going to be true, it's always more complicated than we make it out on the show. No matter what it is that we're talking about, always assume that whatever it is, is way more complicated than we're making it sound because people have been writing and talking about this stuff for thousands of years and there were even centuries for which this stuff was literally all you were allowed to read or write about. And so there's so much stuff, everything, always assume that whatever we're saying, whatever explanation we give, is always more complicated than that, right? Because it always is.

So you have Simon who becomes something of a major figure for the Gnostics and there's a whole myth surrounding him. The idea is that when God had his very first thought, his first thought which was to create the angels. His first thought was born personified as something of like a goddess, Ennoia, meaning thought basically, and a feminine being, it's a feminine word, feminine being, this thought to create the angels was born. And this thought eventually is reincarnated over and over throughout history and is constantly not accepted by humanity and is persecuted by humanity and dies and is then reborn. At one point, Ennoia is reborn as, for example, Helen of Troy. And then later she's reborn as this woman named Helen, who is a companion of Simon Magus, who is then supposed to be considered an incarnation of God himself. And so he's a Gnostic figure in that way, that Simon Magus is God, Helen is his thought processes, the thoughts and the will and the intelligence of God, and they're rejoined together in the figure of Simon and Helen, and you're supposed to follow them and that's what Simonianism is.

C: I can see why maybe they wanted to cut that one out.

B: Yeah, sure. Yeah, I mean, that's not necessarily mainstream Gnostic thought, but that is a school of Gnostic thought. And while I'm talking about Gnosticism, I can't not mention another friend of the show, Jonathan Stewart, what's up man? host of the podcast Talkgnosis. They had me on a couple years ago to talk about weird Christmas traditions. He's part of the, I believe it's the Gnostic Wisdom Network, and I'm sure he will have many things to say about the fact that I mentioned Gnosticism on the show. But he popped in when we were talking about the Book of Acts, and he said, "Why are you guys so big on Simon Magus and so down on Paul, don't you know they're the same person?" And you texted me and you said, "That is the wildest thing. That is the wildest thing anyone could possibly say. What does this mean?"

C: Yeah, that's a real, that's a real Sentry and Void situation you got goin' there, my man.

B: It is. The simple explanation, and again, the maxim, always more complicated, but the idea is in a series of writings known as the pseudo-Clementines, which sounds like it means like fake oranges, but actually means a series of writings falsely attributed to the church father named Clementine. There was a sect of people known as the Ebionites who were very anti-Paul. They did not care for Paul at all. They were much more in favor of the more Jamesian style of Christianity. They didn't like Paul at all. And so they say that in fact Simon Magus is just a metaphor for Paul, and when you see Simon arriving to challenge Peter, that's really Paul bringing in his brand of Christianity to challenge the more traditional style. And so Simon Magus, the villain, is actually representing Paul and his ideas. And I assume I got that right, and I'm sure Jonathan will let me know if I did not, if that's not actually what he was talking about, because Jonathan is into all sorts of very relatively strange things.

C: All right, I'm gonna stop you right there.

B: All right.

C: You're telling me...

B: Mm-hmm.

C: ...that Simon Magus...

B: Yes.

C: Paul, also called Saul, who is the archenemy of Peter, whose name is Simon.

B: Yeah. It's a very-- It's a weird puzzle box.

C: Yeah, I can see why people have been hashing this out for thousands of years, because it's a little complicated. So it's June 14th in Rome.

B: Yeah, okay.

C: Paul is coming to Rome. They don't want that to happen. So they send a hit squad, basically.

B: Right.

C: But not a good one, unfortunately for them.

B: No, not a good one, because Paul doesn't actually get off the ship in Rome. What happens is, Dioscurus, our guy, who is our ship captain, who now is freshly converted to Christianity. He's very excited about it and sadly also is bald like Paul, which is apparently the only distinguishing physical characteristic that was given to Nero's hit squad about Paul. They said, "You know, he'll be the bald guy talking about Christianity." And so yeah, they grabbed Dioscurus and they kill him.

C: Which is weird, because as we already know, they should have looked for the guy with the longer beard.

B: With the longer beard.

C: Because these sailors have short beards.

B: Longer beard, carrying a sword, has a big halo around his head. I don't know what these people, what were they thinking? There were so many other distinguishing characteristics. Anyway.

C: Also, maybe just go, "Hey, is Paul here?" Because as we know from the Book of Acts, he'll be like, "Yes, I'm here. Take me to Caesar."

B: "It's me, Paul. I'm here to see Caesar." So Paul finds out about this. And this is, this is one of my favorite bits in Peter and Paul. Paul finds out that his bro, Dioscurus, has been killed because he was mistaken for him. And so, what Paul does is he goes up basically to a high point in a city that is across the water from Pontio, which is the city where Dioscurus was killed. And he looks across the water and he can see it, and he prays, and he was like, "God, this is messed up. They just killed my dude. Please destroy this city forever." And God's like, "Sounds good." And he sinks the entire city beneath the sea.

C: That's next level compared to Peter calling down the Holy Ghost to take out one dude for holding back 50 bucks.

B: Yeah, that's a whole city full on Spongebobbed as a result of Paul's friend from the boat getting beheaded in his name.

C: It really makes you wonder why this story ends the way it does, but we'll get there.

B: Yeah, so anyway, obviously Paul's not dead, even though there's reports of Paul in Rome being dead. But he comes to Rome where Peter is. Peter's there too, and they're reunited, and Peter's like, "Paul, I thought you were dead." And he's like, "Nah, man, here I am. I just sank a city into the ocean." And the one interesting thing about the Acts of Peter and Paul that does not really occur elsewhere is in this version of the story, Peter and Paul are brothers.

C: Yeah, that's right. This is a new re-imagining.

B: Yeah. It's a little unclear whether we're supposed to take them as literal brothers because the word in Greek, "adelphos," meaning brother, or "frater" in Greek, or in Latin, rather, meaning brother, sometimes get used just to mean co-Christians. People who are both Christians, they're brothers in the faith, right? But in this case, the phrase is used so often and in such a way it really makes it seem as if the author of Peter and Paul really thought that those guys were actual literal brother-brothers. So, it's kind of weird to see like, "And then Peter, Paul's brother, showed up and they hugged."

C: We should say also that we talked about this a little bit when we covered the canonical book of Acts. There's more than a slight strain of anti-Semitism going through this book. It is 100% Peter and Paul versus the Jews and their friend Nero.

B: Yes, 100%. Yeah, absolutely. It's everywhere. And pretty much any Christian writing that we read from now on, it's going to be there. So just trigger warning in advance, I guess. Skip the New Testament episodes, y'all, if it's going to bother you. Anyway, once Paul actually shows up in Rome, yeah, that's when Simon, Simon Magus is dispatched, and Peter is there, and Simon and Peter start to have a miracle off.

C: Whose name is Simon?

B: Yeah, Simon the rock Peter and Simon the magician Magus. They have a miracle off in front of the people of Rome, and eventually it gets so bad that like the magistrate of Rome actually comes out. Agrippa is his name. Everyone just gets the name Agrippa. It's a very common Roman name.

C: So this is not the Agrippa from the Book of Acts that was hanging out with with Bernice and my boy Festus?

B: No, this would be this Agrippa would have actually been a fairly common Roman name. It would be basically the in terms of like Roman-ness, right? In the same way that you might say who is he's an American character, his name is Smith or Johnson or something, right? Here it's like he's a Roman. His name's probably Agrippa.

C: Hey Benito.

B: Yeah.

C: What's not a common name? name in these writings? Jesus? There seems to be only one Jesus.

B: Yeah, well, the reason for that is because they use a separate, different anglicization of his name because Jesus is just Joshua. It's the same as Joshua, so there would have actually been quite a number of people with that name. They just wouldn't get anglicized the same way. They just call him Joshua or whatever instead of Jesus. He gets his own special version of the name. Just like the apostles get named James instead of Jacob, even though Jacob and James are the same names. So, we've got Simon versus Peter in the forum doing miracles. Simon's miracles, we see, are things like there's a bronze serpent that he brings to life and starts moving it around. There are statues that he causes to laugh. He takes a rutting start and jumps and starts to fly. And then Peter just kind of does regular Bible miracles. He heals the blind and that kind of stuff, the stuff that you see.

C: I think you kind of skipped over something that I thought was worth mentioning, which is that also Pontius Pilate is there.

B: He's there in the form of a letter, yeah. Because they do get called before Nero after their miracle off, and they say, "Hey, man, we're arguing about Jesus and this guy, Simon, Simon claims to be Jesus, right?" That's the big part of it. Like, once they get before Nero, Simon's main thing is like, "This guy keeps talking about Jesus. I'm Jesus. It's me."

C: Yeah, "I'm Jesus."

B: And so Peter's like—

C: "You might have thought--I'm Simon Jesus Magus."

B: Yeah. You know, Simon Jesus Magus Christ. That guy. And Peter's like, "No, man, I got documentation." And so he pulls out—this is actually a segment that was not originally part of the Acts of Peter and Paul. This would have been a separate piece of writing known as the Acts of Pilate, which also pop up in another piece of writing, the Gospel of Nicodemus, aka the Acts of Pilate, which we will get to later. That story, by the way, is the origin of the harrowing of hell, which Chris, you were talking about earlier. So we will get to the Gospel of Nicodemus, aka the Acts of Pilate. But this is basically a letter. It's supposed to be the account of Pilate saying, "Hey, what's up? I'm Pontius Pilate. I witnessed the death of Jesus, and this whole thing happened. And then, by the way, he rose from the dead. So whoever bears this letter is probably telling you the truth about Jesus. Okay, peace out." And that's pretty much the Acts of Pilate.

C: It's his badge. It's his apostle badge.

B: I mean, it's not succinct. It's a big, hefty paragraph, but yeah, it's there. He's got it ready just in case. And so, yeah, now Nero was like, "I don't know who to believe. This guy says he's Jesus and this guy's got documentation. Who knows? Well, whoever can show me the best miracle, I'm gonna believe that guy." And so now they're having an official miracle off in the court of Nero.

C: It's very much like how the Mighty Ducks would play against the evil team at the beginning of the movie, and then they'd also meet them in the finals.

B: It is kinda like that, yeah, it is.

C: Daniel having a fight with Johnny, but this is it. Like this is at the All Valley Karate Tournament.

B: This is not even the climax of the story. But they do have this miracle-off, and in this case, Peter basically challenges—

C: They do invent the three act structure at the writing of the book.

V: It's true. Peter basically challenges Simon to read his mind. He says, "Only God knows the thoughts of man, so I'm going to think of a thing. I'm going to whisper what I'm thinking of and what I'm going to do to Nero's assistants, and only they will know what I'm thinking of and what I'm I'm going to do and then you need to tell Tell Nero what it is." And Simon goes, "Hmm, let me think." And then kind of I guess as a distraction he summons a horde of demonic dogs out of the ground to attack Peter. And then what we find out that Peter has actually done is what he did is he asked Nero's men to bring him a loaf of bread which he broke in half and then blessed and then stuffed up his sleeves. And so when the demon dogs rush at Peter, he produces these two pieces of bread and the dogs poof and disappear.

At this point Simon's dogs having been bested in front of Nero and he's been embarrassed he goes, "Fine, look. Y'all build a tower and I will fly to heaven and then we'll know who's the real Son of God. It's me, Simon the Paul Jesus Christ Magus. That's me." And Nero says, I'm gonna let him try it." And Peter's like, "Why? I've just destroyed this guy in front of you." And Nero says, "Well, as it turns out, I've already seen him die and come back to life three days later, just like you said Jesus did. So that sounds pretty Jesus-y." And then we get a flashback, which is crazy. Like, that doesn't happen that often that I've seen in stories like this. But we get a flashback to Simon coming before Nero, and he says, "Look, it's me. I've got the Jesus juice in me. I'll show you." And they take him to a room to kill him. But what Simon does is he uses his magic to create a glamour, straight up fairy tale stuff, to make the assistant of Nero believe that he has Simon, but in fact he has a ram. And he cuts the head off of this ram, and they put the ram's body in the tomb and Simon is in there just invisible and then later--this is the best part--is the soldier still has the head and then he like shakes off this weird haze that Simon put on him and he looks down and he sees that it's a ram's head and he goes "welp, better not tell anybody about that that would be real embarrassing for me if Nero found out about this one, so just gonna keep that on the DL."

C: I realize that there is a big demarcation of miracles in that, I guess there's multiple people that have been raised from the dead, but only one person gets to raise himself, which is, of course, Jesus. So I realize that's the big thing. Can we also admit that super hypnosis and invisibility are also very impressive?

B: It's true, they are. But we do get the idea between this one and the other book that so much of Simon's powers are based in deception, that what he's doing is actually creating illusions that people are seeing rather than actually doing these things, which does seem, it's a fine hair to split, right? Like this is real magic and this other magic is not as good.

C: Like Bel and the Dragon, that was just a snake they had and like a statue and some dudes were sneaking in and eating 40 sheep. Like that was, they just brought him to the science dimension. We'll get to the science dimension later.

B: Oh man, all right. So they have this thing. Simon has issued his challenge. He's gonna fly into heaven. But then they go on and they have this like unconquerably long conversation about circumcision. They talk about it a lot. It's like several paragraphs worth. And if you guys who are listening, if you read along, you would have gone to the New Advent site, which is the Catholic encyclopedia. And because it's an encyclopedia, it's basically like Wikipedia where certain words are hot-linked to articles that are relevant to what you're reading about. And so, if you're reading this there, every time they say the word "circumcision" or "circumcised," it's hot-linked in purple. And there's just like three paragraphs that are just heavy purple of the word circumcised, circumcised, circumcised. They have a very long, uncomfortable conversation about the state of Simon's business. I don't know. It is relevant theologically because it's like, if you didn't believe in Judaism, why did you do this? And he was like, "Well, you know."

C: This is where I think the acts of Peter and Paul kind of fizzles out a little bit. And this is what made me feel like it was the more realistic imagining of the earlier story. 'Cause I do wanna stress at this point, it might be surprising, this is not the weird one. This is not the truly wild version of this story because Simon gets up to the top of the tower and he gets ready to fly and Nero's like, "Peter, Paul, you guys wanna do anything?" And all they do is they're like, "We're gonna pray about it." And so they get down and they pray on it and then they continue praying on it for several paragraphs while Simon is flying. And I was really hoping for a little more action.

B: Yeah, Simon is climbing higher and higher up into the air, and Peter just, he's straight, gets on his knees, and he's like, oh, no, he doesn't even talk to God. He actually, he talks to the demons that are carrying Simon aloft, and he says, "I adjure thee," like, straight up a line from Hellboy. He calls them out and he says, "Look, this has gone on long enough. You're carrying this guy up into the sky. Cut it out." And they do, and Simon falls, and he explodes. Look, we have gone three episodes in a row now in which someone or something sentient explodes. I don't want people to get the impression that that's going to happen every week, that every week is going to have someone exploding, but here we are.

C: I am the opposite. If people take nothing else away from this podcast, It's that if you are unfamiliar with the Bible as I was, then you do not know how many explosions there are in the Good Book. It's a lot.

B: It's a surprising number. A surprising number of explosions. Anyway, there's a number of different versions of the death of Simon Magus. And the more historical sounding ones, he was probably crucified as many of the early disciples and apostles would have been. In some versions of the story, he's flayed. And a very excellent one that I have seen paintings of, he tries to fly into heaven on a chariot pulled by demons and is then dropped, which is similar to this one, except he's not in a cool chariot. They're invisible dark angels that are carrying him. But this one seems to be the version that people pick up on the most that occurs the most in art. And so our Tumblr, we will have many different variations on the death of Simon Magus. Currently, actually, the cover art on our Tumblr page, not the icon that shows the two saints hugging, but if you look behind it, you can actually see a depiction of Simon Magus jumping off of his tower, but it also shows him having fallen onto the ground and exploded into four pieces.

So there's no shortage of depictions of the death of Simon Magus. This version of it, just to show how much into what degree a story like this, non-canonical, extra-canonical as it is, it nevertheless has had a huge impact on culture and the arts.

C: So yeah, Simon explodes and the angels of Satan flee back to from the name of Jesus Christ and then Nero is like okay well I guess you guys were right but I am going to kill you anyway.

B: Right because he's like I guess you were right this guy was not really the son of God but also you guys just did a murder you guys did a magic murder in front of the Emperor of the mightiest empire that that has ever lived: that is not good. Yeah, so we get the martyrdom narratives for both Peter and Paul, both of which have earlier traditions than this.

C: That's a really suspect way, like verdict for Nero to hand down. They didn't, like Simon said, "I'm gonna jump off this tower." All Peter did was say, "Hey, demons, get out of here."

B: Yeah.

C: I mean, I guess he did commission them to throw him at the ground real hard.

B: It's--

C: Hard enough that he exploded.

B: It's true. But yeah, we actually get two very familiar stories that would have existed in earlier traditions than this that are getting kind of added on to this story of Peter and how he tries to flee the city of Rome to escape his execution. But instead, while he's on his way out, the ghost of Jesus appears to him on the Appian Way, which is one of the major streets out of Rome. The ghost of Jesus appears to him and Peter says, the very famous line, he says, "Domine Quo vadis," he says, "Lord, where are you going?" And this line is so famous, it ends up becoming the name of a famous novel set during the time of Nero that became a movie in 1951 that won eight Academy Awards.

So, Quo vadis, it's a famous line, and it's from this extra canonical story. But he says to the force ghost of Jesus, he says, "Domine qua vadis," and Jesus replies, "Romam eo iterum crucifigi," meaning I'm going to Rome to be crucified again. And Peter is so shamed by this, he says, "Okay, I got it." And he turns around and he goes back in. And this is a thing. If you go to Rome, there is actually a church that is set there to commemorate this moment. It's called the Church of Domine Quo Vadis. And I've been there. I went there when I was 19, I spent a summer in Rome visiting a lot of the places that I read about. And if you go there, they actually have a slab of marble that is supposed to contain the footprints of Jesus, not even of alive Jesus, but of Jesus' ghost who appears to Peter. His footprints in a slab of marble, there's a little cage over it, and you can go in there and you can see it's supposed to to be the exact spot. It's near some catacombs. I forget which ones. But I went there, and Chris, you know, I'm not a small person.

C: No, you're actually quite large.

B: And I'm tall.

C: You're tall.

B: It's fine. I'm a large boy. It's true. I wear a size, depending on the brand, I wear a size 14 or 15 shoe. I held up my foot in comparison to the footprints of Jesus in this marble slab in the Church of Domnie Quo vadis, how would you guess Jesus's footprints compared to mine? Bigger? Smaller? Same? What do you think?

C: Well, I mean, I know people from the past, generally we are larger than people from the past. We are taller. I would guess based on knowing that that you would have larger feet than Jesus, and this is not a conversation that I thought I was going to have today.

B: Yeah, that's what this podcast is for. Weird, unexpected conversations. We're We're having them now. Anyway, me and JC got the same size shoe, my dude. Jesus would've had a 14, I guess. And that's what size Birkenstocks Jesus was rocking.

C: Question, do you think that is the case, or do you think everyone sees Jesus's footprints as a comparable size to their own, which is why that dude was unable to tell whose footprints were whose when he was walking along the beach?

B: Oh, like Galactus. Everybody sees the footprints that are within their own soul. Maybe that's it, man. Maybe that's it.

C: I wanna back up for a second. We said at the start of the show, like this is small-a Apocrypha, but you're telling me there is a church that is like presumably sanctified and active.

B: Yep.

C: That fully has relics of this happening.

B: Absolutely. Yeah, again, this is not the origin of this story. Like the earlier version we see in the Acts of Peter as well which would have been about 300 years older than this.

C: So it is accepted that this is how Peter and Paul died.

B: Yeah, absolutely. Inasmuch as there is any tradition about it, these are the traditional stories. Peter tries to escape, he sees Jesus, he turns back and he goes in and he's crucified, and of course you knew this one before we even did the podcast. How's Peter crucified?

C: Upside down.

B: Upside down, because he says he doesn't want to seem like he is trying to rival Jesus. He says, I love Jesus too much. I don't want to seem like I'm copying him." And so, yeah.

C: Yeah, he is unworthy to be executed in the same way that Christ Jesus, the Lord, was. That's the way it was always explained to me.

B: Yeah, absolutely.

C: On the Robin Hood to Julius Caesar scale, do we know that's how Peter was killed?

B: We don't have enough information on that. But again, tradition on this goes way back. So, the tradition of this story is almost as old as the canonical gospels and things. Some of the very, very early church fathers would have been writing about the deaths of Peter and Paul. So, I mean, it's nearly as reliable as anything else. I mean, it's not quite to the point where we can say, "Yeah, this is Julius Caesar history." We do know that Paul was executed by Nero. That's Caesar real. But we don't know specifically about Peter's death. And in fact, there are some people who would dispute the fact that the majority of the apostles were even martyred at all. The traditional view is that 11, well, yeah, 11 of the original, not the original 12, not counting Judas, but 11 of the apostles were martyred and only John escaped that fate. But, yeah, I don't think anybody knows to the level of Caesar real exactly how Peter died.

C: But it's been around long enough that it is accepted, even beyond like this story, that that's how it happened.

B: Oh, for sure, absolutely.

C: Because again, I know about that, and it's not like the Presbyterian church often speaks of St. Peter's Marker Dome.

B: Right, exactly. And additionally, we should say Paul is beheaded. And this version of the story, strangely, because the traditional view is the reason that Paul is beheaded and not crucified is that Paul is a Roman citizen, and death by beheading would have been a much quicker and cleaner death than crucifixion, which is a very long and torturous death. And so that's traditionally the reason why the story is that Paul is beheaded while Peter is condemned, or crucified rather. But in this case, the reason he's beheaded is because they say, "Well, he's not quite as guilty as Peter. Peter was the one that actually got down on his knees and pray-murdered Simon. Paul just stood by." So because he's not quite as guilty, he gets the nicer execution.

C: It goes against everything that we know from the Book of Acts that Paul would not be like, "No, I did it too!"

B: Paul would have climbed the tower.

C: I was praying even harder.

B: He would have jumped. He would have jumped off that tower and tried to drag Simon down by the ankles.

C: Paul, the fact that neither of these stories involves Paul doing a macho man Randy Savage elbow drop onto Simon Magus's exploded body is the shock of the episode. Then what happens to Nero?

B: Well, in this version of the story, basically Nero, I can't remember exactly. What are the details of Nero's death here? It's not, it is not the Julius Caesar real death of Nero.

C: Yeah, it says that the people revolted against him and he fled into desert places and through hunger and cold he gave up the ghost and his body became food for wild beasts. You're telling me that's not how it ended?

B: That's close-ish, right? We know that Nero eventually becomes so unpopular, he's driven out. He does try to escape the people who hate him, but ultimately he is afraid to commit suicide on his own and so he has one of his slaves stab him to death, which we know. And of course he's got the immortal perishing line where he says, "Quaalis artifacts perio," "What an artist dies in me," because he is a pretentious b-hole his whole life.

C: It's beyond the scope of this podcast, but if you want to get into some grim stuff, I assure you plenty is out there about Nero.

B: Yeah, Nero is the guy who set up death traps for his own mom that failed so bad that eventually he just had to have a guy and stab his mom. Like, if multiple death traps didn't work out, he's like, "Just stab her, look, just do it."

C: Not a good guy.

B: No, not great.

C: Not a good guy by any stretch, but his body was not food for wild beasts.

B: No.

C: And he did not die of hunger and cold.

B: No.

C: Which is weird, because if we go by the assumption that this was written well after the time period in which it takes place, which I think we can agree on.

B: Yes, I believe we can all agree on that.

C: If you've heard of two Roman emperors, you have heard of Nero. He's number two. Number one, Julius, number two, Nero. It's not like this is Heliogobolos, it's not like this is Octavian. These are the ones you know about. It wouldn't be hard to go check this, even in a time a thousand years before we had Wikipedia.

C: Right, it's true. And just so we don't get letters, Julius Caesar was not an official canonical emperor of Rome. We'll continue. So, we'll say Augustus.

B: Okay.

C: Augustus is the only one you know.

B: He was Caesar. He was Caesar.

C: Yeah, but that was his name.

B: He was Caesar.

C: But his – and that was his name, and his name became so synonymous with being the singular ruler of Rome that all subsequent emperors adopted his name. That's true.

C: Perhaps I should have said dictator.

B: You could say dictator. He was indeed dictator for life of Rome.

C: If you have heard of two people who have had triumphs in the city of Rome.

B: Right. So what ends up happening is that the relics of Peter get moved by a guy named Marcellus who he only makes this quick cameo appearance in Peter and Paul but Marcellus is one of the main characters of the Acts of Peter but Marcellus who was a Roman senator translates or moves the relics when we talk about the moving of relics the official term is the translation of the relics and they and Peter's body gets moved to the Vatican Hill which would have been one of the two trans-Tibertean hills, the two hills across the Tiber River from the famous seven hills of Rome. So there's the Vatican and the geniculum. And that's the reason why they build St. Peter's Basilica there. And that's ultimately why the Vatican City is the seat of the Catholic Church, is because that's where Peter's body is. And so this is a big moment, again, from an extra canonical story that has major implications for even the modern day. And as a result, even today because the date of the translation of the relics according to this story is June 29th, and so to this day the Feast of Peter and Paul is June 29th, in the Catholic and I believe the Orthodox Church as well.

C: So basically what happens is Marcellus takes his body to the Vatican, the hill, and buries it, yes?

B: Yep.

C: So in a bit of extremely Geoff Johns style literalism, he does become the literal rock upon which the church is built.

B: You nailed it. You nailed it. Crushed it. Crushed it. Very good. And so in this edition of the story that's on New Advent, they add this kind of little coda, an additional story, the story of Perpetua. And if you guys are familiar with early Christian writings, you might know the story of the martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicitas. This is not that Perpetua. This is just a story where Paul is being led to his beheading and a young woman named Perpetua, who is blind, says, "Paul, I'm sorry about what's happening," and she gives him a handkerchief and says, "Put this around your eyes," and he does, and then he gets beheaded later. She gets the handkerchief back, she puts it on her eyes, and her eyesight is restored, and then she's martyred, which is a happy ending in early Christian writing. That's actually the happiest possible ending is that you convert to Christianity and then you get killed. That's it.

But there is actually an additional tradition regarding the beheading of St. Paul. You probably don't know this, Chris. There's a church there at the area near where Paul was traditionally beheaded called San Paolo alle Etre Fontane, which means St. Paul at the Three Fountains. And the story goes that when his head is cut off, it bounces three times, and each place that it hits the ground, a spring pops up from the ground, like a spring of water pops up, and so the three fountains are the three fountains from where Paul's head hit the ground. And there's a church there representing that story.

C: So how far back are we going for the OG Act of Peter?

B: We're going back to the late 2nd century, which would be very early for an apocryphal acts of the Apostles. I mean, you know, we have the canonical acts were possibly written as late as the early second century, so you know, we're within probably a hundred years of the canonical acts being written. A Greek original, but what we have it now in kind of a patchwork of fragments in different languages. We have portions that are in Greek, a large portion of it is in Latin in what are called the Vercelli fragments. And then we also have a very strange fragment that's in Coptic, which is... it's Egyptian, but transliterated into Greek letters. So, would have been common among a lot of early Christian documents would have also been written in Coptic, including the famous Coptic Gospel of Thomas.

C: These stories are going to cover the same ground, but they are wildly divergent. So the Acts of Peter opens up with the Coptic fragment, which is about Peter's daughter. And a bunch of people are hanging out with Peter while he's doing miracles, small miracles, but you know, miracles. And somebody goes, "Hey, Peter, if you can cure the sick, if you can raise the dead, your daughter's paralyzed on one side of her body. What's up with that?" And Peter goes, "Oh, that's the way Jesus wants it."

B: Yeah. Well, yeah, because the idea is that if she weren't paralyzed on half her body, she'd have to get married, and then she would thus not be able to be a pure, and virginal bride of Christ. So...

C: And this is what I mean when I say that this stuff is kind of hard to get through compared even to that version of the Acts of Peter and Paul that we were reading, which is written in very plain text. Because this is translated and because it- you mentioned that even the version we have online might have been scanned in through optical character recognition.

B: This text, the translation that we have that's on the Early Christian Writings website is intentionally archaic. It's actually translated by M.R. James, which might be a name that some of you guys recognize. He's perhaps more famous for his ghost stories that he wrote, but he would have called himself an antiquarian, someone who studied ancient civilizations. And he translated a large number of some of these apocryphal acts. And so the one we have is by him, and it's by him because it's the public domain version of this story, basically.

But the thing is, even though he was a Victorian, and actually this translation would have probably been originally published in the '20s, nevertheless, he kind of intentionally does it in a King James style. And so it's yeah, it's not the easiest thing to read. And the and the textual errors don't make it easier. And also there's a number of editorial notes that he inserts that are not formatted any differently from the main text.

C: So you'll be reading Paul and Rome and then a new paragraph will start and it'll just be like, "Hey, there's been a great dispute about these chapters." And I'm not sure who's who's chiming in with that. So first three chapters of this book, We've got the story of the gardener and Peter's daughter. We've got Paul kicking around Rome, preaching the word. That's basically chapters two and three. Chapter four? Chapter four starts off like this. "Now after a few days, there was a great commotion in the midst of the church, for some said that they had seen wonderful works done by a certain man whose name was Simon."

B: That's right. The premise of the Acts of Peter is that Paul was in Rome, like we see in the canonical gospels, but he leaves and goes to Spain, which we do not see in the canonical gospels. Paul goes off to Spain and he leaves Rome unattended. So, there's all these brand new fresh Christians who still don't quite know what's going on and they're very easily susceptible to a Simon Magus who sneaks in. We find out that Simon has been kicked out of Judea. We find out later we get a flashback to why Simon was kicked out of Judea. Why do you think, Chris, why do you think someone like Simon might get kicked out of an entire province? What do you think might have been the reason? We've seen he's obviously the evilest wizard to come out of Samaria. You would expect like did he did some huge magic or he was the father of all heresies, for example. We find out that he stole from a widow and so they kicked him out.

C: Not only does he steal from, he's not like running a con on her. He like robs her house.

B: And it's not even him. He's got like goons. They seem like straight up Batman '66 goons. Like their tunics just say like hench across it or something and they sneak in. Their name is Harrison C.

C: And their names? Harrison C.

B: Yeah. So he's been kicked out of Judea. He comes up to Rome. He's making trouble. But he's staying in the house of Marcellus. We mentioned him. He was a cameo in Peter and Paul, but here he's a much more major character. He's a Roman senator and he was also a Christian convert, but he was brand new. He was excited about Christianity, but then Simon comes in and he goes, "This guy's pretty good too." And so Simon Magus is staying in Marcellus' house and he's got a number of people down there around him.

C: And he's specifically claiming that he's Jesus.

B: He is, yeah, I get it, yeah.

C: Which makes it a little more understandable why all these new people who are in Rome and not Judea and therefore weren't around to see Jesus. He shows up and he's like, "Hey, I'm back. Remember how I came back from the dead? Here I am. It's me, Simon the Jesus Magus."

B: Yeah, and so the people have to send down to Peter and they say, "Peter, Paul was here and he left. Now Simon's making trouble. Please come fix this." So Peter comes up to Rome and he goes to the house of Marcellus and he gets there and-

C: I picture this as happening like that Lil John video for roll call where Ice Cube is wearing like khakis and his polo shirt and he's just like raking up his yard but then when when little john calls and he's like "yo we gotta ride." He goes up and there's like a secret compartment under his bed where he has like his his Raider's cap and like his black t-shirt from the NWA days that's how i pictured this happening, because Peter comes into Rome and I read this quote at the at the top of the show because you know this is when it gets real.

He goes up to Marcellus' house and says, "tell Simon Magus that Peter's here." And the porter answered and said to Peter, "Sir, whether thou be Peter, I know not, but I have a command. For he had knowledge that yesterday thou didst enter the city and said unto me, whether it be day or night at whatsoever hour he cometh, say that I am not within." Simon Magus, his big plan is like, tell Peter I'm not home.

B: Yeah, straight up. Yes. Go ahead. Come on, man. You gotta break the big news. What does, what does Peter do?

C: Okay. So Peter's like, okay, you won't let me in? Well, how about this?

B: There's a dog, it's chained up. It's described as a very large dog.

C: It's specifically called a big dog, a Roman Reins, if you will. Or just a Reins, as they would have called him in Rome.

B: Right. That's a terrible name.

C: It was very good. You know, it was good. All right. Yeah. So there's a very large dog chained up nearby and Peter gets his Holy Ghost power and charges up that dog. That dog stands up on its hind legs and is like, do you want me to go in there and get Simon, speaking, I was about to say speaking English, but presumably speaking Latin.

B: Yeah, probably Latin, Greek. Who knows? Who knows?

C: I was reading this. I was reading this this week, and I had to start reading it aloud to my wife, because it's bonkers. The dog goes inside, walks up to Simon Magus, again standing on its hind legs, and says, "Thou Simon, Peter the servant of Christ, who standeth at the door, saith unto thee, 'Come forth abroad, for thy sake I am come to Rome, thou most wicked one and deceiver of simple souls,' and when Simon heard it and beheld the incredible sight, he lost the words wherewith he was deceiving them to all that stood by, and all of them were amazed." Yeah! No kidding! Yeah. A dog started talking, which really throws you off your game.

B: And so, yeah, Marcellus is inside, and he sees that, and he starts like, strangely, this only kind of plants the seed of doubt in Marcellus' mind? It takes a couple more miracles before Marcellus is like, "Whoa, maybe Peter's the guy." But he's freaking out about this talking dog that comes in. And then we cut back outside.

C: Simon's still not coming out, and I want you to know that for the next three chapters, the dog is in that house just yelling at Simon in a human voice, speaking fluent Latin.

B: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And so yeah, Simon doesn't come out, or in the meanwhile out in the courtyard, we see-

C: "But Simon within the house had said thus to the dog, 'tell Peter that I am not with him.'"

B: He's still trying to pull it. He's still trying to pull that move. He's like-

C: Still sticking to it.

B: Yeah, man, I can't tell the porter and the dog something different. I gotta keep my story straight. I'm not here. I'm not here.

C: And that's when the dog starts yelling at him. This is dog dialogue?

B: Yeah.

C: "'Cursed therefore shalt thou be thou enemy and corruptor of the way of the truth of Christ, who shall prove by fire that he dieth not in an outer darkness thine iniquities that thou hast committed.' And having thus said, the dog went forth and the people followed him, leaving Simon alone." I should have warned you up front, the dog does die. The dog walks back out on its hind legs, lays down at Peter's feet and is like, "Goin' to heaven now and peace is out."

B: Yeah, in the middle of that, we have this other scene where we've cut back out to the courtyard

C: And they specifically say, it doesn't say the dog dies. It says, "gave up the ghost."

B: Gave up the ghost.

C: Which is a phrase they use in the King James version. We saw in the Book of Acts when Peter was dealing with Ananias and Sapphira, it said they gave up the ghost. That's a phrase that we still have today. It's very common. But I haven't really thought about it and it's like, "Oh, right. The ghost as in soul. Their soul is exiting their body." So this dog gives up the ghost. This dog goes to heaven.

B: All dogs go to heaven, Chris. Chris.

C: Yes, this one specifically.

B: This is--

C: This one we know for sure. Charlie B. Barkin over here.

B: Yeah, or, so we've already established, so Peter is Batman. So what do we got here? We got--

C: Dude was vision.

B: We got Faith the Bat Hound over here.

C: Ace the Holy Hound is the name that we threw around for this dog. He's very good.

B: He's a very good boy.

C: He's a good boy.

B: So meanwhile, back out in the courtyard, we got Peter standing around, and this guy gets possessed by a demon, and he smashes headfirst into a wall to try to, I guess, distract Peter? And then he grabs a statue of Caesar, and he throws it on the ground and starts stomping on it until it breaks. And all the people around start freaking out. And so by implication, the idea is that I guess destroying an image of Caesar would have been some kind of great crime. You know, Caesar's largely are considered to be divine, and so this would have been a moment a sacrilege. And anyway, so people are freaking out about the idea that they might get punished for this. And Peter is like, "No problem." And so he does probably the least bizarre miracle of the whole book.

C: This is a magic trick.

B: This one's a magic trick.

C: He even gets Marcellus out of the crowd. He's like, "Do I have a volunteer?"

B: Yeah, it's straight up. And he just sprinkles some water over the statue. And then, ta-da, it's whole again. Like, I think I saw David Copperfield do that one or Chris Angel. Chris Angel did that one, right?

C: Well, Chris Angel also flies, so he is very much a Simon Magus character.

B: Yeah, it's true. So anyway, yeah, then then after that, the dog comes out, reports to Peter, he dies. And people say, "All right, that dog miracle is pretty good. Show us another one. Show us another one, Peter." And so in this case, he goes, he's just like, I guess they're in a market or something and he grabs a salted fish off a hook and he throws it in a swimming pool and the fish comes to life and starts swimming around to the point where people are like whoa and they're feeding it bread and so that's the point like that's the breaking point for Marcellus, he's like all right I saw a talking dog I saw a magically repaired statue and now I saw a dead fish eating bread: Simon get out of my house.

Marcellus has kicked Simon out of his house until he's like, "I gotta give Peter a piece of my mind about this." And so he goes to where Peter is staying. And when I was reading this, I knew it was coming. I knew it was coming. And I still bust out laughing. I had to put my phone down that I was reading this on. "And Simon, truly beaten and cast out of the house, ran into the house where Peter lodged, even the house of Narcissus, and standing at the gate cried out, 'Lo, here am I, Simon! Come thou down, Peter, and I will convict thee that thou hast believed on a man which is a Jew and a carpenter's son.'" First of all, very rude, Simon.

C: He is straight up now saying, "Not only am I Jesus, the Jesus you were hanging out with was a fake Jesus." And I read that and I was like, "Oh no. Oh no, Simon. I've already read a story where you're exploding and I am still fearful for you in this moment."

B: Absolutely. And so here's Peter's just like excellent like absolute chef kiss response. "And when it was told Peter that Simon had said this, Peter sent unto him a woman which had a suckling child saying to her, 'Go down quickly and thou wilt find one that seeketh me. For thee there is no need that thou answer him at all, but keep silence and hear what the child whom thou holdest shall say unto him.' The woman therefore went down. Now the child whom she suckled was seven months old, and it received a man's voice and said unto, 'Simon, O thou abhored of God and men, in destruction of truth and evil seed of all corruption! O fruit by nature unprofitable! But only for a short and little season shalt thou be seen, and thereafter eternal punishment is laid up for thee, thou son of a shameless father, that never putteth forth thy roots for good but for poison, faithless generation void of all hope,'" etc. It goes on from there.

C: That is a seven-month-old child.

B: It's, you remember those Pepsi commercials from the early 90s that had Jesse Eisenberg's sister in them and she's a little girl and then people turn to her and then she opens her mouth and then like she's Ray Charles or whatever voice coming out of her? You know what I'm talking about? Remember those?

C: I do not remember that but it sounds horrifying.

B: Yeah, it is. Could you imagine if like she turned and opened her mouth and suddenly she's like in a deep man's voice was like, "Oh, thou abhored of God and men." Can you imagine that instead of just like, "Oh, Pepsi, that's the right one, baby." Terrifying.

C: And that was like a seven year old child. Here's my favorite part of the baby's speech is when there's a callback.

B: Yeah.

C: And he says, "Thour was not confounded when a dog reproved thee. I, a child, am compelled of God to speak." And I gotta say, if I was going in to edit this, which I'm not, I would rearrange these Because a baby talking is weird, but like, it's a human?

B: Yeah, sure.

C: A dog talking is significantly weirder.

B: It's true. Even the Look Who's Talking series understood that. That people would accept talking babies for like two films before you get to the talking dogs in the third film.

C: So then the baby does a miracle.

B: Why not?

C: The baby drops some Holy Ghost power on Simon Magus and strikes him mute for until he leaves the city of Rome.

B: Yeah, it's pretty good.

C: So Simon, Simon hightails it out, but he does come back.

B: He does. And we basically get the same sort of setup.

C: Right. Except that instead of having a miracle-off, they have a resurrection-off.

B: Yeah, it's true. So Agrippa, the magistrate of the city, brings him out and he's like, "All right, here's what we're gonna do, you guys prove it." And so he calls to one of his assistants, one of his guys, he's like, "Hey, come over here, man." "Oh, cool, Agrippa wants me for something." And then he turns to Simon, he's like, "Hey, Simon, kill that guy with magic." And he does. He whispers in his ear and the guy falls dead.

C: And then he turns to Peter and he goes, "Hey, I really liked that guy, though."

B: Yeah.

C: "So if you don't bring him back to life, I'm gonna be mad."

B: I can't believe Peter wasn't like, "Dude, you probably should have checked with me to make sure that I could even do this before we committed to this part of the bit.

C: Don't gamble with what you can't lose, Agrippa.

B: So of course, Peter brings him back to life. Great job. And then what happens is suddenly resurrection is the wave sweeping the city because someone else is like, "Hey, my son is dead. If you could bring this guy back, please fix my son too." They bring the son in, put him on the slab, and they say, "Simon Magus? Peter just raised a guy. Why don't you raise a guy?" And we find out--

C: This is hilarious.

B: It's creepy because we find out that Simon Magus can only make it appear that he has resurrected a person by basically telekinetically manipulating him like a puppet.

C: It didn't even seem telekinetic to me because it says in the text that he goes over and like bends over him for a minute and he's doing stuff with his hands.

B: Yeah, so it's just straight weakened at Bernie's.

C: And then he's like, "Hey, buddy, are you alive?" "Yeah, I'm doing really good." "Okay." And then Peter's like, "So why doesn't he just stand up?" And that's when people are like, "Hey Simon, I don't think you, I think you maybe just tied a string to this guy."

B: Yeah, and so that's what leads him to, as in the other version, go, "Fine, build me a tower, boys. I'm flying to heaven." And so we get some other bits. There's a lot of stuff. Like we should say, like the Acts of Peter is very long. Like it is, it's almost as long as the canonical acts. There's a lot of stuff, like we're hitting all the high points, but there's a lot of parts where they're just kind of talking about stuff. And it's a little more philosophical or even there's just a part where Peter's in the house and he's hanging out with some widows and he's like, you're not blind anymore, et cetera. Like there's a lot of that kind of stuff. So you guys can see that we're just we're really hitting the high points. But Acts of Peter is pretty long.

C: Mainly, we're just getting into the differences between this and the Acts of Peter and Paul.

B: Right.

C: And Simon Magus's death is different. And weirdly enough, given that we've seen talking babies, talking dogs, a resurrection off, and a Lil Jon video at this point, I would say the acts of Peter's version of Simon Magus's death is much more "realistic" in the way that, like, again, if we're doing the Batman '66 to the Dark Knight comparison, this is much more the Dark Knight.

B: He doesn't explode, no. And in fact, In fact, in this version, when Peter prays, Peter explicitly prays that Simon falls but not dies. He wants Simon to fall to prove that he's a false prophet or false miracle worker, but he says, "Spare his life." Simon falls in the sky, hits the ground, but then what happens is that all the people rush around and start hitting him with rocks. And then his body is rushed off to the house of some doctors, some of the people who are who are still faithful to Simon, take him to these doctors. The doctors, it's unclear if they do this maliciously or if they're just bad doctors, they end up cutting him into pieces. That's the end of Simon Magus in this version.

C: This is not what Peter is convicted of in this story.

B: Right, because now, this time, Peter didn't murder Simon, and so there's gotta be a different reason that Nero convicts him, and so-

C: Well, maybe that's the big, you know, Silver Age versus Modern Age when they were like, "Oh, wouldn't Peter be cooler if he did kill him?"

B: You think in the fifth century, a bunch of Christian fans were just sitting around like, "Ugh, why doesn't Peter just kill Simon Magus and get it over with? You wouldn't have to keep doing these miracle battles if you just kill a dude."

C: They were probably asking why he spent all his time bringing this salted herring back to life instead of attacking the root causes of crime in Rome.

B: Uh-huh, uh-huh.

C: As you said, for a thousand years, this was kind of the only thing you were allowed to read.

B: Yeah.

C: So when you think about having that kind of relationship with the text, a lot of this falls into place in a very understandable way, I think.

B: Yeah, for sure. So yeah, since Peter can't be convicted of Simon's murder in this case, we have to have another reason why Simon is murdered. And so what happens is this cycles back to that Coptic fragment that we have at the beginning where Peter talks about how virginity is so important and paralysis is preferable to losing one's virginity to the point where, I don't think we fully explained the plot of that. He cures his own daughter of paralysis and everyone's amazed and then he's like, yeah, but she's better paralyzed. And so he re-paralyzes her. I think we didn't mention that part of it.

C: 'Cause it's really weird.

B: 'Cause it's quite strange. But anyway, that theme comes back around here at the end where what happens is Peter is so successful in spreading his message that he converts Nero's wife and also the wife of another influential Roman. And they say, "Ah, Christianity is dope. I'm not having sex anymore." And Nero is like, "No, we gotta kill this guy. This guy's got to go."

C: That's the act of Peter. Again, it's difficult to get through, but super worth it. And you can find that on I had a real good time with it. There is a talking dog.

B: And a talking baby.

C: Benito.

B: Yes.

C: Do you have a reading from today's selections?

B: I do, and I already read it. It's that very good baby trash talk, slash the dog trash talk. So they both got read. So my verse is taken care of. How about you?

C: I had a text file that I was just copying and pasting stuff into. But this one we did not get to. But yeah, this is from chapter 28. This is during the resurrection-off. This is right when Simon is puppeting the guy's corpse. Peter turns on the crowd in this one and says, "It would have sufficed me, ye men of Rome, to hold my peace and die without speaking and to leave you among the deceits of this world. But I have the chastisement of fire unquenchable before mine eyes." Which I think is a great quote.

B: It's very good. That's really exceptional.

C: I was half ready to leave y'all to what you deserve. Act of Peter and Paul, pretty great. Now, there is a third text that I read today dealing with Simon Magus. And that's Justice League of America number two from 1960 published by DC Comics. Written of course by Gardner Fox. And drawn by Mike Sekowsky. Now, you've read this one. You've read all the Silver Age Justice Leagues.

B: I have, yeah. I don't remember it.

C: It's bonkers. And this is what we mean when we say that these stories are influential and keep coming back, even if they are not strictly a part of the canon. Simon Magus is the bad guy in this comic book. He fights for real Justice League. The story is called Secret of the Sinister Sorcerers. And Benito, you know how we don't have magic in our world too much?

B: Not too much. Not since the fairy roads have closed.

C: Yeah, exactly. That's because we live in the science dimension, but there is a magic dimension, and the magic dimension is where Merlin and King Arthur live, and it's contemporaneous with our dimension, as in it's happening right now.

B: Of course.

C: But a trio of villains got together and decided that what they were gonna do is they were gonna switch the Earths around, 'cause the Earths are the same. They just call things by different names in the magic dimension. Like, the entirety of North and South America is Asgard, which is Gardner Fox being extremely lazy as he often was. Not a fan. I'm just gonna throw that out there.

So these three bad guys switch things up. So all the science-based stuff, which is everything, to the point of like door locks and light switches and radios, stop working in our world because it's not magic. And in the magic world, These three bad guys straight roll up on Camelot riding in Cadillacs. And it's Saturna, the Lord of Misrule. It's the Troll King, who is a Viking looking guy. And it's Simon Magus, the evil magician. From here, it follows the typical pattern of a Silver Age Justice League story where the team has to split up into pairs and go deal with stuff. And they figure out what's going on. The Martian Manhunter and Green Lantern go after Saturna, the Lord of Misrule. They get in touch with Merlin. Merlin's helping them out. Wonder Woman and the Flash go after the Troll King. Batman and Superman have to go deal with Simon Magus--and Aquaman, I guess. But you know. Basically Simon Magus declares himself to be the king of earth, air, and water. But he only has three lives. So when he's defeated in the air by Superman, he then goes to the earth, which is a forest with Batman, where Batman fights a bunch of wood nymphs. And then Aquaman is actually the one who finally defeats him because he's out of lives so he can no longer escape once he's fought in the water. Then they switch everything back to the science dimension becomes the science dimension again, the magic dimension becomes the magic dimension.

Then, several years later, in World's Finest #265, Simon Magus comes back and kidnaps Robin. Once again, he's draining science dimension energy and Magic Dimension Energy into himself, but he's still gonna shoot Robin with a gun, which is a full-on in-character plot for Simon Magus.

B: It is, that's amazing. And I'd have to double-check my sources, but I'm pretty sure those two issues are considered canon in certain Ethiopian churches. Gotta double-check, though.

C: I think they're at least tertiary canon, probably.

B: Yeah.

C: I think that's about it. We've covered a lot of the contacts that we've gotten earlier in the show, we don't think we have anything new for this Alter Call segment, but if you have thoughts on Simon Magus and the apocryphal Acts of Peter and Acts of Peter and Paul, feel free to write in. You can leave us a question on our Tumblr. We'll answer it there or maybe here on the show. Benito, let's talk about what we're going to be reading in our next session.

B: Yeah, man, we're going to transition from this that is considered canon by no one to a book that is considered canon by everyone, at least people of the Jewish and Christian faiths and probably the Islamic faith as well. So this is a big one. It's a major one. In fact, he is the most major of the major prophets. We will be reading the book of Isaiah.

C: This was another one of my picks, and the reason I went with this one is that Isaiah has been quoted in both the book of Acts and the book of Daniel. So, I thought it was probably important that we get to him, probably gonna be encountering his words throughout this.

B: Absolutely.

C: So, we will be back in the regular Bible next time. Anything else?

B: No, man, I think we just about covered it all this time.

C: Do go back and read all of these stories of Simon Magus, and don't worry, he'll be back.

B: Absolutely.

C: But maybe not in as prominent a form as you see him here. So we'll be back with the Book of Isaiah. Until then, Benito, peace be with you.

B: And also with you.