DELAWARE, Ohio – Vicious attack dogs appearing out of nowhere, people being raised from the dead, a decapitated head going missing, a showdown with a wicked sorcerer.
These are not plot points from the latest Stephen King, Dean Koontz, or J.K. Rowling thriller. Instead, they are traditions associated with the deaths of apostles Peter and Paul – all collected, translated, and analyzed by Ohio Wesleyan University professor David L. Eastman in his new book, “The Ancient Martyrdom Accounts of Peter and Paul (Writings from the Greco-Roman World).”
“Tradition says that Peter and Paul died in Rome at the hands of the emperor Nero – Peter by being crucified upside down and Paul by decapitation,” says Eastman, Ph.D., associate professor of religion. “These traditions come from two texts from the late second century, the Acts of Peter and Acts of Paul.
“These are only two of the ancient accounts of their deaths,” Eastman continues, “but I discovered in my research that almost all scholars rely on these two stories to the exclusion of a number of other texts. This book brings all these stories together in a single volume for the first time.”
Eastman’s book, published this month by Atlanta-based SBL Press, includes all new translations from the original Greek, Latin, and Syriac sources, with footnotes to explain interesting or obscure points along with short introductions to supply dates and important features of the text. For scholars who read the ancient languages, the original texts are included, too.
“The book is accessible to students or general readers, because you don’t need foreign languages or a lot of background to follow what’s happening in the texts,” Eastman says. “But for scholars, they also have what they need to dig deeper into the details of the texts. …
“The variety of texts reminds us that traditional stories even about important people like Peter and Paul are seldom straightforward,” Eastman concludes. “Different contexts motivate writers to re-tell stories with different emphases or details for their own purposes. For those with particular interest in early Christianity, I hope they will enjoy learning about the traditions of what happened to Peter and Paul after the New Testament story leaves off.”
Eastman also is the author of “Paul the Martyr: The Cult of the Apostle in the Latin West” and is a contributor to the Society of Biblical Literature’s Bible Odyssey website. In addition, he is book review editor for the Journal of Early Christian Studies and co-editor of the Penn State University Press book series “Inventing Christianity.”
Eastman, who joined the Ohio Wesleyan faculty in 2011, already is under contract with Oxford University Press on his next book, tentatively titled “Killing Peter and Paul: Traditions of the Apostolic Martyrdoms.”
In addition, he is collaborating with another academic publisher to create a book on martyrdom and persecution in early Christianity, a topic on which he taught an Ohio Wesleyan honors course in spring 2015. As part of the course, Eastman worked with his students to create “Mapping the Martyrs,” an online resource for the study of persecution and martyrdom in the early centuries of Christianity. Learn more about the mapping project at http://mappingthemartyrs.org.
Learn more about Eastman and Ohio Wesleyan’s Department of Religion at www.owu.edu/religion.
Founded in 1842, Ohio Wesleyan University is one of the nation’s premier liberal arts universities. Located in Delaware, Ohio, the private university offers 86 undergraduate majors and competes in 23 NCAA Division III varsity sports. Ohio Wesleyan combines a challenging, internationally focused curriculum with off-campus learning and leadership opportunities to connect classroom theory with real-world experience. OWU’s 1,750 students represent 46 U.S. states and territories and 43 countries. Ohio Wesleyan is featured in the book “Colleges That Change Lives,” listed on the latest President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with Distinction, and included in the U.S. News & World Report and Princeton Review “best colleges” lists. Learn more at www.owu.edu.