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MEDIEVAL-RELIGION  February 2015

MEDIEVAL-RELIGION February 2015

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Subject:

Re: FEAST - A Saint for the Day (February 9): St. Nicephorus

From:

John Dillon <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

medieval-religion - Scholarly discussions of medieval religious culture <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 9 Feb 2015 17:57:43 -0600

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medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

On 02/08/02, Phyllis Jestice wrote:
> Nikephoros of Antioch (d. c. 250) The tale of Nikephoros, which may be
> fully legendary, tells that Nikephoros was a friend of the priest
> Sapricius, but quarreled with him. Nikephoros repeatedly attempted a
> reconciliation, only to be rebuffed by his erstwhile friend. And when
> Sapricius was condemned as a Christian Nikephoros followed him to the place
> of execution, begging once again for reconciliation---and revealed himself
> as a Christian to the authorities, offering his life in place of
> Sapricius'. The executioner accepted the exchange: Sapricius was released
> and Nikephoros was beheaded.

For "d. c. 250" I would prefer "d. betw. 257 and 260, supposedly". Nicephorus' pre-metaphrastic Passio (BHG 1331), its reworking by John, bp. of Sardis (BHG 1334), and its tenth-century expansion by St. Symeon Metaphrastes (BHG 1333) all place his martyrdom in the Valerianic persecution. "of Antioch" is extraordinarily dubious: it's in some (seemingly) but not all witnesses to Symeon's version and is absent from the latter's two aforementioned predecessors. Both of those identify the general locale "in eastern parts" (which for a late antique or early medieval Greek story suggests that the account is fabulous and which for Greek hagiography in a Syrian context suggests Persian-ruled areas in Mesopotamia or further east) and specify the particular locale only by reference to "the city". Ditto for the Latin version of Nicephorus' pre-metaphrastic Passio (BHL 6085), whose earliest witness is dated to the later ninth century.

For a supposed "great martyr" of an early persecution in the east, Nicephorus is strikingly absent from the later fourth-century Syriac martyrology as well as from the considerably later (pseudo-)Hieronymian Martyrology, both of which are thought to draw on a now lost fourth-century Greek-language general martyrology of "eastern" saints.

Hippolyte Delehaye, _The Legends of the Saints: An Introduction to Hagiography_ (London: Longmans, Green, and Co.,1907), p. 114, in his taxonomy of martyrial acta:
"After the historical romances dealing with real personages, come the _imaginative romances_, in which the hero himself is the creation of the poet. The Passion of St Nicephorus and the history of Barlaam and Joasaph are types of this class."

Nicephorus of Antioch (a.k.a. Nicephorus laicus and Nicephorus, martyr in the East) entered the Roman Martyrology from Molanus' later sixteenth-century additions to Usuard. In the RM's revision of 2001 he was replaced by a more certainly Syrian saint, Maron the Hermit.

Best,
John Dillon


On 02/09/15, Matt Heintzelman wrote:
> medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture 
> 
> 
> 
> https://www.facebook.com/604882972899463/photos/a.624764970911263.1073741830.604882972899463/779153662139059/?type=1&theater
> 
> 
> 
> St Nicephorus then said to the executioner, &#8220;I am a Christian, and I believe in our Lord Jesus Christ. Execute me in place of Sapricius.&#8221; The executioners reported this to the governor. He decided to free Sapricius, and to behead Nicephorus in his place. Thus did St Nicephorus inherit the Kingdom and receive a martyr&#8217;s crown. (https://oca.org/saints/lives/2001/02/09/100466-martyr-nicephorus-of-antioch-in-syria)
>

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