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E01960: Asterius of Amasea, in his Homily VIII, On the Apostles *Peter (S00036) and *Paul (S00008), delivered during a service celebrated on their feast, refers to the superiority of Peter over the Apostles *John (S00042), *James (son of Zebedee, S00108) and *Philip (S00109). Written in Greek in Amaseia/Amasea (northern Asia Minor), in the late 4th or early 5th c..

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posted on 2016-10-27, 00:00 authored by erizos
Asterius of Amasea, Homily VIII, On Peter and Paul (CPG 3260.1, BHG 1494)

1. (1.) Πᾶσαι μὲν αἱ συνήθεις αὗται καὶ κατὰ νόμον τελούμεναι τῶν μαρτύρων τιμαί, ἱεραὶ πανηγύρεις εἰσὶ καὶ τῶν κατὰ Θεὸν ἀνδραγαθησάντων στῆλαι διαιωνίζουσαι· ἐν αἷς οἱ πρόεδροι τῶν ἐκκλησιῶν, ὅταν εἰς τὸ λέγειν ἀφίκωνται, τὰς ἑαυτῶν δυνάμεις ἀντεξετάζοντες τῷ μεγέθει τῶν ὑποθέσεων εὐθὺς ἐν προοιμίοις εἰς τὴν συγγνώμην καὶ τὴν παραίτησιν καταφεύγουσιν καί φασιν ἐλαττοῦν τὴν τῶν πραγμάτων μεγαλοπρέπειαν τῇ τοῦ λόγου σμικρότητι. (2.) Εἰ δ’ ἐκεῖνοι τοὺς καθ’ ἕκαστον τῶν μαρτύρων ἐγκωμιάζειν μέλλοντες ἀπαγορεύουσι πρὸς τὸν ἔπαινον καὶ λαμπρᾷ τῇ φωνῇ τὴν σφῶν αὐτῶν ὁμολογοῦσιν ἀσθένειαν, τίς ἂν γενοίμην ἐγὼ σήμερον, ὁ τοὺς διδασκάλους τῶν μαρτύρων ἔχων προκειμένους εἰς εὐφημίαν, τοὺς γνησίους καὶ πρώτους μαθητὰς τοῦ Χριστοῦ, τοὺς πατέρας τῶν ἐκκλησιῶν, τοὺς μόνους ἀξιοπίστους τοῦ εὐαγγελίου κήρυκας, τοὺς Θεῷ λαλήσαντας καὶ τὴν παρὰ Θεοῦ φωνὴν δεξαμένους ταῖς ἀκοαῖς;

‘1. All these regular celebrations of the martyrs, which are held according to custom, are sacred assemblies and monuments immortalising those who have excelled according to God. On them, the presidents of the Churches, when they are about to preach, compare their own strength to the greatness of the subject, and they straightway in their prefaces resort to apologies and resignation, claiming that they fall short of the magnificence of the matter by the littleness of their discourse. But if they shy away from praise and by a loud voice declare their own weakness, while about to give an encomium for each one of the martyrs, what should I do today, having as I do the teachers of the martyrs before me to praise, the true and first disciples of Christ, the fathers of the Churches, the only credible heralds of the Gospel, who spoke with God and received the voice of God into their own ears?’

The homily consists of two encomia, for Peter (1-16) and for Paul (17-34). Particularly interesting is paragraph 11, where the author argues for the superiority of Peter among all the disciples of Christ:

11. (1.) Ζηλωτὸς μὲν οὖν καὶ ὁ μέγας Ἰωάννης ἐπὶ τῶν τοῦ Κυρίου στέρνων ἀναπαυόμενος· μέγας καὶ Ἰάκωβος ὡς υἱὸς ὀνομασθεὶς βροντῆς· λαμπρὸς ἐν ταῖς τιμαῖς καὶ ὁ Φίλιππος, ὁ παρὰ τοῦ Πνεύματος ἁρπασθεὶς ἡνίκα τὸν Αἰθίοπα πρὸς τὴν ἐπίγνωσιν τοῦ Σωτῆρος ἐμυσταγώγησεν· ἀλλ’ ὅμως οἱ πάντες ὑποχωρείτωσαν Πέτρῳ καὶ δευτερεύειν ὁμολογείτωσαν, ὅταν ἡ τῶν χαρισμάτων σύγκρισις δοκιμάζῃ τὸν προτιμότερον.

‘So the great John who rests on the breast of the Lord is enviable; great is also James, who was called Son of Thunder; resplendent in his honours is also Philip, who was snatched away by the Spirit, when he initiated the Ethiopian into knowing the Saviour; but let all cede to Peter and confess that they fall short, when a comparison of graces judges who is more prominent.’

Text: Datema 1970.
Translation: E. Rizos.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Peter the Apostle : S00036 Paul, the Apostle : S00008 Philip the Apostle, ob. 1st c. : S00109 James the Apostle, son of Zebedee, ob. 1st c. : S00108 John the Evangelist : S00042

Saint Name in Source

Πέτρος Παῦλος Φίλιππος Ἰάκωβος Ἰωάννης

Type of Evidence

Literary - Sermons/Homilies


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Asia Minor

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Amasea Nicomedia Νικομήδεια Nikomēdeia Izmit Πραίνετος Prainetos Nicomedia

Major author/Major anonymous work

Asterius of Amasea

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Sermon/homily

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops


Asterius was bishop of Amasea in Pontus (north Anatolia) between the 380s and 420s, perhaps having been a rhetorician before joining the clergy. He is only known from his homilies (16 preserved intact), which provide us with pretty much all we know about Asterius’ life, since he not mentioned by other sources from Late Antiquity. His work attracted much attention during Iconoclasm and in the Byzantine period, when his homilies were widely appreciated as models of Christian rhetoric. His Ekphrasis on Euphemia of Chalcedon (E00477) was among the texts quoted in the Second Council of Nicaea (787), in support of the use of images in Christian worship (sessions IV and VI; Mansi XIII, pp. 16-18, 308-309). Ten of Asterius' homilies are quoted in the Bibliotheca of Photius (cod. 271). On the manuscript tradition of this homily, see: Datema 1970, 81 (accessed 27/10/2016)


This sermon was given during a celebration of the two apostles, very probably at the author’s episcopal see of Amaseia/Amasea in Pontus. The homily gives no information about the date and venue of the feast. It is thus uncertain if it was the elsewhere recorded Anatolian feast of 28 December (on which, see the discussion in E01830; E01831) or the Roman feast of 29 June. The author discusses the lives of the two apostles based exclusively on the New Testament sources, and refers to their death in Rome under Nero.


Text: Datema, C., Asterius of Amasea, Homilies I-XIV: Text, Introduction and Notes (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1970), 26-37. Further reading: Baldwin, B. "Asterios of Amaseia," in: A.P. Kazhdan, A.-M. Talbot, and A. Cutler (eds.), Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), 213. Dehandschutter, B., "Asterius of Amasea," in: J. Leemans (ed.), 'Let Us Die That We May Live' : Greek Homilies on Christian Martyrs from Asia Minor, Palestine and Syria, (c. AD 350-AD 450) (London: Routledge, 2003), 162-193. Speyer, W. "Asterios von Amaseia," in: Reallexikon für Antike und Christentum (Stuttgart: Hiersemann, 1980), 626-639. Voicu, S.J. "Feste di apostolic a la fine di Dicembre," Studi sull’ Oriente Cristiano 8.2 (2002), 47-77.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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