Perpetua's Prayer for Dinocrates

Jeffrey A. Trumbower

in Rescue for the Dead

Published in print October 2001 | ISBN: 9780195140996
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199834747 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in Historical Theology

 Perpetua's Prayer for Dinocrates

Show Summary Details


Examines posthumous salvation in a text called The Passion of Perpetua and Felicitas. The text purports to contain diaries of the North African martyrs, Perpetua and Saturus, while in prison before their deaths in 203 c.e. Saturus had turned himself in, so his martyrdom may be likened to a form of suicide. Just before her execution, Perpetua says she saw her long‐dead little brother Dinocrates in a vision; it is almost certain that Dinocrates had died a pagan. He is in agony, and through her prayer for the dead, she is able to improve his condition in the afterlife. Perpetua's vision will later play a major role in the development of ideas about purgatory, but only after Dinocrates is reinterpreted as a lapsed or sinful Christian. Throughout the chapter, the writings of Tertullian are adduced to illustrate the background of the Perpetua text. Some scholars posit that Perpetua's rescue of Dinocrates has to do with the influence of Montanism in North Africa, but this study argues that such is not the case.

Keywords: Dinocrates; martyrs; Montanism; Perpetua; prayer for the dead; purgatory; Saturus; suicide; Tertullian; vision

Chapter.  7366 words. 

Subjects: Christian Theology

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.