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Anonymous Reader (Acts of Peter 20-21)

Role: Reader

Gender: Unknown

Date:  Late 2nd Century CE

Place: Unknown

Language:  Latin

Literary Genre: Narrative; Novel

Title of Work: Acts of Peter

Reference: Acts of Peter 20-21

Original Text:

Introibit autem Petrus in triclinio et vidit evangelium legi. Involves eum dixit: Viri, qui in Christo creditis et speratus…   (Acts of Peter 20)

English Translation:

Peter entered the dining-room and saw that the Gospel was being read. He rolled it up and said: “You men trust and hope in Christ…”  (Acts of Peter 20)

Text: from Richard Adelbert Lipsius and Max Bonnet, Acta apostolorum apocrypha. 2 vols in 3 parts (Leipzig:Mendelssohn, 1889-190), 1.66-67.

Translation: author’s own.


In the Acts of Peter the protagonist, the Apostle Peter, enters a dining-room (triclinium) where he sees that the Gospel is being read aloud. The reader here, though not noted in the text, is likely to have been enslaved. This is both because enslaved and formerly enslaved workers did the majority of literate work, and because it was common for ancient authors to use the passive to denote work performed by low status individuals. 

The scene envisions a reading event in an affluent household in the city of Rome similar to those described elsewhere in ancient Greek and Roman literature. We should assume that, in keeping with similar practices,  the servile reader had been tasked ahead of time with performing the text during the evening’s dinner party. The reader performed the text from a book roll using facial expressions and gestures. Their reading, thus, constituted a form of scriptural interpretation that guided the impressions of the assembled audience. 

This passage is a primary source in discussions of early Christian reading practices and the development of early Christian liturgy. After the reading, Peter subsequently expounded upon and interpreted the Gospel. Other Christian texts that assume public readings include 1 Thess 5:27; Col 4:16; Rev. 1:3; Justin Martyr, 1 Apol. 67.2.

Keywords: Apocryphal Acts; Christian; Literate Worker; Peter; Reader; Rome.


Laes, Christian. “Lectors in the Latin West: The Epigraphical Evidence (c. 300-800).” Arctos 53 (2019): 83–127.

Shiell, William David. Reading Acts: The Lector and the Early Christian Audience. Leiden: Brill 2004.

Snyder, Julia. “Acts of Peter.” e-Clavis: Christian Apocrypha. Accessed 1 March 2024.

How to Cite:

Moss, Candida R. “Anonymous Reader (Acts of Peter 20).” Ancient Enslaved Christians. Accessed DAY MONTH YEAR. <URL>.



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