Fortress Press

The Apocryphal Sunday: History and Texts from Late Antiquity

The Apocryphal Sunday

History and Texts from Late Antiquity

Uta Heil (Author), Michel-Yves Perrin (Contributor), Renate Burri (Contributor), Ioannis Grossmann (Contributor), Annette von Stockhausen (Contributor), Canan Arıkan-Caba (Contributor), Philip Polcar (Contributor), Christoph Scheerer (Contributor), Angela Zielinski Kinney (Contributor)


Interested in a gratis copy?

How do you plan on using your gratis copy? Review requests are for media inquiries. Exam requests are for professors, teachers, and librarians who want to review a book for course adoption.

  • In stock
  • Kindle - Nook - Google
  • Quantity discount
    • # of Items Price
    • 1 to 9$49.00
    • 10 or more$36.75

A range of apocryphal and pseudepigraphic texts from Late Antiquity points to the importance of Sunday as a holiday for baptized Christians. First and foremost is the so-called Letter from Heaven, which has experienced a broad and long-lasting reception up to modern times, although it was also criticized as a forgery from its beginning. Unfortunately, these texts have not received sufficient attention so far.

This volume presents various versions of the Letter from Heaven, as well as other texts (the pseudepigraphic Acts of the Synod of Caesarea; pseudepigraphic sermons of Eusebius of Alexandria, John Chrysostom, and Basil of Caesarea; passages from the Didascalia or Diataxis of Jesus Christ; the Second Apocryphal Apocalypse of John; the Visio Pauli; a sermon of Sophronius of Jerusalem; and the Apocalypse of Anastasia), together with a translation and commentary. An introduction tells the story of this letter and integrates it and the other texts into the cultural history of Sunday. It becomes clear that Sunday as a day of rest and a feast day was not in the foreground of the development of an ecclesiastical festival calendar for a long time, although Emperor Constantine enacted a law on holiday rest on Sunday in 321 CE. Sunday, rather, marks the end of the Christianization of time and the calendar, when Easter, Pentecost, Christmas, and martyrs' feasts were already taken for granted. The authors of these texts obviously wanted to accelerate this process, which is why an anonymous person even resorted to presenting Christ himself as the author of this letter. Here, severe punishments are threatened to all who do not observe Sunday, who work as if it were a weekday, and who skip worship. The broad tradition shows that the letter was read and distributed despite all the criticism, and was even turned into an early form of a chain letter.

  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9781506491073
  • eBook ISBN 9781506491080
  • Dimensions 6 x 9
  • Pages 535
  • Publication Date October 17, 2023


Uta Heil and the team of scholars around her have produced a remarkable and singular piece of scholarship, and they are to be heartily commended. The place of Sunday as a feast in the Christian tradition is a core object of Christian theology and biblical exegesis, and this monograph brings into the light a lesser-known but incredibly influential text, the so-called Letter from Heaven. Weaving together the weighty work of a critical edition of the document's various recensions with a wide-ranging exploration of how Sunday has been understood, The Apocryphal Sunday is now the place where all scholars will have to begin.

Matthew S. C. Olver, Nashotah House Theological Seminary and Durham University

Sunday is central to Christian tradition, yet little is known about its origins. Uta Heil and her colleagues open our eyes to a fascinating body of texts from Late Antiquity, which they rigorously analyze, edit, and translate, revealing new perspectives from the margins of mainstream Christianity on the early observance and meanings of Sunday.

Sacha Stern, FBA, University College London

This careful introduction to and collection of the popular literature on the observance of Sunday in Christian practice establishes the significance of the issue for both clergy and laity. By providing both an analysis and translations of the surviving documents, it appeals for and invites further investigation and evaluation of the startling means which some Christians dared to employ to urge their preferred practices on their fellows.

J. Patout Burns Jr., University of Notre Dame