Quo Vadis

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Quo Vadis or Domine, quo vadis?, meaning Lord, where are you going?, a text from the Apocryphal Acts of Peter composed c. a. d. 190, probably in Syria or Palestine. An anecdote based on the text became a legend in patristic times and is referred to by origen (Comm. in Joan. 20.12; Patrologia Graeca 14:600) and ambrose of milan (Sermo Contra Auxentium 13).

Peter is represented in flight from Rome during the persecutions of Nero; he meets Jesus on the Appian Way: "And when he saw him, he said, 'Lord, whither goest thou?' And the Lord said unto him, 'I go into Rome to be crucified.' And Peter said to him, 'Lord, art thou being crucified again?' He said to him, 'Yes, Peter, I am being crucified again.' Peter came to himself, and having beheld the Lord ascending up into Heaven, he returned to Rome, rejoicing and glorifying the Lord, because he said, 'I am being crucified,' which was about to befall Peter" (James, The Apocryphal New Testament 333).

The Acts of Peter record the condemnation of Peter by the prefect Agrippa, his request to be crucified head downward, and a long sermon that he delivered on the symbolic meaning of the cross. This discourse betrays Gnostic influence, as do certain other passages of the Acts of Peter. About two-thirds of the text have been recovered; small Greek and Coptic fragments and the main body in a Latin manuscript were found at Vercelli (Actus Vercellenses ). Ambrose used the anecdote without reference to its Apocryphal character to show that, as Peter stood firmly with the Church, Ambrose would stand with the Church of Milan against the Arians.

Bibliography: m. r. james, The Apocryphal New Testament (Oxford 1953). c. h. turner, "The Latin Acts of St. Peter," Journal of Theological Studies 32 (193031) 119133. h. dannenbauer, "Nochmals die römische Petruslegende," Historische Zeitschrift 159 (1938) 8188. j. quasten, Patrology, (Westminster, Md. 1950) 1:133135. f. l. cross, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (London 1957) 1050, 1134.

[m. c. mccarthy]