Eaten through Worms: Comparison in between Acts 12:23 and also Death the the Persecutors 33-35

When request if I wanted to create an article for this blog about worms, i was hooked. It is one of my favorite components in mine dissertation and I can not get worn down of talking about Galerius and also how his groin got eaten by worms native the inside out.

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But first things first:

In rather a few ancient resources a negative emperor gets eaten alive by worms and also in most of them that is made clean from the start that a god or God is punishing some impious tyrant by these means. There is currently some job-related on the topos of worms together a condition naming plenty of examples. I desire to compare the explanation by Lactantius and also Luke in Acts to see exactly how they differ and also why that might be:

In On fatality of The Persecutors, Lactantius speak us exactly how the emperor Galerius is afflicted with an illness, very first showing itself as an ulcer (ulcus malum). Clinical treatment is insufficient and the wound opens up up time and also again under an excellent loss the blood. He looks for aid from pagan Gods and also thus aggravates his suffering. His lower body is completely destroyed and also finally worms arise to eat the from the inside out. The suffers from immense pain and also a swarm that worms pushes out of his body, even more worms still remaining. His whole body dries up, there appears to it is in no cure. ~ Galerius decides to praise God his condition stops long enough for the to release his edict against persecuting Christians prior to he lastly meets his end (Lact. Mort. 33-35). Luke additionally explains in Acts that Herod Agrippa is punished by angels because he denied God and also thus dies consumed by worms (Acts 12:23). Lactantius offers several chapters until his antagonist lastly dies and Luke features one city to the fatality of Herod Agrippa. Both tell united state the emperor denied God and thus is punished. Lactantius introduces the anecdote about Galerius’s experiencing with the native “when God punished him v incurable wound” and resolves with “nevertheless the did not attain forgiveness for his deeds native God, however <…> to be consumed through horrific decay”. Luke combine all information within this solitary verse, specify name the punisher, the punished and also the punishment.

The descriptions differ in various aspects. Lactantius shows his readers exactly how much Galerius sick in good detail. He contains the worms in a heat of illnesses, the very first being cancer. The i of penalty ties to Galerius’s experiencing from society lowering through the promotion of Constantine and thus is an enhancement to current punishments. Galerius then appears to have the opportunity to get much better by acknowledging God however decides to rotate to a pagan god, which are demons. He climate is rotting alive and also eaten through worms. It appears his reaction to previous punishments is complicated God to finish his life in such good misery. Galerius is punished because that his deeds versus humanity, the state, and his denouncing God – return one could argue, the the very first two room a authorize for the acts versus God.

Luke, ~ above the various other hand, shows a different approach. Herod Agrippa is punished through angels, no God himself, yet is punished because that what he did to God no for what he did to his other humans or the angels. Ns think it would certainly be valuable to ask further questions regarding why the angels execute the punishment and how this fits in ~ Luke’s wider notion the God throughout his Gospel and Acts. For the time being I want to keep in mind that in comparison come Lactantius, the interpretation might be twofold: First, God exists outside of this world and does not connect personally yet uses messengers who interact on his behalf. Second, God does not punish himself.

In conclusion, Lactantius provides God a really real component of this world, who decides which punishment is sufficient for a poor emperor and also who self is the pressure executing stated punishment directly or indirectly. Luke defines a God outside of this world, who has actually no direct link to what is happening in ~ its boundaries. For this reason their particular notions of God become apparent within the passages and show considerable differences. The reason of punishment is in both situations the delinquent’s renunciation of God. The punishment chin is various especially in that is length: Lactantius put his description of worms in ~ the end of a long duration of suffering but does not make them the immediate reason of death. The is fairly the tipping allude for Galerius’s attitude. Luke end Herod Agrippa’s story with him being consumed alive. There is no class to be learned. Both authors display us the as quickly as the penalty via worms is applied, there is no way to escape specific death. It can take longer due to the fact that there is a repentance to it is in made like in the situation of Galerius but whatever wake up after the punishment is set in motion, that does not bring salvation.

After this really short analysis, i wonder just how other explanation of punishment through worms compare and also if they can actually contribute to a closer understanding of the id of God in this sources?


Written by Gianna Zipp Universität Mainz


thomas Africa, Worms and also the fatality of Kings: A cautionary note on disease and History, Classical antiquity 1/1 (1982), 1-17 notes the Judeo-Christian writers did not write objective history and thus their descriptions need to not be offered by historians to explore diseases. Roland Steinacher, von Würmern bei lebendigem Leib zerfressen… und dice Läusesucht Phtheiriasis. Ein antikes Strafmotiv und seine Rezeptionsgeschichte, Gerhard Dobesch, Hermann Harrauer, Peter Siewert, Ekkehard Weber , Tyche. Beiträge zur Alten Geschichte, Papyrologie und Epigraphik, band 18 (2003), 145-166 outlines the depiction of worms as condition especially for emperors beginning with Herodotos and also shows the this motif is discovered not just within Judeo-Christian discourse but throughout antiquity.

Cum percussit eum deus insanabili plaga. Lact. Mort. 33,1.

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Nec tamen ille hoc facto veniam sceleris accepit a deo, sed <…> horrenda tabe consumptus est. Lact. Mort. 35,3.