Though Napoleon could not conquer it in 1799, it was taken by the Viceroy of Egypt in 1832, but reconquered by the Sultan in 1840. Till about 1400 it was the see of a Latin bishop; it has also been the residence of a few Jacobite bishops, and has now a Melchite bishop who is subject to the Patriarch of Antioch.
Hagen, Lexicon Biblicum (Paris, 1905); Neher in Kirchenlex., Legendre in Vig., Dict. de la bible (Paris, 1895); Ewing in Hastings, Dict. of the Bible (New York, 1903).
Acrostic (ἄκρος στίχος, "at the end of a verse"), a poem the initial or final letters (syllables or words) of whose verses form certain words or sentences. Its invention is attributed to Epicharmus. The most remarkable example of such a poem is attributed by Lactantius and Eusebius to the Erythræan sibyl, the initial letters forming the words Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς θεοῦ ὑιὸς σωτὴρ (σταυρός), "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour (cross)". Omitting the doubtful parenthesis, these words form a minor acrostic: Ἰχθύς, fish, the mystical symbol of our Lord. The acrostic is supposed to have been quite popular among the early Christians. In a wider sense the name acrostic is applied to alphabetical or "abecedarian" poems. In this kind of poetry the successive verses or stanzas begin with the successive letters of the alphabet. We see this exemplified is Pss. cxi, cxii, cxix (Vulg. cx, cxi, cxviii); Prov., xxxi, 10-31; Lam., i, ii, iii, iv; and in a less regular manner, in Pss. x, xxv, xxxv, cxlv (Vulg. ix, xxiv, xxxiv, xxxvi, cxliv); Ecclus., li, 18–38. (See Hebrew Poetry, Parallelism, Psalms).
Leclercq in Dict. d'archéol. chrét. et de lit. (Paris, 1903); Vigouroux in Dict. de la bible, s.v. Alphabétique (Poème) (Paris, 1895).
Act. The Conventicle. See Conventicle Act.
Acta Martyrum. See Acts of the Martyrs.
Acta Pilati (or Gospel of Nicodemus).—This work does not assume to have written by Pilate, but to have been derived from the official acts preserved in the prætorium at Jerusalem. The alleged Hebrew original is attributed to Nicodemus. The title "Gospel of Nicodemus" is of medieval origin. The apocryphon gained wide credit in the Middle Ages, and has considerably affected the legends of our Saviour's Passion. Its popularity is attested by the number of languages in which it exists, each of these being represented by two or more recensions. We possess a text in Greek, the original language; a Coptic, an Armenian and a Latin, besides modern translations. The Latin versions were naturally its most current form and were printed several times in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. One class of the Latin manuscripts contain as an appendix or continuation, the "Cura Sanitatis Tiberii", the oldest form of the Veronica legend.
The "Acta" consist of three sections, which reveal inequalities of style. The first (i–xi) contains the trial of Jesus based upon Luke, xxiii. The second part comprises xii–xvi; it regards the Resurrection. An appendix, detailing the Descensus ad Infernos, forms the third section, This does not exist in the Greek text and is a later addition. Leucius and Charinus, the two souls raised from the dead after the Crucifixion, relate to the Sanhedrin the circumstances of Our Lord's descent to Limbo. The well-informed Eusebius (325), although he mentions the Acta Pilati referred to by Justin and Tertullian and heathen pseudo-Acts of this kind, shows no acquaintance with this work. We are forced to admit that is of later origin, and scholars agree in assigning it to the middle of the fourth century. There is no internal relation between the "Acta" and the feigned letter found in the Acts of Peter and Paul. Epiphanius refers to the Acta Pilati similar to our own, as early as 376, but there are indications that the current Greek text, the earliest extant form, is a revision of the original one. The "Acta" are of orthodox composition and free from Gnostic taint. The book aimed at gratifying the desire for extra-evangelical details concerning Our Lord, and at the same time, to strengthen faith in the Resurrection of Christ, and at general edification. The writers (for the work we have is a composite) could not have expected their production to be seriously accepted by unbelievers. (See Apocrypha, under Pilate Literature.)
The best Greek and Latin edition of the text, with notes, is that of Thilo, Codex Apocryphorum Novi Testamenti, I (Leipzig, 1832; Tischendorf, Evangelica Apocrypha (Leipzig, 1853, 1876), is uncritical in this regard. For dissertations: Lipsius, Die Pilatus Akten kritisch untersucht (Kiel 1871); Wülcker, Das Evangelium Nicodemi in der abendlandischer Litteratur (Paderborn, 1872); Dobschütz, art. Gospel of Nicodemus in Hastings, Dict. of the Bible, extra volume; Lipsius, art. Apocryphal Gospel, in Dict. of Christ. Biog., II, 707–709. The Acta Pilati receives due notice in the histories of ancient Christian literature by Bardenhewer, Zahn, Harnack and Preuschen.
'Acta Sanctæ Sedis, a Roman monthly publication containing the principal public documents issued by the Pope, directly or through the Roman Congregations. It was begun in 1865, under the title of "Acta Sanctæ Sedis in compendium redacta etc.", and was declared, 23 May, 1904, an organ of the Holy See to the extent that all documents printed in it are "authentic and official".
Acta Sanctorum. See Bollandists.
Acta Sanctorum Hiberniæ, the abbreviated title of a celebrated work on the Irish saints by the Franciscan, John Colgan (Louvain, 1645). The full title runs as follows: "Acta Sanctorum veteris et majoris Scotiæ, seu Hiberniæ, Sanctorum Insulæ, partim ex variis per Europam MSS. codd. exscripta, partim ex antiquis monumentis et probatis authoribus eruta et congesta; omnia notis et appendicibus illustrata, per R.P.F. Joannem Colganum, in conventu F.F. Minor. Hibern. Scrictioris Observ., Lovanii, S. Theologiæ Lectorem Jubilatum. Nunc primum de eisdem actis juxta ordinem mensium et dierum prodit tomus primus, qui de sacris Hiberniæ antiquitatibus est tertius, Januarium, Februarium, et Martium complectens." Colgan was an ardent Irishman, of the Mac Colgan sept, b. in the County Derry, 1592. He entered the Irish House of Franciscans, at Louvain, in 1612, and was ordained priest in 1618. Aided by Father Hugh Ward, O.F.M., Father Stephen White, S.J., and Brother Michael O'Cleary, O.F.M., Colgan sedulously collected enormous material for the Lives of the Irish Saints, and at length, after thirty years of sifting and digesting his materials, put to press his "Acta Sanctorum Hiberniæ," a portion of the expense of which was defrayed by Archbishop O'Reilly of Armagh. The first volume, covering the lives of Irish saints for the months of January, February, and March, was intended to be the third volume of the "Ecclesiastical Antiquities of Ireland," but only one volume was printed at Louvain in 1645. To students of Irish ecclesiastical history Colgan's noble volume is simply invaluable.
Acta Triadis Thaumaturgæ (The Acts of a Wonder-working Triad), or the lives of St. Patrick, St. Brigid, and St. Columba; published at Louvain, in 1647, by John Colgan, O.F.M., mainly at the expense of Thomas Fleming, Archbishop of Dublin. The full title runs as follows: "Triadis Thaumaturgæ, seu divorum Patricii, Columbæ, et Brigidæ, trium veteris et majoris Scotiæ, seu Hiberniæ, Sanctorum insulæ, communium patronorum acta, a variis, iisque pervetustis ac Sanctis, authoribus Scripta, ac studio R.P.F. Joannis Colgani, in conventu F.F. Minor.