St. John destroys the statue of Diana, drinks poisons, and raises corpses

Pocket Bard’s notes: This is actually a pretty standard conversion story, the sort that you see quite a lot in the Golden Legend. What I like about this one in particular is how nicely all the component parts come together in one fluid story, even though they seem fairly disperate. I probably won’t ever perform this one (I find it too preachy for an SCA audience), but I like the story nonetheless.


St. John destroys the statue of Diana, drinks poisons, and raises corpses
The Golden Legend, Volume I, trans. William Granger Ryan, p.53

When Saint John had preached throughout the region of Asia, the idol-worshippers stirred up a riot among the populace, and they dragged him to the temple of Diana and tried to force him to offer sacrifice to the goddess. Then the saint proposed this alternative: if by invoking Diana they overturned the church of Christ, he would offer sacrifice to the idols; but if by invoking Christ he destroyed Diana’s temple, they would believe in Christ. To this proposal the greater number of the people gave their consent. When all had gone out of the building, the apostle prayed, the temple collapsed to the ground, and the statue of Diana was reduced to dust.

Thereupon the high priest Aristodemus incited a still greater commotion among the people, and two parties were at the point of coming to blows. The apostle asked the priest: “What do you want me to do to restore order?” He answered: “If you want me to believe in your God, I will give you poison to drink. If it does you no harm, it will be clear that your master is the true God.” John replied: “Do as you say!” “But first,” came the answer, “I want you to see it kill some others, to make you fear its power the more.” So Aristodemus hied himself to the proconsul, obtained the release of two criminals condemned to decapitation, and, in the presence of the crowd, gave them the poison. They drank it and fell dead. Then the apostle took the cup, armed himself with the sign of the cross, drained the drink, and suffered no harm; and all present began to praise God.

Aristodemus, however, was not yet convinced and said: “If you can bring the two dead men back to life, I will not hesitate to believe.” The apostle handed him his cloak. “Why do you give me your cloak?” the other asked. John’s answer: “To make you think twice and give up your unbelief!” “No mantle of yours will ever make me believe!” the priest retorted. John said: “Go and spread this cloak over the corpses, and say, ‘The apostle of Christ has sent me to you, that you may rise in the name of Christ.’” He did has he was bidden, and the dead men arose at once. Then the high priest and the proconsul believed, and the apostle baptized them and their families. At a later time they built a church in honor of Saint John.

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