The Pilgrimage of Egeria mentioned the “Acts of St. Thecla”, so here you go. It’s probably more legend than truth, which is the same thing that happened to other early holy women. (Think of St. Brigid! “She was a canoness or a nun. She sang the Hours a lot and did good works, and sometimes miracles happened” is not as much fun as “And then, she hung her big woolly cloak on a sunbeam!”) Anyway, it’s definitely got some exciting stuff in it. (Lionesses! The Holy Spirit zapping man-eating seals to death!) You’ve also got somebody’s idea of what a sermon by St. Paul would’ve been like and a physical description of him.
I totally forgot to include information on Thecla’s ultimate mission destination, Seleucia in Isauria, and confused it with Iconium. (Oops.) So I will be re-recording those bits.
In antiquity, we have a treatise on baptism from Tertullian (before he went Montanist, apparently) against a female Cainite cult leader who claimed, among other things, that baptism was unnecessary. Being Tertullian, the talk includes lots of good info and reasoning, lots of nasty insults, and the following cute comment:
“But we, being little fishes, as Jesus Christ is our great Fish, begin our life in the water, and only while we abide in the water are we safe and sound.”
Anyway, one of this heretic chick’s arguments was that, since Thecla was sent out as an evangelist (little-a apostle), she could teach and preach; and that since Thecla was miraculously baptized by the Holy Spirit and desire, everybody else didn’t need water baptism or formal baptism at all. Tertullian argues against this (not addressing the little-a apostle Junia, which is interesting), and says “let men know that in Asia the presbyter who compiled that document, thinking to add of his own to Paul’s reputation, was found out, and though he professed he had done it for love of Paul, was deposed from his position.”
(Tertullian also says that laymen – laicis – have the power to baptize in emergencies, and that baptism can be “administered by all”. He then goes on to rant about how women don’t have the right to baptize. Apparently what he means is that women can baptize in emergencies by virtue of their priestly office as lay Christians; but that they cannot run around formally having baptism sessions for all and sundry, as a priest or deacon or bishop could.)
Anyway, it seems to me that Thecla’s baptism scene is supposed to be an illustration of a baptism of desire, except that for once the baptized person survives. See what you think.