Magical Severed Arm

From Stephen Mitchell, ‘Conversion to Christianity and the Politics of Religious Identity’, in A History of the Later Roman Empire AD 284-641.

[The Melitians argued that Athanasius] was responsible for the murder of a respected confessor, Arsenius, whose severed arm was then used for magical purposes. The murder charge was dropped after Arsenius was discovered by Athanasius’ men alive and well…

…so where did the Melitians get the magical severed arm from? Did it actually belong to Arsenius? When Arsenius was found alive and well, was he missing an arm? If the arm did not belong to Arsenius, who did it belong to, and was the armless man dead or alive? If dead, did the Melitians mistakenly believe him to be Arsenius, or did they hack it from a living man and then claim it to belong to a dead Arsenius, even though they knew Arsenius wasn’t dead. And what was Arsenius’ reaction upon being told that the Melitians were waving around his supposed magical severed arm? And was the arm magical before it was severed? So many questions.


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