Simeon Bachos v. Blandina

Welcome back to another FULL WEEK of saintly thrills and spills! Lent Madness XIV continues as Simeon Bachos takes on Blandina. The one known in Scripture as the Ethiopian eunuch vs. a second century martyr.

In Friday's matchup, Bach triumphed over Harriet Monsell 58% to 42% to advance to the Saintly Sixteen against Richard Hooker.

By the way, if you ever want to see an updated bracket, you can simply click the Bracket tab and voila! Our long-time (long suffering?) Bracket Czar Adam Thomas updates in daily.

Now, go vote!

Simeon Bachos

Simeon Bachos is the name that second-century Bishop Irenaeus of Lyon gave to the person Luke calls “the Ethiopian eunuch.” Simeon was someone who today we might call nonbinary or queer—someone considered neither male nor female. Persons born male who, whether by accident or by choice, could no longer beget children were highly regarded as “safe” to serve as officials and servants for royal families in much of the ancient world.

So, Simeon Bachos was an elite: working closely with royalty, wielding political power, and having enough disposable income to travel on personal pilgrimage. However, they were also an outsider: “a dry tree” with a broken body and no family, whose presence in the temple was banned in Deuteronomy 23 (although welcomed in Isaiah 56). They were a foreigner: a Gentile with black skin from a country at the edge of the civilized world.

Simeon is so drawn to the God of the Jewish faith that they’ve traveled all the way to Jerusalem to worship in the temple. And they’re geeky enough that, on the trip home, they’re reading scripture in a moving vehicle! The Holy Spirit takes notice and commands the apostle Philip to chase down this chariot, and Philip hears Simeon reading the scripture aloud.

Phillip asks Simeon: “Do you understand what you are reading?” Simeon replies modestly: “How can I, unless someone guides me?” Then, Simeon asks a tender question: “About whom does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” And so, Philip proclaims the good news of Jesus Christ to Simeon, right there in their chariot. This seems to be the good news Simeon has been waiting their whole life to hear—perhaps what they had traveled to the temple looking to find—so much so that, when they see water by the side of the road, they want to be baptized immediately.

After the baptism, Philip is whisked away by the Spirit while Simeon is rejoicing. As Willie James Jennings says in his recent commentary: “The eunuch is not left alone. They are left free in their joy” (Acts, 86, pronouns and italics added), to pursue the Christian life. Irenaeus tells us that Simeon returned to Ethiopia and preached the gospel there.

The Episcopal Church celebrated the feast day of Simeon Bachos for the first time on August 27, 2022, after General Convention voted to authorize the commemoration.

Collect for Simeon Bachos

Almighty God, you have surrounded us with a great cloud of witnesses: Grant that we, encouraged by the good example of your servant Simeon, may persevere in running the race that is set before us, until at last we may with him attain to your eternal joy; through Jesus Christ, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

— Heidi Haverkamp


Falsely accused of horrible deeds, tortured in the town square, burned, beaten, and flung around by a wild animal, Blandina and the story of her demise is not for the faint of heart. Despite her tragic death, she never despaired or denied her faith.

Born in 162 ce, Blandina was an enslaved woman in Roman Gaul who met her death only 15 years later. Not much is known about her early years other than that she embraced Christianity as a child. Her martyrdom, along with her companions, has earned them the title, the Martyrs of Lyon.

Blandina was murdered in the Roman Empire city of Lugdunum, now known as Lyon, France. This was during the time of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, and Christian persecutions were enveloping the entire empire. The torments started slowly with community bans. Christians were prohibited from going into Roman homes, the marketplace, or public baths, and they were publicly attacked with stones and sticks. Many were imprisoned. Lies circulated about Christians, ranging from cannibalism to incest and other unspeakable perversions.

Blandina’s torture, along with that of Deacon Sanctus, Attalus, and Maturus, was part of the entertainment for the August 1 holiday celebrating Rome and the emperor. Their agony was a main event in the city amphitheater. The great Roman historian Eusebius recorded Blandina’s words to her torturers: “I am a Christian, and nothing vile is done among us.”

After repeated beatings and burnings as well as watching her friends suffer and die, Blandina’s final degradation was being wrapped in a net to serve as a toy for a wild bull. She finally died by stabbing. After the bodies were exposed for six days, they were burned with the ashes thrown into the Rhone River.Blandina was the last of 48 Christians martyred in Lugdunum.

While it was well-documented that Emperor Marcus Aurelius did not like Christians, it is unknown whether he knew about these and other tortures. While history may remember him as a philosopher, these public cruelties happened under his rule.

Blandina is the patron saint of servant girls, torture victims, young girls, and those falsely accused of cannibalism. Her shrine is at the Church of Saint-Leu, Amiens, France, and her feast day is June 2.

Collect for Blandina

Almighty God, who gave such courage and endurance to Blandina and her companions that by their deaths many hearts were turned to you; Grant that we, in accordance with their example, may also gladly endure all that is required of us as we witness to you in our own day; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Neva Rae Fox


Simeon Bachos: Rembrandt, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Blandina: Lucien Bégule, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


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143 comments on “Simeon Bachos v. Blandina”

    1. This does not help me decide. It only makes me want to do the opposite. So please tell me what it is about Simeon’s story that makes you feel so strongly. I like that God answered his prayer and Simeon found welcome and joy. And I like the collect that encourages us to persevere as Simeon did.

  1. Halfway through the Round of 32, we have a potential final four of Joanna and Johann, Edmund and Enmegahbowh. I'm just sayin'.

    In the meantime, I'm voting for the non-binary, curious traveler.

  2. I have always loved Blanda's perseverance in the midst of pain few of us will ever experience.

  3. I am the mother of an LGBTQ person and have seen interpretations before that the Ethiopian eunuch was likely gay, transgender, or non-binary, yet was welcomed into the church. I adore this story and am so happy to know the person has a name. Please vote for Simeon as a welcome to all of our LGBTQ siblings in Christ.

    1. I understand your personal empathy toward Simon but of the two he was not tortured and maytered or anything remarkable except perhaps non binary or asexual. How does that make him more worthy than a child publicly tortured and killed for being a Christian?

      1. always love the story of the Ethiopian eunuch and I'm glad we now know his name. the LGBTQ makes them more human and Phillip was cool with all of it

      2. Not tortured or martyred as far as we know, but journeyed a long way to worship and then seized the opportunity to learn more of Christ. I would reckon this as one definition of a saintly person.

      3. I'm delighted by his/ their search for God and the role of the Holy Spirit in the encounter with Philip.

    2. I too had to vote for Simeon as I hope my trans nephew and niece will find a welcome in the church and a guide such as Phillip.

  4. Voting for Simeon in honor of all of us who are seekers, searching to know God and better understand God’s desire to draw us closer. And for non-binary and queer people who today are undergoing a different kind of persecution by pandering politicians trying to put them back in the shadows.

  5. Vote for the patron saint of young girls, tortured , bullied and falsly accused of being doing wrong things. Blandina for the win.

    1. Due to the despicable and unholy practice of child abuse nowadays, I voted for Blandina. My husband and I have sweet young grandchildren; their parents live in an area that is not safe. I pray daily forour dear little ones but especially our little granddaughter. I wake up some nights in fear for her. There is so much support for the LGBTQ community now but we hear nothing to support innocent children. Please consider this when you vot.

  6. I am happy with either choice. Both represent the power of the spirit in surrendered lives and the love of Christ in welcoming all into His banquet.

    1. I too am good with either choice…. Simeon, embracing and validating our LGBTQ brothers and sisters or Blandina, the patron saint of young girls.

      Having taught elementary school children where 98% were at or below the poverty line, I was horrified at those little nine year old little girls who were trafficked or sexually abused on a nightly basis. I was in awe of those girls who protected their friends by claiming they were abused and yet were not abused; however, that action empowered those who were being abused strength to tell their truth.

      Sodomy with any little child boy or girl is reprehensible to me and compels me to vote for Blandina.

  7. To be tortured to an enormous degree, slaughtered in the most cruel, humiliating, and excruciating way - resulting from her steadfast and voiced declaration of faith - Blandina embodies ultimate sacrifice and devotion to Jesus.

    1. It touches my heart here. Such a close vote! I type this thru tears for all brother, sister, them, they, we are all FAMILY [with hope for all to know Jesus]!

      But secretly happy that Blandina won by half a percent. I've always had a soft spot for the still-persecuted Ethiopians, and they still are known as clever people in my mixed circles..

  8. "Simeon was someone who today we might call nonbinary or queer—someone considered neither male nor female." How is a eunuch this definition? Thank you!

    1. I had this issue as well with Simeon’s write up. Traditionally and historically, a eunuch was a man forcibly castrated to be a slave in a royal court. The biblical record makes him a nonbinary or trans as they do St. Phillip or St. Andrew. I doubt the validity of making Simeon as such. A learned black male slave finding solace in scripture would have made more historical sense.

      1. 'However, they were also an outsider: “a dry tree” with a broken body and no family, whose presence in the temple was banned in Deuteronomy 23 (although welcomed in Isaiah 56). They were a foreigner: a Gentile with black skin from a country at the edge of the civilized world.'

        We keep having to add more colorful stripes to the rainbow flag. One of them represents me. Eunichs are not so frequent today, but they lived on the fringes of society in the past. And while Simeon is not here to claim or accept the pronoun "they," Simeon is also not here to claim or accept the name "Simeon." Both were assigned to the seeker, whose name, gender, and sexuality were not known.

      2. Yes, I found it odd that being a eunuch was defined as “non-binary”. In some historical references, young males were willing to be castrated to preserve their boy soprano singing voices, or to get a lifelong job among the elites. A willing sacrifice of their adult sexuality whatever that might have been. It’s an entirely different situation than being attracted to all sorts of humans across the sexual spectrum, isn’t it?

        Ethiopian Coptic Christians are among the earliest examples of organized Christian sects too, I believe. Not at the far edges of civilization really.

        I am mulling for whom to vote. Leaning toward Blandina because in part the writeup for Simeon is so annoying, and I consider myself an ally. A ridiculous stretch for the sake of inclusion. Most probably a cis male castrated voluntarily or not, to serve a master and keep himself fed. If there’s a pronoun for lacking testicles, let’s have it.

        1. I was happy to see that other people complained about the writer assuming that the Eunuch was non-binary or queer,and suggesting that he became a eunuch by accident or birth. Probably the majority of eunuchs became eunuchs because of the "accident" of someone forcibly castrating them, often to be able to have males who could be trusted to guard the harem. I, too, was annoyed at the use of they/their pronouns when writing about him. Both the "non-binary or trans" wording and the "they/their" pronouns come from a thought process known as "presentism," where someone applies the beliefs and practices of the present time to things that happened in the past.

      3. Thank you. Some people in that culture saw eunuchs and said "I want to be that." Others had castration forced on them. Either way, 1st century (Greco-)Roman notions of gender had much less to do with what one had under one's toga than they did with one's position in society, and it's under those notions that Acts was written. We don't know with what (if any) gender Simeon identified, but Luke very clearly calls him a man in Acts 8.

    2. I, too, was a bit surprised by the assigning of an identity to Simeon that he did not ascribe to himself and was not ascribed to him by S. Luke (in fact, Luke's pretty clear that he's an "aner", a man). It seems to me that we should try to understand Simeon's story in his terms and categories, not our own.

      1. I was super surprised to see this person from Ethiopia, the eunuch, identified as non-binary. I’ve always viewed him as a victim of genital mutilation imposed upon him by his culture. (Admittedly, my references to his victim status maybe subjective as I assume he had very little agency in his castration).
        I find it remarkable and bedazzling that we get to observe his wondering sad he’s reading Scripture and bouncing down the bumpy road in his chariot. Just a magnificent account of God’s grace and care for the seeker.

    3. My understanding of eunuchs were castrated to make them no threat to the elites that they served. This was done pre-puberty thus ensuring that they were easily identifiable by their voices. They were no sexual threat to women but also no physical threat to men.

      If this is incorrect, I will be thrilled to learn the truth.

      Either way, both of these saints lived exemplary lives especially in the face of torture and degradation.

      I am not yet able to decide whom to vote for.

  9. Today is a good matchup. Both have their own strengths. But I do love the description someone put of Simeon as the non-binary, curious traveler. They got my vote today.

    On a separate note, it seems odd to me that there is a patron saint of those falsely accused of cannibalism. I did not realize there was a need for this.

  10. I voted for Simon. Every day in America men and woman suffer just because they fall in love with someone of the same sex. This group of people commit no more sins proportionately than heterosexual.

  11. It seems strange to me that people talking about Christ and his teachings would use the term CE. This is the year of our lord every time for me.

    1. CE and BCE are used in academic writing and conversation to acknowledge and respect people of many faiths. BC and AD were adopted when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman empire. For those of us who follow Jesus, the hinge between Before and After changed everything. But I believe that Jesus himself, especially in light of the times when Christianity has sided with rulers and oppressors and persecuted and marginalized those of other faiths (including his own!), might be happy indeed that we are acknowledging and respecting our siblings of other faiths by using CE and BCE in our date references.

  12. Another tough choice! In support of our non-binary brothers and sisters, I need to vote for Simeon. Plus, I've always loved the story of his baptism by Philip.

    1. This is the closest race, so far! 3:30 CST, about 50 votes separate them. Who will win? Vote (once)!

  13. What very interesting stories on these two saints! It was very hard to choose. I am very proud of ECUSA for its inclusion of all the saints of God, not just a few.

  14. I love thé stories of both these worthies, and have known them for years. Both are compelling candidates for the Golden Halo. I was caught, though, by Heidi’s telling of the eunuch’s story, casting it in more contemporary terms for the first time (for me). Simeon has my vote.

  15. This was particularly difficult for me. As the grandmother of a LGBTQ grandson, I felt for Simeon. On the other hand, Blandina was just a fifteen year old girl put through such horrific tortures; yet she held on to her beliefs. So young to suffer such punishment for her beliefs. After much thought, I had to go for Blandina.

  16. The piece about Simeon Bachos was very sensitively worded. Thank you for that.

  17. Had to vote for Blandina since I was taught in a Catholic school in New Mexico that was founded by another Blandia.

  18. I find referring to one person with a pleural pronoun to be disruptive to reading.
    As much as i like the seeker story,I am voting for that strong young slave girl who, while bullied and tortured, remained steadfast in her faith.

    1. Hm I'm curious why you find "they" disruptive in reading? It really isn't solely a plural pronoun and hasn't been for literally centuries. So I wonder, is it always disruptive or just when talking about potentially gender nonconforming people? What do you do when you don't know the gender of the person you're referring to?

      1. Its use as a non-plural pronoun was until recently always as an indefinite pronoun, i.e. as referring to an unknown person -- unknown not only (and not even not necessarily) with respect to gender. Basically it is the pronoun for "someone." As in you would say, seeing an abandoned object IN THE LADIES' RESTROOM, "Someone left their makeup kit in here."

        Its use as a pronoun for a known person of indefinite gender is very much an innovation. For those of us who are well beyond the age of easy brain plasticity in language learning, it remains distinctly jarring, requiring on-the-fly recalculating as we listen or read.

        That doesn't mean we are necessarily politically or personally opposed to this innovation. We may know enough about languages to know that there are a good many examples of pronouns being repurposed, from the replacement of "thou" by "you"--originally restricted to the plural--in English, to the use of "Lei" and "Sie" in Italian and German. But it definitely takes a while for the comprehension faculty in the brain to make the switch, and for many of us, that has simply not happened yet, and maybe it just won't. And at the moment we continue to find it unnerving.

    2. I completely agree, it is clumsy at best. I had difficulty in understanding the write up at first. Not having the capability of sexual reproduction doesn't make you not a man, after all. He may well have felt himself to be a man, not a plural. He was a victim of an assault after all. Imputing a sexual identity he may not have had is kind of...insulting. The story stands on its own as a beautiful one.

  19. "Those falsely accused of cannibalism." One more potential roadblock on the life of faith that I had not thought of. I wonder whether the Ethiopian eunuch would appreciate being called "they" or if he would shrug it off as one more insult or appropriation. Maybe he would rejoice that he was finally being recognized at last. Without his assent and affirmation, I don't know that we know. The Chinese Imperial court used castrated men until 1924; would they want to be referred to as "he" to retain masculinity or "they" to affirm what they could not control? I don't know. What we do know is that the passage the Ethiopian eunuch was reading was Isaiah 53: "Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and like a lamb silent before its shearer, so he does not open his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth." Several translations refer to the sheep being sheared as "she": in the Aramaic version she is a "ewe lamb."
    "Generation" is translated as "contemporaries" but also "the land of the living." But as the eunuch queries, to whom is the prophet referring? A king? a messiah? Jesus, around whom Philip structures his exegesis? the reader-eunuch? us, the larger audience? The author of Luke-Acts tells us that it is Philip who is "snatched away" by the Holy Spirit and disappears from the eunuch, who continues on his way, "rejoicing." Where is our narrator in all this? Where are we? I feel as if the Ethiopian pilgrim represents all of us, puzzled and curious, still "in the land of the living," and seeking. And I'm glad to find one more feminine image for God in the ewe lamb. I would like to see this passage as inclusive, and find myself "filtering" out the current gender terminology as "muddying" the water the Ethiopian was baptized in, even as I recognize that others may welcome that vocabulary. Does gender terminology cleanse or obscure the doors of perception? Like the ewe lamb, I ponder in silence. (I did vote for the Ethiopian on his quest; somehow, like Moses, he attracted the attention of the divine.)

  20. I voted for Simeon today. I loved the write up! What a beautiful and affirming representation of them. More people need to read this and take another look at this story. Although I feel for Blandina and admire her strength in the face of torture, she was one of a group. How is she picked out to revere and the others are not?