The Apocryphal Gospels: A Very Short Introduction - Paul Foster (2009)
The manuscript found in Archduke Rainer’s collection is known as the Fayyum Fragment and has been given the papyrus abbreviation P.Vindob.G 2325. See the discussion of this manuscript by T. J. Kraus, ‘The Fayum Gospel’, in P. Foster (ed.), The Non-Canonical Gospels (London: T&T Clark, 2008), pp. 150-6.
A fascinating discussion of the archaeology of the Oxyrhynchus site and the significance of the papyrus documents unearthed there can be found in P. Parsons, City of the Sharp-Nosed Fish: Greek Lives in Roman Egypt (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2007).
N. T. Wright claims that the Gospel of Judas is not a true ‘gospel’ in his Judas and the Gospel of Jesus (London: SPCK, 2006), pp. 27-39.
The evolution in meaning of the term ‘gospel’ is carefully traced by G. N. Stanton, Jesus and Gospel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), esp. chapter 2, pp. 9-62.
For the wider political situation in Rome in AD 69, see P. A. L. Greenhalgh, The Year of the Four Emperors (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1975).
Martin Hengel argues that the titles of the written gospels were not added secondarily, but were part of the gospels as they originally circulated. M. Hengel, The Four Gospels and the One Gospel of Jesus Christ (London: SCM, 2000), pp. 50-3.
Irenaeus uses the notion of ‘appropriateness’ to justify why the number of gospels can be no fewer or no more than four. See D. Minns, ‘Irenaeus’, Expository Times 120 (2009), pp. 157-166.
The estimate of about 40 known gospel-like texts is suggested in recent publications: C. M. Tuckett, ‘Forty Other Gospels’, in M. Bockmeuhl and D. A. Hagner (eds.), The Written Gospel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), pp. 238-53; C. Hedrick, ‘The 34 Gospels: Diversity and Division Among Earliest Christians’, Bible Review 18.3 (2002): 20-31, 46-7.
The two most sustained challenges to the use of the whole category of ‘Gnosticism’ have come from M. A. Williams, Rethinking ‘Gnosticism’: An Argument for Dismantling a Dubious Category (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996) and K. L. King, What is Gnosticism? (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003).
For a defence of the retention of the term ‘Gnostic’, see A. H. B. Logan, The Gnostics: Identifying an Early Christian Cult (London: T&T Clark, 2006) and B. Pearson, Ancient Gnosticism: Traditions and Literature (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2007). For a discussion of the succession lists of bishops of Rome being an artificial construct of the second half of the 2nd century, see P. Lampe, From Paul to Valentinus: Christians at Rome in the First Two Centuries(London: Continuum, 2003), pp. 404-6.
For an advanced discussion of Valentinism, see E. Thomassen, The Spiritual Seed: The Church of the ‘Valentinians’ (Leiden: Brill, 2006).
For the debate about Gnosticism before Christianity, see E. Yamauchi, ‘The Issue of Pre-Christian Gnosticism Reviewed in the Light of the Nag Hammadi Texts’, in J. D. Turner and A. McGuire (eds.), The Nag Hammadi Library after Fifty Years: Proceedings of the 1995 Society of Biblical Literature Commemoration (Leiden: Brill, 1997), pp. 72-88.
On the Gospel of the Saviour, see C. W. Hedrick and P. A. Mirecki, Gospel of the Savior: A New Ancient Gospel (Santa Rosa, CA: Polebridge Press, 1999).
The discovery of the Gospel of Judas was brought to wider public attention through a series of National Geographic publications and television documentaries. See The National Geographic (May 2006): 78-95.
Two mainstream treatments dealing with the methodological problems that attend historical Jesus research can be found in E. P. Sanders, Jesus and Judaism (London: SCM, 1985), and the multi-volume work of J. P. Meier, A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, 3 vols. (New York: Doubleday, 1991, 1994, 2001).
The classical critique of the view of Christianity as a unified religion was outlined in the 1930s, see W. Bauer, Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity (English translation, London: SCM, 1972; German original, 1934).
A radical redating of non-canonical gospel material can be seen in Appendix 1 of J. D. Crossan, The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1992), pp. 427-34.
The colour-coded results of the Jesus Seminar were published in R. W. Funk and R. W. Hoover (eds.), The Five Gospels: The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus (Toronto: Polebridge/Macmillan, 1993).
The James Robinson quote is from his ‘Nag Hammadi: The First Fifty Years’, in J. D. Turner and A. McGuire (eds.), The Nag Hammadi Library after Fifty Years: Proceedings of the 1995 Society of Biblical Literature Commemoration (Leiden: Brill, 1997), pp. 3-6. See also J. M. Robinson (ed.), The Nag Hammadi Library in English, revised edn. (Leiden: Brill, 1996).
On the revelation dialogues, see K. L. King, The Secret Revelation of John (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006).
The English translations of the Coptic sayings are largely drawn from A. Guillaumont et al. (eds.), The Gospel According to Thomas: Coptic Text Established and Translated, revised edn. (Leiden: Brill, 1998), but other translations are consulted and the renderings offered here do not strictly follow any one translation. Also see the English translations in A. D. DeConick, The Original Gospel of Thomas in Translation, with a Commentary and New English Translation of the Complete Gospel (LNTS 287; London: T&T Clark, 2006).
For a discussion of the enigmatic Saying 42, see R. Valantasis, The Gospel of Thomas (London/New York: Routledge, 1997), p. 118. He notes that this saying is primarily about ‘disengagement’ and promotes ‘the centrality of individual as distinct from group identity’.
On James the Just, see B. D. Chilton and C. A. Evans (eds.), James the Just and Christian Origins (Leiden: Brill, 1999).
For a discussion of the possibility that salvation was a two-stage process for women, see J. Buckley, ‘An Interpretation of Logion 114 in The Gospel of Thomas’, NovT 27 (1985): 245-72. By contrast, DeConick suggests that ‘gender refashioning for women would have stressed encratic behaviour, particularly celibacy and their refusal to bear children’: The Original Gospel of Thomas in Translation, p. 297.
For a detailed discussion of the Valentinian perspectives in the Gospel of Philip, see M. L. Turner, The Gospel of Philip: The Sources and Coherence of an Early Christian Collection (Leiden: Brill, 1996).
The page-referencing system for the Gospel of Philip follows that adopted by Isenberg in his standard edition of the text. W. W. Isenberg, ‘Gospel According to Philip’, in B. Layton (ed.), Nag Hammadi Codex II, pp. 2-7.
The English translation of the passage in the Gospel of Philip where Jesus kisses Mary is taken from the work of W. W. Isenberg, ‘The Gospel of Philip (II,3)’, and is most conveniently accessed in J. M. Robinson (ed.), The Nag Hammadi Library in English, revised edn. (Leiden: Brill, 1996), p. 148. The more sexualized version of this text is from R. McL. Wilson, The Gospel of Philip (London: Mowbray, 1962), p. 114. He helpfully brackets the reconstructed elements, and does not promote the speculative ideas that have often been built upon this text. Various Internet sites suggest the type of intimate relationship Jesus may have shared with Mary Magdalene.
For an important discussion of the term ‘docetic’, see M. Slusser, ‘Docetism: A Historical Definition’, Second Century 1.3 (1981): 163-72.
The translation of the passage about Jesus on the cross is taken from H. W. Attridge and G. W. MacRae, ‘The Gospel of Truth (I,3 and XII,2)’, in J. M. Robinson (ed.), The Nag Hammadi Library in English, revised edn. (Leiden: Brill, 1996), p. 42.
The phenomenon of overlapping topics treated by both Justin and Valentinian texts has been noted by P. Parvis, ‘Justin, Philosopher and Martyr: The Posthumous Creation of the Second Apology’, in S. Parvis and P. Foster (eds.), Justin and His Worlds (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2007), pp. 22-37, esp. 32-4.
On the Gospel of the Egyptians, see A. Böhlig and F. Wisse (eds.), Nag Hammadi Codices III, 2 and IV, 2. The Gospel of the Egyptians (The Holy Book of the Great Invisible Spirit) (Leiden: Brill, 1975). See also A. Böhlig and F. Wisse, ‘The Gospel of the Egyptians (III,2 and IV,2)’, in J. M. Robinson (ed.), The Nag Hammadi Library in English, revised edn. (Leiden: Brill, 1996), pp. 208-19.
The translation of the ‘nonsense vowels’ quote is taken from H. W. Attridge and G. W. MacRae, ‘The Gospel of Truth (I,3 and XII,2)’, in J. M. Robinson (ed.), The Nag Hammadi Library in English, revised edn. (Leiden: Brill, 1996), p. 42.
The quotes about the childhood Jesus are from T. Chartrand-Burke, ‘The Infancy Gospel of Thomas’, in P. Foster (ed.), The Non-Canonical Gospels (London: T&T Clark, 2008), p. 126.
Apart from the 4th-century Codex Sinaiticus recovered from the monastery of St Catherine at Mount Sinai, Constantin von Tischendorf also deciphered the palimpsest Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus, and published a critical edition of Codex Claromontanus containing the Pauline epistles. He was also active in publishing texts that now constitute the New Testament apocrypha: De Evangeliorum apocryphorum origine et usu (1851); Acta Apostolorum apocrypha (1851); Evangelia apocrypha (1853; 2nd edn., 1876); Apocalypses apocryphae (1866).
The English translations in this chapter of both the Infancy Gospel of Thomas and the Protevangelium of James are largely drawn from R. F. Hock, The Infancy Gospels of James and Thomas (Santa Rosa, CA: Polebridge, 1995). At a few points modifications are made based on a more exact translation of the Greek text. In particular, the translation ‘sodomite, ungodly and ignorant…’ more accurately represents the wording of the Greek text than Hock’s somewhat ‘domesticated’ translation ‘Damn you, you irreverent fool!’ (It is difficult to determine whether in this context the term ‘sodomite’ has overtones of condemning sexual practice, or is simply exploiting the motif of judgement against the inhabitants of the city of Sodom.)
For a variation on the schooling of Jesus, see Irenaeus, Ad. Haer. 1.20.1. The ‘alphabet’ incident is discussed more fully in P. Foster, ‘Educating Jesus: The Search for a Plausible Context’, Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus 4 (2006): 7-33, esp. 22-5.
On the differences between Greek A and Greek B, see the discussion in T. Chartrand-Burke, ‘The Infancy Gospel of Thomas’, in P. Foster (ed.), The Non-Canonical Gospels (London: T&T Clark, 2008), pp. 126-38.
Elliott notes that ‘Possible extracts of PJ [Protevangelium of James] may be found in the chronicle known as the Barbarus Scakiferi (or Excerpta Latina Barbarica) of the fifth century.’ See J. K. Elliott, The Apocryphal New Testament (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), p. 54. The pros and cons of this suggestion have been debated in a series of foreign-language articles listed by Elliott.
For a fuller discussion of the textual problem of Anna’s pregnancy in the Protevangelium of James, see É. de Strycker, La forme la plus ancienne du Protévangile de Jacques (Bruxelles: Société des Bollandistes, 1961), p. 80.
The significance of certain miraculous phenomena surrounding Jesus’ birth is discussed in F. Bovon, ‘The Suspension of Time in the Protevangelium Jacobi’, in B. A. Pearson (ed.), The Future of Early Christianity: Essays in Honor of Helmut Koester (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 1991), pp. 393-405.
The initial publication report concerning the codices at Akhmîmis to be found in U. Bouriant, ‘Fragments du texte grec du livre d’Énoch et de quelques écrits attribuésà saint Pierre’, in Mémoires publiépar les membres de la Mission archéologique française au Caire (t. IX, fasc. 1; Paris, 1892), pp. 93-147.
The Gospel of Peter. Peter is mentioned in Eusebius, H.E. iii.3.1-3 and vi.12.1-6.
For a recent discussion of the Gospel of Peter and docetism, see J. McCant, ‘The Gospel of Peter: Docetism Reconsidered’, New Testament Studies 30 (1984): 258-73.
Perhaps the most famous critic of the more superstitious and miraculous elements of Christianity was the 2nd-century writer Celsus. His The True Doctrine is not preserved in its own right, though Origen, in his rebuttal of this work entitled Contra Celsum, reproduces large excerpts of it. See H. Chadwick, Origen: Contra Celsum (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1953; reprinted, 1965).
The phenomenon of transformation of body size is a feature of a number of early Christian texts. For a fuller discussion, see P. Foster, ‘Polymorphic Christology: Its Origins and Development in Early Christianity’, Journal of Theological Studies 58, Part 1 (2007): 66-99.
J. D. Crossan, The Cross that Spoke: The Origins of the Passion Narrative (San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row, 1988). For a fuller discussion of Crossan’s theory, see P. Foster, ‘The Gospel of Peter’, in P. Foster (ed.), The Non-Canonical Gospels (London: T&T Clark, 2008), pp. 30-42, esp. 38-40. The quote is from P. A. Mireki, ‘Peter, Gospel of’, Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. V (New York: Doubleday, 1992), p. 278.
The original publication of Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 840 was presented in B. P. Grenfell and A. S. Hunt (eds.), The Oxyrhynchus Papyri: Part V (London: Egypt Exploration Fund, 1907), pp. 1-10; and in a separate pamphlet issued by the same authors, Fragment of an Uncanonical Gospel (London: Egypt Exploration Fund, 1908). The translation basically follows that provided by M. J. Kruger, The Gospel of the Savior: An Analysis of P.Oxy. 840 and Its Place in the Gospel Traditions of Early Christianity (Leiden: Brill, 2005). See also T. J. Kraus, ‘P.Oxy. 840 - Amulet or Miniature Codex? Principal and Additional Remarks on Two Terms’, in T. J. Kraus (ed.), Ad Fonts: Original Manuscripts and Their Significance for Studying Early Christianity - Selected Essays (Leiden: Brill, 2007), pp. 47-67.
On water baptism, see F. Bovon, ‘Fragment Oxyrhynchus 840, Fragment of a Lost Gospel, Witness of an Early Christian Controversy Over Purity’, Journal of Biblical Literature 119 (2000): 705-28.
On Papyrus Egerton 2, see H. I. Bell and T. C. Skeat, Fragments of an Unknown Gospel and Other Early Christian Papyri (London: Trustees, Oxford University Press, 1935), and M. Gronewald, ‘Unbekanntes Evangelium oder Evangelienharmonie (Fragment aus dem ‘Evangelium Egerton’)’, in Kölner Papyri (P.Köln) 6, ARWAW.PapyCol VII (Opladen, 1987), pp. 136-45. The translations of the fragments of Papyrus Egerton 2 þ Papyrus Cologne 255 presented in this chapter are based on both those given by Bell and Skeat, as above, and T. Nicklas, ‘Papyrus Egerton 2’, in P. Foster (ed.), The Non-Canonical Gospels (London: T&T Clark, 2008), pp. 139-49. For Papyrus Egerton 2 in general, there is an invaluable web-based resource: <http://www-user.uni-bremen.de/wie/Egerton/Egerton_home.html> (accessed 1 September 2008).
For opposing points of view on nomina sacra, see L. W. Hurtado, ‘The Origin of the Nomina Sacra: A Proposal’, Journal of Biblical Literature 117 (1998): 655-73, and C. M. Tuckett, ‘“Nomina Sacra”: Yes and No?’, in J.-M. Auwers and H. J. Jonge (eds.), The Biblical Canons, BETL CLXIII (Leuven: Peeters, 2003), pp. 431-58.
The whole question of the definition of the term ‘Jewish-Christian’ has resurfaced in recent years as a major issue in biblical scholarship. See the two landmark works: O. Skarsauna and R. Heidar (eds.), Jewish Believers in Jesus: The Early Centuries (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2007), esp. pp. 3-55; and M. Jackson-McCabe (ed.), Jewish Christianity Reconsidered: Rethinking Ancient Groups and Texts (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2007).
The translations of passages cited by various Church fathers from Jewish-Christian gospels are modified from E. Hennecke and W. Schneemelcher (eds.), New Testament Apocrypha, Volume One: Gospels and Related Writings, revised edn. (tr. R. McL. Wilson; Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1991), pp. 134-178.
For a discussion of various factors that may have led to Paul’s Damascus Road experience, see J. Ashton, The Religion of Paul the Apostle (New Haven, CT: Yale, 2000), esp. chapter 3.
For a racy description of the events surrounding the passage of Codex Tchacos, containing the Gospel of Judas, from its discovery to its publication, see H. Krosney, The Lost Gospel: The Quest for the Gospel of Judas Iscariot(Washington, DC: National Geographic, 2006).
The original publication of the English translation of the Gospel of Judas can be found in R. Kasser, M. Meyer, and G. Wurst, with additional commentary by B. D. Ehrman, The Gospel of Judas (Washington, DC: National Geographic, 2006). See also R. Kasser and G. Wurst (eds.), The Gospel of Judas - together with the Letter of Philip, James and a Book of Allogenes from Codex Tchacos: Critical Edition (Washington, DC: National Geographic, 2007), p. 30; and A. D. DeConick, The Thirteenth Apostle: What the Gospel of Judas Really Says (London: Continuum, 2007). For the various competing translations, see the alternatives presented in parallel passages in both Kasser, Meyer, and Wurst, The Gospel of Judas, and DeConick, The Thirteenth Apostle.
The most recent critical edition of the Gospel of Mary is C. M. Tuckett, The Gospel of Mary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007). See also Karen L. King, The Gospel of Mary of Magdala: Jesus and the First Woman Apostle(Santa Rosa, CA: Polebridge Press, 2003).
For the sociology of new religious movements, consult W. S. Bainbridge, The Sociology of Religious Movements (New York: Routledge, 1997).
For a discussion of some of the issues surrounding the status of the Nag Hammadi texts, see S. Emmel, ‘Religious Tradition, Textual Transmission, and the Nag Hammadi Codices’, in J. D. Turner and A. McGuire (eds.), The Nag Hammadi Library after Fifty Years: Proceedings of the 1995 Society of Biblical Literature Commemoration (Leiden: Brill, 1997), pp. 34-43.