An alternative theory of
The New Testament Apocryphal Corpus:
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"Religion is regarded
by the common people as true,
by the wise as false,
and by the ruler as useful"
---- Seneca the Younger
The New Testament Apocryphal Corpus
"excluded by their later and radical light" [John Dominic Crossan]
"severely conditoned responses to Jesus ... usually these authors deny his humanity" [Robert M. Grant]
"they exclude themselves" [M.R. James]
"The practice of Christian forgery has a long and distinguished history" [Bart Ehrman]
"The Leucian Acts are Hellenistic romances, which were written to appeal to the masses" [Watson E. Mills, Roger Aubrey Bullard]
"The key point ... [NT Apocrypha] have all been long ago considered and rejected by the Church.
"The names of apostles ... were used by obscure writers to palm off their productions; partly to embellish and add to ... partly to invent ... partly to support false doctrines; decidedly pernicious, ... nevertheless contain much that is interesting and curious ... they were given a place which they did not deserve." [Tischendorf]
"Gnostic texts use parody and satire quite frequently ... making fun of traditional biblical beliefs"[April Deconick]
"heretics ... who were chiefly Gnostics ... imitated the books of the New Testament" [Catholic Encyclopaedia]
"enterprising spirits ... pretended Gospels full of romantic fables and fantastic and striking details, their fabrications were eagerly read and largely accepted as true by common folk who were devoid of any critical faculty and who were predisposed to believe what so luxuriously fed their pious curiosity." "the heretical apocryphists, composed spurious Gospels in order to trace backward their beliefs and peculiarities to Christ Himself." [Catholic Encyclopaedia]
"the fabrication of spurious Acts of the Apostles was, in general, to give Apostolic support to heretical systems, especially those of the many sects which are comprised under the term Gnosticism. The Gnostic Acts of Peter, Andrew, John, Thomas, and perhaps Matthew, abound in extravagant and highly coloured marvels, and were interspersed by long pretended discourses of the Apostles which served as vehicles for the Gnostic predications. The originally Gnostic apocryphal Acts were gathered into collections which bore the name of the periodoi (Circuits) or praxeis (Acts) of the Apostles, and to which was attached the name of a Leucius Charinus, who may have formed the compilation." [Catholic Encyclopaedia]
The Life Of Jesus by Ernest Renan
"The canon is neither a total nor a random collection of early Christian texts. It is both deliberate and selective and it excludes just as surely as it includes. I would even say that you cannot understand what is included in the canon unless you understand what was excluded from it. When the [extracanonical] gospels are played over against the four canonical gospels, both the products and the processes of those latter texts appear in a radically different light." John Dominic Crossan, Prof. Religious Studies, DePaul Univ.
The apocryphal books reflect responses to Jesus, but the kinds of responses they contain are usually severely conditioned both by their authors' notions that they understand Jesus better than the apostles did and by the view that he really wanted to convey an esoteric spiritual doctrine which the Church's gospels do not set forth. Usually these authors deny his humanity .... Robert M. Grant: Historian The Formation of the New Testament, Robert M. Grant, Harper & Row, 1965 NB: Grant thus wrote before the NHC were translated and published. [see: 410 (Sandmel); 434 (Hoffmann)],
"People may still be heard to say, 'After all, these Apocryphal Gospels and Acts, as you call them, are just as interesting as the old ones. It was only by accident or caprice that they were not put into the New Testament'. The best answer (...) has always been, and is now, to produce the writings and let them tell their own story. It will very quickly be seen that there is no question of anyone's having excluded them from the New Testament: they have done that for themselves. M.R. James quoted by J. Quasten
"The victors in the struggles to establish Christian Orthodoxy not only won their theological battles, they also rewrote the history of the conflict; later readers then naturally assumed that the victorious views had been embraced by the vast majority of Christians from the very beginning ... The practice of Christian forgery has a long and distinguished history ... the debate lasted three hundred years ... even within "orthodox" circles there was considerable debate concerning which books to include." - Lost Christianities, Bart Ehrman.
"Tradition since the fifth century has ascribed the works [apocryphal acts] to Leucius Charinus either as an author or as a collector and editor ... ... observable in all are traits having precedent in the genre of Hellenistic romances. This type of work appealed to the masses and has several defined features: 1) The journey motif: even to India, is a literary device which allows the apostles to encounter numerous situations in which to preach and demonstrate the supernatural power of God. 2) In whatever context each apostle might find himself in his travel he is portrayed as having the ability to perform spectacular deeds. 3) Supernatural events: Talking dogs, ass''s colt and a snake. (In the gPeter the cross itself talks ....) (4) The use of speeches (5) The promotion of ascetic practices including abstinence from sex. Far from being theological treatises the Acts are primarily books of entertainment. The incredible and fantastic stories are arranged in such a way as to capture and maintain the readers attention. Because of the romanticized and larger-than-life picture which the Acts described, they became popular with the general public. Mercer Dictionary of the Bible By Watson E. Mills, Roger Aubrey Bullard
Who wrote the New Testament Apocrypha? These are works produced by early Christians, which are similar both in content and form to New Testament writings. Among these are gospels, epistles, apocalypses and "acts." These books have been assigned to the various apostles. Although some of these were used by certain groups in the early church, there is no evidence that they were widely circulated or even given authority outside of very limited circles and thus never enjoyed canonical status. The key point about the New Testament Apocrypha is that it has all been long ago considered and rejected by the Church. Rejected because these books were not believed to be faithful to the tradition of Jesus Christ received from the Apostles. In a word most Christians did not consider them worth reading then, nor worth reading now. Who wrote the New Testament Apocrypha?
The apocryphal books are writings composed with a view of being taken up into the canon, and put on a level with the inspired books, but which were deliberately rejected by the church. They bear on their front the names of apostles, or other eminent men; but have no right to do so. These names were used by obscure writers to palm off their productions. But for what purpose were these apocryphal books written? Partly to embellish and add to, in some fanciful way of their own, Scripture narratives; partly to invent others about the Saviour, Mary, Joseph, and the apostles; and partly to support false doctrines, for which there was no support in Scripture. As these objects were decidedly pernicious, the church was fully justified in rejecting these writings. They nevertheless contain much that is interesting and curious, and in early times, when the church was not so critical in distinguishing the true from the false, they were given a place which they did not deserve When Were our Gospels Written? Tischendorf, Constantine von (1815-1874) CHAPTER III. APOCRYPHAL LITERATURE.
Gnostic texts use parody and satire quite frequently. This is found, for instance, in the Testimony of Truth, the Apocalypse of Peter, the Second Treatise of the Great Seth, the Acts of John, which take aim at apostolic Christians and their practices and beliefs. The Sethians were particularly good at making fun of traditional biblical beliefs, especially when it came to the Genesis story and their use of traditional verses like "Besides me there is no god" by applying it to Ialdabaoth and implying that this is the god that other Christians ignorantly are worshiping. I do not think of the Gospel of Judas as a parody in terms of a modern comic skit or genre. I have never used it this way, nor would I. -- April Deconnick
The term Christian here is used in a comprehensive sense and embraces works produced both by Catholics and heretics; the latter are chiefly members of the various branches or schools of Gnosticism, which flourished in the second and third centuries. The Christian apocryphal writings in general imitate the books of the New Testament and therefore, with a few exceptions, fall under the description of Gospels, Acts, Epistles, and Apocalypses. Apocrypha of Christian origin Catholic Encyclopaedia on the NT Apocrypha
The term apocryphal in connection with special Gospels must be understood as bearing no more unfavourable an import than "uncanonical". It is true, all the extant specimens of the apocryphal Gospels take the inspired evangelical documents as their starting-point. But the genuine Gospels are silent about long stretches of the life of Our Lord, the Blessed Virgin, and St. Joseph. This reserve of the Evangelists did not satisfy the pardonable curiosity of many Christians eager for details, and the severe and dignified simplicity of their narrative left unappeased imaginations seeking the sensational and the marvellous. When, therefore, enterprising spirits responded to this natural craving by pretended Gospels full of romantic fables and fantastic and striking details, their fabrications were eagerly read and largely accepted as true by common folk who were devoid of any critical faculty and who were predisposed to believe what so luxuriously fed their pious curiosity. Both Catholics and Gnostics were concerned in writing these fictions. The former had no other motive than that of a pious fraud, being sometimes moved by a real though misguided zeal. But the heretical apocryphists, while gratifying curiosity, composed spurious Gospels in order to trace backward their beliefs and peculiarities to Christ Himself. A comparison of the least extravagant of these productions with the real Gospels reveals the chasm separating them. Though worthless historically, the apocryphal Gospels help us to better understand the religious conditions of the second and third centuries, and they are also of no little value as early witnesses of the canonicity of the writings of the four Evangelists. Apocryphal gospels Catholic Encyclopaedia on the NT Apocrypha
The motive which first prompted the fabrication of spurious Acts of the Apostles was, in general, to give Apostolic support to heretical systems, especially those of the many sects which are comprised under the term Gnosticism. The Gnostic Acts of Peter, Andrew, John, Thomas, and perhaps Matthew, date from the early portion of the third century or perhaps a little earlier. They abound in extravagant and highly coloured marvels, and were interspersed by long pretended discourses of the Apostles which served as vehicles for the Gnostic predications. The originally Gnostic apocryphal Acts were gathered into collections which bore the name of the periodoi (Circuits) or praxeis (Acts) of the Apostles, and to which was attached the name of a Leucius Charinus, who may have formed the compilation. The Gnostic Acts were of various authorship. Another collection was formed in the Frankish Church in the sixth century, probably by a monk. In this the Catholic Acts have been preserved; it is by no means uniform in its various manuscript representatives. By a misunderstanding, the authorship of the whole, under the title "Historia Certaminis Apostolorum", was ascribed to an Abdias, said to have been the first Bishop of Babylon and a disciple of the Apostles. The nucleus of this collection was formed by the Latin Passiones, or Martyrdoms, of those Apostles who had been neglected by the Gnostic Acts, viz., the two Jameses, Philip (Matthew?), Bartholomew, Simon, and Jude. The literature grew by accretions from heretical sources and eventually took in all the Apostles, including St. Paul. The motive of these non-heretical apocrypha was primarily to gratify the pious curiosity of the faithful regarding the Apostolic founders of the Church; sometimes local interests instigated their composition. After the model of the Gnostic Acts, which were of Oriental derivation, they abound in prodigies, and like those again, they take as their starting-point the traditional dispersion of the Twelve from Jerusalem. Regarding the historical value of these apocryphal narratives, it requires the most careful criticism to extricate from the mass of fable and legend any grains of historical truth. Even respecting the fields of the Apostolic missions, they are self-contradictory or confused. In general their details are scientifically worthless, unless confirmed by independent authorities, which rarely happens. Much of their apocryphal matter was taken up by the offices of the Apostles in the Latin breviaries and lectionaries, composed in the seventh and eighth centuries at an extremely uncritical period. Apocryphal acts of the apostles Catholic Encyclopaedia on the NT Apocrypha
TIMELINE: Apocryphal New Testament Date Event 0324 Council of Antioch: Constantine proselytes "christianity" 0325 Constantine bans the books of Porphyry and Arius of Alexandria 0325 Eusebius is compelled to provide a compendium of heretical books 0333 Constantine letter to Arius of Alexandria mentions the nature of Arius' works. 0387 Athanasius in 387 found it necessary to warn his flock by a pastoral epistle against Jewish and heretical apocrypha (P.G., XXVI, 1438). 0382 Jerome begins his translation of the Bible into Latin (the Vulgate). Jerome views that only Hebrew texts are authoritative, but grumpily includes the Apocrypha anyway 0390 Epiphanius (312-403) in "Hæreses", 26, could complain that copies of Gnostic apocrypha were current in thousands. 0447 Pope Leo the Great wrote pointedly against the pseudo-apostolic writings, "which contained the germ of so many errors ... they should not only be forbidden but completely suppressed and burned" (Epist. xv, 15). 0491 Gelasius' decree against a huge index of tractates, books and names of heretics. 0563 The Synod of Braga, in Spain, anathematizes any one "who reads, approves, or defends the injurious fictions set in circulation by heretics". 1534 Martin Luther places the Apocrypha in a separate section between the Old and New Testaments 1536 Menno Simon, leader of the Anabaptist movement, accepts the Apocrypha as canonical 1546 Roman Catholic Council of Trent approves the inclusion of the Apocrypha in the canon 1629 The Apocrypha is omitted from the King James Version 1646 Westminster Confession places the Apocrypha on the same level as "other human writings" 1827 British and American Bible Societies decide to omit the Apocrypha from their Bible editions 1902 When the British and Foreign Bible Society undertook to provide the copy of the bible for presentation to King Edward VII at his coronation in 1902, the Archbishop of Canterbury (Frederick Temple) ruled that a 'mutilated bible' (one lacking the Apocrypha) was unacceptable for the purpose, and as the Society was prevented by its constitution from providing a 'non mutilated' edition, a suitable copy has to be procured at short notice from another source. 1948 Discovery of the Nag Hammadi Codices 1970 Publication of the english translation of the Nag Hammadi Codices 2006 Publication of the english translation of the "Gospel of Judas" 2008 THESIS: The New Testament Apocryphal Corpus chronology is post-Nicaean; written in reaction to the mass publications and official sanction of the New Testament Canon by Constantine c.325 CE. DRAFT: P.R.F. Brown March 2009
Are the Apocrypha a Homerization of the New Testament?
A number of variously sourced overview summaries by academic researchers are above concerning the nature of the entire corpus of New Testament Apocryphal literature. A number of key issues appear often reiteratated. These include the notions that:
Many commentators remark that the apocrypha mimic the canon, that they are additional to, or an embellishment of, the canon. That the author(s) of the apocrypha had studiously cited the New Testament Canon. It will be instructive to refresh our understanding of the nature of "mimicry" and "imitation".
MIMIC : Ape, copy, feign, imitate, mime, mock, represent, satire, ridicule, spoof, parody, characiture, lampoon, impersonate, simulate, duplicate, replicate, resemble, tongue-in-cheek
IMITATE : Emulate, parallel, mirror, reflect, echo, pattern oneself on or after, model oneself on or after, take a leaf out of someone's book, affect, parot, impersonate, simulate, do an impression of, clone, countefeit, fake
PARODY : Burlesque, satire, mock, send up, traversty, distortion, debasement, deride, scoff, pillory, "take the mickey out of"
SATIRE : Irony, sarcasm, pasquinade, spoof, parody
SARCASM : Contumely, satire, irony, scorn, venom, mordancy, trenchancy, derisive, sardonic, scathing, caustic, cutting, incicive, biting, acerbic, acidic, acidulous, poisonous