Apocryphal Gospels

James Keith Elliott

in Biblical Studies

ISBN: 9780195393361
Published online September 2010 | | DOI:
Apocryphal Gospels


The title “apocryphal gospels” conventionally applies to certain early Christian or Gnostic texts that are written either in imitation of the genre “gospel” as applied to the New Testament canon or in telling of events and sayings in the life of Jesus and his immediate circle of family and disciples. The pluralism of the centuries of Christianity, the absence of a clearly established canon, the role of orality and intertextuality in the shaping of the new texts, and the existence of different “editions” of even the future canonical texts also doubtless encouraged the writing of Christian apocrypha. Modern critical editions of the texts are collected into compendia under umbrella titles such as New Testament Apocrypha or the Nag Hammadi Library. Some texts, such as the Gospel of Thomas, have been extensively studied and have spawned a vast secondary literature. Others are only recently undergoing scholarly examination. Some of the texts, for example the Gospel of Judas, have come to light only recently. Others, such as the Protevangelium of James, have survived in numerous manuscript copies, some of great antiquity, and those have been known to scholars for centuries. Some texts are fragmentary; the smallest examples raise the question whether they are indeed chance survivors of a larger gospel-type writing or should really be classed as something else, perhaps part of a patristic writing or homily. The texts selected here are largely orthodox. Only a few are Gnostic: the Gospel of Philip, the Gospel of Judas, and the Gospel of Mary; the famous Gospel of Thomas has been considered Gnostic by many readers. Most of the remaining Gnostic gospels have been included in a final section on their own.

Article.  12163 words. 

Subjects: Biblical Studies

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