Early Christian Apocryphal Literature

Stephen J. Shoemaker

in The Oxford Handbook of Early Christian Studies

Published in print September 2008 | ISBN: 9780199271566
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology

Early Christian Apocryphal Literature

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  • Religion in the Ancient World



The apocryphal literature of early Christianity consists primarily of narrative traditions about the life and teaching of Jesus, his family, and his apostles, as well as letters, apocalyptic visions, and other-worldly journeys attributed to these individuals that fall outside the biblical canon. These writings, however, do not always correspond to the literary genres of the New Testament. The production of apocrypha in antiquity was of course not limited to early Christianity or to Christian themes. The various expressions of ancient Judaism also produced a wealth of extra-biblical writings about the many personages of the Hebrew scriptures. These apocrypha, perhaps more commonly known today as the ‘pseudepigrapha’, were also embraced by various early and medieval Christian groups, who made these writings their own, often redacting them according to Christian interests and concerns.

Keywords: early Christianity; Jesus; apocalyptic visions; ancient Judaism; pseudepigrapha; New Testament

Article.  13041 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Christianity ; Religious Studies ; Religion in the Ancient World

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