Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Apocryphal gospels

If you have access to the Wall Street Journal  Michael J. Kruger's review of The Apocryphal Gospels by Simon Gathercole may be of interest. Kruger writes "For those outside the scholarly guild, what is commonly known about these “lost” accounts of Jesus typically comes through blog entries, internet lore, fictional books (think of The Da Vinci Code) and a host of conspiratorial documentaries. .... What’s almost invariably missing in debates over such claims is a careful reading of the original apocryphal texts—which are both similar to and different from Matthew, Mark, Luke and John." More from the review:
.... The apocryphal Gospels in this collection, all of them, date from the second century or later. Even the “Gospel of Thomas,” which modern scholars have often claimed was excluded from the canon for arbitrary reasons, is a product of the second century. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, by contrast, date from the first century—the century in which Jesus lived.

Another difference concerns theology. While the canonical Gospels are grounded in the history of Israel and the framework provided by the Hebrew Bible, most of the apocryphal texts are disconnected from Christianity’s Jewish roots. They contain novel, often esoteric, systems of thought involving multiple gods, the idea that the material world is the creation of an evil deity, and the belief that Jesus was not a real human being. One of these theological oddities appears in the “Gospel of Thomas” where the last line reads: “Every woman who makes herself male will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” Mr. Gathercole argues that this saying “goes back to an ancient conception of gender, according to which the female spiritual nature is defective.”

Still another difference between the apocryphal and canonical Gospels relates to style. While the canonical four employ an understated, matter-of-fact manner of reporting on historical events, the apocryphal Gospels are often embellished and written in a near-legendary tone. ....

The effect of Mr. Gathercole’s excellent collection of the apocryphal Gospels is, in the end, to drive us back to the originals. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John had imitators for a reason. (more)
Michael J. Kruger, "‘The Apocryphal Gospels’ Review: Good News and Fake News," The Wall Street Journal, June 6, 2022.

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