Roger Pearse, writer/administrator of his eponymous blog, has written a lengthy review of Ancient Gospel or Modern Forgery? The Secret Gospel of Mark in Debate. These are the papers presented at the 2011 York Christian Apocrypha Symposium. Read the review HERE. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on the book, Roger. I will offer a response to the review, but I'd be interested in reading other responses first.
Philip Jenkins continues his posts on the Christian Apocrypha at Patheos. The latest focuses on Jewish-Christian Gospels.
One comment on a reading (perhaps) from the Gospel of the Ebionites stands out: Jenkins mentions two Latin manuscripts that share a reading with the Ebionite gospel "with no sense that they were drawing on any weird or marginal sect." Weird? Really?
Jenkins also raises an interesting point about how early copies of the gospels, which contained readings different from the canonical versions we have today, may have looked to medieval Christians: "At least in some cases, when scholars like Epiphanius talked about Jewish Christian gospels – when they gave these documents some name like the Gospel According to the Hebrews – were they actually dealing with nothing more heretical than very early drafts of what became our canonical texts?"
The Association pour l’étude de la littérature apocryphe chrétienne (AELAC) has announced its programme for the 2013 meeting, which will take place June 29-July 1 in Dole, France. Here are the titles of the papers which will be presented this year:
Christoph Markschies, "Überlegungen zum Begriff 'christliche apokryphe Literatur.'"
Caitríona O'Dochartaigh, "L’Histoire de Thècle en irlandais."
Andrey Vinogradov, "Les Actes d'André et de Matthias et leur place dans la tradition apocryphe."
Stephen J. Davis, "The Childhood Deeds of Jesus in Arabic Christian and Muslim Encounter."
Stefan Hagel, "Présentation du logiciel 'Classical Text Editor.'"
Els Rose, "Editing the Virtutes apostolorum: Lectio improbabilior and other editorial principles tried on the Virtutes Simonis et Iudae."
Enrico Norelli, "Un chapitre du commentaire sur l’Apocalypse de Pierre."
Successive conquests and cultural changes have taken a heavy toll of Irish libraries, but enough remains to show just how rich the apocryphal collections would have been. Modern scholars like Martin McNamara, Máire Herbert and David Dumville have painstakingly collected these records, discussing over a hundred items known in Ireland. Many are poetic elaborations of well-known stories, but we also find a full spectrum of widely known alternative texts. In many cases, the texts survive in the vernacular, in Irish Gaelic.
See also Jenkins' earlier post on "Canons of Scripture," which reflects the nuances of current discussion about the canon of the New Testament and the interplay of canonical and non-canonical texts over the centuries.
I am pleased to announce, after some delay, the 2013 York Christian Apocrypha Symposium. The theme this year is “Forbidden Texts on the Western Frontier: The Christian Apocrypha in North American Perspectives.” The event takes place at York University September 26–28, 2013.
The planning for the 2013 Symposium was greatly helped by Brent Landau (University of Oklahoma). We have invited 22 Canadian and U.S. scholars to share their work and discuss present and future collaborative projects. Participants include David Eastman, Nicola Denzey Lewis, Mark Goodacre, Kristian Heal, Charles Hedrick, Cornelia Horn, F. Stanley Jones, and Stephen Patterson
Complete information about the Symposium is available at THIS LINK. We hope you can join us.
Philip Jenkins, author of (among other things) Hidden Gospels:How the Search for Jesus Lost Its Way (Oxford 2001), has contributed a post to the patheos blog entitled "The First English Bible." The title is somewhat misleading; Jenkins discusses the apocryphal texts circulating in Anglo-Saxon England and Ireland in medieval times, but it is a stretch to consider these texts part of the "English Bible." Certainly canonical and non-canonical texts were both valued and used but not in a single collection and not without a sense that some texts are more valued, more authoritative than others.
While working today on my translation of the Greek manuscripts of the Martyrium of Cornelius the Centurion, I happened upon an online abridged version of the text in English. The text appears, often without acknowledgement of the source, on several sites dedicated to Eastern Orthodox Christianity. It seems to have originated from a translation by Stephen Janos of volume three of the series Reference Book for Clergy-Servers [Nastol’naya Kniga Svyaschennosluzhitelya] published by the Moscow Patriarchate, Moscow 1978 & 1979. I am curious about the original source for the tale since it does not match any of the Greek Mss in my possession (though it may simply be an abridgement made from the manuscript published by J.-P. Migne). Here is the text:
The Martyrium of Cornelius, the Centurion
Soon after the Lord Jesus Christ's Ascension into Heaven, a centurion by the name of Cornelius settled at Caesarea in Palestine, who had lived previously in Thracian Italy. Although he was a pagan, he distinguished himself by deep piety and good deeds, as the holy Evangelist Luke records in Acts 10:1. The Lord did not disdain his virtuous life and led him to the knowledge of truth through the enlightening light of faith in Christ.
Once, Cornelius was at prayer in his home. An angel of God appeared to him and said that his prayer had been heard and accepted by God. The angel commanded him to send people to Joppa to Simon, called Peter. Cornelius immediately fulfilled the command. While those people were on their way to Joppa, the Apostle Peter was at prayer, during which time he had a vision three times of a vessel being lowered down to him, filled with all kinds of beasts and fowl. He heard a voice from Heaven commanding him to eat everything. When the Apostle refused to eat anything unclean, the voice said, "What God has cleansed, you must not call common" (Acts 10:15). Through this vision, the Lord commanded Apostle Peter to preach the Word of God to the pagans. When Peter arrived at the house of Cornelius in the company of those sent to meet him, he was received with great joy and respect by the host together with his kinsmen and comrades.
Cornelius fell down at the feet of the Apostle and requested to be taught the way of salvation. St Peter began to preach about the earthly life of Jesus Christ, about the miracles and signs worked by the Saviour, about His sufferings, His teachings about the Kingdom of Heaven, His death on the Cross, His Resurrection and Ascent into Heaven. By grace, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, Cornelius believed in Christ and was Baptized together with all his family. He was the first pagan to receive Baptism. He retired from the world and went preaching the Gospel together with the Apostle Peter, who made him a Bishop.
When Apostle Peter, together with his helpers Sts Timothy and Cornelius, was in the city of Ephesus, he learned of a particularly vigorous idol worship in the city of Skepsis. Lots were drawn to see who would go there, and St Cornelius was chosen. In the city lived a prince by the name of Demetrios, learned in the ancient Greek philosophy, hating Christianity and venerating the pagan gods, in particular Apollo and Zeus. Learning about the arrival of St Cornelius in the city, he immediately summoned him and asked him the reason for his coming. St Cornelius answered that he came to free him from the darkness of ignorance and lead him to knowledge of the True Light. The prince, not comprehending the meaning of what was said, became angry and demanded that he answer each of his questions. When St Cornelius explained that he served the Lord and that the reason for his coming was to announce the Truth, the prince became enraged and demanded that Cornelius offer sacrifice to the idols. The Saint asked to be shown the gods. When he entered the pagan temple, Cornelius turned towards the east and uttered a prayer to the Lord. There was an earthquake, and the temple of Zeus and the idols situated in it were destroyed. All the populace, seeing what had happened, were terrified.
The prince was even more vexed and began to take counsel together with those approaching him, about how to destroy Cornelius. They bound the Saint and took him to prison for the night. At this point, one of his servants informed the prince that his wife and child had perished beneath the rubble of the destroyed temple. After a while, the pagan priest Barbates reported that he heard the voice of the wife and son somewhere in the ruins and that they were praising the God of the Christians. The pagan priest asked that the imprisoned one be released, in gratitude for the miracle worked by St Cornelius, and the wife and son of the prince remained alive.
The joyful prince hurried to the prison declaring that he believed in Christ and asking him to bring his wife and son out of the ruins of the temple. St Cornelius went to the destroyed temple, and through prayer the suffering were freed. After this the prince, and all his relatives and comrades, accepted Baptism. St Cornelius lived for a long time in this city, converted all the pagan inhabitants to Christ, and made Eunomios a Presbyter in service to the Lord. St Cornelius died in old age as a martyr and was buried not far from the pagan temple he destroyed.
Michael Heiser of PaleoBabble has posted a short entry criticizing the "sensational" coverage of the recently published apocryphon on the Passion of Christ attributed to Cyril of Jerusalem (discussed in this previous post). Frankly, I thought the article was relatively tame in its coverage and allowed the author/editor of the text, Roelof van den Broek, an excellent opportunity to promote his work (and Jim Davila at Paleojudaica appears to agree with me).
Van den Broek has also contributed a guest post to Alin Suciu's blog outlining the contents of the edition and providing a photograph of one of the manuscripts he used to reconstruct the text.
The 2013 Annual Meeting of the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies will take place in Victora, BC June 1-4. For the first time, the society is including a session on the Christian Apocrypha. We hope that there will be sufficient interest in the session to continue it into future years. This will depend, of course, on the willingness of society members to contribute papers on the texts. One of my professional goals is to encourage and support scholarship on the Christian Apocrypha in North America (with a soft spot for Canada in particular). So, I would like to see this initiative succeed. Here are the papers for this year's session:
Sunday, June 2 / Dimanche, 2 Juin
CHRISTIAN APOCRYPHA / CHRÉTIEN APOCRYPHES
Chair / Président: C. Callon (Toronto)
8:30-9:00 John Horman
“A literary relationship between Thomas and Q”
A literary relationship between Thomas and Q is plausible because of close verbal parallels. There are, however, also difficulties. First, the passages where a relationship could be defended are short, and could have been transmitted orally. Second, most of the text of Q, including some dominant themes in Matthew and Luke’s version of Q, is unrepresented in Thomas. Third, the Q sayings found in Thomas do not at first glance seem to suit any current literary stratification of Q. When, however, we take Thomas’ literary method into account, it is clear that Thomas has used a form of Q.
9:00-9:30 Tony Burke (York University)
“Expansions on the Acts of the Apostles: The Martyrium of Cornelius the Centurion”
Writers of the Christian Apocrypha have mined the canonical Acts of the Apostles for characters to feature in narratives that provide additional details about the lives of eminent early Christian figures. The apocryphal acts of individual apostles are well-known, but texts exist also starring Gamiliel, Ananias, Stephen, and Cornelius the Centurion, honoured as the first Gentile accepted into the Christian community. Cornelius is celebrated in feast days in Catholic, Orthodox, and Ethiopian churches. The Martyrium of Cornelius the Centurion may have been composed specifically to provide the churches with a text to read on this feast day. It follows Cornelius’s adventures in Asia Minor,where he preaches to Demetrios, the prefect of Ephesus, and secures the prefect’s conversion when Cornelius saves his wife and son from the destruction of the temple of Zeus. The text concludes with an account of Cornelius’s death and the recounting of several miracles worked through the saint’s intercession. This paper offers the first English translation of the Martyrium of Cornelius the Centurion (based on three Greek witnesses and a single Ethiopic manuscript) and a discussion of its contents. The paper is based on work on the text by Tony Burke and Witold Witakowski for the forthcoming collection New Testament Apocrypha: More Non-canonical Scriptures.
9:30-10:00 Michelle Christian (University of Toronto)
“‘Seek enduring treasure:’ Short- and long-term gain in the parables of the merchant and the pearl (Thomas 76//Matthew 13:45-46)”
The curious actions depicted in the two recensions of the parable of the merchant and the pearl have provoked a variety of readings. Is a merchant who liquidates his entire inventory to secure a single pearl wise, foolish, or simply opportunistic? This paper explores the ‘morality’ of such behaviour by examining attitudes towards commerce in traditional societies experiencing economic growth and, in particular, the ambiguities that arise from changes to the ‘short- and longterm transactional orders’ (Bloch & Parry 1989). It will be argued that both parables exploit the moral indeterminacy of short-term gain to recast the longterm transactional order as ‘the kingdom.’
10:15-10:45 Bill Richards (College of Emmanuel & St Chad)
“Preparing for Baptism in the 2nd century: the Acts of Thomas as a novel for Christian Catechumens”
The “Apocryphal Acts” produced by Christians of the second century are famous for their entertaining interweaving of travelogue, miracle, and discourse – among them, the Acts of Thomas. However, beyond simply recounting how its particular hero on his way to India provoked both fascination and scandal among the socially powerful, Thomas’s Acts also pays considerable attention to how he initiated sympathizers into the movement. The numerous baptisms recorded in this “romance” suggest that, in fact, it was read for more than just amusement – it was a novel directed specifically at catechumens, preparing them for the cycle of instruction, exorcism, prayer, anointing, and baptism that would initiate them into the movement. Such a reading reveals both the rich ritual life early Christians were practicing, and the social world they imagined themselves to be entering.
10:45-11:15 Ian Brown (University of Toronto)
“Dancing with Thomas: The Use and Abuse of the Gospel of Thomas in the Construction of Christian Origins”
Since its publication in the 1950s, the Gospel of Thomas has been the most intensely studied piece of Christian Apocrypha. Scholars tend to fall into two camps: those who argue that Thomas is a 1st century text independent of the New Testament, and those who argue Thomas is a 2nd century text literarily dependent on the New Testament. This paper is not interested in questions of date and dependence, but instead asks what is at stake in these questions. More often than not, scholarship on Thomas is far more interested in constructing or defending a particular notion of Christian Origins than with Thomas as a text, using the gospel as a blunt instrument with which to construct one’s own version of Christian Origins.
11:15-11:45 Questions and Discussion
The online magazine Live-Science features an article on Roelof van den Broek's new book Pseudo-Cyril of Jerusalem on the Life and the Passion of Christ (Brill, 2013). The text, based on two Coptic manuscripts, contains a number of interesting variations on the story of Jesus' arrest, trial, and crucifixion–including the placement of Jesus' arrest on Tuesday (rather than Thursday), the need for Judas to kiss Jesus because Jesus often changed his form, and mention of Jesus and Pilate sharing a meal on the night of his trial. The narrator claims to have found these details in a text "found written in the house of Mary." Read the complete article HERE (with thanks to Brent Landau for passing along the information).