HUMA 3423 3.0 The New Testament Apocrypha

York University, Fall 2015

Dormition Mary Deir al-Surian

Image: Painting from the Deir al-Surian monastery in Egypt based on the apocryphal Dormition of Mary.


Instructor: Dr. Tony Burke
Phone: (416) 736-2100 ext. 22329
Time and Location: Tuesday 7-10 pm, VH3004
Office Hours: Mon. and Tues. 4-6 pm, McLaughlin 036.

1. Course Description
The New Testament Apocrypha—or better: non-canonical early Christian literature—has had a great impact on western culture despite attempts by mainstream Christianity to suppress it. Stories and ideas from these texts appear in literature, art, church doctrine, and even modern fiction such as Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code. This course is designed to introduce students to a wide range of non-canonical Christian texts—from gospels, to acts of individual apostles, letters, and apocalypses. The goals will be to understand each text’s place in the development of Christian thought and to observe their use in modern scholarship. Particular emphasis will be placed on the work of the so-called “new school” in New Testament Studies that claims some of these texts may predate, and therefore may have influenced, the canonical gospels.

2. Required Texts
Tony Burke, Secret Scriptures Revealed: A New Introduction to the Christian Apocrypha. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2013.

Bart Ehrman, The Lost Scriptures: Books That Did Not Make It into the New Testament. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Bock, Darrell L. The Missing Gospels: Unearthing the Truth Behind Alternative Christianities. Nashville: Nelson, 2006.

3. Methods of Evaluation
All written work in this course is expected to be of high quality—i.e., it must conform to the style and format guidelines typical of Humanities courses—and it must be your own. To help ensure that these requirements are met, you are urged to visit the on-line guides listed below. In addition, a style sheet of my own design is to be attached to your assignments (see the assignment descriptions below). No paper will be accepted without the style sheet attached. For additional writing assistance, visit
NOTE: All graded work in this course is to be submitted to (and brought to class in a hard copy). For an overview of this service and the University’s policies regarding, please see HERE. It is very simple to use. Go to for instructions on how to create a user profile. You can use whatever email address you wish but it must be a working one since you will receive emails over the course of the year. It is recommended that you NOT use internet email accounts (e.g., Hotmail, Yahoo, etc.). You create your own password so make it easy to remember. You will also require the following information to sign in initially: Class ID: 10463564. Password: apocrypha.
A. Academic Integrity: York University is very concerned about the increase in student plagiarism. As heinous a crime as plagiarism is, sometimes it is perpetrated in ignorance. The university has set up an on-line tutorial to help students recognize acts of plagiarism. You are required to complete this tutorial (no papers will be accepted until you do so). Go to the web site and work your way through the tutorial. Print off the results of the quiz and hand them in on September 29. There is no grade value for this assignment, but no papers will be accepted until the test results are handed in to the instructor. Site address:
B. Conference Report: I will be hosting a conference on New Testament Apocrypha here at York September 25-26. To encourage student attendance at the event, you are required to go to at least one session of the conference (session 2 is only two papers, so do not write ONLY on session 2) and write a five-page report about what you learned from the experience. Be sure to include brief summaries of the presentations and an account of the discussions that follow (not everything, but what you found interesting). For complete information about the conference visit the conference web site HERE. Please follow the guidelines of this STYLE SHEET and hand in the style sheet with your paper. Length: 5 pages. Grade value: 10%. Due: Oct. 6.
C. Text Analyses: students will select three out of five texts assigned to be read over the term (indicated on the syllabus), hand in a brief analysis of each and contribute heavily to the class in which the texts are to be discussed. Ask of the text: what do you find interesting about the text? how do you see it interacting with (i.e., incorporating, challenging, expanding) other Christian literature? (or, put differently, what seems to conflict with what you know of Christian traditions?) What need do you see it filling for its original readers that is not met by canonical (i.e., New Testament) texts? (or, put differently, why do you think it was written?) Please follow the guidelines of this STYLE SHEET and hand in the style sheet with your analyses. Length: 2 pages. Grade value: 10% each. Due: the class in which the individual texts are discussed (no exceptions).
C. Darrell Bock’s, The Missing Gospels Book Review: much of the scholarship on the New Testament Apocrypha is produced by liberal scholars—i.e., scholars who consider certain NTA texts valuable (perhaps too valuable) for reconstructing the history of Early Christianity. We will finish off the course reading one of several recently-published responses to such scholarship: Darrell Bock’s, The Missing Gospels. You are to prepare a review of Bock’s book. A typical scholarly book review should contain the following features: roughly 60% of the review is descriptive (i.e., a summary of its contents; the aim is to inform the reader about the book), and 40% is analytical (what are the book’s strengths and weaknesses? what are the author’s biases or particular viewpoints on the subject matter? what is the expected audience of the book? does the author write effectively for that audience? is the book a “good read”?, etc.). For more guidance on scholarly book reviews read the samples available HERE. The reviews will be discussed in class. Please follow the guidelines of this STYLE SHEET and hand in the style sheet with your paper. Length: 5 pages. Grade value: 20%. Due: Dec. 1.
D. Major Paper: Choose one of the following texts: Vision of Theophilus, Narrative of Joseph of Arimathea, Avenging of the Savior, Doctrine of Addai, Acts of Philip, and the Arabic Infancy Gospel. Click on the title of the text for access to an English translation. Consult my page More Christian Apocrypha or Early Christian Writings for some bibliographical references to the texts. Prepare a paper on the text featuring the following: a brief description of its contents, an overview of previous scholarship, a summary of its manuscript sources, and a case for why the text is important for the study of the Christian Apocrypha and/or the history of Christian Literature. The paper is similar to THIS chapter I contributed to a recent book on apocryphal gospels. To ensure that you are working progressively on your paper (not leaving it to the last minute!), a two-page Work-in-Progress Report is due October 27. For this report, simply provide a summary of the text (which you can use for the final version). That same class will be a tutorial from librarian Scott McLaren on research skills. Come to class prepared to ask Scott questions about how to proceed with your project. Please follow the guidelines of this STYLE SHEET and hand in the style sheet with your paper (but not the Work-in-Progress Report). Length: 12-15 pages. Grade value: 30%. Due: Dec. 11.
E. Class Participation: to encourage an optimum of instructor/student interaction, a portion of your final grade is allocated to class participation. The grade is based on class attendance, on asking/answering questions, and on participation in the Apocryphicity BLOG (to be discussed in class). Grade value: 10%.

Missing papers: In the event that papers go missing, it is your responsibility to keep a hard copy of all written work submitted for the course.
Late papers: the instructor, like you, is a very busy person. He likes to receive papers on time so that he can give them back to you within a reasonable time and then get on with other things he has to do (the instructor has other courses to teach and other papers to grade). Late papers complicate his life. So, he cannot accept late papers unless they are accompanied with documentation from Special Needs or Health Services. Contact the professor if you foresee problems handing in papers on time.

4. Important Dates
Sept. 24 : Last date to enroll without permission of instructor
Oct. 8 : Last date to enroll with permission of instructor
Nov. 9 : Last date to drop course without receiving a grade

5. Lecture Schedule
Please come to class having read the assigned primary and secondary readings. A lecture outline for each week’s class will be posted on-line by Monday morning of each week. It is your responsibility to print your own copy of the outline and bring it to class.

Sept. 15: Introductions
Read after class today: if you missed the overview of the New Testament, or would like additional information, visit these sites:;

Sept. 22: Concepts: Canon, Orthodoxy and Heresy
Read for Today: Collating for Dummies; Burke ch. 1-2 and the Appendix; W. Bauer, excerpt from Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity PART 1, PART 2, PART 3; from Ehrman: “Canonical Lists” (p. 329-342).
Online Resources: visit the internet’s premier site for on-line editions of apocryphal texts:

Sept. 29: Infancy Gospels
Read for Today: Gospel of Matthew 1-2; Gospel of Luke 1-2; Infancy Gospel of Thomas; Revelation of the Magi; Burke ch. 3 (pp. 44-53); from Ehrman: Proto-Gospel of James.
** Analysis of Infancy Gospel of Thomas due today (if you chose that text) **
Remember to follow and attach the STYLE SHEET to your paper.

** results of Academic Integrity Test are due today. **

Oct. 6: Ministry Gospels and Jewish-Christian Gospels
Read for Today: Burke ch. 3 (pp. 54-66); from Ehrman: Secret Gospel of Mark, Papyrus Egerton 2, Gospel of Peter, Gospel of the Savior, Gospel of the Nazareans, Gospel of the Ebionites, Gospel According to the Hebrews, Gospel According to the Egyptians.
Online Resources: visit Alin Suciu’s eponymous blog (, which features posts on his reconstructions of Coptic manuscripts, including material related to the Gospel of the Savior.
** YCAS 2015 Conference Report Due Today **
Remember to follow and attach the STYLE SHEET to your paper.

Oct. 13: Complete Apocryphal Gospels and Letters of Jesus
Read for Today: Burke ch. 3 (66-74); Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Philip, Abgar Correspondence, Letter of Lentulus (Abgar and Lentulus are included in the lecture outline).
Online Resources: you can watch and hear the entire Gospel of Thomas being read by actors at The text is read by either a “Western” Jesus and a “Semitic” Jesus; the Western Jesus can be adjusted in various ways, including the translation used and with how much passion he speaks.

Oct. 20: Passion and Resurrection Gospels
Read for Today: Burke ch. 4 (p. 75-94); Acts of Pilate (“first Greek form” only); from Ehrman: Gospel of Mary.
Online Resources: as you begin thinking about your major paper, take a look at the bibliography available at the web site of l’AELAC (Association pour l’étude de la littérature apocryphe chrétienne).
** Analysis of Acts of Pilate due today (if you chose that text) **
Remember to follow and attach the STYLE SHEET to your paper.

Oct. 27: Research Skills Tutorial (Hour 1); Apocalypses (Hour 2)
Read for Today: Burke ch. 4 (p. 94-100); from Ehrman: Apocalypse of Peter, Apocalypse of Paul, Apocalypse of the Virgin (PDF).
Online Resources: before there were movies, artists drew upon the New Testament Apocrypha for their work. For a sampling of art based on the NT Apocrypha check out David Cartlidge’s database of images.
** Analysis of the Apocalypse of Peter due today (if you chose that text) **
The class will be visited today by Humanities librarian Scott McLaren. This is your opportunity to brush up on your research skills in preparation for your major paper. Be sure to re-read the assignment description and come to class prepared to have all your questions answered.
*** Major Paper Work-in-Progress Report due today ***

Nov. 3: Acts of John and Paul
Read for Today: Burke ch. 5 (p. 101-12); from Ehrman, Acts of John, Acts of Paul, Acts of Thecla, 3 Corinthians, Paul and Seneca, Laodiceans.
Online Resources: the Acts of Paul tells the story of Paul’s relationship with a female disciple named Thecla. The story is fascinating for what it tells us about the roles allowed women in early Christianity. For more on Thecla visit

Nov. 10: Acts of Peter
Read for Today: Burke ch. 5 (p. 112-18); from Ehrman: Acts of Peter (and the introduction p. 92), Pseudo-Clementines (Ehrman pp. 191-200).
Online Resources: a medieval scribe, unhappy with the abrupt ending of the canonical book of Acts, created an additional chapter. It can be read HERE.
** Analysis of the Pseudo-Clementines due today (if you chose that text) **

Nov. 17: Tales of Mary, Joseph, John the Baptist, and Mary Magdalene
Read for Today: Burke ch. 5 (p. 119-28); the Dormition/Assumption of Mary (first text only), the Life of Joseph the Carpenter, Life of John the Baptist by Serapion, Life of Mary Magdalene.
Online Resources: there are numerous versions of the Dormition of Mary. To read more about them visit the site of Dormition scholar Stephen Shoemaker (this link is now dead).
** Analysis of the Dormition of Mary due today (if you chose that text) **

Nov. 24: no class

Dec. 1: Anti-Gospels and Anti-Apocrypha Apologetics
Read for Today: Burke ch. 6 and 7; the Gospel of Barnabas (read only the prologue and chs. 1-9, 42-44, 97, 216-222), the Toledoth Yeshu.
Online Resources: watch this interview with Darrell L. Bock on the “missing gospels.”
** The Missing Gospels Book Review is due today **
Remember to follow and attach the STYLE SHEET to your paper.