HUMA 3423 3.0 The New Testament Apocrypha

York University, Winter 2018

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, DB0011
Office Hours: Tues. 4-6 pm and Fri. 10:30-11:30 am and other times by appointment, 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, MI: Eerdmans, 2013.

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

Philip Jenkins, The Many Faces of Christ: The Thousand-Year Story of the Survival and Influence of the Lost Gospels. New York: Basic Books, 2015.

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: 16951565. 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 a resource page on academic integrity to help students recognize acts of plagiarism. Visit the site at and complete the academic integrity quiz at THIS PAGE. No assignments will be returned to you until you do so. Upon completion print off the results of the quiz and hand it in January 23 (only results with a score of 100% will be accepted). There is no grade value for this assignment.

B. 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. Philip Jenkins’, The Many Faces of Christ, Book Review: Philip Jenkins has become an important voice in the discussion of the transmission and reception of Christian Apocrypha in late antiquity, the middle ages, the Renaissance, and modern times. We will finish off the course reading his latest book The Many Face of Christ. 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: April 3.

D. e-Clavis Entry: The North American Society for the Study of Christian Apocryphal Literature (NASSCAL) has created a bibliographical resource for scholars and students in the field called e-Clavis: Christian Apocrypha. Each apocryphal text is given its own page with a range of information, including standard abbreviations, related texts, use in popular culture, manuscripts, editions, and previous scholarship. You are going to contribute to that resource by providing an entry for a text assigned to you by the instructor. Full instructions will be provided in the January 30 class, which will also feature a research skills tutorial detailing how to complete the project. Attendance in this class is mandatory and will be part of your grade.  You will also present your work to the class. Research Skills Tutorial Attendance: 5%. Presentation (March 27): 10%. Completed Entry: 25%.

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
January 17: Last date to enroll in Winter term courses without the permission of the instructor.
January 31: Last date to enroll in Winter term courses with the permission of the instructor.
March 9: Last date to drop Winter term courses 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 online by Monday morning of each week. It is your responsibility to print your own copy of the outline and bring it to class.

Jan. 9: Introductions
Read after class today: if you missed the overview of the New Testament, or would like additional information, visit these sites:;

Jan. 16: Concepts: Canon, Orthodoxy and Heresy
Read for Today:  Burke ch. 1-2; W. Bauer, excerpt from Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity; from Ehrman: “Canonical Lists” (p. 329–42).
Online Resources: visit the internet’s premier site for on-line editions of apocryphal texts:

Jan. 23: 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.

NOTE: Academic Integrity Assignment Due Today.

Jan. 30: Ministry Gospels and Jewish-Christian Gospels; Research Skills Tutorial
Read for Today: Collating for Dummies; Burke ch. 3 (pp. 54-66) and the Appendix; 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.

Feb. 6: 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 or a “Semitic” Jesus; the Western Jesus can be adjusted in various ways, including the translation used and with how much passion he speaks.

Feb. 13: 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 resources available at the Pitts Theological Library web site.
** Analysis of Gospel of Mary due today (if you chose that text) **
Remember to follow and attach the STYLE SHEET to your paper.

Feb. 20: Reading Week ~ No Class

Feb. 27: Apocalypses
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) **

April 24: Apocryphal Acts
Read for Today: Burke ch. 5 (p. 101–18); from Ehrman, Acts of John, Acts of Paul, Acts of Thecla, Acts of Peter (and the introduction p. 92), 3 Corinthians, Paul and Seneca, Laodiceans.
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 Acts of Thecla due today (if you chose that text) **
** join the chat at 8pm today at

May 1: 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: the Dormition of Mary. is frequently represented in art and iconography. For a sampling of this imagery visit the Assumption of the Virgin Mary in Art Wikipedia page.
** Analysis of the Dormition of Mary due today (if you chose that text) **
** join the chat at 8pm today at

May 8: Anti-Gospels and Modern Apocrypha
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, the Life of Saint Issa (note that the text continues after this introductory page; keep reading!).
Online Resources: To read more about the Life of Saint Issa, including the story of its discovery, read the entire book HERE, and you can listen to a reading of the text HERE.
** The Many Faces of Christ Book Review is due today and e-Clavis Projects to be completed for today**
Remember to follow and attach the STYLE SHEET to your paper.
** join the chat at 8pm today at