As many of you know, this past year my colleague Zlatko Plese and I published a bilingual edition of the Apocryphal Gospels. Actually, it was quadrilineal. We included all the Gospels of the early centuries (up until the Middle Ages, and some important ones even from then) in Greek, Latin, and Coptic, with the original language on the left side of the page and a new English translation on the right. This past summer, after it came out, I decided that it would be really nice to have an English-only edition of these texts for people (this would be most people) who aren’t interested in seeing what the original languages say.

There are about 40 Gospels altogether that we included, with short introductions. To produce the English version we are simply reproducing our translations, with Introductions geared for general readers rather than for scholars. So I’m touching up the introductions to try to get them at the proper reading level/expertise/level of interest.

I’d like to get some feedback.

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2020-11-24T18:58:36-05:00December 29th, 2012|Book Discussions, Christian Apocrypha|

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  1. bholly72 December 29, 2012 at 7:41 pm


  2. Jdavis3927 December 29, 2012 at 7:43 pm

    Sounds good to me Bart. A lot of times when I am reading your books, I have to re-read a sentence, or a paragraph, or even a chapter at times to gather in all the information you are presenting. i am not complaining though, because when I do that, it seems I will catch something that I missed. By the way I just received your new book, and I can tell I am going to have to do a lot of re-reading:) Shalom

  3. RonaldTaska December 29, 2012 at 9:04 pm

    1. Basically this seems clear and on target to me especially the discussion about the possible relationships with the four canonical Gospels. I assume that earlier in the book you explain how these fragments get numbered (Papyrus Egerton 2; P52) if not then that explanation would be helpful. I also assume you explain about how these fragments get dated.

    2. At the end of line 7 of the next to last paragraph, you need to add “been” after “have.”

    Keep going.

  4. AdamPanacci December 29, 2012 at 9:35 pm

    This is really good. Only question I found myself asking is how and when this ‘unknown gospel’ was found. maybe a brief statement would be helpful if the circumstances around it were interesting.

  5. maxhirez December 29, 2012 at 9:48 pm

    Looks good for a trade audience-very consistent with “Lost Christianities.” I see no need to change direction unless you are hoping to target an audience of greater or lesser education than that.

  6. gmatthews December 29, 2012 at 9:58 pm

    Overall it sounds great to me. Not too scholarly and no words that I don’t personally understand. Some of the first scholarly books I bought when my interest in early church history really started to grow were the English translations of Wilhelm Schneemelcher’s volumes: New Testament Apocrypha. I find those books to have a scholarly bent, but entirely accessible to me. Going for a wider audience your introduction above is necessarily more reader friendly, but still descriptive enough that I don’t feel like I’m missing anything. One point that I would like to make that I rarely see discussed (not just your books) concerns discussions of where these papyri are being found and what else is found along with them. The armchair archaeologist in me is never satisfied!

  7. toejam December 29, 2012 at 10:52 pm

    Soungs great!

  8. lbehrendt December 29, 2012 at 10:52 pm

    Bart, the detail seems fine to me. I don’t see how you could make it any shorter.

    I know that this is out of left field, but for those of us who might want to know more, it would be REALLY helpful to cite to resources available on-line. Yes, I know, we can just Google … but it would be nice for someone like you to point to the more reliable online resources.

  9. toddfrederick December 30, 2012 at 1:49 am

    I come from the perspective of an average person with a good educational background and reasonably good intelligence. I am fully aware that I am not and have never been a scholar and I do not know the language of scholars (in your field).

    My original goal in attending divinity school was to go on and work in archaeology. That was a field that most interested me, and still does.

    However, I soon found that I do not have a natural ability in learning languages…the study of such was very difficult for me and the memorization was boring and tedious. I only recently was diagnosed with what is called ADD which makes long concentration very difficult. I learned to overcome that, for the most part, to do quite well in college and grad school, but not for learning languages which is essential in archaeology.

    My point is this: when you write “trade books” for those of us who are not scholars, they need to be accurate and complete and relatively straight forward (simple to understand), but also written in a way that is entertaining and, I hate to say, not boring or tedious. Many books I currently read, though not written for scholars, are somewhat difficult and take considerable concentration. I find that I need to read a few books at a time, moving back and forth, to create some variety.

    I finally ended up teaching in public school which was ideal for me since each period in the day was different and had a variety of subject matter and students. So, in the trade books, I like the chapters short, or broken into sub-parts. I’m not one who can sit and read a book straight through. I need to take breaks, think about what I have read to gain understanding, and then move on.

    When you write a book, please keep that in mind.

    Also, I like your idea of giving a definition of terms before you get into the meat of the matter. For me, I even write down the terms on a file card that I can refer to as I come upon them. Scholars have special jargon. Public school teachers have a special jargon, as do most professions. I find that we teachers will often use these terms with parents without thinking that they don’t have a clue what we are talking about. When writing a trade book, the terms must be clearly understood. Good idea.

    Also, breaking up the books into very clear distinct categories is helpful. I like the way you introduce the theme of each chapter at the very beginning, in a journalistic style. That gives me the idea of what I will expect in the chapter and I don’t have to guess.

    Regarding the Lost Gospels….It would be helpful to 1) make comparisons to the content of the Lost Gospel your are working with in comparison the similar portions of the Canonical Gospels and 2) try to tie in the practical relevance of the study to how we interpret the Canonical Gospels today….make it relevant…give us a reason to want to understand the material.

    I will think of more ideas. This comment is too long as it is.

    Thank you for asking for our feedback. Blessings, Todd

  10. Christian December 30, 2012 at 7:15 am

    That is the right length and level of detail. (I am a layman.)

  11. danibobanny December 30, 2012 at 8:55 am

    Personally, I love it. It grabbed my attention, was clear and easy to follow, and I look forward to reading the rest of it.

  12. kristieinbc December 30, 2012 at 2:34 pm

    This seems very readable to me. I understood what you were saying, and it made me want to read the gospel that follows the introduction. The word “been” needs to be inserted so the sixth sentence of paragraph five reads “the author must have been doing more than creating a harmony…”

  13. Christian December 30, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    [Off-topic] Just for your information, I listened to your dialogue with the British philosopher Richard Swinburne and I assure you that you were calm all along. You remember being incensed, but you managed to hide it extremely well, much to your credit. Hat off.

    • BDEhrman December 30, 2012 at 8:00 pm

      Good. ’cause I was seething.

      • samchahal December 31, 2012 at 10:51 am

        I listened to it too and believe me “seething” isnt the word! I cant believe someone with 50 years of academia behind him can sound so pathetically obscure. Some of those remarks ref: suffering/holocaust and the”God allowing Us to help” part was just diabolical. so angry about it!

  14. JoeWallack December 30, 2012 at 4:13 pm

    ” The introduction is by necessity one of the more technical ones of the forty. What do you think? Is it OK? Too much detail? Not enough information? About right? Too much jargon?”

    Identifying what your objectives are for the Introduction would be helpful in trying to provide feedback.

    I’m guessing that you want to publicize that there are non-Canonical Gospels in quantity that have similar credentials to the Canonical. Believers will position that witness evidence separated Canonical from non-Canonical. Where does your Skepticism stop right now, only to the existence of many other Gospels, or all the Way to similar credentials for all?


    • BDEhrman December 30, 2012 at 8:01 pm

      Not sure what you’re asking. I think the canonical four are the four earliest we have and that they, more than the others, are more likely to contain historically authentic material. But I don’t consider them to be Scripture, since I’m not a believer.

      • JoeWallack December 30, 2012 at 10:34 pm

        I’m asking what your reason is for publicizing that there were other Gospels. Christian Bible scholarship has traditionally avoided doing so because it lessens the supposed authority of the Canonical four. I see the following range of possibilities:

        Low: Deserves more attention than it has received (Scholarly)

        Medium: Lessens supposed authority of Four due to existence (Skeptical)

        High: Significantly lessens authority due to shared credentials such as Age (Attack)

        If I knew your objective I could tell you if I thought you achieved it or if it is a good objective.

        ” I think the canonical four are the four earliest we have”

        Right, you date relatively early for a Skeptic. I would date “Peter” before “John” and “Thomas” as possibly the earliest of all.


        • BDEhrman December 31, 2012 at 6:59 pm

          Oh, I see what you’re asking now. My motives are purely historical: I think early Christianity is very interesting, and the more we know about it, the more interesting it gets. And one of the really interesting aspects of it is that there were a lot of books written by early Christians that we still have, even though most people only know about the ones in the NT. Knowing and reading the others gives a much better sense of what was happening in the early years of the Christian movement. That may or may not be of interest to Bible-believing Christians, but it *should* be of interest to anyone — Christian or not — who wants to know more about early Christianity.

  15. DarylIverson December 30, 2012 at 9:09 pm

    I had to re-read part of if, but its very understandable. Will there be illustrations of the fragments?

    • BDEhrman December 31, 2012 at 6:57 pm

      No, not for this book; worht thinking about for a future edition though!

  16. dallaswolf December 30, 2012 at 10:26 pm

    Good intro. I think you struck a good balance of your objectives. You are clearly scholarly, yet an eager and enthusiastic communicator, clear, and never condescending. You give me the meat and potatoes of the issue without conducting a culinary class.

  17. TomTerrific December 31, 2012 at 2:20 am

    I just finished The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture and consider this about two steps back in difficulty reading and understanding. IOW, this was easy reading for me.

    Having read a half-dozen or so of your books, this is right in line: well put and straight forward.

  18. chaplainrich72 January 2, 2013 at 3:49 pm

    I just logged in after taking a few days off. In writing for lay readers such as myself, please remember that we come from a variety of backgrounds. I am an interested but rather undesciplined reader. My eyes tend to glaze over when they are confronted by more than 3 or 4 names in a row (don’t even ask how I have managed to be successful in academe all these years). I would mirror the remarks of toddfrederick above in requesting that you be inclusive of as much information as you can without being overly lengthy in detail. The old military term KISS it comes to mind.

    That said, let me also say that I am eagerly awaiting the publication of trhis effort.

  19. Maxbreuker November 5, 2022 at 12:13 pm

    From what I know, almost all non-canonical gospels come from the second century CE wheras the canonicals come from the first century. Doesn’t that give credence to the stronger reliability of the canonicals?
    Or where there more gospels circulating in the first century?

    • BDEhrman November 6, 2022 at 8:41 am

      Yes, most scholars argue that the four canonical Gospels are our earliest and therefore the most likely to preserve some historical traditions in them.

      • Maxbreuker November 6, 2022 at 9:21 am

        The early church then seemingly knew what scriptures where the oldest/most reliable.
        Isn’t that very odd since they relied on traditions?
        It seems that it strengthens the case for the power of tradition.
        Or is there a logical explanation apart from tradition that explains why they chose the “right” ones?

        Or didn’t they choose the “right” ones and were there probably many more gospels already circulating in the first century that we don’t have. And they just happened to pick a few.

        • BDEhrman November 9, 2022 at 7:10 am

          I’d say that just because Christians in teh year 180 or so accepted four Gospels written a hundred years later, that would have no bearing on whether the accounts were reliable. If you choose to accept a biography of Lincoln that was written in 1920 over one written in 1922, the fact you chose to accept it doesn’t mean it’s reliable. It may be truly awful — but it’s the one you like.

          • Maxbreuker November 9, 2022 at 1:36 pm

            But isn’t it very coincidental that the ones they liked most just happen to be the earliest accounts?

            Or were they just a few books among many?

          • BDEhrman November 12, 2022 at 5:38 pm

            THe others that were earlier were simply not preserved. Luke 1:1-4 indicates that there were “many” that were earlier than his.

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