A couple of weeks ago I shared on the blog the syllabus for my undergraduate class, “Jesus in Scholarship and Film.”  Periodically I’ll discuss on the blog what I’m doing in that class.  But I thought today I could provide the syllabus for my other course, a PhD Seminar that meets for three-hours, once a week, to discuss “Early Christian Apocrypha.”   Here it is!


Reli 801: Early Christian Apocrypha

Instructor: Bart D. Ehrman

Fall 2013

The Early Christian Apocrypha are an amorphous collection of early and medieval Christian writings, many of which were forged in the names of the apostles.  They have long been a subject of fascination among scholars.  In this course we will consider a selection of the most interesting and historically significant examples.

Closely connected with the apocrypha are the writings that eventually made it into the New Testament; part of the course will involve understanding the process by which some early Christian texts came to be included among the canonical scriptures whereas others came to be excluded.

We will engage in four major tasks in the course: discussing primary sources; considering major textual, historical-critical, and interpretive issues; evaluating relevant secondary literature; and translating several Greek texts.

Course Requirements:

The success of the seminar depends on your active and enthusiastic involvement.  During our weekly session you will be expected to engage your colleagues in intelligent discourse; this will presuppose your having read the assignments.

There will be forty minutes devoted to translation of relevant Greek texts at the beginning of each class period.

Each student will be responsible for making a major 50-minute class presentation on the textual, critical (e.g., author, date, provenance, sources, etc.), and interpretive issues relating to one of the texts indicated in the reading list below.

 * The presentation is to presuppose the basic knowledge about these texts that other students will have acquired from the week’s reading assignments (including the texts themselves, in translation),

 * Ten minutes (no more) of the presentation is to involve distributing and discussing a comprehensive, partially annotated, bibliography of the secondary literature on the text in question.  Annotations are to be 1-2 sentences in length, for as many of the items as possible in the bibliography.  Please place an asterisk next to the three or four most important items on the list, to indicate where one should begin research.

 * Thirty to thirty-five minutes of the presentation are to involve a summary and evaluation of the hot textual, critical, and interpretive issues debated in the field, indicating what the problems are, why they have been perceived to be problems, and what data have been adduced to solve them.  This presentation is to be based on an intimate knowledge of previous scholarship and should not be a simple regurgitation of data (which students will already be familiar with) but should present the evidence for the data, its strengths and weaknesses, the complications that it contains, and the scholarly disputes it has generated.

 * Five to ten minutes (no more) may be allowed for class discussion of the issues.

 You are to write a five-page, double-spaced book review of Bruce Metzger’s now-classic, The Canon of the New Testament.  This will be due on Sept. 23.   The review should be about 80% summary and about 20% evaluation (the evaluation may be given en route, or at the very end).  For examples of book reviews, see recent issues of the Journal of Theological Studies, Journal of Early Christian Studies, Review of Biblical Literature, etc.

 You will be expected to write a term paper of 15‑20 pages, on any topic of your choice pertaining to the text on which you made your presentation.

 * You should plan to talk with me about your topic early in the semester (within the first two or three weeks) and to spend a good portion of the semester working on it (on the whole, the weekly reading assignments are not particularly onerous to allow you to do your own work on your presentation and final paper).

 * The paper is to be thoroughly researched and documented strictly according to the conventions of the SBL Handbook of Style (although a full bibliography, in this case, will be expected).

 * A final draft of the paper is due on Nov. 18, the second to last class of the term.  The draft is not to be rough but polished, absolutely as good as you can make it.  I’ll expect that you will be working on it for most of the term.  I will mark up this final draft with comments.  You are then to revise it accordingly, and turn in the finished product on December 13 (the date of the final exam) at 4:00.

 * Both deadlines are firm.  Late drafts and/or finished products will automatically be marked down a full letter grade (i.e., an H to a P, a P to an L, and an L to the outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth).

 That night we’ll have an end-of-term party for the class; pizza and beer on me.



Bart Ehrman and Zlatko Plese. Apocryphal Gospels: Texts and Translations.  New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.

Bart Ehrman.  Forgery and Counterforgery: The Use of Literary Deceit in Early Christian Polemics.  New York: Oxford, 2013.

J. K. Elliott.  The Apocryphal New Testament.  Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Bruce Metzger.  The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development and Significance.  Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987.

William Schneemelcher (revision of Edgar Hennecke).  New Testament Apocrypha, revised edition.  Tr. R. McL. Wilson.  2 vols.  Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox, 1991, 1992.


Participation 20%; Presentation (including bibliography) 20%; Book Review 10%; Translation 20%; Term paper 30%.


Class Schedule

 Aug.     26        Introduction to the Course

Sept       2        NO CLASS.  Labor Day.   Read Metzger and Prepare for second class.

9        Jewish-Christian Gospels and Gospel of the Egyptians;

TRANSLATION: All the texts for class, from Ehrman/Plese


  • Stephen Patterson, “New Testament Apocrypha,” in the Anchor Bible Dictionary 1, 294-97;
  • Schneemelcher, “General Introduction,” 1. 9-76
  •  “Introduction générale” in François Bovon and Pierre Geoltrain, Écrits apocryphes chrétiens, pp. xvii-lviii.
  • “Jewish-Christian Gospels” in Hennecke-Schneemelcher, 1, 134-78, 209-15;
  • Introductions to all the Gospels for the week in Ehrman/Plese
  • Andrew Gregory, “Jewish- Christian Gospels,” in Paul Foster, ed., The Non-Canonical Gospels.  London: T&T Clark, 2008; pp. 54-67.

16        Papyrus Egerton 2, P Merton 51, P Oxy 210, P Oxy 840, P Oxy 1224, P Oxy 4009, PVind G2325 (Fayûm fragment),

TRANSLATION: All the texts for class, from Ehrman/Plese


  • Stephen Gero (1992). “Apocryphal Gospels: A Survey of Textual and Literary Problems.” Pages 3969-3996 in Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt. Principat II.25.5. Edited by W. Haase. Berlin and New York: de Gruyter
  • Introductions to all fragments for the class in Ehrman/Plese;
  • Harold Idris Bell and T. C. Skeat, eds. (1935). The New Gospel Fragments. London: Trustees of the British Museum.
  • Tobias Niklas,”Papyrus Egerton 2,” Thomas Kraus “The Fayum Fragment,” and Michael Kruger, Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 840,” all in Foster, ed., Non-Canonical Gospels, pp. 139-70.

23        Protevangelium Jacobi.


TRANSLATION: Protevangelium 1-5


  • Introductions to Protevangelium in Ehrman/Plese, in Elliott, and in Hennecke-Schneemelcher;  
  • P. A. van Stempvoort,. (1964). “The Protevangelium Jacobi: The Sources of its Theme and Style and Their Bearing on its Date.” Pages 410-26 in Studia Evangelica. Edited by F. L. Cross. Vol. III. Texte und Untersuchungen 88. Berlin: Akademie Verlag;
  • Émile de Strycker,. (1964). “Le Protévangile de Jacques: Problemes critiques et exegetiques.” Pages 339-59 in Studia Evangelica III. Edited by F. L. Cross. Texte und Untersuchungen 88. Berlin: Akademie Verlag..
  • Ron Hock, The Infancy Gospels of James and Thomas.  Santa Rosa, CA: Polebridge Press, 1995; pp. 13-20.
  • Ehrman, Forgery and Counterforgery, pp. 484-93.

30        Infancy Gospel of Thomas.

TRANSLATION: Protevangelium 6-9


  • Introductions to Infancy Thomas in Ehrman/Plese, in Elliott, and in Hennecke Schneemelcher.
  • Gero, Stephen. (1971). “The Infancy Gospel of Thomas: A Study of the Textual and Literary Problems.” Novum Testamentum 13: 46-80.
  • Hock, Infancy Gospels, pp. 90-99.
  • Tony Chartrand-Burke, “The Infancy Gospel of Thomas,” in Foster, ed., The Non-Canonical Gospels, pp. 126-38.

Oct.      7          Coptic Gospel of Thomas.

TRANSLATION: Protevangelium 10-14


  • Introductions in Elliott, Hennecke-Schneemelcher, and Ehrman/Plese;
  • Ron Cameron, “Thomas, Gospel of,” in Anchor Bible Dictionary, VI, 535-40;
  • April Deconick, The Original Gospel of Thomas in Translation.  London: T&T Clark, 2006; pp. 2-24.
  • R. T. Fallon and R. Cameron, “The Gospel of Thomas: A Forschungsbericht and Analysis,” ANRW 2.25.6, 4195-4251;
  • Antti Marjanen, “Is Thomas a Gnostic gospel?” in Risto Uro, ed., Thomas at the Crossroads: Essays on the Gospel of Thomas (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1998) 107-39;
  • Ehrman, Forgery and Counterforgery, 230-37, 338-44, 415-18.

14        Gospel of Peter

TRANSLATION: Protevangelium 15-19


  • Introductions in Elliott, in Hennecke-Schneemelcher, and in Ehrman/Plese;
  • Raymond Brown, “The Gospel of Peter and Canonical Gospel Priority,” NTS 33 (1987) 321-43;
  • McCant, Jerry. “The Gospel of Peter: Docetism Reconsidered.” New Testament Studies 30; (1984): 258-73.
  • Paul Foster, The Gospel of Peter.  Leiden: E.J. Brill, 2010; pp. 57-91; 115-74.
  • Ehrman, Forgery and Counterforgery, 324-32

21        The Secret Gospel of Mark

TRANSLATION: Protevangelium 20-25


  • Introductions in Elliott and in Hennecke-Schneemelcher;
  • Quentin Quesnell,. (1975). “Mar Saba Clementine: A Question of Evidence.” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 37: 48-67;
  • Morton Smith,. (1976). “On the authenticity of the Mar Saba letter of Clement: Reply to Q. Quesnell.” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 38: 196-200;
  • Quentin. (1976). “Reply to Morton Smith.” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 38: 200-3; 4.
  • H. Criddle, (1995). “On the Mar Saba Letter Attributed to Clement of Alexandria.” Journal of Early Christian Studies 3: 215-220; 5
  • Charles Hedrick. (2003). “The Secret Gospel of Mark: Stalemate in the Academy.” Journal of Early Christian Studies 11, no. 2: 133-145;
  • Guy Stroumsa, (2003). “Comments on Charles Hedrick’s Article: A Testimony.” Journal of Early Christian Studies 11, no. 2: 147-53.
  • Bart D. Ehrman, (2003). “Response to Charles Hedrick’s Stalemate.” Journal of Early Christian Studies 11, no. 2: 155-63.
  • Roger Viklund and Timo Paananen, “Distoritoin of the Scribal Hand in the Images of Clement’s Letter to Theodore,” Vigiliae Christianae 67 (2013) 235-47.

28        The Acts of John:

TRANSLATION: Infancy Gospel of Thomas 1-8


  • The following articles in J. N. Bremmer, ed.,  The Apocryphal Acts of John.. (Kampen: Kok Pharos, 1995):
    • J. Bremmer “Women in the Apocryphal Acts of John” (pp.  37-56);
    • Pieter J. Lallerman, “Polymorphy of Christ” (pp. 97-118);
    • Gerard Luttikhuizen, “A Gnostic Reading of the Acts of John.” (pp. 119-52).


Nov.   4          The Acts of Peter

TRANSLATION: Infancy Gospel of Thomas 9-19.


  • Introductions in Elliott and in Hennecke Schneemelcher;
  • Judith Perkins. “This World or Another? The Intertextuality of the Greek Romances, the Apocryphal Acts and Apuleius’ Metamorphoses.” Semeia 80 (1997): 247-60.
  • And the following articles from Jan Bremmer, ed., The Apocryphal Acts of Peter: Magic Miracles, and Gnosticism (Leuven: Peeters, 1998):
    • J. N. Bremmer, “Aspects of the Acts of Peter: Women, Magic, Place and Date” (pp. 1-20);
    • G. P. Luttikhuizen, “Simon Magus as a Narrative Figure in the Acts of Peter,” (pp. 52-64);
    • M. Misset-van de Weg, “’For the Lord always takes Care of his own’.  The Purpose of the Wondrous Works and Deeds in the Acts of Peter” (pp. 97-110);
    • J. Bolyki, “Head Downwards-: The Cross of Peter in the lights of the Apocryphal Acts….” (Pp. 111-22).

 11        The Acts of Paul

TRANSLATION: The Acts of Thecla, 1-15


  • Introductions in Elliott and in Hennecke-Schneemelcher;
  • Melissa Aubin.  “Reversing Romance? The Acts of Thecla and the Ancient Novel.” Pages 257-72 in Ancient Fiction and Early Christian Narrative. Edited by R.F. Hock. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1998.
  • Margaret E. Howe. “Interpretations of Paul in the Acts of Paul and Thecla.” Pages 33-49 in Pauline Studies. Essays presented to Professor F.F. Bruce on his 70th Birthday. Edited by D.A. Hagner and M.J. Harris. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980.
  • And the following articles in Jan Bremmer, ed., The Apocryphal Acts of Paul and Thecla (Kampen: Kok Pharos, 1996):
    • J. Bollók, “The Description of Paul in the Acts Pauli” (pp. 1-15);
    • M. N. Bremmer, “Magic, Martyrdom and Women’s Liberation in the Acts of Paul and Thecla” (pp 60-74);
    • T. Adamak, “The Baptized Lion in the Acts of Paul” (pp. 60-74);
    • J. Boyki, “Events after the Martyrdom” (pp. 92-106);
    • P. J. Lalleman, “The Resurrection in the Acts of Paul.”

18        FIRST DRAFT OF PAPERS DUE. Third Corinthians, the Correspondence of Paul and Seneca, The Letter to the Laodiceans, and the Epistle of the Apostles (= Epistula Apostolorum)

TRANSLATION: Gospel of Peter 1-8


  • Introductions in Elliott and in Hennecke-Schneemelcher;
  • Rist, M. “III Corinthians as a Pseudepigraphic Refutation of Marcionism.” Iliff Review 26 (1969): 49-58.
  • Klijn, A.F.J. “The Apocryphal Correspondence between Paul and the Corinthians.” Vigiliae christianae 17 (1963): 2-23.
  • Burnet, Régis. “Pourquoi avoir écrit l’insipide épître aux Laodicéens?” NTS 48 (2002): 132-41.
  • Hill, C. E. “The Epistula Apostolorum: An Asian Tract from the Time of Polycarp.” JECS 7 (1999): 1-53;
  • Ehrman, Forgery and Counterforgery, pp. 425-32, 434-45; 520-27;

25        No Class: Polish off drafts of papers.

Dec.      2         The Apocalypse of Peter

TRANSLATION: Gospel of Peter 9-14


  • Introductions in Elliott and Hennecke-Schneemelcher;
  • Richard Bauckham, (1988). “The Apocalypse of Peter: An Account of Research.” Pages 4712-50 in Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt. Principat II.25.6. Berlin: de Gruyter;
  • Ehrman, Forgery and Counterforgery, 445-51.