There are some topics that I deal with on the blog that give me a knot in the stomach just to broach — including the question of whether Jesus was really buried on the afternoon of his death (my recent long thread).  The issues are so convoluted and so many people disagree that I wonder, yeah, Why am I doing this? (!)   But there are other topics that for me are almost sheer pleasure–like the one I’ll be embarking on now for a new thread: the Gospels, epistles, and apocalypses that are NOT in the New Testament.

I’ve talked about these on and off over the years, and thought it was time to get back to them.  I regularly get asked by blog members where they can go to learn more about them.  And so I thought I’d start this threat by reposting some of the crucial information.

Want to know how my grad students study these things?  Want to take it on yourself?  Here’s a copy of my syllabus for the PhD Seminar that I’ve taught on the topic on and off over the years (I change it up a bit each time, but here’s a good example).

After this, in the thread, I’ll talk about individual Gospels on the list.


Reli 801: Early Christian Apocrypha

Instructor: Bart D. Ehrman

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. 

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2023-09-05T16:56:28-04:00September 9th, 2023|Canonical Gospels, Christian Apocrypha, Public Forum|

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  1. gsiepert September 9, 2023 at 7:47 am

    I love this stuff, it’s an entire world of things that I had no idea existed until just a few years ago. I have a copy the book by you and Plese called “The Other Gospels” … is that a newer edition to “Apocryphal Gospels”? Thanks Bart!

  2. giselebendor September 9, 2023 at 9:10 am

    OMG….. poor kids 🥹…so glad I picked music…. or music picked me…. though to others the abilities of musical brains feel like black magic….
    I would have made a lousy scholar…. emotional and ultimately almost always referring back to my roots ,”The Elephant and the Jewish Question” ,an ancient habit….

  3. giselebendor September 9, 2023 at 9:21 am

    I have all your books I think. Including some I cannot read…. yet….I think the book with Zlatko Plese is one of these…. way over my head…. but I did make a brave effort,so it’s still on a tall pile of ” to read” books by my bedside, looking at me, in case I get any smarter…

  4. nanuninu September 9, 2023 at 1:36 pm

    It’s all geek to me.

    • BDEhrman September 10, 2023 at 2:24 pm

      Yup, welcome to my world.

  5. bste528 September 9, 2023 at 4:43 pm

    Thank you for reminding me why I chose not to go to graduate school in a field of literary or historical scholarship.

  6. Hank_Z September 9, 2023 at 9:51 pm

    Bart, how many other courses besides the seminar do most of those students have?

    • BDEhrman September 10, 2023 at 2:26 pm

      The standard load is three a semester.

    • BDEhrman September 10, 2023 at 2:26 pm

      The standard load is three a semester.

  7. SnowFire September 10, 2023 at 12:20 am

    I think I asked this in a Gold Q&A ages ago but it wasn’t selected, but since it’s on-topic here (and not super-accessible to a wider audience)… Did you read Francis Watson’s 2020 monograph on the Epistle of the Apostles, “An Apostolic Gospel”? What did you think of it, if you did? He has some different interpretations, notably in that he does NOT think that it’s an anti-Gnostic tract… for example, when the version of the Parable of the 10 Virgins says that the 5 Virgins locked out include “Knowledge” and “Wisdom”, this is referring to Christians who *lack* these beneficial qualities, rather than it being an attack on Gnosticism’s favorite virtues.

    • BDEhrman September 10, 2023 at 2:33 pm

      I haven’t read it. Sorry.

  8. nicolausaldanha September 10, 2023 at 6:43 am

    Do you record your lectures and the discussions among students? And perhaps put them in YouTube or some similar platform? I am sure many of us would love to watch them!

    • BDEhrman September 10, 2023 at 2:34 pm

      No, I’m afraid I don’t publishe them. I have published a number of courses with the Great Courses, though, and (less expensive) on my own website,

  9. Einherji2013 September 10, 2023 at 1:36 pm

    This is great fun. Few, if any, interests I have had over the years are as all-consuming as early Christianity. My reservation about your PhD seminar is that I have never been able to read fast enough to keep up with the seminar. I am happy for others who can. Lol… But I’m reading a remarkable amount just trying to follow your blog articles and your books.
    How many “seminars” do doctoral students take? Are there 2 or 4 semesters of this intensity?

    • BDEhrman September 11, 2023 at 10:16 am

      Three seminars a semester for two years. And then the *really* hard work begins: PhD exams. Then especially hard: the dissertation. It ain’t easy….

      • Hank_Z September 11, 2023 at 3:06 pm

        I’ve heard about the dissertations bit not the Ph.D. exams. I’d appreciate your posting about them. Thanks.

        • BDEhrman September 13, 2023 at 8:54 pm

          Ah, good idea! Maybe I’ll lay out the entire sequence in a post.

  10. dankoh September 10, 2023 at 2:51 pm

    I noticed a couple of the required readings are in French. What languages are your students expected to know prior to joining at the PhD level (and did they learn some at the MA level)?

    • BDEhrman September 11, 2023 at 3:01 pm

      We’d like them to have one modern language coming in, but sometimes they don’t. They have to have both French and German before taking their PhD exams.

  11. Frank_Bella September 10, 2023 at 7:21 pm

    I teach English literature and composition (as well as Ethics) in a private non-religious college in New York City. I have pretty wide latitude in what I specifically teach, so I choose to teach the Bible (passages from both OT and NT) along with other favorites such as Poe and Hawthorne. I am not technically qualified as a New Testament scholar, but I can certainly teach the Bible as history and literature; never in a devotional way. In looking at your syllabus, I think my students would quit school altogether if I required those assignments! Seriously, my students really enjoy the Bible lessons and I think it’s unfortunate that more professors do not teach the Bible in a neutral way as simply great literature. Bart, I confess that I have stolen one of your jokes: when I ask how many books are in the NT, and after explaining that it should be easy to remember that there are 27 — the Trinity, 3 to the third power equals 27. I exclaim, “It’s a miracle!”

    • BDEhrman September 11, 2023 at 3:07 pm

      Yeah, the PhD ain’t for the faint of heart. And I hope you get a good reaction to the joke!

  12. MarkWiz September 10, 2023 at 7:26 pm

    Dang, I’m betting there are no Cliff Notes available! But seriously, it seems very appropriate for the level of candidates that you are teaching!

  13. johnpmtodd September 10, 2023 at 10:54 pm

    I’ll have it on your desk by Friday, Professor!

  14. Apocryphile September 11, 2023 at 2:02 am

    I’d enroll just for the free pizza and beer! Seriously, though, why the emphasis on the class presentation? Wouldn’t simply testing your students on the knowledge they gleaned from the readings and doing the term paper be sufficient?

    • BDEhrman September 13, 2023 at 8:43 pm

      Ah. It’s because students need to begin learning how to present the results of their scholarship to others, since eventually they’ll be doing so in conferences and, well, in classrooms. It’s all part of the training.

      • Apocryphile September 14, 2023 at 1:12 am

        Yes, I can see the obvious value in being a good public speaker, but from someone who has always expressed himself far better in writing (er… me!), I would think that being a scintillating speaker would and should take a far back seat to one’s erudition in the subject, especially at the PhD level.

        • BDEhrman September 16, 2023 at 3:46 pm

          The problem is that students doing a PhD want to find a job teaching, and teaching involves oral communication.

          • Apocryphile September 16, 2023 at 9:50 pm

            Oh, certainly. I just don’t think that a hiring or tenure decision should be made on the basis of whether the scholar is an entertaining speaker or not. I think these days administrators tend to bend over backwards to attract and retain students, and notoriously spend vast sums each year to do so. A scholar’s published work should be given the most consideration by far (IMO) in assessing his or her worth to the university.

          • BDEhrman September 18, 2023 at 2:26 pm

            Well, it’s become a consumerist model, which ain’t good. But it also ain’t gonna change any time soon…

  15. Redhash September 11, 2023 at 12:55 pm

    Love the sources, thank you.

  16. Redhash September 11, 2023 at 9:22 pm

    Hey Bart, in The Apocalypse of Peter (your translation) fornicators are hanging by their genitals over the flames. In another they are hanging by their “thighs”. You ever come across this?

    • BDEhrman September 13, 2023 at 8:59 pm

      Yup. The word is thights and it means genitals. (!)

      • dankoh September 13, 2023 at 11:07 pm

        Same thing in Genesis: When Abraham sends his servant to find a wife for Isaac, he says “put your hand under my thigh [יְרֵכִֽי]” (Gen. 24:2), “thigh” is understood to be a euphemism for testicles. Seems it was a common form of oath-taking where an inferior swears to a superior (the implication being that the superior’s descendants will avenge any oath-breaking).

  17. AngeloB September 15, 2023 at 6:11 am

    I don’t think my history units at university were this specific in focus!

  18. sLiu September 16, 2023 at 8:37 pm

    Would anybody know the cost of textbooks now from when Mr Ehrman was when he was teaching at Rutgers:?
    According to a 2021 study by the College Board, the average cost of new textbooks for a full-time undergraduate student was $1,240 per year. This is up from $980 per year in 2002-2003. The study also found that the cost of textbooks has increased at a rate that is faster than the rate of inflation.

    • BDEhrman September 18, 2023 at 2:25 pm

      Interesting. Though I was teaching at Rutgers long before that (1984-88).disabledupes{e9eefea50800e1021c7e0bcb6e0fe95e}disabledupes

  19. AngeloB September 18, 2023 at 4:48 am

    I’m currently reading ‘The Triumph of Christianity’ after finishing ‘Jesus before the Gospels’.

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