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Lost Gospels: The Greater Questions of Mary. A Blast From the Past

Here is a blast from the past -- almost exactly four years ago now --  about one of my all time favorite "lost" Gospels.  If it ever existed.  One very imaginative church father certainly thought it did.  It was a Gospel featuring Mary Magdalene and a rather wild encounter she had with Jesus.  Here is what I said in the post of November 2012. ************************************************************************* I have been discussing some of the Gospels that we know about because they are mentioned, or even quoted, by church fathers, but that no longer survive. Another, particularly intriguing, Gospel like this – one that I desperately wish we had, for reasons that will soon become clear -- is known as “The Greater Questions of Mary” (i.e., of Mary Magdalene). My following comments on it are more or less lifted from my Introduction in the recent Apocryphal Gospels volume. One of the “great questions” for scholars is whether such a book ever really did exist. It is mentioned only once in ancient literature, in a highly charged polemical context [...]

On Falsification and Forgery

On Friday I will be giving a talk at a symposium at York University in Toronto that will be focusing on the use of forgery in the early Christian apocrypha, sponsored by Tony Burke of York U. and Brent Landau at the University of Texas.  Website is here:  I thought it might be interesting to excerpt a portion of my talk here, as it covers some ground that I recently have gone over on the blog, but from a different perspective.  (More on the bloody sweat!  But in relation to early Christian practices of literary deception.)  In any event.  Here is a portion of what I’m planning to say. ***************************************************   I first became interested in the field of apocrypha and early Christian literary forgery about 25 years ago, when I was principally obsessed with New Testament textual criticism.  Almost everyone else at the time who was also obsessed with the manuscript tradition of the New Testament was principally obsessed with one question only:  how do we establish the original text of the New [...]

My UNC Seminar Tomorrow

Tomorrow I will be doing an all-day seminar at UNC for the Program in the Humanities and Human Values.   This is a terrific organization on campus.  Among other things, it puts on weekend seminars -- usually Friday afternoon/evening; Saturday morning -- that involve four faculty lectures on a set topic.   Scheduling was such that we decided to put all four lectures on a Saturday this time.   I've done these things for 25 years, and love them.  *Most* of the time the program chooses a topic and has four different professors from UNC (and occasionally one from Duke or another school nearby) each giving a lecture, and then at the end the four doing a kind of brief panel discussion of each other's papers.  For some years now I've not done those, but have done a four-lecture seminar on some topic or other on my own.  That will be the case tomorrow. There will be about 130 people there, all adults, many of them senior citizens but younger folk (i.e., my age.  Or [...]

2017-12-09T11:07:21-05:00February 6th, 2015|Christian Apocrypha, Public Forum|

Yale Shaffer Lectures 1 of 3 – Christ Come in the Flesh

Ten years ago now -- October 12-14, 2004 -- I delivered the Shaffer lectures at Yale University Divinity School. The central theme of the series was "Christ in the Early Christian Tradition: Texts Disputed and Apocryphal." Among other things, I tried to show how early Christian groups tried to restrict readings of their sacred texts to suit their own purposes. This first lecture is entitled on "Christ Come in the Flesh." (The video quality will not be up to what we all have come to expect, as it was recorded on VHS.) Please adjust gear icon for 720p High-Definition.

2017-12-14T22:40:12-05:00August 31st, 2014|Christian Apocrypha, Public Forum, Video Media|

The Other Gospels: The Trade Book Version

The edition of the non-canonical Gospels that I’ve been discussing in previous posts (The Apocryphal Gospels: Texts and Translations), which I published with my colleague Zlatko Plese, was meant for academics – professors of New Testament and early Christianity and their graduate students.   Most other people, of course, have no need or desire to see the original Greek, Latin, or Coptic of a text along with a translation.  People generally just want an English translation. But having a facing-page translation is a great thing for scholars and budding scholars.   The only way really to understand a foreign language text in its many nuances is to read it in its own language.  And since these are texts that deserve to be studied carefully, minutely, with full attention to all the fullness of their meaning, they really need to be read in the Greek, Latin, and Coptic languages in which that they have come down to us. For some scholars, the book would be useful because it provides the original language text for all these writings, and [...]

2020-11-24T19:25:52-05:00August 26th, 2014|Book Discussions, Christian Apocrypha|

Apocryphal Gospels: The Scholarly Version

In my last couple of posts I began to describe how my edition of the Apocryphal Gospels came about.   After having done the Apostolic Fathers in two volumes for the Loeb, I had decided never to do another translation project again.  Too hard!  But then, forgetting my decision, I thought it would be useful to have a Greek/Latin – English version of the early Christian non-canonical Gospels.  And at the urging of the editor at Harvard, submitted a proposal also for the Loeb Classical Library.  But the editorial board decided that they did not want to start publishing new editions of Christian texts in the series, since that would detract from its typical focus on Greek and Roman classics.   And so I was now interested in a project without a publisher. I should say – this may not be widely known – that most of the time a scholar writes a book, s/he does not know who will be publishing it, or even if *anyone* will be.  This can be a source of real anxiety, [...]

2020-11-24T19:28:13-05:00August 25th, 2014|Book Discussions, Christian Apocrypha|

How I Decided to Publish the Apocryphal Gospels

My previous two posts were meant to be a kind of lead-up to this one; this thread started by my talking about the times I have published both a scholarly work and a trade book for popular audiences on the same topic.   The third and most recent time had to do with an edition of the Apocryphal Gospels.  I’ve now given some of the backstory: I had done a translation project creating a new bi-lingual edition of the Apostolic Fathers for the Loeb Classical Library, and had vowed I would never do something like that again.  But I broke my vow. It all began innocently enough.   I had a scholar from England as a houseguest back in 1999 or so.   David Parker is the premier New Testament textual critic in the U.K. these days, or in the English-speaking world for that matter.  He is a real, hard-core manuscript guy.  At that point of my career – fifteen years ago now – I too was actively involved in that field.  Some of our interests and writings [...]

2020-11-24T19:29:22-05:00August 22nd, 2014|Book Discussions, Christian Apocrypha|

My Third Scholarly and Trade Book Combination, Told Tangentally

The third time I produced both a scholarly and a trade book on the same topic was a completely different situation from the other two I have described.   One thing that was similar was that in this instance yet again I had no idea, initially, of producing a trade version, but planned simply to publish a work of scholarship.  Only later did I realize that a trade version could be very useful. This scholarly book – trade book combination involved an edition of the apocryphal Gospels.  To explain how the books came to be imagined I need to provide a bit of background.   Actually, a lot of background.  This will take a couple of posts. It all started with a completely different project altogether, unrelated to the apocrypha. In the mid 1990s I was teaching the very same graduate course that I’m teaching this semester, a PhD seminar on the group of authors known as the “Apostolic Fathers.”   Sometimes non-experts use this term in a broad sense to refer to the writings of early church [...]

2020-04-03T16:38:20-04:00August 20th, 2014|Book Discussions, History of Christianity (100-300CE)|

My PhD Seminar: Early Christian Apocrypha

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 [...]

My Apocrypha Seminar at the National Humanities Center: Part 2

In my earlier post I talked about the seminar I am now leading at the National Humanities Center, and mentioned the various primary (i.e., ancient) texts we’re discussing over the course of our three weeks together.  These cover a range of books that did not “make it in” to the New Testament: non-canonical Gospels, Acts, Epistles, and Apocalypses.   Terrific and terrifically interesting books, even if they never did become Scripture in the long run (many of them were in fact considered to be Scripture by one group or another during the early years of the church; that is one of the issues we are discussing in the seminar.) For part of each seminar we are talking about the meaning and interpretation of these texts:  how does one understand the giant Jesus in the Gospel of Peter?  The three – or is it four – Christs in the Coptic Apocalypse of Peter?  The nature of the sayings of Jesus in the Gospel of Thomas (are they best seen as Gnostic?).  The view of Jesus in the [...]

2020-04-03T19:38:43-04:00June 14th, 2012|Christian Apocrypha, Teaching Christianity|

Personal Reflections: My Apocrypha Seminar at the National Humanities Center

If I had a fiver for every time someone who knows I’m a university professor says to me, “So, now you have the summer off!” – I’d buy an apartment on the upper West side. But it’s understandable, I know. The professorial life looks awful darn cushy: teach a couple a classes per semester, for fifteen weeks at a shot, and that’s *it*! 30 weeks of the year on, 22 weeks of the year off. Right? Yeah, well, kinda. To be fair, I should stress that it is indeed an amazing job and an unbelievable privilege to teach at the university level. I have colleagues who take it for granted, but after 27 years at it, I don’t at all. I know very deeply just how lucky I am. But it really is not (at least for anyone I know very well) a year-long boondoggle. Quite the contrary. In one of my “series” of posts I’ve been trying to describe what it is professional scholars do, for those out there who wonder. So far I [...]

2020-04-03T19:39:02-04:00June 12th, 2012|Christian Apocrypha, Teaching Christianity|
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