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“Who Read Early Christian Apocrypha?”

August 18, 2015

In response to requests, I’ve now uploaded a PDF of the pre-publication version of my contribution to the newly-published (and excellent) Oxford Handbook of Early Christian Apocrypha (noted in my previous posting), the PDF available here, and under the tab on this blog site “Selected Published Essays.”

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  1. Marc Roemer permalink

    Prof. Hurtado, thank you for making this article available!

    What makes the canonical Gospels different from the Apocrypha (besides the supposed dates of composition)? Wasn’t all early Christian literature subject to redaction, re-shaping and adaptation that served to expand upon earlier ideas, explore Christian truth, and offer something exotic or interesting to loose networks of readers? To what degree did the forces driving the composition and circulation of the Apocrypha also drive the canonical writings?


    • Marc: In the case of some of the “apocryphal gospels,” we have something entirely different: E.g., The Gospel of Truth and the Gospel of Philip aren’t narratives at all, but instead are more like theological tractates intended to advocate certain views. They weren’t likely intended to be “scriptures” read widely, but instead seem intended to circulate among in-group circles who shared their distinctive views. But, to make another observation, the early success of the familiar Gospels (read and circulated widely) made it a bit more difficult to make radical changes in their texts (although there certainly were numerous micro-changes, only a handful of known macro-variants).
      So, there were varying authorial purposes, and varying receptions of the various texts. It’s not wise to lump them all together as an undifferentiated mass, for that doesn’t match the historical data.

  2. David Graham permalink

    I really enjoyed David deSilva’s book, and would dearly love to read this one, but at £95? I’d rather eat, I’m afraid!

  3. James Ernest permalink

    Larry, I sometimes see such notices these days and am puzzled by them. If a contributor to a Baker or Eerdmans volume did this, it would be a breach of their agreement with the press. Does OUP view things differently? It’s hard to sell what is also being given away for free. James Sent from my phone

    • My understanding of publication law is that the publisher owns rights to the published version of a piece, on account of the typesetting, copy-editing, etc, the “value-added” that comes with proper publication. But the content remains the property of the author, and the pre-publication version of an essay, chapter, may be distributed or posted.
      Those who wish to reference a work and ensure that it is the final, edited version, will still have to obtain sight of the published version.

  4. argonaut4 permalink

    From the perspective of American English, the title is unidiomatic. The singular reader is always assumed so it should be “Who Reads Early Christian Apocrypha?”

    • Er, your “American English” is a bit curious, and in any case your reading of the title is mistaken: “Read” in the title is the past-tense of the verb. “Who read” is thus, perfectly grammatical, in either British or American English.

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