Reflections on Teaching Gnosticism Week 3: Heresy Hunting

This week we continued working through our sources for Gnosticism, this time with some discussion of the heresiologists. Before the manuscript discoveries discussed last week, the writings of the heresy hunters were virtually our only sources for gnostic Christianity. But as we saw in our discussion, their accounts are not dispassionate—they did not like gnostic forms of Christianity and tried to eradicate it; but in their attempts they preserved a lot of information about gnostic groups they had encountered and even sometimes provide us with texts that otherwise would be lost. We began with a look at the beginnings of […]

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Reflections on Teaching Gnosticism Week 2: Rethinking Nag Hammadi

As mentioned on my blog entry from last week, the textbook we are using for the course focuses almost entirely on the Nag Hammadi Library, leaving other sources for Gnosticism relatively unexamined. So we began class this week by redressing this deficiency with an examination of the discoveries made before Nag Hammadi, namely the codices Askew (British Museum, Add. 511; 4th cent.; published in 1851), Bruce (Bodleian Library, Bruce MS 96; 5th cent.; published in 1891), and Berlin (Papyrus Berolinensis 8502; 5th cent.; published in 1955). To these discoveries we owe the existence of the Pistis Sophia, the Books of […]

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Reflections on Teaching Gnosticism Week 1: Who Will Take the Red Pill?

My New Testament Apocrypha course came to an end in December but that doesn’t mean studying apocryphal texts has to end too. So, let’s continue our examination of noncanonical early Christian literature in my Winter course: Gnosticism (the syllabus can be read HERE). As with the New Testament Apocrypha course, I will post some reflections on the week’s activities to encourage discussions of pedagogy and to provide a forum for my students to participate in the course outside of the classroom. This  is my fourth time teaching Gnosticism at York, but the first using Nicola Denzey Lewis’s new textbook Introduction […]

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SBL Diary Day Three: The Birth of ACTA

Day 3: November 24 The last of four Christian Apocrypha sessions began at 9 am. This was another “open” session, without any particular guiding theme, though we gave it the title “The Cultural Context(s) of the Christian Apocrypha.” The first paper was read by Petri Luomanen (University of Helsinki): “Judaism and anti-Judaism in the Protoevangelium of James, the Infancy Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew.” As often happens, Luomanen’s paper was somewhat changed from his proposal: he eliminated Infancy Thomas from his study. He contrasted the overall positive portrayal of Jewish people and culture in Prot. Jas. (e.g., […]

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New Testament Apocrypha Course: Reflections on Week 11

My New Testament Apocrypha course finished up a few weeks ago with a class focusing on two aims: a look at anti-gospels (i.e., texts written by non-Christians for non-Christians to either lampoon or criticize Christianity, or to recast Jesus for a new religious system) and a discussion of Kruger and Köstenberger’s The Heresy of Orthodoxy, which the students had to read for their book review assignment. As a lead-in to the anti-gospels, I delivered a short lecture on Christian-Jewish conflict in the first few centuries. We looked at Mark’s apocalyptic discourse warning of being “handed over to councils and beaten […]

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2014 SBL Diary Day Two: Planning for 2015

(With apologies for the protracted delay in posting. End-of-term marking and meetings are really cramping my style.) Day 2: November 23 The second day of the annual meeting was somewhat lighter for me than the first. I began the day with a session on the Gospel of Luke held in memory of François Bovon. It was a joint session of the Gospel of Luke Section and Christian Apocrypha with the aim of looking at Bovon’s two principle scholarly passions. The session began with David Warren’s (Faulkner University) “A Biographical Sketch of François Bovon,” a candid and affectionate look back at […]

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2014 SBL Diary Day One: Writing Christian Apocrypha for Popular Audiences

I realize the internet and blogging is all about immediacy, but intermittent Wifi access at the SBL sites, my own desire to extend my trip to San Diego, and end-of-term teaching obligations has meant a lengthy delay in posting anything about my conference activities at SBL this year. Hopefully you’ll agree that reading this account late is better than not at all. Day 1: November 22 When I left Toronto Friday night, the temperature was around -5 C, up from -15 the day before. For the entire week in San Diego the weather was fabulous: sunny and 20-26 C. My […]

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Call for Papers Extended: 19th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies

Via Timothy Sailors: As part of the 19th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies, to be held from 24-28 August, 2015, at the University of Warsaw, Poland, a panel on ‘Early Christian Literature Preserved in Classical Ethiopic (Ge’ez)’ is being organized by Timothy B. Sailors (Tübingen). The description of the panel from the call for papers is as follows: One of the more important sources for the study of early Christian literature are the versions of these writings preserved in Classical Ethiopic (Ge’ez). This panel will provide the opportunity to focus upon the all too often under-appreciated Ge’ez versions of these […]

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New Testament Apocrypha Course: Reflections on Week 10

This week marked our final look at Christian-authored apocrypha; our final class, in two weeks, focuses on anti-Christian apocrypha (the Toledot Yeshu and the Gospel of Barnabas) and modern anti-Christian apocrypha apologetic writers. But this week we looked at tales of Mary, Joseph, John the Baptist, and Jesus’ wife Mary Magdalene (just joking). As a lead-in to the Marian apocrypha we discussed Stephen Shoemaker’s paper, “Rethinking the ‘Gnostic Mary’: Mary of Nazareth and Mary of Magdala in Early Christian Tradition” (JECS 9.4 [2001]: 555-95), in which he argues that there is much assimilation and confusion of the various Marys in […]

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Christian Apocrypha at the 2014 SBL

Here is a quick rundown of the sessions and papers at the 2014 Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature focusing on Christian Apocrypha. I hope I found them all. See you in San Diego. Christian Apocrypha Section sessions: S22-118: Christian Apocrypha 11/22/2014 ~ 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM Theme: “Canonical/Apocryphal” and Other Troublesome Binaries Tony Burke, York University, Presiding Matthew R Crawford, University of Durham: “The Diatessaron, Canonical or Non-canonical? Rereading the Dura Fragment” Cornelia Horn, Catholic University of America: “Christian Apocrypha in Georgian on Jesus and Mary: Questions of Canonicity, Liturgical Usage, and Social Settings” Richard I. […]

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Translating Joseph and Aseneth: My Role in Jacobovici and Wilson’s “Lost Gospel”

Last Monday morning a story appeared in the press, first in England but very soon all around the world, about a “lost gospel” that contains evidence that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and had two children. You’ve probably heard something about it by now, and you may know I had a hand in this project—a book, The Lost Gospel: Decoding the Ancient Text that Reveals Jesus’ Marriage to Mary the Magdalene (Harper Collins, 2014) by Simcha Jacobovici and Barrie Wilson, and forthcoming documentary. The “lost gospel” of the title is a Syriac text: the Story of Joseph and Aseneth […]

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New Testament Apocrypha Course: Reflections on Week Nine

The class began this week on a bit of a tangent. We discussed Simcha Jacobovici and Barrie Wilson’s controversial book The Lost Gospel, which had been mentioned in the news since the previous morning. It was somewhat appropriate for us to spend some time on the book given that the claim of the authors is that the pseudepigraphicon Joseph and Aseneth is a Christian text, making it one of a subset of Christian Apocrypha that utilizes Hebrew Bible figures. And my involvement with the publication, as the translator of the Syriac text that forms the basis of their interpretation, allowed […]

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“Lost Gospels” of the Nineteen Century

On Monday (November 10) I will be giving a talk at York University on so-called Modern Apocrypha. The presentation is based on a paper I will be presenting as part of the 2015 York Christian Apocrypha Symposium, “Fakes, Fictions, Forgeries: Writing Ancient and Modern Christian Apocrypha.”  Here is the abstract: In the late 19th century, the excitement that was stirred by the discovery of apocryphal Christian texts in monastic libraries in the East inspired the creation of new apocryphal texts. Some of these were published as works of scholarship—such as H. C. Greene and C. Mendés’s edition of The Gospel […]

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New Testament Apocrypha Course: Reflections on Week Eight

I began our first class on the apocryphal acts with a statement that the material typically does not excite students. Jesus appears very little in the texts and, let’s face it, the apocryphal acts are rather long and tedious. That said, our sourcebook for the course (Ehrman’s Lost Scriptures) reduces the texts well to their more interesting components. And hey, who can resist tales of necrophilia and severed genitals? We started by reading the story of Drusiana from Acts of John 63-64 as a lead in to discussion of some typical features (asceticism, prominent female characters) of the apocryphal acts. […]

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