Christian Apocrypha at the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies

The 2013 Annual Meeting of the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies will take place in Victora, BC June 1-4. For the first time, the society is including a session on the Christian Apocrypha. We hope that there will be sufficient interest in the session to continue it into future years. This will depend, of course, on the willingness of society members to contribute papers on the texts. One of my professional goals is to encourage and support scholarship on the Christian Apocrypha in North America (with a soft spot for Canada in particular). So, I would like to see this initiative succeed. Here are the papers for this year's session:

Sunday, June 2 / Dimanche, 2 Juin
8:30-11:45 (B211)
CHRISTIAN APOCRYPHA / CHRÉTIEN APOCRYPHES
Chair / Président: C. Callon (Toronto)

8:30-9:00 John Horman

“A literary relationship between Thomas and Q”

A literary relationship between Thomas and Q is plausible because of close verbal parallels. There are, however, also difficulties. First, the passages where a relationship could be defended are short, and could have been transmitted orally. Second, most of the text of Q, including some dominant themes in Matthew and Luke’s version of Q, is unrepresented in Thomas. Third, the Q sayings found in Thomas do not at first glance seem to suit any current literary stratification of Q. When, however, we take Thomas’ literary method into account, it is clear that Thomas has used a form of Q.

9:00-9:30 Tony Burke (York University)

“Expansions on the Acts of the Apostles: The Martyrium of Cornelius the Centurion

Writers of the Christian Apocrypha have mined the canonical Acts of the Apostles for characters to feature in narratives that provide additional details about the lives of eminent early Christian figures. The apocryphal acts of individual apostles are well-known, but texts exist also starring Gamiliel, Ananias, Stephen, and Cornelius the Centurion, honoured as the first Gentile accepted into the Christian community. Cornelius is celebrated in feast days in Catholic, Orthodox, and Ethiopian churches. The Martyrium of Cornelius the Centurion may have been composed specifically to provide the churches with a text to read on this feast day. It follows Cornelius’s adventures in Asia Minor,where he preaches to Demetrios, the prefect of Ephesus, and secures the prefect’s conversion when Cornelius saves his wife and son from the destruction of the temple of Zeus. The text concludes with an account of Cornelius’s death and the recounting of several miracles worked through the saint’s intercession. This paper offers the first English translation of the Martyrium of Cornelius the Centurion (based on three Greek witnesses and a single Ethiopic manuscript) and a discussion of its contents. The paper is based on work on the text by Tony Burke and Witold Witakowski for the forthcoming collection New Testament Apocrypha: More Non-canonical Scriptures.

9:30-10:00 Michelle Christian (University of Toronto)

“‘Seek enduring treasure:’ Short- and long-term gain in the parables of the merchant and the pearl (Thomas 76//Matthew 13:45-46)”

The curious actions depicted in the two recensions of the parable of the merchant and the pearl have provoked a variety of readings. Is a merchant who liquidates his entire inventory to secure a single pearl wise, foolish, or simply opportunistic? This paper explores the ‘morality’ of such behaviour by examining attitudes towards commerce in traditional societies experiencing economic growth and, in particular, the ambiguities that arise from changes to the ‘short- and longterm transactional orders’ (Bloch & Parry 1989). It will be argued that both parables exploit the moral indeterminacy of short-term gain to recast the longterm transactional order as ‘the kingdom.’

10:00-10:15 Break

10:15-10:45 Bill Richards (College of Emmanuel & St Chad)

“Preparing for Baptism in the 2nd century: the Acts of Thomas as a novel for Christian Catechumens”

The “Apocryphal Acts” produced by Christians of the second century are famous for their entertaining interweaving of travelogue, miracle, and discourse – among them, the Acts of Thomas. However, beyond simply recounting how its particular hero on his way to India provoked both fascination and scandal among the socially powerful, Thomas’s Acts also pays considerable attention to how he initiated sympathizers into the movement. The numerous baptisms recorded in this “romance” suggest that, in fact, it was read for more than just amusement – it was a novel directed specifically at catechumens, preparing them for the cycle of instruction, exorcism, prayer, anointing, and baptism that would initiate them into the movement. Such a reading reveals both the rich ritual life early Christians were practicing, and the social world they imagined themselves to be entering.

10:45-11:15 Ian Brown (University of Toronto)

“Dancing with Thomas: The Use and Abuse of the Gospel of Thomas in the Construction of Christian Origins”

Since its publication in the 1950s, the Gospel of Thomas has been the most intensely studied piece of Christian Apocrypha. Scholars tend to fall into two camps: those who argue that Thomas is a 1st century text independent of the New Testament, and those who argue Thomas is a 2nd century text literarily dependent on the New Testament. This paper is not interested in questions of date and dependence, but instead asks what is at stake in these questions. More often than not, scholarship on Thomas is far more interested in constructing or defending a particular notion of Christian Origins than with Thomas as a text, using the gospel as a blunt instrument with which to construct one’s own version of Christian Origins.

11:15-11:45 Questions and Discussion

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3 Responses to Christian Apocrypha at the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies

  1. Sili says:

    Poor Horman,

    He sounds like the anti-Goodacre.

  2. Ian Brown says:

    Hi Tony,

    I’m very much looking forward to participating in this panel. The abstract you have here, however, is for a paper I presented at CSBS in 2012. Here is the abstract for this year’s paper.

    “Dancing with Thomas: The Use and Abuse of the Gospel of Thomas in the Construction of Christian Origins”

    Since its publication in the 1950s, the Gospel of Thomas has been the most intensely studied piece of Christian Apocrypha. Scholars tend to fall into two camps: those who argue that Thomas is a 1st century text independent of the New Testament, and those who argue Thomas is a 2nd century text literarily dependent on the New Testament. This paper is not interested in questions of date and dependence, but instead asks what is at stake in these questions. More often than not, scholarship on Thomas is far more interested in constructing or defending a particular notion of Christian Origins than with Thomas as a text, using the gospel as a blunt instrument with which to construct one’s own version of Christian Origins.

    Ian Brown
    University of Toronto
    PhD Student
    ianphillip.brown@mail.utoronto.ca

  3. Tony Burke says:

    Hi Ian,

    Sorry about that. I have fixed the original post and passed along word to the programme co-ordinator to correct the programme.

    t.

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