Annette Reed: Afterlives of New Testament Apocrypha

The latest issue of the Journal of Biblical Literature features an article by Annette Yoshiko Reed entitled “Afterlives of New Testament Apocrypha” (JBL 134.2 [2015]:401-25). Readers of Apocryphicity may remember that Annette presented this paper as the keynote address of the 2013 York University Christian Apocrypha Symposium. Annette decided shortly after the event not to include the paper in the proceedings, in part because we would not be able to include all of the papers in the volume and also because it was not intended to be a formal paper. The publication of the proceedings have been somewhat delayed, so much that Annette has found the time in the interim to work up the keynote into publishable form. I’m glad to see that the paper will find a wider audience after all. As for the proceedings, they should be available by the time of the 2015 Symposium in September. Here is the abstract of Annette’s paper:

This essay explores the place of parabiblical literature in biblical studies through a focus on New Testament apocrypha. Countering the assumption that the significance of this literature pivots on its value for understanding the origins of Christianity, this essay calls for fresh attention to the afterlives of these writings. The first section traces the genealogy of the notion of the NT apocrypha as countercanon, as well as the history of the debate over whether “apocrypha” preserve secret or suppressed truths about Jesus and his earliest followers. It points to the influence of post-Reformation anthological efforts and new concerns for forgery and censorship in the wake of the advent of printing, especially for popularizing a disjunctive model whereby “apocrypha” are imagined to have been systematically suppressed by ecclesiarchs during the Christianization of the Roman Empire. The second section surveys evidence for the elasticity of such writings and for their reception in contexts as far-flung as medieval Christian art and contemporary Japanese anime. This evidence points to the value of alternate approaches to NT apocrypha, reread as an integral part of the making of the memory of the biblical past from late antiquity to the present.


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