This is the fifth in a series of profiles of the presenters at the upcoming 2015 York University Christian Apocrypha Symposium to be held September 25-26 at York University in Toronto. Remember, if you register for the symposium, you will receive drafts of the papers in advance, thus enabling you to participate more fully in the discussions that follow. For registration information, visit the YCAS 2015 web site (HERE).
Brandon W. Hawk is Assistant Professor of English at Rhode Island College. He is currently working on his first book, Preaching Apocrypha in Anglo-Saxon England, which challenges normative assumptions about versions of parabiblical gospels, acts, and apocalypses in Old English sermons, suggesting that these apocrypha are a significant part of the apparatus of tradition inherited by Anglo-Saxons.
While earning his MA (2007) and PhD (2014) in the Medieval Studies Program at the University of Connecticut, Hawk learned the value of interdisciplinary scholarship. With this perspective, most of his interests in research and teaching encompass what might be called transmission studies: the afterlives of texts and ideas, including circulation, translations, adaptations, and representations in various cultures and media. About his research, he says, “Scholars have focused to a large extent on early Christian Apocrypha, but many apocrypha have yet to be studied from the medieval period—either created then, or transformed into new iterations.” One of these texts is the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, an expansive Latin adaptation of the earlier Protevangelium of James, which circulated widely in the West and became the source of many translations and adaptations throughout the medieval period. Hawk seeks to bring such apocrypha to a wider audience, with the goal of contributing to a longer view of diverse religious media ranging from late antiquity to the present.
Hawk’s interests in transmission studies and digital scholarship also inform two other aspects of his research. He serves as director of an emerging digital research center for Sources of Anglo-Saxon England, a project comprising an international team of scholars dedicated to studying the knowledge of classical, patristic, and medieval sources that shaped the intellectual culture of early England. His work on transmission studies has also led to a digital project “Studying Judith in Anglo-Saxon England” to examine how Anglo-Saxons engaged with both the biblical book and heroic figure of Judith.
“Cherries at command”: Preaching the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew in Anglo-Saxon England
Christian Apocrypha enjoyed a prominent afterlife in the medieval period (and beyond), particularly as subjects for preaching; this is especially the case in Anglo-Saxon England. Part of a larger project about the use of apocrypha in Anglo-Saxon preaching, this essay examines the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew in a tenth-century Old English sermon known as Vercelli 6 and in the imagery of the Sacramentary of Robert of Jumièges. Key to this paper is the contention that these sources should be considered as part of a larger network of media drawing on apocryphal narratives for details about Jesus’ childhood: sermons, poetry, historical documents, liturgical objects, and visual arts. This examination specially addresses how the visual images in the Sacramentary serve as translations of apocrypha, and therefore key contexts for the culture surrounding parallel narratives in Old English preaching texts.
Taken together, Anglo-Saxon witnesses across media further demonstrate how apocrypha permeated contexts surrounding sermons across a variety of porous social boundaries, which are, in actuality, linked by common materials. Just as vernacular sermons containing apocrypha could have been preached to both elites and commoners, these narratives appeared in other media accessible to audiences across the spectrum of social strata. In this way, Vercelli 6 coexisted with depictions of events from Jesus’ childhood on material objects such as mass-books (accessible mainly to ecclesiasts and monks), psalters (accessible to ecclesiasts, monks, and elite laity), as well as stone carvings (accessible to anyone visiting the site where they stood). Cultural artifacts such as these specifically point toward liturgical materials and settings—connections that lead to understanding vernacular preaching texts within wider media contexts.