Call for Papers: 2017 SBL International Christian Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha Section

Berlin, Germany skyline over the Spree River.

Berlin, Germany skyline over the Spree River.

The 2017 SBL International Meeting will take place August 7-11 in Berlin, Germany. The deadline for proposals is February 22, 2017.

Description: The Section fosters ongoing study of extra-canonical texts, as subjects of literary and philological investigation; as evidence for the history of religion, theology, and cult practice; and as documents of the socio-symbolic construction of traditions along lines of class and gender.

Call for papers: For the 2017 meeting, we welcome papers that address the following discussion question: “Is this a ‘text’?” In scholarly writing about the ancient world, it is still conventional to employ capitalized (and often italicized) phrases such as The Acts of John, The Apocalypse of Peter, and The Gospel of Thomas. But what are we referring to when we write that way, or when we publish “translations” and “critical editions” with those “titles” on the cover? Do these scholarly practices adequately capture the dynamic, fluid nature of ancient verbal communication, which comes to light when one compares individual manuscripts? What do we gain or lose by labeling stories about John, sayings of Jesus, or tours of Hell with what sound like “titles” of “texts”? How else might we write about verbal communication in the ancient world that would be more helpful in our quest to appreciate extant written artifacts? We invite proposals for papers that specifically address this topic, and which combine methodological reflection with detailed textual case studies (of Jewish or Christian literature). Proposals are also welcome for an additional open session that will highlight creative, well-developed personal research projects on extra-canonical Jewish and Christian literature. NB: Those with papers on the Apostolic Fathers, Septuagint, or Qumran (unless they directly relate to the discussion question described above), are encouraged to submit to those other sections. Please do not submit the same proposal to more than one section.

For more information contact program chairs Janet Spittler ( and Julia Snyder (

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Christian Apocrypha at the 2016 SBL

Here is a quick rundown of the sessions and papers at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature focusing on Christian Apocrypha. I hope I found them all. See you in San Antonio.

Christian Apocrypha Section sessions:

S19-310: Christian Apocrypha
11/19/2016 4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Theme: Helmut Koester: In Memory of His Contributions to the Study of Christian Apocrypha
A panel in memory of Helmut Koester, one of the most influential scholars of the Christian Apocrypha in North America, assessing his ongoing legacy for this field.
Brent Landau, University of Texas at Austin, Presiding
Panelists: Melissa Harl Sellew (University of Minnesota-Twin Cities), Christine Thomas (University of California-Santa Barbara), Christoph Markschies (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin – Humboldt University of Berlin), Stephen Patterson (Willamette University), Ann Graham Brock, Iliff School of Theology), Cavan Concannon (University of Southern California), Robyn Walsh, University of Miami)

S20-207a: Christian Apocrypha
11/20/2016 1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Theme: Apocryphal Acts: New Texts and Approaches
Tony Burke, York University, Presiding
Michael Flexsenhar III, Rhodes College: Creating a Christian World: Martyrdom, Memory, and ‘Caesar’s Household’ in the Apocryphal Acts
Valentina Calzolari, University of Geneva: The Armenian Acts of Paul and Thecla
Ivan Miroshnikov, Helsingin Yliopisto – Helsingfors Universitet: Towards a New Edition of the Coptic Acts of Andrew and Philemon
Jonathan Henry, Princeton University: Thomas in Transmission: Some Noteworthy Witnesses to the Acts and Passion of Thomas
Sung Soo Hong, The University of Texas at Austin: “The Word of the Father Shall Be to Them a Work of Salvation”: Thinking with the Chaste Body of Thecla

S21-215: Digital Humanities in Biblical, Early Jewish, and Christian Studies; Christian Apocrypha
Joint Session With: Digital Humanities in Biblical, Early Jewish, and Christian Studies, Christian Apocrypha
11/21/2016 1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Theme: Christian Apocrypha and Digital Humanities
Joseph Verheyden, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Presiding
Brent Landau, University of Texas at Austin: What No Eye Has Seen: Using a Digital Microscope to Produce a New Transcription of Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 210, a Possible Apocryphal Gospel
Janet Spittler, University of Virginia and Tony Burke, York University: Founding an Academic Society in the Digital Age: The North American Society for the Study of Christian Apocryphal Literature
Jennifer Barry, University of Mary Washington: Accessing Women’s History through the Digital Humanities
James F. McGrath, Butler University: Learning from Jesus’ Wife: The Role of Online Scholarship in Creating and Exposing a Forgery

S21-308: Christian Apocrypha
11/21/2016 4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Theme: Violence and Healing in the Christian Apocrypha
Christine Luckritz Marquis, Union Presbyterian Seminary, Presiding
Janet Spittler, University of Virginia: Causality and Healing of Disease in the Acts of John
Patricia A Duncan, Texas Christian University: Philosophical Foundations of (Self) Healing and Exorcism in the Pseudo-Clementine “Homilies”
Judith Hartenstein, Universität Koblenz – Landau: Violence in the Gospel of Mary (BG 1)
Annette Merz, Protestant Theological University Amsterdam Groningen: Paul before the lion in the Acts of Paul, Tertullian, and the Zliten Mosaic
Matthias Geigenfeind, Universität Regensburg: The Apocryphal Revelation of Thomas – Unique, but Underappreciated

Nag Hammadi and Gnosticism sessions:

S19-139: Nag Hammadi and Gnosticism
11/19/2016 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Theme: Eros and Ascent
Joint session with Platonism and Neoplatonism Group (AAR).
John Turner, University of Nebraska – Lincoln, Presiding
Mark Edwards, University of Oxford: Solomon’s Kiss from Origen to the Later Middle Ages
Christian H. Bull, University of Oslo: Eros Divine and Errant in the Hermetica
Zeke Mazur, Université Laval: Porphyry’s account of Plotinus’ four instances of union with the One (Vita Plotini 23) and Platonizing Sethian Gnostic visionary ascent
Ilaria L.E. Ramelli, Catholic University+Angelicum + Oxford University: Eros and Ascent in Gregory of Nyssa between Origen and Ps.Dionysius

S19-237: Nag Hammadi and Gnosticism
11/19/2016 1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Theme: Manichaeism and Nag Hammadi Revisited
Hugo Lundhaug, Universitetet i Oslo, Presiding
Iain Gardner, University of Sydney: The Jesus-Book in the Dublin Kephalaia Codex
Nils Arne Pedersen, Aarhus University: First Man and the Third Messenger in Manichaean Systems
Gavin McDowell, Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes: Praise of the Manichaean Fathers in Ben Sira 49:14-16
René Falkenberg, Aarhus University: Manichaean influence in the Nag Hammadi texts
Jason BeDuhn, Northern Arizona University: Gnostic Myth in Manichaeism? A Systematic Inquiry
John C. Reeves, University of North Carolina at Charlotte: Dualist Currents in Tenth-Century Baghdad: Reassessing the Afterlife of Manichaeism and Cognate Forms of Gnosis in the Muslim East

S19-334: Mysticism, Esotericism, and Gnosticism in Antiquity
11/19/2016 4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Theme: New Methods and Gnosticism
Jason BeDuhn, Northern Arizona University, Presiding
David Brakke, Ohio State University: Pseudonymity and the Layered Self in Gnostic Mysticism
Elaine Pagels, Princeton University: What “hidden mystery” was Paul hiding? New insights on Reception History of Paul’s Letters
Eduard Iricinschi, Ruhr-Universität Bochum: Emotions Running High: Sophia’s Passions in Irenaeus of Lyon’s Heresiology and the Nag Hammadi Literature (30 min)
Review of April D. DeConick, The Gnostic New Age: How a Countercultural Spirituality Revolutionized Religion from Antiquity to Today (Columbia University Press, 2016)
Panelists: April DeConick (Rice University), James Davila (University of St. Andrews), Lautaro Lanzillotta (University of Groningen)

S20-218: Nag Hammadi and Gnosticism
11/20/2016 1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Theme: Special Review Session on the Production, Use, and Rediscovery of the Nag Hammadi Codices
Geoffrey Smith, University of Texas at Austin, Presiding
Review of James M. Robinson, The Nag Hammadi Discovery
Panelists: John Turner (University of Nebraska), Eric Crégheur (Université d’Ottawa – University of Ottawa), Dylan Burns (Freie Universität Berlin)
Review of Hugo Lundhaug and Lance Jenott, The Monastic Origins of the Nag Hammadi Codices
Panelists: James Goehring (University of Mary Washington), Malcolm Choat (Macquarie University), Hugo Lundhaug (Universitetet i Oslo), Lance Jenott (Universitetet i Oslo)

S21-334: Nag Hammadi and Gnosticism
11/21/2016 4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Theme: Gnostic Writings, Sayings, and Histories
René Falkenberg, Aarhus Universitet, Presiding
Sarit Kattan Gribetz, Fordham University: Women as Readers of the Nag Hammadi Codices
Eric Crégheur, Université d’Ottawa: On Plants, Spices and Gems: How Feasible are the Baptismal Rituals in the “Books of Jeu”?
J. Gregory Given, Harvard University: Four Texts from Nag Hammadi amid the Fluidity of the “Letter” in Late Antique Egypt
Geoffrey S. Smith, University of Texas at Austin: Medicine and Polemic in Tertullian’s Version of the Valentinian Sophia Myth
Emanuel Fiano, Fordham University: The Theory of Names of the Gospel of Truth
Einar Thomassen, Universitetet i Bergen: Did Gnostics Have a Concept of History?

S20-135: Mysticism, Esotericism, and Gnosticism in Antiquity
11/20/2016 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Jared Calaway, Illinois College, Presiding
Paul M. Pasquesi, Marquette University: Liminality, Ritual, and Vision in Aseneth
Rebecca Lesses, Ithaca College: Did the authors of Joseph and Aseneth and the Gospel of Philip meet in Antioch? The “heavenly bridal chamber” between Jews and Christians.
Gregory Shaw, Stonehill College: Iamblichus and the Talisman of Gnosis
Jeffrey Pettis, New Brunswick Seminary: War Generals, Purple Robes, and Inner Chambers: Encountering the God in the Greco-Roman World
Pieter G.R. de Villiers, University of the Free State: Mystical knowledge of God in Philo and John’s gospel

And there are a variety of additional papers on apocryphal texts in other sessions:

P19-143a: Qur’an and Biblical Literature; The Qur’an and the Biblical Tradition (IQSA) (11/19/2016, 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM)
Cornelia Horn, Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen: Situating al-Kisa’i’s Role in the Development of Extra-Canonical Depictions of Jesus and Mary in the Christian Orient

S19-120: Cognitive Linguistics in Biblical Interpretation (11/19/2016, 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM)
Grant Adamson, Rice University: Solutions to Problems of Virgin Birth and Harmonization in the Protevangelium Jacobi

S19-152: Texts and Traditions in the Second Century (11/19/2016, 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM)
Kimberly Bauser, Boston College: Moonwalking with Jesus: The Art and Science of “Remembering” Everything in the Apocryphon of James

S19-341: Pseudepigrapha (11/19/2016, 4:00 PM to 6:30 PM)
Bradley N. Rice, McGill University: A New ‘Testament of Adam’ in the Syriac Revelation of the Magi?

S20-117: Corpus Hellenisticum Novi Testamenti
11/20/2016 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Robert Matthew Calhoun, Independent scholar: Purity and Protection in Oxyrhynchus fr. 840

S20-126: Greek Bible (11/20/2016, 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM)
Ian N Mills, Duke University: Mediated Allusion in the Gospel of Thomas: Jewish Scripture, Jesus Traditions, and the Gospel of Thomas

S20-132: Maria, Mariamne, Miriam: Rediscovering the Marys (11/20/2016, 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM)
Cornelia Horn, Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen: The Power of Leadership through Mediation: Mart Mariam in the Syriac and Arabic Apocryphal Tradition

S20-154: Wisdom and Apocalypticism (11/20/2016, 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM)
Pamela Mullins Reaves, Colorado College: Apostolic Encounters with Persecution in the First Apocalypse of James

S20-302: Ancient Fiction and Early Christian and Jewish Narrative (11/20/2016, 4:00 PM to 6:30 PM)
Angela Standhartinger, Philipps-Universität Marburg: Intersections of gender, status, ethnos and religion in the Jewish novel Joseph and Aseneth
Eric M. Vanden Eykel, Ferrum College: Virginity, the Temple Veil, and their Demise: A Hypothetical Reader’s Perspective on Mary’s Work in the Protevangelium of James

S20-341: New Testament Textual Criticism (11/20/2016, 4:00 PM to 6:30 PM)
Bill Warren, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Allyson Nance, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Katie Morgan, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary: Early Infancy Gospels as Witnesses for the New Testament Text

S21-226: Jewish Christianity / Christian Judaism (11/21/2016, 1:00 PM to 3:30 PM)
Jae Han, University of Pennsylvania: Constructions of Prophecy and Prophethood in Late Antique Syria: Iamblichus’ De Mysteriis and the Pseudo-Clementine Homilies
Timothy B. Sailors, Eberhard-Karls-Universität Tübingen: The Portrayal and Religious Significance of the Baptism of Jesus in the Pseudo-Clementine Romance

S22-105: Ancient Fiction and Early Christian and Jewish Narrative (11/22/2016,
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM)
Richard I. Pervo, Saint Paul, Minnesota: The Horror of Babylon: Iamblichus’ Babyloniaka and Christian Apocrypha
Malka Z. Simkovich, Catholic Theological Union: Don’t Make Me Laugh: The Absence of Humor in Early Christian and Jewish Rewritten Texts

S22-141: Religious Competition in Late Antiquity (11/22/2016, 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM)
Hugo Mendez, Yale University: Weaponizing Stephen: Caricature and Competition in the Revelation Sancti Stephani

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“Lost Gospels” – Lost No More: New Article in Biblical Archaeology Review

BAR SO16 Lost Gospels 1The latest issue of Biblical Archaeology Review features my article entitled “‘Lost Gospels’–Lost No More” (BAR Sept/Oct [2016]: 41–47, 64–66). Along with a basic overview of the more well-known (and some lesser-known) Christian apocrypha, the article looks at Philip Jenkins’ recent book, The Many Faces of Christ, which argues that Christian apocrypha were not really “lost” at all, but have always been a part of Christian thought and practice. It also mentions the “rethinking” of the Nag Hammadi library discovery in two articles by Mark Goodacre and Nicola Denzey Lewis and Justine Blount. For further information about the issue, visit the Biblical Archaeology Review web site.

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2016 CSBS/CSPS More New Testament Apocrypha Panel (Part 2)

Part 2 of my report on the More New Testament Apocrypha book review panel. See part 1 HERE.

I divided my response to the panelists into three sections: the origins of the project (why more apocrypha?), the decisions behind selecting the volume’s contents (which more apocrypha?), and issues around defining “Christian Apocrypha” and other issues of categorization (what more apocrypha?). The MNTA project began at a gathering of North American Christian Apocrypha scholars in Ottawa in 2006. Jim Davila and Richard Bauckham’s MOTP series was still in its planning stages (Jim discussed the series at the event) and the group were thinking about a project that could represent the work of North American scholars. The idea of a project similar to Davila’s focusing on Christian texts was brought up but not pursued until 2010 when I considered taking it on myself. I asked Brent Landau of the University of Texas to partner with me on the project so that we could have leadership from both Canada and the U.S. Canadians are ever-vigilant about being overshadowed by our neighbours to the south, and while there are far fewer Christian Apocrypha scholars in Canada than the U.S., we ended up with a split of 5 Canadian, 17 American, and 5 international contributors (and more Canadians are involved in vol. 2 including panelists Tim Pettipiece and Robert Kitchen). noted by the panelists MNTA is modeled chiefly on Davila and Bauckham’s MOTP volume—i.e., they supplement Charlesworth’s Old Testament Pseudepigrapha compendia, imitating even the layout of the pages, with scripture citations in the margins (a real challenge for the publisher!). We follow the look of MOTP but our aim is to supplement J. Keith Elliott’s Apocryphal New Testament—i.e., we do not duplicate any of the texts in his volume unless necessitated by significant new discoveries. Just as MOTP includes a foreword by Charlesworth, we asked Elliott to contribute one for our volume. Pettipiece objected to Elliott’s “awkward and negative tone,” but when Brent and I first read the foreword we were surprised more at his comments on Secret Mark, which he called “an elaborate and clever hoax perpetrated by Morton Smith” (he’s entitled to his view on the text but it may seem odd given my own views on it and the work of the 2011 York Christian Apocrypha Symposium), and his negativity toward modern apocrypha, of which he said “all such modern forgeries are superfluous to the normal concerns of a serious academic study of Christian apocrypha” (again, somewhat discordant given the more irenic approach to these texts evident in the papers from the 2015 York Christian Apocrypha Symposium). Brent and I decided to let Elliott be Elliott and readers of MOTP will notice also that Charlesworth’s views are different in much the same ways from those of the MOTP editors.

As for the selection of texts (which more apocrypha?), as mentioned we aimed to avoid duplication of texts that are well-represented elsewhere. The only exceptions to that rule, as pointed out by the reviewers, are the Infancy Gospel of Thomas (though here presented in its rarely seen Syriac form) and the Revelation of the Magi (presented only in summary; another text, the lengthy Armenian Infancy Gospel, was also set to appear in summary but the contributor did not complete the work). We looked at texts included in the expansive French and Italian volumes and sought out scholars who could contribute chapters on such texts as the Dialogue of the Paralytic and Jesus and On the Priesthood of Jesus. Some texts were selected because of the interests of the editors (I contributed the Acts of Cornelius, the Legend of the Thirty Silver Pieces, and the Syriac Infancy Gospel of Thomas; Brent contributed Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 210 and the Revelation of the Magi), and others came as a result of suggestions from the contributors themselves (e.g., David Eastman, known for his work on martyrdoms of Paul, worked on the related Life and Conduct of Xanthippe and Polyxena and the Letter of Pseudo-Dionyisus to Timothy, and Alin Suciu, who had just completed his thesis on the Berlin-Strasbourg Apocryphon, worked on that text and the Investiture of Abbaton, another of the Coptic “pseudo-apostolic memoirs”). Looking back, there is a certain North American flavour to the collection, as several of the texts (e.g., Revelation of the Magi, the Berlin-Strasbourg Apocryphon) enjoy more popularity here than in Europe, and some have never appeared in any other apocrypha collection (e.g., Hospitality of Dysmas, Life of John the Baptist by Serapion, and several others).

The reviewers praised the uniformity of the entries, but there is some eclecticism to them, with a few introductions being lengthier than others, and a few texts with more variants indicated than others. Some maverick writers were a little reluctant to cohere with the guidelines, but we managed to convince them to conform and I think the collection is stronger for it.

Regarding Batten’s suggestion to broaden our scope to include Islamic texts, there is more material to be found in Islamic literature on Jesus outside of the Qur’an, and those who study this literature have noted the parallels with Christian Apocrypha (and certainly we should pay it more attention). Some of our contributors incorporated this research into their entries—namely, Slavomír Céplö’s discussion of the Life of John the Baptist by Serapion and Alin Suciu’s entry for the Investiture of Abbaton. Despite our mandate to focus on texts from the first ten centuries, I am tempted to follow Batten’s suggestion to incorporate Gospel of Barnabas to a future volume, as well as some medieval gnostic texts of the sort mentioned in the Cheese and the Worms (specifically the Secret Supper, known also as the Book of John the Evangelist).


François Bovon

Finally, what does MNTA tell us about the nature of North American Christian Apocrypha scholarship? (or, what more apocrypha?). To many people, we are most well-known for the approach of the Jesus Seminar, which tends to focus on certain apocrypha that they like to date early (in some cases earlier than the canonical texts) and therefore would be valuable for studying the historical Jesus. Of the Seminar participants, Helmut Koester is perhaps the most influential, particularly for championing the Bauer hypothesis. But there is a second strand in North American scholarship based on the influence of François Bovon, who, along with his partners in the AELAC, advocates examining apocrypha, particularly later apocrypha, not for what they may or may not say about Jesus, but for what they say about the Christians who created and valued them. The AELAC scholars value also manuscript research and produce a well-regarded series of critical editions of apocryphal texts (the Corpus Christianorum Series Apocryphorum). A number of our contributors are former students of Bovon (including Brent) and a few of us have published or are planning to publish in the CCSA series (my volume on the Infancy Gospel of Thomas was the first in the series by a North American scholar).

The scholars of the AELAC have been instrumental also in the recent redefinition of Christian Apocrypha, broadening its scope to post-New Testament texts (including what Schneemelcher would call hagiographical literature) and to Christian-authored Old Testament pseudepigrapha (funny enough, there has been some discussion with Davila and Bauckham about who gets to publish some of these texts, and there has already been some overlap: MOTP includes a section of the Opus imperfectum in Matthaeum which summarizes the Revelation of the Magi, and a version of the Tiburtine Sybil). The title of our volume may seem like a throwback to the earlier, restrictive definition, but that again is to make clear that the project is meant as a supplement to Elliott (and it mirrors effectively the title of the MOTP volumes). As for the term “apocrypha” and its pejorative nature, we’re stuck with it and must use it, though certainly with caveats. A similar problem occurs with some of our texts, which are burdened with the titles they were given when they were first published (e.g., the Infancy Gospel of Thomas originally went by the name of the Childhood Deeds of the Lord).  Getting back to Batten’s question, I think North American scholarship is just now coming into its own, thanks to the influence of Koester and Bovon but also of people like James Robinson, Karen King, and Elaine Pagels, and we are eager to show the world what we have to offer.

After my response to the reviewers, we had about 30 minutes for discussion. The bulk of that time was spent on the question of what constitutes an apocryphal text. I offered my own definition (from Secret Scriptures Revealed and also quoted in the introduction to MNTA): “non-biblical Christian literature that features tales of Jesus, his family and his immediate followers.” A suggestion was made that the works of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite  should apply since he is a Christian figure from the first century (he is mentioned in Acts 17:34). I countered that the content of the texts should also reflect the first-century context—e.g., we include Pseudo-Dionysius’s Letter to Timothy because it discusses the deaths of Peter and Paul, but not the other texts which are mystical and Neoplatonic. Someone noted that the Pseudo-Dionysius material is also widely available anyway. I mentioned in the same context the Epistle of Barnabas, which is credited to a first-century figure, but does not touch on first-century events (and in this context, I uttered the f-bomb I mentioned on Facebook and Twitter; I slipped and said “New Testament events” and had to correct myself). Another challenge to the definition that I struggled to remember at the time are apocryphal texts that began their life in a different genre and only later became apocrypha—an example of this is the Ethiopian text, the Story of the Passion of Christ, mentioned in Pierluigi’s essay in the 2013 York Christian Apocrypha Symposium papers (“Scriptural Trajectories Through Early Christianity, Late Antiquity, and Beyond: Christian Memorial Traditions and the longue durée”). This began its life as a revelation to three European visionary saints (St. Brigit of Sweden, St. Mathilde of Hackeborn, and St. Elisabeth, Queen of Hungary) but later these characters were changed to New Testament figures (Sarah, Salome, and Mary of Magdala) and the text thus became an apocryphon. What should be done about such texts?

The remainder of the discussion is now all a blur, in part because I am the world’s slowest blogger, but also because I felt some anxiety about having to run to catch a plane home. I express once again my thanks to the participants in the CSBS/CSPS Apocrypha Session for agreeing to mount the panel, to the reviewers for reading the book and offering their comments, and to everyone who attended the session.

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2016 CSBS/CSPS More New Testament Apocrypha Panel (Part 1)

MNTA coverAs mentioned in my previous post, this year’s CSBS/CSPS Christian Apocrypha session was a book review panel dedicated to New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures edited by me and Brent Landau. This report on the panel, already quite late (I am the world’s slowest biblioblogger), is divided into two parts so that the post is not overly long. When the panel was planned at last year’s annual meeting, the assumption was that the book would be available by this time. Alas, the publication is not ready, though we are going through the final edits and it will be available at SBL in November. The panelists in the meantime had to read the book in electronic form. I have to remember to reward them with proper copies when the time comes. The panel was comprised of two members from each society: John Kloppenborg (University of Toronto) and Alicia Batten (Conrad Grebel College, Waterloo) from CSBS, and Robert Kitchen and Timothy Pettipiece from CSPS. The session was chaired by Emily LaFleche, a graduate student at the University of Ottawa working on the Gospel of Philip.

Kitchen opened the session with some queries about the terms applied to the texts in the collection. Most of us in the field fuss over the modifier “New Testament” but Kitchen took more of an issue with “apocrypha” given its connotations of “‘hidden,’ ‘secret,’ and so likely heterodox,” because many of the texts in the volume are none of these things. He then remarked positively about the number of Oriental languages represented—while 14 of the texts are in Greek and 5 in Latin, there are 5 in Coptic, 5 Syriac, 2 Arabic, and 1 each in Georgian, Ethiopic, and Aramaic. He applauded the consistent template used in each contribution (a summary of contents, list of manuscripts and editions, discussion of the original language(s) and provenance, a bibliography, and finally the English translation). He then provided some comments about the Syriac texts in the volume (Revelation of the Magi, Infancy Gospel of Thomas, the Legend of the Thirty Pieces of Silver, and the History of Simon Cephas, the Chief of the Apostles), since Syriac Christianity is his principle research interest. Kitchen finished saying he was looking forward to future volumes in the series: “as for Volume 2, 3, maybe 4 of such Christian Apocrypha, we want ‘more.’”

MNTA Panel

From left: Kloppenborg, Batten, Kitchen

John Kloppenborg began his review with a survey of other recent, expansive apocrypha collections and noted that their overlap with MNTA was “quite slight.” Nevertheless, he expressed concern that the series’ mandate of supplementing, not replacing, previous collections, could lead to a division in the literature between “canonical” apocrypha (i.e., the standard, early texts such as the Gospel of Thomas and the Protevangelium of James) and the “non-canonical” lesser-known texts: “It seems impractical from a publisher’s perspective to attempt a comprehensive collection of all 346 apocryphal texts listed in Geerard’s Clavis, as desirable as that might be. But steps should be taken to avoid the fragmentation of resources, which would, counterproductively lead to the further marginalization of some noncanonical texts.” That said, Kloppenborg applauded the wide scope of the collection, noting that Schneelcher’s now-infamous separation of apocrypha from hagiography was an artificial distinction (even New Testament texts, he said, are hagiography since they feature stories and teachings of saints).

Kloppenborg mentioned also the recently-launched e-Clavis: Christian Apocrypha resource, surprised that it is not mentioned at all in MNTA (note to self: email publisher to remedy this!). “While MNTA is a worthy publication,” he said, “one hopes that the clavis will be everyone’s first stop in studying Christian Apocrypha.” He then offered several suggestions to improve its usability (make it searchable by date, language, number of manuscripts, genre, dramatis personae, etc.).

Kloppenborg brought into the discussion a text often mentioned in conversations the two of us have had over the years: Carlo Ginzburg’s The Cheese and the Worms (1980). Ginzburg analyzes the heresy trial of a miller from Friuli who was brought before the inquisition in 1583 and eventually burned for heresy. The miller’s heretical views were informed by a number of apocryphal texts, many of which survive today. Kloppenborg takes from the study that “in the construction of Christian pieties of most ages, apocryphal and noncanonical representations played a significant role. We are misled if we think that either the creation of a canon, or its ‘closing’ of the canon in the fourth century displaced all other representations of Jesus and became the only source of the pieties of the general public.”

Finally (in an obviously rich review), Kloppenborg noted a tendency in Christian Apocrypha to resist the “taming” or “sanitizing” observable in canonical texts: “[the apocrypha] belong to the repertoire of what, in antiquity, was typical of the nature of the gods: they inspired fear and awe. Shape-shifting among gods and heroes is well-attested in antiquity. They visited humans in dreams and visions. They killed or maimed those who dishonored them or who failed to give them their due.” He asked: “is the relative ‘tameness’ of the canonical gospels and the disinclination of the learned Christian writers— Justin, Tertullian, Irenaeus, Eusebius, etc.—fully to embrace part of this repertoire, in spite of their commitments to the notion that Jesus was divine, a matter of a kind of inertia of a ‘core’ tradition that was always dominated by the plain-talking Jesus and Paul’s ignoring of the Jesus tradition; or is it a result of the apologetic instincts of already visible in Luke, and obvious in Justin, Tertullian, Origen and other writers, who for their own reasons did not want to endorse depictions of Jesus that made him too much like Men, Pan, Hermes or Athena…. Do apocryphal traditions provide other glimpses of bits of material that have avoided the editorial hands of apologists?”

Third of the panelists to speak was Alicia Batten, who, incidentally, shared a class of Kloppenborg’s with me in our first year of graduate school at the University of Toronto. She called the MNTA collection a “goldmine,” stating that “the contributors and editors have done an admirable job of delivering thorough introductions to each apocryphon which afford readers with a basic orientation from which they can pursue more focused questions.” She asked about the possibility of broadening the scope of the material to include Muslim texts, referring in this context to traditions about Mary and Jesus from the Qur’an showing points of connection with the Protoevangelium of James and the Infancy Gospel of Thomas. Along the same lines she suggested incorporating also the Gospel of Barnabas, a late-medieval Muslim anti-gospel.

Batten also wondered about the history of the gathering and publication of apocryphal texts described in the volume’s introduction. “It is worth mentioning, as the editors do,” she said, “that this has been a much more European activity than a North American one….it causes me to pause and ask why has this been such a European enterprise, at least up to now? What are the specific social, institutional, religious and/ or cultural reasons for this? A parallel question might be what is changing in the North American context such that the study of these texts has become much more widespread?”

Finally, it was Tim Pettipiece’s turn to speak; alas, he had to cancel his appearance at the conference at the last minute, so Robert Kitchen read his comments. Pettipiece called the volume a “great scholarly achievement…an extensive and highly collaborative work, bringing together a wide range of highly capable specialists from the field under a common rubric and mission.” He too brought up Schneemelcher’s limited definition of apocrypha and praised MNTA for avoiding “deeply rooted canonical biases that tend to privilege biblical texts and the search for ‘origins’ above all else.” There is still a long way to go, he added, noting that the field is still relatively small and that universities still place an emphasis on teaching and researching the traditional canonical texts. Pettipiece detected this same attitude behind J. K. Elliott’s foreword to the volume. Here, Elliott characterizes the texts as “incredulous yarns” that are “bizarre” and “imaginative.” Pettipiece said, “such rhetoric is in no way helpful and in my view sets a rather awkward and negative tone for the volume.”

Up next: my response to the reviewers’ comments.

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Christian Apocrypha Sessions for the 2016 SBL Annual Meeting

Christian Apocrypha
4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Room: Room TBD – Hotel TBD

Theme: Helmut Koester: In Memory of His Contributions to the Study of Christian Apocrypha
A panel in memory of Helmut Koester, one of the most influential scholars of the Christian Apocrypha in North America, assessing his ongoing legacy for this field.

Brent Landau, University of Texas at Austin, Presiding (5 min)
Philip Sellew, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, Panelist (15 min)
Christine Thomas, University of California-Santa Barbara, Panelist (15 min)
Christoph Markschies, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin – Humboldt University of Berlin, Panelist (15 min)
Break (10 min)
Stephen Patterson, Willamette University, Panelist (15 min)
Ann Graham Brock, Iliff School of Theology, Panelist (15 min)
Cavan Concannon, University of Southern California, Panelist (15 min)
Robyn Walsh, University of Miami, Panelist (15 min)
Discussion (30 min)

Christian Apocrypha
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: Room TBD – Hotel TBD

Theme: Apocryphal Acts: New Texts and Approaches

Tony Burke, York University, Presiding
Michael Flexsenhar III, The University of Texas at Austin
Creating a Christian World: Martyrdom, Memory, and ‘Caesar’s Household’ in the Apocryphal Acts (20 min)
Discussion (5 min)
Valentina Calzolari, University of Geneva
The Armenian Acts of Paul and Thecla (20 min)
Discussion (5 min)
Ivan Miroshnikov, Helsingin Yliopisto – Helsingfors Universitet
Towards a New Edition of the Coptic Acts of Andrew and Philemon (20 min)
Discussion (5 min)
Break (5 min)
Jonathan Henry, Princeton University
Thomas in Transmission: Some Noteworthy Witnesses to the Acts and Passion of Thomas (20 min)
Discussion (5 min)
Sung Soo Hong, The University of Texas at Austin
“The Word of the Father Shall Be to Them a Work of Salvation”: Thinking with the Chaste Body of Thecla (20 min)
Discussion (5 min)
Business Meeting (20 min)

Digital Humanities in Biblical, Early Jewish, and Christian Studies
Joint Session With: Digital Humanities in Biblical, Early Jewish, and Christian Studies, Christian Apocrypha
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: Room TBD – Hotel TBD

Theme: Christian Apocrypha and Digital Humanities

Joseph Verheyden, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Presiding
Brent Landau, University of Texas at Austin
What No Eye Has Seen: Using a Digital Microscope to Produce a New Transcription of Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 210, a Possible Apocryphal Gospel (30 min)
Janet Spittler, University of Virginia and Tony Burke, York University
Founding an Academic Society in the Digital Age: The North American Society for the Study of Christian Apocryphal Literature (30 min)
Jennifer Barry, University of Mary Washington Accessing Women’s History through the Digital Humanities (30 min)
Tara Andrews, University of Bern (CH)
When a text isn’t exactly a text: Digital editions and apocrypha (30 min)
James F. McGrath, Butler University
Learning from Jesus’ Wife: The Role of Online Scholarship in Creating and Exposing a Forgery (30 min)

Christian Apocrypha
4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Room: Room TBD – Hotel TBD

Theme: Violence and Healing in the Christian Apocrypha

Janet Spittler, University of Virginia
Causality and Healing of Disease in the Acts of John (20 min)
Discussion (5 min)
Patricia A Duncan, Texas Christian University
Philosophical Foundations of (Self) Healing and Exorcism in the Pseudo-Clementine “Homilies” (20 min)
Discussion (5 min)
Christine Luckritz Marquis, Union Presbyterian Seminary, Presiding (5 min)
Judith Hartenstein, Universität Koblenz – Landau
Violence in the Gospel of Mary (BG 1) (20 min)
Discussion (5 min)
Break (10 min)
Annette Merz, Protestant Theological University Amsterdam Groningen
Paul before the lion in the Acts of Paul, Tertullian, and the Zliten Mosaic (20 min)
Discussion (5 min)
Matthias Geigenfeind, Universität Regensburg
The Apocryphal Revelation of Thomas – Unique, but Underappreciated (20 min)
Discussion (5 min)


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2016 CSBS/CSPS Christian Apocrypha Report, Part 1

The 2016 Annual Meetings of the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies and the Canadian Society of Patristic Studies took place this past weekend at the University of Calgary. The two groups are small but mighty and the members are always friendly and gracious. Since 2013 I have been organizing, along with Timothy Pettipiece, a joint session for the two societies on Christian Apocrypha. This year we planned a book review panel for the forthcoming collection New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures, edited by me (Tony Burke) and Brent Landau, and several members also contributed proposals for papers. Alas we did not have enough papers for a second session but it is a good sign for Christian Apocrypha Studies in Canada to get so much involvement (yes SBL has four Christian Apocrypha sessions and a multitude of other papers besides, but like I said: small but mighty). Unfortunately, I arrived in Calgary too late to catch two of the papers on the morning of day one (“Mary Magdalene: The Companion of Jesus” by Emily Laflèche, University of Ottawa, and “Hidden Words – Re-parsing What Thomas Overheard” by Bill Richards, College of Emmanuel & St Chad) and another two papers focusing on Marcion (The Priority of Marcion? The Text of Marcion’s Gospel and the Resurrected Jesus of Luke 24” by Daniel A. Smith, Huron University College, and Apples and Dragons: Q, Marcion and the Decontextualization of Divine Wisdom” by Glen J. Fairen, University of Alberta) that were scheduled at the same time as the MNTA book panel. Nevertheless, I will offer some comments on the MNTA panel (I was at that one!).

But first I will report on the CSPS book review panel dedicated to Christian Oxyrhynchus: Texts, Documents, and Sources (Second through Fourth Centuries) by Lincoln Blumell and Thomas A. Wayment. I was asked to offer a response/review of the book and I was pleased to do so given that so much of our early Christian Apocrypha manuscripts come from Oxyrhynchus. I have reproduced my response below. The authors were present at the session and they, in turn, responded to me. So, keep reading to see what they had to say about my comments.


Christian OxyI was very happy to be asked to contribute to this panel, because I really wanted a copy of this book! One of my scholarly pursuits is text-criticism, not only of the Bible (canonical texts) but also noncanonical texts, and Oxyrhynchus is a source of numerous biblical and apocryphal papyri. As the authors tell us, 42% of NT papyri come from Oxyrhynchus, and about the same can be said for manuscripts of apocryphal texts from before 400 CE.

The book is an excellent single-source for editions and manuscript-descriptions found otherwise scattered in the 80 volumes-and-counting of the Oxyrhynchus papyri, a series of Italian volumes, as well as journal articles, essays, etc. It also updates some of the early editions, not all of which were done with rigour, adds translations in English for some not translated, and allows for cross-references between papyri not possible with earlier published material. There is much here worthy of praise. But if that’s all I had to say, this session wouldn’t be very interesting.

Given my area of expertise, I’d like to focus on the section of the volume covering apocryphal texts, and then make some comments on the categorization of the materials, first as canonical vs. noncanonical and then as Christian (as opposed to Jewish or pagan).

The section on “extracanonical texts” covers 26 texts, about half as many as the New Testament section. Included here are the three fragments of the Gospel of Thomas, two on the Gospel of Mary, two that may be the Gospel of Peter, 11 of Hermas, the Didache, Acts of John, Acts of Peter, the Sophia Jesus Christ, and 4 unidentified texts. To be clear, Hermas and the Didache are not typically considered “apocryphal” texts since they do not fit the basic definition of the category: “non-biblical Christian literature that features tales of Jesus, his family and his immediate followers.” Nevertheless, they were often considered as candidates for inclusion in the NT and appear in some biblical codices. The category used here, “extracanonical texts,” is certainly more appropriate for the material covered in the section.

All of these papyri appear also in Thomas Wayment’s volume The Text of the New Testament Apocrypha (100-400 CE) published a few years ago by Bloomsbury. That volume also includes colour photographs of all the manuscripts, but the descriptions are more brief and there are no translations. I suspect Wayment is the primary contributor to this section of the book, so Lincoln can sit back and dismiss any criticisms by saying “that wasn’t me.” Incidentally, the section on letters owes much to Lincoln’s earlier work, his published thesis, Lettered Christians. Here he established criteria which he used to distinguish which letters were Christian; the earlier work did not contain editions and translations of the letters, so Christian Oxyrhynchus functions as a source book or companion to his Lettered Christians.

The discussion of the extracanonical texts is distinguished from the canonical in several ways. First, the texts are accompanied with some description of their contents and scholars’ views about their origins. For example, on the Gospel of Peter, the authors state, “it is now rather widely assumed that the Gospel of Peter is dependent upon the canonical gospels for some of its material” (p. 202); on the Acts of Peter, they say, “The Acts of Peter are clearly legendary and have no arguable affiliation with the apostle of that name in the first century, but they may have served the purpose of pious fiction rather than offering a semiformal statement of gnostic beliefs and practices” (p. 259); and the unidentified text of P. Oxy. 1224 is accompanied by the comment “it is perhaps best to withhold sweeping claims regarding this text and any supposed connections to gnostic Christianity” (p. 272). I think it is a service to the reader to offer some description of the texts (it is not necessary for the NT, and the same is done for patristic literature), but the comments strike me as apologetic—as if it is necessary to distance them in some way from canonical literature, particularly in the mention of gnostic Christianity, which neither of the texts have any connection to (and that is what is stated here, but there is no reason to even make the point). There is no statement about the papyri of the Gospel of John dismissing arguments for gnostic connections, nor for the deutero-Pauline epistles that a majority of scholars consider them pseudepigraphical; so why make such comments about the apocryphal texts?

The second way that the extracanonical texts are presented differently is the inclusion of translations. readers are not expected to have their own translations of these texts like they are with the canonical texts (and to be fair, not all apocrypha collections feature these texts, and sometimes when they do, they are not clearly differentiated from other witnesses to the texts). That said, the texts are not all treated equally: the Hermas fragments are not translated, and a few texts are so fragmentary that a translation would be too speculative (P. Oxy. 2949, 210, but not 1224, which is translated but lacks mention of NT parallels). Some texts have sections that harmonize canonical texts—such as a portion of P. Oxy 4009, which may be a witness to the Gospel of Peter—and this material is also not translated.

As an aside, there are a few texts in the Patristic section (no. 85 a Christian apology, no. 96 liturgical fragments, and 105 a theological work), that also are not translated, though all others in the section are.

When texts are fully translated, such as the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Mary, emendations, surprisingly, often are not signaled—either with ellipses or square brackets—thus giving the illusion that the contents of the text are more certain than they are. My point, then, is that it would have been more helpful to treat all of these texts consistently—translate all portions, indicate significant parallels, and clearly mark emendations.

The differences in presentation of extracanonical texts from the canonical brings me to the broader topic of categorization. Many of the manuscripts in the volume were produced before efforts in the fourth century to impose a rigid canon of Christian scripture. Even in Eusebius’ day there was still some equivocation over the status of Revelation and the Catholic letters. So I wonder if clearly separating “New Testament Texts” from “Extracanonical Texts” is helpful; indeed, it is questionable that the people who created and valued these manuscripts saw that distinction—or more precisely, they may have made different distinctions in each of the centuries covered here: second, third, fourth.  Consider in this regard the manuscript of Hebrews (no. 33) which may have been written by the same scribe as the Acts of John (no. 70); if so, this scribe appears not to have made a canonical/noncanonical distinction between the texts, so why should we? And one of the Gospel of Thomas fragments was found next to one of Matthew (indeed, these two manuscripts were the first to be pulled from the soil).

It is noteworthy also, though not mentioned by the authors, that some New Testament texts are absent: Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, the pastorals, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John (many of which are texts that were contested). Mark appears only in an amulet (no. 92). So the New testament texts are not all treated equally by the scribes of Oxyrhynchus: some are present more than others, some have been written with more care than others, some seem to have been regarded with more esteem than others, and some are entirely absent.

To illustrate this point further, let me bring your attention to a paper by Thomas Wayment presented at last year’s SBL meeting: “The Interaction between Apocrypha and Canon: A Case Study of Oxyrhynchus.” In the paper, Wayment compared canonical and noncanonical manuscripts found at Oxyrhynchus; he discovered that the canonical manuscripts bear the marks of use in liturgy but the noncanonical ones seem to have been created for personal and perhaps missionary or instructional use. I wasn’t convinced by Wayment’s argument, but I did not have the evidence on hand to properly evaluate it. But now I do. I was struck by the variety of presentation in the manuscripts for both categories of texts; so much that I found it hard to see the distinction that Wayment noted.

Some NT manuscripts are written with a skilled hand (1, 2, 11, 14, 23, 40, 41, 42), with fairly standard use of nomina sacra. Others are more amateurishly produced (using repurposed rolls, or in a documentary hand); 1 John (no. 47) is filled with errors; a manuscript of Matthew (48) has no nomina sacra; one of Romans is perhaps a school exercise (51). Manuscript size varies; a few are miniatures, a few are scraps used in amulets. Similar variety is observable in the extracanonical texts: some were made by professionals (58, 63), some by amateurs (61); some on recycled materials (60, 64); and again, a few are miniatures (71, 78). There seems to be no material difference between the two categories of texts,  though there may be more significant relationships between individual texts within the two corpora—perhaps the Hermas manuscripts are more consistently formal than the others, or perhaps the NT texts debated into the fourth-century  (such as 1 John) are more consistently informal than other NT texts. My point is, the rigid distinction between canonical and extracanonical texts is obscuring possible material relationships that cross these boundaries. I’m not alone in this view; after Wayment’s SBL paper, Larry Hurtado urged Wayment to avoid the use of the categories “canonical” and “noncanonical” for evidence from the first few centuries (a statement that drew some applause from the audience).

Incidentally, Lincoln offhandedly makes a similar distinction between canonical and noncanonical texts in Lettered Christians—he mentions that common use of miniatures in noncanonical texts suggests private reading or personal use (p. 168-69)—but again, I think the categories should be rethought and that the NT materials show considerable variation, including the use of miniatures.

The issue of categories can be extended to the collection as a whole. The authors state that the book contains “every text from Oxyrhynchus—regardless of medium or language—that meaningfully relates to Christianity up to the end of the fourth century” (p. 8). But viewing only these texts would give us an incomplete picture of life for Christians at Oxyrhynchus. For one, Christians did not exist in their own world within the city; wider knowledge of life in Oxyrhynchus would be essential for understanding the lives of Christians in the city. But, of course, the entire Oxyrhynchus corpus is available for anyone who wants to cast their net wider. Second, account needs to be made of evidence from Oxhryhyncus that may be Christian but is not clearly identified as Christian. This is particularly the case for Septuagint manuscripts—which the authors say are excluded because it is difficult to tell whether they are Christian or Jewish. Fortunately, these manuscripts are not entirely absent from the volume—they are provided in a table (p. 14). Notable in this regard is item no. 141, a letter in which the author requests an exchange of scripture (Little Genesis and Ezra); some previous scholars have suggested that this letter is Jewish or Jewish-Christian. Presumably the editors consider it Christian because of the use of the nomen sacrum of kurios in the greeting (“greetings in the Lord”), but there are some rare cases of Jewish writers using nomen sacrum, and these are alluded to in the introduction. Which brings me to my third, and final, point, over-reliance on the nomina sacra may have led to the inclusion of some epistolary manuscripts that are not Christian at all. They could be Jewish, particularly if the only evidence for Christian composition is the nomen sacrum in the phrase “greetings in the Lord” (e.g., 138, 140, 143). And I think no. 148, the letter from a sick woman, who writes “I write to you in sickness, being terribly ill, unable even to rise from my bed because I am terribly ill” sounds an awful lot like a Jewish mother to me.

Incidentally, again, Lincoln’s first book treats this topic in much more detail, and a reading of it may convince readers that the phrase “in the Lord” is distinctively Christian. This underscores the fact that Christian Oxyrhynchus should be read side-by-side with Lettered Christians so that the methodology that has led to identifying which letters are Christian can be taken into account. One letter in particular P. Oxy.  3314 discussed in detail in ch. 2, but not included in Christian Oxyrhynchus, has been the object of much debate. It is written by a certain Judas and scholars are divided over whether it is Christian or Jewish. Also noteworthy is the late third-century archive of Ploutogenia. This corpus includes eight letters, which sometimes begin with the formulaic prayer “to the Lord God” and periodically refers to God in the singular; but one letter has a prayer “before all the gods.” So one must certainly take care in identifying a text as Christian, and Lincoln has done the work on this and should be praised for his restraint in focusing only on those he believes are undoubtedly Christian. Lettered Christians (p. 84-85) also mentions the case of a letter by a certain Leonides. This letter contains Christian markers, but another letter by the same writer, does not; this demonstrates that Christians do not always include markers in their writings. Lincoln cautions also that over time Christians included more markers in their letters as their self-identity emerged; earlier letters from Oxyrhynchus, therefore, may be Christian even if they do not appear to be so.

There’s no getting around the fact that decisions had to be made about what to include in this already weighty volume, and better to cast one’s net wide and include inappropriate texts than risk leaving something out. But my larger point here is that removing a body of literature from a larger corpus of evidence and presenting it as the evidence for Christianity in Oxyrhynchus may lead readers to think that this is all they need to know about Christian presence in the city. And returning to my earlier argument, further dividing that material into canonical and extracanonical texts imposes later categories onto the literature and obscures how the Christians in ancient Oxyrhynchus read, transmitted, and cared for these texts.



Lincoln Blumell

Lincoln Blumell’s response began with some background on Oxyrhynchus and the discovery of the papyri. Regarding the exclusion of Septuagint manuscripts, he mentioned that he and Wayment promised the publisher that the book would be 500 pages, then it was 600, then 700, and finally they arrived at 800. So, clearly some materials had to be cut. As for determining which letters were Christian, he discussed P. Oxy. 3057 from the late first/early second century, which some scholars have identified as Christian because of its use of fictive kinship language (“brother”), but this letter was not included in the volume because “it did not seem Christian enough.” In this connection Blumell mentioned also the use of nomina sacra as a marker for Christian composition—he acceded that there is some evidence for nomina sacra in Jewish texts, but very little, and Thomas Wayment later noted that we must consider that producers of manuscripts are not necessarily their users (thinking particularly in this regard of the scribes hired to writer letters or the copyists of Septuagint manuscripts).


Thomas Wayment

Thomas Wayment responded more directly to my comments on the Christian Apocrypha section of the book. His statements about some texts having or not having connections to Gnosticism, he said, were a result of his efforts to draw out the discussions of previous studies on these papyri. The division of the literary texts into canonical and extracanonical categories, he said, was because these are commonly used terms; they may be anachronistic, but they are recognizable to readers (and here he cheekily projected an image of the cover of MNTA which also uses the category “noncanonical”). As for the choice to translate or not translate the texts, this was again due to space issues, and if readers could be expected to follow along with an easily-accessible edition, then the text was left untranslated. Wayment also speculated on the absence of certain NT texts in the papyri, suggesting that some texts on the outer limits of the codices (say, Revelation) may have decomposed (of course this assumes that the codices bear a shape similar to the standard canon but complete Bible codices are rare even after the upper time limit of the materials covered in the volume).

Wayment and Lincoln hinted that there may be a sequel to Christian Oxyrhynchus, incorporating perhaps the Septuagint manuscripts, fifth/sixth-century Hebrew manuscripts (suggesting a “Hebrew revival” of sorts at Oxyrhynchus), and the as-yet-unpublished Coptic manuscripts. Finally, Wayment expressed surprise at the near absence of Mark among the materials; given the roughness of the language apparent in the Christian letters, he thought that Mark in particular would be popular there.

Some group discussion followed, essentially continuing the discussion of Blumell and Wayment’s responses. It was a pleasure serving on the panel and taking part in the conversation. It gave me an opportunity to read the book (and for free!) and to meet Thomas Wayment, whose previous work, The Text of the New Testament Apocrypha (100-400 CE), I heartily recommend (short review HERE).

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NASSCAL Publication Series: Studies in Christian Apocrypha

Polebridge Press logoThe North American Society for the Study of Christian Apocryphal Literature (NASSCAL) is pleased to announce Studies in Christian Apocrypha, a book series produced in collaboration with Polebridge Press. Christian Apocrypha is a term encompassing Christian texts—such as the Gospel of Thomas, the Acts of John, and the Apocalypse of Peter—that are not included among, but nevertheless bear some relation (in form, content or otherwise) to the texts of the New Testament. Apocrypha have been part of the Christian tradition almost from the beginning. Indeed, so ubiquitous is apocryphal literature that it must be embraced as a fundamental aspect of Christian thought and expression.

The Studies in Christian Apocrypha series will feature work on the Christian Apocrypha from any time period and in any of its myriad forms—from early “lost gospel” papyri, through medieval hagiography and sermons incorporating apocryphal traditions, up to modern apocryphal “forgeries.” We welcome submissions in the form of monographs, critical editions, collected essays, and multi-author works. The series is also the venue for the proceedings of the bi-annual NASSCAL meetings.

Series Editors

Tony Burke, York University

Janet Spittler, University of Virginia

Pierluigi Piovanelli, University of Ottawa

Stephen Patterson, Willamette University

How to Submit Proposals 

Initial inquiries should take the form of a 3–5 page proposal outlining the intent of the project, its scope, its relation to other work on the topic, and the audience(s) you have in mind. Please include a current CV and 1–2 sample chapters, if available. Send proposals and inquiries to Tony Burke at

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Christian Apocrypha at the 2016 CSBS/CSPS

Since 2013 the Annual Meeting of the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies has included a session on Christian Apocrypha. In 2014 the session became a joint presentation with the Canadian Society of Patristic Studies. This year the meeting takes place at the University of Calgary from March 27-30 (CSBS) and March 29-31 (CSPS). The joint session this year is a book review panel for the forthcoming collection New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures, edited by me (Tony Burke) and Brent Landau. I am contributing also to a CSPS book review panel dedicated to Christian Oxyrhynchus: Texts, Documents, and Sources (Second through Fourth Centuries) by Lincoln Blumell and Thomas A. Wayment. The CSBS program includes also a few other Christian Apocrypha papers. The full program for CSBS is available HERE (with a link to page-proofs of the contents and introduction to MNTA); the CSPS program will soon follow. Details below.

Saturday, May 28: Gospel Studies

10:45-11:15 Emily Laflèche (University of Ottawa) ~ Mary Magdalene: The Companion of Jesus”

The Gospel of Philip defines Mary Magdalene as Jesus’ companion (koin?nos–companion or partner) it also defines the relationship developed through the bridal chamber as joining (koinone?n–to have in common with or join with another) two people together as companions or consorts (Gos. Phil. 65.1-26). The use of the Copticized Greek verb koinone?n and its nominalization koin?nos in the Gospel of Philip shows that there may be a connection in these two descriptions of companions and the joining of companions. Building on the work of Antti Marjanen (1996), I will analyse Mary Magdalene’s role as the companion of Jesus, looking to other apocryphal texts to aid in understanding her role. I will also address whether there is evidence to link Mary’s companionship with Jesus, to the union developed in the bridal chamber.

11:15-11:45 Bill Richards (College of Emmanuel & St Chad) ~ “Hidden Words – Re-parsing What Thomas Overheard”

In this paper I examine several key sentences in the Coptic text of the Gospel of Thomas, starting with the opening invitation to ponder its sayings under a promise of “not tasting death”. In each case I propose an alternate grammatical analysis of the sayings this book’s Thomas is credited with overhearing and writing down. This reparsing of particular lines will, I hope, encourage a fresh translation of the text as a whole, as well as contribute to a thicker description of the faith community that valued and transmitted its “hidden words.”

Sunday, May 29, 1-3 pm

Book Panel: Lincoln Blumell and Thomas A. Wayment. Christian Oxyrhynchus: Texts, Documents, and Sources (Second through Fourth Centuries) (Baylor University Press, 2015).

Panelists: Steven Muir, Tony Burke

Monday, May 30, 9-11 am

Tony Burke and Brent Landau, eds. New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures (Eerdmans, 2016)

While collections of non-canonical Christian texts have been published in the past, these volumes are usually restricted to texts originating in the first few centuries of the Christian Era. Unfortunately, this approach has tended to omit the large number of apocryphal writings from the late antique and early medieval periods, many of which have had a considerable influence on Christian piety. This new volume of translations, edited by Tony Burke (York University) and Brent Landau (University of Texas), will give scholars and interested readers access to a much larger array of ancient Christian material, many of them never before published. As such, this book panel will provide an initial appraisal of the volume and its potential implications for the study of non-canonical Christian literature.

Panelists: Robert Kitchen (Knox Metropolitan), Alicia Batten (Waterloo), John Kloppenborg (Toronto), Timothy Pettipiece (Ottawa)
Respondent: Tony Burke (York)

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New Bibliographical Resource: “e-Clavis: Christian Apocrypha”

The first collaborative project initiated by the North American Society for the Study of Christian Apocryphal Literature (NASSCAL) is a comprehensive clavis and bibliography on the Christian Apocrypha. The last attempt at creating such a resource, James H. Charlesworth’s print bibliography (The New Testament Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha: A Guide to Publications, with Excurses on Apocalypses. ATLA Bibliography Series 17. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow, 1987), is now almost 30 years old. It is time to update and expand Charlesorth’s work, but this time as an electronic resource.

The process envisioned for the creation of e-Clavis: Christian Apocrypha is to enlist members of NASSCAL to contribute entries on texts on which they have already completed, or are in the process of completing, a substantial body of work. Essentially, the contributors will be required to simply reformat and slightly augment bibliographies that are already largely complete and, presumably, being continually updated. Along with print resources, each entry includes also a detailed description (a summary, the various titles used in scholarship, clavis numbers, and identification of related literature), an inventory of manuscript sources (with online images where available), an extensive bibliography (including online resources), and information about the text’s use in iconography and popular culture.

For the complete (but certainly expandable) list of texts covered, visit the e-Clavis page at

At this moment, 12 entries have been completed, and another 42 are assigned and in progress. For examples of completed entries, see:

One of the primary goals of e-Clavis: Christian Apocrypha is to encourage interaction and collaboration among scholars of the Christian Apocrypha. Entries are prepared by scholars working with the texts and users are encouraged to contact the contributors with suggestions for improvement or enhancement. The success of e-Clavis is contingent upon the willingness of users and contributors to exchange information and consistently update the entries.

e-Clavis is looking for volunteers to contribute entries for unassigned texts. Contact Tony Burke ( for more information.

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Syriac Infancy Gospel of Thomas: Edition in Progress (Part 4)

Back in October and November I wrote a series of three posts (1, 2, and 3) detailing my efforts to construct a critical edition of the Syriac manuscripts of the Infancy Gospel of Thomas. The project is now about eight years (and counting) in the making but it may soon finally see publication because I’ve been working diligently on it over the past six months, to the neglect, unfortunately, of other tasks, such as Apocryphicity. Right now I’m taking a brief pause in the project, so I thought I’d use some of this time to reacquaint myself with the blog by posting a short update.

As previously mentioned, my critical edition will contain three separate recensions of the text:

Sa: based on five manuscripts, two of them from the 6th century; another three interrelated manuscripts from the 17th-18th centuries; and one more from the 15th/16th century that I recently came across that lies midpoint in development between the early and recent manuscripts.

Sw: based on 15 manuscripts (another seven exist in Garshuni, which I am justifiably ignoring) varying from the 15th to the 20th centuries; incorporates IGT into a West Syrian Life of Mary collection in six books (the Infancy of Mary and the Birth of Jesus, both taken from the Protevangelium of James; the Vision of Theophilus; IGT; and the Death of Mary and Departure of Mary from the Dormition of Mary)

Se: three manuscripts of an East Syrian Life of Mary that incorporate IGT (another 13 manuscripts of this text do not include IGT).


Cambridge Add. 2001

In my last post I mentioned coming across new manuscripts of Sa and Sw that had to be incorporated into the what-I-thought-were-completed editions. For Sa, this process did not take very long. One of the two new sources was a copy of one of the more recent manuscripts; so all I had to do there was note in the apparatus where it agreed and disagreed with the other recent manuscripts. The other new source, a manuscript from Mardin, was more of a challenge. Sometimes it agrees with the early manuscripts, sometimes it goes its own way. This is problematic particularly in the places where the two early manuscripts are deficient: how do I choose between the Mardin manuscript and the recent manuscripts? Both diverge from the early tradition. In the end I favoured the recent manuscripts, particularly where they agreed with Sw and/or Se, thus indicating a certain amount of textual stability. That meant that my edition changed little from its original form, but the critical apparatus was significantly augmented.

The situation is similar for Sw (i.e., the edition changed very little), though the three new manuscripts led to considerable rearrangement of the apparatus. First off, the manuscripts were originally arranged in three families: a (ABCD), b (HIJKO), and c (STV). Over the summer, I was able to obtain better images for a manuscript from Cambridge (Add. 2001) already in use in the edition (the microfilm is illegible at points, but the new photographs taken for me by Slavomír Céplö, are crystal-clear). This led me to adopt the Cambridge manuscript as my base text (a subtle shift really, as my first choice for base manuscript was quite similar to the Cambridge manuscript), and forced me to rename the Cambridge manuscript from B to A. Then I discovered that two of the new manuscripts belong to the same family, but are more similar to A and B than C and D; so I changed the names of C and D to E and F and made the new manuscripts C and D. The final new manuscript, Mardin 281, fit quite nicely into the b family as the siglum L, thus leaving the sigla intact. Jean-Daniel Kaestli once told me to never change the sigla once an edition is in progress as it leads to errors. He’s right, of course, but I think the evidence is much more understandable if the relationships between the manuscripts are easily observable in the sigla.

Mardin 281

Mardin 281: 15th cent. with 18th cent. repairs

The Sw manuscripts are particularly time-consuming as the contents are often damaged and in disorder. The catalogs typically give few details about the manuscripts; so I feel I should say as much as I reasonably can about them, at least in order to indicate possible relationships between the sources. As mentioned above, IGT generally appears here as book four of a six-book Life of Mary compilation. In a few cases, IGT appears alone (though still retaining the title as “book four”), in another it is missing from the collection, and in another still book three (the Vision of Theophilus) is missing. Frequently the beginning of the first book and the ending of the sixth book have been lost. And several Mary-related memre appear in some of the manuscripts, further indicating relationships between the sources. The challenge for me is to not get too distracted with such issues as the proper ordering of the pages—this is an edition of IGT afterall, not the entire West Syriac Life of Mary. The best I can offer is some preliminary observations about the value of each of the manuscripts, and hopefully someone will use what I have done in future work on the other texts within the collection.

At this point in the project, all three editions are complete, a synopsis has been prepared, the glossary has been augmented with significant readings from the apparati, and I am finishing up the manuscript descriptions. I am also part way through an introduction that provides an overview of previous scholarship. Within a few months this thing should finally be finished.

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Apocrypha (Journal) Vol. 26

The latest volume of the journal Apocrypha, published under the auspices of l’AELAC, is scheduled to be published in March. The contents are provided on the Brepols site (HERE), and excerpted below:

Charles D. Wright, “6 Ezra and The Apocalypse of Thomas with a previously unedited ‘interpolated’ text of Thomas

Rossana Guglielmetti, “Deux témoins inédits de la Visio Pauli

Emanuela Valeriani, “Simbolismo ed escatologia nell’Apocalisse apocrifa di Giovanni: un confronto con l’Apocalisse canonica”

Susan E. Myers, “Antecedents of the Feminine Imagery of Spirit in the Acts of Thomas

Boris Paschke, “Speaking Names in the Apocryphal Acts of John

Dan Batovici, “Apocalyptic and metanoia in the Shepherd of Hermas

Christophe Guignard, “La tradition grecque de la liste d’apôtres ‘Anonyme?I’ (BHG 153C), avec un appendice sur la liste BHG 152N”

Alin Suciu, “The Book of Bartholomew: A Coptic Apostolic Memoir”

Alin Suciu, “The Recovery of the Lost Fragment preserving the Title of the Coptic Book of Bartholomew. Edition and translation of Cornell University Library, Misc. Bd. MS.?683”

Timo S. Paananen et Roger Viklund, “An Eighteenth-Century Manuscript: Control of the Scribal Hand in Clement’s Letter to Theodore

Andrea Nicolotti, “Un cas particulier d’apologétique appliquée: l’utilisation des apocryphes pour authentifier le Mandylion d’Édesse et le suaire de Turin”

Bradley N. Rice, “Chronique: An Account of the York University Christian Apocrypha Symposium Series: ‘Fakes, Forgeries, and Fictions: Writing Ancient and Modern Christian Apocrypha’ (Held at Vanier College on September 24-26, 2015)”

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SBL 2015 Diary: Days 3 and 4

The morning of day 3 began with a meeting with some fine folks from Polebridge Press, the publishing wing of the Westar Institute. My friend and York colleague Phil Harland has recently become involved with Westar, best known (perhaps infamously) as the organization behind the Jesus Seminar. Our conversations led to discussions about the possibility of NASSCAL partnering with Polebridge for some publishing projects. Stay tuned for more on these projects, and if you haven’t joined NASSCAL yet, what’s keeping you? Sheesh.

The afternoon was spent at the third of four Christian Apocrypha sessions, this one on “‘Lived Contexts’ of Christian Apocrypha.” The session featured four papers and finished with a prepared response from me. Up first was Alexander Kocar with “Saints, Sinners, and Apostates: Moral, Salvific, and Anthropological Difference in the Shepherd of Hermas and the Apocryphon of John.” Alex’s paper looked at two early Christian texts that construct “a salvific middle ground”—with saints at the top, the damned at the bottom, and repentant sinners in the middle. The question being addressed in the texts is whether one can sin after baptism and receive redemption and, perhaps by extension, retain a position within the community. The two texts are rarely discussed together, “due in large part, “ Alex said, “to the anachronistic, artificial, and misleading divide between orthodoxy and heresy.” And both have their own particular difficulties of interpretation: Hermas is incredibly long, repetitive, and relentless, and at times its discussion of repentance is contradictory in its details, whereas Apoc. John is esoteric and oblique overall. In the end, I found that the texts had much in common, more even than Alex found!

The second paper was Meghan Henning’s “Substitutes in Hell: Schemes of Atonement in the Ezra Apocalypses.” To some people it might seem strange to look at Ezra apocalypses in a Christian Apocrypha session, but there is increasing attention paid now to the Christian origins of some Old Testament Pseudepigrapha and there has been a change in recent decades to the definition of Christian apocrypha to include Christian-authored OTP. Meghan’s paper looked at several schemes of atonement in the Ezra apocalypses that can operate at the same time without being in competition with one another: expiatory suffering, cosmic battles, expiatory prayer and sacrifices. It was interesting to me to see the parallels between the Latin Vision of Ezra/Greek Apocalypse of Ezra (the principle text of Meghan’s paper) and the apocalypses of Paul, the Virgin, and Sedrach. I wonder what was happening in Christian communities of the time that led to such anxiety over the fate of sinners, something we don’t observe in earlier texts like Apoc. Peter and Hermas (Apoc. Peter has no plea for mercy; Hermas is concerned about redemption but not the suffering of those who are not redeemed). Also interesting about the Ezra text is its emphasis on celebrating the visionary; it is promised that everyone who buys and copies the book, and celebrates a feast in his memory, “all his sins are remitted.” These activities correspond to actions demanded in a number of post-Constantinian texts from the East and the West that were composed to institute and support the creation of churches and festivals. This seems to be the “lived context” of these Ezra texts.

Next up was Andrew Mark Henry with “Apotropaic Autographs: Evaluating the Epigraphical and Magical Tradition of the Abgar Correspondence.” Andrew’s paper fits well the theme of lived contexts for apocryphal texts. The Abgar Correspondence appears in numerous contexts: in literary contexts such as part of church chronicles (as in Eusebius), incorporated in other apocryphal texts (most notably its expansion in the Doctrine of Addai, but also in a number of other Syriac texts), and as a standalone text in manuscripts. Andrew’s focus, however, was on apotropaic contexts, such as amulets, ostraca, and inscriptions. Andrew wanted to bring attention particularly to inscriptions, to “put the Abgar inscriptions ‘back on their buildings’” and highlight the performative aspect of this text. His paper was a welcome reminder of how this text was used in antiquity, and how prominently, even despite its non-canonical status. There are six Abgar inscriptions in evidence, but only two (from Ephesus and Philippi) are documented adequately. Most interesting is the Ephesus inscription, which appears on a door lintel but written on the bottom of the lintel, so that the reader needs to stand beneath it and look up. Likely, the inscription had a power that was not dependent on it being read—simply being a part of the building was enough to bestow upon it the protection of Christ.

Finally, Mark Glen Bilby contributed the fourth paper of the session: “Holy Places, Holy Fragrances: The Narrative of Joseph of Arimathea as Sensory Pilgrimage Map.” Nar. Jos. has been sorely neglected in scholarship. Only one critical edition has ever been made, and this is over 150 years old. Scholars do not know where to situate it in time and space—usually all that is said is that it dates between the 4th and 12th centuries. Mark argued that it is a cultic pilgrimage map from Christian Palestine in the 4th or 5th century. The text places importance on certain times of day, on certain geographical locations (Jericho, Galilee, the courtyard of Caiaphas), and the characters deliver speeches at key points in the narrative. I wasn’t wholly convinced by Mark’s paper, but perhaps more attention to the Jerusalem pilgrimage itineraries will bring in more evidence to support the argument. The strongest argument Mark made for the dating of Nar. Jos. was his discussion of the emergence of the cult of Demas and the interest shown in the text toward relics (including a mysterious artifact associated with Solomon that Mark suspects is the ring featured in the Testament of Solomon).

After a second tour of the book display I ran to the “Function of Apocryphal and Pseudepigraphal Writings in Early Judaism and Early Christianity” session to see the one Infancy Gospel of Thomas paper in this year’s program: “Canon and Scripture Development in Light of the Infancy Gospels” by Allyson Presswood Nance and Katie Unsworth, students of Bill Warren at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. The paper came out of a class by Warren on canon and scripture development. It basically noted the use of New Testament and Old Testament materials in the canonical infancy narratives and select non-canonical infancy gospels (James, Thomas, and Pseudo-Matthew). No substantive conclusions were reached about the texts’ use of the earlier materials, but I cautioned the presenters to be careful about declaring that the authors used “the New Testament” given that no “New Testament” was in existence when James and Thomas were composed and even if it was, neither of the texts use the entire roster of NT texts. After the session Bradley Rice and I had dinner and drinks and then I headed back to the hotel for a quiet night spent working and watching television.

That leaves us with day four and the final session of the conference—the fourth Christian Apocrypha session: “Ancient Texts, New Questions: New Directions in Christian Apocrypha Studies.” Attendance was a little sparse (the dreaded Tuesday morning time slot!), but the papers were engaging. Bradley Rice looked at “Collecting Christian Apocrypha in Eastern Europe.” Early in the planning of the Christian Apocrypha sessions, we put out a call for papers on collecting Christian Apocrypha; alas, only Brad answered that call. He looked at two eastern-European collections: the Polish Aporkyfy Nowego Testamentu by Marek Starowieyski (first ed. 1980, rev. in three vols. 2003-2008) and the Czech Novozakonni Apokryfy (2003-2007). Both collections are impressively expansive, with texts passed over even by the Italian, German, and French compilations (including a few I’d like to add to the MNTA volumes).

Cambry Pardee’s paper “The Levi Defender Tradition: From Joseph and Aseneth to the Gospel of Mary” was the other highlight of the session. He compared the portrayals of the patriarch Levi in Hellenistic Jewish literature—a defender of women, an avenging warrior, and a prophet—to how Levi (an apostle?) is used in the Gospel of Mary. Pardee argued that Gos. Mary drew this composite Levi from Joseph and Aseneth as only there are all three of the attributes of the patriarch employed. It is a compelling argument, particularly given that Levi’s presence in Gos. Mary is rather mysterious.

And that brings an end to SBL 2015. Watch for the call for papers for 2016, both here and on the SBL Christian Apocrypha Facebook group (and join that too!). See you in San Antonio.

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2015 SBL Diary: Day 2

Day two of the 2015 SBL annual meeting began for me with the “Blogger and Online Publication” panel, a welcome change from Christian Apocrypha (mostly because I don’t have to take any notes! I can sit back and just listen). Funny enough, the first paper, by Rick Brannan, did discuss Christian Apocrypha and even gave a shout out to the More New Testament Apocrypha Project; funny enough, I missed that one. I did catch Christian Brady (aka Targuman)’s “The Life of a Blog from Cradle to Maturity.” He discussed mixing personal and professional aspects of his life on the blog, mentioning in particular the account he posted of his son’s sudden death and the comments (some very cruel) that he received about it.

Brady was followed by a three-member panel—with Bart Ehrman, Wil Gafney, and Lawrence Schiffman—on the benefits and challenges, rewards and hardships, of academic blogging. Ehrman is a reluctant blogger; he doesn’t particularly like blogging but does it for charity—he raised $100,000 last year alone. His output is quite striking: he writes a 1000-word post three or four days a week and, because he is a fast writer, manages to whip out a post in twenty minutes (though in that time I think James McGrath can do three posts and one or two song parodies). Schiffman has a different approach: essentially, he writes a paper and then gets his daughter, a social media expert, to carve from it a series of posts. All three of the speakers (Brady, Ehrman, and Schiffman) mentioned the problems they have encountered with trolls but dismissed their impact by saying that they just ignore the trolls and they go away. This opinion was countered by Wil Gafney who noted that, as a minority and a woman, the problem of trolls is much more acute. After spending much of her 15 minutes discussing this and other problems encountered by women bloggers, a member of the audience, who had commented on Gafney’s blog in the past, asked why she had blocked him. Gafney recalled that he had called her scholarly credentials into question—a frequent form of attack against women and minorities. I wondered, did this guy not hear a thing she said? Another topic of the session was whether or not graduate students should blog. All members of the panel agreed that it is best to wait until tenure, in part so that students can concentrate on their studies and so that what students and junior scholars say online does not interfere with employment opportunities. For more on the session, see James McGrath’s account HERE.

Next up was the Christian Apocrypha Section planning meeting. The steering committee had a quick discussion of the proposed sessions for 2016: an open session, a book review panel (which has not been done for the CA section in the executive’s collective memory), a joint session with Digital Humanities, and a session of papers organized around a particular theme (the theme is still undetermined, but some suggestions were violence, healing, and artistic representations). We also have a joint session with Nag Hammadi and Gnosticism planned for 2017 and we will be co-ordinating with the SBL International planning committee for representation at the Berlin meeting.

After lunch I managed to catch a portion of the “Extent of Theological Diversity in Earliest Christianity” panel which discussed two recent books on the topic of “Orthodoxy and Heresy Reconsidered”: Robert M. Royalty, The Origin of Heresy: A History of Discourse in Second Temple Judaism and Early Christianity (Routledge, 2012) and Paul Hartog, ed. Orthodoxy and Heresy in Early Christian Contexts: Reconsidering the Bauer Thesis (Wipf & Stock, 2015). I have not read either of the two books, but will be keeping an eye out for them. Royalty began the session with a discussion of his book. He finished with a statement about the modern use of language of division, saying that his book focuses on the origins of such language, but, in light of  ISIS, the Paris attacks, black lives matter, and the rhetoric about these events used in the presidential campaign, perhaps we can start talking about how it might end. Hartog’s volume features essays presented at an invited session of the Patristics and Medieval History Section of the Evangelical Theological Society. He summarized the essays, occasionally mentioning each paper’s shortcomings. I was able to catch only one response to the books, the one by Judith Lieu. She was largely favourable about Royalty’s book but was not pleased with Hartog’s. She characterized it as driven by anxiety over the continuing effect of Bauer’s thesis and criticized it for not articulating Bauer’s thesis fully, for not providing any new analysis of the primary texts, and for demonizing the scholars who support Bauer.

After Lieu’s response I scooted over to the Jewish Christianity/Christian Judaism panel to catch Brent Landau’s paper “The Epistle of James to Quadratus: An Apocryphon with Jewish-Christian Traditions?” Brent is working on a translation (the first ever in English) of the epistle for MNTA vol. 2. He presented his provisional translation of the text (extant in three very recent Syriac MSS and another in Armenian) and reached out to the group for suggestions about where to situate it. There has been some discussion about the epistle drawing upon a Jewish-Christian source about the early Jerusalem bishops, but most scholars think the letter derived its information from Eusebius. The last paper I attended for the day was Anna Cwikla’s “Magdalene, Mother, Martha’s Sister, or None of the Above? The Mary in the Dialogue of the Savior,” presented at the session “Maria, Mariamne, Miriam: Rediscovering the Marys.” The all-female panel was a welcome sight, and it was amusing that two of the five presenters were named Mary. Cwikla’s paper noted the absence of nicknames in the named interlocutors of the Dialogue (e.g., “Judas” rather than “Judas Thomas,” etc.) and wondered what this might mean for the “Mary” of the text—perhaps identifying the precise Mary was not important to the writer.

I accepted James McGrath’s invitation to attend the Bibliobloggers dinner held at a pub near the conference hotels. This was the first time I had attended this event, and did feel a little out of my element—many of the people seemed to know each other well. I was happy to find myself sitting next to Michael Kok of Euangelion Kata Markon, whose book, The Reception of Mark in the Second Century (Fortress Press, 2015), I endorsed. I also met F. Daniel Kirk of Storied Theology and the Lectiocast podcast series, Daniel Gullotta, and a few others whose names I wish I could remember! Unfortunately the pub was very noisy and did not make communication easy.

My final stop for the night was the University of Toronto reception to catch up with Canadian friends and meet a few new ones. After a 30 minute conversation with a clearly stoned grad student, I had had enough socializing and decided to head back to the hotel for an early night.

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2015 SBL Diary: Day 1

[This account is a little late, but as a Canadian without a U.S. data plan, and given the poor Wifi capability in the conference hotels, it’s been difficult to do much of anything online over the past several days.]

I flew into Atlanta via Buffalo Friday afternoon. I have a habit of arriving at airports with little time to spare to get on my flight; so it was a bit touch-and-go whether I would make the plane. But one mad dash through the airport later, I was on my way. Upon arrival, I grabbed some dinner and met up with some members of the NASSCAL board (Brent Landau, Bradley Rice, Janet Spittler, and Stanley Jones) for an informal get-together.

The proper first day of the conference began Saturday morning with the joint session put together by Christian Apocrypha and Papyrology and Early Christian Backgrounds. There was much anticipation for this session, as the subject of the first paper, by Geoff Smith, had been featured in a New York Times article the previous day. Smith’s paper, “Preliminary Report on the ‘Willoughby Papyrus’ of the Gospel of John and an Unidentified Christian Text,” discussed a 3rd/4th-century papyrus fragment that appeared on eBay last year. Smith contacted the seller and urged him to hold on to it; Smith also convinced the owner to let him work on the text. It contains a portion of John on one side, and on the other an unknown Christian text, written upside down. The evidence indicates that the papyrus is a scroll; the first text written on the scroll was John (probably the entire text), and then someone, probably the same scribe, wrote the unknown text on the reverse side. There is not enough text to determine what the second text is, but it could be something from the apocryphal acts or an apologetic work. We have some other examples of reused scrolls—P. Oxy. 654 with the Gospel of Thomas on one side and a survey list on the other, is one example—but they are quite rare, and typically these examples feature a non-Christian text on one side and the Christian text on the other. After Smith finished his paper, he was interviewed by the BBC; the media’s interest, he said, was in the story of Smith’s rescue of the papyrus from eBay and on the value of the manuscript. Smith said that he is trying to convince the owner to donate the papyrus to a library so that other scholars can have access to it.

The next paper in the panel was Kelly Coblentz Bautch’s “The Textual History of the Greek Book of the Watchers: Contextual Clues from Translation and the Value of Variant Readings.” The Book of the Watchers is a portion of 1 Enoch and the Greek text appears in a codex from Akhmim that also includes the Gospel of Peter, the Apocalypse of Peter, and the Martyrdom of Saint Julian. Bautch pointed out a number of interesting features of the manuscript: none of the texts have titles and they are incomplete (Gos. Pet. even ends mid-sentence) despite there being room on the pages for more text; as for the Enoch material, it comprises two portions of the text, written by two scribes, and with overlaps in content. Also, there is doubt now that the manuscript was found in the grave of a monk; it could very well have been deposited in the grave of a Christian interested in books.

Bautch was followed by Ross Ponder, who presented “A New Transcription of P. Oxy. 5072: Observations from a Recent Autopsy Analysis.” The fragment contains a story of Jesus performing an exorcism with some parallels with the Gerasene Demoniac and the story of the Lunatic Boy. Ponder prepared a translation of the text for the first volume of New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures and presented on the text at the 2015 York Christian Apocrypha Symposium. His paper for the session was somewhat more detailed about papyrological matters but added little else to his previous work on the text. Ponder was followed by Thomas Wayment, co-author of the new book Christian Oxyrhynchus: Texts, Documents, and Sources with Lincoln Blumell. His paper, “The Interaction between Apocrypha and Canon: A Case Study of Oxyrhynchus,” compared canonical and noncanonical manuscripts found at Oxyrhynchus; he discovered that the canonical manuscripts bear the marks of use in liturgy but the noncanonical ones seem have been created for personal and perhaps missionary or instructional use. Wayment focused particularly on P. Oxy 4009, which has been identified by some as a portion of the Gospel of Peter; regardless, it contains sayings of Jesus separated by paragraphos markers (a feature found also in Ponder’s P. Oxy 5072). Wayment concluded from these and other examples that there seems to have been a connection at Oxyrhynchus between sayings collections and private use.

In her response to the papers, AnneMarie Luijendijk cautioned Smith and Ponder to avoid the temptation to reconstruct the texts of the papyri too much; sometimes, she said, we have to admit we do not know what the missing text says. As for Wayment, Larry Hurtado urged Wayment to avoid the use of the categories “canonical” and “noncanonical” for evidence from the first few centuries (a statement that drew some applause from the audience) and stated that the early papyri indicate that a text could be treated as both “ecclesiastical” and “personal.”

Over lunch I met with Shawn Wilhite and Coleman Ford of the Center for Ancient Christian Studies who interviewed me for their podcast series. I discussed my “personal journey” from believing Catholic to nonbelieving Christian Apocrypha scholar and several current projects (the York Symposia, NASSCAL, and my forthcoming critical edition of the Syriac tradition of the Infancy Gospel of Thomas). I then took an hour to roam around the book display and found, to my surprise, a new edition of the Vision of Theophilus at the Gorgias Press booth.

My afternoon was spent at the second Christian Apocrypha session of the day, this one focused on the Monastic Production and Use of Christian Apocrypha. The session began with Christoph Markschies’ “What Do We Know about the ‘Sitz im Leben’ of Ancient Christian Apocalypses.” Markschies recently put the finishing touches on vol. 2 of his Antike christliche apokryphen series, and is now at work on vol. 3, devoted to apocalypses and related writings. His discussion of apocalypses for the session focused on the Apocalypse of Peter from Akhmim and the byzantine-era Apocalypse of Anastasia (which is not really an apocryphon). For Apoc. Pet., Markshies looked at the origins of the manuscript and stated, like Bautch, that we have no evidence that the codex derived from the grave of a monk (thus, he ruled out a “monastic production and use” of the text). He stated too that the copyist seemed to have no interest in identifying the texts in the codex nor for completing the excerpts. As for the Apocalypse of Anastasia, it certainly has monastic origins—it is attributed to a nun from the 10-12th century and the manuscript derives from a Benedictine monastery. Incidentally, the miniature codex also contains a copy of the Second Apocalypse of John.

Markschies was followed by Hugo Lundhaug on “The Nag Hammadi Texts as Monastic Literature.” Lundhaug pointed out that the initial scholar on the texts, Jean Doresse, declared that, because of their unorthodox contents, they could not have been used by monks. Subsequent scholarship focusing on the carttonage in the bindings associated the codices with a nearby Pachomium monastery. Still, many scholars have problems understanding why monks would be interested in the texts. Lundhaug presented an argument for the use of the texts by established monks who could appreciate the material for its ascetic and esoteric qualities but not for its demiurgical speculations. He supported his position with the example of writers who urged monks not to read the Investiture of Michael, yet the manuscript evidence for the text derives from the White Monastery. Lundhaug concluded with a quotation from my former supervisor Michel Desjardins, that ancient people were just as clever, contradictory, and complex as we are.

Rounding out the session was a paper by Geoff Smith (yes, again) on the Sentences of Sextus, which is not actually a Christian apocryphon, so I won’t discuss it here, and Brad King’s “The Garden a Prison: Sex, Gender and Power in Eden.” King’s paper looked at the short and long versions of the Apocryphon of John and demonstrated how the redactor of the longer version minimized the misogyny of the text, so that asceticism is presented not as an ideal for Christians but as an option.

The Q and A session after the papers was taken up mostly by discussion among the panelists (the audience had thinned out considerably by the end of the session). I don’t normally ask questions of presenters but I was interested in what Markschies and Lundhaug thought about Mark Goodacre’s and Nicola Denzey Lewis’s articles that cast considerable doubt on the finding stories of the Nag Hammadi codices. Both essentially agreed that the discovery story is not as important for determining the origins of the codices as the contents of the codices themselves.

Sessions over, it was time to hit the receptions. I popped over to Zeba Crook’s hotel room for the Context Group reception, then crashed the Wabash Center party (particularly rich in free drinks and peach-based desserts), and finally the Harvard reception, at which I met Karen King. The weirdest part of the night was watching a group of tipsy scholars of various ages scale a fence after taking a wrong turn out of the Harvard gathering. After a few more hours of drinks and food at a local restaurant it was time to finally crawl into bed. Day one was over; on to day two.

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