David Brakke: The Apocrypha are basically a set of early Christian literature that deal with the same characters and people that you meet in the New Testament. What they give us access to are ideas about Jesus and his apostles that Christians of the first two to five centuries had about Jesus.
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Ideas that became very influential in Christianity but are not actually found in the New Testament. Why were they left out? Were they considered heretical or blasphemous? David Brakke: Some of the writing that we study in the Apocrypha were considered in antiquity to be heretical or marginally orthodox in some ways, it had ideas that mainstream Christians did not think represented Christian truth.
Most of them were not included in the New Testament because the Christians who put together the New Testament did not think they were necessarily written in the earlier period by apostles or people that knew the apostles. None of it is Official Christian Literature. Is this what is driving that controversy? David Brakke: What mostly drives the scholarly controversy about the Apocrypha is how actually to define the Apocrypha, what it means when we use the term, and what should and should not be included in it, because Christian literature just continues until the present moment.
Part of the issue when you talk about the New Testament Apocrypha is when does it stop? What should you include and not include?
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Part of it is a simple scholarly controversy about what you include. Learn More: The Influence of Apocrypha. The question arises among scholars: Do these things in the Gospel of Thomas go back to Jesus? Historians fight about this. David Brakke: Some of the ideas and things we know about early Christianity end up coming actually from the Apocrypha and not the New Testament. Some of these most prevalent ideas are things like Peter being crucified upside down.
This actually occurs in an Apocryphal text called the Acts of Peter. A lot of the things that we think are true about Jesus and his apostles actually come from Apocryphal literature. What can we learn about them from the Apocrypha?
David Brakke: In the Apocrypha, there are plenty of stories about people getting married or not getting married. Many of the what we call Apocryphal acts of the apostles, which are stories of the adventures of the apostles after Jesus sent them off to preach the word, feature women converting to Christianity and then deciding to leave their husbands, or not have sex with them, or never get married in the first place.
Christian Apocrypha look at how Christians debated issues, they aren't theological treaties. Christianity is about separating from this world and concentrating on spiritual and heavenly matters and not doing things like getting married and having a family and doing all that kind of stuff.
When you were mentioning stories, I was thinking about the Gospel of Paul and Thecla. In the Acts of Paul , there is portion called the Acts of Paul and Thecla in which Paul has an especially devoted disciple named Thecla who gives up the idea of getting married. She breaks her engagement to follow Paul, and eventually Paul sends her forth to be a teacher and preacher of the word of God. What we see in a text like this is a time when some Christians believed that women could preach and teach. Instead it tells a story about a prominent woman doing this kind of stuff.
Martyrdom of Philip Arabic History of Philip Syriac Martyrdom of Bartholomew Arabic The Preaching of Bartholomew Arabic Preaching and Martyrdom of James the lesser, brother of the Lord Arabic The Martyrdom of Matthias Arabic Matthias Prayer of the Mother in the region of the Parthians Arabic Preaching and Martyrdom of Simon, son of Cleophas Arabic Martyrdom of Mark Arabic Martyrdom of Luke Syriac, Arabic Epistle of Paul to the Laodiceans Arabic Epistle to Quadratus Syriac Epistles of Lentulus Syriac The Tiburtine Sibyl Garshuni, Arabic Apocalypse of Paul Syriac, Arabic Syriac Apocalypse of Mary Syriac Arabic Apocalypse of Mary Arabic Galbiati , Iohannis Evangelium apocryphum arabice.
Liber 1: Arabica complectens , vol. Mediolan: Office of Mandadorian, Liber 2: Latina proferens , vol. Moraldi , Ed. Milan: Jaca Book, Stockholm: Natur och Kultur, London: C.
Apocryphal Acts, General
Clay and Sons, London, Brit. Budge , Ed. I: The Syriac Texts , vol. London: Luzac, Sachau , Ed. Berlin: Behrend, II: English Translation. Graf , Geschichte der christlichen arabischen Literatur , vol.
The Acts of John
Rome: Vatican Apostolic Library, Evetts , Ed. Guidi , Ed. Paris: Auguste Picard, Vivian , Ed.
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Sike , Evangelium Infantiae vel liber apocryphus de infantia Seruatoris, ex manuscripto edidit ac latina versione et notis illustravit. Utrecht: Franciscum Halmam, Guiljelmum vande Water, Manuscripts Ox. Le manuscrit de J. Notes J. This negative portrayal of Peter resurfaces toward the end of the text.
This dispute between Peter and Mary is expanded upon in the Gospel of Mary. Are we to turn about and listen to her? Did he prefer her to us? Do you think that I thought this up myself in my heart, or that I am lying about the Savior? Now I see you contending against the woman like the adversaries. But if the Savior made her worthy, who are you indeed to reject her?
If there is any single individual who personifies firm opposition to alternate viewpoints and beliefs, it is Peter. What is notable about the Apocryphon of James is the subtlety behind its depiction of Peter. While Peter is important enough to be privy to the secret teachings relayed by Jesus, he becomes more or less a passive witness throughout the text. In a statement perhaps indicating that James has effectively supplanted Peter as chief Apostle, it is James who discharges the disciples to various locations while he alone remains in Jerusalem.
The positive depiction of James suggests a Jewish-Christian provenance for this text, and it may be that the text was meant to respond to a gradually diminishing role played by the Jewish-Christian members of the increasingly Gentile church. It refers to lists of parables and to other sayings of Jesus throughout. Gnostics interpret the same canonical texts as other Christians do. Peter provides evidence for the authenticity of that interpretation, even if he is not completely enlightened.
The image of Peter clearly loomed large in the minds of early Christians, who saw in him a figure who would grant validity or legitimacy to their respective belief system through either endorsement or rejection. The prominent role played by Peter in literature seemingly intended to demean or at least tarnish his image suggests an additional insight into the legacy of Peter—he was too big to be ignored, too substantial to be pushed to the side, and too important to be forgotten.
Many elements of the Passion story familiar to readers of the four Gospels can be found in the Gospel of Peter , such as the presence of Pilate, Jesus being crucified between two malefactors, the empty tomb, and the role of Mary Magdalene. However, there are a few additions to the story absent from the canonical Gospels, including the curious account of a talking cross:. The text, then, presents itself as a firsthand account of the Passion written by Peter himself.
The value of the first-person narrative is that it makes the writer an authority not only because of his name but also because of his firsthand experiences. In contrast to the Apocryphon of James , at several points in this narrative the author demonstrates a clear anti-Jewish bias.
Pilate emerges as a sympathetic figure who tries to convince Herod to return the body of Jesus to Joseph for burial. Likely this text was produced in order to explicitly indict the Jews for the crucifixion of Jesus, one of a larger series of texts that emerged in the second and third centuries reflecting anti-Jewish sentiment. Quite simply, his name carried weight. Having considered several apocryphal texts involving Peter, it is valuable at this point to discuss just how these types of stories and traditions could be interpreted by Latter-day Saints. As a church, we tend to be sympathetic toward literature such as this, seeing in noncanonical literature such as the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, the Dead Sea Scrolls, or the New Testament apocrypha a potential reservoir for lost or forgotten truths.
There are at least three possible reasons for this common attitude, all relating to the Book of Mormon. And all this have they done that they might pervert the right ways of the Lord, that they might blind the eyes and harden the hearts of the children of men. Wherefore, thou seest that after the book hath gone forth through the hands of the great and abominable church, that there are many plain and precious things taken away from the book, which is the book of the Lamb of God. Nephi took from Laban a record known as the plates of brass, containing a record of the history of the Jews, their prophecies, genealogies, and law.
A third factor leading toward sympathetic reception of non-canonical literature is the existence and reality of the Book of Mormon itself. Additionally, the circumstances surrounding the discovery of the gold plates, buried in a hill for over a thousand years, may lead us to view ancient texts discovered under similar circumstances, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls or the Nag Hammadi Library, as analogous.
For the most part they are the writing of men but are dressed up to look like scripture.
From an LDS point of view, there are often elements of truth in this literature; but always it is truth mixed with falsehood, as the Lord tells us in section 91 of the Doctrine and Covenants. For these reasons, they ought to be explored with caution and a mind toward their original context. Recent research done by prominent Latter-day Saint scholars has also cautioned against placing too much weight upon the stories preserved in the New Testament apocrypha.
This being said, what then can Latter-day Saints learn about Peter from these assorted documents? While it may be tempting to jettison the entire apocryphal tradition about Peter due to the unreliability of the texts themselves, this would be an overreaction. While these texts may be lacking in detailed information regarding the historical Peter, the value of such literature is that it reflects traditions about Peter and captures how the nascent Christian church perceived and understood him in different times and places. Other texts, such as the Gospel of Peter , demonstrate just how viable Peter was as a witness, as if placing his name at the end of a text made all that came before valid and legitimate.
Still other authors found Peter valuable as an antagonist, the ideal figurehead for the popular Christianity targeted by the authors of texts such as the Gospel of Mary , the Gospel of Thomas , and the Apocryphon of James. But even his antagonists viewed him as the head of the orthodox church and the defender of its tradition. His role was crucial, his position hallowed. Additionally, these traditions about Peter preserved in the New Testament Apocrypha strongly confirm the primacy and authority of Peter in the first-generation church presented in the four canonical Gospels.
If the sole purpose served in examining these texts is to remind readers of these points, then they warrant continued study, if only to encounter passages such as the one that closes the Acts of Peter. See Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica 3. Modern scholars are unsure how much validity rests in this tradition and have advanced arguments on both sides of the question. Robinson, ed. Also useful is The Apocryphal New Testament , ed. Elliot Oxford: Oxford University Press, These works also contain lengthy bibliographies for those wishing to dig deeper into the respective texts. Stanley Jones is currently working on a new critical edition and English translation of the Syriac Pseudo-Clementina for the series Corpus Christianorum, Series Apocryphorum.