Sunday, November 7, 2010

Book review

New Testament Apocrypha, Volume One: Gospels and Related Writings

Editor: Wilhelm Schneemelcher
Translator: R. McL. Wilson
Publisher: Westminster John Knox, rev. ed., 2003
Paperback: 560 pp.

WJK (Thoughtful Christian)
Amazon

Thanks to Emily Kiefer and the team at Westminster John Knox for this review copy. I already had volume 2 of the NT Apocrypha and was hoping to get my hands on the first volume, so this is a very welcome addition to my library.

From the Table of Contents, I can see that this book is well organized. It first begins with a General Introduction by Schneemelcher on things such as the history of the NT canon, apocrypha, testimonies of the early fathers, the history of research in apocryphal literature, and an introduction to non-biblical material about Jesus. These first 70-some pages are very helpful for one to gain some knowledge about this topic. Then it is divided into twelve sub-sections, each devoted to specific materials from the perspective of various scholars.

They are divided into: (I) Isolated Sayings of the Lord (Otfrid Hofius), (II) Fragments of Unknown Gospels (Joachim Jeremias and Wilhelm Schneemelcher), (III) The Coptic Gospel of Thomas (Beate Blatz), (IV) Jewish-Christian Gospels (Philipp Vielhauer and Georg Strecker), (V) The Gospel of Philip (Hans-Martin Schenke), (VI) The Gospel of the Egyptians (Wilhelm Schneemelcher), (VII) The Gospel of Peter (Christian Maurer and Wilhelm Schneemelcher), (VIII) Dialogues of the Redeemer (various), (IX) Other Gnostic Gospels and Related LIterature (Henri-Charles Puech and rev. Beate Blatz), (X) Infancy Gospels (Oscar Cullmann), (XI) The Relatives of Jesus (Wolfgang A. Bienert), and (XII) The Work and Sufferings of Jesus (various). These chapters contain some very interesting books that we might have heard of (from say... a certain movie?) such as the Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Truth, Gospel of Philip, Gospel of Mary, Protevangelium of James, and more.

At the beginning of each chapter, there is an overview of some important topics such as the literature (e.g. different editions, translations, etc.), attestation, tradition, genre of text, provenance, theological themes, relationship to canonical Gospels, etc. [each chapter varies because not all contain any relevant information for each sub-topic]. Overall, this is an excellent volume that will be of benefit for anyone interested in the canonical and non-canonical Gospels. There is a wealth of information from a whole array of scholars that are contained in this book. I have some interest in possibly pursuing some research in this topic so this is a very important volume that I will start digging into bit by bit in the coming months.

Verdict::Recommended! (Granted that this is not really a "book" but more of a reference volume.)

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