Page 12



even though the writings I have included here are obviously no longer lost. But most of them were lost, for centuries, until they turned up in modern times in archaeological discoveries or in systematic searches through the monasteries and libraries of the Middle East and Europe. Some of them are known only in part, as fragments of once-entire texts have appeared—for example, a famous Gospel allegedly written by the apostle Peter. Others are cited by ancient opponents of heresy precisely in order to oppose them— for example, Gospels used by different groups of early Jewish Christians. Yet other books have turned up in their entirety—for example, the Gospel allegedly written by Jesus’ twin brother Judas Thomas. And yet others have been available for a long time to scholars, but are not widely known outside their ranks—for example, the account of the miraculous life of Paul’s female companion Thecla. Scholars have never devised an adequate term for these “Lost Scrip­ tures.” Sometimes they are referred to as the Christian “Pseudepigrapha,” based on a Greek term which means “written under a false name.” But some of the books are anonymous rather than pseudonymous. Moreover, in the judgment of most New Testament scholars, even some of the books that were eventually included in the canon (e.g., 2 Peter) are pseudonymous. And so, more often these texts are referred to as the early Christian “Apocrypha,” another problematic term, in that it technically refers to “hidden books” (the literal meaning of “apocrypha”), hidden either because they contained secret revelations or because they simply were not meant for general consumption. A number of these books, however, do not fit that designation, as they were written for general audiences. Still, so long as everyone agrees that in the present context, the term “early Christian apocrypha” may designate books that were sometimes thought to be scrip­ ture but which were nonetheless finally excluded from the canon, then the term can still serve a useful function. The present collection of early Christian apocrypha is not meant to be exhaustive, nor is this the only place one can turn now to find some of these texts. Most other collections of the lost Scriptures, however, cover only cer­ tain kinds of documents (e.g., non-canonical Gospels)2 or documents discov­ ered in only one place (e.g., the cache of “gnostic” writings discovered near Nag Hammadi Egypt in 1945).3 Or they include several of the “other” scrip­ tural texts only as a part of a wider collection of early Christian documents.4 The major collections that contain all of these early Christian writings—and even more—are written for scholars and embody scholarly concerns.5 The


See, for example, the handy collection by Ron Cameron, The Other Gospels (Philadelphia: West­ minster Press, 1982) and more recently by Robert Miller, The Complete Gospels: Annotated Scholars Version (Sonoma, CA: Polebridge Press, 1994). 3E.g., James Robinson, ed. The Nag Hammadi Library in English, 4th ed. (New York/Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1996). 4For example, Bart D. Ehrman, After the New Testament: A Reader in Early Christianity (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999). 5 Most accessibly, J.K. Elliott, The Apocryphal New Testament: A Collection of Apocryphal Christian Literature in English Translation (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993), and yet more comprehensively, Wilhelm Schneemelcher, ed. New Testament Apocrypha, 2 vols., tr. R. McL. Wilson (Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox, 1991).

Profile for sheekh 3arb