NT Pseudepigrapha


#1

I am wondering which of the NT Pseudepigrapha/Apocrypha are worth reading for study into early Christianity. In this sense I’m not referring to reading them as devotional works, but more of as academic works or historical background works.

I know the Didache is an important text to read (that’s on my “to read” list) but what about others? The Pseudepigraphical epistles/sermons-such as I Clement, II Clement, Barnabus, Magnesians, Trallians, Polycarp, etc. seem of interest to me. But there just seems to be too many of them to start out. I remember that I started reading the First Epistle to Clement a while ago and it read more like a long homily instead of a letter…too much information for me to read starting out.

Any recommendations?


#2

You guys know so much. Sometimes, you just leave me in the dust! :wink:


#3

#4

[quote="ClearWater, post:2, topic:340667"]
You guys know so much. Sometimes, you just leave me in the dust! ;)

[/quote]

:rotfl:


#5

[quote="Tous_Logous, post:1, topic:340667"]
I am wondering which of the NT Pseudepigrapha/Apocrypha are worth reading for study into early Christianity. In this sense I'm not referring to reading them as devotional works, but more of as academic works or historical background works.

I know the Didache is an important text to read (that's on my "to read" list) but what about others? The Pseudepigraphical epistles/sermons-such as I Clement, II Clement, Barnabus, Magnesians, Trallians, Polycarp, etc. seem of interest to me. But there just seems to be too many of them to start out. I remember that I started reading the First Epistle to Clement a while ago and it read more like a long homily instead of a letter...too much information for me to read starting out.

Any recommendations?

[/quote]

Start with these in my opinion. It's not really appropriate to call them Apochrypha, they are writings of the early church fathers.

Letters of St Ignatius of Antioch
Letters of Polycarp
Didache
St Justin Martyr. First Apology
Clement of Rome

Also,

The protoevangelium of James was fascinating.

Enjoy


#6

[quote="Jon_S, post:5, topic:340667"]
Start with these in my opinion. It's not really appropriate to call them Apochrypha, they are writings of the early church fathers.

Letters of St Ignatius of Antioch
Letters of Polycarp
Didache
St Justin Martyr. First Apology
Clement of Rome

Also,

The protoevangelium of James was fascinating.

Enjoy

[/quote]

Thanks for your recommendations.

Honestly I had no clue what to call these texts. I've heard them termed "Early Christian writings," "Pseudepigrapha," "Apocrypha," etc.

So if they are not considered Apocrypha, are they still considered Pseudepigrapha, or are they called Early Christian writings?


#7

[quote="Tous_Logous, post:6, topic:340667"]
Thanks for your recommendations.

Honestly I had no clue what to call these texts. I've heard them termed "Early Christian writings," "Pseudepigrapha," "Apocrypha," etc.

So if they are not considered Apocrypha, are they still considered Pseudepigrapha, or are they called Early Christian writings?

[/quote]

Some examples of Pseudepigrapha might be:
The Gospel of St. Thomas
The Gospel of James (the Protoevangelium)
The Book of Enoch
etc.

Apocrypha is much more debated and argued, depending on your denomination or religion.


#8

The NT apocrapha is not the same as the Early Church Fathers, they are made up of various very early written Gospel accounts and Epistles and some that resemble the book of Acts, and some of them have accurate oral tradition usually mixed with some pious legend. They can be very helpful to shed light on things about Christ and the Apostles that the NT does not tell us, but at the same time it takes discernment to distingush between accuracy and legends that are intended to fill in the gaps that the NT leaves out sometimes at the cost of compromising accuracy with exagerations. The Early Church Fathers are writings written by men who were usually bishops of the Church, that are in the forms of letters, sermons, commentaries, etc. The Church Fathers writings are a massive collection of writings that began in Apostolic times until about the time of St. John of Damascus. The Church Fathers are very trustworthy and worth their weight in gold! The NT apocrapha is very interesting to read but not solid and trustworthy as the Fathers.

One of my favorite NT apocraphal writings is the Acts of Barnabas, which is supposedly written by St. Mark, and which I truly believe that it was. It is known for its accuracy. It tells about what Mark and Barnabas did after Paul and Barnabas had a bit of a falling out over St. Mark.


#9

You’ll have a lot to read. Personally I’d recommend the Protoevangelium of James, the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, and the Gospel of Peter for starters.

If you want something really wacky, try gnostic literature like the Pistis Sophia or the Gospel of Judas. Be warned though that they’re not very easy to understand - to be honest they’re actually quite tedious - but then again they’re not meant to be: such works were originally for ‘initiates only’.


#10

Keep in mind when reading gnostic writings (including the gospel of Thomas) that Gnostics were heretics and did not represent early Christianity.


#11

[quote="Jon_S, post:10, topic:340667"]
Keep in mind when reading gnostic writings (including the gospel of Thomas) that Gnostics were heretics and did not represent early Christianity.

[/quote]

Well, it's really ambiguous whether the Gospel of Thomas was originally 'gnostic'. The Coptic version found in Nag Hammadi in Egypt is bound with other sectarian works and can be read in a gnostic light, but it seems that we have more than one version of the text circulating (Greek fragments found in Oxyrhynchus - also in Egypt - present a slightly different form of some sayings). The Infancy Gospel of Thomas is 'orthodox', although its portrait of a boy Jesus who (ab)uses His divine power by shaming teachers and maiming and smiting people who offend Him has more in common with Greco-Roman 'child gods' and God in the Old Testament.


#12

Protoevangelium ("of James")
Gospel of Philip

Those are my two favorites. The "Teachings of Silvanus" is somewhat interesting, yet I wish we had something more definitive from (and definitively from) the early apostle-prophet-missionary Silas/Silvanus. Of course, I Clement and Ignatius' epistles, are historically and doctrinally important.

I personally have not gotten much out of Hermas; I have not been able to understand the appeal it had to the early Christians. Nor have I gotten much out of Barnabas though it, too, seems to have enjoyed popularity for a while.


#13

[quote="Tarquin, post:12, topic:340667"]
Protoevangelium ("of James")
Gospel of Philip

Those are my two favorites. The "Teachings of Silvanus" is somewhat interesting, yet I wish we had something more definitive from (and definitively from) the early apostle-prophet-missionary Silas/Silvanus. Of course, I Clement and Ignatius' epistles, are historically and doctrinally important.

I personally have not gotten much out of Hermas; I have not been able to understand the appeal it had to the early Christians. Nor have I gotten much out of Barnabas though it, too, seems to have enjoyed popularity for a while.

[/quote]

I didn't get much from Hermas either. Barnabas on the otherhand I liked, but it is very Alexandrian Jewish.


#14

[quote="Tous_Logous, post:1, topic:340667"]
I am wondering which of the NT Pseudepigrapha/Apocrypha are worth reading for study into early Christianity. In this sense I'm not referring to reading them as devotional works, but more of as academic works or historical background works.

I know the Didache is an important text to read (that's on my "to read" list) but what about others? The Pseudepigraphical epistles/sermons-such as I Clement, II Clement, Barnabus, Magnesians, Trallians, Polycarp, etc. seem of interest to me. But there just seems to be too many of them to start out. I remember that I started reading the First Epistle to Clement a while ago and it read more like a long homily instead of a letter...too much information for me to read starting out.

Any recommendations?

[/quote]

Here is a detailed list.

earlychristianwritings.com/

Interestingly enough the “Didascalia Apostolorum” (or just “Didascalia”) written in the 3rd century tells as a matter-of-factly the last supper was instituted on Tuesday which some scholars use as their argument as oppose to Thursday. Personally I prefer Tuesday as it follows the bible parallel of Exodus 12:3-6 the Passover lamb was to be procured and examined for four days for any signs of blemish. If the trial of Jesus started Tuesday it would have also taken the opponents four days to find fault with him.


#15

I recently read I Clement in an effort to explore the effectiveness of Saint Paul's interventions with the Corinthian church. Depending on when you date Clement's papacy, Paul had anywhere from a minimal effect to an effect that lasted for more than a generation.


#16

[quote="Tous_Logous, post:1, topic:340667"]
I am wondering which of the NT Pseudepigrapha/Apocrypha are worth reading for study into early Christianity. In this sense I'm not referring to reading them as devotional works, but more of as academic works or historical background works.

I know the Didache is an important text to read (that's on my "to read" list) but what about others? The Pseudepigraphical epistles/sermons-such as I Clement, II Clement, Barnabus, Magnesians, Trallians, Polycarp, etc. seem of interest to me. But there just seems to be too many of them to start out. I remember that I started reading the First Epistle to Clement a while ago and it read more like a long homily instead of a letter...too much information for me to read starting out.

Any recommendations?

[/quote]

writings:( Pseudepigrapha [Greek, "falsely attributed"] )

Clement
Polycarp
Justin Martyr is good
Enoch
Apocalypse of Abraham
Book of Giants
Biblical Antiquities
Testament of Moses
Book of Jubilees
sibylline Oracles
Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs
Maccabees

hope this helps
God bless


#17

[quote="COPLAND_3, post:13, topic:340667"]
I didn't get much from Hermas either. Barnabas on the otherhand I liked, but it is very Alexandrian Jewish.

[/quote]

I am delighted to write that I just finished my second reading of the Shepard (or Pastor) of Hermas.

Why twice, you might ask?

Well, the first time was long ago when I was not yet in communion with the Catholic Church (actually I thought the Catholic Church was lost in apostasy and other such nonsense, a la J Ch*ck tracts and other bad teachings), and was reading through the Early Church Fathers. It happened to be tucked away in one of the volumes I borrowed.

At the time, I did not get much from it, more questions/confusion than answers...it read very vague and obscure, and somewhat dry. I didn't care for it at all. At the time I was looking to prove that the Catholic Church had "fallen away from the true faith" and it offered no support. (Like I was any great scholar...:doh2:)

My second reading has been under different personal conditions, the main one is that I am reading it for the first time as a practicing Catholic. This time I savored every page, whereas before, I couldn't get through it fast enough (it's not very long anyway :shrug:). I can now see why some of the early churches read it as a part of the Mass (in the same esteem as the Epistles), and why a few advocated it's consideration as part of the canon.

I'm going to keep it on my reading list, and delve into it deeper.

What a book! A great Catholic message of grace, hope, faith, redemption, and the trials of this earthly life. A great picture of Christ's Church as seen from God's point of view and as shown to Hermas in a vision by His Angel.

I have to let it percolate for a while before I read it again. I think it is one of the most profound early Christian works that I have read to date.

:thumbsup:


#18

[quote="Michael57, post:17, topic:340667"]
I am delighted to write that I just finished my second reading of the Shepard (or Pastor) of Hermas.

Why twice, you might ask?

Well, the first time was long ago when I was not yet in communion with the Catholic Church (actually I thought the Catholic Church was lost in apostasy and other such nonsense, a la J Ch*ck tracts and other bad teachings), and was reading through the Early Church Fathers. It happened to be tucked away in one of the volumes I borrowed.

At the time, I did not get much from it, more questions/confusion than answers...it read very vague and obscure, and somewhat dry. I didn't care for it at all. At the time I was looking to prove that the Catholic Church had "fallen away from the true faith" and it offered no support. (Like I was any great scholar...:doh2:)

My second reading has been under different personal conditions, the main one is that I am reading it for the first time as a practicing Catholic. This time I savored every page, whereas before, I couldn't get through it fast enough (it's not very long anyway :shrug:). I can now see why some of the early churches read it as a part of the Mass (in the same esteem as the Epistles), and why a few advocated it's consideration as part of the canon.

I'm going to keep it on my reading list, and delve into it deeper.

What a book! A great Catholic message of grace, hope, faith, redemption, and the trials of this earthly life. A great picture of Christ's Church as seen from God's point of view and as shown to Hermas in a vision by His Angel.

I have to let it percolate for a while before I read it again. I think it is one of the most profound early Christian works that I have read to date.

:thumbsup:

[/quote]

Thanks for sharing that! I must say that its been years ago since I last read it, and it was prior to my conversion to the Church. I may follow your steps and start reading it again!


#19

[quote="COPLAND_3, post:18, topic:340667"]
Thanks for sharing that! I must say that its been years ago since I last read it, and it was prior to my conversion to the Church. I may follow your steps and start reading it again!

[/quote]

It really is so much more meaningful. :)


#20

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.