—Published in Fides et Humilitas, no. 3 (2016): 152–155

In 2004 and 2006, three conferences were held in Groningen, Edinburgh, and Ottawa. Both Groningen and Edinburgh were part of the SBL International Meetings; whereas the meeting in Ottawa was a funded event. Rediscovering the Apocryphal Continent is the product of such meetings. Editors, Pierluigi Piovanelli and Tony Burke, helpfully gathered and edited such ad hoc papers from these gatherings to highlight methodological and literary studies on Christian Apocrypha (hereafter CA). Seasoned and nascent scholars convened to present a host of papers—of which, Rediscovering the Apocryphal Continent is a by-product.

The volume comprises of four general sections: (1) Introduction; (2) General Perspectives; (3) From Early Christian Texts to Late Antique Apocryphal Literature; and (4) the Pseudo-Clementines. Piovanelli leads the introduction, detailing the scope and origins of the project. Part 2 offers perspectives of CA to Historical Jesus scholarship, its relation to OT Pseudepigrapha, and “Jewish-Christian” Apocrypha’s relationship to the field of Patristics and Rabbinics. Part 3, which is the main body of the present volume, offers essays on specific texts and “literary ensembles” (p.13). The final part offers five focused essays devoted to Pseudo-Clementine literature.

Tony Burke’s chapter, by far, is the most helpful—and for many reasons. In “Entering the Mainstream: Twenty-five Years of Research on the Christian Apocrypha” (p.19–47), Burke continues the tradition of J.H. Charlesworth’s article on the research of CA (Charlesworth, “Research on the New Testament Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha,” ANRW 2.25.2 [1988]: 3919–68). Burke attempts to provide a status update of the CA discipline over the past 25 years. His article covers five sections: (1) Defining CA; (2) Major studies on CA texts; (3) Collections and series on CA texts; (4) Role of Internet and media outlets; and (5) Assessment.

Three particular items are worth mentioning that Burke highlights. First, the collections of primary texts, as Burke comments, do “not meet expectations” (p.36). Albeit growing and improving, English scholarship in particular “has yet to see a truly comprehensive CA collection” (p.36). Schneemelcher’s, Elliot’s, and Ehrman and Pleše’s volumes are helpful for English speaking scholarship, but they lack up-to-date critical texts and can be confused to reflect the whole of CA (p.36–37).

Second, Burke identifies attitudes towards the CA that reflect continental scholarship. Accordingly, North American scholars are more inclined to utilize CA as they intersect with Historical Jesus scholarship or relate to canonical texts (p.22–23). Rather, CA, as it’s own discipline, has an array of literature and complexities that require its own discipline—distinct from NT scholarship (p.47).

Third, the amount of literature that Burke discloses beckons for further study in CA. He reveals an exorbitant amount of secondary texts and primary literature for modern readers. For English-only speaking scholars, it will be helpful to note the critical and primary texts appearing beyond the aforementioned volumes and those in other languages: Christoph Markschies and Jens Schröter, Antike christliche Apokryphen, 2 vols (Mohr Siebeck, 2012); Dieter Lührmann, Fragmente apokryph gewordener Evangelien in griechischer und lateinischer Sprache (2000); Studies on Early Christian Apocrypha (Peeters); Neutestamentliche Apokryphen; Écritis apocryphes chrétiens (2005); and Clavis apocryphorum Novi Testamenti (1992–). Also pertinent for English speaking scholarship, New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures (Eerdmans) is forthcoming in 2016).

Rediscovering the Apocryphal Continent’s is highly valuable. Although the lag between initial papers (2004–2006) and the final publication form (2015), the volume still contributes to CA scholarship in helpful ways. First, the focused articles on Pseudo-Clementines reflect a continued effort to elucidate such text. Part 2, as a whole, highlights methodological considerations and perceives how CA relates to broader disciplinary questions.

The particular volume is a unique contribution from the three study groups, although Rediscovering the Apocryphal Continent is one of a number of volumes in the field. For example, Forbidden Texts on the Western Frontier (Cascade, 2015) may provide more up-to-date findings since it reflects articles delivered at the York University CA Symposium in 2013.

Being a Mohr Siebeck volume, this text will not find its way into personal libraries, but will be found in research libraries. Researchers of early Christianity would do well to reach, at the least, for part 2 of this book. Methodological considerations and up-to-date summaries will provide helpful insights into the broader world of early Christianity and CA that will aid specialists and non-specialists alike.

Bibliographical Information

Pierluigi Piovanelli and Tony Burke, eds. Rediscovering the Apocryphal Continent: New Perspectives on Early Christian and Late Antique Apocryphal Texts and Traditions. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2015.Pp. XI + 439. ISBN: 978-3-16-151994-9. 134,00€/$220.00 [Hardback].
About the Author:
Shawn J. Wilhite

Shawn J. Wilhite (Ph.D., Southern Seminary) is Associate Professor of Christian Studies at California Baptist University.




Shawn J. Wilhite