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Frey, Jörg, u. Jens Schröter [Hrsg.]
Jesus in apokryphen Evangelienüberlieferungen. Beiträge zu außerkanonischen Jesusüberlieferungen aus verschiedenen Sprach- und Kulturtraditionen. Hrsg. unter Mitarbeit v. J. Spaeth.
Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck 2010. XI, 798 S. gr.8° = Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament, 254. Lw. EUR 139,00. ISBN 978-3-16-150147-0.
J. K. Elliott
The Apocryphal New Testament is not an accurate or ideal title and in recent decades various proposed alternatives have been suggested, but readers who see such a title on a book’s spine are usually aware of its likely contents – early non-canonical writings from a certain period and usually excluding most of the Nag Hammadi and Gnostic corpora. For German readers over the past century the main access to such literature has been Hennecke’s edition first published in 1904; this went through six editions up to 1990, latterly edited by Wilhelm Schneemelcher. In more recent times a team under Christoph Mark schies’ and Jens Schröter’s editorship has been at work attempting to replace ›Hennecke-Schneemelcher‹. Inevitably for such multi-authored enterprises progress has not been as swift as some would have liked, but at long last the first volume on the gospels and related literature is about to appear. The editors of the new Hennecke, like their predecessors, have agonised hard and (perhaps too) long on what texts should appear in such a volume, as we may learn from the respective prefatory matter. Are the so-called dialogue ›gospels‹ where the risen Jesus communicates with disciples eligible? What about some fragmentary papyri that may or may not have come from a fully-fledged gospel rather than an amulet or homily? And what about the dating of the composition, the motives behind the writing, the establishing of a canon etc.?
Those questions are raised by the two editors of the current volume in their chapters in this collection of essays that originated as papers delivered at a conference in Wittenberg in 2007. But there are twenty-two other (international) contributors’ essays in this volume. Seven are in English; one in French; the rest in German. The over-arching articles range from Judith Hartenstein’s »Autoritätskonstellationen in apokryphen und kanonischen Evangelien« to James Kelhoffer’s helpful analysis of the name ›gospel‹ as a title. This latter is a timely reiteration of an old problem. Karen King’s essay on what Gnosticism is also reads well and is similarly appropriate. Essays on specific texts deal with the gospels of Judas, Thomas, the Infancy, Peter, Philip, Mary, and others, including the Jewish gospels. These contents are thus fairly comprehensive, al-though the Greek Protevangelium Jacobi is not accorded a separate chapter. Writers on the specific books include Esther de Boer, Uwe-Karsten Plitsch, Tobias Nicklas and Ursula Ulrike Kaiser.
Since Frances Watson’s definitive article in JTS 61 (2010), 128–171 »Beyond Suspicion: On the Authorship of the Mar Saba Letter and the Secret Gospel of Mark«, establishing that the so-called Secret Mark was an elaborate hoax it is now somewhat passé to find here two separate essays on this nonsense taking a disproportionate amount of space – over 80 pages! Henceforth one paragraph in another essay showing how the scholarly community was hoodwinked should suffice, without further wasting our time.
A particularly important section in this book deals with seven articles on versional evidence: Syriac, Armenian, Arabic, Coptic, Ethiopic, Slavic and Irish merit authoritative chapters apiece and these often include selected extracts of apocryphal texts. Georgian and, surprisingly, even Latin are absent here. The Ethiopic traditions obviously open different issues, coming from a tradition whose canonical Bible includes eighty-one texts! The essay on Coptic versions (by Peter Nagel) differs from the others which are wide-ranging introductions to the contents of the version and analyses of the importance of these apocrypha; the Coptic chapter, by contrast, is a close textual and exegetical analysis of agrapha in this tradition.
The essays in this collection, especially those offering an historic survey, will make this volume an authoritative companion-guide to the volume on the apocryphal gospels now eagerly awaited, al-though it, like recent volumes on these topics by Hans-Josef Klauck, can admirably serve as a free-standing book in its own right. We congratulate the editors for having assembled this helpful collection and for the splendidly full indexes. Jakob Spaeth, whose name stands on the title page, also merits our thanks.