The New Testament gives us 27 canonical texts—gospels, letters, and more—but these works are only a tiny fraction of the many volumes written about the life of Jesus, his family, and the apostles. This alternative body of literature falls under the category of “apocrypha,” which means “hidden” or “secret,” and it offers fascinating insights into the early Christian world and how different groups understood the teachings of Jesus and the first apostles.
Much of what we know about Jesus today actually comes from apocryphal sources rather than the Bible. The Apocryphal Jesus is your chance to learn about the breadth and depth of the early Christian world from a variety of sources—many of which were considered heretical at various times in history. Over the course of 24 revealing lectures, Professor David Brakke of The Ohio State University takes you on a tour of this world and surveys the major apocryphal works that have survived. From forged letters to recently discovered gospels, The Apocryphal Jesus explores the stories and ideas that shaped the foundations of early Christian thought—and continue to influence Christianity today.
These early Christian apocryphal works, which range from infamous texts such as the Gospel of Thomas to obscure fragments such as the Gospel According to the Egyptians, are more than historical curiosities. The canonical Bible is one of the most influential books in all of Western history, but you might be surprised to find out how many gaps and contradictions the New Testament contains. For instance, if you only read the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, you might wonder:
- Why does the Catholic Church venerate the Virgin Mary when she plays such a surprisingly minor role in the canonical gospels?
- How did many come to believe that three wise men visited the infant Jesus? And who were they and where did they come from?
- Where did the story of Peter’s upside-down crucifixion come from?
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