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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Gospels (Apocryphal)

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GOSPELS (APOCRYPHAL)

i. Title.—In the sense in which the term is popularly understood, ‘apocryphal’ is synonymous with ‘spurious’ or ‘false’; when, however, it is applied as a title to writings of the early Christian centuries, it bears the significance of ‘extra-canonical.’ By Apocryphal Gospels are, accordingly, meant all writings claiming to be Gospels which are not included in the Canon of the NT, without any implication that their contents are necessarily false or of questionable origin. (See, further, for the meaning of the term, art. ‘Apocrypha’ in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible i. 112 ff.; also Hennecke, NT Apokr. 3* ff., Handb. vii ff.; and Zahn. Gesch. d. NT Kan. i. 127 ff.).

ii. Origin.—For a generation after the death of Jesus, His teaching and the facts about His life were preserved by oral tradition in the circle of believers. With the rise of a second generation, however, the need was felt for reducing the oral reminiscences to written form. The reason for this was twofold. For one thing, the number of those who could give personal testimony of what Jesus did and said was rapidly becoming smaller; and for another, the Christian faith was spreading far beyond the limits of its original home in Palestine. Both these facts made it imperative that, if trustworthy accounts of the teaching and life of Jesus were to be preserved for the guidance of the scattered communities of Christians, the tradition should be committed to something more permanent and less liable to disturbing influences than oral reminiscence. The impulse of this necessity gave rise to our written Gospels, and to many other Evangelic records which have disappeared. Of the many attempts to write the story of Jesus, to which St. Luke in his prologue refers, none (with the exception of Mt. and Mk.) can be said with any certainty to have survived;* [Note: The probability is that most of them disappeared early, being unable to maintain their position alongside of the Gospels which are now in the Canon.] although it is possible that the Gospel Fragment of Fayûm may be the wreckage of one of them. In any case, some of the earlier non-canonical Gospels, which are extant in more or less fragmentary condition, are probably the products of the general desire, that was everywhere felt, to have a more certain knowledge of Jesus and His teaching than was possible from the oral instruction of wandering evangelists. The Gospel according to the Hebrews, which is but little later than the Synoptics, belongs almost certainly to this class; and the same may be true also of the Gospel according to the Egyptians.

The majority of extra-canonical Gospels are due, however, to other causes. Written at a time when the present Four Gospels were gaining, or had already gained, a place of exceptional authority, [Note: The authoritative position of the canonical Gospels, which was beginning to be recognized before the middle of the 2nd century, was assured by the end of the century.] they came into existence in answer to two desires, urgently felt in certain circles of Christians. (1) The first was the desire, popularly entertained, for fuller information about the life of Christ than that given by the four Gospels. This intelligible and not unnatural curiosity was directed chiefly to the facts antecedent to Christ’s advent, and to those periods of His life which the older Gospels left in shadow—His parentage, His birth and childhood, and the period after the Resurrection. It is noteworthy that the writers who endeavoured to satisfy this desire for fuller knowledge made no attempt to fill up the silent years between Christ’s childhood and His entrance on His public ministry, the reason in part probably being that ‘it seemed too daring for them to illumine a darkness, for which there was not the slightest historical suggestion in the New Testament’ (Hofmann, PRE [Note: RE Real-Encyklopädie fur protest. Theologic und Kirche.] 3 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] i. 655). With greater probability, however, it may be said that the reason was, not so much any self-restraint through loyalty to the data of history, as the absence of any clear dogmatic motive; and dogmatic motives, as will appear, were almost invariably associated with the desire to satisfy curiosity. It may be safely assumed that, had any doctrinal interest called for the history of the silent years, no scruples about historical truthfulness would have prevented writers from enlivening them with the products of their fancy. In the main it is certain that the details furnished by the apocryphal writings regarding matters about which the canonical Gospels are silent, have little or no historical basis. They are in reality Christian haggadoth, popular stories similar to those in Jewish literature which were framed for purposes of pious entertainment and instruction. The Gospels of the Infancy and Childhood, for example, are full of legendary matter drawn from various sources, or freely invented by the fancy of the writers. Where the details are not entirely imaginative, they have their origin in the transformation of utterances of Christ into deeds, or in the literal interpretation of OT prophecies and Jewish expectations about the Messiah, or in the ascription to Jesus of miracles similar to those recorded in the OT (Hofmann, PRE [Note: RE Real-Encyklopädie fur protest. Theologic und Kirche.] 3 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] i. 655).

As an example of the way in which the Christian haggadist worked, it may suffice to mention his treatment of OT texts. Psalms 148:7 reads: ‘Praise the Lord from the earth, ye dragons’; accordingly, in pseudo-Matthew dragons are represented as coming out of a cave and worshipping the child Christ. The picture of Paradise regained in Isaiah 11:6 ff. suggested the legend that all kinds of wild beasts accompanied the Holy Family on the way to Egypt (Cowper, Apocr. [Note: Apocrypha, Apocryphal.] Gosp. lix f.).

But although the Apocryphal Gospels abound in legendary accretions of this kind, the mistake should not be made of assuming that there is no authentic material in the additions to the narratives in the four Gospels. Oral tradition maintained itself for a time after our present Gospels were reduced to writing, and it is not improbable that genuine sayings of Christ and authentic details about His life have been preserved in uncanonical books. On this point see further in § iii.

(2) A much more powerful motive than the desire to satisfy curiosity, leading to the production of Gospel writings, was the dogmatic interest, the desire to find support for beliefs which were held in various sections of the Church. This was especially marked in Gnostic circles, where numerous Evangelic writings (running into thousands, Epiphanius says [Haer. 26]) were produced, claiming the authority of a secret tradition for their peculiar doctrines.

Even in the earlier Apocryphal Gospels, which are of the Synoptic type, it is clear that theological prepossessions played a considerable part, as indeed they did to some extent in the canonical Gospels. Thus, in the Gospel according to the Hebrews the conception of Christ has an Ebionitic tinge, and in the Gospel of Peter there are expressions which betray Docetic sympathies on the part of the writer. The dogmatic motive is prominent as well in those writings which fill up with fictitious details the empty spaces of the Gospel narrative, and thus have generally been regarded as due to the desire to gratify the irrepressible longing for fuller knowledge. It is doubtful if this latter motive, although it was certainly operative, would have led to the invention of such a mass of fictitious matter, had it not been powerfully stimulated by dogmatic considerations. In the Protevangelium of James the legendary history of Mary’s antecedents and of the circumstances of Christ’s birth was due not merely to any horror vacui, but to the imperative dogmatic necessity, as the writer conceived it, of safeguarding in this way alike the true Divinity and the true humanity of Jesus Christ. Similarly, the Childhood Gospel of Thomas, with its repulsive stories of the child Christ’s miraculous power and knowledge, would never have found acceptance in Christian circles had it not been for the witness which the miracles were supposed to bear to Christ’s supernatural origin.

iii. Relation to Canonical Gospels.—The fragmentary condition and the uncertain text of many of the Apocryphal Gospels render a confident judgment as to their relation to the canonical Gospels exceedingly difficult. Where the question of affinity is raised, the problem to be solved is whether the uncanonical Gospels are dependent on the canonical, or draw from a common oral source. The latter possibility is one not to be dismissed without careful consideration; but, on the whole, the evidence points in almost every case to the use of some or all of the four Gospels by the authors of the apocryphal writings. Only in the case of one Gospel, the Gospel according to the Hebrews, is there a strong consensus of opinion in favour of independence (see, however, vii. A. 1). Where there is an appearance of independence, this is frequently to be accounted for by a free manipulation and embellishment of old material, to bring it into line with the writer’s peculiar point of view, or to suit it to the character of his surroundings.

While a large degree of dependence on the canonical Gospels must in general be maintained in regard to the Apocryphal Gospels, this must not be pressed so far as to exclude the possibility of their embodying details drawn from reliable oral sources. The fact must steadily be borne in mind that the stream of living oral tradition continued to flow for several generations, though in ever decreasing volume, alongside of the written Gospels;* [Note: Traces of the influence of oral tradition on the canonical Gospels, after they were reduced to writing, are to be found in the well-known additions to John (8:1–11) and Mark (16:9, 20).] accordingly, where the uncanonical Gospels deviate from the canonical record, either by slight interpolations into common matter or by additions peculiarly their own, the possibility is always open that in these additions we have early and reliable traditions, either unknown to the four Evangelists or passed over by them as unsuitable for their purpose.

Two important considerations must, however, be kept in mind in estimating the trustworthiness of all such additions. In the first place, the authoritative position which the canonical Gospels early reached as authentic sources of the life and teaching of Jesus entitles them to be used as a touchstone of the probable authenticity of the additional matter contained in the Apocryphal Gospels. No saying of Christ or detail about His life has any title to be regarded as genuine if it does not fit into the conception which the four Evangelists have given us of the teaching and personality of Jesus. Secondly, when we keep in view the undoubted fact that fictitious writings were common in which the life and teaching of Christ were freely handled in the interest of heretical sects, it is clear that extreme caution must be observed in receiving as authentic any addition to the canonical record. If it would be less than just to say that all the Apocryphal Gospels stand in the position of suspect witnesses, with a presumption of unreliability against them in respect of their peculiar matter, it is nevertheless true that their exclusion from the Canon, as well as the notoriously tainted origin of some of them, render it imperative that their claim to embody a genuine tradition must be carefully sifted, and allowed only after the clearest proof.

iv. Value.—The question of greatest moment which arises in estimating the value of the Apocryphal Gospels naturally has reference to their worth as additional sources for the life and teaching of Jesus. From what has been already said about their origin and their relation to the canonical Gospels, their value in this respect will appear to be extremely slight. A comparison of the Apocryphal Gospels with those in the Canon makes the pre-eminence of the latter incontestably clear, and shows that as sources of Christ’s life the former, for all practical purposes, may be neglected. The simple beauty and verisimilitude of the picture of Jesus in the four Gospels stand out in strong relief when viewed in the light of the artificial and legendary stories which characterize most of the Apocryphal Gospels. The proverbial simplicity of truth receives a striking commentary when (for example) the miracles of the Canonical Gospels are compared with those of the Apocryphal writings. The former, for the most part, are instinct with ethical purpose and significance, and are felt to be the natural and unforced expression of the sublime personality of Jesus; the latter are largely theatrical exhibitions without ethical content. In them ‘we find no worthy conception of the laws of providential interference; they are wrought to supply personal wants, or to gratify private feelings, and often are positively immoral’ (Westcott). In a few of the Gospels which show signs of independence, there may be here and there a trace of primitive and trustworthy tradition; but all such details, which have a reasonable claim to be considered authentic, do not sensibly increase the sum of our knowledge about Christ. The conclusion, based on the comparison of the Apocryphal with the Canonical Gospels, is amply warranted, that in rejecting the former and choosing the latter as authoritative Scriptures the Church showed a true feeling for what was original and authentic.

Though the Apocryphal Gospels afford us little additional knowledge about Christ, they are invaluable as enabling us to realize more clearly the conditions under which the four Gospels were received in the Church, until they were finally established as authoritative in the Gospel Canon. The existence of so many Evangelic writings shows that for some time after the Canonical Gospels appeared, they had no position of commanding influence. The high place which oral tradition—‘the living and abiding voice’—still retained in the estimation of the Church (cf. Euseb. Historia Ecclesiastica iii. 39. 4) militated against the acceptance of any written Gospel as authoritative beyond the communities in which it was current. In the early part of the 2nd cent. we have, accordingly, to think of the four Gospels as having merely a local and circumscribed authority, while in different sections of the Church the production of Evangelic literature still proceeded, in which the tradition was handled more or less freely to suit the dominant conceptions and needs. But by the middle of the century there were indications that the four Gospels, already widely known through the constant intercourse that united Christian communities together, were being elevated above their competitors to a place of exceptional authority. This was due, not to mere good fortune or to any arbitrary dealing on the part of the Church, but to the superior claims of the writings themselves, which were recognized when the necessity arose of counteracting, by trustworthy and authentic records, the rapid growth of a pseudo-tradition in Gnostic circles. This rise of our four Gospels to a commanding and unchallengeable position bears witness not only to their inherent value,—which the Church, with a fine spiritual sensitiveness, perceived,—but to the conviction that, as opposed to fictitious writings which appeared under the names of Apostles, they embodied the testimony of Apostolic writers. By the time of Irenaeus (circa (about) 180) the Gospel canon may be regarded as definitely fixed; and although Apocryphal Gospels continued to circulate, the authoritative position of the four Gospels was finally assured.

Perhaps the chief value of the Apocryphal Gospels is to be found in the light which they cast on the conditions of life and thought in early Christian times. They are of service in the difficult work of reconstructing the complex environment in which Christianity grew up.

When, for example, one reads in the Childhood Gospel of Thomas the account of the miracles wrought by the child Christ, and marks the spirit of diablerie so frequently exhibited, one is conscious of nothing but a painful feeling of wonder, that fables so bizarre and so revolting could ever have been tolerated in a community of Christians. Of any ethical sympathy with the spirit of Christ, of any recognition of the beauty and simplicity of Christ’s childhood, as He grew in grace and wisdom, in favour with God and man, there is in this Gospel hardly the faintest trace. Though worthless as an account of Christ’s childhood, the Gospel of Thomas is yet a mirror in which we see reflected the curious condition of the society which accepted it. We see here, in a typical instance, how strong were the external influences which played on the development of Christianity in early times. In the process of permeating the heathen world with its great thought of Redemption and its lofty ethical sentiment, Christianity, as was inevitable, was itself coloured, and in certain circles distorted, by the foreign elements of its environment. Oriental mythology and Greek philosophy had met, and given rise to syncretistic systems which exerted a deep influence on men’s conceptions of the Christian faith and life. Traces of this are clearly discernible in the Apocryphal Gospels, most plainly in the Gnostic Gospels. Buddhistic influences are possibly responsible for the childhood stories in the Gospel of Thomas.

The confusion and vagueness of the Christological views in the different Apocryphal Gospels also bear witness to the great variety of influences which were at work in the early Church, and enable us to realize with what trouble the conception of the Divine manhood of Jesus was eventually established. The indecision and one-sidedness which are revealed in doctrinal matters are also traceable in the interpretation of the ethical content of Christ’s teaching and life. Ascetic and Encratite views are found in several Gospels, and no doubt were characteristic of all the Gnostic Gospels. A close sympathy with the true ethical spirit of Christianity is, however, noticeable in the Gospel according to the Hebrews, in which stress is laid on acts of mercy and brotherly kindness; and in the ‘Traditions of Matthias’ mentioned by Clement of Alexandria, and possibly identical with the Gnostic Gospel of Matthias, the doctrine of Christian responsibility for others’ welfare, in its most stringent form, is very forcibly put: ‘If the neighbour of an elect person sins, the elect has sinned; for if he had lived according to the counsels of the Word, his neighbour would have so esteemed his manner of life that he would have kept free from sin.’

The apologetic interest which is so characteristic of 2nd cent. writers (witness the Apologies of Aristides, Justin, Tertullian, etc.) is reflected in several of the Apocryphal Gospels.

Traces are to be found in the Gospel according to the Hebrews, in which the servant of the high priest is a witness to the Resurrection. A later stage of the apologetic movement may be observed in the Gospel of Peter, where Pilate is practically exonerated from blame for Christ’s condemnation, and is made to bear witness to Christ’s Divinity. In the Acts of Pilate (Gospel of Nicodemus) the movement has reached its climax in the reverence which the Romans pay to Jesus at His trial, in the miraculous homage of the Roman standards, and in the irrefutable evidence given of Christ’s resurrection, to the conviction of His enemies.

A subsidiary element in estimating the value of the Apocryphal Gospels is their antiquarian interest. A passage in the Protevangelium of James (ch. 18) affords an interesting parallel to the scene in the fairy tale, ‘The Sleeping Beauty,’ when by a magic spell the whole of nature suddenly stands still, and all living beings are immovably rooted where they are. The Childhood Gospel of Thomas, useless as it is as a source of information about Christ’s youth, gives a remarkably vivid and convincing picture of Jewish village life. Caution must be observed in trusting the details of Jewish life in the Protevangelium; many of them are entirely unhistorical.

v. Doctrinal characteristics.—As stated above in § ii., one of the main impulses which led to the production of Apocryphal Gospels was the desire to establish peculiar tenets held in certain Christian circles. Gospels of this type, although professedly narratives of our Lord’s life and teaching, were in reality Tendenzschriften, doctrinal treatises conceived and written in the interests of a definite system of thought. Such were the numerous Gnostic Gospels, of which the smallest fragments remain. But even those Gospels in the production of which there was no deliberate dogmatic purpose, are doctrinally significant. It is true of them, equally with the canonical Gospels, that they were written in the interests of faith, ἐκ πίστεως εἰς πίστιν; the writers were not mere chroniclers of past events, giving information about One in whose life and personality they had no vital concern; they were believers, for whom Christ was Lord. The religious value which Jesus had for them, and the manner in which they conceived of His person, were reflected in their narrative of His life. However small the value of the writings may be as authentic sources of information regarding Jesus, they are interesting as showing by a side light what men thought about Him. How far the early Church as a whole was from any clear and uniform conception of Christ, is apparent from the Apocryphal Gospels. In them we have not only the reflexion of views representing the main stream of Christian thought, but also the foreshadowings of doctrines which later, in their developed form, were rejected as heretical.

The majority of the Apocryphal Gospels betray a heretical tendency, which varies broadly according as the Divine or the human nature of Christ is denied. On the one hand, there is the Ebionitic conception of Jesus, with its rejection of His heavenly origin; on the other, the Docetic, with its obscuration or denial of His true humanity. Both these opposing views find expression in the Apocryphal Gospels. The former is found in the Gospel according to the Hebrews and in the Gospel of the Twelve Apostles; the latter, somewhat veiled, in the Gospel of Peter, but fully developed in the Gnostic Gospels, in which the Saviour—the heavenly Christ—freed from the association with the phantasmal earthly Christ, and made the possessor of His full powers through the death and resurrection, declares the true wisdom to His disciples.

The Childhood Gospels stand in the main current of ecclesiastical doctrine in their view of the person of Christ. The Gospel of Thomas shows that the circles in which it found acceptance held to the doctrine of Christ’s human and Divine natures. There are traces that point to a Gnostic origin, and to a conception of Christ in which His true humanity was obscured; but in the later form in which it was current in the Church, the humanity and Divinity of our Lord are alike emphasized. The child Jesus is a boy among boys, taking His part in the usual games and occupations of childhood; and yet the belief in His supernatural dignity is evidenced by the extraordinary miracles attributed to Him, and by His astonishing knowledge, which drew the confession from His teacher: ‘This child is not earthborn; assuredly he was born before the creation of the world’ (ch. 7). The Protevangelium of James, too, it is clear, was written in the interests of orthodoxy, which were imperilled, alike by the belief current in Jewish-Christian circles that Joseph was the father of Jesus, and by the Gnostic doctrine that, in being born of Mary, Jesus did not partake of her human nature, but passed through her like water through a pipe (Epiphan. Hœr. 31. 7). In opposition to this double attack on the generally accepted doctrine, the writer of the Protevangelium, while not leaving it in doubt that Jesus was born as a human child (the infant took the breast from His mother), sought to make His Divinity secure by depicting Mary as holy from her birth, as fed only on angels’ food, as conceiving by the word of the Lord, as bringing forth her child in virginity, and as remaining a virgin to the end. It is noteworthy that, although the primary object of the Protevangelium was to safeguard the orthodox conception of Christ’s person against hostile attacks, the method adopted had the result of elevating Mary above the ordinary levels of humanity, and of initiating a movement which, deriving strength from other sources, terminated in the worship of Mary, the All-Holy mother of God.

vi. Influence.—Although after the 2nd cent. no Gospels were reckoned as authoritative except those now in the Canon, the Apocryphal Gospels continued to be read for purposes of edification, both in public and in private. Those which were distinctly heretical gradually disappeared as the power of the Church grew, while those which were of a type similar to the canonical Gospels were unable for any lengthened period to maintain their position alongside their authoritative rivals. Still we find that the Gospel according to the Hebrews was read in some quarters in Jerome’s day (end of 4th cent.), and was highly esteemed by that Father himself; while the vitality of the Gospel of Peter is evidenced by the fact that a large portion of it was placed in the grave of a monk in the early Middle Ages (8th–12th cent.). The popularity of the Childhood Gospels was remarkable, especially in the Churches of the East. There the Protevangelium was so highly prized as a book of devotion that it was used for reading in public worship, and furnished material for the homilies of preachers. Translations of it circulated in Syriac, Coptic, and Arabic, and, along with other childhood legends, its stories, often greatly embellished and exaggerated, found a place in a comprehensive Gospel of the Infancy and Childhood, the so-called ‘Arabic Gospel,’ which had a wide circulation not only in the Churches in the East, but in Mohammedan circles. Passages from the Protevangelium stand in the lectionaries of the orthodox Church, for use at the festivals held in honour of Mary and of her reputed parents, Joachim and Anna.

In the Western Church the Apocryphal Gospels were regarded with more suspicion. Towards the close of the 4th cent. their authority was repudiated in the plainest terms by Jerome and Augustine, the former characterizing certain stories as ex deliramentis apocryphorum petita (Tappehorn, Ausserbiblische Nachrichten, 15). On the other hand, their contemporaries, Zeno of Verona, and Prudentius, the greatest poet of early Christian times, drew from the Protevangelium in their works in praise of Mary. The combined influence of Jerome and Augustine, however, determined the ecclesiastical attitude to the Apocryphal Gospels, and the ban of the Church fell upon them under Damasus (382), Innocent I. (405), and Gelasius (496). In the long run this condemnation by ecclesiastical authority proved unavailing to check the popular appetite for the apocryphal legends; and by various devices the writings, which had incurred the censure of the Church, were brought back again into public circulation.

Harnack truly remarks that ‘the history of apocryphal literature is a proof that the prohibition of books is powerless against a pressing need. In all sections and in all languages of the Church this literature is perhaps the most strongly represented alongside of the canonical writings, in a form, as one would expect, that is always changing to suit the taste of the age. It was really apocryphal, that is to say, it had what may be termed a subterranean existence; but, suppressed and persecuted though it was, it always forced its way back to the surface, and at last the public tradition of the Church was defenceless against it’ (Gesch. d. altchr. Litt. i. lx. note 5).

Within a century after the Decretum Gelasii, Gregory of Tours in his book de Gloria Martyrum (i. ch. 4) had no scruples in using the extravagant legends contained in the ‘Transitus Mariae’; indeed, so little store was apparently set by ecclesiastical condemnation, that about 435, thirty years after the decree of Innocent i., a mosaic of the Annunciation in S. Maria Maggiore in Rome, prepared under the direction of Sixtus iii., embodied apocryphal details. Apocryphal writings are used by pseudo-Chrysostom (circa (about) 600); and in the epic poem of the nun Hroswitha († 968), entitled Historia nativitatis laudabilisque conversationis intactœ Dei genitricis, the material is in part drawn from the later Gospels of the Childhood. From the 12th cent. onwards, the Apocryphal Gospels afforded an inexhaustible mine for poets and minstrels in Germany, France, and England; and numerous miracle-plays represented incidents drawn from the same source. A powerful impulse was given to the spread of these legends by the Dominican Vincent de Beanvais, who in his work entitled Speculum Majus, published about the middle of the 13th cent., and translated in the following century into many languages, transcribed large portions of pseudo-Matthew and the Gospel of Nicodemus, etc. The latter half of the 13th cent. also saw the appearance of a collection of legendary Lives of the Saints, the Speculum Sanctorum, better known as the Golden Legend, written by another member of the Dominican order, Jacobus de Voragine, Archbishop of Genoa. This work, in which many of the apocryphal legends find a place, had an immense influence, there being manuscript translations extant in English, German, French, Italian, and Spanish. With the invention of the printing-press this influence was largely extended, the Legenda Aurea and Vincent’s Speculum being among the earliest books to be set up in type. From that time onwards, the stories of the Apocryphal Gospels have had an influence on popular Christianity in Catholic countries far exceeding that of the Biblical narrative.

Roman Catholic writers have denied their claim to be in any sense authoritative sources of Evangelic history, and have uttered warnings against their incautious use; an unfavourable judgment was passed upon them by the Papal Congregation of Rites as recently as 1884, in connexion with the proposal to celebrate in the following year the nineteen hundredth anniversary of the birth of Mary; but, all this notwithstanding, these apocryphal stories, likened by Harnack to twining plants which, when cut down, spring up again from beneath and choke much that is healthy, have securely rooted themselves in the popular imagination, and have been the fruitful source of many superstitious beliefs. Even Tappehorn, a Roman Catholic writer, who, in his scholarly treatise on The Apocryphal Gospels of the Childhood, etc., speaks with deep regret of the tendency to accept these writings as trustworthy historical sources, cannot resist the temptation to retain as much of their contents as has been taken up into ecclesiastical tradition. He accepts, for instance, as reliable, the names of Mary’s parents, the circumstances relating to her birth, her dedication to the Temple service, the marvellous story of her death, resurrection, and ascension, and declares that use of these apocryphal data may be made with an easy conscience for the purpose of religious edification (op. cit. 88).

The narratives of the Apocryphal Gospels have had an extraordinary influence on Christian art. Reference has already been made to the attraction which the legends had for poets from the earliest times, and especially since the date of the publication of the Legenda Aurea. (For details of the earlier poetry see von Lehner, Die Marienverchrung, 256 ff.). Sculpture and painting also owed many of their subjects to apocryphal sources, or were influenced in their treatment by apocryphal details. The history of Mary’s reputed parents, her service in the Temple, her betrothal to Joseph, the Annunciation, the Birth of Jesus in a cave, the Flight into Egypt, the Assumption of Mary—these and other incidents described in the Apocryphal Gospels were favourite themes of painters and sculptors, especially during the Renaissance.

A marble tablet of the 4th or 5th cent. in the crypt of St. Maximin in Provence, represents Mary in the attitude of prayer, with the inscription in barbarous Latin, MARIA VIRGO MINESTER DE TEMPUIO GEROSALE—‘The Virgin Mary, servant of the temple at Jerusalem’ (von Lehner, op. cit. 327). The events in the life of the Virgin, arranged in a series, were depicted by different painters of the Renaissance, one of the best known series being that by Taddeo Gaddi in the Baroncelli Chapel at Florence (Mrs. Jameson, Legends of the Madonna, Introd. iii). Mary’s presentation at the Temple, and her marvellous ascent of the Temple steps (narrated in pseudo-Matthew, ch. 4 and the Nativity, ch. 6), supply a subject for one of Titian’s masterpieces (in the Academy, Venice), while her marriage to Joseph is represented in many fine pictures, notably in Raphael’s beautiful early work (in the Pinacoteca, Milan). The Annunciation is a favourite theme in Christian art; in accordance with the narrative in the Protevangelium, Mary is represented either at the well with a pitcher of water or spinning wool for the veil of the temple (as in the mosaic, already referred to, in S. Maria Maggiore in Rome). Pictures of the Nativity betray the influence of the apocryphal stories; they show the mother and child and Joseph in a cave, where, according to the Protevangelium, Jesus was born; a dazzling light radiates from the face of the child; an ox and an ass (first mentioned in pseudo-Matthew) bow in adoration before Him—a frequent representation in early reliefs (von Lehner, op. cit. 314 ff.)—or in later pictures are introduced as mere picturesque details. An incident in the Flight to Egypt, the bending down of a palm-tree to yield its fruit to Mary, affords a subject for many beautiful works (e.g. by Pinturicchio, William Blake). The Assumption of Mary was frequently represented in paintings from the 10th cent, onward (e.g. Titian’s in the Academy, Venice; Botticelli’s in the National Gallery), while the consummation of her life is depicted in her coronation as Queen of Heaven (among others by Raphael, Fra Angelico, and Taddeo Gaddi). The second part of the Gospel of Nicodemus—The Descent into Hell—gives a subject to Fra Angelico (San Marco, Venice) and to Durer (in his series of woodcuts composing ‘The Little Passion’).

The narratives in the Koran about Jesus, who is regarded as a forerunner of Mohammed, are drawn largely from apocryphal sources, either directly from the so-called Arabic Gospel of the Infancy, or indirectly from the popular tales which had an apocryphal origin. An account is given, for instance, of Mary’s nativity,—in the Koran her parents are named Imran and Hanna,—of her dedication to the Temple, of the miraculous choice of Joseph to be her protector, etc. Jesus is represented as working miracles in His childhood; His making of birds out of clay (Gospel of Thomas) is mentioned. The Koran represents strongly Docetic views in its denial that Jesus died upon the Cross. In Sura 4. 156 the Jews are reported as saying: ‘We have killed the Messiah, Jesus, the Son of Mary, the Messenger of God’; to which the answer is immediately given: ‘Yet they did not kill and crucify Him, but a phantasm appeared to them.… In truth they did not kill Him, but God raised Him to Himself; for God is strong and wise.’ Other legends about Jesus, not mentioned in the Koran, were collected by Moslem commentators, notably by Kessaeus. See art. Christ in Mohammedan Literature in Appendix to vol. ii.

vii. Classification.—The classification here adopted follows that given by Harnack (Gesch. d. altchr. Litt. i. 4 f.) and by Tasker (Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible, Extra Vol. 422 f.).

A. Gospels of the Synoptic type, with some title to be regarded as embodying an early tradition.

1. Gospel according to the Hebrews.

2. Gospel according to the Egyptians

3. Gospel of Peter.

4. Fayûm Gospel Fragment.

5. Oxyrhyncus Gospel Fragment.

B. Heretical and Gnostic Gospels, written to establish peculiar conceptions of the person and life of Jesus.

1. Gospel of Marcion.

2. Gospel of the Twelve Apostles.

3. Gospel of Thomas.

4. Gospel of Philip.

C. Supplemental Gospels, written to throw light on the dark parts of Christ’s history.

(a) Gospels of the Childhood, together with those dealing with the parents of Jesus.

1. Protevangelium of James with the recensions—

(1) Gospel of pseudo-Matthew.

(2) Gospel of the Nativity of Mary.

2. Childhood Gospel of Thomas.

3. Arabic Gospel of the Childhood.

4. History of Joseph the Carpenter.

5. The Departure of Mary.

(b) Gospels dealing with the Passion and the post-Resurrection life of Jesus.

1. Gospel of Nicodemus.

2. Legend of Abgar.

D. Gospel Harmonies, in which several Gospels are worked together into one.

Gospel of Tatian (Diatessaron).

A. Gospels of the Synoptic Type, with Some Title to Be Regarded as Embodying an Early Tradition

A. 1. Gospel according to the Hebrews.—The earliest mention of this Gospel occurs in the Ὑπομνήματα of Hegesippus about the year 180 (Euseb. Historia Ecclesiastica iv. 22. 8). The name ‘according to the Hebrews’ is not original; in the circles in which the Gospel was current, it apparently had no distinctive name, that which it now bears having been given to it by outsiders, to indicate that it was the Gospel in use among Hebrew Christians, the descendants of the original Church in Judaea. There is some probability in the view, which is strongly advocated by Harnack (Chron. i. 637 f.), that the Gospel was in use in the Jewish-Christian community in Alexandria, and that the title was given to it to distinguish it from the Gospel used by the native Christian community, the Gospel according to the Egyptians. The language in which the Gospel was written (as we learn from Jerome, contra Pelag. iii. 2) was West Aramaic, the language of Christ and His Apostles,—a circumstance which betrays its influence on the narrative in the fact that the Holy Spirit is represented as female (‘My Mother the Holy Spirit,’ the Aramaic ruha being feminine). The Gospel was translated into Latin and Greek by Jerome, who had a very high opinion of it, and was inclined to regard it as the original Matthew; but it is more than probable that it had already circulated in a Greek version in different parts of the Church, and found considerable recognition. It was wrongly identified by Jerome with the Ebionitic Gospel—the Gospel of the Twelve Apostles, also attributed to Matthew—which was written originally in Greek, and was in use among the Gnostic Ebionites.

As the fragments which have been preserved to us show, the Gospel according to the Hebrews was of the Synoptic type. Whether it contained a story of the Nativity is uncertain, but (considering the Jewish-Christian standpoint of the book) highly improbable. Included, however, were the Baptism, the Temptation, the Lord’s Prayer, the Healing of the man with the withered hand, the pericope adulterae (or something similar), the injunction to forgive unto seventy times seven, the conversation with the Rich Young Ruler, the entrance into Jerusalem, the parable of the Pounds, the Trial, the denial of Peter, appearances after the Resurrection, and sayings of Jesus not elsewhere recorded. As a rule, the fragments show a somewhat closer resemblance to Mt. than to the other Synoptics, but there are also details which have their nearer parallels in Luke.

The divergences from the Synoptics are in several cases remarkable in character, and point, in the opinion of many scholars, to an earlier and more reliable tradition. In the narrative of the Baptism, Jesus, in answer to the proposal of His mother and brethren that they should go and be baptized by John for the remission of sins, says: ‘In what have I sinned, that I should go and be baptized by him? Unless perhaps this which I have said be ignorance,’—an utterance which is generally interpreted as meaning that Jesus, though conscious of no sin, was humble enough not to make the claim of sinlessness. (This passage, regarded by some as primitive and authentic, is better understood as the product of reflexion at a time when Christ’s baptism was felt to be a problem requiring solution. In the earliest days the presence of the problem was not felt. The writer of the Gospel, who holds to the sinlessness of Jesus, solves the difficulty by pointing to His deep humility).

After the Baptism, the descent of the Spirit is described with greater fulness than in the Synoptics; the dove is awanting, but the voice from heaven is put into the form of an utterance by the Spirit: ‘It came to pass, when the Lord was come up out of the water, that the whole fountain of the Holy Spirit came down and rested on Him and said unto Him, My Son, in all the prophets I awaited Thy coming, that I might rest on Thee. For Thou art my rest; Thou art my firstborn Son, who reignest for ever.’

A passage, which probably belongs to the narrative of the Temptation, reads: ‘The Lord said, Just now My mother, the Holy Spirit, seized Me by one of My hairs and bore Me away to the high mountain Tabor,’—a fantastic description on the model of Ezekiel 8:3 and Bel and the Dragon 36.

In the Lord’s Prayer the fourth petition runs: ‘Give us to-day our bread for to-morrow.’ In the Aramaic mahar (‘to-morrow’) we may have the word used by Jesus Himself; in which case ἐτιούσιος, translated ‘daily’ in Matthew 6:11, Luke 11:3, would be an adjectival form derived from ἡ ἐτιοῦσα (the following day). On the other hand, there are scholars who believe that the converse is the case, and that mahar is an attempt to give the meaning of ἑτιούσιος (Meyer in Henn. 18, Handb. 28 f.). The former alternative is the more probable.

The narrative of the healing on the Sabbath of the man with a withered hand represents the man as appealing to Jesus on the ground that he was a mason who earned his bread by working with his hands,—a detail which may well he authentic.

In the longest fragment of the Gospel we have a version of Christ’s interview with the Rich Young Ruler, which shows notable differences from the Synoptic account. Where the Synoptists speak of the rich man’s sorrow because of his inability to accept Christ’s terms, the Gospel according to the Hebrews, in vivid and homely language, represents him as showing astonishment and a touch of resentment: ‘(He) began to scratch his head, and it did not please him.’ Whereupon Jesus rebuked him for claiming to have fulfilled the law, when he had neglected offices of mercy and brotherly kindness: ‘How sayest thou, I have done the law and the prophets? Since it is written in the law, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself; and behold, many of thy brethren, the sons of Abraham, are covered with filth and are dying with hunger, while thy house is full of many good things, and nothing at all goes out of it to them.’ If this account is to be taken as genuine, it is clear that our estimate of the Rich Young Ruler’s character, based on the Synoptic tradition, will have to be considerably revised. It is, however, more probable that in this passage we have a mistaken combination of the story of the Rich Young Ruler with the parable of Dives and Lazarus related by Luke.

After the Resurrection, Jesus is represented as appearing first to James, to release him from a vow which he had taken at the Last Supper: ‘James had sworn that he would not eat bread from that hour, when he had drunk the Lord’s cup, until He should see Him risen from those that are asleep.’ This is an obviously later form of the tradition of Christ’s appearing to James, due most likely to the desire of Jewish Christians to exalt their head above the Apostles of Christ. It should be noted that James is here portrayed as one of Christ’s followers who partook of the Last Supper,—an unhistorical detail. There is probably a confusion between James the Just and James the brother of John, an inference borne out by the reference to drinking the lord’s cup (cf. Matthew 20:22).

Into the difficult question of the relation of the Gospel according to the Hebrews to the Synoptics, it is impossible in this article to enter with any fulness. That it is closely allied to them, especially to Mt., is clear from the character of the fragments. Three different solutions of the problem have been suggested, all of them supported by competent authorities. (1) Hebrews is held to be the original Aramaic Matthew (Hilgenfeld), or an elaboration of it (Zahn), and as such, the groundwork of our canonical Matthew. This view is now almost universally rejected. (2) Hebrews is held to be independent of the Synoptics, the affinity being explained by a common reliance on oral tradition. This view, which is the one at present most widely held, is strongly supported by Harnack, who goes so far as to express the hope (Chron. i. 645) that, after Zahn’s penetrating discussion of the question, no one will have the hardihood to repeat the statement that the Gospel according to the Hebrews is based on one or more canonical Gospels. That hope has not been realized. For (3) the view has recently been confidently advocated by Wernle (Synop. Frage, 248 ff.) that Hebrews is dependent on all the Synoptics, making use of Matthew, and in some cases combining the accounts of Matthew and Luke. Meyer (in Henn. 18) supports this view, and strongly emphasizes the secondary character of the Gospel. In this judgment the present writer is disposed to concur. It appears to him that all the facts of the case are satisfactorily explained, if we hold that the Gospel according to the Hebrews was written by one who used canonical Matthew (and Luke), and built up his Gospel on the basis of a separate tradition, under the influence of his own doctrinal prepossessions.

But even should the view of the Gospel’s independence be accepted, this does not necessarily imply that in it we are face to face with an earlier, or an equally early, stage of the primitive tradition. The realistic presentation, the fondness for little details, the quaint and, in some particulars, undignified language, which are characteristic of the Gospel, may possibly be indications that in some narratives we have the tradition in its original form; on the other hand, these features may with as much probability be due to later manipulation by popular evangelists. Details, such as Christ’s words before His baptism, which are by some regarded as primitive on the ground that they are of such a character that they could not have been added later, are believed by others (in our opinion more justly), to be products of an age of reflexion. Traces of a later age than that of the Synoptics are found in the Resurrection fragment: there is the unhistorical detail in reference to the appearing of Christ to James, and the later apologetic interest is shown in securing witness for the resurrection from the enemies of Christ. (After rising from the dead, Jesus handed the linen cloth to the servant of the high priest). The judgment is warranted that, while the Gospel according to the Hebrews probably retains in some points the freshness of the original tradition, it contains many elements that are secondary, and that, as a whole, it represents not an earlier, but a somewhat later stage of the Gospel tradition than the Synoptics. A date towards the end of the 1st cent. is probable.

On the view here taken of the Gospel according to the Hebrews, the value of its fragments as a source of the life of Jesus is inconsiderable. It cannot justly lay claim to be an authority, as Oscar Holtzmann regards it, on the same level as the Synoptics. Some sayings, however, ascribed to Christ and not elsewhere recorded, have a genuine ring, giving us, if not the ipsissima verba of Jesus, at least true echoes of His voice. Christ is represented as saying to His disciples: ‘Never be glad, except when ye look upon your brother in love,’—a singularly beautiful precept condemning Schadenfreude, the disposition to rejoice in another’s misfortune. The Gospel also reported a saying in which it was reckoned among the greatest offences that one should sadden the spirit of one’s brother. Another striking saying, quoted from this Gospel by Clement of Alexandria (Strom. ii. 9. 45) and accepted by many as substantially a genuine utterance of Jesus, runs as follows: ‘He that wonders shall reach the kingdom, and having reached the kingdom shall rest.’ In another passage (Strom. v. 14. 96) Clement records the saying in a longer form, which agrees almost verbally with one of the Oxyrhynchus sayings: ‘He who seeks shall not cease until he finds; and when he finds, he shall be astonished, and being astonished he shall reach the kingdom, and having reached the kingdom he shall rest.’

The ethical teaching of the Gospel, from all that we can gather, was in sympathy with the mind of Christ, stress being laid on brotherly love and forgiveness. Doctrinally, the Gospel occupies the position of the old Jewish Church. It exhibits Jesus as ‘the Messiah sent from God, not as the Son of God conceived of the Holy Ghost in a special sense, but as the long expected Messiah of David’s race, in whom prophecy finds its fulfilment’ (Handmann, TU [Note: U Texte und Untersuehungen.] v. 3, p. 125).

Literature.—Hilgenfeld, NT extra can. receptum, iv. p. 5 ff.; Nicholson, Gospel according to the Hebrews; Handmann, ‘Das Hebraer-evangelium’ (TU [Note: U Texte und Untersuehungen.] v. 3); Zahn, Gesch. d. NT Kanons, ii. 642 ff.; Harnack, Gesch. d. altchr. Litt. i. 6 ff., Chronologie, i. 631 ff.; Hennecke, NT Apokr. 11 ff., Handb. 21 ff.; Menzies in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible, Ext. Vol. 338 ff.; Adeney in Hibbert Journal, Oct. 1904.

A. 2. Gospel according to the Egyptians.—This Gospel, whose ancient date may be inferred from the fact that, like the Gospel according to the Hebrews, it bears no author’s name, was current in native Christian circles in Egypt. Our information regarding it is very slight: it is mentioned by Origen in his discussion of the prologue in Luke’s Gospel, and characterized by him, apparently on the ground of his own knowledge of it, as a heretical writing (‘Ecclesia quattuor evangelia habet, haereses plurima, e quibus quoddam scribitur “secundum aegyptios” ’—translation by Jerome). All that can with certainty be said to remain of the Gospel is a small group of sayings, recorded by Clement of Alexandria in treating of the attitude of different Christian communities to marriage. References to the Gospel are also found in Hippolytus (Philos. v. 7), who states that it was used by the sect of the Naassenes to support their peculiar views about the nature of the soul, and in Epiphanius (Hœr. 62. 2), who mentions its use by the Sabellians.

The fragments which remain are part of a conversation between Jesus and Salome, and are all of the same character, dealing with the transient (if not sinful) nature of the sex relations. They read as follows:

1. ‘Salome asked, “How long shall death reign?” The Lord answered, “So long as ye women give birth.” When Salome had said, “Then should I have done well, if I had not given birth?” the Lord answered, “Eat every plant, but that which is bitter, cat not” ’ (Clem. Alex. [Note: Alexandrian.] Strom. iii. 6. 45).

2. ‘When Salome inquired when those things [the coming of the Kingdom] should be, the Lord said, “When ye trample on the garment of shame, and when the two become one, and the male with the female, neither male nor female” ’ (Clem. Alex. [Note: Alexandrian.] Strom. iii. 13. 92).

3. ‘The Saviour said, “I came to destroy the works of the female” ’ (Clem. Alex. [Note: Alexandrian.] Strom. iii. 9. 63).

The Encratite tendency of these sayings is recognized by the majority of scholars, but is energetically denied by Zahn, who, however, rejects No. 3 as not having stood in the Gospel according to the Egyptians. If the third saying be put aside, it is certainly arguable that the first two do not go much farther in an ascetic direction than Matthew 22:30 (‘In the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels in heaven’). This view finds some support in the fragment of a Gospel discovered at Oxyrhyncus in 1903 (Grenfell and Hunt, New Sayings, 44). That Cassian, the Gnostic leader of the Encratites, from whom Clement quoted the sayings, used them to support his ascetic condemnation of marriage, is not decisive. It is noteworthy that Clement rejected Cassian’s interpretation, and understood the sayings in a mystical sense. If, however, the Encratite sense of the words be maintained, Harnack is certainly justified by Clement’s attitude in concluding that ‘Encratism cannot have been the aim of the Gospel, in fact cannot have been stamped upon it as its characteristic feature, but that probably only this one passage occurred in it which could be adduced in favour of the extreme ascetic practice’ (Chron. i. 616). That the Gospel contained much else that was entirely free from suspicion of heresy is probable; and this natural inference becomes a certainty, if we accept the widely received opinion, that the Gospel according to the Egyptians was used as a principal authority by the writer of the so-called Second Epistle of Clement of Rome (c. 170). In this writing, besides a passage closely reminiscent of the Gospel according to the Egyptians,* [Note: ‘The Lord Himself having been asked by some one, When will the kingdom come? said, When the two shall be one, and the outside as the inside, and the male with the female, neither male nor female’ (2 Clem. xii. 2).] there are several, containing sayings of Jesus, of which some show verbal agreement with the Synoptics, while others, with considerable divergences, are similar in character. On the assumption, which is possible though incapable of proof, that 2nd Clement drew the sayings of Jesus recorded by him from one main source, and this was the Gospel according to the Egyptians, Harnack based the conclusion that the Gospel ‘contained nothing heretical, else the Roman Church about 170 would certainly not have read it’; and, further, that it was an independent Gospel, having affinities with Matthew and Luke, and containing in some instances sayings in a form even more original than they (Chron. i. 619 f.). One must confess that so extremely favourable a judgment, reared on a somewhat uncertain basis, does not inspire entire confidence when over against it one places Origen’s view of the Gospel as heretical and its use by the Naassenes and Sabellians. While it may be allowed that there were probably passages in the Gospel which ranked it with the Synoptics, it seems clear that it showed affinities with the speculative teaching of Gnostic schools. It contained references to ‘manifold changes’ of the soul which were relied on by the Naassene sect in building up their system of thought; and Epiphanius in refuting the heresy of the Sabellians, who made use of the Gospel according to the Egyptians, declared that ‘there were in it many things put into the mouth of the Saviour, and said as in a corner mystically, such as His declaration to the disciples that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit were one and the same’ (Hœr. 62. 2).

With so little to rest a confident judgment on, it is extremely difficult to characterize this Gospel, but it may be near the truth to say that it was a Gospel of the Synoptic type with a slight Gnostic colouring.* [Note: Von Dohschütz (Die urchr. Gemeinden, 190) finds in the Gospel a trace of the Gnostic idea of the subversion of all ordinary standards of value, from which ‘it is only a short step to the perversion of all ethical conceptions.’ This view is justly opposed by Zahn (NT Kan. ii. 640).]

The disposition to refer to this Gospel isolated fragments and utterances of Jesus, such as the Fayûm Fragment and the Oxyrhyncus Sayings, is extremely hazardous. All that can with certainty be said is that some of the recently discovered sayings ‘belong to the same sphere of thought’ as the Gospel. Further than that it is impossible to go (see Grenfell and Hunt, New Sayings, 27 ff.).

The date of the Gospel is about the middle of the 2nd cent., probably between 130 and 150.

Literature.—Hilgenfeld, NT extra can. iv. 42 ff.; Harnack, Gesch. d. altchr. Litt. i. 12 ff., Chron. i. 612 ff.; Zahn, NT Kan. ii. 628 ff.; Volter, Petrusevangelium oder Aegypterevangelium, 1893; Schneckenburger, Ueber das Evangelium der Aegyptcr, 1834; Hennecke, NT Apokr. 21 ff., Handb. 38 ff.; Tasker, l.c. 423 ff.

A. 3. Gospel of Peter.—In his enumeration of Petrine writings, Eusebius mentions (Historia Ecclesiastica iii. 3) a Gospel which, along with the Acts, Preaching and Apocalypse of Peter, he declares to he spurious, and not considered authoritative by any ecclesiastical writer. Until fourteen years ago, our knowledge of the contents of the Gospel was of the scantiest description, being based on a slight reference by Origen, on a letter by Serapion, bishop of Antioch (end of 2nd cent.), and on a passage in Theodoret, now generally discredited, which states that the Nazarenes, who honoured Christ as a just man, used the Gospel according to Peter (Haer. Fabb. ii. 2). Origen’s reference (Com. in Matt. [Note: Matthew’s (i.e. prob. Rogers’) Bible 1537.] bk. x. 17) tells us nothing more than that those who believed the brethren of Jesus to be the sons of Joseph by a former wife relied on the Gospel of Peter and the Book of James; from which we infer that the Gospel contained the narrative of the Virgin-birth. From Serapion’s letter (part of it preserved in Euseb. Historia Ecclesiastica vi. 12), which was written to the Church in Rhossus in the diocese of Antioch, we gather the following facts about the Gospel. When on a visit to Rhossus, Serapion had the Gospel brought under his notice, as being the occasion of some ill-feeling in the Church. Not suspecting any heretical leanings on the part of those who were favourable to the Gospel, the bishop, without any careful examination of its contents, sought to establish peace by authorizing it to be read. Having learned afterwards that the Gospel had originated among the Docetae, he procured a copy from some members of that party, and found that, while it contained much true teaching, there were additions of a questionable character, to which he proceeded to call attention. Until recently this was all that was known of the Gospel of Peter; not a single fragment had been handed down; one could only gather that it was a Gospel with a slight Docetic colouring, but for the most part entirely orthodox.

Of this long lost Gospel we have now a fragment of considerable length dealing with the Passion and Resurrection of Christ. The fragment was found in the winter of 1886–1887 at Akhmîm, in Upper Egypt, by the French Archaeological Mission, and was published by M. Bouriant in 1892. The narrative claims to be the personal witness of the Apostle Peter, and reveals the Docetic tendency referred to by Serapion. The fragment begins at the end of the judgment-scene, after Pilate had washed his hands, and ends in the middle of a sentence, which introduces the narrative describing the appearance of Christ to His disciples at the Sea of Galilee. The nature of the contents can here only be indicated

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Gospels (Apocryphal)'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdn/g/gospels-apocryphal.html. 1906-1918.

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