The Apocryphal Gospels: A Very Short Introduction

ISBN : 9780199236947

Paul B. Foster
160 Pages
112 x 174 mm
Pub date
Feb 2009
Very Short Introductions


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  • An accessible guide to the history, meaning, and interpretation of the Apocryphal Gospels
  • Shows how close analysis of text, contents and context are vital in assessing the value and authenticity of such ancient and valuable texts.
  • Discusses the limitations of using the apocryphal gospels to reconstruct an accurate portrait of the historical Jesus - and sets this against the limitations of using the New Testament gospels.

This Very Short Introduction offers a clear, accessible, and concise account of the apocryphal gospels - exploring their origins, their discovery, and discussing how the various texts have been interpreted both by the Church and beyond.
Looking at texts from the Gospels from Nag Hammadi to the Dialogues with the Risen Saviour, Paul Foster shows how the apocryphal gospels reflect the diversity that existed within early Christianity, and examines the extent to which they can be used to reconstruct an accurate portrait of the historical Jesus. Including discussions of controversies and case-studies such as the alleged hoax surrounding the discovery of Secret Mark, Foster concludes that the non-canonical texts, considered in the correct context, offer us an important window on the vibrant and multi-faceted face of early Christianity.


1: The Apocryphal Gospels - What's in a Name?
2: The 'Gospels' from Nag Hammadi
3: The Infancy Gospels
4: Gospels set during the Earthly Life of Jesus
5: Secret Revelations and Post-Resurrection Dialogues
6: Insights from the Non-Canonical Gospels
Further Reading

About the author: 

Paul Foster is Lecturer in New Testament Language, Literature & Theology, University of Edinburgh. His publications include Community, Law and Mission in Matthew's Gospel, (Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2004); The So-called Gospel of Peter - An Introduction and Commentary (Oxford: OUP, 2007) in preparation. The Writings of the Apostolic Fathers (London: Continuum, 2006), an edited collection of essays; Justin and his Worlds (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2007), a collection of articles edited with Dr Sara Parvis.

""Very Short" could just as truthfully be described as "Very Informative"... Illuminating and accessible." - Methodist Recorder

"He writes with elegance and clarity, and presents... complex arguments... with simplicity and grace." - John Drane, Baptist Times

"Fascinating reading." - David Sexton, Evening Standard

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