2018 NASSCAL Conference: The Material of Christian Apocrypha


North American Society for the Study of Christian Apocryphal Literature

The Material of Christian Apocrypha

University of Virginia

November 2018

Confirmed speakers: Mary Cunningham (Nottingham), Maria Evangelatou (University of Southern California), Derek Krueger (UNC Greensboro), and Robin Jensen (Notre Dame)

We invite abstracts for a conference on the “Material of Christian Apocrypha,” hosted by the University of Virginia’s Department of Religious Studies and McIntire Department of Art, under the auspices of the North American Society for the Study of Christian Apocryphal Literature. We hope to assemble a group of participants who will address two interrelated yet distinct topics: 1) the physicality of our apocryphal texts (i.e. various aspects of the manuscripts or papyri themselves), and 2) the representation of apocryphal narratives in other forms of material culture (e.g. frescos, mosaics, sculptures, icons, pilgrimage objects, reliquaries, etc.). By drawing our collective attention to the material aspects of the literary and the literary aspects of the material, we hope to spark a fruitful and enduring exchange between scholars and students rooted in both areas. Questions to be posed include: What do the physical aspects of manuscripts and papyri tell us about the use and value of the apocryphal texts they contain? Which apocryphal traditions attain such a level of scriptural authority that they appear in art, iconography, church decoration, and biblical manuscript illuminations? What do discussions of images within apocryphal texts, such as the portrait of John the Apostle described in the Acts of John, or the “mandylion” (that is, the miraculous image of Jesus) described in the Doctrine of Addai) tell us about the importance of images in Christian piety? Given the ongoing composition, adaptation, and development of apocryphal narratives throughout late antiquity and the medieval period, what interplay between text and image can be observed? Note: we are eager to be surprised—to receive paper proposals that approach the topic in ways that have not occurred to us.

We welcome proposals from both established scholars and graduate students. Presenters must be prepared to circulate drafts of their papers to registered conference participants two weeks prior to the event. Pending the success of our funding applications, we plan to provide food and lodging to all participants. The conference will take place in late October or early November; the exact dates will be determined in February.

The conference will feature also the general meeting of NASSCAL, during which a new board of directors and executive will be selected by the members. For more information about the society, visit

Email abstracts for papers or panel proposals to Janet Spittler ( or Fotini Kondyli ( by March 1, 2018. Abstracts for papers should be approximately 300 words.

Download CFP as PDF


NASSCAL Member Publication: Rick Brannan’s 1 Apocryphal Apocalypse of John Reader

Rick Brannan. The First Apocryphal Apocalypse of John: A Greek Reader. Appian Way Greek Readers. Bellingham, WA: Appian Way Press, 2017.

The First Apocryphal Apocalypse of John, originally composed sometime between the 5th and 8th centuries, is an apocalypse structured as questions and answers with “John the Theologian” questioning the Lord Jesus. Several themes from the canonical book of Revelation are echoed. There are also several interactions with Psalms and New Testament material, and the vocabulary is largely that of the Greek New Testament.

In this Readers Edition, words from the Greek New Testament that occur 30 times or less are noted, with dictionary form, part of speech, and an English gloss. For further reading assistance, a lightly modernized version of Alexander Walker’s translation from the Ante-Nicene Fathers is included. A glossary of all noted Greek words is also included.

Order the book from Amazon HERE.

NASSCAL Member Publication: Robert Cousland’s Holy Terror

J. R. C. Cousland. Holy Terror: Jesus in the Infancy Gospel of Thomas. LNTS 560. London: T. & T. Clark, 2017.

Abstract: The Infancy Gospel of Thomas (or Paidika) is one of the most unusual gospels in the Christian tradition. Instead of revealing the compassionate Jesus so familiar to us from the biblical Gospels, it confronts its readers with a very different Jesus – a child who sometimes acts like a holy terror, killing and harming others for trifling faults. So why is Jesus portrayed as acting in such an ‘unchristian’ fashion? To address this question, Cousland focuses on three interconnected representations of Jesus in the Paidika: Jesus as holy terror, as child, and as miracle-working saviour. Cousland endeavours to show that, despite the differing character of these three roles, they present a unified picture. Jesus’ unusual behaviour arises from his ‘growing pains’ as a developing child, who is at the same time both human and divine. Cousland’s volume is the first detailed examination of the Christology of the Infancy Gospel of Thomas and provides a fresh and engaging approach to a topic not often discussed in representations of Jesus.

Additions to e-Clavis: Christian Apocrypha, October/November 2017

Four new entries have been added to e-Clavis: Christian Apocrypha, the comprehensive bibliography of Christian Apocrypha research assembled and maintained by members of NASSCAL. The new entries are:

Acts of Mar Mari by Jacob Lollar

Doctrine of Addai by Jacob Lollar

History of John (Syriac) by Jacob Lollar

Nativity of Mary by Brandon Hawk

Eight new entries have been added also to the Manuscripta apocryphorum resource (each entry highlights a manuscript with one or more apocryphal texts).

e-Clavis is always looking for volunteers to contribute entries for unassigned texts. Contact members of the editorial board for more information.

NASSCAL Members Publication: Christoph Markschies and Reidar Aasgaard in The Other Side

Tobias Nicklas, Candida R. Moss, Christopher Tuckett, and Joseph Verheyden, eds. The Other Side: Apocryphal Perspectives on Ancient Christian “Orthodoxies.”  NTOA 117. Göttingen: Vandenhoek & Ruprecht, 2017.

This collection of papers from a conference held in London on 3–5 July 2014 includes contributions by NASSCAL members Christoph Markschies and Reidar Aasgaard. For more information (including an excerpt), visit the V &R web site.

Abstract: Anyone who wishes to manage their sources adequately must work with categories that help to bring order to the transcribed material. In many cases, such categories simultaneously shape the way in which we evaluate our sources. Critical reflection of the chosen categories is therefore crucial for robust historical study. This rings especially true when certain categories are not viewed through neutral eyes, but through polemically judgemental eyes. One extreme case would be the category of “apocryphalness”. In some areas, associations like “fraudulent” versus and “secret” – interlinked to this term in Antiquity – are still shaping the way Christian apocrypha are considered to this day. Closely associated with this is the use of the adjectival categories like “(proto)-orthodox”, “majority church” versus those like “heretical” (again polemically pejorative). In their chapters, the contributors demonstrate not only how the set limits – as referred to the categories above – do indeed play a role, but more importantly, where these limits have been exceeded and where we must therefore work with new and different categories to understand the meaning of “apocryphal” writings and/or writings that have “become apocryphal” in terms of the history of an ancient Christianity perceived as multi-dimensional and dynamic. The following questions play a significant role in our understanding of this: In which contexts and by which groups are “newly apocryphal” writings used? Where do apocryphal writings or those “newly apocryphal” play a contextual role that would, nowadays, be perceived as “orthodox“? Which functions are assign thereto?


Christoph Markschies, “Models of the relation between ‘Apocrypha’ and ‘Orthodoxy’: From Antiquity to Modern Scholarship.”

Tobias Nicklas, “Beyond ‘Canon’: Christian Apocrypha and Pilgrimage.”

Ismo Dunderberg, “Recognizing the Valentinians–Now and Then.”

Petri Luomanen, “The Nazarenes: Orthodox Heretics with an Apocryphal Canonical Gospel?”

Reidar Aasgaard, “The Protevangelium of James and the Infancy Gospel of Thomas: Orthodoxy from Above or Heterodoxy from Below?”

Meghan Henning, “Lacerated Lips and Lush Landscapes: Constructing This-Worldly Theological identities in the Otherworld.”

Judith Hartenstein, “Wie ‘apocryph’ is das Evangelium nach Maria? Über die Schwierigkeiten einer Verortung.”

Jens Schöter, “The Figure of Seth in jewish and Early Christian Writings. Was There a ‘Sethian Gnosticism’?”

Christopher Tuckett, “What’s in a name? How ‘apocryphal’ are the ‘apocryphal gospels’?”

Candida R. Moss, “Notions of Orthodoxy in Early Christian Martyrdom Literature.”

Jacques van der Vliet, “The Embroidered Garment: Egyptian Perspectives on ‘apocryphicity’ and ‘orthodoxy’.”

Jan Dochhorn, “Menschenschöfung und urzeitlicher Teufelsfall in Überlieferungen der Falascha. Der erste Teil von Teezaza Sanbat in der von Halevy veröoofentlich Version.”

Basil Lourié, “Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, Nubia, and the Syrians.”

John Carey, “The reception of Apocryphal Texts in Medieval Ireland.”

NASSCAL Member Publication: Christopher Frilingos, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Family Trouble in the Infancy Gospels

Christopher A. Frilingos, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph: Family Trouble in the Infancy Gospels. Divinations: Rereading Late Ancient Religion. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017.

Jesus, Mary, and JosephAbstract: When Jesus was five he killed a boy, or so reports the Infancy Gospel of Thomas. A little boy had run into Jesus by accident, bumping him on the shoulder, and Jesus took offense: “Jesus was angry and said to him, ‘You shall go no further on your way,’ and instantly the boy fell down and died.” A second story recounts how Jesus transformed mud into living birds, while yet another has Joseph telling Mary to keep Jesus in the house so that no one else gets hurt. What was life really like in the household of Joseph, Mary, and little Jesus? The canon of the New Testament provides few details, but ancient Christians, wanting to know more, would turn to the texts we know as the “Infancy Gospels.”

The Infancy Gospel of Thomas is a collection of stories from the mid-second century C.E. describing events in the life of Jesus between the ages of five and twelve. The Proto-gospel of James, also dating from the second century, focuses on Mary and likewise includes episodes from her childhood. These gospels are often cast aside as marginal character sketches, designed to assure the faithful that signs of divine grace cropped up in the early years of both Mary and Jesus. Christopher A. Frilingos contends instead that the accounts are best viewed as meditations on family. Both gospels offer rich portrayals of household relationships at a time when ancient Christians were locked in a fierce debate about family—not only on the question of what a Christian family ought to look like but also on whether Christians should pursue family life at all.

Describing the conflicts of family life, the gospels present Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in moments of weakness and strength, reminding early Christians of the canyon separating human ignorance and divine knowledge. According to Frilingos, the depicted acts of love and courage performed in the face of great uncertainty taught early Christian readers the worth of human relationships.

Further information, including an excerpt, available at University of Pennsylvania Press.

Christian Apocrypha at the 2017 SBL

The program for the 2017 Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature is now available. The presentations focusing on Christian Apocrypha are collected below. Among the highlights this year are the book review panel for New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures, and the mysterious new text being announced by Brent Landau and Geoffrey Smith in the Nag Hammadi and Gnosticism session.

Christian Apocrypha Section sessions:

S18-118 Christian Apocrypha (9:00 AM to 11:30 AM)
Theme: Apocryphal Letters, Legends, and Sayings
Brent Landau, University of Texas at Austin, Presiding
Kimberly Bauser, Boston College: “Put on Your James Face: Pseudonymous Prosopopoeia and Epistolary Fiction in the Apocryphon of James
Phillip Fackler, University of Pennsylvania: “Survival of the Most Banal: Paul’s Letter to the Laodiceans and the Correspondence with Seneca
David P. Griffin, University of Virginia: “Psalm-Quotations in the Epistle of the Apostles and the state of Christian Psalmody in the Second Century”
Adam Carter McCollum, Notre Dame: “East of the Magi: An Old Uyghur (Turkic) Text on their Visit to the Young Jesus”
Jeremiah Bailey, Baylor University: “Male Angels, Resurrection Marriage, and Manly Mary: A Possible Connection Between GTh114 and the Synoptics”
Rick Brannan, Faithlife: “Sounding Biblical: The Use of Stock Phrases in Christian Apocrypha”

S19-330 Nag Hammadi and Gnosticism; Christian Apocrypha (Joint Session; 4:00 PM to 6:30 PM)
Theme: Coptic Apocrypha at Nag Hammadi and Beyond
Adeline Harrington, University of Texas at Austin, Presiding
Sarah Parkhouse, University of Durham: “Why Write a Post-Resurrection Dialogue?”
Janet Timbie, Catholic University of America: “Quoting the Prophet in the Epistle of the Apostles
Alin Suciu, Göttingen Academy: “‘There are many matters which the gospels passed by’: Apocryphal Texts in Coptic Monasticism”
Hugo Lundhaug, Universitetet i Oslo: “Textual Fluidity and Exegetical Creativity in the Investiture of Michael the Archangel
Lance Jenott, Princeton University: “Charity, Rewards, and Punishments in The Investiture of the Archangel Gabriel
Lloyd G Abercrombie, University of Oslo: “The Mysteries of John: The Content and Context of a Manuscript from Early Islamic Egypt”

S20-111 Christian Apocrypha (9:00 AM to 11:30 AM)
Theme: Panel Review of New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures (Eds. Tony Burke and Brent Landau; Eerdmans, 2016)
Lily Vuong, Central Washington University, Presiding
Panelists: David Brakke (Ohio State University), Philip Jenkins (Baylor University), Valentina Calzolari Bouvier (University of Geneva), Julia Snyder (Universität Regensburg), J. Gregory Given (Harvard University), Judith Hartenstein (Universität Koblenz – Landau), Christoph Markschies (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin – Humboldt University of Berlin)
Respondents: Tony Burke (York University), Brent Landau (University of Texas at Austin)

Additional Nag Hammadi and Gnosticism papers:

S18-330 Nag Hammadi and Gnosticism (4:00 PM to 6:30 PM)
Tuomas Rasimus, Helsingin Yliopisto – Helsingfors Universitet, Presiding
Carl Johan Berglund, Uppsala University: “Discerning Quotations from Heracleon in Origen’s Commentary on the Gospel of John”
Forrest A.B. Kentwell, University of Groningen: “Re-envisioning ‘Light’ and ‘Death’ in the Gospel of Thomas: A Demiurgical Myth?”
Kristine Toft Rosland, University of Agder: “Reading the Apocryphon of John through the frame narrative”
Austin Busch, College at Brockport: “Greek Philosophical Circles and Gnostic Scriptural Interpretation”
Eric Crégheur, Université d’Ottawa – University of Ottawa: “The Celestial Topography of the ‘Untitled Text’ of the Bruce Codex”
Geoffrey Smith, University of Texas at Austin and Brent C. Landau, University of Texas at Austin: “Nag Hammadi at Oxyrhynchus: Introducing a New Discovery”

And there are a variety of additional papers on apocryphal texts in other sessions:

S18-112 Archaeology of Religion in the Roman World (9:00 AM to 11:30 AM)
Paula Tutty, University of Oslo: “Monks, materiality and manuscripts: putting early Coptic codices into their social context”

S18-133 Letters of James, Peter, and Jude (9:00 AM to 11:30 AM)
Rebecca Skaggs, Patten University and John Skaggs, Patten University: “Christ’s Visit to Hades or the Harrowing of Hell: The Effects of 1 Peter 3: 18-22 on Theology, Culture, Literature and Art”

S19-114 Corpus Hellenisticum Novi Testamenti (9:00 AM to 11:30 AM)
Janet Spittler, University of Virginia: “Joking and Play in the Acts of John

S19-155 Wisdom and Apocalypticism; Nag Hammadi and Gnosticism (9:00 AM to 11:30 AM)
René Falkenberg, Aarhus Universitet: “Wisdom Speculation from Wisdom of Solomon to Wisdom of Jesus Christ

S19-203 Ancient Fiction and Early Christian and Jewish Narrative (1:00 PM to 3:30 PM)
Eric M. Vanden Eykel, Ferrum College: “‘Then Suddenly, Everything Resumed Its Course’: The Suspension of Time in the Protevangelium of James Reconsidered”

S19-324 Jewish Christianity / Christian Judaism (4:00 PM to 6:30 PM)
Benjamin M. De Vos, Universiteit Gent: “Paganism and Jewish-Christian identity in the Pseudo-Clementines: An Analysis of the Disputes between Appion and Clement”
Stanley Jones, California State University – Long Beach: “The Dispute with Appion in Recent Research”

S20-223 Johannine Literature (1:00 PM to 3:30 PM)
Karen L. King, Harvard University: “The Gospel of Mary reads the Gospel of John”

S18-145 Rhetoric of Religious Antiquity (9:00 AM to 11:30 AM)
Sheila E. McGinn, John Carroll University: “Gender and Virginity in the Acts of Paul and Thecla
Lily Vuong, Central Washington University: “The Testing of Mary: Virginity and Gender in the Protevangelium of James

S18-309 Children in the Biblical World (4:00 PM to 6:30 PM)
Anna Rebecca Solevåg, VID Specialized University: “Absence and Presence of Children in the Apocryphal Acts”

S19-308 Book History and Biblical Literatures (4:00 PM to 6:30 PM)
Gregory Fewster, University of Toronto: “3 Corinthians among the Pauline Textual Tradition: Ancient Manuscripts, Modern Publishing, and the Demands of Textual Materiality”

S19-335 Redescribing Early Christianity (4:00 PM to 6:30 PM)
Mark Letteney, Princeton University: “Authoritative Forgeries and Authentic Apocrypha in Late Antiquity”
Anna Cwikla, University of Toronto: “The Coptic Apocalypse of Peter as a Pseudepigraphon”

S20-206 Bible and Visual Art (1:00 PM to 3:30 PM)
Geert Van Oyen, Université catholique de Louvain: “The Pictorial Representation of the Infancy Gospel of Thomas in the Klosterneuburger Evangelienwerk (ca. 1340)”
Rebecca Skaggs, Patten University and John Skaggs, Patten University: “The Harrowing of Hell (1 Peter 3:18-22): Theological Observations from the Consideration of its Reception History in Art”

S20-321 Greco-Roman Religions (4:00 PM to 6:30 PM)
Travis Proctor, Northland College: Of Landscapes and Legacies: “The Reconfiguration of Cultic Space in the Acts of John

Additions to e-Clavis: Christian Apocrypha, August 2017

Five new entries have been added to e-Clavis: Christian Apocrypha, the comprehensive bibliography of Christian Apocrypha research assembled and maintained by members of NASSCAL. The new entries are:

Acts of Barnabas by Tony Burke, based upon work by Glenn E. Snyder

Apocalypse of the Virgin by Tony Burke, based upon work by Stephen Shoemaker

Epistle of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite to Timothy by David L. Eastman

Legend of Aphroditianus by Tony Burke, based upon work by Katharina Heyden

Life and Conduct of the Holy Women Xanthippe, Polyxena and Rebecca by David L. Eastman

Several new entries have been added also to the Manuscripta apocryphorum resource (each entry highlights a manuscript with one or more apocryphal texts).

e-Clavis is always looking for volunteers to contribute entries for unassigned texts. Contact members of the editorial board for more information.

NASSCAL Member Publication: Daniel Gullota and Stephen Hüller, “Quentin Quesnell’s Secret Mark Secret”

Stephen Hüller and Daniel Gullota, “Quentin Quesnell’s Secret Mark Secret: A Report on Quentin Quesnell’s 1983 trip to Jerusalem and his inspection of the Mar Saba Document.” Vigiliae Christianae 71.4 (2017): 353–78.

Image result for vigiliae christianaeAbstract: Unbeknownst to most, in June of 1983, Quentin Quesnell made a visit to Jerusalem in order to personally inspect the Mar Saba document known as the Letter to Theodore. This is significant because it adds Quesnell to a small group of people who have testified to have seen the Letter to Theodore in person, and an even smaller group who have commented on its appearance and contents first-hand. Following Quesnell’s death in 2012 many of his personal belongings were acquired by Smith College (Northampton) and recently released to the public for viewing. Among Quesnell’s belongings was a journal full of notes, along with photos and letters to his wife Jean Higgins, all relating to Morton Smith’s discovery of the Letter to Theodore at Mar Saba and to Quesnell’s 1983 visit to Jerusalem. On the basis of these documents the following article offers a summary of Quesnell’s part in the debate over Smith’s discovery and a report of his inspection of the manuscript.


NASSCAL Member Publication: Tony Burke, The Syriac Tradition of the Infancy Gospel of Thomas

Tony Burke, ed. and trans. The Syriac Tradition of the Infancy Gospel of Thomas: A Critical Edition and English Translation. Gorgias Eastern Christian Studies 48. Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2017.

Abstract: The Infancy Gospel of Thomas, like many apocryphal gospels, has been much transformed over the course of its transmission. Though composed in Greek in the second century, the gospel is extant in a number of other languages and a myriad of forms. The most well-known form is a 19-chapter version in Greek based on late manuscripts (none earlier than the fourteenth century); but it is now widely-believed among scholars of the text that a shorter 16-chapter version preserved in Syriac, Latin, Ethiopic, and Georgian manuscripts is closer to the gospel’s original form. Of these manuscripts, those in Syriac are by far the most important: two of them are very early (fifth/sixth centuries) and thus their text has undergone fewer changes than the texts of the other witnesses. The study of the Infancy Gospel of Thomas will benefit greatly from a critical edition of the Syriac tradition.  Syriac studies would also benefit as the gospel was very popular in the Syrian milieu where it generated a number of further translations (an Arabic Infancy Gospel of Thomas, and sections incorporated into the Arabic Infancy Gospel and the Armenian Infancy Gospel) and became incorporated into two popular Life of Mary collections. The present volume includes a history of scholarship on the Syriac Infancy Gospel of Thomas, a description of the extant manuscripts (now numbering over twenty and divided into three recensions), and editions and translations of each recension of the text.

See the catalog page at Gorgias Press and download this preview of the table of contents and introduction.