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The Other Gospels: Additional Portraits of Jesus

  1. Key Topics/Themes
    1. Diversity of Gospels produced in early Christian period
    2. Reflect great diversity of views about the nature of Jesus and his message
    3. Three classes of early, non-canonical Gospels
      1. Complete Gospel document
      2. Fragmentary Gospels
      3. Infancy Gospels

  2. Introduction
    1. The composite portrait of Jesus assumed by casual readers of the four canonical Gospels
    2. The actual uniqueness of each canonical Gospel
    3. Other Gospels produced in first three centuries C.E.
    4. A reflection of the early fluidity of Christian belief and practice
    5. The early use of edited versions of the canonical Gospels
      1. Gospel of the Nazareans (Aramaic revision of Matthew)
      2. Marcion's canon (included edited version of Luke)
      3. Tatian's Diatessaron

  3. The Gospel of Thomas
    1. Discovery among the Nag Hammadi documents
    2. Consists of 114 sayings of Jesus
    3. The ostensible author: Didymos Thomas
      1. Reference to Thomas mentioned in Gospel of John
      2. Reserves highest praise for James "the Just," leader of the Jerusalem church
    4. Thomas's diverse contents
      1. 79 of 114 sayings in Thomas resemble Synoptic Gospel material
        1. Some parallels remarkably close
        2. Other sayings not parallel and very enigmatic in character
      2. Possible Gnostic orientation of some sayings
      3. Lack of highly developed Christology
      4. Jesus as wisdom sage rather than savior who dies for sins of the world
    5. Independence of the canonical Gospels
      1. Strong possibility of Thomas preserving forms of Jesus' sayings earlier than the Synoptic versions
      2. Negative attitude toward women
    6. Significance of Gospel of Thomas
      1. Scholars uncertain of historical authenticity of its materials
      2. Demonstrates existence of early Christian communities who saw Jesus only as wisdom sage

  4. Secret Mark
    1. Jesus like other ancient teachers in reserving special teachings for his closest followers
    2. Clement of Alexandria: special version of Gospel of Mark that contained Jesus' secret teachings to his inner circle
    3. Copy discovered in 1958
    4. Parallels between resuscitation story in Secret Mark and raising of Lazarus in John 11

  5. The Gospel of Peter
    1. A version of the Passion of Jesus
    2. Close parallels with Gospel of Matthew
    3. Includes scene of Jesus' actual resurrection from the dead
    4. Scholarly debates about the document's origins and significance
      1. Most scholars: Gospel of Peter dependent upon canonical Gospel accounts
      2. John Dominic Crossan: Gospel of Peter preserves earliest account of Jesus' Passion

  6. Gospels about Jesus' Infancy and Childhood
    1. The Infancy Gospel of Thomas
      1. Dated ca. 150 C.E.
      2. Portrays the child Jesus as using divine power selfishly and vindictively
      3. Shows Jesus growing in maturity and awareness of the need to use his powers for good
    2. The Infancy Gospel of James
      1. Also known as the Protoevangelium of James
      2. Focuses on the personal history of Mary, mother of Jesus
      3. Mary the result of a miraculous birth
      4. Mary a descendant of King David
      5. Joseph as Mary's guardian, not her husband
      6. Mary a perpetual virgin
      7. Contributed significantly to Mariology in Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches

  7. Summary:
    1. Demonstrates that early church did not settle quickly on a single view of Jesus
    2. Demonstrates early competition between competing views of who Jesus was
    3. Debate settled in fifth century with establishment of a doctrinal orthodoxy that condemned competing theological views about Jesus

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