In this post I want to focus on three very fine volumes on the so-called New Testament Apocrypha. Plus a class German work by Henneke-Schneemelcher
The terminology in my field of New Testament Studies is a real nettle bush. Am I a “Biblical Scholar,” a specialist in “Christian Origins, a “Historian of Ancient Mediterranean Religions,” a specialist in “ancient Greco-Roman Literature,” or maybe Late Second Temple Judaism, el al. I could go on and on. My Ph.D. from the university of Chicago was in Humanities, not the Divinity School. So first and foremost I do history, literature, primary sources, material culture.
Likewise when it comes to terms like Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, and Apocryphal, Apostolic Fathers, Nag Hammadi Codices–equally confusing and overlapping. So we have the “extra” books of the Catholic Canon, commonly called the Apocrypha. Also the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, as well as the New Testament Apocrypha. The terms reflect long abandoned presuppositions about these text–all lumped together over against the “true inspired” books of the Bible! They basically mean these writings as “false” and “legendary,” as if nothing in the Bible might be seen so.
Nonetheless when it comes to all these books, which editions are the best? In this post I want to focus on four very fine collections of the so-called New Testament Apocrypha.
The oldest classic collection of is by M. J. James, The New Testament Apocrypha (Apocryphile Press, 2004). This is of course a reprint as the original was published in 1924. Generations of folks have used it now for nearly 100 years. I still love my well-worn copy.
Then there is the more recent volume by the inestimable J. K. Elliot, The Apocryphal New Testament: A Collection of Apocryphal Christian Literature (Oxford University Press, who gives full credit to M. J. James for his English translation, but this volume revises translations and offers updated introductions and bibliography.
Finally, there is multi-volume collection, with volume 1 edited by the quite amazing Tony and Brent Landau, New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures (Eerdmans, 2016), with an introduction by none other than J. K. Elliot. It runs 635 pages. It is just what the title says–more–so it does not supersede or replace James/Elliot–but moves us into a completely new world of fascinating Christian Apocryphal literature–never before translated or published! We now have two additional volumes edited by Tony Burke, Vol. 2 (625 pages) and Vol. 3 (713 pages). Who could have imagined such a wealth of additional materials.
I would recommend all six of these books, but if you have to choose, Elliot’s single volume would be a first choice–and James if you like “collectors’s items” as I do.
There is one final more complex set of volumes–they originally appeared in German and in the old days, in graduate school, we just called it Hennecke-Schneemelcher–for Edgar Hennecke and William Schneemelcher, but the English was translated by R. Mcl. Wilson, New Testament Apocrypha trans. by R. Mcl. Wilson (Westminster, 1963). Both of those have now been revised by Schneemelcher and you can get Vol 1 or Vol 2 in hardcover or paperback, also published by Westminster in 1992. I have both of these editions and treasure them greatly. The notes and introductions, bibliographies are superb.
So there you have it…for a budget minded person I would get J. K. Elliot and the first volume of Burk and Landau, and then go from there.
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