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The Apocryphal Jesus: Legends of the Early Church [Abridged] [Paperback]

J. K. Elliott
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Book Description

4 Jan 1996
Jesus' birth in a cave, his childhood, escapades, his secret sayings, and his descent to the underworld; the torments in Hell; Saint Paul baptizing a lion; the death of Pontius Pilate and Saint Peter being crucified upside down. These are among the fascinating stories found in this present selection. They all come from early Christian legends which did not get into the Bible, yet have had a profound influence on art, literature, and theology from the second century through the Middle Ages and even modern times. Some of the stories included here, especially those involoving the Virgin Mary, have affected matters of doctrine; others have influenced the church's teaching on the after life - whilst from the apocryphal Acts there are some of the best examples of accounts of the lives of Christianity's earliest saints. In this book Dr Elliott provides introductions to each of the most important and significant of these remarkable and often bizarre apocryphal texts.

Product details

  • Paperback: 220 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford; Abridged edition edition (4 Jan 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0198263848
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198263845
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 13.9 x 1.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,188,896 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description


"This is an excellent collection..."--Professor Keith A. Burton, Oakwood College"A well selected series of texts from a widely neglected body of early Christian literature. This book will serve as a useful introduction to the New Testament apocrypha for anyone interested in popular spirituality during the time in which the New Testament canon took shape."--Frank Thielman, Associate Professor of the New Testament, Beeson Divinity School"A convenient selection of excerpts from his erudite and invaluable The Apocryphal New Testament. A nice handbook for students, as well as an invitation to the larger work."--Roy D. Wells, Professor of Religion, Birmingham Southern College."..informative and well designed to introduce someone to a broad sampling of Apocryphal literature."--Gary Derickson, Western Baptist College"An excellent low-cost collection."--Michael T. McEwen, St. Gregory's College

About the Author

J. K. Elliott is Reader in Textual Criticism for the Department of Religious Studies and Theology at the University of Leeds. He also edited The Apocryphal New Testament: A Collection of Apocryphal Christian Literature in an English Translation (OUP, 1994).

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In this section stories about Jesus' birth, childhood, ministry, death, and descent to Hades are included. Read the first page
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Jeremy Bevan TOP 500 REVIEWER
Interest in what texts outside the New Testament have to say about Jesus has seldom been higher than it is now. And in this slim volume of a little over 200 pages, J. K. Elliott has assembled over thirty-five extracts from such documents, giving fascinating insights into how people from the second century onwards into the medieval period embroidered on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and the lives of his first followers. For example: alongside quite well-known apocryphal Gospel texts like the Infancy Gospel of James and Pseudo-Matthew (source for the oxen and ass who crop up in so many Christmas card nativity scenes), there are excerpts from the Gospel of Nicodemus. This, and some of the lengthy extracts from the apocryphal Acts of the Apostles, show a preoccupation with earthly powers and the representatives of the ruling class - especially Pilate - that surely reflects the early church's increasingly complex relationship with earthly authorities.

The book is clearly organised and well-structured. Each of the 19 sections has a short thematic introduction, followed by a series of extracts, each long enough to give a flavour of the work from which it is taken. There's a helpful index, and a short bibliography of scholarly further reading. Elliott's book is likely to be a valuable guide to what he describes in his epilogue as `no mere side-show in the development of the church, but indispensable guides, giving an insight into post-Biblical Christianity' (211). Thoroughly recommended.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Boring 24 April 2004
By Jason - Published on
While some of the stories do tend to be moderately entertaining, this book consists mainly of nice safe stories that are often simply speculation on (and expansion of) stories found in the canonized New Testament. Even the Gospel of Thomas is reduced down to sayings that can pretty much be found in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The author/editor goes to lengths to avoid anything Gnostic or otherwise "heretical" and always warns the reader if something that comes close to that category will be mentioned. Basically it is just clean and friendly reading for the cautiously rebellious Christian. No worries of burning in hell for reading this one. In fact, you might as well just read the New Testament again.
The one slightly redeeming quality, which was likely not intended, is that it allows the reader to see where the roots of much anti-Semitism and persecution of all non-Christian thought has it's origin. More than a few of the stories harp on how evil Jews are or how stupid Pagans are.
7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Colourful and entertaining 12 Feb 1998
By A Customer - Published on
The Apocryphal Jesus is a wonderful and colourful collection of stories gleaned around the early Church. I found much that I hadn't come across before. If it were only for this it would be worth buying, but it is more. Elliott has done a masterful job in clearly presenting the stories against their contemporary settings. However, after reading the wonderful and revelatory account of "The Autobiography of Jesus of Nazareth and the Missing Years" by Richard G. Patton I now view most 'authenticated' offerings around the man we know as Jesus with a degree of skepticism. Elliott's "Apocryphal Jesus" is a colorful delight but is up against the wonderful and profound offering by Richard G. Patton.
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