The Other Gospels: Accounts of Jesus from Outside the New Testament 1st Edition
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About the Author
Bart D. Ehrman is James A. Gray Distinguished Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is the author of numerous volumes on the early Christian Church.
Zlatko Plese is Associate Professor of Ancient Mediterranean Religions at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is the author of Poetics of the Gnostic Universe: Narrative and Cosmology in the Apocryphon of John.
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As far as the books themselves... there's a range. The earlier texts are fascinating - the idea that there are parchment fragments that contain possibly authentic sayings of Jesus that have not come down to us in the canonical gospels was awe-inspiring. I greatly enjoyed the agrapha, the Gospel of Thomas, and other first- or second-century works, some of which contain familiar sayings of Jesus but in longer form (giving more context, if authentic) or sayings we had lost altogether. I tried to maintain a cautious skepticism - these documents didn't make the canon in any church in antiquity - but if even a few of these extra details are legitimate, they are giving us a further glimpse at Jesus' words and actions, and that is beyond fascinating.
The further out from the first century you go, the more this stuff reads like fan fiction, though. The infancy narratives prove that people were making goofy prequels long before George Lucas - with some of the same tendencies to insert appearances from later characters, etc. There is a cycle from the medieval era that is Tarantino-esque gruesome revenge fiction against Pilate and the Sanhedrin for their part in crucifying Jesus. Whoever wrote a series of stories devoted to bloodily avenging Jesus' death *definitely* missed the point of his nonviolent surrender in the New Testament. And the gnostic gospels (Judas and Mary in particular) are predictably full of bizarre astrology and cosmic weirdness.
Overall, an excellent collection, even if my personal level of interest sort of waxed and waned between different gospels.