The Apocryphal Jesus

Course No. 6371
Professor David Brakke, Ph.D., M.Div.
The Ohio State University
Share This Course
4.6 out of 5
69 Reviews
92% of reviewers would recommend this product
Course No. 6371
Streaming Included Free

What Will You Learn?

  • numbers Gain new insights into early Christianity by studying non-canonical texts that help you fill in the critical gaps and resolve New Testament contradictions
  • numbers Study a wide range of apocryphal literature to learn more about the Jesus, his family and the apostles (as though they were characters in a novel)
  • numbers Deepen your knowledge of early Christian history and theology, including an introduction to key writers and church leaders

Course Overview

The New Testament gives us 27 canonical texts—gospels, letters, and more—but these works are only a tiny fraction of the many volumes written about the life of Jesus, his family, and the apostles. This alternative body of literature falls under the category of “apocrypha,” which means “hidden” or “secret,” and it offers fascinating insights into the early Christian world and how different groups understood the teachings of Jesus and the first apostles.

These early Christian apocryphal works, which range from infamous texts such as the Gospel of Thomas to obscure fragments such as the Gospel According to the Egyptians, are more than historical curiosities. The canonical Bible is one of the most influential books in all of Western history, but you might be surprised to find out how many gaps and contradictions the New Testament contains. For instance, if you only read the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, you might wonder:

  • Why does the Catholic Church venerate the Virgin Mary when she plays such a surprisingly minor role in the canonical gospels?
  • How did many come to believe that three wise men visited the infant Jesus? And who were they and where did they come from?
  • Where did the story of Peter’s upside-down crucifixion come from?

Much of what we know about Jesus today actually comes from apocryphal sources rather than the Bible. The Apocryphal Jesus is your chance to learn about the breadth and depth of the early Christian world from a variety of sources—many of which were considered heretical at various times in history. Over the course of 24 revealing lectures, Professor David Brakke of The Ohio State University takes you on a tour of this world and surveys the major apocryphal works that have survived. From forged letters to recently discovered gospels, The Apocryphal Jesus explores the stories and ideas that shaped the foundations of early Christian thought—and continue to influence Christianity today.

Deepen Your Understanding of Figures from the New Testament

In the early centuries of Christianity, there was a concerted effort among church leaders to shape a single narrative, which led to the New Testament canon. Because it has widely been accepted as the official version of Christian doctrine, we tend to think of the New Testament as complete and comprehensive—which you will discover is far from the truth. Early Christian writing contained genres galore, including:

  • Gospels
  • Letters
  • Novels
  • Apocalypse narratives
  • And more

Early Christian authors wrote reams of literature about Jesus, his family, and the apostles, drawing from an even larger oral tradition. Because of the sheer volume of this material, these writers often struggled to create a signal through the noise, with some writers resorting to penning forged works under the guise of better known figures, including Paul and even Jesus himself. Other writers declared their works “secret” or “hidden” as a way to drum up interest.

Even though only a tiny portion of apocryphal works survive today—many as mere fragments discovered recently in the 20th and even 21st centuries—reviewing this literature gives us a host of new angles on well-known figures from the Bible, as well as insights that can’t be found anywhere in the New Testament. In this course, you will:

  • Examine the cult of Mary and her special status in the Church through the Proto-Gospel of James and the Gospel of Mary.
  • Consider how Mary could be a virgin while married to Joseph—and why Joseph seems to disappear from the record of Jesus’ life and where he may have been.
  • Explore what Jesus may have been like as a boy, and learn how he may have debate the apostles through various “dialogic gospels” and “agrapha” during his ministry.
  • Re-consider Judas Iscariot with the Gnostic vision presented in the Gospel of Judas.
  • Learn about the strengths and weakness of Peter as he performs miracles and is ultimately martyred in the Gospel of Peter and Acts of Peter.

By studying these works and more, you will fill in many of the gaps and resolve contradictions from the New Testament. Not only will you learn more about the names you already know, you will also see how the ideas from these works made their way into mainstream Christian belief, even if they were excluded from the Bible itself.

Gain New Insights into Early Christian Thought and Culture

Professor Brakke explores a wealth of apocryphal narratives, giving you deep insights into the stories and ideas of the early Christian era that were omitted from the accepted version of the New Testament. For instance, in the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, you will meet Jesus as a child and see that, while he may always have had a spark of the divine inside him, he also may have experienced the same restlessness and rebelliousness as ordinary children.

One of the most fascinating apocryphal works is the Gospel of Thomas, which has been deemed heretical and inspired the Hollywood film Stigmata. What you’ll learn is that this gospel is a collection of Jesus’ sayings, a wisdom book like Song of Solomon or Proverbs in the Old Testament, and it promotes a radically different interpretation of Jesus’ teachings than the traditional narrative, a sort of “road not taken” for Christian theology.

Together, these stories do more than reveal new perspectives on theology. They tell us much about early Christian thought and culture, including:

  • The relationship between Christianity and Jewish law
  • The value of celibacy versus marriage
  • The role of women in Christian society and the church
  • The nature of Hell and the afterlife

You’ll also find out how the Roman Empire shaped early Christianity. The Roman Pontius Pilate may have crucified Jesus, but that fact became awkward once the seat of the church moved to Rome. Books like the Gospel of Nicodemus and the Acts of Pilate refashioned him as a sympathetic figure—perhaps even a saint—thus exonerating the Romans from the crucifixion.

The Ideal Course for Skeptics, Seekers, and Believers

Throughout this course, Professor Brakke explores more than 20 New Testament apocryphal texts, giving you a comprehensive look at the early Christian world as well as a sensitive reading of complex and often contradictory narratives. Along the way, you will discover the early Christians’ view of human nature and the world, their conception of God, and their reactions to the life and teachings of Jesus.

The Apocryphal Jesus is a must-have course for anyone interested in rounding out their knowledge of early Christianity. Skeptics, seekers, believers, and audiences of all backgrounds will find something new and exciting to learn here, and you will come away with a better understanding of the foundations of Christianity, and learn how the echoes of early Christian ideas can still be heard today.

Hide Full Description
24 lectures
 |  Average 31 minutes each
  • 1
    The Influence of Apocrypha
    The term “apocrypha” comes from the Greek and means “hidden” or “secret.” The apocryphal writings of early Christians have a reputation for being heretical because they are not part of the New Testament’s 27 canonical books. But as you will learn in this first lecture, these early Christian writings have contributed greatly to Christian culture and doctrine. x
  • 2
    Jesus and Mary in the Proto-Gospel of James
    Begin your foray into the early Christian apocrypha with an extended reflection on the Virgin Mary. You may think you know her from the New Testament gospels, but you might be surprised to find out that much of her life's story actually comes from the Proto-Gospel of James, which fills in many of the gaps from the canonical gospels. x
  • 3
    Young Jesus in the Infancy Gospel of Thomas
    The Infancy Gospel of Thomas is considered a bizarre book, offering what some see as troubling insight into the childhood of Jesus, portraying him as both amazingly divine but also troublingly human. Delve into some of the scholarly debates around this book and find out why it was so popular in the Middle Ages. x
  • 4
    Joseph and the Magi in the Apocrypha
    The New Testament gospels leave many questions on the table: Why was Mary a virgin if she was married to Joseph? How did Joseph feel about his wife bearing the child of the Lord? In this lecture, see how many early Christian apocryphal works humanize Joseph and resolve some of the questions—and contradictions—of the New Testament. x
  • 5
    The Apocrypha and the Cult of Mary
    While Mary is present in the canonical gospels, it's really in the early Christian apocrypha that she becomes the leader among the saints. Explore several key texts to uncover what we know about Jesus' mother, her relationship with the disciples, and what makes her unique among New Testament figures. Better understand her special place in Christianity today. x
  • 6
    Lost Gospels and Fragments
    Not all apocryphal works have survived, and many of the ones we have today exist only as fragments. Survey several important fragments and lost gospels—how we discovered them and what they say—to gain a fascinating glimpse of early Christian beliefs and controversies that we would not know about otherwise. x
  • 7
    Sayings of Jesus from the Gospel of Thomas
    The Gospel of Thomas is the most famous—even infamous—apocryphal gospel, suppressed by the Church for its supposed heresy. As you’ll find out in this lecture, the gospel compiles the sayings of Jesus and is modeled on the wisdom books from the Old Testament. This “living Jesus” provides a radically different angle on the meaning of Jesus’ life and teachings. x
  • 8
    Jesus's Statements beyond the Gospels
    Not all of Jesus’ words come directly from the canonical gospels. These words—known as “agrapha”—come from numerous sources: books of the New Testament other than the gospels, the works of early Christian authors such as Origen, and alternative manuscripts of the New Testament gospels. Examine several of these sources to gain new insights into Jesus. x
  • 9
    Conversations with the Living Jesus
    The gospel writers recorded much of Jesus’ life, but they also acknowledged that they didn’t record everything. Much of what he said is recorded in so-called “dialogic gospels,” accounts of Jesus in lengthy conversations with one or more of his disciples. Study three of these unique works and gain new theological insight into Christianity. x
  • 10
    The Gospel of Judas's Gnostic Vision
    Judas Iscariot is one of the most infamous figures in the Christian Bible, but the Gospel of Judas gives us a new perspective on this traitorous disciple. In this lecture, Professor Brakke introduces you to Gnosticism and shows how, in this gospel, Judas' betrayal of Jesus points to a greater truth about divinity and the material reality of the world. x
  • 11
    The Gospel of Peter and the Talking Cross
    Jesus designated Peter as the founder of the Church, which arguably makes him one of Christianity’s most important disciples. The Gospel of Peter, however, adds some complexity to Peter’s story—and it reframes the story of the Crucifixion to help make Christianity more compatible with the politics of the Roman Empire. x
  • 12
    The Apocrypha and Pilate's Sanctification
    In the early centuries, Christianity became a Roman religion, which created awkwardness given that the Roman Pontius Pilate crucified Jesus. Find out how certain apocryphal texts—including the Gospel of Nicodemus, also known as the Acts of Pilate—dealt with this problem by recasting Pilate as a sympathetic figure and, ultimately, a Christian saint. x
  • 13
    Dialogues with the Risen Jesus
    The New Testament tells us Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to the apostles before ascending into heaven. While the canonical gospels left Jesus' words a mystery, many apocryphal writers filled in the gaps. Examine several of these dialogic gospels to learn what Jesus told his followers after the resurrection. x
  • 14
    Hope and Adventure in the Acts of John
    Many of the apocryphal gospels were essentially novels written during the early Christian era, and they were filled with adventurous tales of shipwrecks, necrophilia, self-mutilation, and other wild stories. Dive into the Acts of John to consider this fascinating genre of literature and what it offered audiences of the time—as well as historians today. x
  • 15
    Social Disruption in the Acts of Paul
    Historians agree that this fragmentary work presents us a largely invented character, yet the Acts of Paul also gives us a remarkable challenge to the basic structure of Roman society—the household, the city, the empire, and even the Church. Examine this subversive book and discover a version Christianity that completely upends the reigning social order. x
  • 16
    Thecla: Independent Woman of the Apocrypha
    Continue your study of the Acts of Paul and turn to his disciple, Thecla, who is one of the most interesting women in early Christian writing. Although she likely did not exist in real life, she represents many women who did, and her story gives us a powerful look at the role of women in early Christian society. x
  • 17
    Miracles and Magic in the Acts of Peter
    As you have seen, Peter may have been the first leader of the Church, but he was a flawed leader. The fragmentary Acts of Peter builds on his story from the canonical gospels and shows us a fascinating, if somewhat troubling, figure. Learn more about Peter and his miracles, and find out why he was crucified upside down. x
  • 18
    Peter versus Paul in the Pseudo-Clementines
    Each of the surviving apocryphal acts of the apostles make one apostle its hero, but they don't disparage the other apostles. However, the Pseudo-Clementine texts present a dramatic fight surrounding the early Church. This theological mess may pose a problem for historians, but it is nonetheless an important piece of early Christian literature. x
  • 19
    The Acts of Thomas and the Mission to India
    How did Christianity get to India? Did Thomas really travel across the Middle East and preach the gospel in South Asia? Historians debate these questions and more, but regardless of the literal truth, the Acts of Thomas provides spiritual guidance about humanity's place in the world and challenges us to liberate ourselves. x
  • 20
    Spiritual Love in the Acts of Andrew
    While it was not the most profound of early Christian writings, the Acts of Andrew contains some of the strangest stories in all of early Christian literature, including tales of cannibals, myriad seductions, jilted husbands, and a human-killing giant serpent. Learn about some of these exciting stories, consider the book's genre, and reflect on the role of women. x
  • 21
    Forged Letters of Jesus and the Apostles
    The letter is one of the most important forms of Christian communication, from the New Testament letters of Paul through today's Papal addresses. In the early Christian world, apocryphal letters abounded, many of them forged. Examine the content of some of these letters, including ones purportedly written by Jesus. x
  • 22
    Revelations That Didn't Make the Bible
    The New Testament Book of Revelation is not the only apocalypse narrative from the first centuries of the Common Era. In this lecture, you'll explore the content and theology of several other Christian apocalypses and consider why the Revelation to John made it into the canon while the many other apocalypses did not. x
  • 23
    Tours of Hell before Dante
    You might be surprised to learn the canonical New Testament does not present a single consistent picture of the afterlife in general or hell in particular, yet visions of damnation exist in much of the early Christian apocrypha, including the Apocalypses of Peter and Paul. Take a tour of hell through several of these works and review their continued influence. x
  • 24
    Apocrypha after the New Testament
    Although the New Testament was codified in the fourth century, apocryphal books continued to be written into the Middle Ages. Round out the course by surveying the later Christian apocrypha and witness the way the creative flourishing of Biblical writing continued through the Middle Ages and even into the present. x

Lecture Titles

Clone Content from Your Professor tab

What's Included

What Does Each Format Include?

Video DVD
Instant Video Includes:
  • Download 24 video lectures to your computer or mobile app
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
Video DVD
Instant Audio Includes:
  • Download 24 audio lectures to your computer or mobile app
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE audio streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
Video DVD
DVD Includes:
  • 24 lectures on 4 DVDs
  • 256-page printed course guidebook
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
  • Closed captioning available

What Does The Course Guidebook Include?

Video DVD
Course Guidebook Details:
  • 256-page printed course guidebook
  • Photos and illustrations
  • Suggested reading
  • Questions to consider

Enjoy This Course On-the-Go with Our Mobile Apps!*

  • App store App store iPhone + iPad
  • Google Play Google Play Android Devices
  • Kindle Fire Kindle Fire Kindle Fire Tablet + Firephone
*Courses can be streamed from anywhere you have an internet connection. Standard carrier data rates may apply in areas that do not have wifi connections pursuant to your carrier contract.

Your professor

David Brakke

About Your Professor

David Brakke, Ph.D., M.Div.
The Ohio State University
Professor David Brakke is the Joe R. Engle Chair in the History of Christianity and Professor of History at The Ohio State University. He received his B.A. in English from the University of Virginia, his M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and his Ph.D. in Religious Studies from Yale University. He taught for 19 years in the Department of Religious Studies at Indiana University. Professor Brakke has published...
Learn More About This Professor
Also By This Professor


The Apocryphal Jesus is rated 4.5 out of 5 by 69.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great information about Christianity The professor is extremely knowable regarding the subject matter. The course provides useful information on Christian doctrine
Date published: 2017-06-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very Enlightening! I have not finished all the lectures but so far they have been fascinating as well as entertaining. I have learned a great deal from them and look forward to finishing the Course.
Date published: 2017-06-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great presentation I knew next to nothing about the Apocrypha before listening to this course. Professor Brakke explained everything in terms I could understand and held my attention throughout.
Date published: 2017-06-22
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Mixed Responses Elicited I found this program to be very informative about how the New Testament canon came together. It was also very illuminating about the large number and types of non canonical writings. I found myself both amused and appalled with the kinds of stories and ideas within the apocryphal works. I wished that the presenter was more critical in his analysis ... not in a negative way but more analytical. He seemed to bend over backwards to be accepting of the sometimes bizarre ideas found in this literature.
Date published: 2017-06-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wow! Very, very interesting. I am only through the first disk, and have enjoyed it thoroughly. The course, so far, has provided so much insight into the history of Christianity.
Date published: 2017-06-19
Rated 1 out of 5 by from The Apocryphal Jesus Recently bought. #1 DVD will not play on DVD Player, needs to be replaced!
Date published: 2017-06-19
Rated 2 out of 5 by from The Apocryphal Jesus Unfortunately, discs 1 and 2 wouldn't load on our DVD player while 3 and 4 did, and none would load on the DVD section on our computer. We were able to download the first disc from the web site to stream it.
Date published: 2017-06-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Smart choice I thought I was well acquainted with the christian apocryphal literature but professor Brekke opened new vistas and greatly expanded my understanding. Interesting subject. Great teacher.
Date published: 2017-06-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from All that I expected I wanted to see what early writings that didn't get into the Bible said. The course is doing a good job.
Date published: 2017-06-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I am using this course as an adult church school class topic. It is being accepted extremely positively by a group of adults ranging in ages for 50's to 80's. Fun and enlightening.
Date published: 2017-06-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Indpirational Provided me with highly needed information. I feel that Iknow better the historical Jesus
Date published: 2017-06-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Course on Other Christian Literature This course provides an excellent presentation of the other Christian literature which were not selected for inclusion in the Bible. The majority of these other Christian literature is in the forms of letters, gospels and other teachings. Professor Brakke does not excellent presentation of these other Christian literature items and how these items influenced the practices and beliefs of the Christian churches. I highly recommend this course as a source of information to expand your knowledge of Christianity.
Date published: 2017-06-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Quite interesting and comprehensive I enjoyed this course, which goes into extensive detail on many of the raw materials which influenced Christianity in its first few centuries, and which were at least considered as the New Testament was being finalized. It's pretty deep, getting at times into some arcane theological arguments, but always interesting. I don't think it's the best choice for a very first course on the early history of Christianity, but is definitely worthwhile.
Date published: 2017-06-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Apocryphal Jesus This course is valuable for any student or follower of Christianity. It is important to know where the tenets of the Christian faith originated. This course helps to enlighten the student as to why we Christians believe what we do, so we may better informed about our faith.
Date published: 2017-05-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from excellent overview I must recommend this course to anyone who wishes to understand how certain beliefs or dogma entered into the mainstream denominations. It also helps understand the evolution of christianity through the first few centuries after Jesus' crucifixion. He is an engaging speaker, logical, clear, and unambiguous. For those Christians who are considering purchasing this, but are concerned about fidelity to the gospels, have no fear. Dr. Brakke clearly states that these apocryphal works are not to be taken as the basis of faith, but rather to understand the time in which they were written and what they tell us about early Christianity. Excellent course!!
Date published: 2017-05-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Insightful Course provided a new perspective on the apocrypha.
Date published: 2017-05-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Overviews of early writings The course material provides insight into the many stories about the Savior from the earliest preserved writings, and is helpful in understanding the early Christian church.
Date published: 2017-05-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Buddhist Learning about Christianity!! Very interesting and new ways to learn about Christianity. Professor executed all materials easily understandable manner. Thank you all great courses team and Professor David.
Date published: 2017-05-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The course tells us about books about Jesus and the apostles that were written within several centuries of his life but were not included in the bible. . Whereas the books in the bible sound true most of the apocryphal books sound like fiction.
Date published: 2017-05-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Super Teacher, Great Topics I am very interested in this topic, so I purchased it as soon it was released, and I am more than satisfied, glad. I keep open mind when I learn about this topic. The professor is great teacher, speak clearly, easy to follow, and remember. He covers many ideas, topics successfully. I listened to it during commute, he kept me focused awake, interested. He is non biased, presenting new ideas, new concept for me and what I enjoyed his non bias. I would highly suggest this course to all who keep open mind in religious topic.
Date published: 2017-05-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Superb Course I recently bought this course when it was newly released. I thoroughly enjoyed the course and the professor. I learned a lot about the subject that I found interesting and informative.
Date published: 2017-05-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Relevant and apprpriate I have completed only a few of the lectures To this point the delivery has been very good. the lectures are quite informative and educational.
Date published: 2017-05-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great "alternate view" of Christian apocrypha I listened to and greatly enjoyed Bart Ehrman's "Lost Christianities" series of lectures on Christian apocrypha, as I do for all of Dr E's lectures. But it has been just as much fun to listen to Professor Brakke's spin on this fascinating topic. He starts off with a very clear and insightful bit of background on what and why the apocropha exist, and then dives into each of the texts. Along the way, he shows how little-known or widespread each text is, what was going on in the Christian world at the time and what contemporary scholars had to say about the texts. Possibly the most fun in the lectures, as in Professor Ehrman's course, is to highlight things that every modern Christian "just knows," even though so much of that "common knowledge" can't be found anywhere in the Bible. One final thing worth noting is while I love Dr E's lectures, he comes across as a non-believer and I'm fine with that personally, as I'm an atheist and if WERE a Christian, I wouldn't have any trouble with the notion that the doctrine changed a tremendous amount in its first few centuries -- but a lot of Christians that I know would reject such an idea outright and thus could be very uncomfortable listening the Lost Christianities. (Again, I loved it and recommend it to all.) Brakke, in contrast, comes across as more "Christian-friendly" and I suspect that even an evangelical would find these lectures non-threatening. In short, great material delivered well! Can't wait to finish the series.
Date published: 2017-04-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Perfect for the curious mind Well done! I would rather not say more but the box won't let me check it if I don't :)
Date published: 2017-04-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved the course! I enjoyed Professor Brakke's speaking style on his course about Gnosticism, so I was excited to see him back for another go. I was worried that the class might overlap excessively with other courses by Ehrman, but Brakke covered a wealth of material that I found novel and complimentary to other courses on Christianity.
Date published: 2017-04-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I enjoyed this course immensely. I have the companion course on the Gnostics, which is an excellent course on its own!!!
Date published: 2017-04-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Quite appropriate and encourages one to learn more I received this course just a couple of weeks ago and am very pleased with the content so far. The instructor offers information that is not apparent from just reading the documents in question..
Date published: 2017-04-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Traditional beliefs are rooted here. I have often wondered what was meant by sacred tradition. Now I know that they are things that have been believed by the church from the earliest times of the Christian era, but were omitted from the canon. I knew of some apocryphal writings, but I was amazed at the amount of apocrypha revealed in this course. Although most of the apocryphal works were written well after the dates the canonical writings, they tell many of the same stories and fill in many gaps in our understanding of Christian beliefs.
Date published: 2017-04-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Overview of non-canonical early Christian texts TGC has a significant number of titles on Christian theology and early Christian history. In “Jesus and the Gospels” and in “Historical Jesus”, it is primarily the four canonical Gospels that are at the center of attention (the first analyzing them as literary works and the latter treating them as a historical source). Other, Apochryphal Gospels are also discussed, but they are presented primarily to give a full picture and do not receive central attention. Bart Ehrman’s course “Lost Christianities…” which I have not heard yet, seems to give a thorough survey of many of the Apochryphal Gospels and other Apochryphal writings. In fact it is the one course which seems to be closest in content to the current course. Many of the texts in the current course seem to receive central attention in that course as well, such as the acts of Peter, the acts of Thomas, the Acts of Paul and Thecla, as well as many of the Gnostic writings. Since I have not heard “Lost Chrisitianities…” I cannot comment on what and to what extent they complement each other, only that they appear to have a similar focus of interest. Finally, Professor Brakke’s former course in the TGC “Gnosticism – from Nag Hammadi to the Gospel of Judas”, provides an in depth and focused look at the early Gnostic Christian writings. “Gnosticism… “ is in a way a zooming in of the current course which discusses all of the early Christian texts. It also discusses at some length aspects of Gnosticism that are beyond the texts, such as the history of the Gnostic communities, their interaction with the Orthodox church etc. The structure of this course is roughly to cover all of the early Christian writings, written usually in the second and third centuries, usually covering in each lecture one or two scripts. It is primarily the content of the writings that receive central attention: what do these writings tell us that is in agreement with the canonical texts and what is not, did these texts have some of the canonical texts as their sources (or perhaps vice versa), what political messages might these texts been used to convey to other, non-Christian actors of the era (primarily the Romans). As he explains, some of the Apocryphal texts were viewed (at least in the beginning) as perfectly valid texts that were harmonious with the main Christian writings. These were usually written in order to illuminate aspects that were obscure in the canonical Gospels, such as who was Mary, who was Joseph, what was Jesus like as a child? Others, presented a perspective that even in the beginning went contrary to Christian consensus and indeed quite early were classified as heretical. The Gnostic writings are one very good examples of this. A third group is composed of stories that are simply strange, and are not part of mainstream Christain thought, but are not offensive to it either. The acts of Thomas and the Acts of Andrew are probably good examples of this group. Professor Brakke allocates significant time to discuss the techniques that scholars used to date scripts (often the physical script is not the original one but a copy, so using carbon dating techniques is not helpful), and what state was the text in when it was discovered. This, he explains, must be taken into account when one wants to understand these writings. This is because often only tiny fragments of these sources are discovered, and so, scholarly interpretations may play a large role in current understandings of them. In other words, some of the current consensus regarding this work should be taken with a grain of salt, primarily the ones from which we have only tiny fragments. Overall, I found this course to be very interesting. Professor Brakke presented the texts in a way that was very fair in my opinion, and he often expressed his own opinion when he analyzed different interpretations, though it was very clear this is all that it was – his opinion. His tone through the course was sober and academic – hence no pyrotechnics or standup. For me that is just fine. The course did manage to find an original and as of yet uncovered aspect of early Christian (with the possible exception of “Lost Christianities…”) in what is surely one of the most intensively covered fields in the TGC library, so this is quite a feat in and of itself.
Date published: 2017-04-09
  • y_2020, m_11, d_27, h_16
  • bvseo_bulk, prod_bvrr, vn_bulk_3.0.12
  • cp_3, bvpage2n
  • co_hasreviews, tv_2, tr_67
  • loc_en_US, sid_6371, prod, sort_[SortEntry(order=SUBMISSION_TIME, direction=DESCENDING)]
  • clientName_teachco
  • bvseo_sdk, p_sdk, 3.2.0
  • CLOUD, getContent, 61.56ms

Questions & Answers

Customers Who Bought This Course Also Bought