The Apocryphal Gospels: A Very Short Introduction, Paperback

The Apocryphal Gospels: A Very Short Introduction Paperback

Part of the Very Short Introductions series

3 out of 5 (1 rating)


This Very Short Introduction offers a clear, accessible, and concise account of the apocryphal gospels - exploring their origins, their discovery, and discussing how the various texts have been interpreted both by the Church and beyond.

Looking at texts from the Gospels from Nag Hammadi to the Dialogues with the Risen Saviour, Paul Foster shows how the apocryphal gospels reflect the diversity that existed within early Christianity, and examines the extent to which they can be used to reconstruct an accurate portrait of the historical Jesus.

Including discussions of controversies and case-studies such as the alleged hoax surrounding the discovery of Secret Mark, Foster concludes that the non-canonical texts, considered in the correct context, offer us an important window on the vibrant and multi-faceted face of early Christianity.

ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area.

These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 160 pages, 12 black and white halftones
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication Date:
  • ISBN: 9780199236947



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This wasn't quite what I expected. The author is an expert on the New Testament and on gospels of Jesus that didn't make it into the New Testament. I thought he would explain what each gospel was and why it wasn't selected for incorporation. Instead, he does pretty much what he says he would do, which is tell the reader what makes a gospel, how they were discovered and what we can learn from them. Foster does a serious textual analysis, where he finds that most of these "gospels" were written after the four gospels of the New Testament. Rather than using them as a window onto new aspects of Jesus, he uses them as a window on the early church, seeing in each a possible doctrinal purpose. These purposes could be laying the blame for Jesus's death on the Jews, as was common in the 3rd century CE, or possibly to raise women's status in the church. Foster shows how difficult it is to evaluate gospels, although he doesn't deal with the canonical gospels in the same way. This was disappointing for me, but was not the purpose of the book, so I can't hold it against him. I would like to see him write as critical a book about the canonical gospels and explain why they were chosen.Obviously, this book has a narrow focus and that is what makes it accessible. But it would be nice to see a broader work along the same lines.

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