Monday, February 18, 2008

Apocryphote of the Day: 2-18-08

Jesus: "Truly I say to you, no one will enter the Kingdom of Heaven at my request, but rather because you are filled...Hence, become full of the Spirit." Apocryphon of James 2.29-34, 4.19-20.

NOTE: Many people are only familiar with the canonical materials and the forms of religiosity that have emerged from that material. Materials outside this purview have remained largely unknown and discredited for centuries for its impiety and heresy. I hope that my postings of these Apocryphotes will begin to make some of the para-biblical material heard more widely, particularly the voices of its authors who were living piously their interpretation(s) of Judaism and Christianity. Some have asked how I pick these quotes. The truth is I take a collection of apocryphal works, open it up, and post something from that page. This literature is so full of rich material, it is fairly easy to do!


Bob MacDonald said...

LOL! - you do what many have done with the canon for years - random inspiration. April - what do the writings say on confession and absolution - early sacramental experience; and also what on the orders of epsicopos, presbyter and deacon?

April DeConick said...

Hi Bob,

These texts contain many prayers, and most I remember have calls for repentance. Confession and absolution are later doctrines than most of these texts support, but I'll keep my eye out for them. As for early sacramental experience - it is all over these texts. Mostly water and oil rites, for baptisms, for initiations, for ascents, for death rites. Some texts talk about hierarchy - some are for it and some against.

José Solano said...

I thought that the Catholic/Orthodox Churches found many of these writings, when known, to be highly instructional and valuable, only not on par with the canonical writings. Therefore, any elements which they thought these works contained that contradicted or were unlikely in the light of the canonical works, would cause them to be rejected. If they were plausible they could be used for instruction with less than absolute confidence.

Certainly this business of sending “you a secret book which was revealed to me and Peter by the Lord . . . . That the Savior did not want to tell to all of us, his twelve disciples” is highly suspect and smacks of gnosticism; a bit reminiscent of the Gospel of Judas, the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Mary, etc., with secret wisdom being revealed to a select few or to those that can grasp its meaning. This appears to be quite different from the comments made in The Teaching of Silvanus which lend the latter more orthodox credentials.

Although there may be difficult passages in the canonical works, the fundamental teaching of what miserable sinners we are and how clearly these sins may be identified, even by ourselves in the light of the teaching, is what jumps out at us and fills us with a guilt and dread relieved only by a faith in the atoning work of Jesus Christ. What appealed to the masses in this teaching is how simple it is too grasp.

I suspect that today’s penchant for gnostic esotericism is to a significant extent a product of how profound we imagine ourselves to be in comprehending the scarcely comprehensible or even the thoroughly incomprehensible. Nevertheless, it is fascinating and delving into esoteric teachings often does uncover certain gems to ponder as DeConick’s quote clearly does. Thank you and do continue to provide us such food for thought.

April DeConick said...


That is one of my points. The Apocryhal literature includes all points of view.

The Teachings of Silvanus is not a text that any of the churches acknowledge as canon. It is part of the Nag Hammadi collection.

As for the Catholic/Orthodox Churches - the Apocrypha you are referring to is the intertestamental Jewish Apocrypha, like Sirach, Wisdom of Solomon, Tobit, etc.

The New Testament Apocrypha is NOT the same thing. It is the corpus of writings that were not included in the Christian canon - everything from the apocryphal acts to the Nag Hammadi writings.

José Solano said...

Actually I was thinking more of the many non-canonical, non-apocryphal works such as the Epistle of Barnabas, the Shepherd of Hermas, the Didache, Gospel according to the Hebrews (known through fragments and references), etc., and varied allegorical and ethical works. I didn’t have in mind the “deuterocanonical” works.

Though not regarded as canon, The Teaching of Sylvanus does not appear to hold a teaching to which the Church would be opposed, even as it may incorporate a teaching perspective much influenced by Greek philosophy.

“Do not be arrogant in opposition to every good opinion, but take for yourself the side of the divinity of reason. Keep the holy commandments of Jesus Christ, and you will reign over every place on earth and will be honored by the angels.” (Sylvanus)