Monday, June 27, 2011

Book Note: The Apocryphal Gospels (Ehrman and Plese)

Bart D. Ehrman and Zlatko Plese (eds.), The Apocryphal Gospels: Texts and Translations (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011). 

This is a brand new book and an incredibly useful one at that.  A big "THANKS" to Ehrman and Plese for putting this book together!

It is a collection of apocryphal gospels (Infancy Gospels; Ministry Gospels; Sayings Gospels; Passion, Resurrection and Post-Resurrection Gospels).  The book does not include the Coptic gospels from Nag Hammadi or the Berlin Codex, with the exceptions of the Gospels of Thomas and Mary.  The editors also have included the Gospel of Judas from the Tchacos Codex, but the translation is based only on the Kasser-Wurst critical edition.  So it does not yet take into account Ohio fragments whose translation and photographs have been released by Wurst on his website HERE. So this translation (like all of them that have been published so far, including my own) needs to be corrected and updated already.

What is great about the volume?  The primary language texts are on the face pages, with translations on the opposite pages.  There are brief introductions to each text, which help orient the readers to some of the main issues for each text. 

There are very few footnotes on critical textual issues, however, so this will not replace the critical editions for researchers.  But it will be very handy to have all these primary texts in one neat handbook for quick reference and use in graduate courses. 

My main criticism is that the bibliographies are uneven and too selective.  They target certain resources, while leaving out other crucial materials on these texts.  This means that the bibliographies are so selective that they are not targeted for the public or for graduate students and researchers who appear to be the volume's targeted audience.  I wonder why the bibliographies are so selective, given that this is a volume of 611 pages, and the bibliographical pages usually take up less than half a page with lots of white space left.  Another page of bibliography on each of the gospels would have made the volume that much better and would have added very little in terms of additional pages.

2 comments:

Andrew Bernhard said...

I suspect that the reason the book may not be ideal in every respect is the sheer volume of the material it contains. But it is a remarkable work. Even if we'll still need to consult critical editions, etc. for in depth research, at least now there is an affordable, single-book that anyone can purchase as a convenient reference. The material in the book just hasn't been easily accessible (especially not in the ancient language) until now. Ehrman and Plese have done us all a great service.

Jared said...

I just received a copy from the publisher; I will be looking forward to flipping through it. I was very happy to have this one sent to me.