Gospels, Spurious (Pseudepigraphal)
Gospels, Spurious (Pseudepigraphal).
The canon of the New Testament, as we have already seen, having been finally settled before the close of the 4th century, the rejected writings which bore the names of the apostles and evangelists soon sank into oblivion, and few, if any, have descended to our times in their original shape. From the decree of Gelasius and a few other sources we have the names and a few detached notices of a good many of these productions.
I. Of those still extant the following claim special notice:
⇒See also the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.
1. THE HISTORY OF JOSEPH THE CARPENTER, which has been preserved in the East in an Arabic translation, was first made known in Europe in the commencement of the 16th century by, Isidore de Isolanis in his Summa de donis Sti. Josephi. He observes that the "Catholics of the East" commemorate St. Joseph on the 19th of March, and read the legend of the saint, omitting certain parts which are not approved in the Roman Church. This work was first published by Wallin, at Leipsic, in 1722 from an Arabic MS. of the 13th century, in the Bibliotheque du Roi, accompanied with a Latin translation. It was divided by Wallin into chapters and verses. It is also found in Coptic, Sahidic, and Memphic. It is highly esteemed by the Copts. The former part, to chapter 9, appears to have been derived from an ancient Gospel of the Infancy. The Latin was republished by Fabricius.
THE GOSPEL OF THE INFANCY was first published by Henry Sike, at Utrecht, in 1697, from an Arabic MS. Sike's Latin version was republished by Fabricius, who divided it into chapters. The Arabic was divided into corresponding chapters by Thilo in 1832.
There are several MSS. of this gospel extant, the oldest of which known is that in the Medicean Library, written in 1299. The narratives which it contains were current in the 2d centurny, and the account contained in this gospel respecting Christ's learning the alphabet is mentioned by Irenaeus (Adv. Haeres. 1:203 as a fabrication of the Marcosians. The Gospel of the Infancy is found in the catalogue of Gelasius, and it is especially remarkable from the fact that it was most probably this gospel which was known to Mohammed who seems to have been unacquainted with any of the canonical Scriptures, and who has inserted some of its narrations in the Koran. The Sepher Toldoth Jesu, a well-known publication of the Jews, contains similar fables with those in this gospel (Wagenseil's Sota). This gospel was received as genuine by many of the Eastern Christians, especially the Nestorians and Manophysites. It was found to have been universally read lay the Syrians of St. Thomas, in Travancome, and was condemned by the Synod of Diamper, in 1599, by archbishop Menezes, who describes it as "the bookcalled the Gospel of the Infancy, already condemned by the ancients for its many blasphemous heresies andsfabulous histories." Wherever the name Jesus occurs in this gospel he is universally entitled el-Rab, whileChrist is called el-Sheik. This was a distinction introduced by the Nestorians. The blessed Virgin is also entitled the Lady Mary. The Persians and Copts also received this gospel (De la Brosse's Lexic. Pers. s.v. Tinctoria Ars). The original language was probably Syriac. It is sometimes called the Gospel of Peter, or of Thomas.
2. THE GOSPEL OF THOMAS THE ISRAELITE (Gr.), a work which has flowed from the same source with the former, was first published by Cotelerius (Notes on the Constitutions of the Apostles, 1:16, 17, tom. 1, page 348), from an imperfect MS. of the 15th century. It was republished, and divided into chapters by Fabricius. The most perfect edition emas that of Miingarelli, in the Nuova Raccolta d'Opusculi scientifice e filosofice (Venet. 1764), from a Bologna MS. of the 15th century. Mingarelli (who believed it to have been a forgery of the Manichees) accompanied his text with a Latin translations. Thilo has given a complete edition from a collation of Mingarelli's work with two MSS. preserved at Bonn and Dresden. This gospel relates the fable of Christ's learning the Greek alphabet, in which it agrees with the account is Irenaeus. In other Gospels of the Infancy (as in that published by Sike) he is represented as learning the Hebrew letters. It has been questioned whether this is the same work which is called the Gospel of Thomas, by Origen, Ambrose, Bede, and others. This gospel probably had its origin among the Gnostics, and found its way from them, through the Manichees, into the Church; but, having been more generally received among the heretics, it was seldom copied by the monks, which accounts forthe paucity of MSS. Nicephorus says that the Gospel of Thomas contained 1300 στίχοι. This pseudepigraphal work is probably the foundation of all the histories of Christ's infancy but it is supposed to have been recast and interpolated.
3. THE PROTEVANGELION OF JAMES has descended to us in the original. Greek, and was first published by Bibliander at Basel in 1552, in a Latin version by William Postell, who asserted that it was publicly read in the Greek churches, and maintained that it was a genuins work of the apostle James, and intended to be placed at the head of St. Mark's Gospel. These commendations provoked the wrath of the learned Henry Stephens, who insinuated that it was fabricated by Postell himself, whom be calls "a detestable monster" (Introduction au Traite det la Conformite des Merveilles Anciennes avec les Modernes, 1566). It was reprinted. sin the Orthodoxographa of J. Herold (Basel, 1555), and again in the Orthodoxographa, volume 1 (1569), of Jacob-Grynaeus, who entertained a very, favorable opinion of it. Subsequent discoveries have proved that, notwithstanding the absurdity of Postell's high pretensions in favor of the authenticity of this gospel, Stephens's accusations against him were all ill founded. There had, even atthe time when Stephens wrote, been already a Greek translation published by Neander, of which Stephens was not aware; it appeared among the Apocrypha annexed by Oporin to his edition of Luther's Catechism (Basel, 1564). It was republished by Fabricius (who divided it into chapters), and subsequently Birch, Thilo, and Tischendorf. Thilo collated for his edition six Paris MSS., the oldest of which is of the 10th century. From the circumstances of these MSS. containing a Greek calendar or martyrology, and from other internal evidences, there seems little doubt that this gospel was formerly read in the Greek Church (Montfaucon, Palaeogr. Graec. page 304). There are also extant versions of the Gospel of the Infancy in the Arabic and other languages of the Eastern churches, among which they appear to have possessed a high degree of authority.
Although this work is styled by Postell the Protevangelium, there is no MS. authority for this title, not for the fact of its being ascribed to James the apostle. It only appears that the author's name is James. The narrations of this gospel were known to Tertullian (Advers. Gnost. c. 8), Origen (Com. in Matthew page 223), Gregory Nyssen (Orat. in diem Nat. Christ. Opp. 3:346), Epiphanius (Haer. 79, § 5), the author of the Imperfect Work on Matt., Chrysostom (Opp. 6:24), and many others among the ancients. (See Suckow, De arg. et ind. Protev. Jacobi, Bresl. 1830.)
4. THE GOSPEL OF THE NATIVITY OF MARY (Latin). Although the Latins never evinced the same degree. of credulity which was shown by the Greeks and Orientals in regard to these fabulous productions, and although they were generally rejected by the fathers, they were again revived about the 6th century. Notwithstanding their contemptuous rejection by Augustine and Jerome, and their condemnation by popes Innocent and Gelasius, they still found readers in abundance. Gelasius expressly condemns the book concerning the Nativity of St. Mary and the Midwife.
The Gospel of the Nativity of Mary, which most probably, in its present form, dates its origin from the 6th century, has even been recommended by the pretended authority of St. Jerome. There is a letter extant, said to be written by the bishops Chromatius and Heliodorus to Jerome, requesting him to translate out of Hebrew into Latin the history of the Birth of Mary, and of the Birth and Infancy of Christ, in order to oppose the fabulous and heretical accounts of the same contained in the apocryphal books. To this Jerome accedes, observing, at the same time, that the real author of the book was not, as they supposed, the evangelist Matthew, but Seleucus the Manichee. Jerome observes that there is some truth in the accounts, of which he furnishes a translation from the original. Hebrew. These pretended letters of Jerome are now universally acknowledged to be fabrications; but the apocryphal gospel itself, which is the same in substance with the Protevangelion of James, is still extant in Jerome's pretended Latin version. This gospel was republished by Mr. Jones from' Jerome's works. It is from these Gospels of the Infancy that we have learned the names of the parents of the blessed. Virgin, Joachim (although Bede reads Eli) and Anna. The narratives contained in these gospels were incorporated in the Golden Legend, a work of the 13th century, which was translated into all the languages of Europe, and frequently printed. There are extant some metrical accounts of the same in German, which were popular in the era of romance. These legends were, however, severely censured by some eminent divines of the Latin Church, of whom it will be sufficient to name Alcuin, in his Homilies, in the 9th, and Fulbert and Petrus Damianus (bishop of Ostia) in the 11th century. "Some," says the latter, "boast of being wiser than they should be when, with superfluous curiosity, they inquire into the names of the parents of the blessed Virgin, for the evangelist would surely not have failed to have named them if it were profitable to mankind" (Sermon on the Nativity). Eadmer, the monk, in his book on the Excellence of the Virgin, writes in a similar strain (cap. 2, Anselm. Opp. page 435, Paris, 1721). Luther also inveighs against the readers of these books (Homil. ed. Walch. tom. 11; and Table-Talk, chapter 7, tom. 22, page 396). There were several editions of Jerome's pretended translation published in the fifteenth century, one of them by Caxton. It is printed by Thilo from a Paris MS. of the 14th century, and divided by him into twenty-four chapters, after a MS. of the 15th century in the same library. One of the chief objects of the writer of these gospels seems to be to assert the Davidical origin of the Virgin, in opposition to the Manichees.
Mr. Jones conceives that the first author of these ancient legends was a Hellenistic Jew, who lived in the second century, but that they were added to and interpolated by Seleucus at the end of the third, who became their reputed author; and that still further additions were made by the Nestorians, or. some late Christians in India. Lardner (Credibility, volume 8) so far differs from Mr. Jones as to believe the author not to have been a Jew. That these legendary accounts have not altogether lost their authority appears from the Life of St. Joseph, in the Catholic Magazine for December 1843).
The Gospel of the Nativity of Mary was received by many of the ancient heretics, and is mentioned by Epiphanius, St. Augustine, and Gelasius. The Gnostics and Manichees endeavored to found on its authority some of their peculiar opinions (such as that Christ was not the Son of God before his baptism, and that he was not of the tribe of Judah, but of that of Levi); as did also the Collyridians, who maintained that too much honor could not be paid to the blessed Virgin, and that she was herself born of a virgin, and ought to be worshipped with sacrifices.
5. Although the GOSPEL OF MARCION, or rather that of Luke, as corrupted by that heretic in the second century, is no longer extant, professor Hahn has endeavored to restore it from the extracts found in ancient writers, especially Tertullian and Epiphanius. SEE MARCION. This work has been published by Thilo.
6. Thilo has also published a collation of a corrupted Greek GOSPEL OF ST. JOHN, found in the archives of the Knights Templars in Paris. This work was first noticed (in 1828) by the Danish bishop Muenter, as well as by abbe Gregoire, ex-bishop of Blois. It is a vellum manuscript in large 4to, said by persons skilled in palseography to have been executed in the 13th or 14th century, and to have been copied from a Mount Athos MS. of the 12th. The writing is in gold letters. It is divided into nineteen sections, which are called gospels, and is on this account supposed to have been designed for liturgical use. These sections, corresponding in most instances with our chapters (of which, however, the twentieth and twenty-first are omitted), are subdivided into verses, the same as those now in use, and said to have been first invented by Robert Stephens. SEE VERSES. The omissions and interpolations (which latter are in barbarous Greek) represent the heresies and mysteries of the Knights Templars. Notwithstanding all this, Thilo considers it to be modern, and fabricated since the commencement of the 18th century.
7. One of the most curious of the apocryphal gospels is the GOSPEL OF NICODEMUS, or ACTS OF PILATE. It is a kind of theological romance, partly founded on the canonical gospels. The first part, to the end of chapter 15, is little more than a paraphrastic account of the trial and death of Christ, embellished with fabulous additions. From that to the end (chapter 28) is a detailed account of Christ's descent into hell to liberate the spirits in prison, the history of which is said to have been obtained from Lenthius and Charinus, sons of Simeon, who were two of those "saints who slept," but were raised from the dead, and came into the holy city after the resurrection. This part of the history is so far valuable, that it throws some light upon the ancient ideas current among Christians on this subject. It is therefore considered by Birch (Auctarium, Proleg. page 6) to be as valuable in this respect as the writings of the fathers.
The subscription to this book states that it was found by the emperor Theodosius among the public records in Jerusalem, in the hall of Pontius Pilate (A.D. 380). We read in chapter 27 that Pilate himself wrote all the transactions from the relation of Nicodemus, who had taken them idown in Hebrew; and we are informed by Epiphanius that the Quartodecimans appealed to the Acts of Pilate in favor of their opinions as to the proper time of keeping Easter. It was written in these Acts that our Savior suffered on the eighth Kal of April, a circumstance which is stated in the subscription to the present Acts. It is uncertain, however, when this work was first called by the name of Nicodemus.
The two ancient apologists, Justin Martyr and Tertullian, both appeal iin confirmation of our Savior's miracles and crucifixion to the Acts of Pilate (Justin Martyr, Apol. page 76, 84; Tertullian, Apol. c. 21, or English transl. by Chevallier, 1833). From this circumstance it has generally been held that such documents must leave existed, although this fact has been called in question Tanaquil Faber and Le Clerc (Jones, On the Canon, volume 2, page 282, part 3, chapter 29). These appeals, however, in, a probability, first furnished the idea of the present piotus fraud. Mr. Jones supposes that this may have been done in order to silence those pagans who denied the existence of such Acts., The citations of those fathers, are all found in the present work. (See Henke, De Pontii Pilati actis in causa J.C. ad Tiber. missis, 1784.)
We have already seen that a book entitled the Acts of Pilate existed among the Quartodecimans, a sect which originated at the close of the third century. We are informed by Eusebius that the heathens forged certain Acts of Pilate, full of all sorts of blasphemy against Christ, which they procured (A.D. 303) to be dispersed through the empire; and that it was enjoined on schoolmasters to put them into the hands of children, who were to learn them by heart instead of their lessosns. But the character of the Gospel of Nicodemus, which contains no blasphemy of the kind, forbids us to identify it with those Acts. This gospel probably had its origin. in a later age. From the circumstance of its containing the names of Lenthius and Cbarinus, Mr. Jones conceives it to have been the work of the celebrated fabricator of gospels, Lucius Cbarinus, who flourished in the beginning of the 4th century. It is certainly not later than the 5th or 6th. "During the persecution under Maximin," says Gieseler (Eccles. Hist. volume 1, § 24, note), "the heathens first brought forward certain calumnious Acts of Pilate (Euseb. 9:5), to which the Christians opposed others (Epiphan. Haer. 79, § 1), which were afterwards in various ways amended. One of these improved versions was afterwards called the Gospel of Nicodemus." SEE ACTS OF PILATE.
Beausobre suspected that the latter part of the book (the descent into hell) was taken from the Gospel of Peter, a work of Lucius Cbarimnus now lost. Thilo (Codex Apocryphus) thinks that it is the work of a Jewish Christian, but it is uncertain whether it was originally written in Hebrew, Greek, or Latin. The only Greek writer who cites it is the author of the Synaxarion, and the first of the Latins who uses it is the cele brated Gregory of Tours (Hist. Franc. 1:20, 23). The Gospel of Nicodemus (in Latin) was one of the earliest books printed, and there are subsequent editions in 1490, 1516, 1522, and 1538, and in 1569 in the Orthodoxographa of Gryynseus. It was afterwards published by Fabricius (Cod. Apoc.), who divided it into chapters. Fabricius gives us no information respecting the age or character of his MS., which is extremely defective and inaccurate. Mr. Jones republished this, with an English version. The Greek Gospel of Nicodemus was first published from an incorrect Paris MS. by Birch (Auctarium), and subsequently from a collation of several valuable manuscripts, the most ancient of which are of the 13th century, by Thilo, with the Latin text of thee very ancient MS. at Einsiedel, described by Gerbert in his Iter Alemannicum. It has been shown lay Smidt (Bibl. fur Critik und Exegese) that the present MSS. exhibit in their citations from the canonical books a text of the 6th century, and consequently that this gospel is extremely useful in a critical point of view.
The esteem in which this work was held in the Middle Ages may be seen from the number of early versions which were in popular use, of which innumerable MSS. have descended to our times. The earliest of these is the Anglo-Saxon translation, printed at Oxford in 1698, from a Cambridge MS. (Thwaites's Heptateuchus). This is a translation from the Latin, as none of the Greek MSS. contain Pilate's letter to Claudius. There are also MSS. of the same in the Bodleian and Canterbury libraries. That in the Bodleian is divided into thirty-four chapters. There are several MSS. of the English version in the Bodleian, one in Sion College, and one in English verse in Pepys's collection. It was also translated by Wickliffe; and there were versions printed in London, in 1507 and 1509, by Julian Notary and Wynkyn de Worde, which ran through several editions (Panzi's Annals). The latest published before Mr. Jones' work was by Joseph Wilson in 1767. He says nothing of the age of his MS., but the following specimen from the prologue may not prove uninteresting: "It befell in the 18th year of the seigniory, of Tiberius Caesar, emperor of Rome, and in the seigniory of Herod, who was king of Galilee, the 8th kalend of April, which is 'the 25th day' of March, the fourth year of the son of Vellum, who was counselor of Rome, and Olympias had been afore two hundred years and two; at this time Joseph and Annas were lords above all justices of peace, mayors, and Jews. Nicodemui, who was a worthy prince, did write this blessed history in Hebrew, and Theodosius the emperor did translate it out of Hebrew into Latin, and bishop Turpin did translate it out of Latin into French, and hereafter did ensue the blessed history called the Gospel of Nicodemus." The regard, indeed, in which this book was held in England will be understood from the fact that, in 1524, Eramnus acquaints us that he saw the Gospel of Nicodeacus affixed to one of the columns of the cathedral of Canterbury.
Translations were also common in French, Italian, German, and Swedish. In the French MSS. and editions it is united with the old romance of Perceforest, King of Great Britain. There was also a Welsh translation (Lhuyd's Archaologia, page 256), and the work was known to the Eastern Christians, and has been evesn supposed to be cited in the Coptic liturgy; but this has been shown by Ludolf to be a mistake, as the lesson is from the history of Nicodemus, in John 3 (see Brunn, De indol. aetate et usu Evang. Nicod. Berl. 1794; Tiscbendorf, Pilati circa Chr. judicio quid luss affera tur ex Actis Pilati, Lips. 1855). SEE NICODEMUS.
II. Of the gospels no longer extant, we know little more than that they once existed. We read in Irenmeus, Epiphaniun, Origen, Eusebius, and other ecclesiastical writers, of the Gospels of Eve or of Perfection, of Bannabas (ancient and modern), of Bartholomew, of Basilides, of Hesychius, of Judas Iscariot, of the Valentinians, of Apollos, of Cerinthus, of the Twelve Apostles and several others. Some of these were derived from the Gnostics and other heretics; others, as the Gospel of Matthias, are supposed by Mill, Grabe, and most learned men to have been genuine gospels, now lost. Those of which we have the fullest details are the foli lowing.
1. The GOSPEL OF THE NAZARENES. This is most probably the same with that of the Hebrews, which was used by the Ebionites. It was supposed by St. Jerome to have been a genuine. Gospel of Matthew, who, he says, wrote it in the Hebrewh language and betters. He copied it himself from the original in the library of Cesaresa, translated it, into Greek and Latin, and has given many extracts from it. Grabe conceived this gospel to have been composed by Jewish converts soon after our Lord's. ascension, before the composition of the canonical Gospel of Matthew. Baronius, Grotius, father Simon, and Du Pin look upon it as the Gospel of Matthew interpolated, however, by the Nazarenes. Baronius and Grabe think that it was cited by Ignatius, or the author of the epistles ascribed to him. Others look upon it as a translationsaltered from the Greek of Matthew. Mr. Jones thinks that this gospel was referred to by Paul in his Epistle to the Galatians. It is referred to by Hegesippus (Eusebius, Eccles. Hist. 4:22), Clemens Alexandrinus (Strom. 2, page 280), Origen, Comm. on John Hom. 8 in Matthew), and Eusebius (Hist. Eccles. 3:25, 27, 39). Epiphanius (Haer. § 29, 30) informs us that it was held in great repute by the ancient Judaizing Christians, and that it began thus: "It came to pass in the days of Herod, king of Judaea, that John came baptizing with the baptism of repentance in the river Jordan," etc. It consequently wanted the genealogy and the first two chapters.
2. The GOSPEL OF THE EGYPTIANS is cited by Clemens Alexandrinus (Strom. 3, pages 445, 452, 453, 465), Origen (Hom. in Luc. page 1), Ambrose, Jerome (Praef. to his Comm. on Matt.), and Epiphanius (Haer. 62, § 2)., Grabe, Mill, Du Pin, and father Simon, who thought highly of this gospel, looked upon it as one of the works referred to by Luke in the commencement of his gospel. Mill ascribes its origin to the Essenes, and supposes this sand the former gospel to have been composed in or a little before A.D. 58. It is cited by the Pseudo-Clement (Second Epistle to the Corinthians, Chevallier's translation, 1833), who is generally supposed to have written not before the 3d century.
III. Literature. — See Car. Chr. Schmidt's Corpus omnium vet. Apocr. extra Biblia; Kleuker, De Apocr. N. Test. (Hamburg, 1798); Birch's Auctuarium, fase 1 (Hafn. 1804); Cave, Hist. Lit.; Oudin, Script. Eccl.; Ant. mv. Dale, De orig. ideol. page 253 sq.; Paitius, Introd. in N. Test. pages 6, 58; Mosheim, Dissertt. ad Hist. Eccl. spect. 1:217; Nitzsch, De apocr. Evang. (Viteb. 1808); Tischendorf, De Eve. apocr. origine et usa (Hag. 1851); Raeuss, Gesch. der H. S. nes-en Test. § 258 sq.; Hofmann,
Das LebensJesu nsach den Apocryphen (Lpz. 1851). A list of most of these apocryphal addenda to the N. Test. may be seen in Toland's Amyntor.(1699); and a fuller list in Toland's reply to Dr. Blackhall's (bishop of Exeter) attack on the Amyntor, found in Des Maizeaux's edition of Tolandl's Misellanseona (posthumous) Works (London, 1747, 2 volumes, 8vo), 1:350-403. Most of these spurious fragment were collected and published by, Fabricius in his Codes Apocryphus Novi Testamenti (3 volumes, 8vo, Hamb. 1719-43). This work, with additions by Thilo and others, was republished by Dr. Giles (London, 1852). English translations of some of these early forgeries will be found in the works of Jones, Lardner, Whiston, Cotton, and Laurence. Hone's Apocryphal N.T. (London, 1820) contains a translation of many of them. Other collections (in the original languages), more or less complete have been made by Grabe (Spicileg. Patrum et Haeret. saec. 1-3, Oxon. 1698), Schmid (Corpus Apocryph. extra Biblia, Had. 1804), and especially Thilo (Cod. Apocr. N. Test. coll. et illustr. Lips. 1832, volume 1). Still later, Tischendorf has edited (in some cases for the first time published) the following apocryphal gospels (Evangelic Apocrypha, Lips. 1843, 8vo): "Protevangel of James" (Gr.); "Pseudo-Matthew is Gospel" (Lat.); "Gospen of the Nativity of Mary" (Lat.); "History of Joseph the Carpenter" (Latin, from the Arabic); "Gospel of Thomas" (Greek A); "Gospel of Thomas" (Greek B) "Gospel of Thomas" (Lat.); "Gospel of the Infancy of Christ" (Lat. from the Arab.); "Deeds of Pilate" (Greek A); "Deeds of Pilate" (Gr. B); "Descent of Christ into hell" (Latin A); "First Epistle of Pilate' (Lat.); "Descent of Christ into hell" (Lat. B); "Second Epistle of Pilate" (Lat.); "Anaphora of Pilate" (Gr. A); "Anasphora of Pilate" (Gr. B); "Paradosi! of Pilate" (Gr.); "Death of Pilate" (Lat.); "Narra tive of Joseph of Arimatheea" (Gr. — "Defence of the Savior" — (Lat.). See also H. Cowper, The Apocryphal Gospels, etc., translated, with notes, aetc. (London, 1867,i 8vo); A. Hilgenfeld, Nov. Testam. extra canonem, embracing the apocryphal gospels, epistles, etc., with notes, etc. (Lips. 1866 sq.). SEE AROCRYPHA.