OTHER EARLY CHRISTIAN GOSPELS: A CRITICAL EDITION OF THE SURVIVING GREEK MANUSCRIPTSWritten by ANDREW E. BERNHARD Reviewed By Simon Gathercole
This volume is a useful collection of the Greek texts of apocryphal works and includes the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Peter, The Unknown Gospel (Papyrus Egerton 2), and other fragments. The author defines the scope of the book as including only those works that treat the adult life of Jesus, thus infancy Gospels and post-resurrection dialogues are excluded. This restriction is somewhat arbitrary, but obviously some boundary is necessary; the book is by no means long, however.
In general, the photographs are of reasonable, though not excellent, quality. In the case, for example, of the Egerton Papyrus photos, the original Bell & Skeat edition is more legible. Bernhard’s photo of the beginning of the Gospel of Thomas is of high quality, although again the photo in the original Oxyrhychus Papyri edition allows more text to be read because of its size. Nevertheless, it is very good to have them, along with the photos of the Akhmim text of the Gospel of Peter.
In terms of its slant on the dates of the works, Bernhard is probably optimistic in dating Thomas, Peter, and Unknown Gospel to prior to AD 130. He argues this on the basis of the textual evidence and of the non-relation to the NT Gospels, but there are some problems here. On the former, the second century manuscript P. Oxy. 4009 is not likely to be part of the Gospel of Peter; on the latter, the Gospel of Thomas is very likely to be dependent on the Synoptic Gospels (e.g. Luke’s influence on saying 5).
Nevertheless, this is an extremely useful collection, and it is excellent to have texts, translations and photographs of different works available in a single volume. Unfortunately, it will probably be prohibitively expensive for most individuals, and it would be useful for postgraduate students and scholars to have a paperback version available.
Cambridge, England, UK