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Publisher's Summary

The New Testament gives us 27 canonical texts - gospels, letters, and more - but these works are only a tiny fraction of the many volumes written about the life of Jesus, his family, and the apostles. This alternative body of literature falls under the category of "apocrypha", which means "hidden" or "secret", and it offers fascinating insights into the early Christian world. But these early Christian apocryphal works are more than historical curiosities.

The canonical Bible is one of the most influential books in all of Western history, but you might be surprised to find out how many gaps and contradictions the New Testament contains. Much of what we know about Jesus today actually comes from these apocryphal sources, so The Apocryphal Jesus is your chance to learn the true breadth and depth of the early Christian world. Over the course of 24 revealing lectures, Professor David Brakke of The Ohio State University takes you on a tour of this world and surveys the major apocryphal works that have survived.

From forged letters to newly discovered gospels, early Christian authors wrote reams of literature about Jesus, his family, and the apostles, drawing from an even larger oral tradition. Even though only a tiny portion of apocryphal works survive today, reviewing this literature gives us a host of new angles on well-known figures from the Bible, as well as insights that can't be found anywhere in the New Testament.

Among other topics, you will examine the cult of the Virgin Mary through the Proto-Gospel of James, survey the Gnostic vision presented in the Gospel of Judas, encounter a radically different view of Jesus' teaching in the Gospel of Thomas, gain new insights into early Christian life, and much, much more.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2017 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2017 The Great Courses

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Writings that influenced holy canons.

Behind the scenes where scholars dominate are the apocryphal works that influenced scripture - but how many people know about it? The author truly understands this field of knowledge and he managed to say it in language that somebody like me can grasp.

I like the way the author narrates. It's unique and down to earth. Maybe I'll one day read some of the most significant apocryphal texts. Or not. I trust the author as a guide to this literature.

Some of the topics covered peaked my interest. Joseph, Mary, Jesus' brothers and others - they are covered in ways that I never came across other than basic beliefs about them. The stories within along with the professor's explanations provide insight into the thinking about canonical selections as well as various Christian practices.

In a way, I think people who care about scriptures will want to know what scholars such as the author have found. On the other hand, exposure to all the miracles described in this other literature seems to me something that would make listeners skeptical. One expects that I guess.

7 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Jacobus
  • Johannesburg, South Africa
  • 05-08-17

An exploration of the New Testament Apocrypha

"The Apocryphal Jesus" by Professor David Brakke who also presents and excellent course on "Gnosticism" in the Great Courses series, is an excellent introduction to the New Testament Apocrypha.

He treats a vast array of apocryphal works from those which almost made it into the New Testament to those which were meant to be hidden works. While he begins with how Jesus is depicted in some apocryphal gospels, the course material goes much wider. It includes the apocryphal Paul, Peter, Tecla etc. The course name is therefore a misnomer.

I you don't know of the various apocryphal acts of the apostles or are in need of an succinct overview of some very interesting Christian texts that was created mostly after the New Testament this course will be of huge interest to you. If you have read most or all of the apocryphal texts that he introduces to his audience, as I have done, you might still find his contextualizing of it valuable. I think this is where the strength of the course lay. Prof. Brakke exercises an excellent balance between the context and the content of the texts he discusses.

I recommend this course for anyone that is interested in where a lot of the Christmas traditions and beliefs came from. You will also get a taste of the heretical works that depicted Jesus quite differently. Yet this course is so much more than just about Jesus, it introduces a world of stories about Jesus, his disciples and the early church.

7 of 10 people found this review helpful

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original sources are not provided

I hesitated in purchasing this title. I wanted to learn more about the hidden writings of the early church, so I took the plunge. The problem is that no where in the course material are the writings. Pr. Brakke does a good job with his commentary, but I would like to form my own opinions. As a Catholic, I was a little put back by his disregard for the writings about Mary, the Mother of Jesus. I actually enjoyed his lectures up until this point, having been able to find the writings he was discussing easily on New Advent Encyclopedia. If you are of a fundamental protestant tradition you may find this lecture enlightening, since he discounts historical context. If you are Catholic you will find his viewpoint frustrating. Again, I could have overlooked this if I had the opportunity to read the texts myself. At that point I could have formed my own opinion.

As I said in the beginning he does a fantastic job of explaining how the writings of the early church came to be put into a Canon of Inspired Scripture. He explains how later, Luther removed books from the Protestant Bible. He also did a wonderful job of explaining the Hebrew Books and the Septuagint, but really, any Catholic Christian who is familiar with history already knows this information.

Brakke skips over the most beautiful language and imagery in the New Testament gospels, especially the Gospel of John. He discusses the wedding at Cana, but does not discuss the beauty of the conversation between Jesus and his mother. He doesn't draw comparisons between this and the creation story in Genesis. There is so much more that can be said, and maybe it could be attributed to a lack of time, but really it is IMPORTANT!

Thank you.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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things we should know about Christianity

enough with the Sunday School schmooze; tell us what really happened all those years ago. if you like learning about early Christianity, look no further.

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Bucket list.

This course has been on my bucket list. Thank you for this well delivered back story from material world thinkers. My face hurt from smiling... I'm a woman!

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Jason
  • 06-13-17

Interesting, but not riveting.

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

If I had a friend who was particularly interested in Christian theology (which I don't) I might recommend it.

How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

I can't go there for fear of being blasphemous...

What three words best describe Professor David Brakke’s performance?

Not bad. His delivery was good.

Could you see The Apocryphal Jesus being made into a movie or a TV series? Who would the stars be?

I think Mel Gibson as Jesus would probably not work again. Probably not going to ever end up on screen.

Any additional comments?

I kept going back to the book, even though it was not really holding my attention, but that would be more a reflection on me than the good Professor's abilities or the subject matter. If you are into theology, this might really light you up.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful