Contemporary Jesus Novels as Christian Apocrypha?

In his contribution to The Reception and Interpretation of the Bible in Late Antiquity, Stephen Shoemaker takes issue with Wilhelm Schneemelcher’s definition of what constitutes the corpus of Christian Apocrypha (CA). Schneemelcher maintains that the category of CA incorporates literature that was penned with the intention of being included in the canon, and therefore any text written after the end of the fourth century (Schneemelcher’s date for the closure of the canon) is not considered CA.

Shoemaker finds Schneemelcher’s definition to be far too narrow, and I think rightly so. As an alternative, Shoemaker suggests Éric Junod’s definition of CA, which I quote here:

Anonymous or pseudepigraphical texts of Christian origin which maintain a connection with the books of the New Testament as well as the Old Testament because they are devoted to events described or mentioned in these books, or because they are devoted to events that take place in the expansion of events described or mentioned in these books, because they focus on persons appearing in these books, or because their literary genre is related to those of the biblical writings.

I find Junod’s definition of CA more appealing than Schneemelcher’s. That said, I do wonder if, in an attempt to counteract a definition that is clearly too narrow, Junod has consequently created one that is too broad.

With Junod’s definition, could we not include some contemporary Jesus novels under the rubric of CA? One would need to fudge slightly on the whole “anonymous or pseudepigraphical” bit, but not too far. Gerd Theissen’s Shadow of the Galilean could be considered pseudepigraphical in that it is written by Theissen but from the perspective of Andreas. Likewise, Christopher Moore’s Lamb, or perhaps even Bruce Longenecker’s Lost Letters of Pergamum could be classified as CA if we’re willing to open the floodgate as wide as Junod and Shoemaker propose.

This is not necessarily a bad thing…more of an observation. I’d love to hear your opinion if you have one.


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