9. Characterization of CA texts as containing “bizarre” embroidering (see Komoszewski et al, Reinventing Jesus, p. 163-166; Jenkins, Hidden Gospels, p. 105). Certainly some parts of the CA are bizarre to modern readers. But the NT texts too are pretty bizarre. The canonical gospels feature a man who is born from a virgin, speaks to voices from heaven, walks on water, multiplies food, heals afflictions, and rises from the grave. How are these things any less “bizarre” than a talking cross (Gospel of Peter) or a cursing Jesus (Infancy Thomas; see the canonical Acts for plenty of examples of cursing holy men)? We all (scholars and non-scholars) know the canonical texts so well that often we give little thought to how strange these texts are. I like to begin my courses on the Bible by encouraging the students to see the biblical texts in all their “bizarre” glory.The post reminds me of an exercise I have often done with undergraduates when we begin to explore non-canonical Christian texts. I gather together a series of quotations, some taken from the New Testament, some taken from Christian apocryphal texts, and I put them on a hand-out but do not give the source of the texts. I try to make sure that each quotation is a good paragraph or so. I then ask the students, in class, to study the sheets and to ask themselves whether they think the texts in question come from (a) the New Testament or (b) a non-canonical text. I then ask them to state their reasons. The results vary from group to group, but one of the most memorable experiences I had was of a student who guessed that the coin in the fish's mouth (Matt. 17.24-27) must be a non-canonical text because it was so weird. She was horrified to discover that it was in the Bible. The exercise helps students to think through some of their own presuppositions as they approach texts, and provides an entertaining way of getting them thinking about issues of canonical and non-canonical texts.
Thursday, August 09, 2007
The Strangeness of Biblical and Apocryphal Texts
Over on Apocryphicity, Tony Chartrand-Burke continues his enjoyable series on the Top Ten Faulty Arguments in Anti-Apocrypha Apologetics. One of his top ten is as follows: