Working on my paper for SBL, I just wrote the below. Dunno if it’ll make the final draft. I write to think through things, mostly. But I wanted to share this.
If you have a reaction, or think I’m off, please comment and let me know!
I was (and am) increasingly intrigued with noncanonical gospel material, especially that of the early fragments, the infancy gospels, and the Gospel of Nicodemus/Acts of Pilate/Descent of Christ to Hades. What struck me most wasn’t their fantastic nature or any sort of claim to canonicity. What struck me was the wrestling with what faith told the authors and readers to be true against what they themselves knew of reality. Several parts of these documents, at least as I read them, show the struggle between faith and knowledge. In addition, there is a curiosity about unknowable things.
To my mind, much of what is written in these documents reads like reconciliation between things that faith says must be so, and things that knowledge says mustn’t be. And that’s why I find them so intriguing, because it shows that early Christians were reasoning, thinking beings who were well aware of the claims that their faith required them to make. And it troubled them to the point that they wrote stories about it.
If you’re not familiar with this material and are looking for an introduction, consider my Greek Apocryphal Gospels, Fragments, and Agrapha: Introductions and Translations, published by Lexham Press.