Review: Greek Apocryphal Gospels, Fragments and Agrapha: A New Translation

35873454Rick Brannan is the author of Lexical Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles: First Timothyand Second Timothy: Notes on Grammar, Syntax, and Structure, both published in 2016 by Appian Way Press. Brannan is also the general editor of the Lexham English Septuagint, an editor for the Lexham English Bible, as well as the contributor of the introduction and translation of John and the Robberin the opening volume of New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures (Eerdmans, 2016) by Tony Burke and Brent Landau. Most recently, Lexham Press has published Brannan’s translation of the Greek Apocryphal Gospels, fragments, and agrapha.

Greek Apocryphal Gospels, Fragments and Agrapha: A New Translation is a lucid collection of ancient documents related to early Christianity, including longer stories connected to the life of Jesus (Gospels), smaller pieces of material with written words about Jesus (Fragments), as well as unwritten sayings attributed to Jesus (Agrapha). Still, it’s important to mention that Brannan has provided much more than a mere translation of ancient texts. Each translation is offered with introductory comments and various observations to help readers connect the material within the context of biblical studies. These comments and observations are invaluable and may even come as somewhat of a surprise to readers given the narrowness of the subtitle.

Brannan opens the book and concentrates on numerous agrapha from within four major sources: (1) sayings in the New Testament outside the Gospels, (2) sayings in additions to New Testament manuscripts, (3) sayings in the Apostolic Fathers, and (4) sayings in Justin Martyr. Brannan has done an excellent service to the reader by choosing some of the most significant agrapha to interact within this section and the inclusion of parallel passages offers readers a better sense of the overall context of each saying. It’s certainly not comprehensive by any stretch. But, it’s an appropriate starting point and an excellent orientation to the genre. The following six chapters are occupied with apocryphal Gospels, including The Protoevangelium of James,The Infancy Gospel of Thomas, The Gospel of Peter, and more. Each apocryphal Gospel includes an introduction to orient the reader towards the content and a readable translation of the text. Finally, Brannan rounds the volume out with translations of ten well-known fragments from Oxyrhynchus. The choice of fragments is similar in scope to the previous choice of agrapha, and readers will appreciate the variety and importance of Brannan’s selection.

There is much to welcome in Greek Apocryphal Gospels, Fragments and Agrapha. Three things are worth mention here. First, I think readers will appreciate the attention to detail that Brannan displays. For example, the reader will find numerous footnotes to encourage deeper study and provide additional translations of texts. Also, Brannan provides both a “Reading Translation” and a “Line Translation” for agrapha and fragments. Second, given the academic nature of the content, I thought it was great that Brannan had included various bibliography sections. This is a book that will ultimately encourage readers into a deeper exploration of the literary landscape of early Christianity, and Brannan has provided a great roadmap for that journey. Third, like other books in the Lexham Classics series, the typeset and presentation of the volume is excellent. It’s readable and easy on the eyes.

Greek Apocryphal Gospels, Fragments and Agrapha: A New Translation by Rick Brannan is a fantastic addition to the Lexham Classics series. It may be somewhat selfish to wish that Brannan had included more material, specifically more agrapha and fragments. But, if that is my only complaint, then I’d have to say that this volume is a huge success. It’s affordable, readable, and informative. I couldn’t recommend it more!

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