I have a number of books to mention or review here, and hope to say more about these in coming months. But in the meantime I thought I’d call attention to a couple of notable recent titles by T&T Clark/Bloomsbury, which I received in exchange for writing a few blurbs.
The first is Thomas Wayment’s The Text of the New Testament Apocrypha (100-400 CE). This is a collection of editions and photographs of papyri of a range of early Christian texts for the first three or four Christian centuries. This is a rich resource, though almost every word in the title is open to misunderstanding. In a sense this volume is concerned more with manuscripts than texts, since this is a series of editions of papyri rather than a text-critical attempt to judge the value of these witnesses for the text they preserve. The designation ‘New Testament Apocrypha’ is conventional in some ways, but its problems are well known. Christoph Markschies has spelled these out in some detail in the 180pp introduction to the recent updated and retitled Antike christliche Apokryphen (a new version of Hennecke’s New Testament Apocrypha). A defined relationship to some body of texts already known as the ‘New Testament’ is a problematic assumption, as is the category of ‘apocrypha’ (only certain texts designate themselves as ἀπόκρυφος in antiquity; on which see H. Förster’s recent article in ZNW 104 (2013): 118-45). Moreover, not everything contained in this volume fits even in conventional understandings of those terms (the brief introduction to the volume [only 4pp!] does enough to signal that the author is aware of some of these problems). It is, nevertheless, highly useful to have in one volume the careful editions of these papyri, together especially with the beautiful photographs – the crowning glory of the book, to be sure. There are 47 manuscripts here in 10 categories: Acts of the apostles, Epistle of Barnabas, the Didache, the Gospel of Mary, the Gospel of Peter, the Infancy Gospel of James, the Shepherd of Hermas (by far the largest number, with 18 mss), Sayings Gospels, Narrative Gospels and Unidentified Fragments. There are no translations, but those interested in serious primary source work will be very grateful for this wonderful book.
The other isn’t really a new book, but worth noting nonetheless. Scholars of early Christianity and early Judaism have long relied on the ‘new Schürer’: the revision of Emil Schürer’s classic work, The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ, revised by a team of Oxford scholars in the 1970s and 80s, including Fergus Millar, Martin Goodman and the late Geza Vermes (together with others for individual sections). The revision – three volumes in four – was published only in hardback for a long time, making it difficult to afford for the individual scholar. At long last, however, it is now available in paperback, at a much more reasonable – if still not cheap – price. But even though there’s been a lot of water under the bridge in Jewish studies over the past 30-40 years, and a more thorough revision of these volumes might at some later stage be desirable, there is still a mass of useful information here that remains worth consultation.