Ancient Christian apocrypha


The Chair is currently preparing the latest edition of the renowned and comprehensive collection of ancient Christian apocrypha. These are (according to the definition by Christoph Markschies, which is presented and explained in the new edition) ancient Jewish and Christian scripts bearing the form of Biblical texts that became a part of the canon or which convey stories about the characters in texts that became a part of the canon, record the words of such figures or were written by a Biblical character. The texts themselves did not become a part of the canon, but some cases were not intended to. In some cases they were the genuine expression of the religious life of the majority church and in many cases strongly influenced theology as well as visual arts.

Edgar Hennecke (1865-1951) 

This Lower Saxon country pastor who studied with Adolf von Harnack in Berlin presented an edition of the “New Testament Apocrypha” in 1904 through the Mohr-Siebeck publishing house in Tübingen. The book was intended to be an affordable and reliable work for an educated lay readership. He augmented his work not only with an annotated handbook but also worked on a significantly modified second edition. Toward the end of his life he ceded editorial responsibility (and part of his extensive library) to the just-habilitated lecturer at Göttingen, Wilhelm Schneemelcher.

Wilhelm Schneemelcher (1914-2003)

Schneemelcher, whose parents were close friends with Harnack and who studied with Harnack's successor Hans Lietzmann, changed the work substantially over four editions and added, among other things, the new Gnostic texts from Nag Hammadi while consciously maintaining fealty to the form-critical orientation. After his retirement, he handed over editorship (and again a portion of the library) to the just-habilitated lecturer at Tübingen, Christoph Markschies. During his presidency at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, editorship was assumed by his colleague in Berlin, Jens Schröter.

Christoph Markschies and Jens Schröter

In 2012 the first two books of the first volume ("Evangelien und Verwandtes") were issued as part of the seventh edition of the work, with a modified title ("Antike Christliche Apokryphen") and substantially updated and augmented contents after a long preparation period. The traditional form-critical orientation was maintained at Schneemelcher's behest. The work contains a variety of texts translated into German for the first time; the work is published, as it has been for over 100 years, by Verlag Mohr-Siebeck.

In the coming years the third volume ("Apokalypsen und Verwandtes"), and then the second ("Apostelakten, Biographien und Verwandtes") will be published. A parallel English edition is being planned.