Alternative Lives of Jesus

Noncanonical Accounts through the Early Middle Ages


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About the Book

There is a body of religious literature, most of which was written centuries after the New Testament, that attempts to provide supplemental or alternative accounts of the life of Jesus Christ. The most exhaustive surviving alternative versions to the New Testament come from orthodox circles and are often creative “imaginings” that try to fill holes in the canonical gospel accounts of Jesus’ life.
This work investigates the origins and nature of noncanonical retellings in detail—both orthodox and heretical as well as Roman and traditionalist Jewish ones. Extensive summaries of the text as well as substantial verbatim extracts of key incidents and assertions are provided to give the reader a “feel” for the character and intents of the various sources. A concise introduction to a much neglected area of Bible–related study that should be of potential use to students of Biblical literature, comparative religion, and early medieval thought.

About the Author(s)

Roland H. Worth, Jr., is the author of many books. He lives in Richmond, Virginia.

Bibliographic Details

Roland H. Worth, Jr.
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 208
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2003
pISBN: 978-0-7864-1581-6
eISBN: 978-0-7864-8225-2
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface      1

Introduction      3


1 Detailed Surviving Gospels      11

The Infancy Gospel of James (also known as the Protevangelium of James)      11

History of Joseph the Carpenter      19

Infancy Gospel of Thomas      21

Pseudo-Matthew      24

Arabic Infancy Gospel      27

Gospel of the Nativity of Mary      28

Gospel of Peter      29

Gospel of Nicodemus (consisting of Acts of Pilate and Christ’s Descent into Hell)      32

2 Fragmentary Surviving Gospels      36

Gospel of the Hebrews (also known as Gospel According to the Hebrews)      36

Gospel of the Ebionites      37

Egerton Gospel (Papyrus Egerton 2)      38

Unidentified Gospel (Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 840)      40

Secret Gospel of Mark      40

3 Surviving “Acts” and Other Documents      47

Acts of John      47

Pistis Sophia      48

Epistle of the Apostles (Epistula Apostolorum)      49

Toldoth Jeshu      49


4 Mary and Joseph Before Jesus’ Birth      53

Birth and Childhood of Mary      53

Betrothal of Mary to Joseph      57

Annunciation of Jesus’ Coming Birth to Mary      61

Mary Visits Mother of John the Baptist      63

Joseph Learns He Is to Be a Father      63

Joseph Blamed for Mary’s Pregnancy      65

5 Birth of Jesus      68

Jesus Born in Bethlehem      68

Visit of the Magi      74

Slaughter of the Bethlehem Children      76

6 Egyptian Exile      79

Flight into Egypt and Life While There      80

Return to Palestine from Egypt      86

Miracles of Healing and Protection While Still a Baby      87

7 Youthful Years in Palestine      92

Childhood Miracles of Self-Protection      93

Playful Childhood Miracles      94

Childhood Miracles to Benefit His Parents      97

Childhood Healings      98

Childhood Resurrections      100

Childhood Duplication of Food      101

Childhood Protection of Others from Dangerous Animals      102

Hurtful and Injurious Childhood Miracles      103

Supernatural Childhood Executions      104

Jesus’ Supernatural Brilliance as a Childhood Student      107

Jesus’ Relationship to His Parents      111

Death of John the Baptist’s Mother      112

Jesus’ Jerusalem Pilgrimage at Age Twelve      114

Jesus Is Commissioned to Preach at Age Twelve      116

Death of Joseph      117

Jesus Starts to Hide His Miraculous Abilities      119

Jesus’ Childhood Receipt of the Holy Spirit      120

A Jewish Alternative Version of Jesus’ Birth and Adolescence      121

8 Jesus’ Adult Life and Teaching Ministry      124

Roman Allusions to Jesus’ Life and Death      127

Jesus’ Baptism by John      129

Jesus’ Forty Days of Temptation      131

Jesus’ Physical Appearance      133

Jesus’ Unique Physical Inability      134

Appointment of Apostles      135

Healing of a Man with a Bad Hand      135

Every Meal a Miracle      136

Jesus’ Miracles: A Hostile Interpretation      136

Jesus’ Second Egyptian Stay      137

The Second Transfiguration      138

A Rich Man Seeking Divine Acceptance Stumbles Over His Own Riches      139

Healing of Contagious Leprosy      140

A Woman Accused of Sin      140

A Challenge to Jesus’ Ritual Purity in the Temple      141

Jesus’ Final Passover with the Disciples      143

9 Betrayal, Arrest, and Trial      144

A Jewish Account of the Events      144

Defenses of Jesus before Pilate by Friendly Witnesses      145

Roman Subordinates and Standards Give Honor to Jesus      147

Pilate’s Challenge to the Jewish Leaders      148

Mary’s Grief over Jesus’ Death      148

Crucifixion of the Wrong Man      149

Place of Crucifixion      150

The “Departure” of Christ While Jesus Dies      150

Earthquake at Jesus’ Death      152

Jesus’ Disciples Pursued After His Death      152

Pilate’s Reaction to the Phenomena at Jesus’ Death      153

Joseph Asking for the Body of Jesus      154

Punishment of Joseph for Burying Jesus      155

10 Triumph Over Death      157

A Description of the Resurrection Event Itself      157

The Decision to Hush Up the Guards’ Report      161

Appearance to Women at the Tomb      163

Departure of the Apostles to Galilee      164

Instruction to All the Apostles to Verify the Physical Reality of the Resurrection      165

Appearance to James to Convince Him to Break His Fast      166

Post-Resurrection Period of Teaching      167

Ascension into Heaven      167

The Imposture of Resurrection Exposed      169

Notes      171

Bibliography      185

Index      193

Book Reviews & Awards

“the author has written clearly and subjectively on this fascinating material”—Catholic Library World.