ReligionProf Podcast with Tony Burke

ReligionProf Podcast with Tony Burke August 12, 2020

It was a pleasure to record another episode of the ReligionProf Podcast, this time with Tony Burke as my guest. Seriously, what better follow-up to my post about Ariel Sabar’s book yesterday, given that Tony and I first met face to face (as I mention in the podcast) at a conference about fakes, forgeries, and fictions in Christian apocrypha? I presented on the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife at that conference. (On Sabar’s book now see also the posts by Dylan Burns, Jim Davila, and a tiny bit more from Brent Nongbri.) Fellow academics who share my interest in extracanonical texts will know the name Tony Burke, but for other readers of this blog here is his bio:

Headshot photo credit: Meghan Chartrand-Burke

Tony Burke is a Professor in the Department of the Humanities at York University in Toronto. His interest in Christian Apocrypha began in 1995, while working on his Masters degree at Wilfrid Laurier University and continued into his PhD at the University of Toronto. Much of his published work, including his 2001 doctoral dissertation, focuses on the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, a collection of tales of Jesus from the ages of five and twelve. His first book, which included new Greek critical editions of the text, was the recipient of the Canadian Frank W. Beare Prize in 2012 for an outstanding book in the areas of Christian Origins, Post-Biblical Judaism and/or Graeco-Roman Religions. A second book on Infancy Thomas, this time presenting critical editions of the Syriac manuscripts of the text, won the Beare Prize in 2018. Tony is also the author of Secret Scriptures Revealed: A New Introduction to the Christian Apocrypha (published by Eerdmans in 2013), and is the co-founder of the North American Society for the Study of Christian Apocryphal Literature (NASSCAL). The society is currently involved in two projects: e-Clavis: Christian Apocrypha and the Early Christian Apocrypha series. The e-Clavis is a comprehensive database featuring manuscript listings and bibliographical resources for every apocryphal text; the e-Clavis is open access and available for anyone to use on NASSCAL’s website. Early Christian Apocrypha is a series of pocket-size texts-in-translation; the first in this series is a new translation of the Protevangelium of James prepared by Lily Vuong. Brandon Hawk’s volume on the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew and the Nativity of Mary followed soon after, and he was a previous guest on the podcast to talk about that book.

There is more info on the new book on Tony’s blog Apocryphicity (including a preview and the table of contents), as well as a post about the previous volume. You can follow Tony on Twitter: @TBurkeApoc. You can purchase the latest volume of New Testament Apocrypha as well as the first on Amazon.

Tony said in a post of his that I shared on social media a while back, one that he mentioned in the podcast episode, “I do hope more Christian apocrypha scholars turn their attention to these texts, not only to aid in their reconstruction and translation but to integrate them into our understanding of how apocryphal texts function, particularly in corners of the world that are not examined with the same depth as the Latin and Greek churches.” That post talks about some of the contents that appeared in the previous volume as well as mentioning at least one that is in the new one. Of course, I have some particular interest in texts related to John the Baptist and women in the New Testament. You can some of each of those things in this new volume.

Tony and I also talk a little about the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife, which is the subject of Ariel Sabar’s new book Veritas.

For those who wish to keep score, here are some of the topics I proposed that we talk about, most or all of which I think we got to eventually:

How many volumes are expected? Is this a well of new sources that might potentially never run dry? How did the project come about, and what are the future plans for it?

How did you end up working in the field of Christian apocrypha? What is your sense of the field at present? If someone were trying to decide between focusing there and some other area (e.g. patristics or New Testament) would you recommend it to them, and why? What’s exciting/appealing about it in your experience in general as well as in terms of what is happening now/lately/soon? Who else besides scholars of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages should be taking an interest in and paying attention to these texts?

Anyone who has read a collection of noncanonical scriptures (aka Christian apocrypha) knows that even within one volume the genres, characters, and theological perspectives may vary widely. What kinds and categories of works can one find in the latest volume, and what stands out as particularly striking/noteworthy among them?

Sometimes the title of a work doesn’t convey the content in a way that might lead someone to read it. The “Gospel of Philip” isn’t a title that clues a would-be reader in that Jesus is going to kiss Mary frequently! What are some of the contents in the new volume that it is worth drawing attention to that someone just perusing the table of contents would miss?

Did we get to them all? Anything else you’d have wanted to hear about, or hear more about? If so, let me know – I’m sure Tony would be willing to come back and record another episode as a sequel!

See my recent post about my appearance on the Talk Gnosis podcast for some other links related to New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures. Volume 2.

Talk Gnosis: The Origins of Gnosticism

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