NEWS

Apocryphal texts of Gnostics, others, offer alternative views

The apocryphal gospels of Judas and Thomas are attributed to groups of the Gnostics whose fundamental principles weren’t as much about faith as about knowledge. As Ioannis Karavidopoulos, an emeritus professor of theology at Aristotle University said: «The Gnostics were the first sweeping movement in the first Christian years, though various scholars place their origins in pre-Christian times. It was a movement which had been influenced by the Greek schools of philosophy, by Parseeism, Judaism and also Christianity. The Gnostics were not interested in history or whether Christ was incarnated. For them, Christ was a great mind who helped mankind understand itself and save itself through self-knowledge.» The apocryphal manuscripts of the New Testament are also heretical, some Church circles have written. The Apocryphals of the New Testament and some of the Old Testament comprise various spurious Christian manuscripts written after the second century which have been discounted by ecclesiastical writers from the first centuries of Christianity. «Apocryphal» means that which is hidden, or something which is considered a treasure, such as wisdom. In various heretical circles, the definition had a positive meaning and referred to the books kept from the public because of the depth of their meaning, which common readers couldn’t access. Ecclesiastical writers, however, used the same definition to connote something negative, since they considered the books of doubtful value and origin. This is the meaning that has stuck throughout history. «In some cases the apocryphal manuscripts fed popular piety and inspired hymnography and hagiography,» Karavidopoulos said. In the narthex of the Chora Monastery in Istanbul, a series of mosaics tells the story of the childhood of the Virgin Mary. These presentation were based on descriptions from First Gospel of Jacob, which is very well loved by the Church. Those driving apocryphal philology may be interested in filling in empty spots in the New Testament. For example, secondary or anonymous people in the New Testament are referred to by a specific name in the apocryphals. For example, the anonymous centurion at the Crucifixion is named Longinos and the two robbers are named Gistas and Dismas. According to ecclesiastical writers, apocryphal philology was the vehicle for the dissemination of heretical teachings. The total catalog of the Apocryphals was not saved and all the manuscripts have a complicated history, since they were elaborated on by either orthodox or heretical sources.