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Book Review

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This book is an introduction to the basic content of non-canonical early Christian texts, exploring them both as evidence for the diversity of early Christianity and for what they can say about the formation of the New Testament canon. It is divided into three sections. The first uses the concept of forgery to introduce a number of important extra-canonical texts (including Gospel of Peter, the Acts of Paul and Thecla, the Coptic Gospel of Thomas, and the Secret Gospel of Mark). The second section takes a closer look at some of the different forms of Christianity attested by non-canonical literature, specifically discussing groups he labels Marcionites, Jewish-Christians, Gnostics, and proto-orthodox. The last section discusses the sometimes-nasty discourse surrounding the politics of canon in the first four centuries CE, resulting in the ascendancy of proto-orthodox forms of Christianity and the exclusion and suppression of alternatives. Written at a time of great interest and even anxiety over issues of canon, orthodoxy, and heresy, Ehrman’s accessible and nuanced introduction to what is a complex and difficult subject is timely. A companion book, Lost Scriptures (Oxford, 2003) makes readily available selections of many of the primary texts Ehrman discusses in this book.




Rice University

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Religious Studies Review

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Religion Commons