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Why Study Non-Canonical Texts

Tuckett, Christopher M. “What is ‘New Testament Study’? The New Testament and Early Christianity.” New Testament Studies 60, 2 (2014): 157-184.

  • At one level we can study such texts simply ‘because they are there’. Intellectual curiosity, for its own sake, is still a valuable commodity!
  • We can study such texts bearing in mind that the very fact that they were not made canonical has meant that they have aroused far less interest, both in antiquity and in modern study (cf. above). Hence they offer potential for perhaps new insights and new findings in a way that canonical texts, which as such have been pored over in minute detail for centuries, may not.
  • They may also enable us to place the NT texts into a broader context – not only a broader Jewish, or Greco-Roman, context, but also a broader Christian context. This may then enable us to see more clearly what key issues for early Christians may have been (and which may not be the same as those which interest us!) And in such an exercise, the NT texts may emerge as typical within early Christianity in some respects, perhaps rather atypical in others.
  • Insofar as some (many?) canonical texts presuppose, and reflect on, NT texts, they represent part of the ‘history of influence’ of the NT. As such they throw light on the ways in which some early readers of NT texts read them (whether as scriptural or not); and this in turn may highlight for us possibilities in reading NT texts which we might otherwise miss.
  • Non-canonical texts may also give us a valuable insight into the rich variety of early Christian piety and ‘religious’ life and thought.

(Tuckett 2014, 171-172)

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  1. Some good reasons there =)


    • Hehe, Scripture should obviously take priority and I probably wouldn’t exhort most lay Christians to read noncanonical texts bc they don’t even read the Bible (enough). But I’ve read several books this year that made me realize the light that non-canonical texts shed on the NT. So I’m going to try to incorporate apocrypha/pseudepigrapha into my Bible reading.


      • I find it important for Pastors who are expository preachers to know the ANE background of the OT and the Classical world and 2nd Temple Judaism for the NT. There can be a Conservative use of these extrabiblical data and we must not leave it to only those with a different presupposition and theology to make sense of the data =)



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