Tuesday, January 30, 2007

An "Orthodox" Approach to the Extra-Canonicals

How are Christian interpreters to relate to the extra-canonical Gospels? A good example of how to do so, in Martin Hengel's opinion, is Clement of Alexandria. Although Clement holds to the four-fold Gospel that was handed down, he also takes the extra-canonical Gospels seriously in discussion with his opponents, e.g. Julius Cassian (a Valentinian Gnostic).

Martin Hengel, The Four Gospels and the One gospel of Jesus Christ, 17-19.

"In contrast to Irenaeus, however, he [Clement] does not reject a Gospel in principle; rather, he has quoted this saying of Jesus to Salome twice before, and on the first mention he emphasizes that it must be expounded to the Encratites in the correct way so that they are confused and refuted by it. In other words, although it does not come from a recognized Gospel it must be taken seriously because of the discussion with the opponents."

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