The Childhood of Jesus: Decoding the Apocryphal Infancy Gospel of Thomas

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9780227173541: The Childhood of Jesus: Decoding the Apocryphal Infancy Gospel of Thomas

The mid-second-century apocryphal infancy gospel, the Gospel of Thomas, which deals with the childhood of Jesus from age five to age twelve, has attained only limited interest from scholars. Much research into the story has also been seriously misguided - especially study of the story's origin, character, and setting. This book gives a fresh interpretation of the infancy gospel, not least by applying a variety of new approaches, including orality studies, narrative studies, gender studies, and social-scientific approaches. The book comes to a number of radical new conclusions: The Gospel of Thomas is dependent on oral storytelling and has far more narrative qualities than has been previously assumed. The narrative world depicted in the gospel is that of middle-class Christianity, with the social and cultural ideas and values characteristic of such a milieu. The gospel's theology is not heretical--as has often been claime--but mirrors mainstream thinking rooted in biblical tradition, particularly in the Johannine and Lukan traditions. Jesus is portrayed as a divine figure but also as a true-to-life child of late antiquity. The audience for the Gospel of Thomas is likely to have come from the rural population of early Christianity, a milieu that has received little attention. A main audience for the story was children among early Christians, making this--at least within Christianity--the oldest-known children's tale. The book provides a Greek text and a translation, and several appendixes on the story, along with other early Christian infancy material.

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About the Author:

Reidar Aasgaard is Project Leader in the Norwegian Bible Society and has earned a doctorate in New Testament/Early Christianity. He is the author of My Beloved Brothers and Sisters (2004) and has published a study edition of the New Testament as well as Norwegian translations of Augustine.

Review:

The book is an outcome of a three-year research project on children in antiquity and early Christianity, says Aasgaard (intellectual history, U. of Oslo, Norway), and much of the material has been presented at various conferences, but apparently not published before. Agreeing with scholars through the ages that the gospel has no reliable information about the actual childhood of Jesus, he argues that it should be studied and valued for other reasons. He shows how it reflects thinking and practice regarding childhood in the culture, and how the gospel writer used and changed aspects to convey theological and ideological messages. His topics include the oral and written tradition, daily life and social relations, Jesus from boy to man, strange sayings, and Christianity's first children's story. Book News Inc, Reference - Research Book News - October 2011 '... Infancy Gospel of Thomas [has] not received any sort of systematic treatment. Aasgaard seeks to redress this situation with The Childhood of Jesus, and in doing so he demonstrates that Infancy Gospel of Thomas is far more sophisticated and historically valuable than previous scholarship has recognized ... This systematic and fair-minded treatment of Infancy Gospel of Thomas not only fills a void in gospel studies, but should stimulate further research on this much-neglected gospel.' Daniel Frayer-Griggs in Theological Book Review Vol. 23, No. 2, 2011

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