Abstract and Keywords
This essay discusses the relationship of those writings that originated in the same period as the emergence of the New Testament canon (second to fourth century CE), but which did not gain canonical status. Christian writings were first categorized as 'accepted', 'disputed', and 'rejected'; the terms 'canon' and 'canonical' were not applied before the fourth century. A closer look is devoted to non-canonical gospels (e.g. the gospels of Peter, Thomas, and Judas), non-canonical acts (the Acts of John, Paul, and Peter), and Jewish apocalypses (the Ascension of Isaiah, 5 and 6 Ezra, and the Greek Apocalypse of Peter). The relationship of non-canonical writings to those that gained canonical status varies: some are legendary elaborations of older traditions while others formulate dissenting views on the meaning of Jesus and his activity. The non-canonical writings are therefore important witnesses for a multifaceted history of Christianity in its first centuries.
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