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date: 03 March 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter argues that, contrary to a commonly held assumption, church leaders, major theologians, and ordinary Christians from Late Antiquity to the Renaissance acknowledged and distinguished not two groups of texts, but three—those that were canonical, those that were rejected (apocryphal), and those that were useful for private piety, edification of the community, and a historical understanding of Christian origins. Many texts that today are referred to as ‘New Testament Apocrypha’ or ‘Christian Apocrypha’ belong to this third category, and may be labelled ‘useful for the soul’, and their value for Christian spirituality should be recognized. This chapter considers a number of such texts, among them texts about Mary and the apostles, e.g. the Protevangelium of James and the Martyrdom of Stephen.

Keywords: ‘useful for the soul’, ‘profitable for the soul’, Protevangelium of James, Martyrdom of Stephen, Christian spirituality

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