‘Atheism’ is a term that has historically carried a wide range of meanings and connotations. Popular speech, in particular, admits of a range of definitions, but the same is true of contemporary scholarly usage also. This chapter therefore surveys the sheer variety of ways of defining ‘atheism’, before outlining the pressing need for a generally agreed-upon usage in the growing—and, thus far, Babel-like—field of scholarship on atheism. It then outlines and explains the precise definition used throughout the Handbook: an absence of belief in the existence of a God or gods. The utility of such a broad definition, taking atheism to be an ‘umbrella concept’ that admits of a range of subdivisions (e.g., ‘positive’ and ‘negative’), is then explored and defended at length.
Following an introduction that seeks to locate stories about apostles within ancient (especially popular) narratives, the chapter presents analytic and critical summaries of three groups: these are the five ‘major’ apocryphal acts, intermediate works including the Acts of Philip and the Pseudo-Clementine Homilies and Recognitions, and representatives of the ‘minor acts’, works which are devoted to Titus and Barnabas, as well as the Doctrine of Addai. The chapter therefore illustrates a trajectory by which the canonical Acts developed over the course of time to hagiography and pamphlets claiming ecclesiological privilege. A brief final section notes outstanding tasks for future research and study.
Theodore W. Jennings Jr.
While the Bible is often understood to forbid same-sex love, a closer examination reveals a wide variety of forms of same-sex love that are presupposed and even celebrated in these texts. After demonstrating that biblical texts taken to prohibit same-sex love have been misunderstood, the chapter explores multiple forms of same-sex love in the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. Love between women in the story of Ruth, the expressions of warrior love in the stories of David and the centurion who came to Jesus, the transgendering of Israel in the prophets and the transgendering of Jesus and Saint Paul in the New Testament, even tales of sexual awakening and violence, provide a rich tapestry of same-sex love exhibited in biblical literature giving deeper meaning to the message of divine love which for Christians is exemplified by Jesus.
As a general overview, the article explores the whole range of non-canonical texts about Jesus. Starting with aspects of the scholarly and public interest in those texts, and questions of genre and classification, the article discusses scattered sayings of Jesus (agrapha), the more important papyrus fragments of unknown gospels, and the fragmentary quotations from lost Jewish-Christian gospels and from the Gospel of the Egyptians. Then the more important infancy gospels are discussed (Protevangelium of James, Infancy Gospel of Thomas, and later compilations), the Gospel of Peter, the Acts of Pilate, and the Gospel of Nicodemus, further sayings gospels such as the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Philip, and dialogue gospels such as the Epistula Apostolorum and the gospels of Mary and Judas. Finally, traditions about Jesus' writing such as the Abgar legend and the so-called Secret Gospel of Mark and the problems of its authenticity are presented.