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date: 18 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter considers the definition, genres, and major themes of early Christian apocrypha within the context of the Second Sophistic. Christian fiction surrounding Jesus and the Apostles was a fertile area for literary experimentation. Recovering the history of this literature is difficult, however, because of multiform texts, anonymous authorship, and the many different languages the texts survive in. Popular genres included Gospels, Apocryphal Acts, Apocalyptic, and epistolography. When read as a whole, the large and diverse corpus of early Christian imaginative literature corresponds well with the proliferation of new genres and texts in the Second Sophistic. It shows how literary trends spread across religious confessions and how discursive tools were shared between writers in secular and sacred spheres. Early Christian storytelling was a principal means of establishing a distinct identity in the Roman world.

Keywords: Christian Apocrypha, Gospels, Apocryphal Acts, Apocalyptic, epistolography, Christian imagination, multiformity

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