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Much of what we know about Jesus today comes from apocryphal sources rather than the Bible. The Apocryphal Jesus is your chance to learn about the early Christian world from a variety of sources-many of which have been considered heretical. Over 24 revealing lectures, Professor Brakke explores the stories and ideas that shaped the foundations of early Christian thought and influence us even today.

The Apocryphal Jesus is a series that is currently running and has 1 seasons (24 episodes). The series first aired on March 31, 2017.

The Apocryphal Jesus is available for streaming on the The Great Courses Signature Collection website, both individual episodes and full seasons. You can also watch The Apocryphal Jesus on demand at Amazon Prime, Amazon, The Roku Channel online.

The Great Courses Signature Collection
1 Season, 24 Episodes
March 31, 2017
Cast: David Brakke
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The Apocryphal Jesus Full Episode Guide

  • Although the New Testament was codified in the fourth century, apocryphal books continued to be written into the Middle Ages. Round out the course by surveying the later Christian apocrypha and witness the way the creative flourishing of Biblical writing continued through the Middle Ages and even into the present.

  • The letter is one of the most important forms of Christian communication, from the New Testament letters of Paul through today's Papal addresses. In the early Christian world, apocryphal letters abounded, many of them forged. Examine the content of some of these letters, including ones purportedly written by Jesus.

  • How did Christianity get to India? Did Thomas really travel across the Middle East and preach the gospel in South Asia? Historians debate these questions and more, but regardless of the literal truth, the Acts of Thomas provides spiritual guidance about humanity's place in the world and challenges us to liberate ourselves.

  • Each of the surviving apocryphal acts of the apostles make one apostle its hero, but they don't disparage the other apostles. However, the Pseudo-Clementine texts present a dramatic fight surrounding the early Church. This theological mess may pose a problem for historians, but it is nonetheless an important piece of early Christian literature.

  • As you have seen, Peter may have been the first leader of the Church, but he was a flawed leader. The fragmentary Acts of Peter builds on his story from the canonical gospels and shows us a fascinating, if somewhat troubling, figure. Learn more about Peter and his miracles, and find out why he was crucified upside down.

  • Historians agree that this fragmentary work presents us a largely invented character, yet the Acts of Paul also gives us a remarkable challenge to the basic structure of Roman society - the household, the city, the empire, and even the Church. Examine this subversive book and discover a version Christianity that completely upends the reigning social order.

  • Many of the apocryphal gospels were essentially novels written during the early Christian era, and they were filled with adventurous tales of shipwrecks, necrophilia, self-mutilation, and other wild stories. Dive into the Acts of John to consider this fascinating genre of literature and what it offered audiences of the time - as well as historians today.

  • The New Testament tells us Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to the apostles before ascending into heaven. While the canonical gospels left Jesus' words a mystery, many apocryphal writers filled in the gaps. Examine several of these dialogic gospels to learn what Jesus told his followers after the resurrection.

  • In the early centuries, Christianity became a Roman religion, which created awkwardness given that the Roman Pontius Pilate crucified Jesus. Find out how certain apocryphal texts - including the Gospel of Nicodemus, also known as the Acts of Pilate - dealt with this problem by recasting Pilate as a sympathetic figure and, ultimately, a Christian saint.

  • Jesus designated Peter as the founder of the Church, which arguably makes him one of Christianity's most important disciples. The Gospel of Peter, however, adds some complexity to Peter's story - and it reframes the story of the Crucifixion to help make Christianity more compatible with the politics of the Roman Empire.

  • Judas Iscariot is one of the most infamous figures in the Christian Bible, but the Gospel of Judas gives us a new perspective on this traitorous disciple. In this lecture, Professor Brakke introduces you to Gnosticism and shows how, in this gospel, Judas' betrayal of Jesus points to a greater truth about divinity and the material reality of the world.

  • The gospel writers recorded much of Jesus' life, but they also acknowledged that they didn't record everything. Much of what he said is recorded in so-called "dialogic gospels," accounts of Jesus in lengthy conversations with one or more of his disciples. Study three of these unique works and gain new theological insight into Christianity.

  • The Gospel of Thomas is the most famous - even infamous - apocryphal gospel, suppressed by the Church for its supposed heresy. As you'll find out in this lecture, the gospel compiles the sayings of Jesus and is modeled on the wisdom books from the Old Testament. This "living Jesus" provides a radically different angle on the meaning of Jesus' life and teachings.

  • While Mary is present in the canonical gospels, it's really in the early Christian apocrypha that she becomes the leader among the saints. Explore several key texts to uncover what we know about Jesus' mother, her relationship with the disciples, and what makes her unique among New Testament figures. Better understand her special place in Christianity today.

  • The New Testament gospels leave many questions on the table: Why was Mary a virgin if she was married to Joseph? How did Joseph feel about his wife bearing the child of the Lord? In this lecture, see how many early Christian apocryphal works humanize Joseph and resolve some of the questions - and contradictions - of the New Testament.

  • The Infancy Gospel of Thomas is considered a bizarre book, offering what some see as troubling insight into the childhood of Jesus, portraying him as both amazingly divine but also troublingly human. Delve into some of the scholarly debates around this book and find out why it was so popular in the Middle Ages.

  • Begin your foray into the early Christian apocrypha with an extended reflection on the Virgin Mary. You may think you know her from the New Testament gospels, but you might be surprised to find out that much of her life's story actually comes from the Proto-Gospel of James, which fills in many of the gaps from the canonical gospels.