The Early Christian Church - Vol. 2

The Early Christian Church - Vol. 2

The Early Christian Church - Vol. 2

The Early Christian Church - Vol. 2

Excerpt

On pseudonymous literature, p . 1. The Ascension of Isaiah , p . 2. The idealization of Peter, p . 3. The Second Epistle of Peter, p . 5. The Revelation of Peter, p . 6. The Preaching of Peter, p . 8. The Gospel of Peter , p . 10. The papyrus fragments, p . 12. The Second Epistle of Clement, p . 14. The background of II Clement, p . 15. Conclusion, p . 17.

ON PSEUDONYMOUS LITERATURE

About a hundred years after the crucifixion, a new kind of literature begins to appear in the church, probably in the eastern lands. It comes down to us without the names of its authors, and is sometimes written in dramatic form in the name of an apostolic personage. These books are described by modern writers as pseudonymous, that is written under a false name; but this word is apt to give the impression that there was an intention to deceive, which does not appear to have been the case. They were, on the whole, as innocent in intention as any work of fiction in modern times which brings historical characters on the stage.

We know what pseudonymity was for the period about which we are writing. It was a literary convention of the Jewish synagogue, comparable to the novel or the drama or the motion picture and enabled the writer to present his message in the style of a bygone age and so give it prestige. They were literary imitations of the great religious classics. The prophet or sage of olden days was put on the screen and made to speak again, and give his message to a later age, in reference to its problems. The two dramatic planes can be readily distinguished; the ostensible historical setting in which the revelator is placed, and the actual historical setting for which the book was written. To create the effect, it was necessary for the author to reconstruct the earlier period by an exercise of the imagination and to carry through the fiction consistently, or else, of course, the illusion would be destroyed.

This kind of literature was still being produced in the synagogue. From the synagogue it passed into the church, and the church was beginning to imitate it. An interesting example is the Apocalypse of . . .

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