This essay explores the place of parabiblical literature in biblical studies through a focus on New Testament apocrypha. Countering the assumption that the significance of this literature pivots on its value for understanding the origins of Christianity, this essay calls for fresh attention to the afterlives of these writings. The first section traces the genealogy of the notion of the NT apocrypha as countercanon, as well as the history of the debate over whether “apocrypha” preserve secret or suppressed truths about Jesus and his earliest followers. It points to the influence of post-Reformation anthological efforts and new concerns for forgery and censorship in the wake of the advent of printing, especially for popularizing a disjunctive model whereby “apocrypha” are imagined to have been systematically suppressed by ecclesiarchs during the Christianization of the Roman Empire. The second section surveys evidence for the elasticity of such writings and for their reception in contexts as far-flung as medieval Christian art and contemporary Japanese anime. This evidence points to the value of alternate approaches to NT apocrypha, reread as an integral part of the making of the memory of the biblical past from late antiquity to the present.

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