Date of Completion
Anglo-Saxon England, Old English, Apocrypha, Translation, Adaptation
Frederick M. Biggs
Clare Costley King'oo
Field of Study
Doctor of Philosophy
This project is an examination of Christian apocryphal gospels, apostolic acts, and apocalypses in Anglo-Saxon England, specifically focused on the use of these extra-biblical narratives in Old English sermons. The core proposition is that apocrypha are a significant part of the apparatus of tradition inherited by Anglo-Saxons. The study explores uses of apocrypha as, on the one hand, hermeneutic in expanding and explaining biblical and doctrinal knowledge, and, on the other hand, ideological, institutional responses to local pedagogical needs. While apocrypha have been marginalized in scholarship, the main contention is that they are, in fact, central to late Anglo-Saxon Christianity. When discussing the Vercelli and Blickling collections, for example, scholars frequently claim that apocryphal content is unorthodox, heterodox, even heretical; but examining these texts as products of their cultural contexts demonstrates that such assumptions, based on modern categorization biases, are unsustainable. Similarly, this study contests scholarship that reads Abbot Ælfric of Eynsham’s Catholic Homilies as distinct from anonymous sermons, since the abbot translated a number of apocryphal acts. Within a framework of transmission studies encompassing book history, translations, and adaptations, this study sets vernacular sermons alongside representations of apocrypha across a range of Anglo-Saxon media, including visual arts and Old English poetry such as The Dream of the Rood. By accounting for the broader cultural prevalence of apocrypha, Old English sermons should be understood as significant witnesses to Anglo-Saxon attitudes toward extra-biblical literature.
Hawk, Brandon W., "Apocryphal Narratives in Old English Sermon Collections" (2014). Doctoral Dissertations. 475.
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