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Gospel of Gamaliel

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Estimated Range of Dating: 300-600 A.D.

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Information on the Gospel of Gamaliel

The title of this text comes from the modern scholars who have identified it among fragments and in a homily (the "Lament of Mary"), which mixes the narrative written from the perspective of Gamiliel with the words of the homilist. M.-A. van den Oudenrijn writes (New Testament Apocrypha, vol. 1, pp. 558-559):

The title 'Lament of Mary' handed down in the Ethiopic MSS is no longer appropriate for the second half of the homily; in the second part of the narrative the Virgin is not mentioned at all. In one MS, admittedly late, we find a division of the booklet into eleven chapters. In the first five it is not always clearly evident where we have to do with the original Gamaliel-narrative (G) and where with the additions of the homilist (H), but by and large the following division may be close to the mark:

I.1-16 Exordium of the homily (H); I.17-35 first lament of the Virgin (H); I.36-44 Mary and the apostles (doubtful); I.45-55 second lament of the Virgin (H, but in verses 49-51 possibly G in a shortened form); I.56-59 John takes the place of Peter (G); I.60 to II.12 the Virgin betakes herself to Calvary (H); II.13-21 the Mother beneath the cross (G?); II.22-26 further laments of the Virgin (H); II.27-34 continuation of the narrative (G); II.35-38 Mary's parting words (H); II.39-41 earthquake and darkness at the death of Jesus (G); II.42-51 renewed lament of the Virgin (H); II.52-III.25 continuation of the narrative (G); III.26-40 insertion by the homilist (H); III.40-IV.4 continuation of the narrative (G); IV.5-V.1 homiletic developments (H). From V.2 to XI.11 we have the Gamaliel narrative, only rarely interrupted by some rhetorical outbursts from the homilist (e.g. VIII.4). VI.21-VII.9 Pilate believes in the resurrection of Jesus; VII.10-21 he cross-examines the soldiers who stood guard at the grave, and unmasks their falsehoods; VII.22-VIII.14 healing of the captain through contact with Jesus' grave-clothes; VIII.15-XI.5 raising up of a dead man in Jesus' grave; XI.6-11 explanation by the ostensible eye-witness Gamaliel. The final passage (XI.12-50) with the exchange of letters between Pilate and Herod is probably a later continuation of the Gamaliel story, which breaks off with XI.50.

The text as we now have it appears to be no older than the 5th or 6th century, but older elements may have been worked up in the narrative. The captain in Mt. 27:54 (Mk. 15:39), who plays a major role in the narrative, here bears no proper name. The document was evidently composed in Coptic by an orthodox Christian, who was, however, hostile to the Jews. His chief desires were first to confirm the fact of the resurrection of Jesus by alleged new arguments, and secondly to present Pilate, who in the Coptic Church is revered as a saint, so far as possible in a favourable light.

This appears to be an original composition in Coptic, albeit with some use of Greek source material (the Pilate literature).

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Kirby, Peter. "The Gospel of Gamaliel." Early Christian Writings. <>.