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Holy Child or Holy Terror? Understanding Jesus’ Anger in the Infancy Gospel of Thomas

  • Kristi Upson-Saia

Abstract

Although scholars regularly take note of Jesus’ anger and violence in some scenes of the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, most attempt to explain them away. Since the text was copied by and circulated among early Christians, they reason, ancient readers must not have found them as shocking and offensive as modern readers. Based on contemporaneous discussions of anger, I argue instead that early Christian audiences would have been equally uncomfortable with stories of a short-tempered and vengeful young Jesus. In fact, I suggest that these stories were likely composed by opponents of Christianity who wished to undermine Jesus’ character and authority by presenting a compromised portrait of his youth. By absorbing critiques of Jesus into their own literature, however, Christian redactors were able to manage embarrassing stories about the boy Jesus and ultimately regain control of his image.

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1 From the contents of the text—which begins by describing the Holy Family's escape to Egypt and, in most versions, concludes with a paraphrase of the Lukan account of the twelve-year old Jesus at the Temple—we gather that the redactor of IGT might have imagined his collection to be a proto-gospel that could be situated between the Protevangelium Jacobi—which chronicles the conception and birth of Mary throughout the birth of Jesus—and one of the early Christian gospels that narrated Jesus’ adult life. For discussions of the “supplement” thesis, see Chartrand-Burke, Tony, “Completing the Gospel: The Infancy Gospel of Thomas as a Supplement to the Gospel of Luke,” in The Reception and Interpretation of the Bible in Late Antiquity: Proceedings of the Montréal Colloquium in Honour of Charles Kannengiesser, eds. DiTommaso, Lorenzo and Turcescu, Lucian (Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 2008), 101–19; Mussies, Gerard, “Reflections on the Apocryphal Gospels as Supplements,” in Empsychoi logoi—Religious Innovations in Antiquity: Studies in Honour of Pieter Willem van der Horst, eds. Houtman, Alberdina, de Jong, Albert, and Misset-van de Weg, Magda (Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 2008), 597611; and Gero, Stephen, “The Infancy Gospel of Thomas: A Study of the Textual and Literary Problems,” Novum Testamentum 13, no.1 (1971): 58.

While a handful of scholars date the composition slightly earlier or later, the majority of scholars favor a mid second-century date. For a cogent summary of the rationale supporting this date, see Burke, Tony, De Infantia Iesu Evangelium Thomae Graece, Corpus Christianorum Series Apocryphorum 17 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2010), 201–5; cf. Cullmann, Oscar, “The Infancy Story of Thomas,” in New Testament Apocrypha: Gospels and Related Writings, revised edition, ed. Schneemelcher, Wilhelm (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1991), 442; and Hock, Ronald, The Infancy Gospels of James and Thomas (Santa Rosa: Polebridge, 1995), 9192. Although Stephen Gero dates the composition much later—closer to the fifth century—he too maintains that the stories show signs of being circulated independently in oral and written form from as early as the first century (Gero, “Infancy Gospel of Thomas,” 56n1, 73).

2 Throughout I use Tony Burke's translations, chapter divisions, and versification from the Corpus Christianorum Series Apocryphorum. I privilege recension Gs, but make note of Greek variants when relevant. For a very nice synopsis of the Greek recensions, see Burke, Infantia Iesu, 467–539.

3 Cullmann, “Infancy Story of Thomas,” 442.

4 Meyer, Arnold, “Kindheitserzählung des Thomas,” in Neutestamentliche Apokryphen in deutscher Übersetzung, ed. Hennecke, Edgar (Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1904), 135.

5 Kuhn, Ernst, “Buddhistisches in den apokryphen Evangelien,” in Gurupujakaumudi: Festgabe zum fünfzigjährigen Doktorjubiläum Albrecht Weber (Leipzig: Otto Harrassowitz, 1896), 116–19; Bauer, Walter, Das Leben Jesu im Zeitalter der neutestamentlichen Apokryphen (Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1909), 9597; and more recently, Thundy, Zacharias P., “Intertextuality, Buddhism, and the Infancy Gospels,” in Religious Writings and Religious Systems: Systemic Analysis of Holy Books in Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Greco-Roman Religions, Ancient Israel, and Judaism, eds. Neusner, Jacob, Frerichs, Ernest S., and Levine, A. J. (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1989), 1773; idem, Buddha and Christ: Nativity Stories and Indian Traditions (Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 1993), esp. 75155. One scene in particular, in which Jesus explicates philosophically the alphabet, bears a striking resemblance to a story of a young Indian prince who “at age eight is taught various alphabets and recites the letters perfectly from the very beginning” (Hock, Infancy Gospels, 98).

6 Tony Chartrand-Burke, The Infancy Gospel of Thomas: The Text, its Origin, and its Transmission (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Toronto, 2001), 303–4.

7 Conrady, Ludwig, “Das Thomasevangelium: Ein wissenschaftlicher kritischer Versuch,” Theologische Studien und Kritiken 76 (1903): 377459; idem, Die Quelle der Kanonischen Kindheitsgeschichte Jesu: Ein Wissenschaftlicher Versuch (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1900); Bovon, François, “Évangiles canoniques et évangiles apocryphes: La naissance et l'enfance de Jésus,” Bulletin des facultés catholiques de Lyon 58 (1980): 25. Based on the parallels with Horus and the Egyptian high priest Neneferkaptah, Conrady argues for an Egyptian provenance (Conrady, “Das Thomasevangelium,” 403–4), though this proposal has not been well-received. For alternate theories regarding provenance, see Burke, Infantia Iesu, 205–12.

8 Burke, Infantia Iesu, 276–81. More recently, this argument has been advanced by Andries Gideon van Aarde, Die Kindheidsevangelie van Tomas as 'n heroïese mite van die God-kind Jesus in die konteks van die Ebionitiese vroeë Christendon (DLitt thesis, University of Pretoria, 2005).

9 Burke, Infantia Iesu, 278, 279–80.

10 See in particular Stephen Gero's form critical analysis, which categorizes the episodes of IGT into three forms of gospel narratives (Gero, “Infancy Gospel of Thomas,” 47, 61–62, 64, 65, 72–73, 74n1, 76; cf. Hock, Infancy Gospels, 97–98; Mussies, “Apocryphal Gospels as Supplements,” 602).

11 Bauer, Das Leben Jesu, 90–91, 99.

12 Ronald Hock, for example, concludes: “his divine power is clearly, if not always correctly, displayed” (Hock, Infancy Gospels, 97, cf. 84). See also Cullmann, “Infancy Story of Thomas,” 442; Bauer, Das Leben Jesu, 94; Gero, “Infancy Gospel of Thomas,” 61; Elliott, James Keith, Apocryphal New Testament: A Collection of Apocryphal Christian Literature in an English Translation based on M. R. James (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 68; Bovon, “La naissance et l'enfance de Jésus,” 25.

13 Aasgaard, Reidar, The Childhood of Jesus: Decoding the Apocryphal Infancy Gospel of Thomas (Eugene, Ore.: Cascade, 2009), 195. Here Aasgaard adds to Tony Burke's suggestion that these scenes might also have served as warnings to unbelieving adult readers (Childhood of Jesus, 42; Burke, Infantia Iesu, 198–99). But Aasgaard argues that “even if an adult audience would have some interest in Jesus’ childhood, the group more taken up with such a period of life is far more probably to have been the children” (Childhood of Jesus, 204). I am not convinced, however, that his rationale is sound: that children are the main characters and that the scenes are set within children's world is insufficient evidence to believe that the text was primarily directed at a young audience.

14 Although the stories ultimately direct young readers’ behavior, Aasgaard holds that the stories allow for “some concession to a wish for revolt” among the young audience (Childhood of Jesus, 211, emphasis added).

15 Athenagoras, Supplicatio pro Christianis 21 (PG 6.932–33; trans. Pratten ANF 2.138).

16 Arnobius, Adversus Nationes 1:17–18. In fact, even to the fourth century, Christians ridiculed the anger of the Greek and Roman gods (see Augustine, Confessionum 1.17.27 and De civitate Dei 4.27).

17 Hare, Douglas R. A., Mark (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1996), 141; cf. Hare, Douglas R. A., Matthew (Louisville: John Knox, 1993), 243; Best, Ernest, “Mark's Preservation of the Tradition,” in The Interpretation of Mark, ed. Telford, William (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1985), 124–25; Schweizer, Eduard, The Good News According to Mark, trans. Madvig, Donald H. (Atlanta: John Knox, 1970), 230; Moule, C. F. D., The Gospel According to Mark (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969), 8991.

18 To be clear, I think it is highly likely that the authors of some scenes had in mind parallel stories from other early Christian or Classical texts. As my anonymous reviewer rightly pointed out, Jesus’ healing of the viper bite reminds readers of Paul's encounter with a viper on Malta (Acts 28:1–6); when Jesus transports water in his cloak, readers think of the Vestal Virgin, Tuccia, who carried water in a sieve to prove her chastity (Dionysios of Halicarnassus 2.69; Livy, Epitome 20; Valerius Maximus 8.1.5; and Pliny, Naturalis historia 28.12); and the story of the abundant harvest, yielding 100 measures, parallels the parable of the sower (Mark 4:8; Matthew 13:8; Luke 8:8). I mean simply to point out the uneven manner in which scholars make sense of positive and negative pairings.

19 Variants of this passage read: “Why do you do such things? Those people suffer and hate us and drive us away” (Ga) and “Why do you curse? They suffer and hate us and drive us away from the village” (Gd).

20 For a helpful discussion and catalogue of these texts, see Harris, William V., Restraining Rage: The Ideology of Anger Control in Classical Antiquity (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001), 88128.

21 Aristotle, Ethica Nicomachea 4.5 (LCL 230–35); idem, Ethica Eudemia 2.3 (LCL 248–55). We might wonder if Aristotle really held this view of anger or if he was merely taking his own advice on how to turn a vice into virtue in the rhetorical context. For example, he instructs his students of rhetoric to depict “the rash one as courageous” (Aristotle, Rhetorica 1.9.29 [LCL 98; trans. Kennedy, On Rhetoric, 83]). For a full discussion of Aristotle's views on anger, see Harris, Restraining Rage, 56–60, 94–98.

22 Philodemus reports that at least some Peripatetics continued to believe that anger was an indispensable emotion (Philodemus, De ira [Indelli, Giovani, Filodemo. l'ira [Napoli: La Scuola di Epicuro, 1988], col. xxx.15–38]).

23 Seneca, De ira 1.13.3 (LCL Moral Essays vol. 1, 140–41).

24 Plutarch, De cohibenda ira 10, 13 (LCL Moralia vol. 6, 125–29, 140–41); Seneca, De ira 3.4.4–5 (LCL Moral Essays vol. 1, 262); Galen, Anim. Pass. 5.

25 Seneca, De ira 3.4, 3.12.

26 Plutarch, De cohibenda ira 10, 13 (LCL Moralia vol. 6, 125–29, 140–41); Seneca, De ira 3.4.4–5 (LCL Moral Essays vol. 1, 262); Galen, Anim. Pass. 10.

27 Seneca, De constantia sapientis 4 (LCL Moral Essays vol. 1, 56–57). Elsewhere Seneca writes: “The mark of true greatness is not to notice that you have received a blow . . . he will say: ‘Do what you will, you are too puny to disturb my serenity’” (Seneca, De ira 3.25.3–4; cf. 2.34; 3.6 [LCL Moral Essays vol. 1, 318–19; cf. 242–43; 268–69]; cf. Seneca, De constantia sapientis 3, 10; Plutarch, De cohibenda ira 8–9).

28 Riese, Walther and Harkins, Paul W., Galen on the Passions and Errors of the Soul (Columbus: Ohio State University, 1963), 23; Kaster, Robert and Nussbaum, Martha, Lucius Annaeus Seneca, Anger, Mercy, Revenge (Chicago: University of Chicago, 2010), 97n1; McCarthy, Michael, “Divine Wrath and Human Anger: Embarrassment Ancient and New,” Theological Studies 70 (2009): 853; Cooper, John M. and Procopé, J. F., eds. and trans., Seneca: Moral and Political Essays (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 1416.

29 Plutarch, De cohibenda ira 11, cf. 2–3 (LCL Moralia vol. 6, 134–35, cf. 96–101); cf. Galen, Anim. Pass. 5.

30 Following Aristotle's definition, many ancient authors linked anger and vengeance. William Harris points out that orgē is not only conceived of as an emotion, but a temperament of one who seeks retaliation when he has perceived a slight (Harris, Restraining Rage, 57, 61–62 citing Aristotle, Chrysippus, Poseidonius, Cicero, and Seneca). A notable exception is Philodemus who argues that a wise man could experience anger while not desiring or needing to punish or seek revenge (Philodemus, De ira 7).

31 Seneca, De ira 1.17.7–18.1; cf. 2.3; 3.1 (LCL Moral Essays vol. 1, 152–53, 172–73, 254–55). Elsewhere, Seneca writes: “what comes from a troubled source is never clear and pure” (De clementia 2.6.1 [LCL Moral Essays vol. 1, 440–41]). See also Cicero, De officiis 1.25.89 and Galen, Anim. Pass. 5.

32 Galen, therefore, advised men who had yet to eradicate their irascible passions to put off judgment until “your wrath has subsided, [then] you will consider with greater prudence how many lashes should be given to the one who has merited the punishment” (Galen, Anim. Pass. 5 [trans. Harkins, Galen, 42]).

33 Plutarch, De cohibenda ira 5 (LCL Moralia vol. 6, 108–9) and Seneca, De ira 1.15.3 (LCL Moral Essays vol. 1, 144–45); cf. Plutarch, De cohibenda ira 11; Seneca, De clementia 1.22.1, 2.7.5.

34 Seneca, De clementia 1.11.2–3; cf. 1.17.3; 1.19.1; 1.19.8–9 (LCL Moral Essays vol. 1, 390–91, cf. 406–7, 408–9, 414–15). Elsewhere Seneca writes: “Yet of all men none is better graced by mercy than a king or a prince. For great power confers grace and glory only when it is potent for benefit; it is surely a baneful might that is strong only for harm. He alone has firm and well-grounded greatness whom all men know to be as much their friend as he is their superior” (De clementia 1.3.3 [LCL Moral Essays vol. 1, 364–65]; cf. Cicero, De Inventione 2.54.164 [LCL 330–31]). On clementia as the “epitomizing virtue of a good ruler,” see Dowling, Melissa Barden, Clemency and Cruelty in the Roman World (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2006), 2.

35 Seneca, De clementia 1.17.3; cf. 1.5.2 (LCL Moral Essays vol. 1, 406–7, 370–71).

36 Seneca, De clementia 1.5.6–7 (LCL Moral Essays vol. 1, 372–73). Conversely, Aristotle offers examples in which anger demonstrates one's social superiority. He argues that a man derives pleasure from insulting another man because one “become(s) more superior by ill-treating others. That is why the young and the rich are given to insults; for by insulting they think they are superior. Dishonor is a feature of insult, and one who dishonors, belittles” (Aristotle, Rhetorica 2.2.6 [LCL 176; trans. Kennedy, On Rhetoric, 126]).

37 The imposition of limits and punishments by parents and teachers was meant to be part of the process of becoming self-disciplined and self-controlled adults. Over time, the young would begin to adopt internal discipline to replace external discipline. Plutarch's Nicander describes the process of “passing from childhood to manhood” not as “a casting off of control, but a recasting of the controlling agent” from the parent, teacher, or paedagogus to the young man's own reason (Plutarch, De auditu 1 [LCL Moralia vol. 1, 204–5]; cf. Seneca, De ira 1.6; 2.31; idem, De constantia sapientis 12). See Barden Dowling's discussion of severitas as a complimentary aspect to clementia, both of which together function to maintain social order (Clemency and Cruelty, 7).

38 Barden Dowling, Clemency and Cruelty, 79.

39 Cicero, De finibus bonorum et malorum 1.16.50 (LCL 54–55); Seneca, De ira 1.19 (LCL Moral Essays vol. 1, 158–61). See also Peter Brown's discussion of how protocols of aristocratic decorum related to community order (Brown, Peter, Power and Persuasion in Late Antiquity: Toward a Christian Empire [Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1992], 5054).

40 McCarthy, “Divine Wrath and Human Anger,” 853–54.

41 For instance, Seneca links the impious anger of a ruler with childish impulses when he puts the following claim in the mouth of Emperor Nero: “I have been moved neither by anger nor youthful impulse to unjust punishment” (Seneca, De clementia 1.1.3 [LCL Moral Essays vol. 1, 358–59]; cf. idem, De constantia sapientis 10, 12, 13; idem, De ira 1.12.1–2; 1.13.5; 1.20.3; 2.15.1; 2.19.4–5; 3.2.5–6; idem, De clementia 1.5.5–6; 1.25.1; 1.26.3–4; idem, Epp. 63.13; 99.3; 99.18; Plutarch, De cohibenda ira 8, 11; Plato, Phaedrus 69c). On the puerilization of anger, see Hanson, Ellis, “‘Your mother nursed you with bile’: anger in babies and small children,” in Ancient Anger: Perspectives from Homer to Galen, eds. Braund, Susanna and Most, Glenn W. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 185207. On the corollary feminization of anger, see Harris, Restraining Rage, 264–82; idem, “The rage of women,” in Ancient Anger, 130–43.

42 Burke, Infantia Iesu, 248. For in-depth discussions of the character traits attending to different stages of childhood, see especially Eyben, Emiel, Restless Youth in Ancient Rome (London: Routledge, 1993), 611, 31–37; Harlow, Mary and Laurence, Ray, Growing Up and Growing Old in Ancient Rome (London: Routledge, 2002), 36; Laes, Christian, Children in the Roman Empire: Outsiders Within (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 7779.

43 Galen links children's proneness to anger to their lack of reason: “children (and brutes too) are full of anger and have no share at all in reason.” (Galen, De plac. Hipp. et Plat. V.7.77–78 [trans. De Lacy, Phillip, Galen: On the Doctrines of Hippocrates and Plato (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1996), 356–57]; cf. Galen, Anim. Pass. 7; Aristotle, Rhetorica 2.12.3–5; Seneca, ep. 118.14; Xenophon, Cyropaedia 1.4.3; Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 5.222–227; Lactantius, De opificio Dei 3.1.1–15). These views about youthful irascibility persisted in the Christian writings of late antiquity. See for example Ambrose, Job 1.7.21; Ambrose, De Cain et Abel, 1.3.11; John Chrysostom, Ep. 3.12; John Chrysostom, Matt. 81.5. For discussions of these views, see Rochette, Bruno, “Nudus . . . Infans . . .: à propos de Lucrèce 5, 222–227,” Les Études classiques 60 (1992): 6373; Goulon, Alain, “Le malheur de l'homme à la naissance: Un thème antique chez quelques Pères de l’Église,” Revue des Études Augustiniennes 18 (1972): 326; and Leyerle, Blake, “Appealing to Children,” Journal of Early Christian Studies 5, no. 2 (1997): 243–70.

Unreasoning children were regularly likened to untamed animals, the feverish and infirm, and the mad. See Aeschylus, Choephoroi 753–57; Cicero, De finibus bonorum et malorum 5.15; French, Valerie, “Children in Antiquity” in Children in Historical and Comparative Perspective: An International Handbook and Research Guide, eds. Hawes, Joseph M. and Hiner, N. Ray (New York: Greenwood, 1991), 1617; Eyben, Restless Youth, 28–30, 37–41; and Harris, Restraining Rage, 63–64, 67–68, 121–22, 304, 339–61.

44 Seneca, De ira 1.2.5 (LCL Moral Essays vol. 1, 112–13); cf. Aristotle, Rhetorica 2.12.3–5. John Chrysostom also appeals to the trope that children overreact to perceived insults and injuries in his sermons (Leyerle, “Appealing to Children,” 258).

45 Seneca, De ira 1.12.4 (LCL Moral Essays vol. 1, 138–39).

46 For instance, Cicero writes: “Give youth some leeway then; allow our young men to stray a little; do not rein in every pleasure; let the ideal and forthright life suffer an occasional check; let reason give way now and then to appetite and desire provided that in all this some bounds are not overstepped . . . . So that at last when it has paid its respects to the demands of the flesh and allotted due time to boyish sport and the silly desires of the young and fervent blood, it may call a halt at last and face the claims of family, career, and country, and what reason earlier could not dissipate mere satiety may put away and experience despise” (Cicero, Pro Caelio 18.42; cf. 12.28 [LCL 458–61; 438–41]). See also Seneca's Phoenissae, in which Oedipus longs for his lost youth so that he might be permitted to act according to the “casual madness of young men” (Seneca, Phoenissae 353). Finally, when Seneca impersonates a youth in his Controversiae, he is plausibly able to make him say: “I'm having the fun allowable at my age. I am taking advantage of the law for young men (iuvenalis lex)” (Seneca, Controversiae 2.6.11 [LCL vol. 1, 358–59]).

47 We possess numerous extant handbooks on childrearing and education that explore the most efficient pedagogical practices to transition the child from youth to adulthood. Maturity was accomplished by practicing rational and moral habits until they became second nature. Even a man born with a naturally impious nature could be made straight through rigorous discipline: “Instruction amends a poor [nature] . . . One may understand how effective and how productive a thing is application and hard work if he only directs his attention to many effects that are daily observed. For drops of water make hollows in rocks, steel and bronze are worn away by the touch of hands, and rims of chariot-wheels once bent by dint of labor cannot, no matter what be done, recover their original lines . . . indeed the unnatural shape has, through labor, come to predominate over the natural” (Ps.-Plutarch, De liberis educandis 4 [LCL Moralia vol. 1, 8–11]). Compare Galen, who likens the education of children to horticulture and to breaking in an animal (Anim. Pass. 7).

48 Emiel Eyben writes: “What people were willing to tolerate in youngsters was deemed as ill befitting someone older . . . [these men exhibited a] ‘retarded development’ . . . regressing [back] to (or remaining fixed in) the relative immaturity of an earlier age” (Eyben, Restless Youth, 10).

49 On the use of this label in formal slander, see Dickey, Eleanor, Greek Forms of Address from Herodotus to Lucian (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), 168, 290. Blake Leyerle has similarly shown how, in Christian circles, examples of childish behavior were used to compel—through shame—adults to act their age (Leyerle, “Appealing to Children,” 243–70).

50 Galen, Anim. Pass. 3, 4 (trans. Harkins, Galen, 33, 38).

51 For a catalog of these passages see McCarthy, “Divine Wrath and Human Anger,” 845–74. On the permissibility of divine wrath up to the first century, see Pagels, Elaine, “The Rage of Angels,” in Rage, Power, and Aggression, eds. Glick, Robert A. and Roose, Steven P. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1993), 235–44.

52 We must acknowledge that the Ephesians passage is itself ambivalent. While verse 31 urges readers to “put away” all wrath and anger, earlier in the chapter the author allows readers to “be angry” as long as they resolve their anger by sundown (Ephesians 4:26).

53 McCarthy, “Divine Wrath and Human Anger,” 847.

54 For a discussion of these responses, see B. H. C., “The Wrath of God: An Examination of Certain Passages in the New Testament,” Journal of Sacred Literature 12 (July 1860): 328–29.

55 Recension Gs omits Jesus’ anger and name-calling, reading: “When Jesus saw what had happened, he said to him, ‘Your fruit (shall be) without root and your shoot dried up like a branch scorched by a strong wind.’ And at once that child withered away” (Burke, Infantia Iesu, 472–73).

56 Recension Ga notes that Jesus became “irritated” (πικρανθεὶς) rather than “enraged” and Gs does not include a description of Jesus’ emotional state. I discuss this variant below.

57 Recension Gs again does not include a description of Jesus’ anger. Again, I discuss this variant below.

58 Compare with a later scene in this recension in which the author/redactor similarly reports that “no one dared to make him angry lest somehow he would curse them and they would be maimed” (IGT 8.2 [Ga]).

59 Recension Gd states simply: “Jesus, becoming angry (ἀγανακτήσας), cursed him and, at once, fainting, he fell.”

60 Fish, Stanley, “Literature in the Reader: Affective Stylistics,” New Literary History 2, no. 1 (1970): 141.

61 For prior attempts at reading IGT in light of biographical conventions, see Nicolas, Michel, Études sur les évangiles apocryphes (Paris: Michel Lévy Frères, 1866), 266; Bovon, “La naissance et l'enfance de Jésus,” 25; Hock, Infancy Gospels, 92–97; and Burke, Infantia Iesu, 250–61.

62 This expression turns up frequently in literary and legal sources (for example, Tacitus, Ann. 6.55.3, 13.2.2, 14.56.2; Jerome, Ep. 79.7; Codex Iustinianus 2.22.1, 2.35.2).

63 Bonner, Stanley, Education in Ancient Rome: From the Elder Cato to the Younger Pliny (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977), 144. Thomas Wiedemann astutely notes that by late antiquity the use of childhood stories was on the rise due to the higher occurrence of the child-emperors (Adults and Children in the Roman Empire [New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1989], 63).

64 A similar tactic was employed in depictions of the elderly: although a man's body and faculties aged and weakened over time, the rhetorician or biographer wishing to praise his subject would stress that his virtue and self-mastery remained firmly intact. See, for instance, Xenophon, Agesilaus 11.14 (LCL 7.132–33): “He proved that though the bodily strength decays, the vigor of men's souls is ageless.”

65 Wiedemann, Adults and Children, 51, emphasis original. Emiel Eyben similarly writes: “Children or young men were esteemed precisely to the degree to which they did not behave like youngsters, but like mature people or old men—an attitude which is typical of a society in which the elders possessed authority and dignity, in which youth was not seen as ‘ideal’ but as an ‘incomplete,’ ‘defective’ phase of life one has to grow out of as quickly as possible” (Eyben, Restless Youth, 10).

66 Suetonius made ample use of childhood vice in his biographies. Commenting on the unrestrained youth of Otho, for example, Suetonius writes: “From earliest youth he was so extravagant and wild that his father often flogged him; and they say that he used to rove about at night and lay hands on any one whom he met who was feeble or drunk” (Suetonius, Otho 2 [LCL vol. 2, 228]). See also Suetonius's Gaius Caligula 10–11 and Vitellius 3–4.

67 For a detailed discussion of these commonplaces, see Quintilian, Institutio Oratia 3.7; Aristotle, Rhetorica 1.9; Wiedemann, Adults and Children, 57–62; Harlow and Laurence, Growing Up and Growing Old, 49. Suetonius's glowing biography of Titus covered nearly every trope: Titus was said to be extraordinarily handsome, to possess “bodily and mental gifts” beyond his years, to be “uncommonly strong,” to have an astonishing “memory . . . [and] aptitude for almost all the arts,” to be “skillful in arms and horsemanship,” and to be musically talented (Suetonius, Titus 3 [LCL vol. 2, 322]).

68 Nepos's account of Atticus, for example, stresses his early successes in this regard: “In addition to his capacity for learning, the boy [Atticus] had an extremely pleasant voice and pronunciation, so that he was not only able to learn quickly the passages he had been set, but could also declaim them faultlessly. For this reason he became conspicuous among those of his own age even as a child; in fact he was so outstanding that his nobly born school-fellows were in no position to ignore this” (Nepos, Atticus 1.3 [trans. Johnson, E. A., ed., Cornelius Nepos (New York: D. Appleton, 1849), 9798]; cf. Xenophon, Cyropaedia 1.3.1; 1.4.8; 1.5.1; Suetonius, Nero 52; idem, Augustus 84; idem, Tiberius 70; idem, Claudius 3; idem, Pliny the Elder 1; idem, Titus 3; idem, Terence 1; Philostratus, Life of Apollonius 7).

69 Scriptores Historiae Augustae, Commodus 1.5–8 (LCL vol. 1, 264–67).

70 Ps.-Callisthenes, Alexander 13 (trans. and ed. Haight, Elizabeth Hazelton, The Life of Alexander of Macedon [New York: Longmans, 1955], 21). Similarly, Xenophon depicts Cyrus's geniality by showing that he was on “easy terms” with the boys of his age. In fact, he was so amiable that when his friends’ fathers wanted to make special requests to the king (Cyrus's grandfather), they “bade their sons ask Cyrus to secure it for them. And Cyrus, because of his kindness of heart and his desire for popularity, made every effort to secure for the boys whatever they asked” (Xenophon, Cyropaedia 1.4.1; cf. 1.4.4 [LCL vol. 1, 44–47]).

71 Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria 3.7.14 (LCL vol. 1, 470–71). Seneca similarly concludes: “It is surely a baneful might that is strong only for harm” (De clementia 1.3.3 [LCL Moral Essays vol. 1, 364–65]).

72 Scriptores Historiae Augustae, Commodus 1.9 (LCL vol. 1, 266–67). Similarly, in Gellius's Noctes Atticae, the character Gracchus tells a story of an adolescent who beat to death his cowherd for laughing at him as he passed by in a litter. He narrates: “I will give you a single example of the lawlessness of our young men, and of their entire lack of self-control. Within the last few years a young man who had not yet held a magisterial office was sent as an envoy from Asia. He was carried in a litter. A herdsman, one of the peasants of Venusia, met him, and not knowing whom they were bearing, asked in jest if they were carrying a corpse. Upon hearing this, the young man ordered that the litter be set down and that the peasant be beaten to death with the thongs by which it was fastened” (Gellius, Noctes Atticae 10.3.5 [LCL vol. 2, 220–21]).

73 Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria 3.7.19 (LCL vol. 1, 472–73). Ps.-Plutarch concurs, adding that boys who are naturally endowed with talent can be ruined if they are not harnessed and guided (Ps.-Plutarch, De liberis educandis 4 [LCL vol. 1, 8–11].

74 Suetonius, Tiberius 57 (LCL vol. 1, 387–88).

75 Miller, Patricia Cox, Biography in Late Antiquity: A Quest for the Holy Man (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983), 8, 15.

76 Suetonius, Vitellius 1 (LCL vol. 2, 246–48); cf. idem, Gaius Caligula 8.

77 In the cycle of stories depicting Jesus’ education, encomiastic conventions are sometimes followed. Jesus is deemed intellectually gifted by his teachers (“[your child] is full of much grace and wisdom” [IGT 14(15).3]; “You have a wise child, and he has a good mind” [IGT 6.2], this compliment is missing from recension Gs), by his parents (“Joseph saw [the child's] wisdom and understanding” [IGT 13(14).1]), and by bystanders who are “astonished” and “amazed” by the boy's teaching and acts (IGT 6.2c, 15.2). When tragedy strikes, the young Jesus is repeatedly there to save the day, healing his brother's viper bite, reviving a young man who died from a fatal ax wound, and resurrecting an infant who died from a childhood illness (IGT 15[16].1–2; IGT 16[10].1–2; IGT 17.1, 18.1; these latter two stories are only present in recensions Ga and Gd). Elsewhere he is depicted as a helpmate to his parents and community. In one scene, he fetches water for his mother. When the water pitcher breaks, he miraculously carries the water home in his cloak, evidencing his special abilities and proving himself to be a dutiful son (IGT 10[11]). In another scene, he helps his father in his carpentry trade. When Joseph cuts two crossbeams at uneven lengths, Jesus stretches one of them to match the other, saving his father time and additional materials (IGT 12[13]). Finally, in another story, Jesus’ good will and charity is extended to the poor. After helping his father sow one measure of grain, Jesus bounteously reaps one hundred measures in the harvest, which he then shares with the needy in the village (IGT 11[12]). From the stories just described, readers are introduced not only to Jesus’ extraordinary wisdom and power but also to his magnanimity. He is amiable and philanthropic and his wonders benefit his playmates, his family, and the community at large. The stories fit nicely with encomiastic techniques used to valorize a subject.

78 On charges of “atheism,” see Minucius Felix, Octavius 7–8, Athenagoras, Supplicatio pro Christianis 4, 10, 13, 15, Justin Martyr, 1 Apol. 4, 5, 6, 9, 31; of moral depravity, Minucius Felix, Octavius 8–9, Athenagoras, Supplicatio pro Christianis 11, 31–33, 35–36, Justin Martyr, 1 Apol. 13–15; and of lowly followers, Minucius Felix, Octavius 8, Justin Martyr, 1 Apol. 14; Origen, Contra Celsum 1.38; 1.63; 1.68; 1.71; 2.48–49.

79 Origen, Contra Celsum 2.76 (PG 11.912; trans. Crombie, ANF 4.462).

80 Origen, Contra Celsum 2.76 (PG 11.912; trans. Crombie, ANF 4.462).

81 Second- through fourth-century apologists addressed the accusations directly (see Origen, Contra Celsum 1.28–32; Epiphanius, Adversus haereses 78.7.5), as well as more obliquely (see Gospel of Nicodemus 2 and Gospel of Thomas 105). Additionally, some scholars have argued that we can find even earlier attempts to address accusations of Jesus’ illegitimacy in the gospel of Matthew, some editions of Mark, and the gospel of John. For a discussion of these passages, see Brown, Raymond, The Birth of the Messiah (New York: Doubleday, 1977), 537–42 and Tabor, James, The Jesus Dynasty: The Hidden History of Jesus, His Royal Family, and the Birth of Christianity (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006), 6062.

82 Christians responded creatively to the accusations by arguing either that “Panthera” was a nickname for Joseph's father or ancestor—thus merely denoting Jesus’ familial (if not blood) lineage—or that it was a misconstrual of the Greek word παρθένος, a reference to Mary (Epiphanius, Adversus haereses 78.7.5; John of Damascus, De fide orthodoxa IV.14).

83 We might wonder if the gospel author attempted to refute this interpretation by de-coupling it from the childhood story and then pairing it with the Temple scene. See my discussion of the effect of intertexts below.

84 McKnight, Scot and Modica, Joseph B., Who Do My Opponents Say I Am? An Investigation of the Accusations Against Jesus (New York: T & T Clark, 2008).

85 In his third chapter, Kannaday analyzes variants he believes answer opponents’ criticisms: namely, that Jesus was the leader of sedition, the folly of the cross, Jesus’ lowly trade as a carpenter or base role as a magician, and that Jesus possessed a profane temperament (Kannaday, Wayne C., Apologetic Discourse and the Scribal Tradition: Evidence of the Influence of Apologetic Interests on the Text of the Canonical Gospels [Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2004], 101–39).

86 Ehrman, Bart D., Studies in Textual Criticism of the New Testament (Boston: Brill, 2006), 125–26. Ehrman here presumes that Matthew and Luke used Mark as their source and made their revisions independent of one another, a presumption supported by many, but not all, scholars. For a discussion of the range of positions currently held, the strengths and weaknesses of each, and the criteria by which various hypotheses are deemed valid or invalid, see Tuckett, Christopher M., “The current state of the synoptic problem,” in New Studies in the Synoptic Problem: Essays in Honour of Christopher M. Tuckett, eds. Foster, Paul, Gregory, Andrew, Kloppenborg, John S., and Verheyden, J. (Leuven: Uitgeverij Peeters, 2011), 950.

87 Why scribes would excise references to Jesus’ anger in Mark 1 and not also in Mark 10 remains a puzzle.

88 Ehrman, Textual Criticism, 120–32; Kannaday, Apologetic Discourse and the Scribal Tradition, 130–34. That ὀργισθεὶς was later changed to σπλαγχνισθεὶς  has been the dominant position for decades (see Marcus, Joel, Mark 1–8: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary [New York: Doubleday, 2000], 206; Lamarche, Paul, Evangile de Marc [Paris: Gabalda, 1996], 9091; Cranfield, C. E. B., The Gospel according to Saint Mark: An Introduction and Commentary [rev. ed., Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972], 92; Taylor, Vincent, The Gospel according to St. Mark [London: MacMillan & Co., 1953], 187), but Ehrman and Kannaday have published the most thorough discussions of the redaction.

Recently this position has been challenged by Williams, Peter (“An Examination of Ehrman's Case for ὀργισθεὶς in Mark 1:41,” Novum Testamentum 54 [2012]: 112). Williams first questions the strengths of the dominant opinion. He argues that the external evidence for an original oργισθεις is slim given the general unreliability of manuscript D (Codex Bezae) and the potential relationships between D, the Old Latin manuscripts, and Tatian's Diatesseron, wherein oργισθεις is attested (2–3). Second, to claim that Matthew and Luke both found an original oργισθεις offensive and then redacted the passage in their versions assumes a still disputed solution to the synoptic problem: namely, the relationship between the three texts (3–4). Third, proponents of this position have minimized the seemingly strange coincidence that Matthew and Luke would both choose to substitute “anger” with “compassion” (3–4). Williams acknowledges that, if the redaction was deliberate, “the lectio difficilior is to be preferred”, but he argues that all possible explanations for an accidental change have not yet been explored and he deigns to offer one such explanation. Specifically, he argues that the “considerable graphic resemblance between ΟPΓICΘΕIC and CΠΛΑΓXNICΘΕIC in the form of script used in the earliest manuscripts” should lead us to consider the possibility of an accidental scribal error in the process of copying the passage (5). But in which direction was this accidental change made? Williams posits that when faced with these situations, redaction critics (including Ehrman) commonly assume that scribes would substitute a common word for an uncommon word (9). Because σπλαγχνίζομαι was an uncommon word in biblical Greek and unknown outside biblical Greek, he believes it is plausible to imagine a scribe stumbling over the word and replacing it with the more familiar ὀργίζομαι (8–9). I find some points of Williams's critique quite compelling (especially the high coincidence—and thus improbability—that Matthew and Luke employed an identical redaction). Yet I think his overall point that Ehrman jumps too quickly to attribute deliberate intention behind scribal changes before adequately acknowledging the graphic (and, I would add, audible) similarities that could have led to accidental scribal errors is best supported by examples other than Mark 1:41. To me, Williams's seems to be on firmer ground, for instance, with variants of Matthew 1:18 (γένεσις and γέννησις) and Galatians 4:4 (γενόμενον and γεννώμενον). (On these and other graphically similar variants, see 6n13.) If, as he himself admits, “the attribution of the change to deliberate action becomes less necessary the closer the two forms of text are to each other graphically,” then, I contend, the opposite must also be true: the further apart the two forms of text are to each other graphically, the more plausible is deliberate redaction (6–7). Admittedly, it will be up to individual scholars to judge what constitutes enough graphic similarity to warrant Williams’ position, but, in this case, I do not see enough graphic similarity to warrant his position and, thus, I fall on the side of Ehrman and Kannaday.

89 Ehrman, Textual Criticism, 140–41.

90 Allen, Graham, Intertextuality (London: Routledge, 2000), 12; Barthes, Roland, Image—Music—Text, trans. Heath, Stephen (New York: Hill and Wang, 1977), 155–64; idem, Theory of the Text,” trans. McLeod, Ian, in Untying the Text: A Post-Structuralist Reader, ed. Young, Robert (Boston: Routledge, 1981), 3247; cf. Kristeva, Julia, Le texte du roman, approche sémiologique d'une structure discursive transformationnelle (The Hague: Mouton, 1970), 914.

91 Allen, Intertextuality, 12. Here, I disagree in part with Roland Barthes's pronouncement of the “death of the author” (Roland Barthes, Image—Music—Text, 142–48). While he is right to argue that every text contains a network of possible intertexts—and thus readers can generate interpretations that greatly surpass the intentions of the author—I believe that an author (or, in this case an editor) can encourage readers to privilege certain intertexts by employing common literary and rhetorical conventions, which can in turn limit meaning.

92 Hare, Matthew, 89–91, 243.

93 Gould, Ezra P., The International Critical Commentary on Mark (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1905), 211.

94 Schweizer, Mark, 230–32; Myers, Ched, Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark's Story of Jesus (Maryknoll: Orbis, 1997), 297–99, 304–6. Douglas Hare is right to note that Matthew obscures the parabolic function when he takes over the story from Mark and joins the two separated pericopes into a single unit (Matthew, 243). For an alternate explication—that this passage is a midrash of Song of Songs 2:11–13—see Bowman, John, The Gospel of Mark (Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 1965), 221–22.

95 Ernest Best is one of the only scholars to acknowledge that aspects of this story are puzzling. He argues that Mark attempted to make use of a pre-circulating story that originally had a different moral and that this is the source of the story's difficulty. On this point I agree with Best. But while he speculates that, in the pre-Marcan tradition, the story could have pointed broadly to “Jesus’ dynamis (“power”) with the addendum . . . that a disciple could have the same power through prayer,” I argue that it was likely used by opponents of Christianity—along with the cursing and withering of Jesus’ playmate—to criticize Jesus for his indecorous use of power (Best, “Mark's Preservation of the Tradition,” 125). If my hypothesis is correct, Mark decoupled the stories, introducing a new intertext—the cleansing of the Temple—in order to recast the meaning readers might glean from the incident.

96 Frilingos, Chris, “No Child Left Behind: Knowledge and Violence in the Infancy Gospel of Thomas,” Journal of Early Christian Studies 17.1 (Spring 2009): 4344.

97 Elsewhere he is made to say: “listen to me and I shall teach you a wisdom no one else knows except for me and the one who sent me to you so that I may teach” (IGT 6.2b); and “I am here from on high so that I may deliver those below and call them to the heights” (IGT 8.1). Finally, the teacher Zacchaeus laments: “I thought to gain a student, and I am found having a master” (IGT 7.3).

98 Bonner, Education in Ancient Rome, 144. On the prevalence and methods of corporal punishment in the classroom, see Marrou, Henri-Irénée, A History of Education in Antiquity, trans. Lamb, George (London: Sheed and Ward, 1956), 158–59, 272–73; Saller, Richard, “Corporal Punishment, Authority, and Obedience in the Roman Household,” in Marriage, Divorce, and Children in Ancient Rome, ed. Rawson, Beryl (Oxford: Clarendon, 1991), 144–65; Rawson, Beryl, Children and Childhood in Roman Italy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 175–77; Bonner, Education in Ancient Rome, 143–45. By the early Imperial period, some educational experts argued that the humiliation caused by violence in the classroom was counterproductive. They pressed teachers to motivate their students through kinder means, such as accolades, presents, and competition with their peers (see Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria 1.3.14–17; Suetonius, Gramm. 17; Horace, Sat. I; Jerome, Epp. 107.4, 128.1). Their objections to violence in the classroom, however, are evidence that the practice died hard.

99 Marrou, History of Education, 159.

100 Seneca, De ira, 1.16.

101 Seneca, De ira, 2.14.1; cf. 2.17.1–2 (LCL Moral Essays vol. 1, 196–97; cf. 202–3); cf. Philodemus, De ira (Indelli, l'ira, cols. 34.7 and 35). These views of anger's pedagogical function prove useful to Philo as he defends God's anger at Moses: “For this is the only way in which the fool can be admonished” (Philo, Quod Deus sit immutabilis 14.68 [LCL vol. 3, 44–45]).

102 For an alternate, though not contradictory, reading of the intersection of violence and knowledge in IGT, see Chris Frilingos's excellent article, “No Child Left Behind,” 27–54.

103 This reading is found only in recension Ga.

104 See also IGT 15.2, which reads “the crowd standing there were astonished at his holy words” (Gs); “A great crowd had gathered and stood listening to him and they were amazed at the beauty of his teaching and the maturity of his words because he was a child saying such things” (Ga); “A great crowd entered and listened to everything and were amazed at his holy teaching and his speech because he was a child saying such things” (Gd). Even the teachers who have been belittled by the prodigious child concur: “This child is not of this earth . . . this child is a great thing—either a god or an angel or what I should say I do not know” (IGT 7.2, 7.4).

105 Here, I agree with Tony Burke when he writes: “whatever the original form or origin of the childhood tales . . they are transformed by their inclusion in IGT into declarations of Jesus’ power and authority” (Burke, Infantia Iesu, 199).

106 For example, see Davies, Stevan, The Infancy Gospels of Jesus: Apocryphal Tales from the Childhoods of Mary and Jesus (Woodstock, Vt.: Skylight Paths, 2009), x, xxvii; Hock, Infancy Gospels, 96.

107 Since childhood stories were used by orators and biographers to prove that their subjects were and had always been either valorous or villainous, it has become commonplace for scholars to assume that Greeks and Romans believed that character and personality were static and unchanging throughout their lifetime. Thomas Wiedemann, for example, writes: the “idea that personality can change was almost completely alien to Greek and Latin biography” (Wiedemann, Adults and Children, 50; cf. Hock, Infancy Gospels, 96–97). While these rhetorical depictions certainly provide evidence for this view, we must also take into account the many other texts that prescribe careful and attentive childrearing and education in order to curb youthful excesses and discipline children into becoming reasoning adults. From these sources, it becomes clear that Greeks and Romans believed that most men—with proper rearing and education—progressed through stages of development, and that it was only the extraordinary few—whether the most noble or the most depraved—who possessed a consistent character throughout their life. Here we see a tension between typical conceptions of childhood development and the rhetorical uses of childhood stories. See, for example, Cicero, De oratore; Cicero, De officiis 1.34.122; Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria; Pliny, Ep. 3.3.4; Ps.-Plutarch De liberis educandis; Suetonius, De grammaticis et rhetoribus. See also discussions of childhood development in Eyben, Restless Youth, 7–8, 21; Rawson, Children and Childhood, 134–45; Harlow and Laurence, Growing Up, 49. I am grateful to Stephanie Cobb for pressing my thinking on this point.

108 Burke, Infantia Iesu, 198. Reidar Aasgaard similarly observes: “The types and contents of audience response evince a drama which appears consciously worked out. Its elements contribute . . . to the development [of the story] . . . reactions change from primarily negative to predominantly positive as the audiences—both individuals and groups—gradually realize the greatness of Jesus” (Aasgaard, Childhood of Jesus, 46–47). Since the order of the episodes varies among manuscripts, we should not hold too firmly to this argument. On the order of the stories in various manuscripts, see Gero, “Infancy Gospel of Thomas,” 58–59; Burke, Infantia Iesu, 466–539.

109 On the crowd's reactions as the most prominent editorial seams, see Burke, Infantia Iesu, 285.

110 The accusation against Joseph does not appear in recension Gs.

111 Cicero, De Legibus 1.47; Ps.-Plutarch, De liberis educandis 7, 13, 20; Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria 1.2.1–10; Cicero, De officiis 1.34.122.

112 LeMoine, Fannie J., “Parental Gifts: Father-Son Dedications in Roman Didactic Literature,” Illinois Classical Studies 16 (1991): 339. As LeMoine notes, these treatises evidence “the special responsibility Roman fathers were expected to adopt toward their children's education…The literary work becomes the concrete fulfillment of an obligation [munus] . . . not dissimilar from the recognition for services rendered to the gods or the state” (LeMoine, “Father-Son Dedications,” 340, 355; cf. Bernstein, Neil W., “Each Man's Father Served as his Teacher: Constructing Relatedness in Pliny's Letters,” Classical Antiquity 27, no. 2 [Oct. 2008]: 203–30; and Rawson, Children and Childhood, 157–58, 221–22, 224–25).

113 Seneca, De Providentia 2.5 (LCL Moral Essays vol. 1, 8–9).

114 Tacitus criticizes parents for “familiariz[ing] their little ones, not with virtue and modesty, but with laxity and glib talk, in which they come gradually to lose all sense of shame, and all respect both for themselves and for others” (Dialogus de oratoribus 29 [LCL 90–91]). Even if the child learned his wayward ways from a nurse or pedagogue, the parents were ultimately responsible since they selected those men and women to be role models for their children (Juvenal, Sat. 14; Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria 1.1.1–9; Juvenal, Sat. 14; Seneca, De ira 2.21; and Rawson, Children and Childhood, 158).

115 Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria 1.2.6–8 (LCL vol. 1, 42–43). Seneca similarly laments the character of his son who was too indulgently brought up; he thinks he may do anything” (Seneca, Controversiae 2.3.3). These boys, Ps.-Plutarch concurs, “disdain the sane and orderly life, and throw themselves headlong into disorderly and slavish pleasures (Ps.-Plutarch, De liberis educandis 7, cf. 20). When things did not go their way (for instance, when they are criticized in the classroom or slighted by a playmate), these children become easily annoyed and lash out, displaying a quick temper. They were thought to be impossible to control, even by the best pedagogues and teachers (Seneca, De ira 2.21; Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria 2.2.9–13).

116 Herm. Vis. 1.3

117 According to Livy, one father was put on trial for sending away his slow-witted son rather than striving diligently to make up—through additional oversight—for his son's natural deficiencies (Livy, Ab urbe condita 7.4.6–7 [LCL vol. 3, 368–69]). On custody disputes based on poor parenting, see Rawson, Children and Childhood, 228–29.

118 Although beyond the scope of this project, we should also consider the elaborations of changes to IGT's stories found in later infancy collections, such as the Arabic Infancy and Pseudo Matthew.

119 Gero, “Infancy Gospel of Thomas,” 59; Burke, Infantia Iesu, 177, 205–6.

120 On the “author function,” see Foucault, Michel, “What is an Author?” in Textual Strategies: Perspectives in Post-Structuralist Criticism, ed. Harari, Josué V. (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1979), 147.

121 On the links between this text and other texts attributed to Thomas, see Chartrand-Burke, Tony, “Authorship and Identity in the Infancy Gospel of Thomas,” Toronto Journal of Theology 14, no. 1 (1998): 2743. (Chartrand-Burke later retracted portions of his argument in Infancy Gospel of Thomas, 81–82.)

122 Foucault, “What is an Author?” 151. On how readers’ pre-existing ideas about the author limit the “proliferation of significations” available in the text, see page 159.

123 On variants in the manuscript tradition, see Burke, Infantia Iesu, 173–222, 466–539; Gero, “Infancy Gospel of Thomas,” 56–59.

124 For discussions of the complicated manuscript tradition and for attempts at identifying an original text, see Peeters, Paul, Évangiles Apocryphes: l' Évangile de l'Enfance, volume II [Paris: A. Picard, 1914], ilix; De Santos Otero, Aurelio, Das kirchenslavische Evangelium des Thomas (Berlin: DeGruyter, 1967); Gero, “Infancy Gospel of Thomas,” 48–56; Voicu, Sever, “Notes sur l'histoire du texte de L'Histoire de l'Enfance de Jésus,” Apocrypha 2 (1991): 119–32; idem, Verso il testo primitivo dei Παιδικὰ του῀ Κυρίου 'Iησου῀ ‘Racconti dell'infanzia del Signore Gesù,” Apocrypha 9 (1998): 795; Burke, Infantia Iesu, 127–222; Chartrand-Burke, Tony, “The Greek Manuscript Tradition of the Infancy Gospel of Thomas,” Apocrypha 14 (2003): 129–51; and Burke, Infantia Iesu, 174–82. Many scholars argue that we can reach conclusions about the original language of the text. Paul Peeters has argued for a Syriac original, Voicu prefers the Slavonic versions, and Burke the Greek.

125 For the Greek texts, see Burke, Infantia Iesu, 472.

126 For the Greek texts, see Burke, Infantia Iesu, 478. It is interesting that Joseph's anger in IGT 6.2 (Ga), is also missing in the other recensions: “Joseph [becoming furious (ὀργισάμενος) with the teacher Zacchaeus], said to him,” demonstrating that scribes might have attempted to protect Joseph's character as well as Jesus’.

127 Burke, Infantia Iesu, 476; Hock, Infancy Gospels, 109; Frilingos, “No Child Left Behind,” 41.

128 These variants are found in Geo, which Burke argues is an early version. For a discussion, see Chartrand-Burke, Infancy Gospel of Thomas, 229n44; Burke, Infantia Iesu, 222, 482.

129 Burke, Infantia Iesu, 188, 216–17.

130 The text is extant in Coptic and Arabic versions. For the Coptic, see Lefort, L. T., “A propos de l'histoire de Joseph le Charpentier,” Le Muséon 66 (1953): 201–23. For the Arabic, see Battista, A. and Bagatti, B., Edizione critica del testo arabo della ‘Historia Iosephi fabric lignarri’ e recherché sulla sua origine (Jerusalem: Studii Biblici Franciscani, 1978).

131 History of Joseph the Carpenter, 11 (trans. Cowper, B. Harris, The Apocryphal Gospels and Other Documents Relating to the History of Christ, ed. Cowper, B. Harris [London: David Nutt, 1897], 108).

132 Morenz, Siegfried, “Die Geschichte von Joseph dem ZimmermannTexte und Untersuchungen 56 (1951): 1 (as translated by Cullmann, “Infancy Story of Thomas,” 443).

133 History of Joseph the Carpenter, 17 (Cowper, Apocryphal Gospels, 115).

134 Oscar Cullmann, for example, writes: “It is in accord with natural curiosity, if in time the early Christians wished to learn something of that part of the life of Jesus concerning which the oldest tradition is silent. Whenever biographical literature shows gaps, legend generally springs up, in the absence of reliable information, to supply the deficiency” (Cullmann, “Infancy Gospels,” 415, 417). This sentiment echoes the views of Metzger, Bruce M. in The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development, and Significance (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987), 166–67.

135 See, for instance, James Keith Elliott's introduction to “Birth and Infancy Gospels,” in which he writes: the “dominant theological concerns of the canonical birth [and childhood stories] are less significant in the apocryphal tradition” (Elliott, Apocryphal New Testament, 47). Elliott and others reach this conclusion because they presume these stories were invented by the unschooled, who wished to “imagine realistically . . . what it would have been like if, in a real rural village, a boy were to possess powers of this sort before he was old enough to know how to use them” (Davies, Infancy Gospels of Jesus, 128, 118, cf. 116). Davies argues that such folktales were probably never regarded to be historically reliable even by those who invented and circulated them, but rather were considered to be composed merely for entertainment. Readers must have viewed them like novels, television shows, or movies, Davies concludes (Davies, Infancy Gospels of Jesus, xxi, cf. xxvi-xxviii). On the folkloric characterization of the infancy gospels, see Nicolas, Études, 65–66; Enslin, Morton S., “Along Highways and BywaysHarvard Theological Review 44 (1951): 92; Gero, “Infancy Gospel of Thomas,” 47, 56, 63. For a compelling critique of the folkloric classification (which he at times advocates), see Burke, Infantia Iesu, 212.

This position anachronistically privileges sources that had yet to be authorized as canonical. It is very possible that stories about Jesus’ childhood circulated—most likely in oral form—contemporaneously with stories about his adult life. Although the childhood stories may have been recorded in writing after the canonical gospels were composed, it is impossible to tell if they were building on the gaps and authority of the canonical biographies. Moreover, this view presumes that curiosity drove only the uneducated masses and resulted in only simple and unsophisticated narratives. I find this view to be flawed in that it overlooks resonances with significant debates of the time and sophisticated rhetorical tropes. Further, while certainly vulgar nosiness (πολυπραγμοσύνη) and meddlesome questioning (περιεργία) were universally scorned, curiosity was not understood to be universally useless or impious. Intellectual curiosity regarding the nature of the cosmos and the divine, for example, was perceived by Aristotle, Plutarch, and Seneca to be the starting point of philosophical speculation (Walsh, P. G., “The Rights and Wrongs of Curiosity (Plutarch to Augustine)Greece & Rome 35, no. 1 [Apr. 1988]: 7385; Labhardt, André, “Curiositas. Notes sur l'histoire d'un mot et d'une notion,” Museum Helveticum 17 [1960]: 206–24).

136 Bovon, François, “The Child and the Beast: Fighting Violence in Ancient Christianity,” in New Testament and Christian Apocrypha: Collected Studies II, ed. Snyder, Glenn E. (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2009), 229.

137 Jacobs, Andrew, “Dialogical Differences: (De-)Judaizing Jesus’ Circumcision,” Journal of Early Christian Studies 15, no. 3 (Fall 2007): 292, referencing Lieu, Judith's excellent article, “‘Impregnable Ramparts and Walls of Iron’: Boundary and Identity in Early ‘Judaism’ and ‘Christianity,’New Testament Studies 48.3 (July 2002): 297313.

138 Jacobs, “Dialogical Differences,” 294.

139 Moreover, we see that, once Christians internalized the stories of their opponents not only is the image of Jesus modified, but so too Christian notions of anger. As Bakhtin notes, when a text repositions textual associations, it inevitably transforms patterns of meaning, ultimately reshaping social values (Bakhtin, Mikhail and Volosinov, V. N., Marxism and the Philosophy of Language, trans. Matejka, L. and Titunik, I. R. [Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1986]). As Christians attempted to modulate the characterization of Jesus, they created the conditions for which anger might be justified and even “Christianized.” By the fourth century, we find that some—though not all—Christians begin again to become comfortable with anger, defending God's anger, as well as some types of human anger, as righteous. See especially Lactantius's treatise De ira Dei, in which he reverses the common associations between anger and irrationality and anger and justice.

I wish to thank to members of the UNC Chapel Hill Christianity in Antiquity reading group (facilitated by Bart D. Ehrman) and participants in the “Reading Strategies for Early Christian Apocryphal Gospels” section of the 2007 American Society of Church History Winter meeting for their comments on early versions of this paper. I want to extend special thanks to Chris Frilingos and participants at the 2011 Oxford Patristics conference for their feedback on my ideas once they developed further. Finally, I am grateful for the thoughtful and instructive comments I received from the anonymous reviewers.

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Church History
  • ISSN: 0009-6407
  • EISSN: 1755-2613
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