The Afterlife of the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew Preview

This post is essentially a teaser for my upcoming presentation at the International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo next week. I’ll be presenting a paper titled “The Afterlife of the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew” on session 41, “The Scripturesque Middle Ages: Uses/Reception of Apocrypha along the Medieval North Sea,” organized by Stephen Hopkins, in Sangren 1320, on Thursday at 10am.

Here’s an abstract for my paper:

More than almost all other apocrypha, the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew enjoyed fame and popularity throughout the Western European Middle Ages as one of the most widely influential works of extra-biblical literature. It was especially central to the development of the Cult of the Virgin Mary, as it sparked the later adaptation known as the Nativity of Mary, likely composed around the year 1000, which was central to the rise of the Feast of the Nativity of Mary in the eleventh century. Pseudo-Matthew also saw a number of additions in the late medieval period, as many manuscripts began to include expansions about Jesus’ childhood. Among these, the most prominent expansion was a Latin translation of the Greek Infancy Gospel of Thomas, which appears appended to Pseudo-Matthew in manuscripts from the twelfth century onward.

Pseudo-Matthew also survived in manuscripts alongside a range of works across medieval genres. Using data visualization aided by bibliographic and media studies, this paper specifically seeks to examine associations between the apocryphal gospel and other works, situating them together to understand how medieval readers perceived this text as part of a more general literary landscape. Indeed, this aspect of the transmission of Pseudo-Matthew also relates to its wider influence on literature and art, as the narrative and visual depictions of it are found alongside biblical, apocryphal, hagiographical, and historical works in many manuscripts. Significantly, through studying its transmission history, we see that Pseudo-Matthew found a place in medieval culture not as a curiosity of apocryphal lore but as an important part of the narrative of Christian salvation history.

Here’s one network visualization of my data about manuscripts that I’ll discuss:

Pseudo-Matthew MSS all nodes graph.png

Fortunately, I’ve had the opportunity to delve deeply into the details of the sources, text, manuscripts, and larger tradition of Pseudo-Matthew because of my work on a new translation and commentary. I’ve learned much through this work, and it’s given me a lot to work with in tracing its afterlife in the medieval period. So I’m using what I’ve learned so far and pursuing new avenues for understanding the circulation and transmission of this apocryphon.

In many ways, this current research is an extension of what I wrote about in Preaching Apocrypha in Anglo-Saxon England–which attendees should be able to order at the UTP booth in the book exhibits. I’m asking similar questions about apocrypha, the circulation and transmission of extra-biblical works, and the uses of media studies and network theory for gaining answers. My present work, however, focuses on a longer history for a specific text, rather than the cumulative evidence from many texts.

Here’s another preview of some things I’ll discuss about manuscripts containing the A-text of Pseudo-Matthew (the earliest surviving version):

Pseudo-Matthew MSS A-text graph.pngAll of my data for this research is posted on this GitHub repository, so you can see even more before the conference. But there’s much more to come in the presentation of this data and my conclusions–so I’ll hope to see you in the audience next Thursday morning!



  1. […] via The Afterlife of the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew Preview — Brandon W. Hawk […]

  2. […] The Afterlife of the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew Preview […]

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