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16. The Ancient Novel Becomes Christian

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Chapter Summary

Among the problems confronting those who would sketch a profile of the ancient Christian novel are the definition of "ancient novel" and the properties that might make it "Christian". The prefatory adjective "Christian" is less perplexing but requires brief attention, for it bears upon the reception and survival of ancient novels in general. Jewish fiction thus helps to illuminate two of the classic issues surrounding ancient novels. "Apocryphal" means "hidden", but in common use it denotes the fraudulent and fictitious. "Canonical", on the other hand, bears the cachet of the select and the official. The various Jewish and Christian texts considerably enlarge the horizons and boundaries of the ancient novel, helping to bridge gaps across cultures and substantially illuminating what was actually "popular". There is a great deal of variation in form, style, object, and viewpoint within early Christian fiction.

Keywords: ancient novel; Christian fiction; Jewish fiction



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