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This book isn¿t what I would call exciting reading, but if you¿r
This book isn’t what I would call exciting reading, but if you’re interested in the early religious writings it is informative. There is short introduction about each of these “lost books” and then the actual translation. Of course, these books weren’t actually “lost” because we have copies of them today, but they were “missing” for centuries until they were discovered in modern times. They are early gospels, acts, epistles, and apocalypses that seemed to disappear for a time. Some are complete translations, some are just fragments, and some are what we have learned from quotes in other writings. Some actually seem like they could have been included in the Bible. They go from interesting and informative to boring and absurd or ridiculous. In one there’s a talking dog. Of course, wasn’t there a talking donkey in the Bible? We also have a smoked tuna that was resurrected and that Mary was checked to make sure she was really a virgin. I wonder who did that? For me, the interesting ones were the Gospel of Mary, the Acts of John and Thecla (Paul’s companion), The Shepherd of Hermas, The Infancy Gospel of Thomas , which I believe are the only writings of Jesus’ early life, and The Coptic Gospel of Thomas, which reveals 114 secret teachings of Jesus. Many say that these writings of Thomas may be closer to what Jesus actually taught than what we find in the New Testament. Of course, I'm also sure that many would adamantly disagree with this statement.
Several of these writings were quite controversial. In a few Jesus has a twin brother, Didymus Judas Thomas. One of the most interesting is the fragmentary Gospel of Mary. There are several references to the intimate relationship she had with Jesus. In one, it states, “there were three Marys who walked with the Lord: A Mary is his sister and his mother and his lover.” In another it references Mary as the “consort of Christ is Mary Magdalene.” In this gospel, she is also given a high status among the apostles, “Jesus loved her more than us.”
I never really knew what it took for an early writing to be accepted as canonical. This book tells me: they had to be ancient (near the time of Jesus), apostolic, catholic, and orthodox. Yet what is considered heresy would definitely depend on your point of view. Most of these early writings were rejected by the church because they preached a Gnostic point of view, leaned toward a too ascetic lifestyle, or were, at the time, thought to be falsely written in the name of an apostle. Yet some modern Bible scholars believe that some of the apostolic writings included in the New Testament were not actually written by who they claim.
I believe this book is actually written as a resource for one of Ehrman’s other books, Lost Christianities. As I mentioned earlier, some of the “lost books” were interesting and some weren’t, and I found myself scanning and skipping through some of them. This book probably would been better if I had read Lost Christianities first. If you’re looking for shocking revelations, this isn’t the book for you. Read this book if you are able to have an open mind about the New Testament and have an interest in early religious writings.
It gives insight into these early times, the thoughts of these early writers, and the culture of this time period. Know beforehand that some of these early writings are not that interesting, but it makes for a good reference book.
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Posted January 21, 2012
Posted August 9, 2009
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