Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Brand X

The National Geographic special about the Gospel of Judas left the impression that the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were arbitrarily chosen out of dozens of other gospels for inclusion in the official New Testament.

There was much that was misleading in the two-hour “documentary.” But I want to focus on just this one issue for now.
How was the official list of books (canon) determined? Was it the result of political maneuvering? Was it based on ulterior motives (to defend the authority of the church)? Was the process arbitrary with the outcome largely the result of the coincidental interaction of various factors?

I think the most valuable place to start is with some excerpts from the writings that were not selected as part of the canon (HT:
Dr. Keith Drury @ IWU).

From “
The Infancy Gospel of Thomas
Now when Jesus was five years old … he took of the clay … and made … twelve sparrows…. Jesus spread forth (opened) his hands and commanded the sparrows, saying: Go forth into the height and fly.… And they flew and began to cry out and praise almighty God.

But a Pharisee … began to empty the pool which Jesus had made. And when Jesus saw it he was vexed and said to him: O thou of Sodom, ungodly and ignorant, what hurt did the fountain of water do thee, which I made? Lo, thou shalt become like a dry tree which hath neither roots nor leaf nor fruit. And straightway he was dried up and fell to the earth and died.

And after some days as Jesus walked with Joseph
through the city, there ran one of the children and smote Jesus on the arms: but Jesus said unto him: So finish thou thy course. And immediately he fell to the earth and died.

Jesus [as a child] said unto the [teacher]: If thou be verily a [teacher] and indeed knowest the letters, tell me the power of A and I will tell thee the power of B. Then was the master filled with indignation and smote him on the head. But Jesus was wroth and cursed him, and on a sudden he fell down and died.
From The Arabic Gospel of the Infancy of the Savior:
Jesus spoke, and, indeed, when He was lying in His cradle said to Mary His mother: I am Jesus, the Son of God, the Logos, whom thou hast brought forth, as the Angel Gabriel announced to thee; and my Father has sent me for the salvation of the world.

Wherefore they circumcised Him in the cave. And the old Hebrew woman took the piece of skin; but some say that she took the navel-string, and laid it past in a jar of old oil of nard. And she had a son, a dealer in unguents, and she gave it to him, saying: See that thou do not sell this jar of unguent of nard, even although three hundred denarii should be offered thee for it. And this is that jar which Mary the sinner bought and poured upon the head and feet of our Lord Jesus Christ, which thereafter she wiped with the hair of her head.

Coming thereafter to another city, they [Joseph, Mary & Jesus] wished to spend the night in it. They turned aside, therefore, to the house of a man newly married, but who, under the influence of witchcraft, was not able to enjoy his wife; and when they had spent that night with him, his bond was loosed.

Hence they turned aside to that sycamore which is now called Matarea, and the Lord Jesus brought forth in Matarea a fountain in which the Lady Mary washed His shirt. And from the sweat of the Lord Jesus which she sprinkled there, balsam was produced in that region.

Thence they came down to Memphis, and saw Pharaoh, and remained three years in Egypt; and the Lord Jesus did in Egypt very many miracles which are recorded neither in the Gospel of the Infancy nor in the perfect Gospel.
From The Book of James:
And Mary [as a child] was in the temple of the Lord as a dove that is nurtured: and she received food from the hand of an angel…. And when she was twelve years old, there was a council of the priests, saying: Behold Mary is become twelve years old in the temple of the Lord. What then shall we do with her?

And [the priest] took the rods of them all and went into the temple and prayed. And when he had finished the prayer he took the rods and went forth and gave them back to them: and there was no sign upon them. But Joseph received the last rod: and lo, a dove came forth of the rod and flew upon the [h]ead of Joseph. And the priest said unto Joseph: Unto thee hath it fallen to take the virgin of the Lord and keep her for thyself. And Joseph refused, saying: I have sons, and I am an old man, but she is a girl: lest I became a laughing-stock to the children of Israel…. Joseph was afraid, and took her to keep her for himself. And Joseph said unto Mary: Lo, I have received thee out of the temple of the Lord: and now do I leave thee in my house, and I go away to build my buildings and I will come again unto thee.
From The Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew:

And Mary was held in admiration by all the people of Israel; and when she was three years old, she walked with a step so mature, she spoke so perfectly, and spent her time so assiduously in the praises of God, that all were astonished at her, and wondered; and she was not reckoned a young infant, but as it were a grown-up person of thirty years old. She was so constant in prayer, and her appearance was so beautiful and glorious, that scarcely any one could look into her face.

From the morning to the third hour she remained in prayer; from the third to the ninth she was occupied with her weaving; and from the ninth she again applied herself to prayer. She did not retire from praying until there appeared to her the angel of the Lord, from whose hand she used to receive food; and thus she became more and more perfect in the work of God.

She refreshed herself only with the food which she daily received from the hand of the angel; but the food which she obtained from the priests she divided among the poor. The angels of God were often seen speaking with her, and they most diligently obeyed her. If any one who was unwell touched her, the same hour he went home cured.

Then Joseph received Mary, with the other five virgins who were to be with her in Joseph's house.

And the virgins who were with Mary said to him: We know that no man has touched her; we can testify that she is still a virgin, and untouched. We have watched over her; always has she continued with us in prayer; daily do the angels of God speak with her; daily does she receive food from the hand of the Lord.

After these things there arose a great report that Mary was with child. And Joseph was seized by the officers of the temple, and brought along with Mary to the high priest. And he with the priests began to reproach him, and to say: Why hast thou beguiled so great and so glorious a virgin, who was fed like a dove in the temple by the angels of God, who never wished either to see or to have a man, who had the most excellent knowledge of the law of God?

[S]he brought forth a son, and the angels surrounded Him when He was being born. And as soon as He was born, He stood upon His feet.
From The Gospel of Mary [Magdalene]:
Peter said to Mary, "Sister, we know that the Savior loved you more than other women. Tell us the words of the Savior which you have in mind since you know them; and we do not, nor have we heard of them."

Mary answered and said, "What is hidden from you I will impart to you."

Peter also opposed her in regard to these matters and asked them about the Savior. "Did he then speak secretly with a woman, in preference to us, and not openly? Are we to turn back and all listen to her? Did he prefer her to us?" Then Mary grieved and said to Peter, "My brother Peter, what do you think? Do you think that I thought this up myself in my heart or that I am lying concerning the Savior?"

Levi answered and said to Peter, "Peter, you are always irate. Now I see that you are contending against the woman like the adversaries. But if the Savior made her worthy, who are you to reject her?”
From The Gospel of Peter:
Then the Jews and the elders and the priests, when they perceived how great evil they had done themselves [by crucifying Jesus], began to lament and to say: Woe unto our sins: the judgement and the end of Jerusalem is drawn nigh.

And early in the morning as the Sabbath dawned, there came a multitude from Jerusalem and the region roundabout to see the sepulchre that had been sealed.
From The Gospel of Thomas:
These are the secret sayings that the living Jesus spoke and Didymos Judas Thomas recorded.

Jesus said, "Those who seek should not stop seeking until they find. When they find, they will be disturbed. When they are disturbed, they will marvel, and will reign over all. [And after they have reigned they will rest.]"

Jesus said to his disciples, "Compare me to something and tell me what I am like."
Simon Peter said to him, "You are like a just messenger."
Matthew said to him, "You are like a wise philosopher."
Thomas said to him, "Teacher, my mouth is utterly unable to say what you are like."
Jesus said, "I am not your teacher. Because you have drunk, you have become intoxicated from the bubbling spring that I have tended."
And he took him, and withdrew, and spoke three sayings to him. When Thomas came back to his friends they asked him, "What did Jesus say to you?"
Thomas said to them, "If I tell you one of the sayings he spoke to me, you will pick up rocks and stone me, and fire will come from the rocks and devour you."

Mary said to Jesus, "What are your disciples like?"
He said, They are like little children living in a field that is not theirs. when the owners of the field come, they will say, "Give us back our field." They take off their clothes in front of them in order to give it back to them, and they return their field to them.

Jesus said, "When you strip without being ashamed, and you take your clothes and put them under your feet like little children and trample then, then [you] will see the son of the living one and you will not be afraid."

Jesus said, "I disclose my mysteries to those [who are
worthy] of [my] mysteries.”

Jesus said, "How miserable is the body that depends on a body, and how miserable is the soul that depends on these two."

Jesus said, "Whoever drinks from my mouth will become like me; I myself shall become that person, and the hidden things will be revealed to him."

Jesus said, "Damn the flesh that depends on the soul. Damn the soul that depends on the flesh."

Simon Peter said to them, "Make Mary leave us, for females don't deserve life." Jesus said, "Look, I will guide her to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every female who makes herself male will enter the kingdom of Heaven."
From The Gospel of Phillip:
When we were Hebrews we were orphans and had only our mother, but when we became Christians we had both father and mother.

Light and Darkness, life and death, right and left, are brothers of one another. They are inseparable. Because of this neither are the good good, nor evil evil, nor is life life, nor death death. For this reason each one will dissolve into its original nature.

Names given to worldly things are very deceptive for they divert our thoughts from what is correct to what is incorrect. Thus one who hears the word God does not perceive what is correct, but perceives what is incorrect. So also with the Father and the Son and Holy Spirit.

Some said, Mary conceived by the Holy Spirit, they are in error. They do not know what they are saying. When did a woman ever conceive by a woman? Mary is the virgin whom no power defiled…. And the Lord would not have said My Father who is in Heaven unless he had had another father, but he would have said simply My father.

Jesus is a hidden name; Christ is a revealed name for this reason: Jesus does not exist in any other language, but his name is always Jesus as he is called.

Those who say that the Lord died first and then rose up are in error, for he rose up first and then died. If one does not first attain the resurrection will he not die?

Some are afraid lest they rise naked. Because of this they wish to rise in the flesh, and they do not know that it is those who wear the flesh who are naked.

There are two trees growing in Paradise. One bears
animals, the other bears men. Adam ate from the tree which bore animals. He became an animal and he brought forth animals. For this reason the children of Adam worship animals. The tree whose gift Adam ate is the Tree of Knowledge. That is why sins increased. If he ate the fruit of the other tree, that is to say, the Tree of Life, the one which bears men, then the gods would worship man. For in the beginning God created man. But now men create God. That is the way it is in the world - men make gods and worship their creation. It would be fitting for the gods to worship men!

The world came about through a mistake. For he who created it wanted to create it imperishable and immortal. He fell short of attaining his desire. For the world never was imperishable.
Of course this is not exhaustive (though reading these excerpts may be exhausting). However, I think you can start to get a sense of the vast difference between the “lost gospels” and the four canonical Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). I have added the emphasis in these quotations.

Pastor Rod

“Helping you become the person God created you to be”


Jordan said...

Good stuff! Thanks for the quality info. It makes a great resource.

Keith.Drury said...

Thanks for doing the hard work of excerpting these!