University Press, ); Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths .. lost Christianities, to see what they urged followers of Jesus to believe and. Later in the service, my sermon will explore “Lost Christianities and Banned Books of the Bible.” As preparation, I would like to invite you to. Lost Christianities Bart Ehrman - Free ebook download as PDF File .pdf), Text File .txt) or read book online for free.

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The early Christian Church was a chaos of contending beliefs. Some groups of Christians claimed that there was not one God but two or twelve or thirty. of Christianity in the first three centuries after the death of Jesus Christ leading what we today know as the New Testament in his book “Lost Christianities: The. Modern Christianity is widely diverse in its social structures, beliefs and practices, but this diversity is mild compared to the first three centuries A.D., when.

There were yet other Christians who said that Jesus never died. How could some of these views even be considered Christian? Or to put the question differently, how could people who considered themselves Christian hold such views?

Lost Christianities Bart Ehrman

It is because there was no New Testament. To be sure, the books that were eventually collected into the New Testament had been written by the second century. But how did they make their decisions? How can we be sure they were right? And whatever happened to the other books?

Why were these not included as parts of Scripture? Scholars debate whether Paul actually wrote all of these letters. Why were these excluded? But why were other apocalypses not admitted into the canon, such as the apocalypse allegedly written by Simon Peter, in which he is given a guided tour of heaven and hell to see the glorious ecstasies of the saints and, described in yet more graphic detail, the horrendous torments of the damned? Or the book popular among Christian readers of the second century, the Shepherd of Hermas, which, like the book of Revelation, is filled with apocalyptic visions of a prophet?

We now know that at one time or another, in one place or another, all of these noncanonical books and many others were revered as sacred, inspired, scriptural.

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Some of them we now have; others we know only by name. Only twenty-seven of the early Christian books were finally included in the canon, copied by scribes through the ages, eventually translated into English, and now on bookshelves in virtually every home in America.

One thing that was lost, of course, was the great diversity of the early centuries of Christianity. But virtually all forms of modern Christianity, whether they acknowledge it or not, go back to one form of Christianity that emerged as victorious from the conflicts of the second and third centuries.

These gains are obviously significant and relatively well known. It is these losses which we will be exploring throughout this book. In this book we will examine these lost books that have now been found, along with other books that were marginalized by the victorious party but have been known by scholars for centuries. We will also consider how the twenty- seven books of the New Testament came to be accepted as canonical Scripture, discussing who made this collection, on what grounds, and when.

The Stakes of the Conflict Before launching into the investigation, I should perhaps say a word about what is, or at least what was, at stake. Throughout the course of our study I will be asking the question: What if it had been otherwise? What if some other form of Christianity had become dominant, instead of the one that did? The creeds still spoken in churches today might never have been devised.

The New Testament as a collection of sacred books might never have come into being. Or it might have come into being with an entirely different set of books, including, for example, the Gospel of Thomas instead of the Gospel of Matthew, or the Epistle of Barnabas instead of the Epistle of James, or the Apocalypse of Peter instead of the Apocalypse of John.

It is conceivable that if the form of Christianity that established itself as dominant had not done so, Christianity would never have become a major world religion within the Roman Empire. Had that happened, the empire might never have adopted Christianity as its official religion.

Leaving aside writings which are lost or destroyed, virtually all records of teachings are edited, some with text inserted, modified, or deleted and variant readings due to scribal errors.

They are also translated, sometimes mistranslated, copies are made from copies, and over the years, little by little, the original message erodes. There are yet more serious problems: as soon as the teacher departs, discussion arises over the content of the message. One disciple thinks the Master intended one meaning, another something different. In trying to preserve and explain the true teachings, schools of interpre- tation are formed, points of agreement decided upon, dogmas formal- ized, and there follows one schism after another — not to mention the proliferation of counterfeit teachers and new revelations — all claiming spiritual authority, until at length we have a smorgasbord of conflict- ing doctrines, systems, and groups.

A replay of the tower of Babel — a confusion of languages — and, regrettably, a pattern from which few religious movements have been exempt.

This pattern, as it applies to Christian history, is well known to scholars, clergy, and the educated public. However, since the discovery of a unique collection of early Christian documents at Nag Hammadi, Egypt, augmented by the Jewish Dead Sea scrolls and other 20th-century finds, the ways in which this story has been interpreted, understood, and retold have distinctly changed.

Taken together, four of these books offer a thoughtful, accessible, yet detailed study of the diversity of early Chris- tian communities from the time of Jesus to the formation of the New Testament canon, and the diverse ways in which that history has been told since.

Up to most information about the Gnostics was second and third hand, derived mainly from the censorious writings of the early heresiologists, such as Irenaeus, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, and Epiphanius.

Bart D. Karen L. King, What is Gnosticism? Prior to , only a few works by Christian gnostics were available, such as the Pistis Sophia and the two Books of Jeu, as well as some non-Christian Hermetic, Mandaean, and Manichaean texts see Kurt Ru- dolph, Gnosis, , pp.

One can also speak of an Orphic, Pythagorean, Platonic, and an Oriental gnosis, but all of these including the Jewish and Christian are part of a larger story concerning the universal Mystery tradition. Aimed at a general audience, Beyond Belief gives a broad overview of the central issues of early Christian history, and is refreshingly uncluttered with scholarly apparatus, though it contains ample endnotes with references and suggested books for further study.

No doubt they could, but it seems to me this is a healthy part of spiritual discovery and one of the most effective ways of avoiding dogmatism.

And here Elaine Pagels excels with candor and insight, inviting the reader to participate with her in the search for truth. Robinson, ed.

Distressed and disagreeing with their interpretation — and finding no room for discussion — I realized that I was no longer at home in their world and left that church. And their content challenged her. The discourse of heresy employs a number of strategies. One is to tar opponents who share similar characteristics with the same brush, lump them all into a few oversimplified categories, label them, and derogate the terms e.

Although the Church Fathers did not use the word Gnosticism — coined by 17th-century Englishman Henry More — its principal characteristics are usually defined and understood as elitist secret knowledge only the elect are saved and a radical devaluation of the world and its creator, the god of Genesis.

While some Gnostic texts, when read literally, disparage the ma- terial world as the failed creation of an ignorant Demiurge creator — implying that evil arises out of ignorance — and accordingly urge the spiritually enlightened to escape its blinding, soul-killing influence, other texts are less extreme. For example, Pagels writes pp. Because everyone is a child of God and contains the seed or light-spark of divinity within, enlightenment is ultimately attained through the discipline of self-knowledge — as emphasized in the Gospel according to Thomas, which begins as follows: These are the secret sayings which the living Jesus spoke and which Didymos Judas Thomas wrote down.

When he finds, he will become troubled. When he becomes troubled, he will be astonished, and he will rule over the All. Rather, the Kingdom is inside of you, and it is outside of you. When you come to know yourselves, then you will become known, and you will realize that it is you who are the sons of the living Father. But if you will not know yourselves, you dwell in poverty and it is you who are that poverty. Her scholarship not only helps answer such questions, it also helps illumine many of the obscure and sometimes contradictory passages in that other small library of early Christian documents called the New Testament.

For readers willing to trouble settled convictions, Beyond Belief offers an introduction and richly guided tour of the contours and contrasts of faith and knowledge in early Christian history.

What is genuine, and thus connects us with one another and with reality, and what is shallow, self-serving, or evil? Orthodoxy tends to distrust our capacity to make such discriminations and insists on making them for us. Many of us, wishing to be spared hard work, gladly accept what tradition teaches. Most of us, sooner or later, find that, at critical points in our lives, we must strike out on our own to make a path where none exists.

What I have come to love in the wealth and diversity of our religious traditions — and the communities that sustain them — is that they offer the testimony of innumerable people to spiritual discovery. For it is difficult to exhibit the really pure and transparent words respecting the true light to swinish and untrained hearers. Ben Azzai looked and died. Ben Zoma looked and lost his mind. Acher cut his plantings, while Rabbi Akiba, who entered in peace, left in peace.

The story is a cautionary tale about mystical ascents in search of spiritual knowl- edge. Hence the strictures of discipline and silence imposed as protections against injury and abuse — and a reason for secrecy. The Gospel of Thomas alludes to this when Jesus tells Thomas three secret words. Here lies a major problem concerning the essence of Christianity: Did it originally rest on an esoteric foundation similar to the ancient Mysteries?

Clement of Alexandria, the late 2nd-century Church Father, clearly affirmed it did. Myths and parables were the public language of the ancient Mys- teries; and while no detailed statements of higher teachings are avail- able, their fundamental content was never secret.

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This historical background is indispensable to understanding the varied forms of early Christianity. The books reviewed in these articles present some of this context, while offering valuable lessons of his- tory. Chief is the importance of primary sources: the need of first-hand knowledge of original texts and traditions insofar as this is possible, and also something of their origin, interpretation, and transmission.

The Nag Hammadi library, for example, reveals how popular and scholarly opinion about Gnosticism was and continues to be skewed by the filter- ing and imprinting effects of the early heresiologists.

Secret writings nevertheless present a special problem. The uncensored Nag Hammadi and other gnostic documents remain obscure, for most are reserved texts said to veil hidden, unutterable realities. By their own descriptions they are at best imperfect secondary sources requiring valid interpretive keys, without which uninitiated readers will see perhaps only fantastic stories and dark sayings, not the hidden logos within the mythos.

Those who have this name know it, but they do not speak it, but those who do not have [it] do not know it. A professor of Bible and Christian Studies at Chapman Uni- versity, Meyer begins by introducing the reader to secret gospels and his principal themes. Meyer carefully notes that while he too assumes the letter is an authentic copy of an ancient text, the actual manuscript needs to be released for scientific analysis.

For the true things being mixed with inventions, are falsified, so that, as the saying goes, even the salt loses its savor. Nevertheless, he yet did not divulge the things not to be uttered, nor did he write down the hierophantic teaching of the Lord, but to the stories already written he added yet others and, moreover, brought in certain sayings of which he knew the interpretation would, as a mystagogue, lead the hearers into the innermost sanctuary of that truth hidden by seven veils.

Thus, in sum, he prepared matters, neither grudgingly nor incautiously, in my opinion, and, dying, he left his composition to the church in Alexandria, where it even yet is most carefully guarded, being read only to those who are being initiated into the great mysteries.

O stainless light! My way is lighted with torches, and I survey the heavens and God; I become holy whilst I am initiated.

Lost Christianities: Christian Scriptures and the Battles over Authentication

The Lord is the hierophant, and seals [pledges to silence] while illuminating him who is initiated, and presents to the Father him who believes, to be kept safe for ever. Such are the reveries of my mysteries. If it is thy wish, be thou also initiated;. During the night Jesus taught the neaniskos the mystery of the kingdom of God.

The prescribed ritual dress in early Christian baptisms was also a linen robe over a naked body.

I have always taught in synagogue and in the temple, where all Jews congregate; I have said nothing in secret. There was no monolithic church, no formally-defined New Testament, no ruling orthodoxy, and even wider disagreements about observance of Jewish law, basic theological issues such as the Resurrection and the divinity of Jesus, and about gnosis and the Christian secret tradition.

Just as Paul reinterpreted and transformed the teachings of a relatively small Jewish esoteric sect into a growing Gentile movement proclaiming the risen Christ, so Irenaeus fathered an orthodoxy that became normative theology for virtually all Christians today. Part 3 — Recovering Ancient Voices If the belief in immortality is of remote antiquity, how can the dread of death be the oldest of all fears?

When he becomes troubled, he will be astonished, and he will become king over the All.

And to some degree it may be recognized in our own personal search for truth. Living in harmony with the divine source of life, however it may be conceived, is said to confer present and future happiness. Ideally we might hope for, even expect, a united front of the spiritually faithful; but opposing forces arise here too, sowing discord and conflict.In virtually every case the practice is denounced as deceitful and ill- spirited.


New Testament. He came to understand that there were two gods: Those who oppose the chaste and refuse to adopt their ways. She in turn wishes the steward raised and is empowered to do the deed herself. Here was a medieval monk buried with proscribed books. Of the highest One, Eugnostos writes: He is immortal and eternal, having no birth; for everyone who has birth will perish. Courtesy of Robert M.

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