I was recently interviewed by Gavin Ortlund on his podcast: “Which Canon is the Right One?” Enjoy!
While Narnia is a land filled with magic—where animals can talk and even sing—not all people can hear them. In C.S. Lewis’ The Magician’s Nephew we learn that Uncle Andrew is one of those people. When the animals speak to him, Uncle Andrew hears only animal sounds. Just noise, not words.
Why? He is closed to the idea of a magical world. He assumes (in his worldview) that animals are nothing but dumb creatures. Thus, when Aslan sings, Uncle Andrew is able to rationalize it away: “‘Of course, it can’t really have been singing,’ he thought, ‘I must have imagined it. I’ve been letting my nerves get out of order. Who ever heard of a lion singing?’”
Then Lewis (as the narrator) offers the most profound insight: “What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are.”
This inestimable lesson, one it seems every generation needs to learn anew, is perhaps the big take away from the book I have just finished: Ariel Sabar, Veritas: A Harvard Professor, a Con Man and the Gospel of Jesus’s Wife (Doubleday, 2020).
Sabar’s fascinating page-turner has garnered quite a bit of attention over the last few months and it is easy to see why. Utilizing his skills as an investigative journalist, he has taken a deep dive into the saga of the so-called Gospel of Jesus’ Wife, building upon his 2016 article in The Atlantic.
The saga began in 2012 when Karen King, professor of divinity at Harvard University, announced the discovery of a provocative new papyrus fragment where Jesus utters the phrase, “my wife…” Needless to say, the academic world was stunned by this new “gospel” and the implications it might have for the history of Christianity. [Read more…]
One thing that I have observed over the years is that major media outlets love apocryphal gospels. Whenever the person of Jesus is discussed–usually at Easter and Christmas–there is always a discussion about how the real story of Jesus has been suppressed and can only now be found in these lost gospels.
Sweeping claims are then made about how there was no agreement on much of anything in the first four centuries of the faith and that other stories of Jesus circulated by the thousands. Only after Constantine came along does the church decide which books to accept (and then subsequently denies all other books admission to the club).
When you think about it, this sort of historical reconstruction makes for an attractive magazine article or newspaper story for our modern media. The public loves a good conspiracy theory. People want to believe that there are “secret,” “hidden,” “lost,” or “forgotten” (the four most common words used in such stories) accounts of Jesus that will finally reveal the truth once and for all.
And, of course, everyone likes to believe that the Church is just like all institutions–corrupt, authoritarian, and concerned only about preserving its own power.
In a 2012 blog article, Phillip Jenkins demonstrated the media’s tendency to highlight these sort of conspiracy theories. They follow the apocryphal gospel playbook step by step. For example, the UK Daily Telegraph, when discussing the death of NT Professor Marvin Meyer, gives this assessment of gospels in early Christianity: [Read more…]
In modern studies of the NT canon, there is a lot of discussion (maybe even obsession!) with so-called ‘lost’ books of the Bible. So, we have recent book titles like Lost Scriptures, Forgotten Scriptures, and The Lost Bible.
In fact, scholar Philip Jenkins even wrote a whole book documenting (and critiquing) the academic community’s fascination with this theme: Hidden Gospels: How the Search for Jesus Lost Its Way.
So what do we with these other books of the New Testament? A few quick thoughts.
First, most of these books weren’t really ‘lost.’ The early church fathers were very much aware of these other books. Indeed, they knew them well enough to recognize they were not authentic apostolic writings.
So, no one hid or suppressed these books. On the contrary, early Christians were quite open about the problems with these books and overtly stated why they should be rejected as part of the biblical canon.
Second, most of these ‘lost’ books weren’t really that popular. Unfortunately, many modern studies of canon give the impression that early Christians read these lost books in droves. It was only when later church authorities decided to clamp down, we are told, that the popularity of these books waned.
But the historical evidence says otherwise. [Read more…]
In the world of biblical studies, at least among some critical scholars, Gnosticism has been the darling for sometime now. Especially since the discovery of the so-called “Gnostic Gospels” at Nag Hammadi in 1945, scholars have sung the praises of this alternative version of Christianity.
Gnosticism was a heretical version of Christianity that burst on the scene primarily in the second century and gave the orthodox Christians a run for their money. And it seems that some scholars look back and wish that the Gnostics had prevailed.
After all, it is argued, traditional Christianity was narrow, dogmatic, intolerant, elitist, and mean-spirited, whereas Gnosticism was open-minded, all-welcoming, tolerant and loving. Given this choice, which would you choose?
While this narrative about free-spirited Gnosticism being sorely oppressed by those mean and uptight orthodox Christians might sound rhetorically compelling, it simply isn’t borne out by the facts. So, here are five claims often made about Gnosticism that prove to be more myth than reality: [Read more…]