Monday, March 13, 2006

The Christian Gospels

I'm reading 'The Last Templar' by Raymond Khoury. It's sort of a da Vinci Code type book, the major theme being the lies of the Catholic Church. In this case, the lie that Jesus of Nazareth was divine. The heroine and hero of this book are looking for the lost 'treasure' of the Knights Templar. The 'treasure' turns out to be a book written by Jesus which instructs us to look inward for the meaning of God. No church or priests required. The book is no where near as good as the da Vinci Code although it does tell you a bit about the Templars.

Of course, reading these types of books always makes me want to know more. Stuff that 12 yrs of Catholic school doesn't teach you. For instance, Arianism: Arius (250 - 336 CE) proposed that Jesus and God were very separate and different entities: Jesus was closer to God than any other human being, but he was born a man, had no prior existence, and was not a god. On the other hand, God has been in existence forever. Arius felt that any attempt to recognize the deity of Christ would blur the lines between Christianity and the Pagan religions. If Christianity recognized two separate gods, the Father and Jesus, it would become a polytheistic religion. Arianism was put to rest at the Council of Nicea in 325 CE.

Then you have the question of how gospels were chosen to be included in the Christian bible. The hero of 'The Last Templar' is a devout catholic. But he did not know that the Gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke and John were not written by Jesus' disciples. In fact, no one knows who wrote them. Many scholars believe that the author of one gospel copied passages from another gospel. The hero of 'The Last Templar', an FBI agent, also does not know that the first gospel written by Mark (although many argue Matthew was written first), was written about 40 years after the death of Jesus. This at a time when there were no newspapers, no books and no google, only oral tradition. I didn't realize that some church scholars believe in the existance of the gospel of Q, a hypothetical book of 'sayings' of Jesus written about 20 years after his death.

Then there are the gospels that were written around the same time but not included in the Christian Bible. The Gospel of Thomas for instance. Thomas is the record of a Christian community creatively accommodating influences from Gnosticism. It could not be included because of its Gnostic content.

The Gospel of Mary is another rejected book. This is a gospel that contains many Gnostic ideas, including the concept that evil powers in the world were attempting to keep people ignorant of their true spiritual nature. This gospel also tells of the leadership that women gave during the early Christian movement.

Two gospels I was unaware of include: The Infancy Gospel of Thomas, where as a young boy, Jesus curses one of his playmates causing him to wither up. This gospel also describes Jesus visit to the Temple, the same as Luke 2:41. It was probably written sometime in the second century CE. The Infancy Gospel of James describes the life of Mary, Jesus' mother. James of course is supposedly the brother of Jesus, however it is more likely this gospel was written in the 2 nd century CE.

One of my favorite sources for all things concerning religion is here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Then there are the gospels that were written around the same time but not included in the Christian Bible

see how you played fast and easy with the facts. where is the evidence that the other gospels were written around the same time as the 4 gospels. You just took that for granted, din you. Which is what authors of such books like Da Vinci Code etc want. To mislead people. They cry about how the church lied. But they themselves lie and misrepresent facts. And when caught out, they say it was all fiction and intelligent readers ought to have seen through their false characterizations.