Shuck and Jive

Saturday, March 08, 2008

The Results Are In for JSOR

Westar is having its Spring Meeting this weekend in Santa Rosa. When that wraps up I will work it out with Char to host a Jesus Seminar on the Road in Elizabethton.

The top choice in the poll I posted on the sidebar is
Competing Early Christian Voices.

Here is a description of a JSOR on that theme coming up in Michigan.

In the beginning, orthodoxy was but one of many diverse movements tracing their origins in some way to Jesus of Nazareth. Initially these groups used a Greek form of the Hebrew Bible as their scripture, but that collection proved inadequate to their needs. So they eventually reduced their new visions of faith to writing. Beginning in the fourth century, some self-proclaimed orthodox representatives selected certain religious texts to serve their communities, texts which, centuries later, would become “divinely inspired scripture.” Other texts, from movements competing with orthodoxy, they libeled as “heretical,” or “not genuine.”

The workshop will look at some of the so-called “heretical” texts and competing religious visions that survived from that early period, such as Thunder, Perfect Mind; The Gospel of Thomas; The Treatise on the Resurrection; The Gospel of Mary; The Aprocryphon of John; The Gospel of Judas; The Testimony of Truth; and The Apocalypse of Peter.

Keep it here for details!


  1. What does the writer mean, though, by "in the beginning??" As far as I know, full-blown gnosticism was more a movement of the second century while the N.T. writers reflect the witness of the 1st. century church.

    Obviously, any study of these gnostic writings shows them to be at odds with the witness of the N.T. concerning Jesus. Both cannot be equally true.

    From my perspective, the church just did not arbitrarily determine the canon. In time, they were able to see these writings as having an intrinsic truth and authority which the gnostic materials did not have.

    I think it was about alot more than a "power struggle."

  2. Grace,

    I don't know what "in the beginning" means either, but the process of canonization did not become concrete until maybe even after the reformation. None of Luther's contemporaries questioned his right to claim for example that James and Revelation did not belong in the Canon.

    The process was also not meant to say that other writing weren't also really good. The meaning of "canon" is that it is the "core body of literature", not "the only literature". I would say that interpretation of the biblical canon only come another 1500 years later.

    But more to the point, some of those other writing really could have made it in just fine.

    For example, some of the Christology vocabulary of the New Testament seems to have its origins in the book of Enoch, from about 200 BC, and Jude even quotes Enoch, showing that early Christians considered it an authoritative writing.

    Some writings represent really good theology and show first hand how early Christians thought the Gospels applied to their lives, like 1st and 2nd Clement, and Polycarp.

    Some of the stuff is just Christian fantasy writings, early examples of what could be called in the same genre as C.S Lewis. The Acts of Thomas is a gorgeous and awesome story. The adventures of Paul and Thecla are great too. Probably killed because the heroine was a woman.

    What would Jesus's childhood have been like? Did he have powers? Was he aware of being the son of God? The infancy Gospel of Thomas fantasizes what that might have been like.

    I think it would be OK to recover a sense of Christian folklore and read those books as such.

    Then there are the Gnostic texts. The irony is that even though they were overtly rejected, some of their beliefs became orthodox or quasi orthodox anyway. Like the view of the separation of the physical and the spiritual and that what really matters is the spiritual. Or the denial of the inherit goodness of creation, or the denial of the humanity of Jesus.

    The point is, it's not just about heresy vs orthodoxy, and gnosticism vs the canon. There was lots of literature that was left out of the Bible, and some of it maybe should have made it in, some of it was OK either way, and some it thank God never made it in, because it would have been disastrous if it did.

    All of it is instructive to read.