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Thursday, May 17 2001

"Hidden gospels"

On Wednesday I received an email from a friend on a list we both subscribe to, describing a new book he's discovered. I'm not here going to promote the book...haven't even seen it...but the blurb he included in his letter speaks directly to the topic I initiated a week and a half ago: the biggest conspiracy theory (which would have us believe that Christianity as traditionally maintained by the churches, is a complicated hoax and conspiracy). It may have more relevance to the Nanty Glo email forum to report that it turns out the author of the book described, Philip Jenkins, is a professor at Penn State University, practically a neighbor resident at University Park. He, like Luke Timothy Johnson whom I introduced earlier, writes against the "conspiracy theory" and gives credance to the church and the New Testament accounts of the life of Christ and the origins of the church. I'll insert the book blurb, from Oxford University Press, here, and comment more after it.

The first full-length critical analysis of the "hidden gospel" phenomenon shows why these texts arouse such interest and why they are so misleading.

Was Jesus really a subversive mystic whose true teachings were suppressed by an authoritarian church? Has the real nature of Christianity been deliberately obscured for centuries? Do recently discovered texts such as the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Mary, and even the Dead Sea Scrolls undermine the historical validity of the New Testament?

In this incisive critique, Philip Jenkins thoroughly and convincingly debunks such claims. Jenkins places the recent controversies surrounding the hidden gospels in a broad historical context and argues that, far from being revolutionary, such attempts to find an alternative Christianity date back at least to the Enlightenment. And by employing the appropriate scholarly and historical methodologies, he demonstrates that the texts purported to represent pristine Christianity were in fact composed long after the canonical gospels found in the Bible. Produced by obscure heretical movements, these texts offer no reliable new information about Jesus or the early church. They have attracted so much media attention chiefly because they seem to support radical, feminist, and post-modern positions in the modern church. Indeed, Jenkins shows how best-selling books on the "hidden gospels" have been taken up by an uncritical, scandal-hungry media as the basis for a social movement that could have dramatic effects on the faith and practice of contemporary Christianity.

Brilliantly researched and sharply argued, Hidden Gospels unearths both the complex agendas and flawed methods of scholars who have created a whole new mythology about Jesus and the early church....

Philip Jenkins is Distinguished Professor of History and Religious Studies at Pennsylvania State University. He is the author of many books, including Pedophiles and Priests: Anatomy of a Social Crisis and Mystics and Messiahs: Cults and New Religions in American History. He lives in University Park, PA.

I find especially supportive of my earlier thesis the line, "far from being revolutionary, such attempts to find an alternative Christianity date back at least to the Enlightenment." And this: "flawed methods of scholars who have created a whole new mythology about Jesus and the early church."

I don't mean to imply that a book blurb is truth from on high. But there is a lot of common sense in this description of Jenkins' book. There is a conspiracy afoot here, but it's being promoted and perpetrated by enemies of church and Gospel. It goes way back before the Enlightenment (1700s)...and (it isn't "scholarly" to say so, but) methinks it's being promulgated by the biggest hoaxer and deceiver of them all.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy

Foxhole faith

The Sunday School Teacher asked, "Now, Johnny, tell me frankly, do you say prayers before eating?"

"No sir," Little Johnny replies, "I don't have to. My Mom is a good cook!"

Sent by Virginia in Millville

More great words of wisdom. . .Modern Proverbs

Sorrow looks back, worry looks around, and faith looks up.

Standing in the middle of the road is dangerous. You will get knocked down by the traffic from both ways.

Words are windows to the heart.

A skeptic is a person who when he sees the handwriting on the wall claims it's a forgery.

Sent by Zan
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