Thursday, August 17, 2006

Lost Scriptures

I got this Lost Scriptures: Books That Did Not Make It into the New Testament, by Bart D Ehrman yesterday from Borders, just wonder if anyone else has read it?


We may think of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament as the only sacred writings of the early Christians, but this is not at all the case. Lost Scriptures offers an anthology of up-to-date and readable translations of many non-canonical writings from the centuries after Christ--texts that have for the most part been neglected or lost for nearly two millennia. Here is an array of remarkably varied writings from early Christian groups


Meg said...

I haven't read it; I've just read a review of it on this website:

Ehrman is the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He's primarily interested, so said the review, in textual criticism and in proving that Christianity has always undercut itself. He considers that people like Marcion did not tamper with the the original Biblical manuscripts to the detriment of the canon of the NT, but orthodox Christians did.

Although he was educated at Wheaton College and the Moody Bible Institute, Ehrman now considers himself to be an agnostic.

Dave said...

Thanks Meg,

I think Ehrman is onto something within his textual criticism, it is likely that our texts are not identical to the original manuscripts. Does that affect the meaning of a passage. I have never read all the variant readings to fully know, so have to reserve judgement.

The great thing about this book is that it has full manuscripts of many of these ancient writings, including many different gospels and many letters...and the Shepherd of Hermas that I have never read, but was in general use in 2nd and 3rd century and regarded by many as canonical.

Looking forward to reading it and then maybe getting one of his other books. Also getting Nollands NIGTC commentary on Matthew soon, it took him 10 years to write, shame not to make use of it.

Meg said...

I've made a pretty intensive "up-until-4-a.m." study of textual criticism over the past seven years; admittedly, I'm not seminary-educated - unless you want to count my year as a post-grad at a Jesuit university...:>) and the minor in theology there!

Compare these verses in the KJB and the critical texts (the Westcott & Hort progeny), just for starters: Colossians 1:14; Genesis 15:1; Matthew 4:4 & 9:13; 2 Cor. 2:17; Phil. 2:6; John 1:12 versus John 3:16. These are among over 1,000 or so verses that have been "tweaked" so that the resulting new Bible versions could be copyrighted, marketed and make a profit for their respective publishing houses. I have nothing against capitalism, only against what might stand in derogation of Prov. 30:6.

I haven't studied Greek and I've taken only one course in Hebrew. I rely on Edward F. Hills ("Believing Bible Study;" "The King James Version Defended")among others for issues having to do with textual criticism because of my own lack of academic credentials. I have no quarrel with anyone over Bible versions, though: been there, done that and it's not beneficial to my relationships with other Christians. The Holy Spirit leads as He will, not I.

I've often wanted to just take a look at those references you've mentioned, Dave; I just haven't gotten around to it yet.

Shieldsy said...

Seems awefully high brow. I struggle enough reading my Bible let alone books that didn't make it!! What's the point ... why you reading it?

Dave said...

why you reading it?

Not really high brow, just what the early christians read and for the most part counted as having immense benefit to the communities.
More interesting for me than Left Behind or Frank Peretti etc, and more inspiring than most of the Wesley Owen Top Ten, well for me at least.

I would rather read the letters of Clement than say Joyce Meyer's latest book, 'Look Great, Feel Great' where dear Joyce
provides a twelve-key plan for overcoming the poor eating and exercise habits that keep us from doing all God has called us to do

Maybe I am too high brow!!

Meg said...

Poor Joyce. She's turned into a caricature of herself. Too bad she likely hasn't spent as much time on reading the Word as she has on makeovers...

One of these days it's going to be really scary: you're going to look at Joyce Meyers and - quelle horreur! - it'll be Joan Rivers staring back at you.

Dave said...

Maybe she just took the Nehemiah rebuilding narrative as personal direction?

Peter said...

Hi Dave, Ehrman regards much of the Gospels and new testament writing as flawed on the basis that it was written 40-50-60-years after the events. For a historian like him to write a book based on Lost Scriptures, the writing of the 2nd and 3rd century, seems odd. Perhaps he's getting desperate in his attempts to discredit the bible.
Let us know how you get on.


Dave said...

Hi Peter,

Interesting points, have you read many of his books, the one I have is really just a compilation of early writings from the early church, things like the Didache, so obviously these are of much value, and the letters of Clement are really good.

I do not think he is regarding these writings as free from error, and he is probably correct that our scriptures today are not exactly the same as the originals, as we do not have them then we will never know, but it remains that there are many textual variances in the manuscripts.

You sound like you have much more knowledge of Ehrmans writing than me, I will let you know how it goes.

dinsy said...

If you are going to ask "why read writings that were regarded as scripture in the early years of the church, and that contain apostolic practice and teachings" you might as well ask "why read the bible". (Or at least the NT as it contains apostolic practice and teachings.)

Why were these writings "Left Behind" by those who set the NT Canon, anyone know? What grounds did they use to decide? I find it interesting that Hebrews only made it on because it was thought to be written by Paul. Should it be taken out as its Pauline authorship is seriously questioned these days?

Shieldsy said...

Hope I don't need to explain why I think it's more important to read the Bible than it is to read books that were deemed heretical or unauthentic by the church fathers.

The writings we're discussing wouldn't have been considered 'scripture' at the time. In fact the only scripture the early church had was the 'old testament'. Because there was debate about what should be condsidered authorative and what shouldn't, certain books were canonised into scripture.

If you are debating about whether they got the canon of scripture wrong is another thing altogether. Call me lazy but I'm happy to believe that for the past 1,500 years or so the accepted canon is pretty much as the Holy Spirit intended it to be.

Reading non-canonical books is probably academically interesting but I was just wondering what David's motivations were. Personally I'd rather read Joyce Meyer! ;o)

dinsy said...

Do you think there is only academic interest to be gained from everything other than the bible then? No food for spiritual growth, no inspiration, no deeper knowledge of God, nothing that can add to your faith? Or throw more light on the bible teachings?

Can the Holy Spirit only speak through the bible? On what do you base your belief that the Holy Spirit is happy with the canon if you don't know what was rejected from it, and why?

No wonder you prefer the "fast food" of Joyce Meyer.

Shieldsy said...

Just to set the record straight, never read a joyce meyer book. Not that I think there's anything wrong with Joyce Meyer mind you, just not my sort of reading.

Think you've read too much into what I said Dinsy. Where did I say that you should only read the Bible? I was simply wondering what the motivation for reading books that church history has decided are heretical or unauthentic ... personally I can only see academic interest in them, like I can only see academic interest in a Christian reading the Quaran.

The Holy Spririt can speak through what He likes and when He likes. However (there's always a however!!), I believe that He has selected a canon of scripture that can be relied upon to be a final authority ... otherwise why have a canon of scripture at all? Why not let people read what they want and let the HS speak to them each personally?

PeterinScotland said...

Surely it's not a case of what the church chose, but of what God inspired inerrantly and the church recognised as inerrantly inspired.

Also Shieldsy says "The writings we're discussing wouldn't have been considered 'scripture' at the time. In fact the only scripture the early church had was the 'old testament'."

We know this is not so (at least according to my English Bible) because Peter says that some people twist Paul's writings, as they do also with the other scriptures.

dinsy said...

Hi Shieldsy, when you say that you think I've read too much into what you said, I think you may be right! It was the "academically interesting" comment and the stated preference for Joyce Meyer that did it. I have read one of her books you see. (A friend is very enamoured with her and I wanted to know what sort of things she said, so I borrowed one of her books. At least I haven't added to her riches.)

I would far rather read heretical texts than any more Joyce Meyer, and some of the stuff in Dave's book contains things that are far from heretical. I look forward to hearing what Dave makes of it, I would certainly like to read the Didache, and some of the Clement stuff sounds interesting too.


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