Friday, April 14, 2006

Various Gospels, and Why They Are Not Canonical...

The four canonical gospels are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The first three all borrow from the same tradition supposedly, the mythical, gospel named Q. While the Gospel of Saint John takes its material from both Q and a source as yet unidentified. Needless to say, it is enough to know that the four canonical gospels in whatever form or from whatever source all followed on a tradition considered orthodox by the proto-orthodox Christians. These were the theologians such as Iraneus, St. Augustine, Emperor Constantine, etc, and they are the ones who would slowly help create the religion of Christianity as we know it.

Now aside of the canonical gospels, there are those which were deemed heretical, nonsensical, or just not good enough. Also, those that sort of fit, but were lost as Christianity evolved through lack of use. We knew that there were other gospels out there, but mostly through texts written by the early Christian writers, who extolled the religion and put down those who were "heretical" to "orthodoxy". Until fairly recently, so the past 100 years, the most that was seen of these other gospel traditions were tidbits quoted in other texts or found on ancient papyrus'. This all changed when a farmer found the Nag Hamadi texts in the Middle East, which held many many writings, including those only hinted at previously. The Gospel of Thomas was either found in these texts or aroudn the same time. This gospel is so early in the Christian tradition that it is called a "sayings gospel" because all that is in it are the sayings of Jesus Christ. I read this in class, and it was interesting, but also very odd because its like reading one of the Gospels without any backstory.

Amongst some of the titles of new found gospels are the Gospel of Philip, the Gospel of Bartholomew, even teh Gospel of Mary (Magdelaine). Each has its own twist on the life and acts of Jesus, and what role each person had in his life. None were obviously written by the direct apostle from which they werenamed, nor were any of the canonical Gospels. Rather they were written by their disciples or those who followed the apostle's life. Some simply were given the names we know today through time to give the text more validity. These texts ultimately had to be winnowed out, and some were taken away for obvious reasons, others not so much. I do not know what was wrong with the gospels of most of the apostles, except they were somehow lacking, and as for that of Mary, well anythign that put a woman in the lead as a disciple could not be allowed. And then there are those like Judas, which run against all that Christianity stood for. These were the gnostic texts that said either salvation was not needed for redemption, the ressurection never happened, or believed in the aeons, creation myth of the demiurge, and that Jesus was a God, but not the Son of God, and rather just shed his mortal coil.

So the main point being here is to know, that the gospels that made it pushed the church into what proto Christians wanted for a belief system, and those which were against that ideal, were discarded and forbidden. In esence, the main idea that I got from all this while trying to think of it is that, though we may be devout Christians, we sort of are forced to believe what they wanted. Because all texts that are contrary to their ideals have been hidden and gone for the past 1700 years or so. And to imagine that Christianity evolved simply with four gospels and the rest of the New Testament is a fallacious idea. There were fights, and blood shed to make the Bible we have, but one must wonder, is the side that won correct? We have to believe so, to be Christian, but scary thought if such gospels as were taken away had won out. We'd be polytheists who only have a fifty fifty chance of being redeemed in the next life. But that is for the final part of this, dealing with why the Gospel of Judas is interesting and what it has to say about Jesus.

Sorry if this entry was less than stellar, but its harder to type then to think out loud... Tomorrow's shall be better, I hope...


Blogger RamJam said...

How many gnostic texts are there thought to be, and are these categories gnostic believes exclusive? i.e. would one sect deny ressurection but not salvation?

7:29 PM  

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