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Gospel of Peter
There were dozens, probably hundreds, of religious texts circulating around at the time the Gospels were written and coming into common usage in the early centuries after the death of Christ. They include The Gospel of Peter , Origins of the World , Gospel of Mary (Magdalene) , Acts of John , Homilies of Truth and The Gospel of Truth . Many were simply written and forgotten. Others were carefully scrutinized by Christian scholars and rejected for one reason or another, in many cases because the doctrines they promoted were regarded as threatening or heretical.

The Second Discourse of the Great Seth declares that the true Christ was never crucified. The Secret Book of John claims that Adam and Eve received their divine spirit from a true God while the Old testament God hid the truth from mankind.

Some of the early texts were quite bizarre. One tells the story of the Garden of Eden from the snake’s point of view. Another uses the voice of a female spirit. Another features a description of the resurrection with a walking and talking cross; a stone tomb door that moves by itself; heads that stretch to the sky and a voice that asks, “Have you preached to those who are sleeping?”

The main Rejected Gospels that have generated interest among scholars and the general public include: 1) Gospel of Thomas; 2) Gospel of Mary; 3) Gospel of Judas; 4) Gospel of Philip; 5) Gospel of Peter; 6) Unknown Gospel: Egerton Papyrus 2; 7) Gospel of Q. [Source: gospels.net]

Books: “Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas” by Elaine Pagels and "Lost Scriptures: Books that Did Not Make It Into the New Testament" by Bart D. Ehrman

Websites and Resources: Christianity Britannica on Christianity britannica.com//Christianity ; History of Christianity history-world.org/jesus_christ ; BBC on Christianity bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity ;Wikipedia article on Christianity Wikipedia ; Religious Tolerance religioustolerance.org/christ.htm ; Christian Answers christiananswers.net ; Christian Classics Ethereal Library www.ccel.org ; Early Christianity: Elaine Pagels website elaine-pagels.com ; Sacred Texts website sacred-texts.com ; Gnostic Society Library gnosis.org ; PBS Frontline From Jesus to Christ, The First Christians pbs.org ; Guide to Early Church Documents iclnet.org; Early Christian Writing earlychristianwritings.com ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Christian Origins sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Early Christian Art oneonta.edu/farberas/arth/arth212/Early_Christian_art ; Early Christian Images jesuswalk.com/christian-symbols ; Early Christian and Byzantine Images belmont.edu/honors/byzart2001/byzindex ; Bible and Biblical History: Bible Gateway and the New International Version (NIV) of The Bible biblegateway.com ; King James Version of the Bible gutenberg.org/ebooks ; Bible History Online bible-history.com ; Biblical Archaeology Society biblicalarchaeology.org ; Jesus and the Historical Jesus ; Britannica on Jesus britannica.com Jesus-Christ ; Historical Jesus Theories earlychristianwritings.com ; Wikipedia article on Historical Jesus Wikipedia ; Jesus Seminar Forum virtualreligion.net ; Life and Ministry of Jesus Christ bible.org ; Jesus Central jesuscentral.com ; Catholic Encyclopedia: Jesus Christ newadvent.org

Nag Hammadi Manuscripts

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Gnostic Dag Hammadi
Dialogue of the Savior
Many early Christian texts that remain with us today are Nag Hammadi manuscripts, a trove of ancient papyri books found in the village of Nag Hammadi in Upper Egypt in 1945. Written in Coptic, the manuscripts consisted of 13 codexes with 52 texts that were stored in a heavy waist-high clay jar and may have been stored there by monks from the nearby monasteries of St. Pachpmius.

Some regard the Nag Hammadi manuscripts to be as important as the Dead Sea scrolls. The 52 texts found there include previously unknown Gnostic gospels, epistles, apocalypses and other religious writings held sacred to early Christian groups . They had titles like The Secret Book of James , The Apocalypse of Peter , The Gospel of Philip and The Gospel of Thomas . Most were dated to the A.D. 4th century but are likely translations of Greek originals that dated back to as early as the A.D.1st century.

Initially the Nag Hammadi texts were only of interest to religious scholars, many of whom dismissed them as offering few new insights into the historical Jesus. But in recent years they have been reexamined and are now regarded as important materials to understanding the development of Christianity.

The Nag Hammadi manuscripts were found by an Arab peasant named Muhammed Ali al-Sammam while collecting dung as fertilizer for his fields. He took the texts home and tossed them in courtyard used by his animals. Before they made their way to antiques dealers and scholars some pages were used to light stoves and others were bartered for cigarettes.

Book: The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels of Princeton University (1979) was awarded a National Book Award and was a surprise bestseller. Also worth a look is The Gnostic Discoveries: The Impact of the Nag Hammandi Library (HarperSanFrancisco. 2005)

Apocryphal Texts

According to the BBC: “But the Bible isn't the only source. In 1945 at Nag Hammadi, in southern Egypt, two men came across a sealed ceramic jar. Inside, they discovered a hoard of ancient papyrus books. Although they never received as much public attention as the Dead Sea Scrolls, these actually turn out to be much more important for writing the history of early Christianity. They are a cache of Christian texts. The Nag Hammadi texts tell us about early Christians. They were written in Coptic, the language of early Christian Egypt. As most ancient Christian texts have been lost, this discovery was exceptional. [Source: Susan Haskins and Belinda Sykes, July 20, 2011, BBC |::|]

“The discovery includes the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Philip and the Acts of Peter. None of these texts were included in the Bible, because the content didn't conform to Christian doctrine, and they're referred to as apocryphal. They tend to concentrate on things that one doesn't read about in the Bible. For example, New Testament gospels report that after the resurrection Jesus spent some time talking with the disciples, but you don't learn much about what he said. In the gospels of Nag Hammadi you can read what he said. |::|

“Although they're not Biblical texts, experts still believe that they give us significant insights into Christian history. In these apocryphal texts we might have genuine traditions about Jesus that for one reason or another didn't make it into the New Testament. For the first time in hundreds of years there was a new source of information about Mary Magdalene. She appears very frequently as one of the prominent disciples of Jesus. In certain texts where Jesus is in discussion with his disciples, Mary Magdalene asks many informed questions. Whereas the other disciples at times seem confused, she is the one who understands. |::|

“"Apocryphal" took on very negative connotations, especially in comparison to the Bible. It often means that it's not to be read, not to be taken seriously, not to be considered, not true. The contents of these books are regarded by many people as legends. So can we believe the Gospel of Philip? Was Mary really Jesus' closest companion? Well, there is other evidence for this, and some of it is even in the Bible itself. |::|

New Testament Apocrypha

Apocrypha are works, usually written, of unknown authorship or of doubtful origin. Biblical apocrypha is a set of texts included in the Latin Vulgate and Septuagint but not in the Hebrew Bible. While Catholic tradition considers the texts to be deuterocanonical, Protestants consider them apocryphal. Thus, Protestant bibles do not include the books within the Old Testament but have often included them in a separate section. Other non-canonical apocryphal texts are generally called pseudepigrapha, a term that means "false writings". The word's origin is the Medieval Latin adjective apocryphus, "secret, or non-canonical", from the Greek adjective apokryphos ("obscure"), from the verb apokryptein ("to hide away"). [Source: Wikipedia]

Dead Sea Scroll: the Temple Scroll

List of New Testament Apocrypha from pseudepigrapha.com:
Dead Sea Scrolls
Community Rule
The 'Zadokite' Document
Narrative of Joseph of Arimathaea
Epistle of the Apostles
Report of Pilate the Procurator
History of Joseph the Carpenter
Apocryphon of James (Another Version)
The Letter of Peter to Philip
Book of John the Evangelist
Ptolemy's Commentary on the Gospel of John Prologue
Avenging of the Saviour
The Apocryphon of John (Long Version)
The Sentances of Sextus
Book of Thomas the Contender [Source: pseudepigrapha.com]

Lost Books of the Bible
The Gospel of the Birth of Mary
The Protevangelion (Another Version)
The First Gospel of the Infancy of Jesus Christ
The Infancy Gospel of Thomas Composit
Greek (A)
Greek (B)
Infancy Compilation (All)
The Gospel of Pseudo-matthew
The Epistles of Jesus Christ and Abgarus King of Edessa (Another Version)
The Gospel of Nicodemus (Or Acts of Pontius Pilate) (Another Version)
Letters of Herod and Pilate

Gospel of Judas

The Apostles' Creed
The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Laodiceans
The Epistles of Paul the Apostle to Seneca (W/seneca's to Paul)
The Acts of Paul and Thecla
The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians
The Second Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians
The General Epistle of Barnabas
The Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians
The Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians
The Epistle of Ignatius to the Trallians
The Epistle of Ignatius to the Romans
The Epistle of Ignatius to the Philadelphians
The Epistle of Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans
The Epistle of Ignatius to Polycarp
The Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians

The First Book of Hermas (Or Visions)
The Second Book of Hermas (Or Commands)
Letters of Herod and Pilate
The Lost Gospel According to Peter
The Gospel of Peter - Last
The Epistle of Ignatius to the Philippians
The Martyrdom of Ignatius
The Martyrdom of Polycarp
Tertullian on Specticals
Tertullian on Prayer
Tertullian on Patience
Tertullian on Martyrs

The Report of Pilate to Caesar
Gospel of Bartholomew
Gospel of Thomas
Gospel of Phillip
Secret Gospel of Mark
Book of Marcion
Excerpts from the Gospel of Mary
The Letter of Aristeas
The Didache
Letters of Pontius Pilate
The Gospel of the Holy Twelve

Myth of Origins, Non-Canon Heretics and Gnostics

medieval Gnostic Colegium

Karen King at Harvard Divinity School is a critic of what she calls the “master story” of Christianity: a narrative that casts the New Testament as divine revelation that passed through Jesus in “an unbroken chain” to the apostles and their successors—church fathers, ministers, priests and bishops who carried its truths into the present day. Owen Jarus wrote in Live Science: According to this “myth of origins,” as she has called it, followers of Jesus who accepted the New Testament canon—chiefly the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, written roughly between A.D. 65 and A.D. 95, or at least 35 years after Jesus’ death—were true Christians. Followers inspired by noncanonical gospels were heretics hornswoggled by the devil. [Source: Owen Jarus, Live Science, October 5, 2015 /~/]

“Until the last century, virtually everything scholars knew about these other gospels came from broadsides against them by early Church leaders. Irenaeus, the bishop of Lyon, France, pilloried them in A.D. 180 as “an abyss of madness and of blasphemy”—a “wicked art” practiced by people bent on “adapting the oracles of the Lord to their opinions.” A challenge to Christianity’s master story surfaced in December 1945, when an Arab farmer digging near the town of Nag Hammadi, in Upper Egypt, stumbled on a cache of manuscripts. Inside a meter-tall clay jar containing 13 leatherbound papyrus codices were 52 texts that didn’t make it into the canon, including the gospel of Thomas, the gospel of Philip and the Secret Revelation of John. /~/

“As scholars translated the texts from Coptic, early Christians whose views had fallen out of favor—or were silenced—began speaking again, across the ages, in their own voices. A picture began to take shape of long-ago Christians, scattered across the Eastern Mediterranean, who derived sometimes contradictory teachings from the life of Jesus Christ. Was it possible that Judas was not a turncoat but a favored disciple? Did Christ’s body really rise, or just his soul? Was the crucifixion—and human suffering, more broadly—a prerequisite for salvation? /~/

“Only later did an organized Church sort the answers to those questions into the categories of orthodoxy and heresy. (Some scholars prefer the term “Gnostic” to heretical; King rejects both, arguing in a 2003 book that “Gnosticism” is a construct “invented in the early modern period to aid in defining the boundaries of normative Christianity.”)” /~/

"Heretics" Defined in Response to Persecution

Professor Elaine H. Pagels told PBS: “As far as we can tell, the earliest Christian communities had an enormous variety of viewpoints and attitudes and approach, as we've said. But by the end of the second century, you begin to see hierarchies of bishops, priests and deacons emerge in various communities and claim to speak for the majority. And with that development, there's probably an assertion of leadership against viewpoints that those leaders considered dangerous and heretical. One of the issues that polarized those communities, perhaps the most urgent and pressing issue, was persecution. That is, these people, all Christians, belonged to an illegal movement. It was dangerous to belong to this movement. You could be arrested, if you were charged with being a Christian, you could be put on trial, you could be tortured and executed if you refused to recant. And with that pressure, many said, "We want to know when a person joins this movement if that person is going to stand with us or is going to pretend they're not with us. So let's clarify who belongs to us...." [Source: Elaine H. Pagels, The Harrington Spear Paine Foundation Professor of Religion Princeton University, Frontline, PBS, April 1998 <>]

“The Bishop Irenaeus was about 18 to 20 years old when his little community was absolutely decimated by a devastating persecution. They say that 50 to 70 people in two small towns were tortured and executed. That must have meant hundreds were rounded up and put in prison. But 50 to 70 people in two small towns executed in public is a devastating destruction of that beleaguered community. And Irenaeus was trying to unify those who were left. What frustrating him is that they didn't all believe the same thing. They didn't all gather under one kind of leadership. And he, like others, was deeply aware of the dangers of fragmentation, that one community could be lost. And so it is out of that deep concern, I think, that Irenaeus and others began to try to unify the church, and, and create criteria like, you know, these are the four gospels. These are what we believe, these are the rituals, which you first do. You're baptized and then you're a member of this community. It would be absurd to suggest that the leaders of the church were out to protect their power. <>

“Because to become bishop in a church in which the 92 year old bishop had just died in prison, which is what Irenaeus did as a very young man, he had the courage to become bishop, is to become a target for the next persecution. This is not a position of power, it's a position of danger and courage. And those people were concerned to try to unify the church. So it would be ridiculous to tell the story of the early Christian movement as though the orthodox were, you know, power mad, and trying to destroy all diversity in the church. It's much more complicated than that. The sociologist Max Weber has shown that a religious movement, if it doesn't develop a certain institutional structure within a generation of its founder's death, will not survive. So it's likely, I think, that we owe the survival of the Christian movement to those forms that Irenaeus and others developed. You know, the list of acceptable books, the list of acceptable teachings, the rituals.” <>

Crazy Stories from Apocrypha

Mark Oliver wrote in Listverse: “1) The Serpent Was Just Trying To Help: “The Testimony of Truth” retells the story of the Garden of Eden except that the serpent is not the Devil this time. He’s just a particularly clever animal, and God just calls him “Devil” because He’s angry. The big change, though, comes at the end of the story. It begins with ‘But what sort is this God?” and then starts calling God out on all the weird parts of the stories, from pretending not to know where Adam was to majorly overreacting over eating a fig. The book even says that God “has shown Himself to be a malicious grudger!” Even though it sounds like an antireligious book, it’s actually a Christian text with a uniquely complex view of God. Still, it’s easy to understand why this one isn’t in your Bible. [Source: Mark Oliver, Listverse, August 4, 2016 /=/]

2) “Baby Jesus Tames Dragons: After the birth of Jesus, Herod sent men out to have the baby killed. But our Bible doesn’t go into much detail on how Jesus got away. We’re just told that Mary and Joseph hid out in Egypt for a while. That would have changed, though, if the “Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew” had made it in. According to this book, Mary and Joseph tried to hide in a cave, only to find that it was full of massive, fire-breathing dragons. That didn’t bother the one-month-old Baby Jesus, though. Jesus hopped down from his mother’s arms, walked over to the dragons, and stared them down until they “retired.” Then Infant Jesus turned to his terrified mother and said, “Do not consider me to be a little child.” Because, as it turns out, even Jesus wanted his mom to stop babying him. /=/

3) “Baby Jesus Goes On A Killing Spree: “In the Infancy “Gospel of Thomas,” one-year-old Jesus goes on a killing spree. The book starts with Baby Jesus playing in a pool of water and turning clay into living birds. When another kid messes up his game by splashing the water with a stick, Jesus curses the boy to be “withered like a tree” and leaves him to die. Soon after, somebody bumps into Jesus. Since Jesus doesn’t take any nonsense, he declares, “Thou shalt not finish thy course!”—and the kid falls down dead. The town doesn’t really care for Jesus’s murder-happy habits, and they ask Joseph to discipline his child. He tries, but Jesus doesn’t apologize, promise to change his ways, or bring anybody back to life. Instead, he curses half the town with blindness. /=/

4) “The Apostle John Talks To Bedbugs: Another book called the Acts of John follows Jesus’s disciple on his own journeys. In this book, John is capable of performing miracles, but they’re less impressive than Jesus’s. For example, John lies down in a bed at an inn but can’t sleep because of all the bedbugs. Instead of filing a complaint with the manager, John tells the bugs, “Behave yourselves!” and makes them all leave the inn. In the morning, the bedbugs are patiently waiting outside the door for John to let them back in. “Since ye behaved yourselves,” John tells them like a weary father trying to set his child right, “come unto your place.”

5) “Saint Peter Uses A Talking Dog As A Messenger: The “Acts of Peter” tells the story of the disciple Peter—best known as the first Pope of the Catholic Church—who, apparently, spent most of his time fighting wizard battles. In particular, Peter pits himself against a man named Simon Magus, a sorcerer who upsets God. Peter comes to town to confront Simon in the weirdest confrontation ever. To prove he’s God’s servant, Peter gives a dog the power of speech and sends it to call out Simon. The dog does, but Simon is not impressed. He tells the dog, “Tell Peter that I am not within.” The greatest part of the story is that the dog calls him out on it. “Here is a dumb animal sent unto thee which hath received a human voice,” the dog tells him, before finally just asking him, “Art thou not ashamed?” /=/

6) Peter Casts The First Stone At A Flying Wizard: The battle between Peter and Simon gets crazier after the incident with the dog. Simon, wanting to prove that he is the true messenger of God, flies up into the sky and challenges Peter to do the same. It’s weird that Simon’s miracle works but even weirder that Peter can’t meet Simon’s challenge and fly up with him. Instead, Peter prays to God and asks Him to make Simon fall down and “break his legs in three places.” God does, and Simon comes crashing to the ground. But it’s the cold, clinically written ending that makes it truly strange: “Then every man cast stones at him and went away home and thenceforth believed Peter.”

7) “Jesus Pulls Judas Aside And Tells Judas To Betray Him: We know that the Biblical character Judas betrayed Jesus, but we don’t get much insight into why—except in “The Gospel of Judas.” In this Gnostic gospel, Judas isn’t some evil betrayer—he’s Jesus’s closest confidant. Jesus tries to tell the disciples about a great generation that is yet to come, but they can’t understand the idea. So Jesus pulls Judas aside and tells him because Judas is the only one who gets it. Jesus also tells Judas to betray Him and that it’s okay. He tells Judas that, compared to every other Christian, “You will exceed all of them.” Jesus also says that “[Judas’s] star has shone brightly” and that he has a place waiting for him in Heaven in exchange for his willingness to sell out Jesus and complete His destiny.

8) “Hell Is Brutal: In the “Apocalypse of Peter,” Peter is taken on a guided tour through the brutal torments of Hell. Murderers spend their time getting attacked by snakes and calling out, “O God, thy judgment is just!”—which isn’t unreasonable since they seem to be getting off pretty easily compared to everyone else. Women who have had abortions get it much worse. They spend their time drowning in a lake of the murderers’ blood while their unborn babies sit above them crying. And just for good measure, their eyes are repeatedly set on fire. Rich people who don’t donate to charity have to roll on red-hot rocks sharper than swords. High-interest lenders sit in a pitch full of blood. And homosexuals are repeatedly taken to the top of a cliff and thrown down for all of eternity.

9) Jesus Denies Being The Son Of God In the Gospel of Barnabas, Jesus is just a prophet who can’t stand being called the Son of God. He even yells at his disciples, “Cursed be everyone who shall insert into my sayings that I am the Son of God!”—and every one of the disciples falls down as if dead. When he asks Peter who he is, Peter responds, “Thou art Christ, Son of God.” This makes Jesus so furious that he calls Peter “the Devil” and threaten the disciples by saying, “I have won from God a great curse against those who believe this!” The Gospel of Barnabas never made it into the Bible and has been rejected outright by Christians. But in some Muslim communities where Jesus is viewed as just a man, it’s been called a sacred text.


"Q" is the name of hypothetical first century work that consist of 105 aphorisms and parables directly attributed to Jesus. Many scholars believe it was a literary source for the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. "Q" is short for Quelle , the German word for "source." It has mainly been assembled by deductive reasoning (accumulated passages whose sources can not be traced elsewhere and have certain similarities) and is believed to represent Jesus in his rawest and most honest form. Some date the saying in Q to the A.D. 50, around 30 years after the death of Jesus. Many of the sayings found in Q are also in the Gospel of Thomas.

Gospel of Mary
Marilyn Mellowes of PBS wrote: “Q is the designation for a gospel that no longer exists, but many think must have existed at one time. In fact, even though no copy of this gospel has survived independently, some nineteenth-century scholars found fragments of such an early Christian composition embeded in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. [Source: Marilyn Mellowes, Frontline, PBS, April 1998 <>]

“By putting these two gospels beside that of Mark, scholars realized that when Matthew and Luke are telling the story about Jesus, for the most part they both follow the order and often even the wording of Mark. But, into this common narrative outline, Matthew and Luke each insert extra sayings and teachings of Jesus. And although Matthew and Luke do not put these sayings in the same order, nevertheless they each repeat many of the same sayings, sometimes word for word. Since for other reasons it seems unlikely that either Matthew or Luke could have copied from the other, how can this sort of agreement be explained? The answer appears to be that Matthew and Luke each had two sources in common: the Gospel of Mark and another gospel, now lost, a collection of sayings known only as Q. <>

“Q stands for "Quelle," the German word for source. Although no actual copy of Q has ever been found, many scholars are convinced that such a document once circulated in early Christian communities. Since it was difficult to get excited about something that did not exist, Q remained a hypothesis that lingered on the edges of scholarly research. But in 1945, a chance discovery in Egypt provided surprisingly new evidence that rekindled interest in the possible existence of Q. <>

The Nag Hammadi library provided valuable evidence for the existence of the sayings collection known as Q. “In 1989, a team of researchers led by James M. Robinson of the Institute for Antiquity and Christianity in Claremont, CA, began a most unlikely task: the "reconstruction" of the Gospel of Q. Robinson and his team are accomplishing this by a highly detailed literary analysis of Matthew, Luke, and Thomas. Their painstaking work goes "verse by verse, word by word, case ending by case ending." After nearly ten years of work, the results of their efforts are soon to be published as the Critical Edition of Q. <>

“The "recovery" of the Q gospel has stimulated a debate about the nature early Christian communities, and by extension, the origins of Christianity itself. One scholar, Burton Mack, has advanced a radical thesis: that at least some Christian communities did not see Jesus as a Messiah; they saw him as a teacher of wisdom, a man who tried to teach others how to live. For them, Jesus was not divine, but fully human. These first followers of Jesus differed from other Christians whose ritual and practice was centered on the death and the resurrection of Jesus. Their did not emerge as the "winners" of history; perhaps because the maintaining the faith required the existence of a story that included not only the life of Jesus but also his Passion.” <>

Q - The Hypothetical Gospel

Theory of the Gospels origins involving Q

Professor Elaine H. Pagels told PBS: “Today there are people who talk about Q as though it's a gospel. Q, as I see it, is not a gospel, it's a hypothesis. When scholars first began to study the gospels of the New Testament, literarily, they discovered that Matthew and Luke both used Mark as the core, sort of the basic story line that they tell. Because Mark is completely incorporated - 16 chapters - into both Matthew and Luke. But they both also used other sayings, parables, and stories and so forth. And scholars observed that there's a part of the sayings in Matthew that are exactly identical with sayings in Luke. In fact they're identical in Greek. [Source: Elaine H. Pagels, The Harrington Spear Paine Foundation Professor of Religion Princeton University, Frontline, PBS, April 1998 <>]

“Now think -- Jesus spoke Aramaic. So if you were translating Aramaic, and if I were translating Aramaic, they'd come out different, these translations. So you would only have Jesus speaking identical sayings in Greek if you had a written translation in Greek of his sayings. And so scholars suggested that there must have been, besides Mark, something else written down that would have been a list of the sayings of Jesus, translated into Greek. And they called that "Quelle" which means source in German. And they call it for short, "Q." Nobody ever has found this source written. We can reconstruct it because we guess that there was such a written source, but nobody has seen it, and it certainly in my mind is not a gospel. It's a very good and well-founded hypothesis.” <>

If it isn't gospel then what is it? “It was a source of the sayings of Jesus, and it's another picture of Jesus. For example, whoever collected the sayings of Q wasn't interested in the death of Jesus, wasn't interested in the resurrection of Jesus. They thought the importance of Jesus was what he said, what he preached. Now other people thought, "it's not enough to have the sayings of Jesus. You have to tell about his death and his crucifixion and his resurrection, that's the important thing." Now somebody put that all together and we call it Matthew, and we call it Mark, and we call it Luke. But originally these are probably rather distinct pictures.” <>

Assembling Q

Charlotte Allen wrote: the thirty-five-member Q Project has put in fifteen years of painstaking work, assembling the requisite passages from Matthew and Luke, breaking them down into "variation units" in order to assess the tiniest differences of wording and order, and amassing an enormous computer database of 150 years' worth of scholarly opinion as to whether particular variations represent genuine Q material or creative rewriting by either or both evangelists. [Source: Charlotte Allen, The Atlantic, December 1996 *~*]

“At the Institute for Antiquity and Christianity, located in a handsome whitewashed brick building on the Claremont campus, Jon Asgeirsson shows off printouts from the Q Project's vast database, including a breakdown of the opening verse of the Lord's Prayer into six heavily annotated variation units, and a ninety-one-page single-spaced analysis of a verse from Matthew that the team ultimately decided was not Q. The reconstructed text as a whole follows the sequential order in which Q material appears in Luke (who is thought to have tampered less with Q's structure), although the wording of the reconstructed passages is derived about 50 percent from Luke and 50 percent from Matthew.*~*

“Both evangelists read like stripped-down versions of themselves in the Q reconstruction, with most Christian overlay deleted. The Peeters publication of those thousands of pages of material began last spring with the Lord's Prayer reconstruction. A volume on the temptation of Jesus was scheduled for this fall. Further volumes will appear at the rate of four a year for the next fifteen years or so, with each roughly 300-page volume taking up perhaps a hundred words of Q. In addition, the project expects to issue in 1998 a one-volume translation of the reconstructed Q, designed for the public, and a one-volume critical edition of the Greek text, for scholars. The detailed reconstruction work is impressive, but nagging questions remain for any observer. Is it truly possible to turn a hypothetical document into a real document? *~*

Implications of Q

Charlotte Allen wrote: The roughly 235 parallel verses in Luke and Matthew that scholars have identified as Q material (their techniques and their reasoning will be discussed in greater detail below) do not include the Gospel narratives of Jesus' passion and resurrection, which seem to have come from other sources, written or oral. Therefore Q partisans contend that the authors of Q knew nothing about the way Jesus died or about the stories of an empty tomb -- or if they knew, they did not care. Hence there was no atonement doctrine in Q theology. And because belief in Jesus' resurrection is the core belief of Christianity (even very liberal Christians profess faith in the Easter event, if only as a metaphor for renewal), the people who wrote Q must have been adherents of Jesus' in Palestine who were not "Christians" -- unless, as Robinson and others observe, one stretches the word to include anyone who admires Jesus. Scholars used to refer to members of the Q community as "Jewish Christians," a term that can sometimes lead to confusion. The preferred designation nowadays for the group of which they were a part is the "Jesus movement." It took decades, Q partisans believe, before the movement was subsumed into a "cult of Christ," largely gentile and centered on the cross and the resurrection -- a cult that became known as Christianity. [Source: Charlotte Allen, The Atlantic, December 1996 *~*]

Koester theory

“Having carefully broken down the hypothetical Q text -- that is, again, the parallel passages in Matthew and Luke -- into layers reflecting the stages of its writing and rewriting over several decades during the first century A.D., some scholars think they can reconstruct not only the document in its earliest form but also the community that produced it: a cadre of itinerant Galilean ascetics ("wandering charismatics" or "wandering radicals," in the words of some Q scholars) who actually heard Jesus speak some of the words in Q and who took seriously his command that they not worship Mammon. *~*

Because of their interest in this community, a favorite text among Q scholars is the so-called "mission" speech, in which Jesus instructed his disciples not to take food, knapsacks, money, or extra clothes with them on the road but to depend solely on the hospitality of strangers. Why is the Q community deemed to have been Galilean? Because Jesus did most of his preaching in Galilee, and Q mentions certain towns he visited near the Sea of Galilee: Capernaum, Chorazin, and Bethsaida. Their residents most likely remembered his sayings and tried to live by them. What's more, Jerusalem, where the memory of Jesus' crucifixion would have been too potent to ignore, is some distance south of Galilee -- hence the lack of a passion narrative in Q. "The collection of sayings of Jesus would precede accounts of his passion in terms of age," says Jon Asgeirsson, the associate director of the Institute for Antiquity and Christianity, a Claremont Graduate School-affiliated research center headed by Robinson that is the headquarters of the International Q Project. Asgeirsson and other scholars involved in the project surmise that Jesus' followers started collecting his sayings even before he died, giving them an authenticity and immediacy that the Gospels' passion stories lack. *~*

“Also, he says, the apparently primitive state of the Q text -- mostly sayings of Jesus without a heavy emphasis on narrative -- means that its composition in all likelihood preceded that of the four canonical Gospels, all of which take the form of quasi-biographical narratives, and which most scholars believe were written between A.D. 65 and 100. "A narrative implies some sort of elaboration, which would be later," Asgeirsson says. Some scholars believe that the oldest parts of Q may date from as early as the year 50, twenty years after Jesus' death, putting them among the earliest Christian (or Jesus-movement) writings in existence. *~*

“By assigning an early composition date to Q, placing the Q community in Galilee, and imputing to its members some firsthand knowledge of what Jesus said, scholars have built into their reconstructed text an apparent window of authenticity that permits a glimpse of who in their view the real Jesus was. Other depictions of Jesus from the decades after his death -- Jesus the resurrected redeemer, Jesus the Messiah, Jesus the lord of the apocalyptic future -- might represent equally valid perceptions of the way the real Jesus conducted himself, but in the eyes of its advocates only the Q text records a sustained living voice. If one accepts this logic and follows it through, one is forced to conclude that this non-Christian Jesus -- the Galilee-based wise man who displayed no interest in the end of the world, resurrection, or redemption -- is about as "historical" a Jesus as modern scholars are likely to retrieve. It is no wonder that Mack believes that the publication of the reconstructed Q text could undermine Christianity as strictly defined.” *~*

Q Text

The following is samples of Q text prepared by the International Q Project: “Q 3:7 He said to the [crowds] who came to hi[s] bapti[sm], Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Q 3:8 Bear fruit worthy of repentance, and do not presume to say to yourselves, We have Abraham as our father; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham! Q 3:9 Even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees; every tree therefore not bearing good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. [Source: Sterling Bjorndahl, International Q Project of the Society of Biblical Literature, as of November 1996, Theological Network, web.archive.org]

Q 3:16b I baptize you with water, but the one coming after me is stronger than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to remove; he will baptize you with holy spirit and fire; Q 3:17 whose winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather the wheat into his granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.

Q 4:1-2 And Jesus was led [by] the spirit into the wilderness 4:2 to be tempted by the devil. And [he ate nothing] for forty days; .. he was hungry. Q 4:3 And the devil said to him, If you are the son of God, command the[se] stone[s] to become [] loa[ves]. Q 4:4 And Jesus answered, It is written, A person does not live by bread alone.

Q 4:9 [The devil] took him to <> and put him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, If you are the son of God, throw yourself down []. Q 4:10 For it is written, He will command his angels concerning you, Q 4:11 and On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. Q 4:12 And Jesus answered him, [] It is written, You shall not test the Lord your God.

Q 4:5-7 And [the devil] took him to a [very high] mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor, 4:6 and said to him [], All these I will give you, 4:7 if you worship me. Q 4:8 And Jesus said to him, [] It is written, Worship the Lord your God, and only serve him. Q 4:13 And [] the devil left him.

Q 6:20 And [lift]ing his [eyes to] his disciples he said: Blessed are the poor, for [yours] is the kingdom of God. Q 6:21 Blessed are the hungry, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are the [weep]ing, for you will laugh. Q 6:22 Blessed are you .. when they revile you and they ... and they ... you... evil on account of the son of man. Q 6:23 Rejoice and [be glad], for your pay is great in heaven, for so they did to the prophets [before you]. Q 6:27-28.. [] Love your enemies 6:28 [and] pray for those who [abuse] you.

Bible Code

In the 1997 book The Bible Code , former Washington Post journalist Michael Drosnin claimed the Bible predicted certain events such as the Holocaust, Edison's invention of the light bulb and the assassination of Yitzak Rabin.

Drawing on a 1994 article by three Israeli scholars in the mathematics journal Statistical Science, which showed that the names of important rabbis and their birth dates appeared in Genesis, Drosnin found the "predictions" using a high-power computer and "skip code" in which messages are found by examining every 10th, or 44th or 4,772th letter.

Critics claim that the so called "code" is an example of "data mining." They say that if a high number of skip codes are employed they will reveal just about anything. Some scholars have found just as startling prophecies in Tolstoy's War and Peace , the Law of the Sea treaty and the Detroit Yellow Pages.

Image Sources: Wikimedia, Commons

Text Sources: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Christian Origins sourcebooks.fordham.edu “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “ Encyclopedia of the World’s Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); King James Version of the Bible, gutenberg.org; New International Version (NIV) of The Bible, biblegateway.com; “Egeria's Description of the Liturgical Year in Jerusalem” users.ox.ac.uk ; Complete Works of Josephus at Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL), translated by William Whiston, ccel.org , Metropolitan Museum of Art metmuseum.org, Frontline, PBS, “Encyclopedia of the World Cultures” edited by David Levinson (G.K. Hall & Company, New York, 1994); National Geographic, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, Times of London, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated September 2018

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