Ariel Sabar has penned a devastating exposé of the forged fragment known as Gospel of Jesus’ Wife. The article is well-researched and well-written—but it also includes a couple of historical errors that seem to have become conventional wisdom in far too many news articles. Continue reading.
Suppose you own a Bible, but it’s translated in a style that’s difficult to understand. Or maybe your Bible has simply worn out from years of usage. If so, you can easily walk into any Christian bookstore and pick up a different version of the Bible.
The earliest Christians couldn’t do that.
There was no “Polycarp Standard Version” or “Saint James Study Bible with Limited Edition Camel-Knee Binding” on anyone’s bookshelf, and there were no printing presses or photocopy machines. Early Christians read the Scriptures from codexes and scrolls. These copies of the Scriptures were hand-written from whatever manuscripts the copyists happened to possess when a copy was needed. And so, it was crucial for copyists to reproduce these texts accurately.
But did they?
Have you ever wondered exactly how the New Testament epistles were written? Did Paul sit down with a fountain pen and a piece of papyrus? Did Peter and James sketch out an outline before they wrote their letters? And what caused the apostles to write their letters in the first place?
It was in the mid-first century that the earliest writings about Jesus Christ started to circulate in the churches. The authors of these early epistles were apostles—Christ-commissioned eyewitnesses of the resurrection. The purpose of their writings wasn’t to provide information about Jesus. Their goal was to apply the message of Jesus in the lives of people who already knew about Jesus, and their words carried the same authority in the churches as Jesus himself (1 Corinthians 14:37).
What are the “lost Gospels”?
The term “lost Gospels” usually refers to ancient writings that were excluded from the New Testament, even though they included supposed recollections of events and teachings from the life of Jesus. A few of these lost Gospels have lasted throughout the centuries. Others survive only in tiny fragments of papyrus or in brief quotations found in the writings of early Christian scholars. Several lost Gospels were discovered anew in the past 100 years. Copies of some texts—such as Gospel of Philip, Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Truth, and Coptic Gospel of the Egyptians—were unearthed in 1945 in Egypt, near a village known as Nag Hammadi.
If a Gospel is defined as an ancient retelling of the events or teachings from Jesus’ life, there are fewer than thirty known Gospels. Unlike the New Testament Gospels, many of the lost Gospels record only isolated teachings or fragmentary incidents from the life of Jesus.
By Garrick Bailey
The New Testament provides extensive witness to the oneness between Christ and Christians. According to Paul, this oneness, through the Holy Spirit, is the foundation for the unity of the church (Eph 4:1-6). Historically, this concept of oneness found predominantly in the writings of the apostles John and Paul has been called the doctrine of union with Christ. The concept prevailed in the Reformation era, but has garnered little attention in theological works until recent decades. The majority of current scholarship on union with Christ focuses on retrieving the theology of the reformers in the locus of soteriology. This is a worthy cause as John Calvin writes:
First, we must understand that as long as Christ remains outside of us, and we are separated from him, all that he has suffered and done for the salvation of the human race remains useless and of no value to us. Therefore, to share in what he has received from the Father, he had to become ours and to dwell within us . . . for, as I have said, all that he possesses is nothing to us until we grow into one body with him.
John Murray believes, “Nothing is more central or basic than union and communion with Christ. . . . It is not simply a step in the application of redemption . . . it underlies every step of [it].”
This doctrine, however, has much to say in other areas of theology and life. Few modern works devote extended space or thought to the additional implications of our union with Christ. In her work, Found in Him, Elyse M. Fitzpatrick, explores the mystery of the incarnation and the believer’s union with Christ in order to call the reader out from the despair of a seemingly lonely and isolated existence and into the wonderful reality of our oneness with Christ. In Part One of the book, Fitzpatrick introduces the incarnation as proof positive that God has actively moved in love toward us in our natural born state of loneliness. In this act, Christ united himself to estranged humanity. This union serves as the basis for the believer’s union with Christ upon regeneration; which is to say it makes our fellowship with God possible once again. As John Newton wrote, humans are, in fact, lost; in the incarnation, however, God the Son “became man, becoming one with us so that we would not have to live in deep solitude any longer—and his action opens the door not only to deep communion with him but also with one another.” As Robert Letham writes, “now our humanity in Jesus Christ is in full and personal union with God, and so in union with Christ we are brought into union with God.”
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