Thursday, February 16, 2017

Handing Lutheran, Episcopal and Presbyterian women a cup of poison


It’s as ancient as the sin of our mother Eve and our father Adam, the desire to establish our own identity—minus the purpose of God. We would be our own gods and goddesses; deciding what is good and evil.

The publishing house of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), using  Theology of the People, a division of Augsburg/Fortress Press, published a book entitled, Fierce: Women of the Bible and Their Stories of Violence, Mercy, Bravery, Wisdom, Sex, and Salvation. The author, Alice Connor, is an “Episcopal priest and a chaplain on a college campus.” An ad with a free reading guide, introduction, content, first chapter and a video was sent to me this morning, via e-mail, by the Presbyterian Women of the PC (U.S.A.).

At the bottom of the ad, PW stated, “Presbyterian Women will occasionally send an email on behalf of organizations that may be of interest to our constituency. These paid advertisements help fund Presbyterian Women's publishing work and other ministries. Thank you for supporting organizations that support PW.”

I have ordered the book with the thought of reviewing it, but so much information was sent, including a link to Augsburg/Fortress and Amazon, (which offers some pages to read), so I am setting out several warnings—about apostasy. I am certain that many women received the same information that I received.  And it seems that this book will touch women in at least three mainline denominations.

Probably the worst chapter, “So God Had a Wife, Maybe? Probably,” is on the ancient pagan goddess Asherah. It begins, “She was erased.” And continues to suggest that the Israelites worshiped not only a male god but also his wife, Asherah. The author, Alice Connor, writes:

“Like math sums done wrong, or a letter phrased poorly, bits of her were scraped away and wiped off the page, as carelessly as if she did not exist. And in a way, I suppose she doesn’t anymore. Her presence has been denied for generations. She was Asherah. She was Mother of the Gods, she was the Lion Lady, and she it was who subdued the sea. She was the wife of Yahweh, She was the embodiment of nourishment; her breast fed multitudes.  She represented not only survival but plenty. Her hips birthed gods; her presence created abundant harvests. The people made sacrifices to her—grain and animals, even their children from time to time. …”   

Connor continues, stating that Asherah was worshiped alongside of Yahweh. Continuing with her story she suggests that eventually Asherah was erased when the Israelites were searching for a reason for their defeat and exile. But now, allegedly, she has been discovered again:

“Now thousands of years after those holy books were written, scholars have rediscovered her and the bare-breasted clay totems buried for centuries. They speak her names and write of her totems, her sacred trees, her high places with their rough and beautiful altars, and they don’t know which name to call her: Asherah, Astarte, Anat, Qudshu, Queen of Heaven. …”

Connor speculates about her existence and referring to the Hebrew Scriptures writes, “She’s between the lines of Hebrew, like the feeling you get when you try to push the positive ends of two magnets together. You can feel the energy pushing between them, even though the space looks empty. Between the lines of Hebrew where her sacred poles were torn down and she isn’t even named, there is energy pushing back.”

Connor still speculates on the historical reality of Asherah but eventually equates Asherah with others who have been erased from their historical context. The tragedy here is Connor’s denial of the utter unfaithfulness of God’s people. It is also her own unfaithfulness that she could so easily, as priest, deny the truthfulness of God and his word.

The questions on the reading guide are sometimes helpful but too often inane, “What difference would it make to you if Rahab’s occupation as   a prostitute were somehow definitively proven or disproven? Not just historically, but to this story and to your understanding of sin and redemption. Do you think the Israelite spies slept with Rahab? What difference would it make to their story and that of Israel’s conquest of Canaan?”

The exercises at the end of each chapter entail meditation on icons of the biblical characters including Asherah. And the chapter on the Song of Songs entails feeling your body which, I admit, made me both laugh and appalled me. Not because the body is evil but because it seemed to me to be the ultimate self-worship.

And that, self-worship as well as self-guidance, rather than listening to God’s word and obedient discipleship, is the framework of Connor’s book.

Just recently, I sorted out my library, removing most of the radical feminist books I have used for research. I started to toss them, and did toss some, but decided to save a core of them downstairs on some unused shelves in a pantry. (My old house has so many unexpected nooks and crannies.) The books are all the same!

Until the coming of Christ I suppose that all kinds of heretical movements, such as radical ‘Christian’ feminism, will continue to form, change and die. The books will multiple and move from circle to circle with praise from those who should know better. But the ugly systems are boringly the same: denying God’s word, denying Christ’s redemptive gift of life because of his shed blood, denying our sanctification through the Holy Spirit—the list is too long and too often the same.

Lift up the cross of Christ, the word of God and the righteousness that is God’s gift.

Friday, February 10, 2017

The 2016-17 Horizons Bible Study "Who is Jesus? - a continuing review- According to the Other Abrahamic Faiths


Judy Yates Siker, author of the Presbyterian Women’s Bible study, Who is Jesus? : What a Difference a Lens Makes., in the eighth lesson focuses on Islam and Judaism and their views about Jesus’ identity. Siker’s focuses is meant as a means of understanding and dialogue with the two other Abrahamic faiths. She writes:

“It may seem at first to be an unusual excursion for a Christian Bible study, but as Christian women of faith, we should be informed about how these two traditions view Jesus and be willing to engage in dialogue with our sisters and brothers of other faiths.”

At the end of the lesson, Siker also lifts up the importance of not only understanding other faiths but of also not misrepresenting them. She writes:

“… We are painfully aware of the possibilities for tragedy that arise when we abuse our Bibles at the expense of another group. We are also painfully aware of how much misinformation is spread when we do not take the time to learn anything about others who may have more in common with us then we are willing to recognize. In this ever shrinking world of ours, we encounter many people whose faith traditions are not our own, so we have the opportunity, privilege, and responsibility to learn from one another. …”

Siker is right, Christians should have knowledge of these two religions and they should be in dialogue with their adherents, but there is a greater reason why Christians should have such knowledge. And there is a dimension to that knowledge which Siker does not address.

Jesus’ commandment to go and make disciples of all nations is the greatest reason for knowing about the beliefs of other faiths.[1] And the dimension that is missing in Siker’s lesson is how differing faiths, in one way or another, contradict the biblical understanding of sin, repentance and redemption, thereby eliminating the need for a suffering savior—a God whose compassion takes on humanity and makes the ultimate sacrifice.  The good news of the gospel is the ultimate good news. There is no other.

In a way, Siker has emphasized the ultimate good news with a quote from the Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides—“Even if he should tarry, I shall wait for him.” After quoting this saying of Maimonides, Siker writes, “Throughout history, there has been an expectation that the messiah would come, that God’s plan for the world will be complete someday. This belief has kept many Jews from giving up hope, even in the dark times of persecution.”

I read the Maimonides quote and thought that is surely Scripture. The text is in Habakkuk 2:3. In most texts it is stated with an impersonal “it.” For instance in my NASV it states:

For the vision is yet for the appointed time; it hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; for it will certainly come, it will not delay.”

But looking at the various translations at Gateway led me to the Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Sanhedrin 97b which states, “For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though he tarry, wait for him; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.” (Italics mine) And of course the author of Hebrews picks up the messianic prophecy understanding it to be referring to Jesus our Lord. He adds Habakkuk 2:4 reminding the reader that “the righteous shall live by faith.” At least the Rabbis and the New Testament writer agree, this is the messiah.

But the Messiah has come, Jesus. And because of that Christians have an obligation, but of the heart, to be both friends and witnesses to their Jewish sisters and brothers.

A side note, because Siker is focusing only on the two faiths’ views about Jesus she lumps all of Judaism into one viewpoint which is not consistent with the various branches of Judaism. Not all Jews believe in a personal coming Messiah. Some simply believe in a coming messianic kingdom or a utopian age. Reformed Jews are more inclined to see humanity progressing toward a golden age. Orthodox Jews are those who look for a personal Messiah. Beyond this is Reconstruction Judaism which even denies a personal God.[2]

Siker’s information about Islam and its view of Jesus is good as far as it goes. There is so much more that needs to be said, and there is a subtle use of the Islamic view of Jesus and the cross by means of “Suggestions to leaders” and a reference to the art used for this lesson. It is a miniature of “the ascension of Jesus.” The instruction simply suggests looking at the picture, reading the small blurb about it and finding all of the things going on in the picture. But the story of the picture is about God causing Jesus’ executer to appear to be Jesus. The executer is killed and Jesus ascends to heaven without dying.

It is important to note that there is no need for the cross in Islam. The eternal Son does not take on human flesh and die in the Muslim faith. As Timothy George writes in his book, Is the Father of Jesus the God of Muhammad?:

“The cross (or death) of Jesus is mentioned in most of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament. Its reality and meaning permeate all of them. Yet Muslims deny that Jesus ever suffered and died on the cross. There can be no Christianity without this event. There can be no Islam with it. As the distinguished Islamic scholar Seyyed Hossein Nasr has said, the noncrucifixion of Jesus is ‘the one irreducible fact separating Christianity and Islam, a fact which is in reality placed there providentially to prevent a mingling of the two religions”

To those in the Muslim faith, must also bring friendship and witness of a dying but living savior.

Because there is a real need for information about what Islam and Judaism believe and how to witness in a winsome, careful and effective way I will, with this review, add some books and links for the reader.

Islam:

The book I have mentioned above:

Timothy George. Is the Father of Jesus the God of Muhammad? Understanding the Differences Between Christianity and Islam. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan 2002).

The next book is by a black Reformed Baptist pastor who was once a Muslim by choice. He in the past has participated in respectful and informative debates with Islamic scholars of the Middle East.

Thabiti Anyabwile. The Gospel for Muslims: An encouragement to Share Christ with Confidence. (Chicago: Moody Publishers 2010).

Judaism & Islam:

The next book covers most world religions with good chapters on both Judaism and Islam.

Dean Halverson, General Editor. The Illustrated Guide to World Religions. (Bethany House 2003).

This book explains very carefully what each religion believes, what their communities are like, and effective ways of witnessing to the adherents. There is advice such as, “Don’t argue with your Muslim friend. Understand that a Muslim cannot lose an argument, because he or she would then lose face. Try to sensitively stimulate your friend’s thinking instead.”

And dos, “Handle the Bible with respect. The custom in Islamic countries is to not lower the Qur’an below the waist. Muslims also keep the Qur’an on the highest shelf in the house, for nothing should be placed upon the Qur’an. Also they consider it a sign of disrespect to write in the Qur’an or the Bible.

For Judaism there is a long list that has an importance far beyond witnessing. For instance:

“Jewish” is a word that should be used only to describe people, land, religion, or language. If you refer to ‘Jewish money’ or Jewish control of the media,” you may well be harboring anti-Semitic attitudes.”

And:

“’The cross’ symbolizes persecution for many Jews. It is better to speak about ‘the death of Jesus.”

 

I am ending this posting by putting a video of Thabiti Anyabwile debating with a Muslim scholar at The Muslim - Christian dialogue in 2009 in Dubai, UAE sponsored “by the Christian Fellowship Club of the University of Wollongong in Dubai with corporate sponsor GDS Knowledge Consultants. This is just a small part that begins with the Islamic scholar Bassam Zawadi while most of the video is of Anyabwile. If you click on YouTube on the video you can find the other videos of the debate.

 




[1] (See Matthew 28: 18-20, as well as John 4: 34-38; Luke 15; Acts; Romans 10.)
[2] Two often leadership and organizations within the PC (U.S.A.) when they align on issues with those of the Jewish faith do so only with Reformed Judaism or Reconstruction Judaism. While this lesson seems to be on the side of and tolerant of those Jews who are orthodox, that is, believing in a coming messiah, in reality progressive Presbyterians view orthodox Jew’s views on several issues such as homosexuality as intolerant.   

Monday, February 6, 2017

The ad that wasn't finished! Up-date

A commercial  played during the Super bowl--but Fox did not allow the ending. Now complete on You Tube.



For a great explanation go to: http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2017/02/lumber-commercial-ending-super-bowl-controversial?mbid=social_facebook

UP-Date: From Kelly Minter's Bible Study on refugees: "3 Things Boaz Teaches Us About A Gospel Heart For Refugees"
"When Ruth entered the Israelite town of Bethlehem as a Moabitess she could only hope to meet a landowner who’d have enough pity on her to permit her to glean in his fields. (It’s worth mentioning that Moab’s beliefs and practices stood directly opposed to those of Israel’s.) But Boaz, a wealthy Israelite landowner, did far more than turn a blind eye and permit Ruth on his fields; He prized her. He invited her to sit at his table, offered her a place among his workers, protec...ted her from men who might take advantage of her, allowed her to freely drink from the water the servant’s had drawn. So overwhelmed by Boaz’s kindness, Ruth fell on her face exclaiming, “Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you would notice me, a foreigner?”

A heart left to its natural inclinations might hope that the refugee crisis just goes away, or that other countries will deal with the problem. Or maybe our attitude is that we’re okay if refugees are allowed into our country as long as they keep to themselves. But permitting refugees and prizing them are two different things. Boaz continually showed me that a Gospel heart goes beyond cultural norms, beyond meeting basic needs, beyond what would be considered “enough”. It crosses over into lavish."
http://kellyminter.com/a-gospel-heart-for-refugees/

Sunday, January 29, 2017

About refugees and the church


A president or a nation can do what they want, I suppose, until God’s judgment falls. But remember God’s judgment, the Scriptures state, begins with the church. I have been listening to Sandra McCracken’s All Ye Refugees and I am reminded that we are all refugees, exiled from God and without hope in the world without Jesus Christ. That in itself is a biblical reason to care for the refugees of this world.

One doesn’t have to quote God’s word to Israel to care for the refugee because we were once as lost and needy as they. In fact, we still are so very needy. Having been brought home to God by the death and life of Jesus is sufficient reason to care for the refugee. While we were still ungodly Christ died for us.

I have a beautiful granddaughter (beautiful in face and spirit) who put aside, for a while, a huge scholarship, to work with refugees in Europe. I wonder how she and the team she is working with, which includes my son and his wife as well as two grandchildren, are feeling now about our situation as they experience those who so desperately need help and sanctuary.

I pray the church in the United States will turn her eyes toward Jesus and away from fear.


I am the One, the earth is my handmade work
The skies I laid them wide, beauty unfurled
Horizon to horizon
Creation to creation, sings you home

Chorus
Welcome home, gather round
all ye refugees, come in.

Oh refugee, I did not cast you out
In death and broken ground, Salvation springs
My body and my blood, the healing that you need
Come and receive (Chorus)

Watch and wait and see, what is yet to be
Watch and wait and see, for the morning

Go out in joy and join the great procession
The mountains and the heav’ns all will rejoice
horizon to horizon, creation to creation
horizon to horizon, creation to creation
With one voice (Chorus)

© 2015 Petit Bateaux Music (ASCAP) / Flo Paris Music / Kellie Haddock
credits
from Psalms, released April 14, 2015
Written by Chelsey Scott, Kellie Haddock, and Flo Paris

Thanks to Beanscot.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Our Identity in Christ set against radical feminist theories of identity


I thought of who we are in Christ as I read an article lauded by a Presbyterian pastor I follow on Twitter. A pastor, who, also follows me.  The article, Pussy Don’t Fail Me Now: The Place of Vaginas in Black Feminist Theory & Organizing, was written by Dr. Brittney Cooper who writes under the name crunktastic on Crunk Feminist Collection. What was the Presbyterian pastor thinking? How did it “blow her mind” and send her “reeling?” Couldn’t she see the awfulness of floundering in a darkness that will forever hide the beauty of Jesus?

I couldn’t help thinking of a song that became popular during the Jesus Movement, Turn your eyes upon Jesus lo0k full in his wonderful face. There was another about looking into each other’s eyes and seeing Jesus, (I don’t remember the title.) It is about the identity of the Christian. We belong to Jesus and there our identity is lodged.

The article was Cooper’s dialogue with herself about whether black feminists should still identify with an emphasis on their vaginas or put that aside for the sake of transgender people who do not have vaginas. It was her reaction to some transgender people’s views about the recent women’ march in Washington D.C. Please forgive the quote, it summarizes Cooper’s posting:

“After this weekend’s historic and inspiring Women’s Marches all over the country, I happened to see a few trans folks naming and calling out the pussy-centered culture of the marches, and reminding those of us who are cis, that vaginas aren’t a prerequisite for womanhood. The march was filled with white (cisgender) women reveling in the opportunity to wear their very pink pussy hats and shirts, and talk freely about their vaginas in public. I was not able to attend a march, but the nostalgia for both the movements of the 1970s and the Riot Grrl Days was palpable, even in the pictures. Many transwomen, however, pointed out the ways in which a focus on vaginas can marginalize womenfolk that don’t have those parts.”

I am sorry for the vulgar images and painful jarring thoughts these words produce. But all I could think, as I read, was how we, the Church, must feel sorrow for those who are so hurting that they demean themselves in this way. Cooper in another place states that she is religious and reads the Bible from her perspective—but, for those who belong to Jesus, there is a union with Jesus that negates our bitter selves and moves our identity into his.  It is his goodness, his righteousness, his holiness that marks us and gives us identity. 

Those who have their identity in Jesus Christ have beauty; the beauty of Christ. They do not quibble, with vulgar emphasis, over which body parts should identify them and help them face a broken and too often ugly world. They have Christ.

The church walks in the goodness of her Lord and bears his beauty. May the women who marched and the women of the Crunk Feminist Collection find their identity and beauty in Jesus.

“And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet he has now reconciled you in his fleshly body through death, in order to present you before him holy and blameless and beyond reproach—if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard …” (Col. 1:21-23b)

 

Friday, January 13, 2017

Is Jesus in the Hebrew Bible?


As a writer who loves metaphor, symbol and analogy, I love the Hebrew Bible, (the Old Testament.) It provides beautiful images of Jesus. But more than that it offers the reality of God’s promises concerning the Messiah. And here and there one sees glimpses of the eternal Son in person. Read the story of the “angel of the Lord” who appears to Samson’s parents in Judges 13. He calls himself Wonderful.

 And I must quickly say it is also the truthful narrative of God’s promises to and covenant with the Jewish people. The Hebrew Bible is, in reality, two stories that intertwine.  It is the history of Israel and God’s dealings and care for them. It is also, from beginning to end, the story of God’s redemptive purposes and promises. And the Messiah of God, Jesus, the begotten God in the bosom of the Father, looms large in the text.

Why am I writing this? Because a Presbyterian on a Presbyterian site I belong to, posted an advertisement for a Bible entitled The Jesus Bible. The ad states, “There is No B.C.: Sixty Six Books, One Story, All about One Name, Jesus.”  That is placed within the midst of the names of all of the books of the Bible. I don’t think the commenters, who mostly didn’t like the ad, realized that this particular Bible, published by Zondervan, is meant for young people. It is meant as a study Bible. But many felt that because the ad was saying that Jesus was also in the Old Testament that it sounded anti-Semitic.

I want to emphasize that the Hebrew Bible cannot be read out of context. A great deal of it is definitely the history of the Jewish people. The rest is their wonderful Writings and Prophets. But within the text is the glorious promises of the coming King and Messiah, a suffering King and a Suffering Messiah. Remember the very first Christians had only the Hebrew Scriptures as their Bible.  

In the book of Acts, the history of the early church, we read the story of the Ethiopian official who on his journey home is reading Isaiah 53. He asks the disciple Philip who the author is speaking of, himself or of someone else.

He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he does not open his mouth. In humiliation his judgement was taken away; who will relate his generation? For his life is removed from the earth.”

 
Philip explains that the Old Testament text is about Jesus. “Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to Him.” (Acts 8: 35)

If we fail to open the texts of the Hebrew Bible and teach others of our Lord Jesus Christ we fail to be his disciples.

One of the commenters in the thread I was reading reminded us all that Jesus in fact turned to the Hebrew Bible to explain who he was and how it was that he should be, and suffer crucifixion, and rise again. The apostle Luke writes of Jesus’ words and actions:

Oh foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and enter into his glory?

Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, he explained to them the things concerning himself in the Scriptures.”

Beginning in Genesis with the promise to Eve (and one might say to Satan also because it is God’s foretelling and curse to him) “… I shall put enmity between you and the woman. And between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise you on the head and you shall bruise him on the heel,” there are promises of the Messiah throughout the Old Testament.

I think one of my favorites was given by a man who wanted to curse Israel but was only allowed to bless her:

“I see him but not now;

I behold him but not near;

A star shall come forth from Jacob,

A scepter shall rise from Israel … (Numbers 24:17a)

Friday, January 6, 2017

The 2016-17 Horizons Bible Study "Who is Jesus? - a continuing review- according to the non-Canonical Gospels


We have come to those last three lessons in the Presbyterian Women’ Bible study, “Who is Jesus?: What a Difference a Lens Makes,” where the author bypasses the biblical text. Using non-canonical texts, the perspectives of Islam and Judaism and lastly contemporary culture, Judy Yates Siker looks at non-scriptural answers to the question “who is Jesus?” With this review I will focus on the questions that Siker fails to address. Why were the fanciful, too often gnostic and docetic, texts used by Siker rejected by the early church? And why must we, as Christians, also reject the non-canonical texts?

Yes, Siker does explain some of the differences between the non-canonical texts and the biblical texts but she fails to warn her readers that the non-canonical ones are damaging to the faith of the church. Most of them were written after the biblical texts were written and were rejected by the early church and the church universal through all ages.  They were rejected because they redefine the person of Jesus, the redemption of the saints and the God of the Hebrew Bible.

Siker’s reasons for turning to texts outside of the Bible are twofold. In her view concerning the three final lessons, she insists that the question, who is Jesus, for this study, is not “Who is Jesus according to our New Testament.” Siker writes:

 “I believe the question is broader than this, and I think we owe it to ourselves, as world citizens, to have a broader understanding of how this significant figure, Jesus, is seen and understood beyond the bounds of the New Testament.”

Concerning the ancient non-canonical texts featured in lesson seven, Siker writes:

“These writings are significant because they show us something of the diversity of early Christianity. As Christians today, we have a variety of views of Jesus and we certainly do not all agree on how we would answer the question “Who is Jesus?” It is important to realize that the earliest generations of Christians were dealing with similar questions, and were trying to determine just who Jesus had been and what was the most appropriate way to talk and teach about him. As we continue our efforts to understand and answer the question for ourselves, it can be interesting, enlightening, and valuable to know that even those among his earliest followers found the work of God in Christ to be expressed in various ways. It remains our task today to explore these ways and to engage the Gospel message of and about Jesus anew.”

So first, in answer to Siker’s statements, we are not only citizens of this world, we are citizens of heaven and we owe nothing to ourselves and everything to our Lord. If we study the texts she covers it must be to better answer those who have fallen into deceptive teaching.

Secondly, this is the PW’s Bible Study. To teach a biblical study exploring the person of Jesus and asking who he is one must understand that the New Testament is the Christian’s authoritative source in answering the question.  Also as a Christian one should connect the Word of the New Testament with the Word of the Old Testament. (And yes, I am speaking here of the eternal Son or as the NASB puts it in John 1:18, “The only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father.”)

Thirdly, studying the non-canonical texts can be beneficial, not because they are diverse forms of Christianity, but because they are heretical forms of Christianity that continually reappear and are a threat to the holiness and goodness of Christ’s church.

Looking at the Infancy Gospels Siker references, the Infancy Gospel of Thomas and the Infancy Gospel of James. Within both the reader finds a fanciful child and a fanciful Mary. And the Infancy Gospel of Thomas entails more mythology then Siker tells. Biblical scholar Richard J. Bauckham writes:

“… Jesus makes sparrows out of clay and brings them to life … He heals the injured, raises the dead, curses his enemies so that they die, proves superior in knowledge to all his schoolteachers. …” (Italics mine)[1]

The distraction is away from the fact that the eternal Son took on human flesh and became like humanity but without sin. Jesus’ miracles in his adulthood were laced with the humility of the compassionate Savior who did not and does not curse the repentant sinner. “A bruised reed he will not break and a dimly burning wick he will not extinguish …” (Isaiah 42: 3a)

Siker also features the Gospel of Peter and the Gospel of Thomas.

The Gospel of Peter which now only consists of small fragments is considered docetic by Siker and by other scholars. It carries within the text the possible idea that bodies are evil and that Jesus was not really human.  One scholar, Richard Bauckham, suggest that it may not have been docetic but rather had some misleading texts that were used by some heretical teachers. Using the early church historian Eusebius Bauckham writes:

“At the end of the second century Bishop Serapion of Antioch heard of a dispute over its use in the church of Rhossus. When he discovered it was being used to support docetic heresy and that a few passages in it were suspect from this point of view, he disallowed its use.”[2]

The Gospel of Thomas, which simply consists of supposed sayings of Jesus, has some sayings which align with biblical phrases and some which are clearly gnostic. While Elaine Pagels in her book, The Gnostic Gospels, seems to regard it as totally gnostic and uses those sayings which are gnostic, biblical scholar F.F. Bruce in his book, The Books and the Parchments, in an appendix writes:

“Some of these [sayings] could conceivably be genuine; at least they are sufficiently in keeping with the Lord’s character and teaching to deserve serious consideration. But the company they keep makes them suspect, for some of the sayings ascribed to him in this work are self-evidently spurious, and reflect the Gnostic outlook of the community to whose library this particular copy [the Coptic translation] of the work belonged.”

The important point here is that either “gospel” carries within it the seeds of heresy that can destroy the witness of true biblical faith. There is a failure to acknowledge the goodness of creation as well as the fall. Salvation in the Gospel of Thomas, turns out to be self-knowledge. And both gospels are aligned with other false gospels that totally obliterate the good news of God’s gift of salvation through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Siker, in the beginning of this lesson, attempts, in laying ground for the use of the non-canonical texts, to relativize the canonicity of the New Testament. She gives a slight history of that canonization using the Muratorian Canon, Athanasius’ list in an Easter letter in 367 AD, and the Council of Trent’s affirmation of the 27 books of the New Testament in 1546.  Contradicting Siker’s historical view of the canonization of the New Testament and her understanding of what canonization of the New Testament meant, F.F. Bruce writes:

“What is particularly important to notice is that the New Testament canon was not demarcated by the arbitrary degree of any Church Council. When at last a church council—the Synod of Hippo in A.D. 393—listed the twenty-seven books of the New Testament, it did not confer upon them any authority which they did not already possess, but simply recorded their previously established canonicity.  As Dr. Foakes-Jackson puts it: ‘The Church assuredly did not make the New Testament; the two grew up together.”[3]

It is in the holy Scriptures that we find the answer to the question “Who is Jesus.”




[1] Richard J. Bauckham, “Gospels (Apocryphal),” Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels: A compendium of Contemporary Biblical Scholarship, Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight, I Howard Marshall, Editors, (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press 1992).
[2] Ibid.
[3][3] F.F. Bruce, The Books and the Parchments: How We Got Our English Bible, revise and updated, (Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell 1984) 103-104.