Perfect Timing

Just in time for your Easter celebrations – 10 new books of the Bible!

Well, not really.  But pretty close.
A group of “religious leaders and scholars” has released  A New New Testament this month.  This book alters and reorders the existing New Testament books and adds ten ‘new’ books to the canon.  These additions are works that the Church has known about for nearly 2000 years, and consistently rejected as authoritative (though some of them might be considered harmless).  So what is offered really isn’t a new New Testament, just a larger one with things added to it that generations of “religious leaders and scholars” have determined are either unnecessary or completely fraudulent and unhelpful.
As a brief review, the criteria for including books in the New Testament include:
  1. Apostolic authorship or approval – the work needed to be written by an Apostle of Jesus Christ and his ministry, or approved by an Apostle.  Thus, Matthew and John are both Apostles, while Mark and Luke were both approved in their authorship (Mark by Peter, and Luke by probably Peter and Paul).
  2. As such, the New Testament books all were authored in the first century.  The latest was The Revelation of St. John, and the earliest might have been some of Paul’s letters or Matthew or Mark.  Nearness to the events and issues was seen as a benefit.
  3. Harmoniousness in their presentation of the life, teachings, identity, and import of Jesus of Nazareth.  People have been writing their own ideas about Jesus for a very long time.  The Church has always maintained that speculation that falls outside the eye-witness accounts is inappropriate, even if it is sometimes thought-provoking.
  4. Not being redundant.  If something has already been said by a writing with Apostolic authorship or approval, then including another work that says essentially the same sort of things is unnecessary.  The Church was well aware of some early writings that were harmonious with the rest of Scripture, but seemed to add nothing of real substance to what had already been said.  These weren’t included.
In other words, the goal of the Church has never been to include as many possible texts related to Jesus Christ as possible.  Quite the contrary.  As any educator or parent knows, to convey something important requires a fairly focused presentation.  Otherwise, the thought is lost amidst a sea of alternative thoughts.  The more important the message, the tighter the focus.
What also needs to be recognized is that books of this type are not written and released about events or persons that we believe we can know about with any level of certainty.  The decision to release a new New Testament with additional material that has been rejected by the Church for close to 2000 years is itself a rejection of the New Testament as it has been maintained.  Yes, there have been arguments at times about which books are authoritative.  Yes, Martin Luther didn’t like certain books of the Bible, but in the end his personal feelings were subjected (rightly so) to a Church tradition that was already almost 1500 years older than he.  It is clear just from the quotes from the author on Amazon’s page for the book that there are agendas at play here.  I always find it ironic when someone with an agenda criticizes a different agenda than their own.  I’m quirky like that.
The author’s hope is that this book will prove helpful or inspiring to Christian communities seeking to better understand Scripture.  I’m pretty sure that by and large (except perhaps in communities that have already given up on the actual Bible) that won’t be the case.  I have little doubt that this book will rapidly fade into obscurity, nearly as quickly as it’s narcissistic arrival.  

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