of Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We
Never Knew, by Bart D. Ehrman |
The advice "Don't discuss politics or religion"
usually makes good sense, because such discussions often pit one uninformed
opinion against another - with a net negative result.
What happens, however, when a person undertakes
massive research to present an objective, respectful, scholarly view
of a religious subject? One possible result is a captivating book that
opens your mind and touches your heart. Bart Erhman achieved that result
with this book.
Ehrman discusses the various agendas of the authors
behind both "scripture" and "heresy." He discusses
how various writings supported the case for one faction of Christianity
or another. He discusses what these writings were, how they came to
be, how they were discovered after centuries of being lost, and how
scholars have analyzed them.
During all of this discussion, Ehrman doesn't push
an agenda of his own. Indeed, he appears to explain the views and goals
of each faction without taking the side of any of them. Consequently,
the book moves the reader to a deeper, more informed, appreciation of
Christianity. That appreciation creates a desire to replace divisive
dogma with healing spirituality.
The New Testament did not exist in early Christian
times. It came about much later, and was a weapon in the battle for
dominance among various factions. It served to unite many disparate
churches into an orthodoxy. But, that orthodoxy necessarily negated
the views of those whose "scriptures" weren’t included in
the New Testament. The New Testament is a collection of writings that
support a particular set of views of Christianity (Ehrman explains why
this is both a good thing and a bad thing).
Many of the canonized books are not what they are
commonly purported to be. In fact, some of them are forgeries. At first
glance, such a statement seems inflammatory. Perhaps that's why Ehrman
takes the reader through the evidence - rather than making simple proclamations.
Here's a tidbit to consider. You may not know that Timothy was considered
for canonization, but then dropped - while Timothy was included though
it was known to be a forgery. What about the other books of the New
Testament? And what about the other books that didn't make it into the
New Testament? Ehrman answers those questions in a manner that does
not attack Christianity, but instead reframes it in the spirit of truth.
Many churches have split over differences in "following
God's Word." Often, the underlying disagreements arise over interpretations
of a passage in the New Testament. The "combatants for Christ"
may mean well, but they both are most likely basing their differing
interpretations on a forgery - rather than an Apostolic letter. As a
result, we have many sects of Christianity rather than one true way.
As varied as our flavors of Christianity are today,
however, the variance was much greater in the early years of Christianity.
Understanding this basic fact and understanding where our divisive doctrines
came from will help anyone be a better member of the Christian family.
For anyone who seeks to achieve such a goal, this book tills the soil
and plants the seed. If you can do just a little watering and weeding,
your faith will grow like a mustard seed.