December 30, 2010

Missing Words

The post I deleted caused a fracas. The post I wrote to explain why I deleted it generated a fascinating debate and I wanted to round it off (for now) with a few thoughts of my own.

First, my thanks go (largely) to Zaphod and Augustine for a spirited debate which was remarkable for its clarity and lack of aggression. Usually, when religion is involved, the debate quickly becomes polarised and a deadlock is the normal outcome.

Second, and this may surprise some, I believe there is a god. Or a super-consciousness, or something. I am not religious in the sense that I trot down to the village church every Sunday, in fact, I go out of my way to stay out of these places. You will want to know why I believe, and it is a fair question. I asked for a miracle and got one. That is a huge statement and demands explanation but I don't want to offer one now. Perhaps I will write about it at a later date. It was intensely personal to me and I am not sure that I am ready to share it at this time. I will tell you that it generated a range of emotions but the two strongest were shock and awe, and they were the strongest because I finally knew that there was someone or something out there keeping an eye on me and mine.

Third, I wanted to explain my mistrust for "organised" religion.

There seem to be three major religions. Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. All three have their holy scriptures which guide the priests, imams and rabbis. The Koran appears to be largely adhered to as it is. That is to say, there aren't many versions of it. Judaism (and feel free to correct me if I am wrong) has a couple of "bibles": the Torah, which is the Five Books of Moses, and the Talmud, which contains nine tracts and a history. (The Talmud is a collection of laws and traditions). The Christians use between 8 and 11 versions of the bible, but this depends on where you do your research. Originally there was one version but as time passed, Christianity has spawned some 7,000 different sects. Variety, I am thinking, is the spice of life.

My problem with Christianity, and if I'm honest, the Roman Catholics in particular, is that the bible, (whatever version), is incomplete. My research, and that of countless others, reveals that there are 66 Books missing from the version released by the Vatican in the dim and distant past. Books like the Book of Enoch (which describes some remarkable but previously unknown facts about angels), the Book of Rebecca (bit sexist, leaving this one out, doncha think?), and the Book of Jasher. (With a name like that I am sure it is a fascinating read).

That's really it. I want to know what these three had to say. Them, and the other 63 writers whose work was considered too explosive for we mere mortals. What did they write that couldn't be read? Is homosexuality really okay? Or are women really equal? Will the smokers inherit the earth? Are tremendously fat people those that were made in God's image? On the face of it, they are probably silly questions to ask but they may well take on a new importance if our 66 deleted authors had something earth-shattering to say about them, or other, deeper, words of wisdom to offer. I do not know if the Torah, the Talmud, or the Koran have been interfered with but it wouldn't surprise me. I would be happy to read the bible if it was complete. It isn't. The missing books are buried deep in a vault in the Vatican City (and, some say, in a priory in southern England) and that is my basic problem: the edited version is incomplete and that throws up a myriad of doubts.

My point being simply that if the foundations are dodgy, the rest of the building is in danger. I can argue similarly about law, about money, or about governments. I can find and highlight fundamental flaws in each. And that is why I believe nothing. There is a backstory that we are not aware of but if we were, it could have a profound effect on our lives.

The church lies. It has done for centuries. They will say it is for the "greater good" but I don't believe that either. It is for their good. It is only in their interests that they omit some teachings and now they are in a bind. To release these previously unpublished works would be proof absolute that they lied by omission. Not a great advert for an organisation that purports to seek truth and enlightenment, is it?

I know that faith brings comfort to many. I also know that humans are fallible, and I have seen hypocritical acts carried out by Jews, by Christians and by Muslims in my travels around the globe: Jews munching on a bacon sandwich whilst working on the sabbath, Christians committing every sin in the book, then they pop down to the church on a Sunday to confess and beg forgiveness, only to start committing sins again first thing Monday morning, and Muslims scoffing my sandwiches, smoking my cigarettes, pinching my coffee, and drinking my beer, during Ramadan.

Faith is fine. Religion brings relief. Deities are do-able.

But the instruction manual is missing a few chapters.

The floor is yours.

CR.

42 comments:

Zaphod said...

Talking of religion, rather than god. -

One could try to devise a new religion, as a thought experiment.

To thrive, a religion needs to offer something. The hierarchy get employment, the congregation will settle, (experience tells us), for rewards in the afterlife. Plus, perhaps, a smug righteousness.

The religion must require followers to spread the word, Jehova's Witnesses have mastered this, but it's overdone, so a bit counterproductive.

Having gained followers, one needs to keep them. Penalties for those who leave? Islam does that well. And Catholics cut you off from confession.

It needs to capture the children early, with intense indoctrination. Catholics do that, Islam too, I assume. It should also encourage multiple offspring, to maximise the effect.

Persecuting unbelievers was always a good move, but that's not so easy now.

Repetitive rituals, singing, the new happy-clappy Christians have perfected the fervour thing.

Discourage thinking beyond a certain point.

This isn't exhaustive, but there are clearly attributes for a successful, expanding religion.

But the harmless religious don't do any of this. Good old C-of-E is doomed really, as an organisation. It needs to go to business school. Hindus never seem to cause any trouble either, why is that? The multiple gods?

I suspect that only troublesome religions win in the long term. This is worrying.

Richard said...

"My research, and that of countless others, reveals that there are 66 Books missing from the version released by the Vatican in the dim and distant past."

Or not. Most of the original 'biblical' texts were held in the library at Alexandria, which was burnt down some time around the 3rd Century AD, so unless someone has kept copies all of this (apart from the Church's 'approved' texts) have been lost. Specifically, there are hardly any 'gnomic' texts surviving, and the version of Christianity that has come down to us is almost all due to the ferocious editing of one man - Paul, a noted misogynist and someone who never actually met Christ in real life. It would seem that there were strands of Christian thought in the first few centuries AD which considered women to be equal, which had a significant mystical component, and which were ruthlessly suppressed by the early Church. It is likely that Christ (who was, after all, not a Christian but a radical Jew) would have been a member of one of these sects and would not have recognised the version of his church that Paul made a worldwide organisation.

I read a book as part of my interest in the history of Freemasonry, which I recommend to you - it's called The Hiram Key, by Knight and Lomas. It is a long way from being a scholarly text, and is closer to the 'Chariots of the Gods' stuff than an academic enquiry (lack of serious references and full of unsupported assumptions), but it throws up some serious and very interesting questions about the origins of Christianity which, if thought through, might change your whole attitude to the Church.

Captain Ranty said...

Zaphod,

Good points.

I should have made more of an effort to separate religion from god.

Having met Animists and Humanists, and a few others, I am aware that not all religions have a god.

It's a deep subject this. The more I think about it, the more I think about it, if you see what I mean.

CR.

Captain Ranty said...

Richard,

You also raise some great points and I knew that many texts had been lost down the centuries but I wanted to try and concentrate on those that were deliberately hidden. While I was digging around I did look for some sort of denial from the Vatican but I didn't find any. (That isn't to say that the Vatican did not categorically deny the existence of these books, just that I couldn't find the denial).

I agree wholeheartedly with your sentiments that Christ may be shocked and stunned to know what they had done to his teachings.

I am thirsty for knowledge so I will look out the books that you recommend. If they do change my attitude I will let you know.

CR.

Oldrightie said...

I too believe in a supreme entity, Cap'n. that God is my soul and in my inspiration. Not part of some organised riff raff of powerful but lesser Bilderbergers!

Richard said...

"Thirsty for knowledge" describes me quite well, too. THK is the only book I have ever finished and then started back at page 1 to read again immediately. It's a fascinating read. It's not without its critics, and a lot of the citicism is valid (especially the 'creeping assertion' thing, where a fascinating possibility on one page becomes the basis for a contoversial theory on the next) but I am sure you can pick your way through the minefield for yourself. I'd call it intriguing rather than persuasive, but it certainly called many of my lifelong assumptions into question. One very interesting part discusses the many lost gospels, i.e. works which were written about Jesus's life from contemporary sources, but which were suppressed by the early Roman church. As these would appear, from a historical point of view, to have an interest and validity equal to the four that 'survived', you have to ask why the Vatican insists that the Gospel of Thomas, for example, is heresy, whereas Matthew is not. From what I have been able to find, many of the lost gospels display attitudes to women, for one example, which are radically different from the ones we are familiar with. There's a fair summary of the book here. Give it a go - I'm sure you won't regret it.

Captain Ranty said...

Thanks again Richard.

I must confess that I have my doubts about Wikipedia too. Their section on second hand smoke was written by an imbecile.

I did, however, follow some links from there that took me to other reviews that were just as damning.

When "they" gang up to damn something it usually means that there is something in the something that they have collectively damned.

CR.

Captain Ranty said...

OR,

Agreed.

Most religions allow for an afterlife. Some offer the "lightswitch" theory. As in, "Once the switch is flicked, it's game over".

If believing in an afterlife brings comfort, particularly for the recently bereaved, so what? No harm is being done. And if it turns out that when you die, you die, then no harm is being done there either.

Maybe Bart Simpson was right. When asked by an evangelist about his beliefs, Bart said "I think I'm gonna go for the lifetime of sin, then do a deathbed confession".

I'm no saint but there is (so far) nothing in my life that I couldn't look my creator in the eye over.

CR.

Richard said...

Sorry, I meant that, having read the book, I thought the Wikipedia summary was fair. If you follow the links, you'll find that Masons don't much like the book (for reasons which I can go into at another time if pushed), and of course the Church hates it. None of which means it's a good book, of course. As a lefty friend once said, "just because Margaret Thatcher says it's right, doesn't mean it's wrong". I have grave doubts about the quality of the analysis in the book for reasons I gave above, but it's still very thought-provoking, and if it prompts people to look things up for themselves to verify or demolish the claims, then so much the better. The specific thing which turned my head around was the idea that the teachings of Jesus were very different from the edited and manipulated version that the Roman Church has handed down as the 'true' version. Two small examples: the church teaches that Christ had no siblings and yet there are clear references in the Bible to brothers and sisters. Why would that be? And the church insists that Christ never married, and yet some of the 'suppressed' gospels talk about a marriage to Mary Magdelene (who, far from being a prostitute, was well-regarded and something very significant in the Jerusalem Church). Character assassination by someone who just doesn't like women?

Twisted Root said...

If you want to find texts excluded from the Bible you could start here;-
http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/apo/index.htm

If you want a reasonably balanced and scholarly work on the battles of the early church and supressed texts discovered at Nag Hammadi in 1945, I suggest The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels.

Christ would not be at all suprised at the mangling of his teachings, he said as much.
Buddhism had schismed before he had died.

Careful Ranty, don't end up religion shopping there are plenty to chose from, it will swallow up the rest of your existence. Always bear in mind that the middle men move straight in as mediators and authorities to profit from the messiah's teachings (which ever one it happens to be). You can also waste a lot of time on religions which are provably nothing more than fairy stories written to fascinate and enthrall the unwary. The technique is to create a prophet/teacher/messiah figure, invent tales of great deeds and actions proving their divinity and then project that figure back in time to create a false history. Then wouldn't you know it, up pops a priesthood claiming to descended from or inheritors of the wisdom of the sacred one. Note, I have not named a particular religion, but there is more than one like this, they are still going and don't for a second doubt that they are rapacious in seeking converts (or complete mugs).

Another thing I have noted is that most if not all religions are unceasing in their efforts to trash their rivals using the sneakiest tricks you can't imagine. After all it's just business.

Examples, if you want them are reserved for a private discussion.

Richard said...

Well said.

Captain Ranty said...

Richard,

I am rarely persuaded by reviewers in any case. I tend to read and make up my own mind. I will do that with this book too.

Thanks again.

CR.

Captain Ranty said...

TR,

I came across Sacred Texts earlier today and bookmarked several links to read later on. It has some great info.

I am not seeking a religion, BTW, there are problems enough with the ones I already know about.

I was described once by five psychiatrists (a story for another day) as a polymath. A polymath, for those who do not know, is one of great or varied learning. I am not greatly learned but I have diversified my learning over the years. I collect facts like some people collect stamps.

I am that boring twat in the corner at parties torturing any poor soul who happened to raise an eyebrow at something I said. I can and will talk for hours about the useless, the inane, the drivellous, the tedious and the mundane. I own several books entitled "Book of Useless Information". Volumes I, II, III and IV.....

My curse is that I remember them all.

And yes, I know that they are all businesses. They are worth trillions.

CR.

Kitler said...

I believe in reincarnation and it terrifies me because I'm racist as fuck and the thought of coming back as a darkie or a bloody Chinaman fills me with dread.

Captain Ranty said...

Kitler,

Deathbed confession-sorted.

CR.

I am Stan said...

@ Kitler

Oh its not all bad being a darkie!...worry not...worry that your soul spends eternity swimming in the river Styx....

Richard said...

Kitler - don't worry, you might come back as a slug.

TR - thanks for the link, very interesting.

CR, my long-lost brother! I once amazed an engineer at a party by knowing (or rather having heard of) the Shertel-Sachsenberg system, purely because I immersed myself in James Bond novels as a teenager. I'm also the man to have on your pub quiz team.

Augustine said...

Richard said:

"Most of the original 'biblical' texts were held in the library at Alexandria, which was burnt down some time around the 3rd Century AD, so unless someone has kept copies all of this (apart from the Church's 'approved' texts) have been lost. Specifically, there are hardly any 'gnomic' texts surviving, and the version of Christianity that has come down to us is almost all due to the ferocious editing of one man - Paul, a noted misogynist and someone who never actually met Christ in real life."

Not quite true, I am afraid. There are many non-canonical gospels. The vast majority of them can be found online.

The Roman Catholic Church have not included them in the new Testament, largely because they were written much later than the canonical four, tend to be derivative, or often contain heretical ideas.

On this last point, the Church has always been quite transparent about its objections. This has often taken the form of commentary and critique, typically undertaken by Church fathers. In Catholic seminaries, these non-canonical gospels are taught. As a boy, I was made aware of these non-canonical texts in Catholic school (where I received a first rate education).

So no conspiracies about secret texts please.

If you need to find them, a Wikipedia search will do the trick. Funnily enough, I looked at one last week (the Gospel of Thomas).

Paul did not write the gospels. He wrote a few letters.

Has for the more substantive point, the loss of the library at Alexandria was a huge loss. However, the Gospels were already written and widely circulated.

However, Alexandria wasn't the only library in the Roman empire.

Augustine said...

BTW.

The vatican's Secret Archive is also online.

http://www.vatican.va/library_archives/vat_secret_archives/index.htm

Not without a touch of humor, Church actually calls it the "Secret Archive".

You can also visit it.

Richard said...

Augustine:

>> There are many non-canonical gospels. The vast majority of them can be found online.

There are more online than I realised, I must admit.

>> The Roman Catholic Church have not included them in the new Testament, largely because they were written much later than the canonical four, tend to be derivative, or often contain heretical ideas.

The Gospel of Thomas, as I understand, was contemporary with the 'big four' and possibly earlier, and is considered by some to be the 'Q' text that supplied much of the material for the 'accepted' gospels. Saying that the Roman Catholic Church didn't see fit to include them in the canon because they were 'heretical' is a bit of a circular argument, though, isn't it? Who decides what is heretical and what isn't? Why, the Church, of course.

>> So no conspiracies about secret texts please.

I will agree to that if you are able to tell me a) what is heretical, b) who decides what is heretical, and c) why heretical texts should be suppressed. I have my own views on the first two, but have never heard a satisfactory answer to the third.

>> Paul did not write the gospels. He wrote a few letters.

Acknowledged. I don't think I said otherwise. But Paul was the person who effectively created 'Christianity' from an obscure Jerusalem sect, did he not?

>> Has for the more substantive point, the loss of the library at Alexandria was a huge loss. However, the Gospels were already written and widely circulated.

The gospels may have been (we have them today to prove it) - but who knows what else was lost?

>> However, Alexandria wasn't the only library in the Roman empire.

It was the biggest and most comprehensive by a long way.

Johnnyrvf said...

C.R. may I suggest you read the writings of some of the early church " fathers", (pre Roman empire acceptance of Christianity) for a much more profound understanding of how it has all gone wrong. Another author I would recommenfd is St. Maximus the Confessor who was martyred in the 7th century. There are many saints of the early church who's writings upset the Vatican. Search under Orthodox Christianity.

Dioclese said...

Careful, Ranty, or you'll getting death threats!!

I would also like to know what inconvenient 'truths' are being heldback by the Vatican.

Someone told me - don't know if it's true - that all four gospels were written by people who were not alive at the time by about 100 years?

defender said...

Do you know that I believe that humans are designed to operate in a similar way to cancer or locust, it "eats the host" until there is no future for humans on a planet then they set off to find a new fresh body(planet) to infect.
I do not believe in Darwinism, us humans are varied but essentially the same, we are the strangest of all life on earth, not natural as in everything else.
After many centuries, our relearning of the technology allows us to be able to leave a planet, not in as a grown man, but as a automatic chemistry set, designed to start the human birth cycle when conditions found at the new place are suitable. Then its like Adam and Eve time, and so it starts again.
We do have a natural inklin to seek truth in a higher being, as if we have strong ties with something outside our selves and this planet.
Before we re learn the technology we seem to try to understand what is not understandable until we reach a stage where we can prove what the answers are. Then we are not so dependant on asking God to teach us.
After all, what is a million years in the grand scheme of things.
As for the hereafter, what seems important is that we do not die with a bad consious, it seems that we instintly need to leave this life in peace of mind.
I would say that we might be only 100 years or so before the technology is available to blast off a load of sperm and eggs in a direction which looks promisimg.
The travel time alone would be centuries from here to there.

As for Christianity, that got hijacked by the same folk who crucified him, state religion of the Roman Empire.
As for the rest of religions, I just cant say except, a man can believe anything he wants to as long as it does not interfer with my thought patterns.
peace.

I am Stan said...

Sin at leisure,repent in haste.

Twisted Root said...

Lo and behold Chuckles at;
http://nourishingobscurity.com/2010/12/30/the-great-bathtub-hoax/

highlights H L Mencken's Bath Tub Hoax. Where he concocts a fake anniversary, berates people for not observing it and years later people won't believe him when he reveals that he made it all up!

It really is that easy to create a fake history. Imagine what a well funded and coordinated effort could do.

I am Stan said...

There's no doubts in fox holes

Pray,repent.....live again

Augustine said...

Richard

Let me now turn to the issue of heresy and the early church. One of the greatest difficulties for people outside the Catholic church is to understand where church authority comes from. Just for a moment bear with me and focus not on what I'm about to say as being right or wrong. Rather, try to follow the thought process.

Step one: Jesus comes down to earth. He is the incarnation of God. He preaches a new covenant offering eternal salvation.

Step two: Before he was arrested, he instructs his disciples to create a church and spread this message of eternal salvation. He prophesies his death but also prophesies that the holy spirit will return after his death to the disciples. He also tells the disciples that he will never leave the church and the church will always be guided by the holy spirit.

Step three: He makes Peter the first pope and gives him the authority to govern the church.

Step four: Jesus is crucified, he dies, he is buried, and after three days he rises from the dead. This is pretty much as Jesus told it to the disciples before he was arrested.

Step five: The Holy Spirit turns up as promised on Pentecost. The disciples go out and start preaching in the church takes off.

From these steps, the Catholic faithful believe that the holy spirit is always present in the church. The church is full of human beings which are fallible and at times sinful. However, on theological matters, it is guided. In fact, this is what is meant by papal infallibility. The church, through the holy Father, is capable of making infallible and true statements about theological and moral matters.

So when it determines that the Gospel of Thomas is not canonical. This is a decision guided by God himself as manifested by the holy spirit.

You may find this totally implausible. However, it is consistent with scriptural teaching and it has its own internal logic.

You asked me the following questions:

a) what is heretical,

Anything that misleads us about the truth of God.

b) who decides what is heretical,

God himself

c) why heretical texts should be suppressed.

I supposed the starkest answer is that a heretical text, if taken seriously, might endanger one's soul and risk eternal damnation. However, I have read many godless athiestic texts. Heresy doesn't need to be surpressed; it needs to be exposed. As Jesus said "the Truth will set you Free"........

I hope you find this explanation helpful........

And yes, I understand it, Alexandria was probably the biggest library in the ancient world. The Church and those that belong to the Household of the Faithful have long lamented its loss.....

Augustine said...

Richard,

I enjoyed reading your comment. You ask some thoughtful and valid questions that deserve a somewhat lengthy answer.

Any Catholic child taking a course in theology will be taught about Q. They will be taught that there are three synoptic gospels that carry the same basic message and are very similar in structure. They will also be taught that the authors of these gospels may be used in earlier more contemporary document which has been assigned the title Q. People who believe in the existence of Q tend to think that is a list of sayings of Jesus. (I mention this only to point out that Q is very uncontraversial idea; no conspiracies, da Vinci codes or hidden secrets here....)

Mark is the simplest and generally regarded as being the earliest gospel. Some Catholic theologians believe that it is Q. This is a perfectly acceptable and orthodox position. There is an alternative, less widely held position, that Matthew might be Q.

Other Catholic theologians are very sceptical about the existence of Q. They cite, quite plausibly, that it is not mentioned in any of the other early writings of the Church. All opinions sit quite comfortably within the mainstream of Catholic thought.

Notwithstanding this multiplicity of opinions, all Catholic theologians believe that if Q existed the authors of the three synoptic gospels also used accounts of eyewitnesses who werethere for both the teaching and passion of Christ. It is generally thought (in in places hinted within the accounts) that these eyewitnesses were disciplines.

The debate about Q is interesting that carries no major theological significance. Some theologians have tried to reconstruct Q and believe that they've achieved a very close approximation to the original document.

The Gospel of John is quite different. There is a much deeper and more theologically complex account of the life of Jesus. Nevertheless, it provides an account that is consistent with the three other gospels. Personally, this is my favourite Gospel and I think it contains the most complete account of the life and teachings of Jesus.

As for the Gospel of Thomas, my own view is that it is not contemporary with canonical gospels. As for Q, I do not believe that such a document existed.

Leg-iron said...

I have the Book of Enoch. Also a two-volume set called 'the missing books of the Bible' which includes -

First and second books of Esdras
The Book of Tobit
The Book of Judith
The rest of the Book of Esther
The Wisdom of Solomon
The Wisdom of Jesus the Son of Sirach
The Book of Baruch
The Epistle of Jeremy
The Prayer of Azariah
The History of Susanna
The History of the Destruction of Bel and the Dragon
The Prayer of Manasses
First and second books of Maccabees

Not the originals, obviously. Mine are in paperback. In the interests of balance, I also have Clavicula Salomonis, Goetia, The Grimoire of Armadel and a few of Crowley's mad ramblings.

Oh, and the bible (KJV and RSV) and a New Testament in Welsh that I can't read a word of.

As to the 'missing books', I have no idea whether any of them are real, forged or faked. I have them because I write scary stories and they are great source material.

Is there a God? I don't know. If there is, he's pretty much left me to my own devices so far. So I have no reason to rail against religion and no reason to follow one either.

There's only one way to know for certain. I'm in no hurry.

Richard said...

Augustine, for some reason two of your (quite lengthy) comments have come though to my reader, but have not appeared here, so it would be unfair to take issue with something that is not publicly visible.

Firstly, thank you for taking the time to address the issue, and my questions, so carefully. I don't find anything you say here terribly controversial. What you say represents a considered, humane and positive stream of thinking within Christianity, and you won't find me attacking it. Where we differ is that you approach the matter from the viewpoint of a believer, and I from agnosticism. I look at all the texts, from the canonical gospels, through the 'heretical' writings, to all the material discovered at Qumran and the rest, not as the word of a deity I don't believe in, but as historical material. Viewed like this, Paul was exceptionally successful in creating a Church in the way he wanted, but I have a feeling that there was a lot in the early Jerusalem Church that he discarded (some of which is still extant in Orthodox theology) - and which is now regarded as heretical - which Jesus himself would have recognised as central to the message. In the years after the crucifixion, James the Just (working for the survival of the Jerusalem church) refers to someone he calls the 'spouter of lies'. There is a suspicion he is referring to Paul. I can't comment on that, as I am at the beginning of my study, not the end, but I find it intriguing.

On a personal note, I find the gospel of John ("the one whom Jesus loved") the most satisfying and I find particular interest in the Oxyrhynchus sayings of Jesus (some overlap with the gospel of Thomas, I believe). "Lift up the stone, and there you will find me; cleave the wood, and I am there" I find incredibly moving, having cleaved a lot of wood in my time, even as a non-believer. Shame that isn't in the 'proper' gospels, really, as it speaks to me.

Caedmon's Cat said...

I don't want to get enmeshed in arguments about apocryphal books and so on - just to say that there is a God who has revealed Himself through Christ, the human embodiment of an infinite God that humans can understand. Spiritual Christianity is a revealed faith, i.e. shown to the individual personally. Faith is divine in origin (Ephesians 2:8-9) and Christ is the object. The result is forgiveness (because of the cross), restoration and hope because of the resurrection (which is really certainty - not wishful thinking). It transcends the political machinations of organised religion - churches are intended to be gatherings of Christians meeting together for mutual support and encouragement, worship and evangelism. Everything else is basically irrelevant. This is a crude distillation of Christian theology - but is summarises the basic thrust of the New Testament, to which the Old Testament refers.

Augustine said...

Richard,

Agreed. The literary origins of the new testament are intiguing.

All I would say is come to the subject with an open mind. There are no conspiracies, and no hidden texts. There may be some lost ones, but the implications of that are quite different.

One thing that may surprise you is that the Catholic Church has meditated on all these questions. It continues to do so in a very open and honest way.

Caedmon

I agree with almost all you say, save the comments about the nature of a Church. I think there is more to a Church than you suggest.

Augustine said...

Richard

One final point:

"Lift up the stone, and there you will find me; cleave the wood, and I am there"

Just because this is not in the canonical gospels doesn't mean that this phrase should be rejected as not being the words of Jesus.

The Gospel of Thomas contains many true things. The Church recognises this. It is not, however, regarded as scriptural.

Richard said...

I approach everything with an open mind. The day I reckon I know everything is the day I pack my bags and leave for somewhere better.

"The Gospel of Thomas contains many true things. The Church recognises this. It is not, however, regarded as scriptural."

A fine distinction that people like me find hard to fathom.

Trooper Thompson said...

This is an interesting debate, interesting also is how it began with Ranty's outburst against a certain bishop.

My tuppence worth: I think there are two distinct paths in religion; one leads toward light, and one towards darkness. With the first, the truth, or what is claimed as the truth,is held openly, for all to see. With the second it is hidden, occult, to be learned by initiates.

I would say Christianity, whether you reject it outright, is open for all to see. Freemasonry is the opposite. It is a kind of mystery cult, of the type seen in ancient times. The truth is only to be learned by the few.

gildas said...

A very interesting post. I agree that the modern bible is incomplete. Indeed recent studies have to my mind convincingly shown that not only have texts which could realistically have been included in the Old Testament been omitted, even more seriously at least two Gospels - the Gospel of Judas (yes that one) and the Gospel of Mary Magdelene existed but were suppressed as part of the early church's internal dogmatic wars. Fragments of both remian, and they give a tantalising glimpse of a significantly different version of events than the classical one. A puzzle of true "Da Vinci Code" proportions! For those minded to inquire more, some quite intersting documentaries can be found via youtube
G the M

Caedmon's Cat said...

The apocryphal books were written during the Babylonian exile of the Jews and they were written in Aramaic - and not Hebrew. They were not included in the Ketuvim of the Hebrew scriptures. They were however included in the canon of scripture by the Roman church. The Protestant reformers rightly excluded them because of the uncertainty about their origin and authorship. The CofE is right to regard them as useful for Christians, although not the written Word of God. There have been many gospels and epistles - some from Gnostic cults - which are agreed by theologians to be spurious.

Giolla Decair said...

Thanks for the excellent post Captain, hope you don't mind but I may use it as a jumping off point for something that's been wandering around my mind for a bit now.

Also a bit like LegIron I have a rather excellent paper back collection of "missing" texts called "the Other Bible", includes amongst others the gospels of Thomas and James and a bunch of gnostic texts.

Captain Ranty said...

Giolla,

Help yourself.

I thought my post was unexceptional. As always, it is the comments that bring more enlightenment. I am by no means an expert in this but I noticed more than a few excellent comments, and some great links.

As usual, I am standing on the shoulders of giants.

CR.

Giolla Decair said...

Thank you kindly Captain, you gave me the kick I needed to actually write something I@ve been meaning to do for a while.

http://www.anonymong.org/2011/01/03/rambling-about-religion/

Chalcedon said...

Not Gasher, but Jasher, the book of the Upright. A lost book of the bible. Gorn completely! The Gospel of Thomas survives but isn't included as it is just a load of quotes of Jesus with no chronology or context. It was the Council of Nicea that agreed on the composition of the Bible.

There were earlier and different versions of the Koran, but most were destroyed as you can't have differences in the words of Allah can you?

Captain Ranty said...

Thanks Chalcedon.

Error corrected.

Gasher was a character in a Stephen King novel I read.

CR.