Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Many Gospels of Jesus

In recent years, unless you have been under a rock somewhere, you will have heard the claim, peddled by the Da Vinci Code and such like, that there are many gospels, and that our four Gospels were selected from a huge list of alternatives. How are we as Christians to respond to these claims?

It is in order to help the average Christian reader to sort out this issue that Philip W. Comfort and Jason Driesbach have produced The Many Gospels of Jesus (Tyndale, 2008). In this one volume we have twenty-one different ancient writings that could be called 'gospels' in some sense. By far the longest of these are the four canonical Gospels. The other writings are some of the other contenders. This allows the reader to compare the different writings, and as we do, something immediately becomes apparent - the vast difference between the Canonical Gospels and the other claimants, and the broad similarity between the four canonical Gospels, even between the Synoptic Gospels and the Gospel of John. What is more, the 'lost gospels' all disagree one with another in what they teach. They present a Jesus who is radically different from the Jesus of the canonical Gospels, and a religion that is based on esoteric knowledge and a bizarre metaphysic, quite different from the religion of the Canonical Gospels. This book will be extremely useful for Christians who want to know more about the so-called 'Lost Gospels'. Its value is further enhanced by the essays that introduce the volume, dealing with questions such as 'What is a Gospel?', and 'What is Gnosticism'.

What are the pitfalls of this book? Principally that the Gospel text is given in the New Living Translation, which is a version I am not terribly keen on. Other than that, this is an excellent resource, collecting as it does such important documents in one volume. It has a good cover and is well-presented as well, which is always a bonus.

The Many Gospels of Jesus is available from Christian bookshops.

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