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Bruce, Have You Studied Non-Canonical Texts?


John asked:

Have you ever read or studied non-canonical texts such as The Gospel of Thomas, the Didache, The Shepherd of Hermas?

What is your thought on alternative universe Christianity, for lack of a better term?  I mean how things might have turned out had some or all of these books had been included in canon, or if say the Reformation had never happened or the Pope had listened to Martin Luther, etc.

I have perused some of the non-canonical texts, but I wouldn’t say I have studied them as I have the Protestant Christian Bible. For reference, I have Dr. Bart Ehrman’s book, The Apocryphal Gospels: Text and Translations.

The non-canonical texts tell me one thing for sure: numerous Christianities were floating around during the first few centuries of the church. This process continues to this day. Certainly, Christianity would have looked different had non-canonical books been added to the canon, the Reformation never happened, or Martin Luther had succeeded in reforming Catholicism. Better? Worse? We will never know. All we have is Christianity as it presently exists. I am confident that Christianity will be very different in 2100 — if the Earth has not been destroyed. Secularism, postmodernism, and science will continue to have their way with Christianity. It will be up to our grandchildren and great-grandchildren to determine whether this is good.

Nothing in the non-canonical texts that I have read has changed my mind about the existence of God or the supernaturality of Jesus.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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1 Comment

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    John S.

    Thanks Bruce. I have listened to some of the Nag Hammadi texts on a You Tube Channel. Most of them portray a very esoteric Jesus. Some of the verses are similar to the canonical Gospels, others radically different.
    I have read that the early church fathers had a standard for inclusion in the canon- the work had to be old, attributed to either an Apostle or someone who was taught by an Apostle, had to be universally used across the Roman Empire, and had to be “accurate” i.e. had to confirm to orthodoxy. Most of the Nag Hammadi texts were written later than canon (I think), although the Gospel of Thomas was relatively old.
    Interesting stuff, for me anyway.

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