Thursday, 6 January 2011

Holy Writ and All That

There seems to be a climate of interest in alternative Gospels. This has been taken up by the worthies Caeptain Ranty and Brother Gildas The Monk (on the Blessed St. Anna Raccoon's site). I've thrown in my two groats' worth for good measure.

As a cat, I'm not a trained theologian - although Caedmon has catechised me thoroughly and given me a pretty good all-round picture of Church History. I do have a basic understanding of Greek, which helps me to get under the skin of the translated New Testament scripture. The monks at the Abbey have been most helpful - especially Brother Wenham.

So - what about these other gospels that people have been talking so excitedly about recently? There are various writings which have been discovered since New Testament times. Some were pastoral letters (like the 'Shepherd of Hermas', the letter of Clement to the Corinthians and of Irenaeus to the Ephesians); these were written to serve a particular purpose. They were never intended to supplement Scripture - although they contain themes that are reflective of New Testament teaching. There were also many cults around that time which were influenced by the prevalent Greek religious and philosophical culture, along with the Babylonian mystery religions. These are referred to as the Gnostics. They wrote many of the manuscripts which are causing so much excitement at the moment; the substance of their writings at times contradicts the scriptural record and teachings. They were not embraced by the early church Fathers because they weren't regarded as genuine. I don't suppose that St. Thomas would have known anything about the gospel attributed to him!

There's a recognised spiritual principle borne out in history: where the genuine testimony appears, a counterfeit one also arrives to challenge it. For example, when Moses used the rod to authenticate to Pharaoh his God-given credentials and authority, Pharaoh's court mystics used another rod to replicate the miracles that had just been demonstrated. Where the testimony of the Son of God appears, a false testimony also arrives on the scene - in fact, many of them. And their purpose is to cause confusion and divert attention away from the genuine message. This happens because genuine Christianity is involved in a spiritual conflict which spills over into the human realm; there are spiritual forces at play. This is what the Apostle John refers to in one of his letters when he speaks of the many antichrists that have gone out into the world. (Anti in Greek means 'in place of' - or substitute.)

The Book of Enoch is quoted in scripture in the Letter of Jude, but St. Paul (in Acts 17) also quotes from the Greek poet Epimenedes. As far as I know, no one has suggested that his writings should also be incorporated into Scripture..!

Contrary to some fantastic ideas in circulation, the Church hasn't been covering up some esoteric secrets - although that idea tickles the fancy of some. Must go. There are mice to torment and catch!

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