Societal values shift across distance and time. What was acceptable dress in 14th-century Japan would likely be frowned upon in a 21st-century American business meeting. But truth is not a suit. It is not an outfit to be mixed and matched, discarded and replaced to keep in step with the latest trends. Imagine a man about to walk off a cliff. A panicked crowd of friends behind him screams warnings, begging him not to do it.
HISTORY OF BIBLE TRANSLATIONS
The man pauses in mid stride and turns around. Your thoughts and feelings on the physical forces in nature are pretty irrelevant. Gravity will continue to hold the matter of the universe together, regardless of your opinion on its necessity. You might disagree with the laws of inertia, but a falling object can still give you a nasty bruise if it hits you. What the Bible offers is a guidebook to interactions—with people, with things, with life in general. It also deals with character traits worth developing 1 Corinthians 1 Corinthians 4 Charity suffers long, and is kind; charity envies not; charity braggs not itself, is not puffed up, 5 Does not behave itself unseemly, seeks not her own, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil; 6 Rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 Bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
So, is the Bible still relevant after all these years? Skip to main content. See Matthew Matthew 23 Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has ought against you; 24 Leave there your gift before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
This is meant to be that book. It contains astounding new material from the first-century Christ movements and places it alongside the traditional texts.
The New Testament in Its World
This New New Testament is not simply the product of one author. The ten added books have been chosen by a council of wise and nationally known spiritual leaders. An eclectic mix of bishops, rabbis, well-known authors, leaders of national churches, and women and men from African American, Native American, and European American backgrounds have studied many of the recent discoveries from the first two centuries, deliberated rigorously together, and chosen those new books.
What have these deliberations produced? Where did it come from? And what do readers need to know before immersing themselves in this new New Testament experience? Where did these new books come from?
How could new books from the first centuries of Christianity, ones not in the New Testament, just suddenly appear? Where did they come from?
There is no simple answer to these questions. And these are not questions that need to be in the foreground of our experience of A New New Testament.
In the past hundred years a number of new works from the first centuries have been discovered in the desert sands of Egypt, the markets of Cairo, and the libraries of ancient monasteries. In some cases, scholars already knew about the existence of these books because they were mentioned in other, more familiar ancient texts, but the books themselves had never been found. In other cases, these newly found documents from the beginnings of Christianity had never before been heard of at all.
In still other cases, some of these "new" documents have actually been in hand for quite a while but have been ignored, repressed, or known only to scholars. There is no reason, then, to think that the Gospel of Thomas, which is not in the traditional New Testament, was read any less in the first and second centuries than the Gospel of John, which is in the traditional New Testament.
Indeed, in the ancient world the Gospel of Thomas was distributed widely and translated into at least two languages. Early Christian writings that did not make it into the New Testament had, in their time, similar status to the works that did find their way into it. Wait a minute! The New Testament did not exist for at least the first three hundred, if not five hundred, years after Jesus.
Some of its books appear to have been written some twenty to thirty years after his death, but others probably not for at least years after Jesus. In the early centuries of Christianity the only hints of a sacred collection of texts are several lists of some gospels, letters, and apocalypses suggested for reading, with different Christ communities following different lists, and many communities not following any list.
The second through fourth centuries after Jesus did see some actual bound books of collected early Christian works, but none of them are identical to, or even progenitors of, the New Testament.
Before you continue...
In other words, as is shown in more detail in the "Companion to A New New Testament " at the back of this book, these new additions to the New Testament existed for many years and during the crucial early period of Christianity alongside the books we know, without any privilege of one over any other, for a very long time.
This "new" New Testament, then, in a very real way restores the kind of mix of early Christian documents about Jesus that existed in the first centuries. The assumption that the existing New Testament was always the privileged, authorized book about Jesus is not true. The New Testament did not somehow descend from God after Jesus was gone. Christian churches spent centuries engaging in arguments and political deals to decide which early books would be included in their most sacred collections.
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This, of course, does not mean that the New Testament is fraudulent or less meaningful. It simply means that the historical record shows that collection to be a product of complex human negotiation over a long period of time. So, if the New Testament as a collection of early Christian books did not come into existence in the first century, where did all these different books from the traditional New Testament and beyond it come from? And when were they written? The introduction to each ancient text in A New New Testament gives an approximate date for when it might have been written.
But it is difficult to know these dates exactly. None of these individual books make note of when they were written, and historians are left with many imponderables in dating them. On the other hand, the Gospel of Luke could have been written anywhere from 60 CE to CE, according to different historians.
Many scholars now argue that the Gospel of Thomas not included in the traditional New Testament but included in this New New Testament was written much earlier than the Gospel of Luke. We will look more closely at the difficulties and approximations of when the books in and outside of the traditional New Testament were written later, in both the individual introductions to each ancient text and in the "Companion to A New New Testament. The precise origins of the individual works of the traditional New Testament are in many cases just as elusive as the new additions to this new New Testament.
Related The Twenty-First Century: New Reading of New Testament
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