What About the Missing Gospels and Lost Christianities? – Program 2

By: Dr. Darrell Bock; ©2006
Do the newly rediscovered Gospels give us a better picture of what Jesus was really like? Should these Gospels be considered as equal or even superior to the biblical Gospels?

Do We Have a False View of Jesus?


Today on The John Ankerberg Show, What about the Missing Gospels and Lost Christianities that archaeologists say they have now? Some scholars at Harvard, Princeton, and Yale claim that these lost Gospels and alternative Christian groups existed shortly after the time of Jesus and the apostles.

Further, these people claimed to be true Christians, but did not believe Jesus was God, nor did they believe in his resurrection from the dead. Some scholars claim that this new evidence indicates we must rewrite church history and give up traditional beliefs about Jesus. God, and the Bible. Is this true? What evidence refutes these views?

Today, you will find out. My guest is considered one of the top historical Jesus scholars in the world. He is Dr. Darrell Bock, research professor of New Testament studies at Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas, Texas. He has appeared on ABC with Diane Sawyer, on NBC’s dateline with Stone Phillips, and with Bill O’Reilly on Fox. His new book The Missing Gospels, Unearthing the Truth Behind Alternative Christianities, examines these lost Gospels and tells why they are not true Christianity. He has also written 13 other books including, Breaking the Da Vinci Code.

We invite you to join us.

Ankerberg: Welcome. We’re talking about The Secret Teachings of Jesus. If you go in any bookstore in our country, you’re going to find these kinds of titles on the shelves. You have probably seen this. You probably didn’t buy one, but the fact is it’s there in all the bookstores, “The Gnostic Bible.”
And the scholars at some of our major universities, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, University of North Carolina, out in the west coast, and so on, you’ve got scholars that are saying, “You see these books here? These are the lost Gospels.” They were found in 1946 and they’ve been translated through the years, and they’re coming out now. And the scholars are looking at that and saying it’s an alternative Christianity. In fact, they’re saying, “You know, we kind of like that.”
But they’ve got a different God, a different Jesus, a different plan of salvation, a whole bunch of things that are different. And they’re saying, “That’s just as legitimate as what you guys have been saying.” In fact, now they’re turning it around and saying, “What you guys are saying is not as legitimate as that. We’ve got hard evidence over here.”
They don’t, and that’s what I want you to hear about. Your kids who are going to university, even down in high school, they need to know this. The people that you work with, they’re hearing this on the news, they’re reading it in popular books, and so on. They need to understand what’s being said.
Darrell, tell us who wrote these Gnostic books, where they came out. For folks that weren’t with us last week, give us a rehash. What is this stuff, the lost Gospels?
Bock: Well, in fact, we, in most cases, don’t know exactly who wrote most of this material. All that we know is that it has been deposited in libraries of groups that held to this Gnostic Christianity. We can tell that most of the works come from the second and third century. And what they tended to do was to attribute the authorship to other key figures in the Christian movement to try and give them some credibility. So you have The Gospel of Peter, for example. Or you have The Apocryphon of John. Not all these works share the name “gospel.” But they’re still talking about the life and ministry of Jesus. In fact, one of the interesting things about these works is that they tend to zero in on Jesus’ teaching after he was resurrected as opposed to what happens in the Gospels that we’re familiar with, where almost all the teaching comes from what Jesus said on earth and often in open public.
Ankerberg: Let me just take you back to Da Vinci Code here, because you had a great quote in the book, and it goes back to Teabing in The Da Vinci Code, which a lot of people have read, where Teabing says, he claims, “There were more than 80 Gospels that were considered for the New Testament, but then only four were chosen.”
Bock: What is so outrageous about this claim is the suggestion that what happened is that we kind of had a book club with bishops walking in and said, “Alright, we’re going to give you bishops a copy of all these 80 gospels. You line up and you vote.” That never took place. What happened was these books impressed themselves upon the original church, the ones that ended up being a part of our Bible, impressed themselves on the original church, and people began to ask, “What are people using, and what goes back to the apostles?” And out of that background came what became the Canon. And not in 325 or some period after that for the Gospels. We know that they’re functioning that way by the end of the second century, through our historical material that we have access to.
Ankerberg: Alright, now, I want to read some of these titles, because you say, what are the books in here? And you always kid me and say, well, if you were to take this and use this for your devotions, you would turn to something like Three Forms of First Thought. Or The Gospel of Truth. Okay. You’ve got The Gospel of Philip. Or The Round Dance of the Cross. These are titles on these books. The Sermon of Zostrianos. Three Steles of Seth. These are not things that just fall off our tongue, alright?
Bock: No.
Ankerberg: But let’s take some of the ones that are known. People are hyping this thing on “The Gospel of Thomas.” Is this the apostle Thomas? Nobody says that, but why is that name on there?
Bock: I think that name is on there to try and give the book some credibility; to say that this goes back to one of the twelve. And in counter response to the existence of the Gospels that actually do have apostolic roots, or have apostolic roots associated with someone very close to an apostle. So that’s one thing that’s going on. I think the other reason why you’re getting this name is that it adds an air of credibility to make this kind of a connection, to make this kind of suggestion. And in the case of Thomas, what we have that’s interesting, because of all the works that we have that are outside the Canon, Thomas is the most interesting. There’s no doubt about it. About 50% of Thomas, you can actually look at your biblical gospels and you can go, “That looks recognizable to me. That’s just a varied form of something that I’ve seen in the Gospels.” And then the other 50% is stuff you’ve never seen before.
Ankerberg: That also tells you when it was written.
Bock: That’s right.
Ankerberg: Because if it’s referring to stuff that’s already in the Gospels, the Gospels came first, that came second.
Bock: Except that what happens with these scholars who have the new way, is they’ll sit there and they’ll say, “No, the earliest form of this tradition is in Thomas.” Now, in fact it may be the case… Thomas is not like a Gospel that we’re familiar with in our Gospels. Thomas is nothing but 114 independent sayings and/or parables of Jesus. That’s all it is. Just a running list…
Ankerberg: Yes, no narrative about what happened in the events. It’s just…
Bock: No outline, no order of ministry, just 114 sayings. Here they come at you: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, until you get to 114. And the other thing that’s interesting about them is that they do mimic the Gospels and they do reflect to have some touch with the same tradition, some of it does, with what’s in the Gospels. So some people will say, “Maybe there are a few sayings of Jesus in there that really in fact do go back to him.” And that is conceivable. There is, out of the 114, there may be a half dozen that might actually reflect something Jesus said, or something very close to what Jesus said.
But the bulk of it doesn’t. The bulk of it comes from the second century, from the early second century. It’s on the edge of when Gnosticism is emerging, and that is a second century movement in all likelihood, according to most of the experts. And so, this material as a whole is late. But there are a few individual sayings that might be early. But anyone who suggests to you that that entire Gospel goes back to that early period is not only running against the evidence in the text, it’s running against the expertise of what Thomas scholars are saying about Thomas.
Ankerberg: Also, people in the church knew about this book, didn’t they?
Bock: They did.
Ankerberg: And they rejected it.
Bock: Origen explicitly tells us in the early part of the third century that this text was not read in the churches. It was not to be read in the churches, and it wasn’t being read in the churches.
Ankerberg: Okay. But here you go around the circle. The new scholars come back and say, “But, yeah, but that shows you that the powerful won, and they were the ones that wrote history. And now we’ve got this suppressed group—good old Thomas—we’re getting him back so he can talk without all of these church leaders involved.” What do you say to that?
Bock: Well, I think you say two things: 1) there is some evidence that there were some people calling themselves Christians who believed the types of things that you see in Thomas. That one you can’t dispute. But then the next question is, alright which one of these two groups has the best claim to,… let’s say, which has the best genealogy, okay? Which one has the best genealogy that will take you all the way back to Jesus?
Ankerberg: Yes.
Bock: And when you ask that question, Thomas falls away, and the four Gospels surface.
Ankerberg: Yes, because you’ve got historical links that go before Thomas and these other Gnostic writings, and you’ve got a whole bunch of stuff. And that’s one of the things that we want to talk about now, is that when you look at some major points of theology like who is the God they’re talking about? Who is the person of Jesus, although Thomas is interesting on Jesus; and the new scholars, they’re trying to get away from this Jesus who claimed to be God.
Bock: That’s right.
Ankerberg: Okay. But Thomas messes them up right on that point, doesn’t he?
Bock: Yes, but they don’t tell you that.
Ankerberg: Okay. What is it?
Bock: What the new scholars will say about Thomas is we’ve got a human Jesus. And we’ve got a human Jesus and then the traditional group came along and they wanted to elevate this Jesus because he was crucified and they wanted to keep him around in their theology. So they made him God. Okay. That’s what the new scholars are claiming happened in traditional Christianity.
Ankerberg: That’s the spin.
Bock: That’s the spin. That’s the hype. That’s the buzz. But in fact what’s really going on is that even in Thomas, Jesus is divine. There’s a very famous saying, just remember the number 77. Okay? 77. Saying 77 in Thomas says that if you look under a piece of stone—this is Jesus saying this—I am there. If you split a piece of wood, I am there. He’s claiming to be omnipresent. Now, omnipresence isn’t the normal characteristic of a human being, at least not most of the human beings I know. This is a claim of high Christology.
But most new scholars will not even mention that verse being in Thomas because what they want is a Jesus who is human. And in fact, it’s even worse, because none of the material that we have, none of it, has a strictly human Jesus. Even though books like The Da Vinci Code, in trying to popularize this, said that what we had originally was a human Jesus who was elevated to this high status, we don’t have a single piece of evidence that has a human Jesus portrayed in any of this material. He’s either human and divine, as the tradition has argued, or he is so divine he can’t be human.
Ankerberg: I can see why Diane Sawyer asked you to be on that “Passion” deal with Mel Gibson. I mean, you’re a walking encyclopedia. And the thing that blows my mind is you’ve actually read all this stuff in the original, which just knocks me out. But we want to get down to, we’ve got to take a break here and we’re going to come back. The fact is, some of the big points that the new scholars are not telling us, and won’t tell the kids when they go to school, is we got some major differences in terms of who the God is of these Gnostic gospels, okay? And we want to get some of those quotes from some of these things—and they sound like Spock here talking on Star Trek—when we come back. But the fact is I want you to listen to what we’re saying, because this is what’s going on at our universities, this is what’s going coming down in the popular literature. You need to know this to talk to your non-Christian friends. So stick with us, we’ll be right back.


Ankerberg: Alright, welcome back. We’re talking with Dr. Darrell Bock. And we’re talking about stuff like this: Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew. They’re talking about, there are varieties of Christianity back in the year 200 that have legitimate claims to be the thing that we should believe.
We believe they’re wrong, we don’t think the evidence supports it, and we’re trying to tell you why. Because your kids, if they go to the university, they’re going to hear this stuff. If you read popular magazines, newspaper articles, and even a lot of news reports, you hear this stuff. We’re trying to unscramble it for you.
And one of the things we’re talking about, what are the core beliefs of this group that wrote The Gnostic Bible, all the different books that have been published now? Found in 1945 at Nag Hammadi, Egypt, these books, the Gnostic gospels, what do they talk about? What is their belief? When you compare their belief about God with the traditional beliefs, you’re going to find out it’s completely black and white. This is not even close, alright? And we want you to see this so you understand why, and then why it is that we believe that the core beliefs of Christianity go right back to Jesus himself. Because there’s solid historical evidence for that, and there’s not for the Gnostic gospels.
Darrell, start us off in terms of God. Who is the God of these Gnostic writers?
Bock: Well, I need to start off with saying a little bit about Gnostics and Gnostic Christianity before we talk about God.
Ankerberg: Okay.
Bock: And the place to start with Gnostics is, we’ve said that it’s already about knowledge, it’s gnosis, it’s what you know. But then the question is, know about what? Well, first, what do you know about God and the creation? And the key to Gnosticism is the idea of dualism. It’s basically opposition. There’s good and there is bad. Or there is the pure and there is the less than pure. In regards to God, God is pure light; he is unknowable; he is completely transcendent. That is, the top dog God, if you will.
Ankerberg: Uh huh.
Bock: And then there are all these emanations that come off from all these other gods, these, you might call “God Juniors,” okay? And these God juniors are really responsible for the creation. Or we can look at the dualism that’s in the creation itself. Matter is bad. But the spiritual things—ideas—are good. It’s a variation of Platonism, actually. It grows out of what’s called Middle Platonism, which had this distinction between ideas being good and then the actual fleshing out of that in the earth and the material world is bad. So dualism is very, very important to Gnosticism, and it’s very, very important to the portrait of God.
Ankerberg: It’s one of their core beliefs.
Bock: It’s one of their core beliefs.
Ankerberg: And that completely differs with what the God of the Bible is saying.
Bock: Exactly right. In the God of the Bible, you’ve got one creator God, and that creation is good from the beginning. And in the Gnostic view you’ve got this… actually God isn’t very responsible for the creation. He kind of facilitates it, he steps in when it needs help, but the most of these underlings do the work. These junior gods are called, in the technical terminology, “demiurges”, or assistants to God. And they help to do the creation, and they don’t do a very good job. And because they don’t do a very good job, the creation is flawed from the beginning, and unredeemable.
Ankerberg: This is the kind of reasoning that the Gnostic writers gave…
Bock: That’s right.
Ankerberg: …that the creation was screwed up because of these juniors that were down there doing it.
Bock: And it really is a kind of theodicy. They’re trying to explain why the world that we live in is so messed up. Whereas in Christianity, and in Judaism— this is important—in Christianity and in Judaism, the claim is that the flaw results from flaws in humanity that caused the creation to fall. In Gnosticism the idea is, no it was botched from the beginning, and we’ve been trying to recover ever since.
Ankerberg: Alright, so give us some quotes, because some of these quotes, and folks, they’re going to sound from outer space here, but the fact is, we want you to hear them so you can compare that with the traditional teaching that has come down to us from Jesus, the apostles, the disciples of the apostles, and down, and formed the New Testament Canon later on. Start us off, Darrell, with a quote from one of these Gnostic sources that would give the people an idea of what they’re saying.
Bock: Okay. Well, this is coming from my favorite title out of all this material, and I love this title so much, I can’t say it normally. It’s Hypostatis of the Archons. It’s going to be a movie one day.
Ankerberg: Yes! I mean, that’s a book.
Bock: That’s a book. And it basically means “The Reality of the Rulers.” And the rulers are these spiritual forces, these little junior gods. And so it talks about that they’re really real and they really exist.
Here is the beginning of the story of the creation: “As incorruptibility looked down into the regions of the waters, her image [and that’s a reference to Pistis Sophia, the feminine divine] appeared in the waters and the authorities of the darkness became enamored of her. But they could not lay hold of that image, which had appeared to them in the waters, because of their weakness. Since beings that merely possess a soul cannot lay hold of those that possess a spirit.” There’s your dualism, okay? These Archons are soulish, okay, and they have matter, okay, but Pistis Sophia is pure spirit. And so she’s good and they’re bad, and the two can’t mix.
Ankerberg: Okay.
Bock: “For they were from below while it was from above. This is why ‘incorruptibility looked down into the regions of the waters, so that by the father’s will, she might bring entirety into the union with the light.’” You listen to that and you have to think about it. What in the world is going on? Well, salvation for Gnosis is the spirit part of a person being rejoined to the true spirit above. That’s all that it is. It’s the divine spark coming to life and rejoining this region of pure light and spirit above. “The rulers,” that is the Archons, “laid plans and said, ‘Come, let us create a man that will be soil from the earth.’” So the creation here is not God creating man, it’s the Archons creating man. “And they modeled their creature as one holy of the earth,…” and we’re off and running then into the creation.
Ankerberg: Okay. Now, what’s wrong with this?
Bock: Well, the main thing is that it’s the idea that God is no longer the Creator. It’s that creation is the responsibility of these underlings, and so it lowers the responsibility for the creation.
Ankerberg: And they’ve botched the job, and matter is evil, and the creation is evil.
Bock: That’s right. And the result of that is going to be that there is no responsibility to the Creator God in the creation. That creator God just comes in and tries to fix stuff. He’s Mr. Fix-it, okay, and that’s about all.
Ankerberg: Alright, and you’re actually telling about what the problem is, what’s their answer to get out of this mess that they’re in? In other words, the knowledge is what?
Bock: Well, the knowledge is that God has placed within each one of us this divine spark. And if we are aware that this divine spark, which is about spiritual things and spiritual matter, is awakened in us, then we will be in touch, if you will, with the divine, and we recognize what really matters and what really doesn’t. And then one day we’ll be reunited, not body, soul and spirit, or not in terms of our whole person, but the spirit part of us will rejoin God.
Ankerberg: And you’re supposed to do that by introspection of yourself, and thinking, and getting more knowledge. And then what happens?
Bock: Basically, you get enlightened that the things that really matter are the spiritual things. And this physical world is either something that doesn’t make any difference, in which case you veer off into kind of an immoral lifestyle, or this physical life is something to be avoided, in which case you veer off into a kind of a very moral, but aesthetic lifestyle.
Ankerberg: Okay, that’s what the Gnostics said. Give us—we’ve got one minute left—what about the traditional stuff? The fact is, why is that black from white here?
Bock: You’ve got one God in traditional Christianity and in Judaism. He is responsible for the Creation. The creation is originally good. God is directly responsible for the creation of man, which makes us his creature and accountable to him. Man turns his back on God; he falls. That introduces sin and disruption into the creation. And now the solution is, how are we going to solve the sin problem? How are we going to solve the tendency of the creature to ignore the Creator? It’s a very different picture.
Ankerberg: And, if you want to know what Jesus really said, what we as Christians are saying today and down through Church history, we’ve said we’ve got the historical links that go back to Jesus. We can show that, where the Gnostics all of a sudden just got this revelation, and all of this new stuff, that’s not attached to these historical links at all.
Bock: In fact, we can say more than that. We can say not only do the historical links go back to Jesus, but they also go back to Judaism and the Old Testament, which is the very environment out of which Jesus spoke.
Ankerberg: That’s crucial. We’ve got to talk about that some more. Alright. We’re going to try to show these core beliefs of the two groups as they came down. And the next one we want to go to is the person of Jesus himself. The Jesus of the Gnostics is not the Jesus of the Christian church today, nor was it, do we think, the Jesus of history. And we’ll tell you why when you join us next week.

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