What About the Missing Gospels and Lost Christianities? – Program 4

By: Dr. Darrell Bock; ©2006
Was Jesus human? Was he divine? Is the whole God/man idea purely a myth? How can you ever unscramble the conflicting information to reach a conclusion?

Jesus: God or Man or Both?


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: Alright. We’re talking with one of my favorite guests, Dr. Darrell Bock. And we’re talking about some of the things that are on the bookshelves in our stores across America right now, and it’s being taught in our universities and it’s something that you need to know. It’s called Lost Christianities. It’s called The Gnostic Bible.
What they’re saying is that there are books that have been discovered in the sands of Nag Hammadi, Egypt, that go back to about 200 AD and they are alternative Christianities. That is, that they were groups that called themselves Christian, but they held different beliefs than what you guys in the church hold.
So you’ve got traditional Christianity over here, but they’re saying that you’ve got these alternative Christianities over here, and these alternative Christianities, these views over here, have a Jesus who was not both God and man. You’ve got a different God, you’ve got a different creation, you’ve got a different problem, you’ve got a different plan of salvation. But that was a legitimate, the scholars are saying, that was a legitimate view that we ought to look at today. In fact, some have converted over to that view, and they’re trying to convert your kids that are going to these schools, that there’s historical evidence that shows this is better than what you in the Church have held. That’s wrong, and we’ve got the expert here to explain this and unscramble it.
And I want to start with one of the quotes of Bart Ehrman at University of North Carolina, who’s got this Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew. Here’s what he says, and then Darrell, I’d like you to unscramble this. Their view is, “the early Christian church was a chaos of contending beliefs.” You’ve got all these different various beliefs. “Some groups of Christians claimed there was not one God, but two, or twelve or even thirty gods.” This is a Gnostic view, and you’ll have to explain that in a minute. “Some believe that the world had not been created by God, but by a lesser ignorant deity.” We talked about that in a couple program, but mention it again. “Certain sects maintained that Jesus was human but not divine, while others said he was divine but not human.”
And, the fact is, the scholars are saying this is what’s out there, they’ve got hard evidence for it. You’re saying that’s wrong. Unscramble that for us.
Bock: Well, the idea of early Christianity being chaos depends on, really, what period you’re talking about. Are we talking about AD 50, when Paul is writing? Are we talking about the middle of the second century, or the end of the second century when these groups are starting to spring up and are creating enough of a stir that there are people writing huge tomes in response to them, because obviously, they are drawing some attention? If he’s talking about the late second century, then that statement has an element of truth to it. But if he’s talking about the earliest period, it really is way off.
Another problem with the statement is the idea that there’s this human Jesus with no divinity attached to him. Bart Ehrman, when he makes this claim, is doing it through the idea that, just like you have “The Gospel of Thomas,” that doesn’t have a divine Jesus— and we’ve already shown that there are problems with that—there also is the tradition in the Gospels, the teaching that Matthew and Luke share, which is often called “Q” material, that also doesn’t have a divine Jesus. But he’s managed to leave out another important passage. And unfortunately for Bart, there is the temptation of Jesus, which is a part of the “Q” material, where Satan comes and confronts Jesus as the son of God.
Ankerberg: Alright. This “Q” material. People are saying, “What in the world is ‘Q’ material?”
Bock: “Q” material is teaching material that Matthew and Luke share. And the belief is that it was one of these traditional sources of Jesus’ teaching, because the argument is, Matthew and Luke didn’t use each other, but they obviously have about 200 verses between them that they share. Where did it come from? It must have come from an early church source.
Ankerberg: And that’s not unbelievable, because Luke himself says he knew about many sources in Luke 1:1.
Bock: Exactly right. And even if it isn’t a “Q” source, even if Matthew’s got it from Luke or vice versa, it still is the case that you have this material that Ehrman is claiming comes from Q and that Q never discusses the divinity of Jesus, and yet the temptation…
Ankerberg: Why do they use the letter “Q”?
Bock: It means “source.” That’s what most people think it…
Ankerberg: Q from Quelle.
Bock:Quelle” for the German word.
Ankerberg: Okay, so they’re saying you had this source. Keep going.
Bock: So, he’s wrong on suggesting that the early period was terribly chaotic. I mean, the chaos in the first century wasn’t with these views about multiple gods, etc. The chaos in the first century was with the reaction of Judaism. He’s wrong with regard to the suggestion that the sources that we have, the earliest sources that we have, suggest that there’s a human Jesus. We don’t have any text anywhere, any source strand anywhere in all our materials, that has just a human Jesus. When someone embraces Jesus, they either view him as human and divine or exclusively divine.
Ankerberg: And the Gnostics were exclusively divine.
Bock: Some of them. Some of them. Some of them had a mix. And some of them had this Jesus who had become so divine that, when the figure who goes on the cross goes on the cross, that’s not Jesus.
Ankerberg: You’ve got two entities at that point.
Bock: Exactly.
Ankerberg: Alright. Go back to this thing that Helmut Koester at Harvard has put out there and Elaine Pagels has picked it up and it’s been reflected in The Da Vinci Code, the popular stuff, that the reason that the traditional view of Jesus—that he was actually saying that he was God, he actually died on the cross, he actually did these miracles—was because down the pike at Nicea at 325 this was jammed down everybody’s throat by a group of powerful men. Helmut Koester goes back and says, look there’s evidence that, geographically in the Roman Empire, across the Mediterranean, and so on, in different places, you had these groups that had this Gnostic Jesus, but they didn’t have the traditional Jesus. Why has that been shown to be false now?
Bock: Well, this is an important claim. And Koester popularized it, but the real person it goes back to is Walter Bauer. He wrote a work in 1930’s, 1934, in German. And it was called “Orthodoxy and Heresy in the Earliest Christianity.” And his theory was that if you break Christianity up into the geographical regions—so think about Northern Egypt, think about Asia Minor, what is now the Turkey area, think about Antioch and Syria, and think about Rome—that if you divide it up into those areas, some of these areas were alternative Christian majorities. In fact, many of them were, and a few of them were the more orthodox. Rome was orthodox….
Ankerberg: That was his theory.
Bock: The problem is that church historians working this material basically say Bauer’s got it wrong. He’s only got one area where it may be the case. It’s a place called Edessa. Now, the reason you’ve never heard of it is because it’s not one of the great centers of Christianity in early Christian history. Antioch of Syria was much more important. Alexandria of Egypt was much more important. Rome was much more important. He doesn’t mention Jerusalem at all, which obviously was orthodox from the beginning. And so the problem here is that at Edessa, it might be the case. The problem is, we have next to no evidence of materials from Edessa, so anyone can say just about anything they want about Edessa and make it plausible.
Take Edessa out of the equation, all the other areas, according to most church historians, it was not the case that these alternative views were the most prevalent. In fact, they were a substantial minority in many cases. And in some cases views have switched. Birger Pearson, who’s probably the foremost expert about Egypt, his view has changed on this in light of new evidence that came up in the 60s and 70s that’s been publicized.
Ankerberg: The second scholarly opinion that’s coming into the popular books is, okay, the different geographical areas, they did have this traditional view, but there’s a reason for it, namely is that you had these bishops, the Roman Catholic Church, these guys, they enforced this view and they destroyed all the other books, and now it’s just surfacing. So the suppressed Gnostic view that was really back there, now we’ve got to give them a real hearing.
Bock: Yes, and I think the problem with this is that this is really an argument from silence. There are three scenarios that one could work with here. One is that the traditional view was right, and the reason we don’t have these materials in the early period: they weren’t there. They weren’t there; there’s nothing to have evidence for. If that’s the case, the traditional view is right. The second idea is that, well, we’ve got these later materials and we can project back earlier that because they’re in these later materials, maybe they actually are a little older than the materials we actually have.
Now, most of the work that I’ve done has operated on this premise. Let’s assume that that’s the case. We can’t prove it, but let’s assume that that’s the case. Where does that leave us? Well, what it leaves us with is, we still have two problems. One is, these two views are so different there’s no way to meld them. They’re going to be opponents.
Ankerberg: They’re black and white.
Bock: They’re going to be opponents no matter what. So even if it is earlier, you’ve still got different views. And then the second factor is, only one of these traditions really has a line, a genealogy, that takes you back to the roots of Christianity, and that’s the traditional model.
Ankerberg: And the scholars today are trying to say, look we just had these views that are out there, they were floating, they were kind of co-existing. The fact is, what they’re not telling the kids, and they’re not telling the public, is both views knew of the other and criticized, and said, we can’t live with that view. They weren’t trying to join up.
Bock: That’s right.
Ankerberg: Talk about how the Gnostics looked at their own critics.
Bock: Well, the way the Gnostics looked at their own critics, and you can see this in some of the materials that they have…
Ankerberg: And the critics were the Church Fathers.
Bock: The critics were the Church Fathers. That’s who they were criticizing. And we have some quotations here, they’re short, from The Apocalypse of Peter. The leaders of the competitive view—that would be the apostles and the bishops and the line that they represent—are described as “empty channels” in The Apocalypse of Peter 79:30— just in case you want to look it up.
Ankerberg: Yah.
Bock: And then in The Testimony of Truth 34:26 it says of the traditionalists, “They do not have the word which gives life.” Now, that’s pretty clear. That’s pretty clear that the Gnostics were teaching, “We can’t coexist with these people. They don’t have the truth.”
Ankerberg: That’s what the Gnostics were saying about the Christians. What did the Christians say about the Gnostics?
Bock: Well, what the Christians were saying about the Gnostics can be indicated in a text like 2 John 7. And 2 John 7 says, “Many deceivers have gone out into the world, people who do not confess Jesus as Christ coming in the flesh. This person is the deceiver and the antichrist.” Now, that’s also pretty clear. You may not have the word “heresy” being used here, but that’s what you’re saying.
Ankerberg: But if that goes back to 85, 90 AD, these groups in full bloom weren’t over there. This was knocking the idea that was emerging at that time, right?
Bock: Exactly. Exactly right. What was happening was that this view was emerging because,… and notice what it is that they’re knocking. The problem isn’t that Jesus is human and needs to be developed into the divine; it’s the problem going the other way. Jesus, the Christ, has not come in the flesh. He’s not human. That’s the first thing to note about this. The second thing to note about it is that some of these ideas were emerging because they percolated in the Greek philosophy of the time…
Ankerberg: The Gnostic ideas.
Bock: The Gnostic ideas. And Gnostic ideas are really what we call syncretistic. It’s a mix, okay. It’s a mix of Christianity with Greek philosophy.
Ankerberg: They were pulling from all sources.
Bock: That’s right, or trying to get whatever they could. Because their goal was to say, “Let’s make Christianity more palatable to the culture.” And this is a more palatable way to think about it—because of the way people thought about God. To think that God would lower himself to become human? Ah, come on. Let’s do something else.
Ankerberg: Alright, we’re going to take a break. When we come back we’re going to hit the main point that we want to get across. In these traditional sources vs. these Gnostic sources, you’ve got a completely different Jesus, and you have a Jesus who doesn’t even suffer on the cross in the Gnostic view. Where you have a Jesus that really suffered for our sins; if you think of The Passion, and the stripes that were on Christ, and the nails going through his hands, did he really experience that pain, or didn’t he? And what difference does it make? We’re going to talk about that when we come right back.


Ankerberg: Alright, we’re back. We’re talking with Dr. Darrell Bock here, and we’re talking about something that is very important. The books that have been found at Nag Hammadi, called the Gnostic books, over 50 different books, that go back to about the second century, that claim they’ve got a Christianity that is not like the traditional Christianity. And the scholars today at Princeton, Harvard, University of North Carolina, Yale, are saying, “Listen, this stuff is going to be just as valid as what you Christians believe.” Some say it’s even more valid; it’s at least a legitimate option out there.
But the fact is, when you look at the core beliefs of this group vs. the core beliefs of Christians that have come down to us, they don’t have the historical links back to Jesus that we do, and we’re trying to show those links. And they’ve got, when you look at their content, they’ve got a different God, a different Jesus, a different problem in terms of humanity, whether it’s, we say sin is the problem, you’re separated from God, they’ve got you’re just lacking knowledge, you’ve got to get some self-knowledge, some self-understanding, and that’s the problem.
So you have a different Jesus, and we’re talking about the view of Jesus, and we’re showing the historical links. And, Darrell, take us back to, we’ve already shown some of the ones that were the apostles and close to the apostles. So you’ve got Jesus talking, we assume Jesus knew what he was talking about himself. His apostle heard that, they recorded that. But we’re going one step further in the historical link. We’re going to the disciples of the apostles, if you want, and the Church Fathers after that. It’s all a continuous thread of who Jesus was, and that’s very powerful evidence. Share some of that with us.
Bock: Yes. What we’re arguing is that in the traditional stream, which we’re calling orthodoxy, that the tradition was passed on, and that this theology, this core theology the traditionalists had, was consistent as you work through these periods. And so after the period when the apostles pass away, you have the period of the Church Fathers who knew the apostles, that’s why they’re called that. And then the next group that comes along is called the apologists. They’re the people who are actually making an active full defense of the faith; Justin Martyr being the first of those in the middle of the second century. So we’re now into works that are being written at the same time these alternative works are starting to pop up on the scene like popcorn. And 2 Clement is an interesting work. It’s a second century work,…
Ankerberg: Christian work.
Bock: Christian work, it’s a part of this orthodox tradition that we’re talking about. This is not…
Ankerberg: And this is criticizing the other side.
Bock: That’s right. It’s talking about, the other side is saying, remember, that the flesh is corrupt. And because it’s corrupt it’s not going to be saved, you’re just going to redeem the spirit, or in some cases the soul, but matter gets left behind. You’re not going to get a transformed flesh like 1 Corinthians 15 claims.
Ankerberg: And the Gnostics would say the Christians are wrong in their view, and the Christians have said that they’re wrong. So you’ve got two different conflicting opinions. And you’re showing the Christian side. Now, what does the Christian side say?
Bock: Here’s what 2 Clement says. This is 2 Clement 9:1-5: “Let none of us say that this flesh is not judged and does not rise again. Understand this: in what state were you saved, in what state did you recover your sight, if it is not while you were in this flesh? We must therefore guard the flesh as a temple of God. For just as you were called in the flesh, so you will come in the flesh. If Christ, the Lord who saved us, became flesh, even though he was originally spirit, and in that state called us, so also we shall receive our reward in this flesh.” And so this is a statement about the humanity of Jesus alongside the divinity. Remember the Gnostic view is either that we’ve got this mix or, more often, that Jesus is uniquely divine and can’t become completely human, he can only appear to be human. And so 2 Clement is writing against that.
Ankerberg: Okay, my listeners out there might be saying, their eyes might be glazing over and saying, “What difference does it make? I mean, what difference does it make that Jesus actually came in the flesh vs. being in the spirit? I mean, who cares!?”
Bock: Well, what traditional Christianity has said from the very beginning is that it matters a great deal that Jesus came in the flesh. John 1: “In the beginning the word was with God, the word was God.” “The word,” John 1:14, “became flesh.” “He tabernacled amongst us.” Hebrews says that we have a sympathetic High Priest, that we have a representative. When he goes to take our place on the cross it’s because he represents us. He’s lived a life that cleanses us. He shows us that it is possible to live such a life through the Spirit. All this is very important.
Remember that Gnosticism doesn’t see us as the problem, other than in our knowledge: as long as we get the right knowledge—that we’ve got a divine spark in us—that’s all that we need. But traditional Christianity said, “No, the problem’s much deeper than that. And if you don’t face up to this, you’ll never really fix the problem; because the problem is us and our responsibility and our accountability before a Creator.”
So the Gnostic view of God has an uneducated human being, if you want to think of it that way, who needs knowledge. The traditional view of God has a human being who is flawed and who has turned against the Creator and needs to be reconciled with that Creator in order to reestablish a healthy relationship with God.
Ankerberg: And let’s just put it where it’s at. The traditional view has got all the historical evidence, and if it’s right, that means Darrell Bock and John Ankerberg are responsible to that God for what we’ve done in this flesh. We are sinners. Now, we need an answer for our sin problem, and Jesus came to be that answer. Explain that.
Bock: Yes. Jesus came to be that answer. He’s our representative. He is our substitute. He is the one who identifies with us. He shows that it is possible to be a human being and walk with God, through the work that he does in being obedient to God, etc. And all this flows into the forgiveness that he then offers and the restored relationship that he offers.
I like to say that eternal life is not about the fact that I’m going to live forever, or that one day I’m going to be transformed. Eternal life is about having an eternity of a quality of life with God. It’s an unending life of quality with God. “I came that you might have life, and have it abundantly.” It isn’t just that it’s going to last forever, or that I’m going to miss out on some judgment. No, I’m interested in salvation, not because of what I am spared; I’m interested in salvation because of what it does in my relationship to God. It puts me back in touch with the creator God.
Ankerberg: Alright. Summarize what we’ve seen today, and where we’re going next week.
Bock: Well, what we’ve seen today is there really are difference between this Gnostic alternative Christianity—it’s not historically grounded, it’s historical claims are false, as well as the way it’s describing the theology of what’s going on. Both of them are false at both levels, and it can be shown to be false at those levels. The traditional Christianity has its roots going all the way back, back, back, back, back to the beginning, not only just to Jesus, but into Judaism. That’s very, very important. And so part of the reaction to this group was not only that they had responded to Jesus inappropriately, they had responded inappropriately to the picture of God.
Ankerberg: Alright. I think we want to go next week to the salvation that is really being offered by Jesus Christ. Look, Jesus blew the apostles minds, he blew the minds of the people that heard him when he said, “I’m the I AM that brought your forefathers out of Egypt. I’m God standing here talking to you.” Okay? But then Paul couldn’t get over the fact that this one who was the Messiah, who was God in the flesh, went to the cross and suffered for our sins. And the Gnostics say Jesus, when he went to the cross, didn’t suffer any pain, because he didn’t need to, okay? And we want to talk about, what are the different plans of salvation that are presented, the core ideas that have come down through Christianity, and that are being presented today in Gnosticism. We’ll talk it next week.

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