Table of Contents
The Holy Bible
For Christians it is the New Testament that represents the primary and most important part of the Bible. Christians view the coming of Jesus Christ as a fulfilment of the entire Old Testament and of all the prophets. He is believed to be the long-awaited Messiah who was spoken of by Old Testament prophets.
Aside from these accepted books of the New Testament, there are other books that purport to contain authentic information about Jesus Christ and his teachings. And there are also other rejected books of the Old Testament.
In 1897, Bernard P. Grenfeld and Arthur S. Hunt discovered some fragmentary sayings of Jesus Christ on parchment leaves, written on both sides, in extremely small text. These were discovered at a placed called Oxyrhynchus, now called Behnesa. These fragments contain some sayings from the The Gospel of Thomas and, as such, are considered apocryphal (i.e., of doubtful authenticity by Church authorities) because they do not conform to the generally accepted Gospel texts. Some suggest that the Gnostic Christians (see “Gnosticism and the Nag Hammadi Library” ) who hid these fragments did so for fear of persecution and that the authorities would destroy their texts.
was discovered in 1958 by Dr. Morton Smith in Mar Saba, near Jerusalem. Dr. Smith had been invited to the Greek Orthodox monastery of Mar Saba to catalogue its collection of manuscripts.
While searching through this material, he came across a letter from Clement of Alexandria to Theodore. The letter mentioned a secret gospel of Mark that contained certain additions for special followers of Jesus Christ. Clement says in the letter that this version of Mark, which is followed by the Carpocratian sect, is “more spiritual.”
THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS
The scrolls were discovered in a group of caves near Khirbat Qumran in Jordan, at the northwestern end of the Dead Sea, in the year 1947 by an Arab shepherd boy. Further scrolls were discovered between the years 1947 and 1956 when a thorough search was conducted of the local caves. Altogether, 600 Hebrew and Aramaic scrolls, of leather and papyrus, were found. These texts are said to date from between 200 BC and 100 AD, and were written, it is believed, by a previously unknown Jewish brotherhood that established itself at a place called Qumran.
The scrolls include instructions regarding the brotherhood’s disciplinary code, commentaries on the Bible, hymnals, writings about the apocalypse, parts of every book of the Old Testament (except Esther), copies of the Book of Isaiah, a number of books of the Apocrypha and the Pseudepigraph (Tobit, Sirach, Jubilees, portions of Enoch, and the Testament of Levi), none of which, incidentally, had been included in the Hebrew canon of the Bible.
Interestingly the dead sea scrolls contain a lot of sectarian writings giving an insight to the way of life of the community amongst whom the writings existed. Documenting and translating the scrolls has been a long arduous process, almost a science. Experts on the scrolls, such as Robert Eisenman and Barabra Thiering, have written extensively on how the scrolls have allowed them to revise their views of Jesus Christ.
was the name given to the very early Christians, and included the relatives and disciples of Jesus Christ. They were the first followers of Jesus. The Nazarenes did not consider Jesus Christ to be the Son of God in the sense that Christians of today understand. They often referred to him as the “son of man.”
With regard to the “son of God” title the Nazarenes understood that title to refer to Jesus’ spiritual state. This may explain why other characters in the Old Testament are also referred to as “son of God.”
Scale of the Scrolls: Over 800 manuscripts found in 11 different caves with estimated date range of 250BC to 68AD.
Role of James: In “James: The Brother of Jesus” Robert Eisenman explores the politics surrounding the formation of the early Church and also the agenda behind the Gospels.
Teacher of Righteousness the Wicked Priest: These are two characters mentioned in the sectarian writings found in the scrolls. Who were these people? Barbara Thiering believes the priest was Jesus and the teacher, John the Baptist.
Jesus the Jew
Geza Vermes, a seasoned scholar and expert on the historical Jesus, has written several books stressing the fact that Jesus was a Jew. He explains how for St Paul the significance of Jesus’ life starts with his death.
He believes that Jesus’ life was lived as a Jew but that St Paul’s interpretation of Jesus and over emphasis on his interpretation of the life of Jesus has skewed the view we get today of Jesus in the Gospels.
Jesus in Islam : The Qur’an teaches of Jesus as a Prophet sent to the Israelites, but stresses that he was not the Son of God.
Jesus in Buddhism : Holger Kersten has written a famous text “The Original Jesus” exploring Jesus’ teaching and its similarities with Buddhism.
The Jesus Mysteries : There are many scholars who believe that there was no historical Jesus. They highlight the strong parallels between the Jesus of the Gospels and the mythical pagan gods. See “The Jesus Mysteries” by Gandy and Freke
We hope the reader fully understands that what we have presented here is an overview. The history of the compilation of the books of the Bible, as well as the subject of its source documents, is massive. My goal is to offer enough to whet your appetite and provide the menu to do further research on this important figure in religious history, Jesus Christ.
Hence, you have seen a small sampling of documents within orthodox Christian doctrinal tradition that mention Jesus Christ. You have also been exposed to several of the non-canonical Christian documents—some of which can be dated back as far as any of the books of the New Testament —that offer an alternative view of Jesus Christ and his mission.
Who was Jesus Christ? Was he the Son of God, as orthodox Christianity teaches? Was he the Prophet-Messiah sent only to the Israelites, as the Nazarene/ Ebionite Christians and others believed? Or was he a religious revolutionary intent upon bringing the Kingdom of God down to earth to the people as a personal experience, as the Gnostic Christians believed?