A new New Testament?

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Hamilton Ramos | Forum Activity | Posted: Wed, Dec 5 2018 3:53 PM

Found the following in Noet:

https://ebooks.noet.com/products/147760/a-new-new-testament-a-bible-for-the-twenty-first-century-combining-traditional-and-newly-discovered-texts

Any clue what is this about? Can a group of persons add text to he NT canon like that?

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Dec 5 2018 4:09 PM

The author was a member of the Jesus seminar. This is one of a number of books and lectionaries which includes gnostic or pseudepigraphic books with the more traditional 27 book NT canon.

from Amazon interview with the author:

Q. Aren’t the texts of the Bible set in stone?

A. Although the western branch of Christianity has implied that the Bible is eternally stable, this has really never been the case. Both now and for the past 400 years Catholics and Protestants don't agree on what is in the Bible, and neither do Episcopalians and Lutherans.  Internationally the eastern Orthodox, Ethiopian, and Syriac Bibles all contain different books than the western Catholic and Protestant Bibles.  From this perspective A New New Testament is simply yet another variation on what is in the Bible and what is not.  From another perspective, it is the first edition of a Bible ever to include the gospels, letters, and prayers that have been recovered from in recent times. 

Q. What will Christians learn from A New New Testament?

A. They’ll learn that their early roots are deeper, more diverse, and more widespread than the general story of how Christianity began is told. Perhaps most importantly for Christians, they will be able to claim a set of new resources for their 21st century life. A New New Testament opens the door to a wider set of expressions, practices, stories, and teachings than they have previously known. 

Q. What will non-Christians learn from A New New Testament?

A. Non-Christians will learn that some of the narrow-minded doctrines of orthodox Christianity and the old-fashioned ideas of the traditional New Testament are not the only way that the early Christ movements expressed themselves. 

Q. 19 religious leaders gathered to debate which non-canonical texts would be included in A New New Testament. What credentials do they have to make such a decision?

A. Eight of them have held national and international leadership positions in the Roman Catholic, Episcopalian, United Methodist, Evangelical Lutheran, Presbyterian Church USA, United Church of Christ, and Reconstructionist Rabbinical movements.  Others are best-selling authors.  Others are nationally known scholars.  Sixteen are Christian, three are non-Christian.  Four have had the highest rank possible within their own national or international Christian denomination.  

Q. Won’t changing the Bible offend people who have a deep connection with it in its current state? 

A. The Bible has always been a contested book. Christians argue about it regularly, even within the same denomination.  Indeed, it is a fairly regular occurrence that one Christian will be offended by another's understanding of what the Bible does and does not say. Martin Luther himself tried to remove some books from the New Testament, and successfully did so from what he called the Old Testament.  Debating about what the Bible does or does not say is a primary way that Christians claim who they are. 

Q. The Gospel of Mary, the Acts of Paul and Thecla, and The Thunder: Perfect Mind, which are parts of A New New Testament but weren't in the traditional New Testament, each have strong female characters. Why weren't they included before?

A. The traditional New Testament includes both strong attacks on women's rights ("women must not speak in the assembly") and strong affirmations of women's mutuality ("there is neither male nor female in Christ").  So it is difficult to make a case that the traditional New Testament portrays a consistent bias against women.  Since, however, there are a number of texts in the traditional New Testament which do reject leadership for women, it is certain that certain parts of the traditional New Testament and early Christianity may not have liked the affirmations in these three new books.

A similar resource is: The Complete Gospels: Annotated Scholar's Version by Robert J. Miller

An example of a lectionary following the same impulse: An Uncommon Lectionary: A Companion to Common Lectionaries by John Beverley Butcher 

As with all Faithlife products, you are free to make your own judgment. My personal opinion is that I find it useful to be aware of these resources; I would not use them.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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Bruce Dunning | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Dec 5 2018 4:12 PM

It looks like this is combining the NT canon with all the pseudepigraphal NT books.

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Kevin Wang | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Dec 5 2018 5:06 PM

For anyone interested, here's is Dan Wallace's thoughts on this: https://danielbwallace.com/2013/03/17/a-new-new-testament-are-you-serious/

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EastTN | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Dec 5 2018 5:17 PM

There have been enough books over the last decade or so breathlessly trying to popularize the NT pseudepigrapha that they're beginning to feel a bit passe to me.

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Hamilton Ramos | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Dec 6 2018 3:20 AM

MJ. Smith:

Q. Won’t changing the Bible offend people who have a deep connection with it in its current state? 

A. The Bible has always been a contested book. Christians argue about it regularly, even within the same denomination.  Indeed, it is a fairly regular occurrence that one Christian will be offended by another's understanding of what the Bible does and does not say. Martin Luther himself tried to remove some books from the New Testament, and successfully did so from what he called the Old Testament.  Debating about what the Bible does or does not say is a primary way that Christians claim who they are. 

Thank you MJ for the info.

The addition of books if found and inspired is not the problem. The underlying presuppositions of the authors of the books added is:

To my understanding orthodox believers went a long way to battle heresies. Gnosticism was one: 

That a so called lady Sophia (lady wisdom) was together with the Father creating all instead of Jesus? nonsense, in Proverbs 8 it says clearly that Jesus was with the Father as a "master workman", very gender specific, it does not read "mistress workman".

Secret knowledge to attain salvation and higher state of being?  Jesus told of the secrets openly to the Apostles and they transmitted them to us;

Not an allegory, not an analogy, not a parallel, but ontology, actual reality from God's messenger Himself:

Matthew 13:

"36Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field. 37 He answered, The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed is the children of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the close of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age. 41The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, 42 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear."

The secret then is that you are either wheat or tare, there is no in between. and your actions will tell which as the fruit produced is patent.

Are the chosen books minimalist in their gnostic treatment at least? Is there a regulatory body that checks before additions are made to the Canon to see if is ok?

Posts 327
Hamilton Ramos | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Dec 6 2018 3:22 AM

Thanks for the link Kevin.

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Ken McGuire | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Dec 6 2018 6:20 AM

Back when this collection came out, my father took me to a "Jesus Seminar on the Road" presentation with Dr. Hal Taussig where this volume was promoted. My opinion is that like just about everything that comes out of the Jesus Seminar, the PR is grossly overstated and much of their talk that theirs was THE scholarly view is a simplification, that in my opinion can be just as much a danger to true academic inquiry as the unthinking conservatism they deplore.

But even when I read what I just wrote above, I have to say that my gut reaction is not really fair. What really bothered me was that their presentation of traditional faith seemed to me a straw man of the lively faith that has grabbed me. Dismissing what they are doing like I did above would almost certainly be seen as just as much a straw man by them.

Personally, I still think describing their offering as canonical is highly questionable. At best, it appears that they understand what it means to be canonical much differently than I. But in my opinion they are right in saying that we as Christians should talk more intelligently about how the canon was formed, and that it can be of great benefit for understanding the New Testament to read other literature that was written in the ancient world on similar issues. This lets the reader see how the New Testament is using many ideas that were in the air, so to speak, at that time. And it can show how the New Testament - and various writings in the New Testament - put those ideas together differently. I myself have tried to share this by walking a Bible Study group through some of the Apostolic Fathers.

In the workshop I attended, they walked through how a few writings give contrasting understandings of how to deal with certain issues - and how they deliberately juxtaposed certain writings to do that. In more than a few cases I saw the merits to those comparisons, even as I found myself drawn even more to the actual Biblical texts. Personally I find the faith of the Church - that in the very Human Jesus, God was reconciling his wayward children to himself bodily - much more interesting and helpful than elitist Gnostic dreams. By no means should this be the only book used put the New Testament in its literary context. Heck, I wouldn't even say it would be a good primary book to do this. But all that said, it does offer a few useful tools in a few cases.

The Gospel is not ... a "new law," on the contrary, ... a "new life." - William Julius Mann

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Michael Childs | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Dec 6 2018 7:31 AM

Hamilton Ramos:

Found the following in Noet:

https://ebooks.noet.com/products/147760/a-new-new-testament-a-bible-for-the-twenty-first-century-combining-traditional-and-newly-discovered-texts

Any clue what is this about? Can a group of persons add text to he NT canon like that?

Anyone can publish anything. Getting people to believe it is another matter.  There is nothing new here.  Same old same old.

"In all cases, the Church is to be judged by the Scripture, not the Scripture by the Church," John Wesley

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Denise | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Dec 6 2018 7:43 AM

Michael Childs:

Hamilton Ramos:

Found the following in Noet:

https://ebooks.noet.com/products/147760/a-new-new-testament-a-bible-for-the-twenty-first-century-combining-traditional-and-newly-discovered-texts

Any clue what is this about? Can a group of persons add text to he NT canon like that?

Anyone can publish anything. Getting people to believe it is another matter.  There is nothing new here.  Same old same old.

I'd disagree. Publishing under the agreement of such a broad group of Christian and non-Christian influencers, prefacing it in a Baptist church, and naming it an NT is definitely new. There was a time in my lifetime, you'd not risk your respective professional careers and families. Arguing KJV or he/she  was far safer.

I still think the church schools have their collective heads in the sand on the base for Christianity, happily punching offending individuals, and ignoring the history that unavoidably will become mainstream with the web.


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Dan Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Dec 6 2018 12:18 PM

Denise:
Can a group of persons add text to he NT canon like that?

As pointed out in the article above there have been discussion about NT canon for a while and at one point Luther thought of removing a couple of books from his translation. The canon for all intents and purposes is set now in 21st century as it has been for many hundreds of years... Yet particularly in the protestant churches of the 19th century a reawakening to early church writings opened us up to many people believing  we had lost books of the new testament and such. I consider these valuable to read although its been many years since I have read many of them, but I would not put them in the same frame as the NT. The NT has stood the test of time, while many of the books people want to add have serious defects from a theological point of view (although they may well hold some good wisdom and teachings as do many of the patristic writings). The LDS Church in many respects added to the NT proving that there is hunger for new teaching (I am not wishing to start a debate on the merits of the book of mormon just that theoretically it is very possible for a group to add to a religious canon (I do know they see it not as more NT books but "another testament of Jesus Christ"). I cannot see any large body of the Church endorsing this new canon anytime soon. I do remember twenty some years ago one gentleman telling me I could not possible know what the Bible would look like in the future and while I respected his view I still maintain that it likely will remain very similar to the NRSV at it's broadest because historically those are the books that the Churches through out history have consistently used. And while there have been a few patristic era works that often were bound into the NT. I am not sure this is even enough to declare then to have had canonical status, indeed if you have a Bible that has the BCP (Book of Common Prayer) added in does not mean one is taking the BCP as part of scripture just that it is a handy format to bind them together. I do suppose anything is possible but i really do not think the NNT will take off.

-dan

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Denise | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Dec 6 2018 12:38 PM

Dan Francis:

Denise:
Can a group of persons add text to he NT canon like that?

Gee, Dan?!

Ok, Ok, I'll answer myself. The resource is best technically described as a 'false flag'.  I was thinking 'canard', but a close examination of its duckiness said otherwise.

A canon normally begins with a group, and what they consider authoritative (by someones). This volume has it backwards. They start with modern idealogues, and (have yet) to identify 'who' might use that 'NT'.  The volumes literally mix up centuries.

That said, I'm alway impressed by volumes that DID show up in bound NT canons ... Clement, Josephus, and Enoch (one of which remains a hypothesis).


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Ken McGuire | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Dec 6 2018 2:24 PM

Denise:
A canon normally begins with a group, and what they consider authoritative (by someones). This volume has it backwards. They start with modern idealogues, and (have yet) to identify 'who' might use that 'NT'.  

I do not own the volume, although did consider getting it when it came out - in spite of my rather negative reaction I expressed above. That said, according to what the editor said in the seminar I attended, this collection started with Jesus Seminar getting "Faith Leaders" - some of whom have significant offices in their denominations - together, where they presented various writings for consideration. These Faith Leaders then picked what writings they found most spiritually significant for today by voting on what should be included.

Of course, you can argue that "Faith Leaders" are not really official spokespeople for the church, and may not be a representative sample of leaders in their denominations. Describing this as a modern "Ecumenical Council" seems an almost laughable overstatement to me.

You can argue that these "Faith Leaders," as they are not experts in the field of writings of this era, are highly dependent on the options the Scholars of the Jesus Seminar gave them.

But these Scholars did go with what these Faith Leaders decided would be most useful for their communities. Personally, I find many of their selections to be shocking, embarrassing, and the faith expressed as having little to do with the Faith of the Church. That said, the standard allegedly used was that the writings would be in some way be edifying to the community.

To dismiss it because it mixes up centuries seems an odd criticism. The Old Testament as we have it has many mixes of centuries. That is one reason that various Chronological reading plans have been popular for ages. While the standard New Testament is from a much shorter time period, its arrangement is also not Chronological - at least in the authorship dates. Almost certainly the Letters of Paul were written before the Gospels, for example.

It admits to having an agenda - namely that it is edifying to people of faith today. So of course modern concerns did shape the collection. But the New Testament itself has an agenda. To pick an example, CS Lewis has an agenda shaped by modern concerns too. That said, CS Lewis never presented any of his works as canonical - although he did as a lay person present some of his writings as a presentation of the faith....

The main concerns I have with this collection are:

1) Does it help people understand the faith of the church?

2) Does its own over-confident rhetoric undermine what it even claims to offer - namely a tool to help people reconsider the Canon?

I myself am more than a bit skeptical of this.

The Gospel is not ... a "new law," on the contrary, ... a "new life." - William Julius Mann

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Denise | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Dec 6 2018 3:09 PM

Ken McGuire:

Denise:
A canon normally begins with a group, and what they consider authoritative (by someones). This volume has it backwards. They start with modern idealogues, and (have yet) to identify 'who' might use that 'NT'.  

I do not own the volume, although did consider getting it when it came out - in spite of my rather negative reaction I expressed above. That said, according to what the editor said in the seminar I attended, this collection started with Jesus Seminar getting "Faith Leaders" - some of whom have significant offices in their denominations - together, where they presented various writings for consideration. These Faith Leaders then picked what writings they found most spiritually significant for today by voting on what should be included.

My point remains the same ... a canon for who? Name a group. My comment concerning mixed centuries also applies to the OT .... a canon for who? I suspect you can name the groups, regarding the OT. The new NT? 


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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Dec 6 2018 3:28 PM

Denise:
a canon for who? Name a group.

The churches that also use:

  • The Complete Gospels: Annotated Scholar's Version by Robert J. Miller
  • An Uncommon Lectionary: A Companion to Common Lectionaries by John Beverley Butcher 

possible examples: Metropolitan Community Church, churches associated with the Progressive Christianity movement which includes specific congregations of Lutheran, Methodist, United Church of Christ .... I've only known Methodists which I doubt is representative. Several of the associated names are of Episcopal backgrounds.

also see: https://community.logos.com/forums/t/126074.aspx 

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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Denise | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Dec 6 2018 3:46 PM

Now, MJ, where's your dog. Possible? Canon? Doesn't the latter preclude the former?  Smiling, woof, woof.


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Hamilton Ramos | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Dec 6 2018 4:06 PM

Ken McGuire:
But all that said, it does offer a few useful tools in a few cases.

Interesting Ken, thanks for sharing your experience. Do you know of any resource (best in L8) that helps do contrast / comparison / analysis of certain issues, and what would the interesting beneficial issues be.

Thanks for any guidance ahead of time. 

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Dec 6 2018 4:16 PM

out exercising :-)

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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Ken McGuire | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Dec 6 2018 4:47 PM

Hamilton Ramos:
Do you know of any resource (best in L8) that helps do contrast / comparison / analysis of certain issues, and what would the interesting beneficial issues be.

I do not have a good book type resource to do that in Logos. In school I was taught that a small start would be to look up all the references in margins of my printed NA27 - which I hope would be in the SESB version of that, or the new NA28 - neither of which I have in Logos. A bit more extensive is the Kurt Aland Synopsis of the Gospels.

The Ancient Literature in Logos reports does catch a bit - if you have the dataset and the targets in your library. The problem is that until you have a good selection of that Ancient Literature in your personal library, you can't see what you are missing - and if it would be useful.

https://www.logos.com/product/5339/jesus-in-context-background-readings-for-gospel-study looks like it offers a decent selection, but I have not used it.

Personally I just kind of randomly "pick up and read" various ancient texts. Some have been more useful than others - and so I have returned to a few times (eg. Martyrdom of Polycarp fascinates me.) But there is a vast body of texts from the late 1st century and 2nd century that have been quite influential for me. Justin Martyr. Irenaeus. Ignatius. Diognetus. Didache.

While I have not yet done so, I know a few people who have done this with various 2nd temple texts like the Dead Sea Scrolls, Philo, Enoch, etc.

I have found that as valuable as sometimes a key parallel passage can be at illuminating scripture, even more useful is just getting hints of the thought process of Jewish and Christian writers of the time. You start recognizing how certain concepts seem to be just common knowledge and so just assumed. Other times you can see how the writer is being original with how they are combining those ideas.

I think that, for example, what we need to hear from Paul is not so much the various fragments of popular philosophy he artfully uses, but rather the conclusions he draws from this. But to recognize this, you need to know the territory a bit, and unfortunately I do not know of any short cuts to this wisdom.

Things in "The New New Testament" I find potentially useful include:

Thomas - love it or hate it, to have a non-narrative selection of Jesus sayings is interesting. That said, the document appears to have a complex history with multiple layers, and disentangling a 1st century probably Greek core from a much later Coptic source has many issues. But serious study of the Gospels should be aware of it.

The Acts of Paul and Thecla is a valuable source for how Paul was understood by some in the 2nd century and possibly earlier.

At the actual seminar, I found that having "Letter of Peter to Philip" next to 2nd Peter was interesting - and drew out how (in my opinion) 2nd Peter is a much better work.....

I also recognize that the Odes of Solomon are an interesting text from the early Christian era, although saying exactly when it was written - or indeed what exactly it means is challenging...

As for the "Gnostic" gospels, there is merit in realizing that "Gnosticism" was a more varied, multi-headed movement that too many church histories have suggested. Indeed, this very variety is one of the things Irenaeus found rather frustrating... Even when my sympathies are with Irenaeus, I recognize the value of the study of their actual texts from an intellectual history perspective - even if they don't tell us much about the historical Jesus. Heck, I would even say that part of the "problem" with these writings is that they refuse to be nailed down by - or even that interested in - the historical Jesus.

The Gospel is not ... a "new law," on the contrary, ... a "new life." - William Julius Mann

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Hamilton Ramos | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Dec 6 2018 7:08 PM

Thanks Ken for sharing this. 

I have many of the resources you mentioned. The big problem that I think I have, is that instead of focusing in the context of different currents in particular times, I tend to concentrate in the true important context (in my opinion): the context of the Holy Spirit.

To me, the Holy Spirit is the real author of the Scriptures, and His context transcends any cultural, historical, linguistical, ethnical or other context.

Seems to me that there are common thrusts across the books and that is possible only because come from the original source: Holy Spirit.

Thanks for the tips. 

Were you able to see anything related to the "weightier matters of the law" in any of those added books in the NNT?

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