We may think of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament as the only sacred writings of the early Christians, but this is not at all the case. Lost Scriptures offers an anthology of up-to-date and readable translations of many non-canonical writings from the first centuries after Christ--texts that have been for the most part lost or neglected for almost two millennia.
Here is an array of remarkably varied writings from early Christian groups whose visions of Jesus differ dramatically from our contemporary understanding. Readers will find Gospels supposedly authored by the apostle Philip, James the brother of Jesus, Mary Magdalen, and others. There are Acts originally ascribed to John and to Thecla, Paul's female companion; there are Epistles allegedly written by Paul to the Roman philosopher Seneca. And there is an apocalypse by Simon Peter that offers a guided tour of the afterlife, both the glorious ecstasies of the saints and the horrendous torments of the damned, and an Epistle by Titus, a companion of Paul, which argues page after page against sexual love, even within marriage, on the grounds that physical intimacy leads to damnation. In all, the anthology includes fifteen Gospels, five non-canonical Acts of the Apostles, thirteen Epistles, a number of Apocalypes and Secret Books, and several Canon lists. Ehrman has included a general introduction, plus brief introductions to each piece.
Lost Scriptures gives readers a vivid picture of the range of beliefs that battled each other in the first centuries of the Christian era. It is an essential resource for anyone interested in the Bible or the early Church.
The author of more than ten books on New Testament history and early Christian writings, Ehrman (religious studies, Univ. of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) has established himself as an expert on early Christianity. These two works should soundly solidify his stature, as they illuminate the flavor and varieties of early Christian belief. In Lost Scriptures, Ehrman provides primary texts that did not pass muster for canonical Christianity. They do, however, provide a compelling portrait of competing convictions within Christianity up to the fourth century. Ehrman groups them by literary categories, e.g., gospels, epistles, and apocalypses. While many of these are widely available elsewhere, such as in Ehrman's own After the New Testament: A Reader in Early Christianity (1999), this work is far more comprehensive. In addition, the thematic structure makes this an indispensable companion piece to Lost Christianities. Instead of primary texts, Lost Christianities presents context, history, and commentary surrounding these important early materials. Ehrman argues for the importance of reflecting on what was both lost and gained when these books were excised from Christianity. He argues that the victorious party rewrote the history of the controversy, solidifying the canon along the way in order to support an orthodoxy that would brook no dissent. Scholars and lay readers alike will want to have these works side by side, since Ehrman's intent is to elucidate early Christian divisions through the texts that best represent these rifts. Both books are essential for seminaries, religious studies collections, and any library with a strong interest in early Christianity. Highly recommended.-Sandra Collins, Univ. of Pittsburgh Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Oxford University Press, Incorporated
September 14, 2005
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