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What the Bible never said
Posted By Eric Sammons On April 30, 2009 @ 9:26 am In Scripture | Comments Disabled
Sandro Magister has a fascinating article  posted on his site about an exhibit being held in Italy on the Christian Apocrypha. These are Christian writings from the first centuries of the Church which, although written in the same general style as the New Testament writings, were NOT included in the Bible for one reason or another.
A lot of interest in these writings have been generated in recent years by those who wish to show that “orthodox” Christianity was just one (possibly minor) strain of Christianity in the first centuries after Christ. Usually the corollary to this theory is that it was only with Constantine’s conversion that the political powers then endorsed this strain and it became predominant. However, the historical reality is less favorable to such a simplistic theory. In truth, the process in which texts were selected for the canon was a long and rigorous one. Just because a document claimed to be a Gospel from an apostle did not mean that it was automatically accepted into the canon. It had to conform to the received faith of the Church. This was not a later political decision set by the Roman authorities, but one made as early as the 2nd century within individual churches throughout the empire. It was a true case of the “sense of the faithful” – each church could recognize if a writing was consistent with the faith they already accepted. And on a whole, the decisions made in a myriad of localities was remarkably consistent: you will find relatively few disputed books considering the number of writings being considered.
I have read a large number of these Apocrypha, and it always strikes me how different they are from the canonical texts. This is especially true of the Gospels. In the canonical Gospels, we have a very sober recounting of the facts, with little flair. However, in the apocryphal Gospels you see a large number of incredible and, frankly, unbelievable and at times inconsistent stories. Reading these non-canonical texts makes one appreciate our four Gospels even more.
But at the same time, there is much value to many of these documents. For example, the first written account of the Assumption of Mary is found in the Protoevangelium of James , a document dating to the 2nd century. But we have to read them within the context of the Church’s decision to reject them from the canon. While they might have interesting and even at times worthwhile stories to tell us, ultimately we are to look to the canonical Scriptures for an inspired account of the story of Jesus and his first followers.
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URL to article: http://ericsammons.com/blog/2009/04/30/what-the-bible-never-said/
URLs in this post:
 fascinating article: http://chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/articolo/1338201?eng=y
 Protoevangelium of James: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0847.htm
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