Synopses & Reviews
The standard account of early Christianity tells us that the first centuries after Jesus death witnessed an efflorescence of Christian sects, each with its own gospel. We are taught that these alternative scriptures, which represented intoxicating, daring, and often bizarre ideas, were suppressed in the fourth and fifth centuries, when the Church canonized the gospels we know today: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The rest were lost, destroyed, or hidden.
In The Many Faces of Christ, the renowned religious historian Philip Jenkins thoroughly refutes our most basic assumptions about the Lost Gospels. He reveals that dozens of alternative gospels not only survived the canonization process but in many cases remained influential texts within the official Church. Whole new gospels continued to be written and accepted. For a thousand years, these strange stories about the life and death of Jesus were freely admitted onto church premises, approved for liturgical reading, read by ordinary laypeople for instruction and pleasure, and cited as authoritative by scholars and theologians.
The Lost Gospels spread far and wide, crossing geographic and religious borders. The ancient Gospel of Nicodemus penetrated into Southern and Central Asia, while both Muslims and Jews wrote and propagated gospels of their own. In Europe, meanwhile, it was not until the Reformation and Counter-Reformation that the Lost Gospels were effectively driven from churches. But still, many survived, and some continue to shape Christian practice and belief in our own day.
Offering a revelatory new perspective on the formation of the biblical canon, the nature of the early Church, and the evolution of Christianity, The Many Faces of Christ restores these Lost Gospels to their central place in Christian history.
Those who are open to a rational discussion of these gospels will find a wealth of information offered here. An important book on a topic often discussed but rarely understood
Jenkins latest will appeal to anyone seriously interested in the history of the Christian Church and the development of the Bible.”
We are often told that early Christianity comprised a vast multitude of strange sects, and that this diversity was wiped out in the fourth century when the Church canonized the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. But how, then, can we explain that the scene of the baby Jesus in the mangerthe central image of the Christmas storyshows the influence of the Protevangelium,” or that our belief that the Serpent in Eden is Satan comes from another so-called Lost Gospel?
In [Title TK], Philip Jenkins offers a revelatory new history of Christianity, showing that hundreds of these supposedly lost alternate gospels were never suppressed by the early Church, but instead remained widely influential until the Reformationand continue to play major roles in Christian belief to this day. An authoritative account of the formation of the biblical canon and the evolution of modern faith, [Title TK] restores the Lost Gospels” to their proper place in history and in belief.
A renowned historian of Christianity reveals that the “Lost Gospels” were never lost, and have shaped creeds across the world
About the Author
is Distinguished Professor of History at Baylor University, where he is based in the Institute for Studies of Religion. Born in Wales and educated at Cambridge, he is the author of 24 books, including The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade
. Jenkins is a regular contributor to many major publications, including the Atlantic Monthly
, the Wall Street Journal
, New Republic
, the Boston Globe
, the Los Angeles Times
, and USA Today
, among others, and is a contributing editor for American Conservative
. He frequently appears on NPR and CNN, and has served as an expert witness before the US House of Representatives.
Table of Contents
1. Gospel Truths:
The Myth of the Lost Gospels
2. Christs Many Faces:
The Survival of the Old Gospels in a Wider Christian World
3. The Isles of the West:
How Irish and British Churches Kept Ancient Christian Cultures Alive
4. Old Gospels Never Die:
Ancient Gospels That Gave the Medieval Church Its Best-Known Images of Christ
5. Two Marys:
How Alternative Gospels Continued to Present the Feminine Face of God
6. The New Old Testament:
Tales of Patriarchs and Prophets that Became Christian Gospels
7. Out of the Past:
The Heretical Sects That Preserved Ancient Alternative Scriptures for a Thousand Years
8. Beyond the Horizon:
Muslim and Jewish Versions of the Earliest Christian Traditions
9. After Darkness, Light:
How the Reformation Era Drove the Ancient Gospels from the Churches
10. Scriptures Unlimited?
The Place of Alternative Scriptures in Christianity