There seems to be a concerted effort today to redefine who Jesus was. Since Dan Brown's novel, "The DaVinci Code," there has been an incessant and increasing attack on the Biblical account concerning Jesus.
The dual argument seems to be that the Biblical accounts cannot be trusted and scholars are uncovering radically different documents that they claim are actually more valid than what we see in the gospels.
Why this sudden desire to re-invent the Jesus of the New Testament? Do the so called hidden gospels such as the Gospel of Thomas (a favorite of the re-constructionists), the Gospel of Peter, the Secret Gospel of Mark or the Gospel of Mary really have the criteria needed to give them serious consideration?
Is Christianity as we know it really a plot of a politically correct church that succeeded in burying the mounds of evidence against it?
Let's explore these questions a little.
Why is there such a desire to de-construct the Jesus of the New Testament? The whole message of Christianity stands (or falls) on the person of Christ. The essence of the New Testament teaching is on his personhood (who he claimed to be and what he did), not on his teachings. If he is not who he claimed to be (God in the flesh), then he is not Savior and you are wasting your time with Christianity. Those who are bent upon deconstructing the Gospels in favor of so called other views of Christianity are biased scholars who reason poorly and are willing to overlook mountains of evidence if it hinders their view.
What of these so called 'hidden gospels?' Certainly we need to examine the evidence carefully, even if it means a move away from traditional Christianity. Is it true that the first century was a maelstrom of opposing doctrines and practices all of which were considered equally valid, but most of which became repressed as orthodoxy made its way to prominence?
Certainly the New Testament writings have their own agenda - they affirm that Jesus is God's Messiah, the Son of God and in fact, God in the flesh (See John 1:1; John 8:58; John 10:30 and 33 for examples).
As controversial as these claims may have been, they were claims that could be and still can be evaluated. They were written in the time frame of the lifetime of the man, Jesus, and they were written from the cultural cradle of the faith.
We can ask of these writings, "Are they culturally accurate? Do they fit into the historic time frame they claim to write from? Are the authors known?"
And the answers to all these questions is a resounding yes.
Not so for the hidden gospels.
Craig A. Evans, Ph.D., is a professor at Acadia University and an expert in Biblical Studies and the Dead Sea Scrolls. He is a prolific writer who is recognized within academia as a careful and precise scholar.
He says, "When we get into the other gospels, the answers to (the above questions) are almost always no. They're written in a later period of time - too late to be historically reliable." (And let me add here that they are written too late in time to have been penned by Mary, Mark, Peter, or Thomas.) "They were written from other places with strange and alien contexts. We find inaccuracies at key points. We can see they're derived from earlier sources. Sometimes there's a philosophy, like Gnosticism, that's being promoted" (Lee Strobel, "The Case for the Real Jesus," p. 33).
If these things are clear, why is it that some, through the ages, have sought to deny the facts? Why would supposedly scholarly people ignore mountains of evidence in an attempt to construct a Jesus according to their own liking?
The answer may surprise you. It has nothing to do with intellectual persuasion, it has everything to do with moral corruption.
The Bible puts it this way, "Most importantly, I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires" (2 Peter 3:3, NLT). Plato had it right when he observed, "Atheism is a disease of the soul before it becomes an error of understanding."
Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church. Write him in care of the church at 11677 Brown Bridge Road Covington, GA, 30016. Send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org