Where does the New Testament come from?

Codex Sinaiticus Matthew 6:4-32

Codex Sinaiticus Matthew 6:4-32

Codex Sinaiticus

Codex Sinaiticus

Where does the New Testament come from?

In the Old Testament we can see four Jewish traditions, plus the bits on the margin. In the New Testament we have the gospels, the writings of Paul.

For at least the first 100 years, what we regard as the New Testament, not even a collection of writings, existed. We had the gospels, the writing of Paul, but these existed as separate texts.

An attempt was made to edit and collect together the gospels as one book. Others had their own thoughts, or as they would see it inspiration, even to the extent of writing new gospels. We know little of these early works. Writings deemed heritical are burnt.

The first attempt at what we would recognise as the New Testament, was not a published collection of texts, but a list of those texts.

The church at this time was evolving. When Paul wrote it was not to this and that church in this and that country, it was to various Christian communities. But as we see from his letters, there was growing concern at a divergence of views as to what was Christiantity.

The first attempt to consolidate what was Christianity, the orthodox view, was by the Roman Emperor Constantine. He set scholars to work, they produced a written text, 50 copies of which were produced and these were dispatched to all four corners of the Roman Empire.

Codex Sinaiticus, a manuscript of the Christian Bible written in the middle of the fourth century, contains the earliest complete copy of the Christian New Testament. The hand-written text is in Greek. The New Testament appears in the original vernacular language (koine) and the Old Testament in the version, known as the Septuagint, that was adopted by early Greek-speaking Christians. In the Codex, the text of both the Septuagint and the New Testament has been heavily annotated by a series of early correctors.

In the early years of Christianity, there were four centres of power: Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople and Rome.

Is there a definitive Bible? The simple answer is no. For many it is the King James Bible. But Jesus did not speak English, let alone Elizabethan English!

In the USA, or what was then the recently independent states, a commision was drawn up to examine and make a definitive statement on what was the Bible.They obtained a copy of the King James Bible from printers in Oxford, Cambridge and London and a copy of the King’s Bible. They found 24,000 discrepencies between the various copies!

Who decided the Gospel of Thomas should be excluded or Enoch?

The Book of Enoch contains a more vivid account of creation than does Genesis. [see Christian Theology and Gaia]

Occasionally we get hints as to what is missing. In the absence of the Book of Enoch we learn that Enoch walked with God, leaving us to wonder who was Enoch?

The Book of Enoch is one of the oldest of the Old Testament era apocalyptic writings. Up until the 9th century the Book of Enoch was held in high esteem, then fell out of favour and vanished. Parts of the book have existed in Ethiopian, Greek and Aramaic manuscripts and was rediscovered with the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran. Later Slavonic and Hebrew manuscripts are probably later authors drawing upon earlier manuscripts. According to Genesis, Enoch ‘walked with God and was no more, because God took him away’ (Gen 5.24). Enoch’s fall from grace, or mysterious disappearance may explain his status as a non-person, to be purged from the public record.

Enoch through two visions describes a Great Oath that Man made with God. The oath determines the order of Creation, and each its place and proper function within Creation. Breach of the oath will lead to judgement, wrath and destruction.

1 Enoch 69:16-21,25:

And they are strong through his oath:
And the heaven was suspended before the earth was created,
And for ever.

And through it the earth was founded upon the water;
And from the secret recesses of the mountains come beautiful waters,
From the creation of the world and unto eternity.

And through that oath the sea was created,
And as its foundation He set for it the sand against the time of
(its) anger,
And it dare not pass beyond it from the creation of the world unto

And through that oath are the depths made fast,
And abide and stir not from their place from eternity to eternity,
And through that oath the sun and the moon complete their course,
And deviate not from their ordinance from eternity to eternity.

And through that oath the stars complete their course,
And He calls them by their names,
And they answer Him from eternity to eternity …
And this oath is mighty over them,
And through it [they are preserved and] their paths are preserved,
And their course is not destroyed.

Melchizedek makes what is little more than a cameo appearance. He must be important as tribute is paid to him, but we learn little more than he is immortal and is of a lineage of priests. [see The mystery of Melchizedek]

Some of the later works were through divine revelation. Where do we draw the line?

Muhammad is seen by Muslims as the last Prophet, words handed down by God through the Archangel Gabriel. Should this not be the Third Testament of the Bible?

Kahlil Gibran wrote Jesus the Son of Man. He gives voice to characters who knew or knew of Jesus. Is this a new gospel?

Paulo Coelho is a modern writer. He would say he is guided by the hand of God in what he writes. He gives thanks each year on St Joseph’s Day.

Philip Yancey inspires many with his writings.

Hildegard von Bingen who described herself as a ‘feather on the breath of God’ received her works in visions.

Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179), Abbess of the convents at Bingen and Rupertsberg (which she established), was a philosopher, mystic, visionary, artist, poet, writer of treatises on theology, natural history, medicine, and composer of beautiful, haunting music. Describing herself as a ‘feather on the breath of God’, much of her work was derived from divine inspiration and visions. She saw that as God created all life, then all life must be permeated with His divine spirit.

William Blake spoke of “Jerusalem” as having been “dictated” to him, and other expressions of his prove that he regarded it rather as a revelation of which he was the scribe than as the product of his own inventing and fashioning brain. Blake considered it “the grandest poem that this world contains;” adding, “I may praise it, since I dare not pretend to be any other than the secretary – the authors are in eternity.”

Handel’s Messiah was an inspiration from angels and an attempt to capture their voices. On completing the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ Handel is reported to have exclaimed ‘I think I did see all Heaven open before me and the great God Himself.’

The structure of the carbon ring was revealed in a dream of a serpent chasing its own tail.

In Istanbul, close by Hagia Hophia and the Blue Mosque and not far from a stone post that marked the centre of the Byzantine Empire is an open plaza. There can be found two monuments from Egypt. One an obelisk, similar to Cleopatra’s Needle on the bank of the Thames in London, the other a bronze column. The bronze column is two intertwined serpents.

How many know the name of the mother of Mary? If you know how do you know, as it is not in the Bible? It is in the Gospel of Peter. What this tells us is that there was parallel information to that contained in the Bible.

Ah, yes, the name of the mother of Mary: Anna.

Is the word of God contained in the Bible? Most would answer yes. But if I rephrase and ask, Is the word of God restricted to the Bible, I would probably get a different answer. But were the answer still to be yes, that would be to reject all sacred writings, all communications, outside of the Bible.

Once again I find myself deeply indebted the Rev Robert Cotton of Holy Trinity Church in Guildford and give him my heart-felt thanks for an excellent talk this evening at the Trinity Centre upon which I have drawn. And to his gang of willing helpers who prepared an excellent meal.

Synchronicity: Last Friday I was in Guildford for lunch and had hoped to find a Hungarian girl who I had met the previous week, for who I had a present, but sadly did not. Before I left home this morning, a message from Paulo Coelho saying his latest book O Aleph (Elif in Turkey), was published today in Hungary, it shot straight to No One! To my pleasant surprise, on arriving in Guildford, I find my Hungarian friend sat by the river reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. An excellent choice, I tell her. She joind me for lunch and we spend a lovely afternoon together chatting. I happen to have on me a copy of The Alchemist, which I give her.

Codex Sinaiticus
The Big Question: What is the Codex Sinaiticus, and what does it reveal about the Bible?
The Gospels
The Gospel of Thomas
– Jesus Wars
– Lost Scriptures

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One Response to “Where does the New Testament come from?”

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