Name and Place for Tuesday, November 18 (’14)
C. E. Hill writes a fascinating study of the Christian hoax of the New Testament. And by “Christian hoax” I mean the truth non-believers don’t like: the Scriptures we have in the New Testament, especially the four Gospels, are 1) early documents (not 3rd or 4th century creations chosen by Constantine as “Scripture”) 2) quite fully received 3) by the orthodox early Church and functioned 4) as the only authoritative text for faith and worship, i.e., Christian life.
Here are a few snippets from Hill’s Who Chose the Gospels? Probing the Great Gospel Conspiracy:
As far as we know, Christian worship was not a liturgical book club, with every individual or faction able to suggest his, her, or its choice (82).
That was in reference to an Antiochene bishop, Serapion (ca. 189 AD elected bishop), who appears to first approve a non-Scriptural book for one of his congregations to read in public worship only then, later, to retract his approval. Hill’s quote is easy to remember and is the conclusion of one section of the chapter “Irenaeus’ ‘co-conspirators'”, as well as the previous 83 pages of argument showing that, in fact, Christian worship was quite settled upon what we have now as the “received text” of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. No other pseudo “Gospels” were accepted or allowed in worship.
Here’s another in Hill’s treatment on Clement of Alexandria. Non-Christian scholars looking to discredit the above claims of orthodoxy believe Clement uses non-biblical Gospels in such a way that he grants them the same authority he would the Four Gospels:
This, of course, has been keenly noted by scholars. Some point to his ‘liberal use’ of, or his ‘frequent reference’ to, Gospels other than the canonical ones….Most scholars today seem happy to leave the impression that these Gospels, not to mention several other non-Gospel texts, were esteemed by Clement every bit as highly as the four….One thing missing from these listings commonly used by scholars is any comparative information about how many times the canonical Gospels are referenced by Clement….Clement uses the Gospel according to Matthew 757 times in his extant works, Luke 402 times, John 331 times. Even the Gospel of Mark, so sparsely attested among the discovered papyrus fragments mentioned in Chapter 1, is cited by Clement 182 times. That makes a total of 1,672 references to one of the four canonical Gospels, fourteen to the three non-canonical ones, a ratio of 120 to 1 (pp. 71-72).
This is the most accessible and richest book I’ve ever read on the (for lack of a better word) “formation” of the canon and the reception of some books over others in the early Church. It is so well written (prose and documentation) it boggles the mind how any scholar writing on the “conspiracy” of the early Church against other supposedly “equally valid” Gospels and books “floating” around in the ancient world could get published without interacting with Hill.
But, as is so often the case with orthodox and conservative Christianity, we won’t hold our breath for them to take our historical study seriously. We’re also not surprised, however, that in the area of Scriptural formation, “we” do history better than they. After all, we have a God to answer to.
If you’re interested in a full review, the section quoted above was reviewed a few years ago by another blogger and can be read here.
You may purchase Hill’s book (and we recommend it highly) here.