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The Missing Gospels: Unearthing the Truth Behind Alternative Christianities [Hardcover]

By Darrell L. Bock Ph.D. (Author)
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Pages   256
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.34" Width: 5.98" Height: 0.91"
Weight:   0.79 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Aug 1, 2006
Publisher   Thomas Nelson
ISBN  0785212949  
EAN  9780785212942  

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Hardcover $ 21.99 $ 18.69 51698
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Item Description...
Using the same "detective seeking the truth" approach that made Breaking the Da Vinci Code a bestseller, Bock takes a critical look at claims about "secret" gospel accounts and examines sources related to early church history. His easy-to-understand writing style enables lay readers to adeptly compare extrabiblical materials with Scripture---then form their own judgments.

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More About Darrell L. Bock Ph.D.

Darrell L. Bock, PH.D.

Darrell L. Bock is research professor of New Testament Studies and professor of Spiritual Development and Culture at Dallas Theological Seminary, a "New York Times "best-selling author, and a corresponding editor at large for "Christianity Today "magazine.

Darrell L. Bock currently resides in the state of Texas. Darrell L. Bock has an academic affiliation as follows - Dallas Theological Seminary.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
The orthodox response to the missing gospels enthusiasts  Feb 24, 2007
Met any "Da Vinci Code" believers? Yes, who hasn't? It seems the bookstores are chock full of sensational bestsellers that prove that there were alternative Christianities, better Christianities, lost "gospels" hushed up by corrupt clerics, and sensational finds that would prove Jesus was really a mushroom (I am not making this up; there really was a bestseller that claimed that Jesus was a mushroom cult).

At any rate, what's the truth? Bock sets out in this short book--it's a mere 230 pages--to offer to the general reader an overview of the orthodox response to these claims.

He succeeds, for the most part. This is only a general overview so a bit of the information is sketchy. But for the average reader who only wants to know the basic facts, "Missing Gospels" will be of great help.

So why were some gospels not added to the bible? And do we now have information about forms of Christianity that we never had before?

The "missing" gospels were Gnostic texts. "There was never a 'Gnostic church' only a conglomeration of disconnected schools that disagreed with each other as well as with the traditional Christians. These Gnostic Greek philosophical schools" (p 23-4).

These texts were not lost in the sense that no one knew they ever existed. The church fathers wrote about them frequently, albeit with great disdain. So we already had huge numbers of quotations from these texts. One thing that finding some of these texts has done is prove the early church fathers quoted them correctly. a change that was made in the mid 1800's.

The crux of the issue is the time period the Gnostic texts were written in. If, as Bock and other orthodox scholars contend, they were written one hundred years or more after all the rest of the gospels, then there is no real case for a multiplicity of Christianities. Instead, there was just plain old orthodox Christianity, and the various schools of Gnosticism were the pagan response, and a pretty sad response at that, to a vibrant religion which was soon to swamp them.

Why is the time period so important? Because by 110 AD Christianity was already a flourishing faith with an solid theology. 1 Clement and Ignatius' letters prove that. They show Christian communities formed in a wide swath across the empire, bishops and leaders in place, and a theology which was orthodox.

And Christianity was making a real impact already. There had been "vast numbers" of them in Rome that Nero tortured and killed. And there were so many of them that Pliny complained that the pagan temples were deserted.

What Paul's letters, and 1 Clement and Ignatius show is that the communities were close, frequently visited, wrote constantly, and believed the same thing.

"The importance of instruction by traditional missionary link between communities are two dynamics that Gnosticism seems to have lacked" (p 33). Paul, our first evidence, insists again and again on the importance of tradition. "Tradition oriented Christians from the earliest days appealed to what had been passed on orally to them as teachings (p 33).

And then there all the gospels, all written in the first century. I am not going to go into the long and exhausting arguments about dating the gospels. But anyone interested should pick up books by Martin Hengel.

But what about the Gnostic texts? There is not a single quote that can be placed in the first century. Not one.

Crossan and others used to argue that parts of the "Gospel of Thomas" was very early, but even that has been disproved. Nicholas Perrin has recently landed a mortal blow to "Thomas", proving it was derived from the Diatessaron, circa 170 AD.

The reason the Gnostic gospels are missing from the New Testament is that they were not Christian and not early. They were never in the running to begin with. And no one had any trouble distinguishing between a Gnostic and a Christian. The Gnostics, as the early church fathers acidly pointed out, were the ones who were never fed to the lions.

To get a glimpse of deep scholarship, try N T Wright's "Judas and the Gospel of Jesus". N T Wright is one of the most famous biblical scholars, and this book is his response to the recent discovery of the "Gospel of Judas". What's so great about this book is way that he skewers liberal scholars Bart Ehrman, Pagels, etc. These scholars have for decades played fast and loose with the truth, and it's about time someone called them on it.

The best book on the subject of Gnosticism is "A Separate God" by Simone Petrement. She argues forcefully, and, I believe, convincingly, that Gnosticism was a pagan reaction to Christianity.

Jesus - not self-knowledge - is the Way, the Truth, and the Life  Feb 3, 2007
Darrell Bock's book "The Missing Gospels" is a good overview and comparison of the early church beliefs that developed into orthodox Christian doctrines and an early, often disjointed `alternative' movement labeled as Gnosticism. In the book's preface Bock states that he intended this book for a popular audience because books on Gnosticism continue to "pour forth for the religion sections at bookstores like Barnes and Noble and Borders;" additionally, "The DaVinci Code" (both novel and movie) and all of the hype surrounding "The Gospel of Judas" this past year have brought Gnosticism to the forefront in the popular media.

Bock's aim is admirable, but I'm not sure that his goal of educating the average reader ends up being fully realized. He gives equal space to both the Gnostic texts and what he labels "traditional" texts (the New Testament documents and the writings of the Apostolic Fathers) and cites a good deal of material from both. Therein lays the problem, however: the majority of Bock's target lay-readership probably doesn't have the theological background knowledge, or (unfortunately) the interest, to follow the many quotes from texts and ensuing discussions thereof. On the other hand, readers who have given previous consideration to some of his topics may wish that Bock would go even more in-depth than he does.

Overall, Bock does well at showing the reader which beliefs both types of texts have in common and upon which points they diverge. However, in some instances, Bock actually gives insufficient attention to the "traditional" texts and how the Gnostics appropriated certain language from them. As he discusses his four main points - the view of God, the view of Jesus, the nature of salvation, and Jesus' work - Bock alternates between chapters filled with quotes from Gnostic texts and chapters filled with quotes from the "traditional" texts. When a reader sees that a New Testament writer, such as John or Paul, has used terms or concepts that appeared in many of the Gnostic texts in the previous chapter, he may become confused and lend some credence to what proponents of Gnosticism claim: namely, that it was just as credible and prevalent as "traditional" Christianity.

Fortunately, in spite of the abovementioned (occasional) shortcomings, I believe that Bock still gives sufficient examples and explanations to prove his thesis that the documents of the New Testament and Apostolic Fathers are earlier and reflect true ("traditional") Christian beliefs - beliefs which are based on Jesus' own teachings and the teachings of His apostles - and that the Gnostic documents are a slightly later attempt to combine Greco-Roman teachings with the "traditional" Christian teachings.

Bock also does a good job of exposing why so many people, including scholars of the "new school" (proponents of Gnosticism), are so eager to embrace these "missing gospels." At its most basic, it is a reflection of the fact that - in 21st century American society - so many people are unwilling to take any personal responsibility for their actions or to be held accountable for them (especially to God). Bock expresses this best when he shows, through Romans 7:14, that Paul had "a sense of personal responsibility for this [his slavery to sin and spiritual] failure" and continues by stating "Neither a defective creation nor outside spiritual forces are to blame [although this is the case in many Gnostic documents]. Paul looks at the mirror and sees the enemy as himself." Our culture values 'self' over God; thus it is no wonder that many people might be excited by a document like the "Gospel of Thomas" in which, as Bock states, "the key to God's kingdom is self-knowledge and self-understanding."

Those who try to defend Gnosticism as either the true Christianity that was suppressed or, at least, a viable alternative to "traditional" Christianity, tend to cite the writings of people like Elaine Pagels and Bart Ehrman. The argument is that these writers are objective scholars who are simply presenting newly (re-)discovered truths. Unfortunately, this is also untrue, especially in the case of Ehrman who has turned his back on his faith and become a vocal critic of "traditional" Christian texts. A quote from Dr. Daniel Wallace (Professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary) in his review of Ehrman's book "Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why" can also serve as an accurate assessment of the vast majority of so-called scholarship on Gnosticism (although this particular book by Ehrman is about his perceived corruption of the NT rather than Gnostic texts, the point can be applied to all texts which distort the facts): "In sum, Ehrman's latest book does not disappoint on the provocative scale. But it comes up short on genuine substance about his primary contention. Scholars bear a sacred duty not to alarm lay readers on issues that they have little understanding of. Unfortunately, the average layperson will leave this [Ehrman's] book with far greater doubts about the wording and teachings of the NT than any textual critic would ever entertain. A good teacher doesn't hold back on telling his students what's what, but he also knows how to package the material so they don't let emotion get in the way of reason. A good teacher does not create Chicken Littles."

If anyone out there wants to get rid of their Gnostic Chicken Littles, then start with this book by Bock. Then, if you want more information, consult some of the sources he lists in the seven-page bibliography at the end of his book.
Definitively Refuting Gnosticism and Its Purported but Inauthentic "Gospels"  Dec 15, 2006
I shall not presume to refute, in my own words or by my own limited authority, the many flighty theories and speculations that in this sad 2lst Century are gaining gullible acceptance regarding a revisionist acceptance of ancient heresies of the Gnostic sects that beset early Christianity and which only arose well after the work of the canonical evangelists and other writers of the apostolic era. These tiresome views recycle, of 20th century works, the deficient speculations and historical fatuities of Walter Bauer, expressed in his "Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianities" (1934; more recent ed. by Fortress Press, Philadelphia, 1971), on which Elaine Pagels, Dan Brown, and other lightweight opponents of Christianity essentially base their faulty and hostile arguments.

A good discussion of this matter, that stands out from others that criticise the new Gnostic-friendly heretics of our times, about the Gospel of Judas, especially, but also about the "gospels" of Thomas, Mary Magdalene, and other Gnostic writings, is Anthony Valle's article, "Audiatur et altera pars [i.e.] Let the Other Side Also Be Heard: the Gospel of Judas and the Bauer Thesis", in the pages of "The Latin Mass: the Journal of Catholic Culture and Tradition" (vol. 15, no. 5, Advent-Christmastide issue, p. 32-36), which wisely notes (on p. 35) some words from Bock's study, as I also shall do here, generalising Bock's wording a bit in square brackets (and one addition of emphatic capitals to a word):

"So does the discovery of the Gospel of Judas [and of other newly-found Gnostic writings purporting to be gospels] do anything for us historically? Well ... [they do] tell us what [some] Gnostic movement[s] of the second [and third] centur[ies] thought.... All of this aids in understanding [those two] centur[ies], but NOT the first century [of] Christian history. For that one small fragment of historical understanding, we can be grateful. [However, t]he "Gospel of Judas" [among other such Gnostic writings] also corroborates that Irenaeus summarised this [and suchlike] gospel[s] accurately, which means [that] we have known about [these rejected writings] for 1800 years".

So much for their novelty and "new light" that neo-gnostics think that these works shed!

Thank you, Mr. Bock, for your book-length treatment of this matter!

How new?   Dec 2, 2006
Even in early Christian times there were people who differed in their ideas about Jesus. Perhaps other people today, as then, have something worth your listening to. Perhaps those other early Christians who didn't fit orthodox definitions had good and spiritually valid reasons for their concerns, just as traditional Christians have valid reasons for their concerns. Perhaps Bock's arguments, as well-intentioned as they may be, don't speak to all of their conditions or to those of many today who have questions about traditional Christian teachings.

If some scholars today, such as Bart Ehrman, Karen King, and Elaine Pagels, seem to have a "new" message, please bear in mind that it is with respect to ancient texts just recently found. There remains uncertainty about the actual dating of the traditional scripture and the alternatives. The find of the "Gospel of Judas" has led to a reasonable speculation (but by no means certain) that the our dating of original Gospel of Judas may overlap our dating of the Gospel of John. So how new is new?

Ehrman, Kind, Pagels and others did not invent the alternative texts, some of which may not have been known, or well known, to early Church fathers, so it seems unwarranted to not consider respectfully the modern efforts to understand the impact of the ancient alternative texts. And even if the alternative texts were all written later then those that later had a version included in the New Testament, it doesn't appear that the alternatives were written that much later. It also isn't clear that their being later implies they were less valuable. All we know is that the New Testament didn't include them (at all or finally) and why that is so is speculative.

As a guideline for scholarly speculation, one need not go any farther than the words of Walter Bauer, the author of "Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity":

"In our day and age, there is no longer any debate that in terms of a scientific approach to history, the New Testament writings cannot be understood properly if one now looks back on them from the end of the process of canonization as sacred books, and prizes them as constituent parts of the celestial charter of salvation, with all the attendant characteristics."

Has Bock actually rebuked that? Or was he already so committed to a certain "celestial charter of salvation" as to not be able to look at history with the fresh mind that Bauer was asking for? To what extent would Bock's inability, if we accept Bauer's assessment, to properly understand the New Testament writings in terms of a "scientific approach to history" taint Bock's research concluding with his statement that the "new school" lacks "historical grounding". If you do read this book and spot how many hypothesis Bock relies on, you'll wonder how he can conclude so confidently. Do Bauer, Pagels, Ehrman and King seem so certain? Which attitude seems best given all the uncertainties within historical research? Why dismiss the efforts of sincere scholars so harshly as "a historical disservice to understanding a key faith of the West". What scholar today has so many historical facts at his/her disposal as to be able to dispense with hypotheses and their accompanying probabilities? What does Bock know that everyone else doesn't?

For example, perhaps due to not setting aside his beliefs, Bock values the age of texts "as earliest sources", e.g. closer to the life of Jesus. But what if the early traditional texts don't reflect a direct understanding from Jesus? Even if Jesus spoke correctly and wisely the first believers may not have understood, requiring correction by the Gnostics (for example, based on other oral traditions). But I didn't see anywhere in this book in which Bock questioned his absolute evaluation of early as always better. But we know from our own experiences, don't we, that we sometimes make mistakes and others help later by correcting them. Surely we may suspect teachings as special as those of Jesus may not have been readily understood. So it seems Bock did not give the Gnostics the fresh and reasonable consideration that Bauer was requesting.

The Nag Hammadi texts themselves will likely seem strange compared to the New Testament Gospels or the Letters of Paul. They do to me. We didn't grow up with them. One of the more accessible is "The Gospel of Mary" which Karen King's "The Gospel of Mary of Magdala" presents. I suggest you read King's work whether you read this work of Bock or not.

There are also questions as to whether the Letters of Paul reflects gnostic concerns by Paul. These may be issues raised again in modern times but Pagel's research in "The Gnostic Paul" suggests that early gnostic writers saw in Paul one of their kind. It is a challenging read but seems worthwhile even if one only gets a little out of it.

I suggest King's book on Mary and the recent "The Gospel of Judas" edited by Kasser, Meyer, and Wurst and published by the reputable National Geographic Society because these seem among the easiest gnostic gospels to follow. Reading them yourself will also put you in a better position to evaluate Bock's action of questioning as "new" and perhaps a "fad" the efforts to respond to these newly found but ancient texts. You may also then be in a better position to evaluate Bock's speculative arguments for the traditional texts and interpretations that identify themselves as traditional. Labelling something as "new" doesn't make it wrong. Labelling something as "traditional" doesn't make it right. If you are a follower of Jesus, what may matter is what is effective for your understanding of his life and teachings. That may mean being open to all the historical documents that have been survived into our times and evaluating at least some of them for yourself to the extent you can rather than just going by any one (or many) expert opinion.
Careful and convincing  Oct 3, 2006
Bock has written a careful analysis of modern claims about diversity in New Testament Christianity. He reasons slowly and deliberately to show the reasonableness of his conclusions. That careful analysis is both a positive and negative in the book. It is a positive in that it is convincing, but it is a negative in that the book sometimes moves so slowly that the reader can lose Bock's overall line of argument.

I wonder if this book will hold the attention of most lay readers. The chapters where Bock describes the teaching of the Gnostics and the New Testament can become overly long. Those chapters are necessary, however, to sustain Bock's argument. Without them there would be no reasoned argument but only assertion. That's exactly what the "new school" does, and Bock properly wants to avoid that.

For a quick summary of Bock's historical argument, read chapters 1, 4, 5, & 14. In the chapters where Bock lays out the teaching of the Gnostics and the NT, just read the summaries at the end of the chapters.

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