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Hidden Sayings of Jesus - Words Attributed to Jesus Outside the Four Gospels: Sayings of Jesus Outside the Four Gospels Paperback – 24 Apr 1997

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About the Author

Revd Dr William Morrice is an Emeritus Professor in the Department of Theology at St John's College, University of Durham.

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By Steven H Propp - Published on
Author William Morrice also wrote books such as Joy in the New Testament, We Joy in God, etc.

He wrote in the Preface to this 1997 book, "For many years, I have been interested in the 'agrapha'---sayings of Jesus not written in the four gospels... while still a parish minister, I was asked a question about the 'Gospel of Thomas,' to which I probably gave a very unsatisfactory reply... my attention was again drawn to this apocryphal gospel by a German layman... I have been encouraged by the suggestion made to me... to gather together and translate other sayings of Jesus hidden outside the canonical gospels, to set them within the context of a discussion of the New Testament canon and to evaluate criticallly their authenticity... The result is a fairly comprehensive, though not exhaustive, collection of sayings of Jesus outside the four gospels." (Pg. vii)

He observes about Form Criticism, "This was an attempt to discover the original forms of the gospel material---pronouncement stories, miracle stories, sayings of Jesus, legends and myths. These various types of material originated in the early Church. They did not necessarily go back to Jesus. They may simply have been illustrations in sermons or stories used in Christian teaching. It was [Martin] Dibelius who suggested preaching as the context within which some of the material within the gospels was originally preserved. Other sayings of Jesus could have been used, or even created, in the course of arguments with Jews over, for example, the observation of the sabbath.... or the value of circumcision." (Pg. 18)

He suggests, "It seems clear that the Nag Hammadi codices were not, after all, part of a gnostic library. They did not belong to a group of gnostic heretics living together in Egypt who, for some unknown reason, decided to hide their precious books in chalky cliffs overlooking the River Nile. The books belonged rather to Coptic monks living in some of the Pachomian monasteries... The occasion of their burial of this load of old books was a purge of their monastic library following upon the publication of Athanasius' thirty-ninth 'Easter Letter' and its translation into Coptic by order of Theodore, successor of Pachomius as abbot-general." (Pg. 57)

He concludes, "Apart from the Coptic 'Gospel of Thomas'... it is surprising how little of value survives outside the New Testament. The ministry of Jesus lasted approximately three years. Yet the canonical gospels... are relatively short. How is it that several volumes of sayings are not available?... The scarcity of material is even more surprising when we recall that it was an age of oral tradition... When we apply the tests of authenticity to the sayings that we have collected in this book, not a great deal fo gold remains sifted from the dross---but enough to have made the effort worthwhile. Of the 253 sayings examined... only about 69 sayings remain within grade A and 37 in grade B. Of these 106 graded A or B, the majority are already familiar to us from the New Testament. Only a very few genuine 'agrapha' remain in the sense of sayings not written within the canonical books." (Pg. 201-204)

This book will be extremely helpful for anyone looking for a non-credulous, scholarly examination of such writings.
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