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The Lost Books of the Bible Paperback – 1 Jul 2004
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Top customer reviews
As one might expect with any collection of stories, this one is a mixed bag of good and bad stories. Some of these works are long and tedious, while some are short and don't seem to contain anything new. However, all of them allow a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts of various factions within the early Church.
Personally, I enjoyed The Epistles of Paul the Apostle to Seneca, with Seneca's to Paul, and the Epistles of Clement. I highly enjoyed this book and recommend it to you.
In the early church, there was no consistent agreement about what belonged in the Bible and what was not to be included. Modern-day readers of books such as the 'Da Vinci Code' can understand some of the issues and dilemmas here - there were no printing presses, no consistency of library cataloging or copyrighting, and no central authority in the oft-persecuted church as to who could make a decision of what texts were valuable. Indeed, even the Hebrew scriptures existed in variations, and the modern day issue of apocryphal books included or not included in the Bible stems from the difference between the Greek and Hebrew translations of the Hebrew scriptures/Old Testament texts.
For example, the book of the Shepherd of Hermas, included here, was well known to the early church, and continued to be a document known to church historians and scholars in the subsequent centuries, even if it was not commonly known and read by the laity in the churches. The apostle Paul was far from the only letter writer of the early church; the New Testament includes some other letters (Peter, John, etc.), but the canonical decision at one point was made that only those attributed to the original twelve apostles and Paul would be included - the letters of Clement, very important and useful in the early church, were excluded from the canon.
However, there is an important point to be made here. Just because something was not included in the canon of scripture did not mean that it was worthless. Just because a student gets an A rather than an A+ does not mean that student did not do good and worthwhile work. Many of these texts were 'A' texts for the early church, but lacked that certain something that made them canonical. The same is true for the gospels - this collection includes some extra-canonical gospel texts, and the reason for their non-inclusion in the canon is varied, but does not mean their value is insignificant.
There has been much work done on early church documentary history and the development of the canon since this book was first published more than a century ago, but these are reasonable (if not always reader-friendly) translations of relatively unknown texts, useful for general readers and undergraduates, or those who might want to know what the early Christians were reading and being influenced by apart from the canonical text.
I was therefore very disappointed to find that discoveries in the last 84 years were not there.
There are other books about the 'books' which were omitted from the bible which are much more up to date.
Nonetheless worth having on its own terms.