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Hidden Gospels: How the Search for Jesus Lost Its Way [Paperback]

By Philip Jenkins (Author)
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Item description for Hidden Gospels: How the Search for Jesus Lost Its Way by Philip Jenkins...

The first full-length critical analysis of the "hidden gospel" phenomenon shows why these texts arouse such interest and why they are so misleading. Brilliantly researched and sharply argued, "Hidden Gospels" unearths both the complex agendas and flawed methods of scholars who have created a whole new mythology about Jesus and the early church.

Publishers Description
This incisive critique thoroughly and convincingly debunks the claims that recently discovered texts such as the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Mary, and even the Dead Sea Scrolls undermine the historical validity of the New Testament.
Jenkins places the recent controversies surrounding the hidden gospels in a broad historical context and argues that, far from being revolutionary, such attempts to find an alternative Christianity date back at least to the Enlightenment. By employing the appropriate scholarly and historical methodologies, he demonstrates that the texts purported to represent pristine Christianity were in fact composed long after the canonical gospels found in the Bible. Produced by obscure heretical movements, these texts have attracted much media attention chiefly because they seem to support radical, feminist, and post-modern positions in the modern church. Indeed, Jenkins shows how best-selling books on the "hidden gospels" have been taken up by an uncritical, drama-hungry media as the basis for a social movement that could have powerful effects on the faith and practice of contemporary Christianity.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Oxford University Press, USA
Pages   274
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.61" Width: 5.55" Height: 0.7"
Weight:   0.8 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Dec 5, 2002
Publisher   Oxford University Press
ISBN  0195156315  
ISBN13  9780195156317  

Availability  104 units.
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More About Philip Jenkins

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Philip Jenkins is the distinguished professor of history at Baylor University and codirector for Baylor s program on Historical Studies of Religion in the Institute for Studies of Religion. He is the author of The Jesus Wars, The Lost History of Christianity, and The Next Christendom. He is a contributing editor for the American Conservative, writes a monthly column for the Christian Century, and has written articles for the Atlantic, Christianity Today, and First Things. He lives in Waco, Texas."

Philip Jenkins currently resides in the state of Pennsylvania. Philip Jenkins was born in 1952 and has an academic affiliation as follows - Pennsylvania State University.

Philip Jenkins has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Cults and New Religions in American History
  2. Future of Christianity Trilogy

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > History > Ancient > General
2Books > Subjects > History > Ancient
3Books > Subjects > History > World > General
4Books > Subjects > History > World
5Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Church History > General
6Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Church History
7Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > General
8Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference
9Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology > Christology
11Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Religious Studies > History

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Reviews - What do customers think about Hidden Gospels: How the Search for Jesus Lost Its Way?

A brilliant expose  May 13, 2008
Professor Jenkins has given us a brilliant response to the so-called "Jesus Seminar" theorists. Beginning with an in-depth analysis of the gospel of Thomas and Q, Dr. Jenkins exposes the anachronistic methods of the self-proclaimed Jesus scholars guided by their presuppositions alone. Rather than doing the work of objective historians following the facts, these hacks have seized upon our distrust of authority and Protestant assumptions in order to recreate the early church into their own image.

Dr. Ray Guarendi refers to the "new atheists" who do not claim to deny God but instead claim that they believe in God but, "he thinks just like I do." This is God created in the image of man rather than the God of scripture. It is the self-guided (misguided) presupposition that we bow to know authority but our own understanding. Here is the lie of the garden wrapped in a pretty package for resale to the modern world.

Dr. Jenkins exposes this lie for what it is with careful historical analysis of what we know and do not know about the early church. And, once again, the words of Solomon ring true, there really is nothing new under the sun. There is little in these recent "findings" of ancient texts that we did not already know. Popular culture has accepted the Jesus Seminar as gospel truth not because the facts speak for themselves but because the modern mind wishes to accept them. They think just the way modern culture thinks, and so, they believe, it must be true.

Packed with examples of the fallacies of the Jesus Seminar, _Hidden Gospels_ is a rich and rewarding expose. Comparing the history of the creation of the canon from the words of the Jesus Seminar to the objective history of its formation challenges not only the Jesus Seminar but Protestant assumptions as well. The role of the church in the formation of the canon cannot be denied. And so, the Protestant standing on "sola scriptura" must rest scripture firmly on the shoulders of mother church. Without that firm foundation, the winds and waves of Jesus Seminar doctrine is sweeping them away. The connection between Protestantism and the Jesus Seminar thinking cannot be missed.

At last a response to the Jesus Seminar with depth and teeth. Any who have followed this movement or the "DaVinci Code" offshoots will find this book a helpful remedy and vaccine against the distortions so popularized today. Highly recommended.
Too lightweight for scholars, too heavy for average joes, but a lot of sense that ought to reach the public  Dec 3, 2005
Philip Jenkins' HIDDEN GOSPELS is an examination of the current fads of presenting non-canonical gospels as exciting, illuminating finds. Everyone has heard before, usually about the Gospel of Thomas found at Nag Hammadi in 1947, that some recently found document will show us what Jesus really taught, and how traditional Christianity bears little resemblance to the faith. The work might be seen as a complement to Luke Timothy Johnson's similar work THE REAL JESUS (San Francisco: Harper, 1997); where Johnson sought to reassure readers that the canonical gospels and epistles are trustworthy historical sources, Jenkins aims to show how the non-canonical writings are not.

Jenkins begins by explaining earlier waves of non-canonical mania, noting that the same views held today by groups like the Jesus Seminar were briefly entertained by earlier scholars but ultimately discarded just to rise again at the end of the 20th century. He also explains exactly what these non-canonical sources are. Since the Gospel of Thomas is the darling of the Jesus Seminar crowd, it takes a central place in his discussion. Many points of the Gospel of Thomas, he says, may in fact be authentic, and find corroboration with the hypothetical source of the synoptic gospels, Q. However, it was undoubtedly completed as a very late date (end of the 2nd century) and is filled with gnostic additions.

Having already brought up the subject of Gnosticism, Jenkins then gives a history of the movement, and makes the prudent conclusion that, whatever it was, it was not the original authentic Christianity. Using sources like the Pauline epistles and the writings of Polycarp and Ignatius, Jenkins says it is obvious that the liturgical, repentant church that came to shine as Christian orthodox was in fact the continuation original movement started by Jesus. Gnosticism, on the other hand, shows up only in the 2nd century and its leaders bend over backward to prove they have any claim to historicity.

Why are these claims so popular, that the non-canonical gospels tell the true story and maybe Gnosticism was the real deal? Jenkins notes the current influence of feminism on scholarship; some academics don't feel orthodox Christianty treats women correctly, and so it is out to show that heterodox traditions--which supposedly asserted the equality of the sexes--is the right way. And a rejection of tradition spread from these discontented academics to the public by way of a media that loves scandalous news.

My only real complaint about the work is that it is full of truths the public needs to hear--next time you hear a friend talking about how the evil patriarchal Catholic Church squashed Jesus' real teachings, this is the antidote--but it may be too brainy for laymen. Academics, on the other hand, will find the book far too lightweight. Perhaps we are still in need of a guide showing the waywardness of non-canonical sources that can be fearlessly given out to any fellow on the street.
Excellent Overview of Gospel Research and Current Cliches  Sep 6, 2004
A solid, excellent, easily readable and informative book on current notions about the Jesus of history, and about research in New Testament studies. When so many foolish ideas are floating around about what we know or don't know about Jesus Christ, books like this are needed. They help the public put things in some kind of perspective. Jesus is not simply a subject of secular study right now, he is a target. I recommend this book.
Not a serious work but has some value  Feb 10, 2004
I am an educated layman with an interest in Q, the Gospel of Thomas, and Gnosticism. I find the work that various scholars are doing in these areas fascinating but also a little speculative, and I looked forward to reading Philip Jenkins' critique of the work. I was therefore disappointed to find that his book is primarily a popular survey and contains essentially no academic-quality discussion of the issues.

I was not at all surprised that Jenkins takes conservative positions in the book; what did surprise me is how reluctant he is to say what exactly his positions are. This is true for many specific historical issues such as the date and authorship of various NT and apocryphal texts, and even more true for major spiritual and social issues such as the nature of the Kingdom of Heaven and the role of women in the church. He was also very sparing in his citation of "mainstream" scholars, and, though he implies that they are busily working over the same issues as the "fringe" scholars (liberals, feminists, and seekers, i.e. New Agers and other free-thinkers) with whom he is mostly concerned, he never gives any account or indeed any idea at all of what the mainstream scholars have been doing for the past thirty years.

One of the funniest parts of the book is where he bemoans how the fringe scholars (especially the members of the Jesus Seminar) have dominated most popular media (TV and press) coverage of NT issues in recent years. He notes how the programs and articles are always careful to show a semblance of balance and always include mainstream as well as fringe scholars, but they always let the fringe scholars set the agenda and have the last word. It is hardly a mystery why this is. The media is looking for news. Could it be that the mainstream scholars have nothing new to say?

The titles of the book are not very descriptive. Their content is roughly as follows:

1 Finding and Seeking - here's the problem (no real content)
2 Fragments of a Faith Forgotten - interest in NT apocrypha in the US in the 19th and first half of the 20th century
3 The First Gospels? Q and Thomas - like it says
4 Gospel Truth - other apocryphal texts, especially other Nag Hammadi texts
5 Hiding Jesus: The Church and the Heretics - the rise of organization and orthodoxy
6 Daughters of Sophia - The feminist perspective on NT and the early church
7 Into the mainstream - penetration of fringe people and ideas into mainstream institutions (churches, academia, society at large)
8 The Gospels in the Media - TV and press coverage of NT issues
9 The Next New Gospel - now you know (no real content)

I actually found the book fairly informative. The author tells a lot about who the fringe people are, what they think, and what books they have written. (The footnotes at the end of the book contain a huge amount of bibliographical information.) I especially appreciated the information about the work of women scholars and church members in chapters 2, 6 and 7. For me reading Jenkins is a lot like reading the great heresiologists (Irenaeus, Hippolytus and Epiphanius). The orthodoxy is kind of dull but the heresies are really interesting.

Jenkins Has Done It Again  Feb 9, 2004
This book needs to be taken for what it is. It's not a refutation of the Jesus Seminar and its findings, at least not primarily.

Rather, it is a sociological study of the modern "Quest for the Historical Jesus," including theories as to why it has taken the turns it has. This quest is not really a search for truth, as it is for self-validation of mores and principles deeply ingrained in the heart of modern, democratic man (eg. individualism, freedom from dogmatic strictures, etc.).

I think this book is an excellent companion to Luke Timothy Johnson's "The Real Jesus." (Johnson's book should be read for a specific critique of the Seminar and its methods.) The only fault I find with "Hidden Gospels" is Jenkins's tendency to repear himself over and over. This tendency is better syited to a classroom lecture rather than a book, I believe.

I wouldn't classify this book as a "must read," as I would Johnson's, but it's an excellent read nonetheless.

Like Johnson, I don't know if Jenkins can be said to have a conservative bias. If so, I don't see why on earth he ever would have left Catholicism for Anglicanism. The Anglican Communion isn't exactly known for moral conservatism or dogmatic conviction. I think this is why orthodox Christians, especially Catholics, find him so appealing. "Why would a 'liberal' support 'conservative' positions unless they were genuinely true?"

With cleverly disguised works of pseudo-scholarship like "The da Vinci Code" making the bestseller lists, "Hidden Gospels: How the Search for Jesus Lost Its Way" is a well-needed wake-up call for those wanting a clearer understanding of American religion, and the directions it has been, and is, heading.


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