Last year I was privileged to be part of a group of folks brought together to think about sacred Christian texts, past AND future. Yes, I said future because like many others, I have always felt that the texts that have informed my faith and life in Christ were never meant to be static, rather, were meant to expand and grow. So when Hal Taussig asked me to part of a Church Council who would determine the texts to be included in the new book, A New New Testament (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013) I did not need much convincing.*
As this journey began, however, I was filled with great excitement and event greater trepidation. Who were we to decided what new texts should be part of any sacred canon? Who was I to be part of such a group of scholars, theologians and cultural icons (Barbara Brown Taylor, Margaret Aymer Oget, Karen King, John Dominic Crossan, Bishop Alfred Johnson, etc.)? And most importantly, who in their right might would choose to wade into the firestorm of controversy that would be before us? After all, to many, this will undoubtedly be seen as messing with The Word of God and will be labeled as blasphemous and heretical. Not the first time that those labels have been directed my way, but why invite it?
From the book publisher . . .
In February of 2012, a council of scholars and spiritual leaders,convened by religion scholar Hal Taussig, came together to discuss,debate, and reconsider which books belong in the New Testament. They talked about dozens of newly found texts, the lessons therein, and how they inform the previously bound books. Reading the existing New Testament alongside these new texts—The Gospel of Luke with The Gospel of Mary, Paul’s letters with The Letter of Peter to Philip, The Revelation to John with The Secret Revelation to John—offers the exciting possibility of understanding both, the new and the old, better.
For me entering into this daunting task was simple. As I read text after text after text, it became clear to me that God was moving then and will move now through these words that we offer to you in this New New Testament. The Spirit of God moved in my reading, the Spirit of God moved in our sometimes heated discussions, and I truly believe that the Spirit of God will move in others as they are exposed to these transforming texts.
Take for instance one the texts that was very high on my list, the Nag Hammadi text, The Thunder: Perfect Mind.
I was sent out from powerI am the first and the last
I came to those pondering me
And I was found among those seeking me
Look at me, all you who contemplate me
Audience, hear me
Those expecting me, receive me
Don’t chase me from your sight
Don’t let your ovice or your hearing hate me
Don’t ignore me any place, any time
Be careful. Do not ignore me
I am she who is honored and she who is mocked
I am the whore and the holy woman
I am the wife and the virgin
I am he the mother and the daughter
I am the limbs of my mother
I am the sterile woman and she has many children
I am she whose wedding is extravagant and I didn’t have a husband
I am the midwife and she who hasn’t given birth
I am the comfort of labor pains
I am the bride and the bridegroom
And it is my husband who gave birth to me
I am my father’s mother,
My husband’s sister, and he is my child
I am the slavewoman of him who served me
I am she, the lord of my child
But it is he who gave birth to me at the wrong time
And he is my child born at the right time
And my power is from within him
I am the staff of his youthful power
And he is the baton of my old womanhood
Whatever he wants happens to me
I am the silence never found
And the idea infinitely recalled
I am the voice with countless sounds
And the thousand guises of the word
I am the speaking of my name
Thunder, you had me at “I was sent out from power”
I have yet to see the gallery copy, but my understanding is that A New New Testament will read like a traditional Bible with short introductions at the beginning of each texts with translations and footnotes to follow. Our hope is that this is not simply an academic book that will be seen as a novelty accomplishment by a group of yahoos who sat in a room, but that it will be the beginning of some great conversations about the future of the Christian faith and the texts through which we view God’s relationship with humanity.
Lastly, not the snazziest of video treatment that I have ever seen, but the video below will give you and idea of how it began who was part of it and what it includes. You can also pre-order A New New Testament: A Bible for the 21st Century Combining Traditional and Newly Discovered Texts and it is expected to be published in March 2013.
* Disclaimer: Other than the expenses associated with travel, room and board for the meeting of The Church Council, I have not and will not receive any compensation from the publisher or Hal Taussig.