A while ago I blogged on Hal Taussig’s New New Testament, noting its addition of several Gnostic documents (mainly Nag Hammadi stuff) to a New Testament collection.
Any ways, Craig Evans lets rip in a review in the latest issue of BBR (23.3 : 429-31) and here are the highlights:
A New New Testament raises a myriad of questions. First, why have Taussig and his colleagues drawn so heavily on Gnostic writings? Why not include some of the so-called Apostolic Fathers? After all, some of these writings actually do appear in early Christian collections of Scripture. The Gnostic writings never do. Also, if we include the Acts of Paul and Thecla, then why not some of the other extracanonical books of Acts? Second, does it really make sense to lump together the canonical writings – whose authors embrace the Old Testament, the God of the OT, and Israel’s heritage – with Gnostic writings that reject or radically reinterpret the OT, denounce the physical world and God of the OT who made it as evil, embrace a second god, and in general show little respect for Israel’s heritage, indeed, sometimes even give expression to anti-Semitic sentiments? How does Gnostic Bitheism fit within the monotheism of traditional NT writings? Third, would the authors of many of these Gnostic writings, including the Gospel of Thomas, even want their writings lumped together with those of the “Great church”? This question lead to a fourth and related question. Many of the Gnostic writings refer to themselves as a “secret,” that is, not for public reading and wider circulation. This understanding flies in the face of the earliest understanding of canonical Scripture in the early Church, in which what was to be read in assemblies was what was regarded as canonical (the rule against which all theology was to be measured). Gnostic authors and readers did not want their secret texts read in public. In what sense, then were they “canonical” as the first generations of Christians understood this concept.”
Not withstanding the fact the authors date the NT late and extra-canonical writings early, Evans adds:
Perhaps the most annoying feature of all is the entire project itself, for the idea that we need a new NT implies that the early generations of Christians simply did not get it right, that perhaps they failed to see the merits in the books that they rejected, refusing to copy them and read them in public … Perhaps Taussig is right. Perhaps this new NT is just what our postmodern, biblically illiterate, Da Vinci Code-reading society is looking for. But are the new writings what they really need? Will studying and meditating on books written by people who rejected the old tradition of the God of Israel bring the longed-for spiritual refreshment? Will embracing bizarre theories of cosmogony and cosmology lead to enlightenment? Will the gnosis of failed Gnosticism apply what some think is missing in Jesus’ Passion and Resurrection? … [I]s this new NT something that will satisfy the “deep spiritual longing” of today’s society?
Bravo to Craig Evans, could not have said it better myself.
Let me add that there is nothing wrong with studying this literature, in terms of Christian origins and the development of Patristic thought, such a study is good, useful, and necessary. However, the purpose of the New New Testament is not historical but theologically (de)formative. Ultimately such a book functions as an the ideological manifesto for the Ivy League Gnostics and their quest to achieve the ultimate Oprahfication of the mainline churches. This is evident by its brazen rejection of the Old Testament, its reconstruction of a historical Jesus as the “Californian Jesus,” the re-writing of the history of early church with Paul cast as the arch-villain, and the endless conspiracy theories as to why the Orthodox won and the Gnostics lost. The desired goal appears to be imbibing readers with a more culturally accepted version of Christianity whereby all we had to do was click our existential heels together three times and say, “I believe in myself,” so that we can arrive at some kind of urban liberal nerdvanna complete with a god who looks like Morgan Freeman on Xanax and a strange Jesus who talks and acts like a hybrid version of Diogenes and Dr. Phil.
Gimme that ol time religion!