Pre-Order Your NEW New Testament

Pre-Order Your NEW New Testament November 13, 2012

[click image to pre-order]
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 OgetKaren KingJohn 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 power
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 the first and the last
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

Full Translation and Commentary by Hal Taussig

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.

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53 responses to “Pre-Order Your NEW New Testament”

  1. I should’ve expected nothing less than a conniving, evasive non-answer from you. That you’re more interested in having YOUR name correctly cited than CHRIST’S name being honored in your canonical considerations is telling.

    I won’t quote Jesus or Paul here seeing that you have rejected their authority outright. Something about pearls and pigs comes to mind.

  2. Jim. Not really sure what to do with that, but I did want to acknowledge that I have read it as I do all comments. My kids also read the comments so I at least thank you for not using profanity. They are indeed shocked at what people will say to one another. I hope you have a blessed weekend. – Bruce

  3. Mr. Chow,

    What line will you not cross?

    “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” ~ St. Paul

  4. Hey Noel – how are you? I hope well. Thanks for stopping by and leaving some words to add to the debate. I won’t try to unpack or respond, but let them sit to be read by others as I assume was your intention.

  5. There we actually many women there to and we are pretty set in not being blown by the gusts of exclusion and intolerance that has swept through American culture over the past decades?

  6. Seriously? As a representative of the PCUSA, you should be ashamed of yourself for endorsing such nonsense.

  7. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your opinion. I will just assume that we will disagree on much of what you believe about me, but please at least have the courtesy to get my name correct and it would be GREAT if you left yours.

  8. But therein lies the problem with this line of (postmodern) thinking… that authority is conferred by acquiescence rather than by divine proclamation. To assume that concurrence, consensus, or even democratic vote is able to determine what is authoritative removes this whole conversation from anything remotely connected to reformed Christianity.

  9. While the partial list of editors may impress some, it also clearly provides an indication of the intent of those whose faith has long been marginal or even outside the realm of acceptable diversity. I’ll be anxious to read the book as it comes out but with this minor and quite slanted description I can only see the attempt to further fortify the cultic nature of the progressive/liberal movement.

    As has already been pointed out, the attempt to place into the category of “sacred scripture” that which was clearly rejected by those who actually were inspired to gather the material is a form of religious imperialism. This work clearly qualifies those editors involved as heretical, the likes of John Shuck and other non-believers. But the greater damnation lies with a denomination that tolerates this work by one of its members and former leaders.

  10. “Lobbing grenades of theological denunciation from the anonymity of the web is not constructive.”

    How is this any different than lobbing affirmations?

    As for your claim regarding Islam, that wreaks of great ignorance of both the historic doctrine of Sola Scriptura and the inspiration of Christian scripture as well as a complete ignorance of Islam.

    If you wish to be educated in both subjects, the extensive work by Dr. James White of on Islam, Scripture, as well as Liberalism would be of benefit to you.

    As for this sham, and the theological hucksters who are perpetuating it, it should be and is rightfully being called what it is.

  11. The deep ironies in this situation are almost comical if they were not so sad. Taking the definitive texts of historical heresy and publishing it anew while saying ‘we want to read it in a context where we won’t be accused of some kind of heresy’ is the height of saying the opposite of what would be expected.

  12. Yes, more. You have John Dominic Crossan on your ‘council’ for goodness sake. You and the others have no business doing what you are doing. You are deceived and unstable men, blown to and fro by every gust of imagination.

  13. “After all, to many, this will undoubtedly be seen as messing with The Word of God and will be labeled as blasphemous and heretical.” – Chow

    Yep, pretty much. You are an apostate.

    “Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.”
    (1 John 2:18-19 ESV)

    Mr. Chow, stop referring to yourself as ‘christian’ or a ‘follower of Christ in any sense of either phrase. Describing yourself as such when gleefully promoting such worthless works of man as this abominable attempt at ‘creating a new canon’ evidences a false profession.

  14. “After all, to many, this will undoubtedly be seen as messing with The Word of God and will be labeled as blasphemous and heretical.”

  15. Oh man….. more confusion for the world. I suppose God felt these extremely important texts should be left out of the new testament for 2,000 years. Hmmm….I guess God does change …. **sarcasm**

  16. Bob,

    That’s why I left a year and a half ago now. The PCUSA has lost all sense of identity. I don’t think they could come up with a list of core beliefs that define them anymore. It really has turned into an “anything goes” collection of theology.

  17. Thank you Bruce for revealing yet one more reason to leave the PC(USA)! As a former moderator, you are a prime example of the heterodoxy that is pervasive in our denomination and among its most visible leaders.

  18. The title–New New Testament–is pretentious and inaccurate. It should be called the New Revised Apocrypha, for that is what these books are: apocryphal. They were not unknown to the Apostolic church, but rejected by them. They have scholastic value, but to presume that they were “unfairly excluded” due to “canonical imperialism” or anything like that is preposterous. These scholars think their present interests outweigh the careful judgments of the early church, and are building careers through second-guessing the wisdom of our predecessors. The value of these books is purely scholastic at best. As Will Rogers said: “You might find a biscuit in a garbage can, but if you want a biscuit, that’s not where you look.” Unless, of course, you’re one of today’s rehashed “Jesus Scholars.” Apocrypha yes, canon no.

  19. New new Testament is a pretentious title. It should be called the New Revised Apocrypha–that’s what these books are. They were not unknown by the early Apostolic church; they were rejected by them. Implications of “canonical imperialism” etc., are ridiculous–digging through ancient garbage and calling it gold. As Will Rogers said, “You might find a biscuit in a garbage can, but if you want a biscuit, that’s not where you look.” Unless, of course, you’re a “Jesus Scholar.” Apocrypha yes, canon no.

  20. I can fully understand the idea of growth and spirit coming from contemporary media, written, film, etc. However, I find I must draw the line at equating the message communicated through such media to the inspiration of Scripture.
    It seems we have forgotten what it means to be inspired. I can draw inspiration from a sunset, from the passing of a gentle saint of our Lord, from the birth of my children or grandchildren, from one of our horses offering comfort in the pasture to another horse that was suffering and dying, from the Christmas tree and the Thanksgiving turkey. However, when we jump from saying these things can offer inspiration to calling them the inspired, not just inspirational words, but the inspirational Word – I cannot go there.

  21. This is just a bunch of Neo-Gnostic soul-damning rubbish from a group of Christ hating apostates. There is absolutely no nice and helpful way to say it. Additionally, I’m so sure that your hyper-inclusivist doctrinal sensibilities incapacitate you to hear and receive such morally austere words (except of course, when they support your hellish notion of inclusivism) that this admonition will be dismissively read as obscurantist fundamentalism. Be that as it may. You’re blurring the New Testament with an old doctrine of devils revivified by a group of antichrists.

    “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!”

  22. Bruce! Thank you for this post. We were fortunate to have Hal Taussig at our church twice for Jesus Seminars on the Road. One of gatherings was specifically about early Christian writings that didn’t make it into the Bible, including Thunder Perfect Mind. Hal is a great teacher as are others you named. Congratulations on being part of that work and thank you for bringing it up on your blog! Blessings…

  23. Viola – I am sure you have been called many things, but a “hider behind anonymity” is not one of them. To simple answer your questions, as I have always said ans as the congregations I have served will affirm in my teaching and preaching, I fully believe salvific power of the life, death and BODILY resurrection of Jesus, the Christ. Standing firm in this regard is the only reason that I can hold onto the understanding of the fullness of the body of Christ . . . even with those who would choose not to reciprocate such understanding and relationship.

  24. Bruce,

    You know who I am-so this is not
    some person unknown to you as you wrote about in your later post. I want to say
    that I am very disappointed. I know you are a progressive. I know you are for
    the ordination of LGBT people and same gender marriage–but this is over the
    top. It is bad Christology. It makes me want to ask you who is Jesus to you.
    And what does redemption mean to you, because most of the Gnostics denied the
    human Jesus and all denied the reality of Christ bodily resurrection as well as
    his redemption on the cross.
    Viola Larson

  25. Great word to sum up many of the comments made on this post. I’m afraid it appears here, as in many other places, people are quick in jumping to conclusions which they see through the lenses of their own making. We must conclude that everyone understands God differently and there are many–myself included–who believe that God is still speaking to humanity. God’s speaking is not limited to 27 documents which have been accepted by one group of scholars to be “The” definitive and final say for all time. Having been brought up in a strict, literalistic Christianity, I am aware many of my beliefs are framed by my upbringing and, trying as I am to shake that way of seeing things, I still find myself uncomfortable at times with extra-biblical revelation (funny, when I admit I don’t believe the Bible to be the literal and inerrant word of God as I once did). HOWEVER, that does not mean I don’t appreciate any honest attempt by people–scholars or not, ‘Christian’ or not–to uncover truth or to teach truth in new and fresh ways.

  26. I’m very much looking forward to this new book and the questions and conversations it may foster. I appreciate so much those of you who formed this group and took the time, effort, and significant risks of even attempting a project like this. Thank you for your faithful service.

  27. That is a helpful distinction. The title gave me a bit of a shock. I’m sure you’re not surprised by the strong reaction coming from your more conservative readers (remember, folks, this is the “Progressive Christian Channel”!), and it doesn’t help things when it looks like this project is out to replace the New Testament.

    I don’t doubt there’s fascinating material on early Christianity among the texts included, but the idea of adding to our sacred texts seems pretty radical. I guess this really comes down to how we understand the nature of the Bible. Fundamentalism has gifted Protestantism with a view of Scripture not far removed from Islam, and that needs to be challenged. I just worry about pushing too far in the opposite direction.

    To the other commenters: Seriously, this is not the place for your anathemas. Lobbing grenades of theological denunciation from the anonymity of the web is not constructive.

  28. John – Do you know the entire list of people? I can assure you that many do not see themselves as theological celebrities. Not even sure that that means, but you are of course entitled to your opinion and judgement.

  29. Great question and part of the challenge given to us was to think about this as “A” New New Testament not “THE” New New Testament. There was a group of about 60 people who looked at a group of texts and then narrowed those down to about 30 for the council to consider. Hall, the organizer, helped to develop the process.

  30. If our collection of sacred texts is to grow, why should it grow by the inclusion of ancient pseudo-Christian materials? As such the collection is hardly “new.” Why not draw from the vast canon of modern pseudo-Christian material?

    The church has always recognized that those best qualified to help us understand the Christ event are those who were closest to it, hence the preference for their writings in the assembly of the canon of Scripture.

    I really don’t mean to lecture — I’m just curious what motivates the desire to add to our collection of sacred texts and what criteria are being employed for their selection.

  31. But the trouble is that these texts ARE heresy. Literally. Like, full-blooded old-fashioned, fourth-century Gnosticism. It takes serious chutzpah to reprint ancient heresy under a title like “A New New Testament” and then tisk about judgmental folks who will accuse you of “some kind of heresy.”

  32. This is just sad; how pompous to think you decide what is in a sacred text. No wonder the Presbyterian Church (USA) is DEAD.

  33. They don’t see themselves as heretics but neo -prophets who have gorged their souls on being theological celebrities. Let them enjoy their faithless fifteen minutes of fame. As Jesus once said in the real New Testament, “They have had their reward.”

  34. Um … let us second guess the minds of those who were closer in time to those who wrote the Gospels, and include that which they decided were not true to the books written within 100 years of the death of Christ.

    The books that were written when there was still an oral history that was passed from presbyter to presbyter from the time of the Apostles and were decided did not pass the test of authenticity to the truth as told in those oral histories.

    After all … we know better because we’re so much more knowledgeable about that then those who were there.

    Reminds me of what the Lord said through Jeremiah:

    “This is what the Lord Almighty says:

    “Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you;
    they fill you with false hopes.
    They speak visions from their own minds,
    not from the mouth of the Lord.
    17 They keep saying to those who despise me,
    ‘The Lord says: You will have peace.’
    And to all who follow the stubbornness of their hearts
    they say, ‘No harm will come to you.’”
    Jeremiah 23:15-17 (NIV)

  35. Dan – You raise THE most important question for me and I bet some of the members of the group. To tell you the truth, I am not sure and I suspect that it will be via the changing nature of authority today that we will find out how real this will become for folks. I will say that if I were pastoring a church, I would try it out with some folks in places where people feel safe to explore other texts without fear of being accuse of some kind of heresy. So in the end “we shall see” is about the best I can give you. Thanks for commenting.

  36. I’m really glad these texts are going to be made available, and I’m excited about the discussion that will follow. Still, it does feel a bit presumptuous for this small group to decide that this collection ought to be seen on a par with the canon of Scripture. Sure, you can argue that it was other church leaders in earlier centuries who made such decisions in their councils. But even with all the political overtones going on then, there still seems to me a sense that those early decisions were still based on the reputation those books had built up by a majority of faith communities over a couple hundred years, whereas this is a community of scholars making a decision without anywhere near the same level of widespread affirmation among Christian communities worldwide.

    I may just overestimating how seriously you really want this to be taken as a ‘New New Testament’–is the title and marketing meant primarily to be provocative, or do you really believe you have given the church the equivalent of the original New Testament?