My Favorite Lecture Ever: Conclusion

My Favorite Lecture Ever: Conclusion August 19, 2005

3.0 General Discussion

At this point another gap occurs in the notes. Theophilus has only a few notes but it appears that there was considerable discussion on where to shelve the Gospels. Simon and Eleazar seem to have been in the middle of it, and it concerned what it meant to be a true Jew and to live according to the covenant with Abraham. Theophilus wrote down syntheke (mutual covenant) and then scratched it out and wrote down diatheke (the Christian word for “covenant, testament”).

The Greek librarian, Aponarius, and the Roman librarian, Plotinus, must have given up on the matter, casted their votes for Eleazar because they wrote down “Gospels of Jesus Christ from Nazaret: Didactic, kerygmatic Biography.” The rest of the notes on the scroll were about Eleazar’s and Simon’s continuation of their debate about the covenant. There are words about cross and resurrection, about eating flesh and drinking blood, and it all seems to have ended when Simon left — for there are only three votes. All in favor of Eleazar. Simon apparently did not vote.


Theophilus’s conclusion is telling. First, it states at the end of the scroll in the clearest writing on the entire scroll this: I, Theophilus, read these books from one end to the other, and testify that I find Eleazar’s view to be true and reliable. We put up a new shelf: Gospels. Why? Because they are not Greco-Roman Biographies and they are not philosophy books, but seem to be their own kind.

Second, Theophilus professes faith: “I, Theophilus, not only read these books but I became convinced that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and so I sought out Eleazar, found him at a house in Alexandria, and then watched him leave for a visit to Carthage, where he was to be preaching the gospel about Jesus — he said that one day someone great would come from Carthage. I did find a man named Mark and asked him if I could be a part of the ecclesia at Alexandria. The ecclesia now meets in my house and we partake in the sacred meal each time we meet. This is my last day in the Library, for tomorrow I will be resigning to devote my life to the church.”

Third, at this point in the scroll a new pen appears. It is the pen of another librarian, and it reads, “I Clearchus, assume the position of Theophilus because he, being irreligious and supersititious, has joined the ranks of the growing Christians in Alexandria. Domitian.”

So ends my favorite lecture ever. Hope you enjoy it. The theory behind it is that the Gospels are biographies that are shaped by the Evangelists to be books that teach the teachings of Jesus and proclaim the goods news about Jesus all in one book.

My thanks to Ken White for sending me this lecture and sending me back to a time and place that have special meaning for me.

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  • Dr. McKnight (or do you prefer Scot?), I have thoroughly enjoyed your lecture — quite a fun read. I have to say it reminded me of Borges’ imaginary histories.I have also appreciated your series on Generous (Evangelical) Orthodoxy. I have been Eastern Orthodox for aproximately four years, having left the tradition in which I grew up because I was asking several of the questions — perhaps many of them more intuitively than consciously — that the EM seems to be pursuing.Honestly, I am comforted by your series of articles here, as I sense that to some degree a bridge is being built between the Christianity of my past, and that of my present. As has been said, “our walls do not extend to Heaven.”

  • “Gospels”. We surely so little understand or appreciate what we have in them.I remember Dr. Ted Rendall at Prairie Bible Institue some 20+ years ago saying something like, “the wheat, or heart of the Bible is found in the gospels.” I didn’t understand it in the sense of buying into it at the time at all. But I knew Pastor Rendall was one you should listen to when he speaks. Very gifted in mind and a true example to us in his life.Now I better “understand” it, and am buying more into that all of the time.Thanks for this posting and all your postings that help us better see the treasure we have.

  • Scot, this is excellent writing because you combine both intensive scholarship with imaginative story. It’s time to do it again around some of the themes of the emergent conversation. If Luke let the cat out of the bag that you don’t prefer fiction, then don’t think of it as “fiction” but as “story.”

  • Dave Anderson