"Lost Gospel"

From: Michael Holmes (holmic@bethel.edu)
Date: Wed Mar 12 1997 - 16:14:34 EST

A colleague just posted the following to me from another network; apparently
it is the text of the Reuters announcement that some on our list have
inquired about? I pass it
along as I received it ...

Mike Holmes

>KANSAS CITY, Mo. (Reuter) - In a rare finding that could
>shed light on the origins of Christianity, an American professor
>said Tuesday that he and a colleague have identified fragments
>of a ``lost gospel'' that contains conversations between Jesus
>Christ and his disciples.
> Paul Mirecki, associate professor of religious studies at
>the University of Kansas, said he is confident the text is an
>authentic early account of the teachings of Christ. If true,
>this would mark the first time since 1945 that a so-called lost
>gospel has been identified.
> Mirecki said that apart from the New Testament's four
>Gospels, scholars recognize approximately six other lost gospels
>that detail Christ's teachings. The gospel of Thomas, discovered
>in Egypt in 1945, was the last such text to be identified,
>Mirecki said.
> Mirecki happened on this manuscript in 1991 in the vast
>holdings of Berlin's Egyptian Museum, but it has taken him until
>now to piece together the document's content. He does not know
>how the manuscript found its way to the museum.
> A specialist in paleography, or ancient modes of writing,
>Mirecki said he was confident the item was not a fraud or a
>forgery. ``It's definitely an ancient manuscript -- fourth or
>fifth century,'' Mirecki told Reuters in an interview.
> The newly found gospel was written in the first or second
>century, he said. ``The context here is there were many gospels
>written in the first two centuries,'' Mirecki said. ``This text
>is ... identical to similar texts that are called gospels. It
>fits the literary pattern and the contents.''
> Mirecki has been editing and translating the manuscript with
>Charles Hedrick, professor of religious studies at Southwest
>Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri.
> Each man studied the manuscript independently while working
>at the Berlin museum. After a chance encounter at a 1995
>convention in Philadelphia they realized they were working on
>the same project and decided to collaborate. Their book on the
>new gospel will be published this summer by Brill Publishers in
>the Netherlands.
> Mirecki said the manuscript is written in Coptic, an ancient
>Egyptian language that uses Greek letters. It was probably the
>work of a Christian minority group called Gnostics, or knowers,
>he said, and recounts a rare ``dialogue gospel'' of
>conversations between Jesus and his disciples that supposedly
>took place after Christ was resurrected.
> He said the text and its message indicate Christianity's
>origins were more diverse than what medieval historians have
> ``This is simply evidence of minority groups that existed
>and that either were brought into the larger church -- the
>Catholic or Eastern Orthodox churches -- or died out. Quite
>often they were persecuted to the point of death,'' he said.
> Only 15 pages remain of the manuscript. Mirecki said it was
>probably the victim of an orthodox book burning in about the
>fifth century.
> Specifically, the gospel espouses a stronger focus on
>individual knowledge, urging its readers to reject the confines
>of institutional religion. ``It's a non-orthodox text ...
>Salvation comes to these people through knowledge rather than
>faith,'' Mirecki said.
> ``They see orthodox Jews and Christians as being duped by
>the evil creator of the material universe. They had a very
>different mythology ... one that could not be incorporated into
>the larger Catholic church and had to be rejected.''
> For example, one passage unique to the gospel reads, ``I
>have overcome the Cosmos, so don't let the Cosmos overcome
> ``That type of theology is not what developing orthodoxy
>wanted to hear,'' Mirecki said. ``They wanted to promote
>salvation in the Church, not in one's personal experience.''
> Mirecki said he will present a paper on his findings at an
>academic symposium in November in San Francisco.

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