“It may be worth reflecting on what was both lost and gained when these books, and the Christian perspectives they represented, disappeared from sight. One thing that was lost, of course, was the great diversity of the early centuries of Christianity. As I have already pointed out, modern Christianity is not lacking in a diversity of its own, with its wide-ranging theologies, liturgies, practices, interpretations of Scripture, political views, social stands, organizations, institutions, and so on. But virtually all forms of modern Christianity, whether they acknowledge it or not, go back to ONE form of Christianity that emerged as victorious from the conflicts of the second and third centuries. This one form of Christianity decided what was the “correct” Christian belief and practice; and it determined what forms of Christianity would be marginalized, set aside, destroyed. It also decided which books to canonize into Scripture and which books to set aside as “heretical,” teaching false ideas.
And then, as a coup de grace, this victorious party rewrote the history of the controversy, making it appear that there had not been much of a conflict at all, claiming that its own views had always been those of the majority of Christians at all times, back to the time of Jesus and his apostles, that its perspective, in effect, had always been the “orthodox” (i.e., the “right belief”) and that its opponents in the conflict, with their other scriptural texts, had always represented small splinter groups invested in deceiving people into “heresy” (literally meaning “choice”‘; a heretic is someone who willfully chooses not to believe the right things). — Erhman, Lost Christianities
The purpose of studying the “other books of the Bible”, is to gain understanding that Christianity was as diverse then as it is today. One will realize that all the belief systems that existed in the first two centuries after Christ, are still in existence today.
In conjunction with these books, one should also endeavor to study early church history and Jewish Biblical Literacy too. It allows for one to see:
- What the ‘majority’ beliefs of early Christians really were. Truly, they are not what has become the ‘majority’ beliefs that we have come to know and are taught throughout Christendom as a result of the “victorious party”.
- It allows one to see the real conflicts between factions of the various beliefs.
- It allows for one to see the tactics used against those that apposed each other.
- It allows for one to be able to see the corruptions in translation to suit man’s agendas of power and control over the masses.
- It allows for one to see HOW the corruptions came into the Jewish systems of worship and the Christian system of worship.
- It allows for one to decipher the truth from lie when preached from a pulpit.
- It allows for one to see who the victims of the religious systems of the world really are.
- Lastly, it allows for one to see that the system, and its tactics used against those who disagree, has not changed. It has been duplicated into every religious sect worldwide.
Is it any wonder that Christendom is comprised of varying beliefs and doctrines the world over? Of course, many do not understand, as well, how the Twenty-seven books of the N.T. came to be accepted as canonical Scripture and who made the collection, on what grounds, and when. At the time, there were many conflicts taking place and there was a lot at stake for the victorious party.
What these old manuscripts show us today is the diversity of early Christianity, a diversity that came to be lost, only to be rediscovered, in part, in modern times (Erhman, Lost Christianities). This said, one only has to look at all the varying religious beliefs and doctrines in the world today to see that the diversity truly never disappeared. Surely, there is more to gain by understanding that there are false writings, false interpretations and the like. However, in the search for truth, it is important to weigh out the evidence on both sides of the conflict and let the truth rise to the top. To be willfully ignorant of both sides of the conflict, can lead to intolerance toward opposing views. This intolerance leads to persecution, which is exactly what took place and, many millions of believers were murdered, tortured and mutilated in ‘the name of God’ as a result, by the Church of Rome.
Access to information is important in developing the ‘right’ belief. Biased information can lead to biased beliefs and interpretations. But, alas, the search for truth is an arduous endeavor to undertake! It is fraught with landmines and oppositions. This said, let us study to show ourselves approved. God can lead and guide and reveal truth to the soul willing to search for it.