Saturday, June 10, 2006


Canon fodder

By The Erudite Redneck

Welcome to a meeting of the Council of Redneckus Erudicea. Welcome to followers of The Way of Jesus. Welcome to others, as well! Peace unto y'all.

Our task: To entertain nominations for additions to the Christian Canon of Scripture.

God is still speaking! He has been speaking to believers through the voices and writings of other believers since before the Council of Nicea. There is no reason, short of human hubris, to insist that He has been quiet since.

Despite my whimsical introduction, this could become a meaningful post. Manual comment moderation is "on." That means that I will dust off my old bouncin' boots and evict anyone who attacks any other one present in these proceedings, including myself.

This is no regular Saturday afternoon-evening gatherin' at the Erudite Redneck Roadhouse. This is meant o be a meeting of hearts -- and minds.

I believe the Canon will remained closed in our lifetime -- but not because I believe it is necesarrily complete -- and no way do I believe it is inerrant and infallible. The Bible is no totem to me. I worship God, not the Bible. I try to follow Jesus, the living Christ, not the static stick-figure Jesus of the King James Version of the Bible. Not that there's anything wrong with that. :-)

So, think about it. Pray about it. What should be considered?

It need not be an explcitly "Christian" writing or song. It probably should have Jesus and His way at its heart, whether or not His name is expressly invoked. Jesus Himself spoke of His "other sheep," I take that to refer to followers of His way who do not necesarrily know His name.

I nominate an epistle, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Letter from Birmingham Jail.

I nominate a gospel: The Gospel According to Mary Magdalene.

I nominate a hymn: "What a Friend We Have in Jesus."

Dr. ER nominates a psalm: Max Ehrmann's Desiderata.


And now, Dr. ER and I are headin' to Weatherford, OK, to go to an antique store recommended by Drlobojo! We got there at 15 minutes to closing time the other day and have been champin' at the bit to go back!
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Hum, fire a shot across the bow of every ship in the fleet and then leave to go to an antique store.

I first thought about waiting till others had said something then reacting, but based on what you've said you think this should be a heavy thread. OK, before I would add one thing I would take most of what is there out.

Here's part of something I've written recently:

The canon its self is a heresy. It was a heresy created by those that created the hierarchy to control the church. It was created to solidify control over what was taught and what was believed. It was a prime device to control the economics of the church. It was the device that gave the church legitimacy, power, and authority.

So long as the Church at Jerusalem existed there were people who had first hand knowledge of Jesus’ work, words, and deeds, they were the authorities of what Christ said and what he meant by it. As the book of Acts indicates they sometimes ventured forth to chastise those congregations that were doing it wrong, this brand new Christian thing. Generally these were those congregations established by Paul.
But by 70 A.D. this church at Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans. The Romans took the city of Jerusalem "down to the slab" in modern parlance. The leadership with the first hand knowledge of the historical Jesus was dead. Now the writings began.

Mark was written for one reason, Mathew was written for another goal, Luke and his (or her) Acts, for still another agenda, and so forth the writings came.

Some books were written to be openly circulated. Some were simple outlines, some were pamphlets of their time, and some were in depth explanations. Some books were written to be kept close to the sect or group to which these truths belonged. Some were propaganda use to proselytize, while some were secret ceremonies known only to those who were initiates.

The alteration of these works began early. Some of it was by accident, and some was by design. But the wholesale redaction and additions to the “gospels” didn’t really get started until the Church was organized, legitimized, and strong enough to “ban” books from the “canon”. Much more was banned (or “lost out” as some like to say) than was kept in.

The Historical Jesus was the first to go.
The Hebrew Jesus “lost out” completely by 70C.E.
The Mediterranean Greek Jesus held out until the early 5th century and then was banned in the West but lived on in the East.
The Egyptian Jesus went into the hills and plateaus of Sudan and Ethiopia and hid out there.
The Roman Jesus was the winner of the councils and the edicts of numerous Caesars!
The Roman Jesus won for the Western world.

Thus the Jesus of the Roman Government became the author of its canon of words and out of his mouth, and the mouths of his apostles came tolerance of Rome as a government, slavery as an institution, and loyalty to the Church at Rome its-self.
All opposition to this “canon” in Roman and latter in Roman Catholic lands was killed off. Millions of people died. Dozens of Christian “sects” “Denominations” a.k.a. Heresies were destroyed. The Bible was gradually, generation by generation, edited to conform to the Roman dogma and time dragged on.

The Canon is a yoke of oppression left over from the Caesars of old and passed down to the Caesars of today. I chaff at yokes. But to just throw it off seems wrong somehow. What to do?


Loud talk in the overlighted house
That made us stumble past.
Oh, there had once been night the first,
But this was night the last.

Of all the things he might have said,
Sincere or insincere
He never said she wasn’t young,
And hadn’t been his dear.

Oh, some would as soon throw it all
As throw a part away.
And some will say all sorts of things,
But some mean what they say.

--Robert Frost
Completely off topic (I'm unable to read the post in its entirety) but guess what?


I'll be a graphic novel reviewer.

Now I'm a journalist as well!
I would ad nothing. The bible is complete. It began with Genesis, it ended with Revelation, and God has said all he intends to say on the matter. fro any one to say the canon is corrupted is to say God has no power over man-this I do not believe. It is man who has no power over God. it is man who has no hope without God. To suggest of ading by our own power and not the holy spirits is heresy. perhaps even blasphemy.
Good stuff, Drlobojo. What to do? Here's what I do: I accept the Scripture as the sacred text of those who came before me. I take it seriously, but do not take it literally.

Pedro, thanks for contributing.
Oh, congrats SOL!
Every year at Easter I read "Lilies of the Field."
Hard and humble work brings us close to God.
BTW, y'all who want to wring Drlobojo's neck: Martin Luther himself is said to have wished The Revelation had been left out of the Canon, and he is said not to have cared much for the Epistle of James (which makes perfect sense, considering Luther's main point).

The idea of altering the Canon should be troubling mainly to those whose faith is based on fear in the first place, or, to those who confuse The Word of God in John 1:1, The Logos, with the nickname for the Bible, "the Word of God." To them I suppoe this whole enterprise would seem blasphemous.

Thanks for contributing, Mr. Monday!
BTW, Drlobojo, that Frost piece is totally apropos.
Pedro, seriously, which Bible is complete?
I can't see it gaining canonical status, but I'd love for Christianity to absorb C.S. Lewis's The Last Battle. When the Justified and saved could include some of the more sincere of Narnia's Arab-ish opponents and even the Antiaslan -
and Aslan told some his more faithful disciples that was just none of their business - well, the application to Earth's Christianity would be helpful.
Oh, Mr. Monday, I make it a point to read Dickens's "A Christmas Carol" the few days before Christmas. I've not read, nor seen "Lilies of the Field." Perhaps I will, on your recommendation.

Pedro: Drlobo sets a snare. Avoid it.

TStock. I read the Narnia book so long ago I don't remember hardly anything about them! I like what you said, though, and I agree. I need to find something expository on Jesus's "other sheep." ...

Also, you reminded me: I nominate "The Great Divorce" by C.S. Lewis.
ER said:
"Also, you reminded me: I nominate "The Great Divorce" by C.S. Lewis."

Oh yes, the book the counters the concept that "...all roads lead to God."
Anti-subjectivism at its finest. I would be careful with Lewis. He is much more the Mitharism type than the Christian type. He is much more likely to sing about being washed in the blood of the Lion than that of the Lamb. Truely there are truth in myths and Lewis believed that the "myth" of Christ was a true myth and put that idea above all Anglican dogma. But when you disect Lewis you find Zoroasterism and its dualism as the firm foundation to his Christianity.
I'm always careful with others' thoughts and writings. When it comes to ideas, there is none wholly righteousness -- no, not one. Anyhoo, I think I like "The Great Divorce" best of ol' Clive's stuff. Of course, Screwtape is great, but not fittin' for the Canon, I don't think. Oh, what the hey. Sure, why not?

And I nominate "The War Prayer" by Mark Twain.
I see you've nominated The Gospel According to Mary Magdalene. It just may be that the Magdalene already has a Gospel in the Canon. It is called John. As a practiced editor, if you read John carefully looking for strategic places where there might have been redactions and one or two additions you will see that it would only take minor editing to shift gender as to whom the "beloved disciple" might be.
Then the whole story makes more sense.
Also you need to move the Logos Hymn from the first to the last item in John and take out the latter inserted commentary in the Hymn as well.
There may very well be the day that earlier versions of "John" show up under another's name.
Ever ponder that God's pace of revelation may not match that of man. Just where in the Bible is it clearly stated (and in context) that once the Canon is set then no more will come?
Doc Lobojo,

Which Bible is complete? I'd have to say whichever Bible you wish to be complete. Ain't it all about faith?

Yes, but faith in who? Faith in what? Faith in a translator? Faith in The Church? Faith that God will make sure that his message is received, understood, written down and preserved for all time? Faith in the priest that interceeds for you? Faith that your personal priesthood as a believer will allow you to translate and understand what the Bible is saying even when written in English? Faith that God will reveal his meaning to you when you need to know it? Faith that the spirit you are listening to, is the right one?
Yes it is all about a lot, a really lot, of of faith. :)
Re, "Ever ponder that God's pace of revelation may not match that of man?"


Re, "Just where in the Bible is it clearly stated (and in context) that once the Canon is set then no more will come?"

OK, now here it is!!!!
Now for my first nomination to the new Canon:

J.B. Phillip's book, Your God Is Too Small

This was written in 1952 by the same guy that did the Phillip's translation of the Bible. It is a timeless work and would ring true in 500 C.E., or today, or even in a 1000 years from now. For it is a human thing to create our gods small enough that we can control them.
Twain's "War Prayer" opens up the door to Ursula K. LeGuin's "Those Who Walk Away From Omelas", I think.
And I suspect that it might very well counter all the rest of what is said in the preceding, but Wilhelm Reich's "Listen, Little Man!" has to be in there somewhere.
Doctor Lobojobojobojobojo (oops, got carried away),

Zactly. :-)
In the old country it used to be drlocojo, but I change it when we came to amerika.
That Phillips book sounds like it might be a good antidote for one of the books I'm reading now. Garry Willis's "What Jesus Meant in the most distressing book I've read in awhile.
Dang it. Make that Garry Wills, and "What Jesus Meant."
Interesting goings-on at Henderson Hills Baptist Church with the membership considering dropping baptism as a requirement for membership.
I think what they mean is they won't require baptism for membership in that particular church -- for those who have previously been baptized elsewhere. Which would be extremely "liberal" for a Southern Baptist church.

Surely, they don't mean to just jettison one of the only two sacraments! ... But then, this is the tradition that serves Welch's grape juice at Communion ....
They mean they are studying to abolish the requirement of baptism period to become a member of their church. Rather than being the "credit card" for the "country club membership" they will allow someone to join the church unbaptized. They are not discouraging baptism, however. They just say they want to separate that as a statement of faith rather than a membership requirement. They vote in late July. It will be worth watching.
Good for Henderson Hills!

ER as an old Southern Baptist, you should know that the Southern Baptist, or any Baptist, or Anabaptist "Church" should have no Sacraments (Rites that confer sactifing grace). If they do then they aren't Baptist. Baptism is a symbolic action and has no actual function in the salvation of the soul in these churches. Faith only is the faith confering sacrament. Any sanctifing Baptism is done by the Holy Spirit and has nothing to do with actions of the church.

In these and most "Protestant" Churches these actions, Baptism, Lord's Supper, etc. are considered Church ordinances not sacraments. That's a big difference.
Ordinances can be applied, changed, or repealed based on the vote of the congregation. A Sacrament can not.
From Wikipedia:

Meaning/Effects of Baptism: There are grave differences in views about the nature of Christian baptism. Some groups assert baptism is a requirement for salvation and sacrament for Christians; others argue it is a significant "act of obedience" to Christ, but has no inherent bearing on salvation.

Early leaders in the Protestant Reformation, for example, Martin Luther, placed great importance on baptism. Luther states in The Large Catechism of 1529,

"To put it most simply, the power, effect, benefit, fruit, and purpose of Baptism is to save. No one is baptized in order to become a prince, but as the words say, to 'be saved.' To be saved, we know, is nothing else than to be delivered from sin, death, and the devil and to enter into the kingdom of Christ and live with him forever."
By contrast, Baptist groups espouse baptism as a worthy practice, but deny that baptism has any sacramental power, but rather only testifies outwardly to the operation of God's power, which is invisible, internal, and completely 'separate' from the rite itself. Other Baptist groups teach and preach that the baptism 'ceremony' is 'meaningful and necessary'.

Dadgum Baptist church can do any dadgum thing it wants.
Then we agree.
Back to the Canon.
I don't think I have many more nominees. Maybe the Pilgrim's Progress AND the Pilgrim's Regress ...
Oh, here's a musical nomination. No words! Only music. If never has failed me to put me in the presence of humanity's desperate grasp toward God:

Olivier Messiaen's "Quartet for the End of Time," especially the last movement.

It speaks to me like no other piece. It does not speak to all. Nor does every Psalm.

Which raises a point:

What other pieces of music, and art, might be considered for the Canon? Words aren't everything.
Dr. ER nominates Beethoven's Ninth Symphony!
Dr. ER nominates:

Caravaggio's "The Calling of Saint Matthew," circa 1597-1598.

Tintoretto's "The Last Supper," circa 1592-1594.

Salvador Dali's "The Sacrament of The Last Supper," 1955, and "The Crucifixion," 1954.
Tugboatcapn nominates Neil Young's "Heart of Gold."

Reading your post, ER, I am reminded of the story of the Ag Agent who came to a small town to educate the farmers as to how they could improve their farms.

They told him "We already aren't farming as good as we know how."

I am glad that you have become such a devout Christian that you feel the need to expand on the legalism which is already offered by the Organized Christian Church.

I myself have not yet reached that level of piety.
Bless you, Tug. I have no idea what you're trying to say, but bless you.

Is that how you see the Bible? As a book of legalisms? Therefore, this exercise in considering a broadening of the Canon would add legalisms? You really see the Bible as a book of do's and don'ts? Have I misunderstood you? What church do -- well, *did* -- you attend, anyway?
Oh ye of little (or no) faith:

For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
I had to think on it for a while, but I nominate Bob Dylan's "Blowin in the Wind."

And the Beatles' "All You Need Is Love."

Speaking of eschatology, I nominate Leonard Cohen's "Closing Time" and for the Psalms, again Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne", and for a tale of losing God's grace, and the depth of lose that brings, "Hallelujah".

Another two for the extended Psalms (both by Emmylou Harris) "The Pearl" about the war between the Light and the Darkness and being a soldier in the fight. Also one that is pro-life and pro-love and pro-motherhood, "My Baby Needs a Shepherd".

In art I nominate Van Gogh's, "Field with Crows" It was Van Gogh's last vison, last painting, on his last day. I saw in in D.C. at the special exhibit years ago. The original shows an increasing brightness to the central light that the prints of the painting average out. He was painting the door way to heaven.
I *knew* someone was going to mention the "If any man shall add unto these things" verse, and frankly I'm floored that it took so long.

Of course, it should go without saying that it's silly to try to apply that to the Bible as a whole, since the Bible as we know it didn;'t exist at the time of its writing. But it's a common fundie observation, nonetheless.

SuperB: I think those two songs sum up creation and salvation splendidly.

Drlobojo, those are fine nominations.
What we have here now is just what I'd hoped for: A list of sacred writings and art that various believers have found so personally meaningful, and so potentially enlightening to others, that they, in liberty, would dare think of in the same breath as Scripture.

With only one or two snide remarks. From the usual one or two.

And now you have the same kind of problem the ante-Nicean church leaders had in the thrird and fourth centuries. Which should be in the canon? Should there be a canon?
Then there are those silent out there who believe that this is such a heresy that they won't even discuss it. They lay in wiat for a decision from the Rednecus Council of 06 to see which blasphemy they get to attack.
Well heck, if art is being nominated:
"Light Coming on the Plains"-Georgia O'Keefe.
And songs? I know I always say it, but the Carter Family's "In the Shadow of Clinch Mountain".
I don't much worry about such, Drlobojo.

Good contributions, Rich!
I do think that there should be an expansion of the Apocalyptic books in the New Testament. Let's put back in The Apocalypse of Paul; The Apocalypse Peter; and the Shepherd of Hermas. These will give the 'end of earthers' a whole nother series of books to write.

Also I think Jesus' twin brother has been grossly overlooked by orthodoxy, so I agree that we put back in the Gospel of Thomas and also his Acts of Thomas ( The original Syrianic version, not the watered down altered Roman version) telling about his mission to India and his death there. The Nazerite Christians of India have been totally ignored by our Western tradition, possibly because they are so damn Jewish in their Christian practices.

And I concur on the Gospel of Mary and also put back the Gospels of Peter and Phillip. The were much more popular in the first four centuries than the Gospel of Mark was.

I also think there should be a series of blank pages included at the very first of the New Testament. These page will be reserved for the first Gospel known to scholars as the "Q" Document. It should be noted on these pages that they are reserved until the Lord in his wisdonm decides to reveal to Man from the sands of the desert that which he first revealed to Man about his son, before Man's memeory and needs clouded his Truth.

If defference to Teditor's sesitivity of blog hogging, I will stop now.
I second the blank pages! Best idea YET.
The good doctor writes, "Then there are those silent out there who believe that this is such a heresy that they won't even discuss it. "

Or, it could be, that you have strung together so many objectionable statements that it is difficult to respond to them all.

Why a Christian canon at all? The church was forced to say what it believes in response to the Gnostic Marcion, who developed an anti-Jewish model that tossed out three of the four Gospels and heavily edited the other one, Luke.

The books that became part of the Bible were accepted into the canon because they could be linked to an apostle or close follower.

The Gospel of Mark for example, was given credence because of his close ties to Peter. Not that it was necessary that firm authorship be established, simply that it was in the apostolic tradition. It was well known and accepted that books attributed to Paul, for example, may have been penned by his close associates.

Granted, ER, certain other books like James and Revelations have had their supporters and notable detractors over the centuries for sound theological reasons, but whether the Gnostics are authentic Christian writings suitable for the canon has never been a serious discussion.

The books that were "chosen" for what we know today as the NT were already widely in use in Christian churches long before canonization. (Gnostic writings don't have apostolic linkage, and the very concept of "secret knowledge" granting salvation runs counter to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.)

And to say that some books were "banned" from the Canon is like saying "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" is banned from the New Testament. It simply doesn't meet the criteria.

Of course, doctor, I cannot deny that you are correct when you say the Bible has been used -- Christianity has been used -- to perpetrate and justify many evils, oppression, even wholesale murder.

That's part of the problem with the free will the Creator gave us.

But words of the Bible also helped inspire the King letter referenced in this post, and, along with the words of Gandhi, the American civil rights movement and struggles for freedom around the world.

In the century before civil rights, words from the Bible inspired abolition. And they have moved countless people to throw off the yokes of oppression that burdened their own hearts.

ER, you wrote: "The idea of altering the Canon should be troubling mainly to those whose faith is based on fear in the first place, or, to those who confuse The Word of God in John 1:1, The Logos, with the nickname for the Bible, "the Word of God."

Not really. I am neither one of those. Altering the canon would be troubling to the vast majority of Christians because additions cannot be traced directly to Christ or the apostles. Find some lost writings of Paul, for example, or "4th John," then a real discussion about adding to the canon can begin.

(Regarding the Q, it is not a Gospel at all, but simply a collection of sayings attributed to Jesus. And you may be interested to know, ER, that while the Redneckus council took up the canon this week, the Nicean council did not.)

That is not to say that many, many of the proposals submitted here are not extremely valuable, inspiring, even life changing, Christian writings. But they are not, cannot be, canonical, and there is a difference.
Now *that* is a reasonable, thoughtful post -- and I appreciate it.

My only response: If I thought that whether the writrings could be traced to Christ or the apostles were the only, or even the overriding concern of the Nicean council, I met be prepared to hold that up as the standard for the consideration of subsequent additions to the Canon. But it wasn't, and so I wouldn't.

Also, none of the Old Testament can be traced directly to Christ or the apostles in the way you mean.

Also, this turned out to be an intriguing exercise.
Why Irenaeus you old rascal you, dead now for these 1804 years or so, and here you are up to your old tricks again. I'm susprised that you didn't start out your entry with those famous words of yours from your five volume work "Against Heresies":

"Inasmuch as certain men have set the truth aside, and bring in lying words and vain genealogies, which, as the apostle says, "minister questions rather than godly edifying which is in faith," and by means of their craftily-constructed plausibilities draw away the minds of the inexperienced and take them captive, These men falsify the oracles of God, and prove themselves evil interpreters of the good word of revelation. They also overthrow the faith of many, by drawing them away, under a pretence of [superior] knowledge, from Him who rounded and adorned the universe; as if, forsooth, they had something more excellent and sublime to reveal, than that God who created the heaven and the earth, and all things that are therein. By means of specious and plausible words, they cunningly allure the simple-minded to inquire into their system; but they nevertheless clumsily destroy them, while they initiate them into their blasphemous and impious opinions respecting the Demiurge; and these simple ones are unable, even in such a matter, to distinguish falsehood from truth."

Once again you old anti-gnostic you didn't mention that it was you, yourself, that first declared the Four Gospels to be "Canon",and stole the concept of "the canon" from the greek religions and that you were the inventor of "Apostolic Sucession" as a way of arguing against your opponents. Of course by the time you constructed that argument the Apostles were dead, and that you really thought that the Apostles John, Mark, and Mathew were the actual authors of those books didn't you? You also forgot to mention that you yourself were considered somewhat of a heretic in that your teachings didn't allow for the "trinity doctrine" when it was adopted in the fifth century. Yep the Roman Church had to clean you up a bit to accept you as a "Church Father" didn't they?

Don't worry old friend, the Gnostics lost. The were killed off in the 13th century finally. Two and one half million of them by a crusade and an inquestion. All that blood shed was instituted by really bad weather and the need of the French Kingdom to expand South in order to grow their wheat.
People were starving you know, good catholics all, and those heretics had all this good land.

Now you know it wasn't Marcion that deserted the "Jewish Tradition" in Christianity, it was your idol Paul that did that. You know that even in the book of Acts, of which you approved , James and Peter take Paul to tasks several times for what he was doing. So how can you damn the Gnostics when you yourself so closely embraced the Pagan Greek Mysteries as a basis for your Christian myth.

So you cite the good that Christianity has done over the centuries as proof of its devine origins, and yet what major religion has not brought that same well being to the world during much of its existance, and is there any religion any more bloody with it false causes than Christianity? No don't throw Islam at me, you were dead 600 years before it came along, and body count for body count Christianity is still way ahead.

As for the Quella (Q) the Source document, you wouldn't have wanted it in the canon anyway. It didn't serve the purpose of the Roman branch and it was somewhat Gnostic anyway wasn't it. Was the Gospel of Thomas a sample of the Q? Is that why you hated that one so much? Did you know that we have found copies of many of those documents you condemned as heretical. Yes actual documents, now we can read them ourselves and not have to just rely on what you have said about them in your blessed book.

It has been interesting my old friend Irenaeus but, nough said, you old reprobate you, back to your grave.
For the record,some more objectionalbe statements, the 27 books of the New Testament were chosen by the Roman Church by 384 C.E. in that such was the date that Jerome assembled, edited, and published the Latin Bible, Jerome's Vulgate, used by the Church henceforth until the 16th Century. The Council of Hippo in 393 and The Third Council of Carthage in 397 declared the 27 books in the Jerome Vulgate as Canon.
In addition the Roman Emporer Flavius Theodosius in a series of decrees (389-93) declare the result of the Nicene Council of 325 A.D. to be the official State Religion. Within these degrees were a list of number of false books and gospels that were to ferreted out and done away with.
So by 400 A.D., the Canon was set, well kind of....
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