“Sure, the Bible says that now– but this book that was taken out says something totally different and proves I’m right!”
This could be a line from a Catholic dealing with a Protestant who’s avoiding the Deuterocanonical books, but in this case it’s not as simple as showing that Luther objected to the popularly supposed to be “added” books. If you watch horror movies, there’s a chance you’ve seen Stigmata– which probably made your head hurt due to utter pull-it-out-of-your-ear reasoning, based upon my memory of the movie.
Sorry, got distracted.
Anyways . . .
In Stigmata, they have a little “based on” screen (from memory– it’s been a while, and I can’t really research it without renting the movie) that does the Da Vinci Code style “this is a work of fiction, but it’s based on this real thing which was suppressed by The Catholic Church!” (ominous music optional) The implication is that this knowledge was stolen from everyone, for the advancement of that powerful, scary, mysterious, secretive, well organized (hey, stop laughing!) conspiracy that is the Catholic Church.
Counter to the obvious meaning of the phrase “lost books,” the claim is generally that the books were deliberately removed from the Bible to promote someone’s interests. Usually the claim is along the lines of the Lost Books of the Bible being a threat to the early Church’s power structure.
About The Lost Books, Broadly
There are books from before the Bible was compiled, and many of them claim to be authored by the Disciples. Generally, they’re called Gnostic texts or bibles, although many were answered inAgainst Heresies and not all heresies are gnostic; the Gnostics at the time were sort of like Bible fan fiction writers who used the names of various respected persons kind of like a modern fan fiction writer would use a series name; I’ve read that it was a generally accepted thing to do. Some of them have things like Jesus flying around and shooting fireballs, while others are just…ah… Well, I’ll share a nice collection of the Top Ten Quotescollected by SuburbanBanshee.
Note, I am sidestepping the modern movement entirely, please do not derail the comment section; also, I’ll try to do a post on the Gnostics themselves later. I suspect part of why they’re generally called gnostic texts is because a lot of the old heresies didn’t update very well in their original form, but Gnosticism is inherently dynamic.
Ancient Bible fan fiction with flying, shape-shifting, fireballing Jesus; truth really is stranger than fiction. Of course, most of the “lost” books won’t be anything like that extreme– or even as extreme as the “women are not worthy of life” line from the Gospel of Thomas; if it was all that obvious and easily dismissed, the heresies that they promote wouldn’t keep cropping up quite as much. They would still show up, because the appeal of knowing something nobody else knows is intensely powerful, but it wouldn’t be quite as bad. If there wasn’t an appeal to knowing something nobody else does, why would I be writing about conspiracy theories, and why would you be reading it?
Why So Similar?
A lot of the modern uses of the “lost books” will focus either on the Gospel of Thomas, or on fragments from the Dead Sea Scrolls. In the case of the gnostic (influenced) “Gospel of Thomas,” it’s probably because a complete copy was found in the 40s, which is about right to influence writers in the 60s and seventies, which is the soil of a lot of modern conspiracies. The Dead Sea Scrolls (digitally available online!) covers a much larger collection of finds, starting from the famous find in 1947.
Not all ‘new’ books will fall in there, though– for example, here’s a story from this spring about a text from Egypt, which is the source of my comment about a shape-shifting Jesus. Many “lost” books also liberally mix real quotes from the Bible with, er, creative new additions in the style of the Gospel of Thomas.
Please keep in mind when reading news stories that I link that very, very few articles are going to be even decently informed on anything religious, so take any claims with a grain of salt until you’ve researched them, and if you find something curious– please, share it! Good primary sources, like the scans of the Dead Sea Scrolls above, are very important.
Some good places to double check book or website claims are:
New Advent‘s resources, such as the Catholic Encyclopedia, the Summa Theologica and a lot of the Church Father’s writings
and well researched blogs produced by those you are fairly sure are faithful Catholics who do good research.
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