Just finished browsing the latest issue of the Journal of Theological Studies, and found much to be thankful for. Of particular interest to the readers of this blog will be more reminders that the most reliable sources for knowledge of what Jesus actually did and said remain Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. This has been generally admitted by academic scholarship for some time, but has yet to percolate into the press, most seminaries, and too many pulpits. I find myself having to challenge the idea that it’s been conclusively proved that the New Testament was all made up in order to repress true Christianity two or three times a year; if you don’t, you’re shirking your duties.
So it’s great to read, for instance, that the latest and most authoritative commentary on the Gospel of Thomas confirms that ‘any relevance to historical Jesus research is negligible’ (p 805), and that ‘agreement in substance between… scholars with distinct perspectives may be indicative of the emergence of a majority opinion that considers the use of apocryphal gospels in historical Jesus research to be problematic’ (p 765).
Which isn’t to say that the early church wasn’t almost as theologically diverse as some would like to think; but it does confirm that Christians have been right to use the canonical gospels in order to discover what Jesus actually taught rather than what He was believed to have taught. It’s also good to be reminded that even this real diversity was less threatening to orthodox contemporaries than the revisionists try to convince us. Even that hammer of heretics, Irenaeus, ‘spent considerable energy urging the church, especially in Rome, to preserve its toleration for diversity’ (p 817).
Finally, news of a new book on the relationship between Science and Christianity by a Professor of Physics at Oxford University asserting in the most vigorous terms, which the reviewer found quite persuasive, that ‘the pursuit of science is a natural and important aspect of what it means to be a follower of Jesus of Nazareth’ (p 898). The writer, Andrew Steane, not only believes in the resurrection, but considers that the other miracles can be believed ‘on the basis of reliable testimony’, and argues that miracles do not contradict the findings of even the most up to date science (ibid). The title is Faithful to Science, and I can’t wait to read it.