Book Reviews -- By: Matthew S. DeMoss

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 166:661 (Jan 2009)
Article: Book Reviews
Author: Matthew S. DeMoss

Book Reviews

By The Faculty of Dallas Theological Seminary

Matthew S. DeMoss

The Missing Gospels: Unearthing the Truth behind Alternative Christianities. By Darrell L. Bock. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2006. xxvi + 230 pp. $21.99.

Was orthodoxy just one among many competing “Christianities” in the earliest church that just happened to win out against the others? Did it then suppress the teachings and writings of the other groups? Or has there been a core of orthodoxy from the start and then over time a need arose to meet challenges by emerging groups that departed from this core belief structure? The latter has been assumed until recently. However, with recent discoveries and renewed interest in second-century Christianity, the notion that orthodoxy was one form of Christianity among relative equals (or even superiors) has been circulating. “New” discoveries have been in the news that some claim demand a reevaluation and revision of the traditional view. Those involved in making and defending such claims are often labeled the “new school.” With newspaper announcements, magazine articles, television documentaries, and best-selling books contributing to this idea, the average Christian with no substantive response to these claims can feel uncertain or even lost.

Bock has provided a tool that can help clear the air on this issue. Key to this discussion are the ancient sources themselves that are often inaccessible to the average Christian and/or are presented with confusing labels such as “missing gospels,” implying that such works are similar to the four canonical Gospels. Bock introduces readers to these sources, explains them and their significance, and places them in their historical context to help the reader get an accurate picture of the material. Readers are exposed to the sources themselves, and Bock presents substantive arguments that will prepare the reader to see through the hype generated by media outlets with their emphasis on the extraordinary.

Chapter 1 provides an introduction to people and periods that will be discussed in the remainder of the book. Bock considers three periods of the early church: (1) Jesus and the apostolic period (ca. A.D. 30-100); (2) the apostolic fathers and the rise of alternative works (ca. A.D. 100-150); and (3) the apologists and more alternatives (ca. A.D. 150-400). Period two will be the most important period for discussion.

In chapters 2-5 readers are introduced to a number of early movements, the most important of which is Gnosticism. Bock discusses various views of the gnostic movement and discusses the relevant scholars and their arguments. Some view Gnosticism as a development from (and reaction to) Christianity, whi...

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