S. Martin Shelton

Retired U.S.Navy Captain, Novelist

Archive for the tag “Christianity”

BOOK REVIEW: Lost Scriptures by Bart D. Ehrman

Lost ScripturesRating-Three Stars

By the beginning of the 4th Century AD there was not a single belief system regarding Christian doctrine. Numerous Christian sects had evolved—each basing their faith and liturgy on disparate manuscripts. Such was especially the case between the Roman church and the Greek-speaking East’s Oriental Orthodoxy, the Assyrian church in Asia Minor, and the Middle East.

To resolve this schism, in 325 AD the Roman Emperor Constantine I called an Ecumenical Council of all his bishops to meet in Bithynia (a region in Northern Anatolia—modern day Turkey) to attain consensus of all Christendom on a universal profession of faith. Two critical outcomes were confirmed: the doctrine of the Holy Trinity and the conclusion that the Arian belief that Jesus Christ was an inferior God was heretical. Many documents previously used were proscribed, and the approved sacred manuscripts defined Christian dogma as the “New Testament.”

Not all heresies were resolved in 325 AD Council. Accordingly, in 381, Roman Emperor Theodosius I called the Second Ecumenical Council, or the First Council of Constantople. Pope Damascus I sent his delegates to resolve the heresies of:

  1. Apollinarianism– Jesus Christ was God but not fully human.
  2. Macedonianism-  denied the divinity of the Holy Spirit. He was subordinate to the Father and Son.
  3. Arianism- believed that Jesus Christ was not God–he consisted of a human body and a divine mind.
  4. Other liturgical beliefs in dispute.

The Council condemned these heresies and confirmed that only 27 manuscripts comprise Christian Scripture. All others are heretical. The creed devised by the Council is the profession of liturgical faith that is widely used by the Catholic Church today—the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and other writings—the Epistles of Christ followers, for example.

Over the years various manuscripts were found that expanded the history of Jesus and early Christianity. These lost scriptures are often referred to as the “lost gospels” or pseudepigrapha. For example, the cache of Gnostic writings discovered near Nag Hammadi, Egypt in 1945.

Ehrman presents a potpourri of these lost gospels each preceded with a precise summary. He categorizes them as:

  • Non-Canonical Gospels:
    • The Coptic Gospel of Thomas
    • The Gospel of Mary (Magdalene)
    • The Secret Gospel of Mark
  • Non-Canonical Acts of the Apostles
    • The Acts of John
    • The Acts of Thecla
    • The Acts of Peter
  • Non-Canonical Epistles and Relating Writings
    • The Treatise on the Resurrection
    • The Letters of Paul to the Laodiceans
    • The Letter of Barnabas
  • Non-Canonical Apocalypses and Revelatory Treatises
    • The Secret Book of John
    • On the Origins of the World
    • The Shepherd of Hermas
  • Canonical Lists
    • The Canon of Euebius
    • The Muratorian Canon
    • The Canon of the Third Synod of Carthage

The narrative in this book is demanding. Nonetheless, for those with the mental stamina and singular purpose, this book will reveal keen insight into early Christianity and the “new” information revealed in these “false Gospels.”

BOOK REVIEW: The Secret History of Mary Magdalene: Christianity’s Hidden Goddess by Lynn Picknett

mm-cover_ukLynn Picknett explores in great depth alternate versions and background of the Christ story as told in the canonical Gospels (New Testament), Gnostic Gospels, and other sources—some apocryphal—focusing on The Magdalene’s background, her physical and spiritual relationship with Jesus Christ, and the historical perspective of this enigmatic woman.

Picknett’s helter-skelter narrative is too confusing for my simple mind. It’s contradictory, meandering, tedious, skews off target, repetitive ad nauseam, ponderously overwritten, and often times is irrelevant to its supposed central theme—the story of Mary Magdalene. I would suggest that if Lynn Picknett would edit this narrative to about five-thousand words or thereabouts, focus the narrative on Mary Magdalene, she’d have a keenly interesting, strikingly coherent, and empathy-endearing booklet.

Here is a list of Mary Magdalene’s major particulars that Picknett has deduced.

  • Was not a reformed prostitute, rather she was an intensely knowledgeable ministering priestess—a black goddess.
  • Was probably not from Judea—spending much of her life elsewhere—possibly Egypt, Nubia, or Ethiopia.
  • Was the “Black Madonna.”
  • According to the non-canonical gospels, she behaved like a rich, independent and very non-Judean woman: assertive, outspoken, feisty, and completely lacking the coy timidity of the women of the times.
  • Was “…some kind of pagan priestess.”
  • Was not Jesus’ legal wife but rather his sexual and mystical initiatrix into the ancient pagan rite of the hieros gamos?(Rdefers to a sexual ritual that plays out a marriage between a god and a goddess, especially when enacted in a symbolic ritual where human participants represent the deities.)
  • Jesus was besotted with her.
  • Was Jesus’ equal.
  • Was the incarnation of the black Egyptian god Isis, the goddess of erotic love the magical arts, and healing,
  • Was an integral element of the mission of Jesus by fulfilling Isis role as the “Queen of Magic.”
  • Lazarus’ and Martha’s were her brother and sisters.
  • The apostle Simon Peter hated her.
  • The cold-hearted, white European patriarchy fails to recognize her as the goddess and a powerful female that she was.
  • “Elements of Egyptian life and thought … have been dragged in the dirt by racist academics that see any black African influence as contaminating.”

Paradox. Mary Magdalene is pictured on the cover of this book as a pale, white, redheaded woman. Picknett claims that she had vivid blue eyes. Yet, frequently she is referred to as “Black as an Ethiopian”—a black woman.

I applaud author Picknett for her in-depth research, and broad-based knowledge on this historical topic.

I find it difficult to evaluate the veracity of this evocative book. Depending on one’s perspective, it’s heretical, ludicrous, veracious, or perhaps so much claptrap.

Additional lists of Picknett’s contentions below:

Christianity

  • Several times, she stats that the New Testament is not much more than a public relations release for the eeevil (my emphasis) Catholic Church.
  • The New Testament is political and religious propaganda just as much as any other set of ancient texts.
  • “Christianity is built on…blatant propaganda on behalf of certain vested interest.” (Interest not identified, my comment.)
  • “The Christian myth grew by absorbing details from pagan cults.”
  • “…Christianity is but paganism reshaped.”
  • “There is not a concept associated with Christ that is not common to some or all of the Savior cults of antiquity.”

Mary the mother of Jesus.

  • Isis “was the prototype for the Church’s invention of Mary the Mother—whose sanctity was decided (invented) by a Vatican council.” (Which one? I ask.)
  • Concludes that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was not married to Joseph and was, in fact, an adulteress.
  • Impossible for Mary to be a virgin.

The Nativity.

  • She speaks of the traditional Nativity as not having a “word of truth in it.”
  • Suggests that the Christian flock does not know that Osiris, Tammuz, Adonis, Dionysus, Attis, Orpheus were born on the Winter Solstice—such knowledge would cast doubt on the underpinning of the religious Christmas story.

Jesus Christ

  • Had several siblings
  • Christianity’s secret teaching of Jesus was that he was essentially sexual in nature.
  • Suggest that Jesus and Lazarus had a homosexual relationship.
  • Within Jesus’ mission there were “…sacramental rites such as hieros gamos
  • The reason why Jesus’ suspiciously pagan words and deeds are due to the probability (emphasis added) that he was a pagan and worked the scripts of pagan mystery plays—a charlatan. .
  • The Jewish and the Babylonian Talmud describe Jesus as an Egyptian sorcerer.
  • The Pistis Sophia notes that in the time of Jesus, he was considered a magus. (The Pistis Sophia is a Gnostic Coptic text.)
  • ”The transubstantiation (the turning of mere bread bread and wine into Jesus’ actual body and blood) (is) a curiously overt form of esoteric cannibalism and vampirism.”
  • Picknett proffers the thought that Jesus could have been an itinerant Egyptian sorcerer duping the masses with faux miracles and wonders.
  • Jesus was the coup de théâtre of marvels, and his greatest was the resurrection from the dead—the practice of black magic and necromancy.
  • As the events in the life of Jesus grew more miraculous, do the events smack of “protesting too much?”
  • The words of Jesus are striking similar to certain passages in the Egyptian Book of the Dead. [The Book of the Dead is an ancient Egyptian funerary text, used from the beginning of the New Kingdom (around 1550 BCE) to around 50 BCE.]
  • Jesus was often accused of being a gluttonous man and a winebibber, a fried of tax collectors and sinners—with a fondness for raffish company.
  • Jesus was probably not from Judea—spending much of his life in Egypt.
  • Proposes that there was an intense rivalry between John the Baptist and Jesus Christ, and suggests that Jesus disciples (Who?) were implicated in the John’s assassination.

Miscellaneous

  • Explores in depth the Templar Knights and their reverence for John the Baptist.
  • Discusses the Merovingians, Carolingians, Cathars, and Priory of Sion.
  • Attempts to define the Holy Grail. Offers several conflicting theories—some with more cachet that others.
  • The Ten Commandments are based on The Egyptian Book of the Dead.
  • Pickett’s aversion for the Catholic Church and Christianity in general suffuses throughout her narrative. (She is a former Christian.)

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