Taussig, Hal, ed. A New New Testament: A Bible for the 21st Century Combining Traditional and Newly Discovered Texts. Foreword by John Dominic Crossan. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2013.

Hal Taussig, a founding member of the Jesus Seminar, is the editor of A New New Testament, which combines the 27 books of the real New Testament with ten other ancient texts that historically have had no place in any Christian version of the Bible. These other texts include the Coptic Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Mary, the Gospel of Truth, the Odes of Solomon (divided into four books), Thunder Perfect Mind, the Acts of Paul and Thecla, a Letter of Peter to Philip, and the Secret Revelation of John (also known as the Apocryphon of John). Among the texts not included were the Protevangelium of James, the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of the Hebrews, the Shepherd of Hermas, the Gospel of Philip, the Gospel of Barnabas (which will upset some Muslims) and Third Nephi (no doubt to the disappointment of some Latter-day Saints).

Taussig wants us to know that he didn’t decide on his own which books should be added to his New New Testament. No, he called a church council to decide the matter. His “council” included, among others, the following individuals:

  • Geoffrey Black, the president of the United Church of Christ, the first major denomination to give official endorsement to same-sex marriage
  • Lisa Bridge (a former yoga teacher)
  • John Dominic Crossan (who teaches that Jesus’ body was not even buried, let alone raised from the dead)
  • Karen L. King (who recently brought us the thoroughly discredited “Jesus wife papyrus”)
  • Nancy Fuchs Kreimer and Arthur Waskow (two liberal Jewish rabbis)
  • Stephen D. Moore, a leading biblical scholar in the area of “queer studies”
  • Bruce Reyes-Chow (a blogger on the Huffington Post)
  • Mark Singleton (a yoga scholar)

Not exactly Nicaea.

Taussig’s rationale for A New New Testament includes the claim that Christians have always disagreed on what books belong in the Bible. While there is some disagreement over the canon of the Old Testament (with Protestants rejecting the books of the Apocrypha and Catholics accepting them), there has been almost no debate about the New Testament canon for most of church history. Ironically, where there were some minor differences in church history over the New Testament canon, Taussig’s council seems to have simply ignored those issues. So, for example, one will not find 3 Corinthians (once part of the Armenian Bible) in A New New Testament. Today, Catholics, Orthodox, mainstream Protestants, and even most new religious sects purporting to be Christian accept the same 27 books of the New Testament.

Let us be clear about the purpose of this “new” collection. It is not about gathering together the best sources of information about Jesus Christ. None of the books added from outside the traditional canon were clearly written in the first century (admittedly some scholars date Thomas to the first century), whereas all or nearly all of the actual New Testament writings may be dated with certainty to the first century. Nor is the purpose of the collection to collect books representative of “the full range of voices that formed the early chorus of Christians,” as the book’s website claims, since the Jewish-Christian texts and the quite popular Protevangelium of James were ignored. Most of the noncanonical texts selected came from the Nag Hammadi library, an ancient collection of Coptic texts apparently favored by “Gnostic” believers in Egypt.

The real purpose of A New New Testament is to destroy the very idea of the New Testament. That is, the purpose is to promote the notion that there is no identifiable group of authoritative scriptures that reveals the truth about Jesus Christ—about who he is, what he did, what he taught, and what he expects from us. By presenting Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Peter, and James alongside Thomas, Mary, and other apocryphal Christian texts, Taussig and his council seek to undermine the scriptural basis for orthodox Christianity. Taussig says as much on the publisher’s website promoting the book: “What will non-Christians learn from A New New Testament? Non-Christians will learn that some of the narrow-minded doctrines of orthodox Christianity and the old-fashioned ideas of the traditional New Testament are not the only way that the early Christ movements expressed themselves.”

That’s all one really needs to know about A New New Testament. Its purpose is transparently ideological, an attempt to redefine the New Testament and in so doing to define it out of existence. In place of an authoritative collection of Scriptures, Taussig and his council would substitute “early Christian literature” of their choosing. How long will it be until a new, new, New Testament is published in which the books most guilty of contributing to those “narrow-minded doctrines of orthodox Christianity” are simply omitted?


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This entry was posted on Wednesday, March 13th, 2013 at 2:47 pm and is filed under apocrypha, Biblical studies, New Testament. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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