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Jesus Christ

"They deem him their worst enemy who tells them the truth."

The Holy Bible
Codex Sinaiticus

Oxyrhynchus Papyrus
Gnosticism and the Nag Hammadi Library
The Dead Sea Scrolls
The Secret Gospel
The Nazarenes (The Ebionites)




esus Christ is the central figure of Christianity.  Christians accept Jesus Christ as the literal Son of God sent into the world by God to sacrifice himself for the sins of the world.

The Holy Bible


The Holy Bible is the scripture that Christians believe to be the inspired or revealed Word of God. The Holy Bible has two sections: The Old Testament and The New Testament, both containing books. The Old Testament is considered by Christians to be the God-inspired writings composed before the coming of Christ. The New Testament is considered by Christians to be the God-inspired writings composed since the coming of Christ. The four Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John—located within the New Testament are considered within the Christian world to offer the most definitive accounts of the life of Jesus Christ, especially the first three Gospels. Though Christians accept the Old Testament as divinely inspired, the New Testament represents the primary and most important part of the Bible to them.


Christians view the coming of Jesus Christ as a fulfillment of the entire Old Testament and of all the prophets. He is believed to be the long-awaited Messiah who was spoken of by Old Testament prophets. So Christians view Jesus Christ as the literal fulfillment of all religious history. Note that since Christianity is rooted in the Old Testament, known within Judaism as the Tanach (which includes the Torah, the first five books of Moses), and since its followers consider the Old Testament to be one part of the word of God (the New Testament being the other part), its view of religious history begins in the first book of the Tanach, Genesis. This is precisely where religious history begins within Judaism.

Aside from these accepted books of the New Testament, there are other books that purport to contain authentic information about Jesus Christ and his teachings. And there are also other rejected books of the Old Testament. However, as our discussion surrounds Jesus Christ, we will confine ourselves to books written after his advent. The reader should not assume the following to be a complete coverage of the subject of the books of the Bible or the compilations of the books of the Bible.


Codex Sinaiticus

The Codex Sinaiticus is a Greek manuscript of the Old and New Testaments, and was discovered by Constantine Tischendorf in the year 1844 at the Monastery of St. Catherine at Mount Sinai. It is considered to contain the oldest complete copy of the New Testament. Tischendorf was visiting St. Catherine’s Monastery under the benefaction of Frederick Augustus, King of Saxony. While there, he discovered, in a waste basket, forty-three leaves of the Septuagint, containing portions of I Paralipomena (i.e., 1 Chronicles), Jeremiah, Nehemiah, and Esther, and he was allowed to take them. But he was not allowed to take the books of Isaias, as well as I and IV Machabees. He later published the leaves he had been allowed to take under the name, Codex Friderico-Augustanus.

In subsequent journeys he discovered more manuscripts that contained most of the Old Testament and a complete copy of the New Testament. Experts have placed the Codex in the fourth century. Though its origin cannot be determined, experts speculate that it came from Rome, Southern Italy, Egypt and Caesarea.


Oxyrhynchus Papyrus

In 1897, Bernard P. Grenfeld and Arthur S. Hunt discovered some fragmentary sayings of Jesus Christ on parchment leaves, written on both sides, in extremely small text. These were discovered at a placed called Oxyrhynchus, now called Behnesa. These fragments contain some sayings from the The Gospel of Thomas and, as such, are considered apocryphal (i.e., of doubtful authenticity by Church authorities) because they do not conform to the generally accepted Gospel texts. Some suggest that the Gnostic Christians (see “Gnosticism and the Nag Hammadi Library” below) who hid these fragments did so for fear of persecution and that the authorities would destroy their texts.

Gnosticism and the Nag Hammadi Library (Link)

In December 1945, an Arab peasant was digging near a boulder in an attempt to locate fertilizer for his fields when he came across a very large, red earthenware jar. Hoping to find a treasure, he smashed the jar to pieces. Inside he discovered more than a dozen old books of papyrus that were bound together in golden brown leather. What this Arab peasant had discovered were the actual Gospels of the Gnostic Christians, a very early branch of the Christian community.


It is very important to note that in the beginning decades of Christianity, there existed no single and unified doctrine of the new faith. There existed no orthodoxy that had fashioned one commonly accepted definition or practice of Christianity. There was no one Church “united under Christ.” In short, Christianity was a religion trying to find itself, and there existed various Christian communities, with diverse understandings and interpretations, that were even vying with each other for supremacy. During that early period, the Gnostic Christians were one of those communities, and they were a strong force and one of the prevailing movements at that time.


One example of Gnosticism’s early strength, around the middle of the second century, was the consideration of its great teacher Valentinus for election as the Bishop of Rome. But, though Valentinus was very influential, by the end of his life he was branded a heretic.


The Gnostic Gospels are fifty-two sacred texts. That they are strongly believed by scholars to have been compiled very early in the beginning of Christian history places them, in some minds, at a level equal to the New Testament books, in terms of their consideration as legitimate Gospels of early Christianity. Orthodox Christians, of course, do not consider the Gnostic scriptures to be valid scriptures for Christians.


The word Gnosis, from which the word Gnosticism stems, derives from Greek. It means “knowledge” or the “act of knowing.” This “act of knowing,” in the minds of the Gnostic Christians, consisted of a deeper level of “knowing” than exists on the rational level. It was considered a form of knowing that came from some deep source within each human being that is referred to as a spark. From this source, this spark, one could attain direct, personal and absolute knowledge of the authentic truths of existence. Of course this idea runs totally counter to today’s generally accepted Christian doctrine, as that doctrine dictates that the only way one can reach the ultimate authentic truth, i.e., God, is through Jesus Christ alone. This doctrine stems from what Christians deem an authentic saying of Jesus Christ that is located in the Gospels:


"Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." (John 14: 6)


Another doctrine of the Gnostics that deviates from contemporary orthodox doctrines of Christianity surrounds the issue of revelation. The Gnostics believed that divine revelation was an ever-present, ongoing force that was accessible to any human being.


Gnostic Christians believed that humans were not bound by original sin.  Humans were composed, at their core, of the very substance of which God Himself is composed. As such, by struggling to achieve Gnosis, humans could attain their own salvation. Thus the need for the vicarious blood atonement in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross was alleviated.


Perhaps this understanding of the Gnostic Christians came from one of their Gospels, The Gospel of Thomas, one of the Gnostic Gospels found in the Nag Hammadi Library:


“Jesus said, “I am not your teacher. Because you have drunk, you have become intoxicated from the bubbling spring that I have tended.” (Gospel of Thomas, 13)
Jesus said, “Whoever drinks from my mouth will become like me; I myself shall become that person, and the hidden things will be revealed to him.” (Gospel of Thomas, 108)


The above verses strongly suggest [“the hidden things will be revealed to him”] the idea that Divine Revelation is achievable by an ordinary human being, an idea rejected by Christianity.

The Gnostic Christians also seemed to differ with orthodox Christians about the Kingdom of God, with the exception of the canonical Gospel of Luke, 17: 20-21, which attributes a saying to Jesus about the Kingdom of God that parallels the Gnostic concept. They saw the Kingdom of God differently. Their understanding of the Kingdom of God stems from their Gospels, one of which, The Gospel of Thomas, contains the following verse attributed to Jesus Christ:


"His disciples said to him, "When will the kingdom come?" "It will not come by watching for it. It will not be said, 'Look, here!' or 'Look, there!' Rather, the Father's kingdom is spread out upon the earth, and people don't see it." (113, taken from The "Scholars' Translation" of the Gospel of Thomas by Stephen Patterson and Marvin Meyer.)


It is worth comparing the above verse to a saying in Luke attributed to Jesus Christ:


“And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, ‘When the kingdom of God should come?’ He answered them and said, ‘The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” (Bible, Luke 17: 20-21)


Gnostics believed the Divine spark that was within all human beings was the light that would enable them to see the Kingdom of God right here on earth. Gnostic Christians sought to restore their identities as manifestations, or images, of God, and through this restoration actually experience and see the Kingdom of God on earth now, rather than at some fixed point in the future upon the return of Jesus Christ.


Another very interesting difference between Gnostic Christians and today’s Christianity, though it may seem at first glance not to involve any issue that impinges on fundamental Church doctrine, is the issue of Jesus’s purity. Not only did the Gnostics believe that Jesus Christ engaged in sexual activity, most probably in marriage, but they believe that he did so with, of all people, Mary Magdalene, the woman who is described in the canonical Gospels as an adulteress.  Gnostics believed Mary Magdalene to have been the consort of Jesus Christ. The Gnostic Gospel of Philip states:


“…the companion of the Savior is Mary Magdalene. But Christ loved her more than all the disciples, and used to kiss her often on her mouth. The rest of the disciples were offended...They said to him, ‘Why do you love her more than all of us?’ The Savior answered and said to them, ‘Why do I not love you as I love her?’” (Gospel of Philip, 63.32-64.5)

The Dead Sea Scrolls


The scrolls were discovered in a group of caves near Khirbat Qumran in Jordan, at the northwestern end of the Dead Sea, in the year 1947 by an Arab shepherd boy. Further scrolls were discovered between the years 1947 and 1956 when a thorough search was conducted of the local caves. Altogether, 600 Hebrew and Aramaic scrolls, of leather and papyrus, were found. These texts are said to date from between 200 BC and 100 AD, and were written, it is believed, by a previously unknown Jewish brotherhood that established itself at a place called Qumran. The scrolls include instructions regarding the brotherhood’s disciplinary code, commentaries on the Bible, hymnals, writings about the apocalypse, parts of every book of the Old Testament (except Esther), copies of the Book of Isaiah, a number of books of the Apocrypha and the Pseudepigraph (Tobit, Sirach, Jubilees, portions of Enoch, and the Testament of Levi), none of which, incidentally, had been included in the Hebrew canon of the Bible. (For more elaboration on the Dead Sea Scrolls see Saving the Savior).

The Secret Gospel


This Gospel was discovered in 1958 by Dr. Morton Smith in Mar Saba, near Jerusalem. Dr. Smith had been invited to the Greek Orthodox monastery of Mar Saba to catalogue its collection of manuscripts. While searching through this material, he came across a letter from Clement of Alexandria to Theodore. The letter mentioned a secret gospel of Mark that contained certain additions for special followers of Jesus Christ. Clement says in the letter that this version of Mark, which is followed by the Carpocratian sect, is “more spiritual.” Dr. Smith postulated that the quotations in the letter were most probably from the original Aramaic version of Mark’s Gospel.


The Nazarenes (The Ebionites)


“Nazarenes,” or “Ebionites,” were the name of the very early Christians, and included the relatives and disciples of Jesus Christ. They were, in short, the first followers of Jesus.


The Nazarenes did not consider Jesus Christ to be the Son of God in the sense that Christians of today understand that title. They often referred to him as the “son of man.” With regard to the title, “son of God,” the Nazarenes understood that title to refer to Jesus’ spiritual state, in that he had totally submitted to God and, thus, become a “son” of God. This may, indeed, explain why other characters in the Old Testament are also referred to as “son of God.”




We hope the reader fully understands that what we have presented here is an overview. The history of the compilation of the books of the Bible, as well as the subject of its source documents, is massive. My goal is to offer enough to whet your appetite and provide the menu to do further research on this important figure in religious history, Jesus Christ.  Hence, you have seen a small sampling of documents within orthodox Christian doctrinal tradition that mention Jesus Christ. You have also been exposed to several of the non-canonical Christian documents—some of which can be dated back as far as any of the books of the New Testament—that offer an alternative view of Jesus Christ and his mission.


Who was Jesus Christ? Was he the Son of God, as orthodox Christianity teaches? Was he the Prophet-Messiah sent only to the Israelites, as the Nazarene/Ebionite Christians and others believed? Or was he a religious revolutionary intent upon bringing the Kingdom of God down to earth to the people as a personal experience, as the Gnostic Christians believed?


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