Ancient Writings Before the New Testament
Monday, January 23, 2023
Presenter: Dr. Deborah N. Saxon
There is a wide variety of interesting early writings used by early Jesus followers In fact, there are well over 100, though only 27 came to be part of the New Testament. They include texts such as the Odes of Solomon, the Acts of Paul and Thecla (which includes the fascinating adventures of a woman captivated by the teaching of Paul), a cache of texts discovered at Nag Hammadi, Egypt (including the Gospel of Thomas), and more. Some of the texts have been known and available throughout Christian history, but others have come to light only rather recently. Some are quite short and others rather lengthy, just as they are in the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. So what’s what? Our Bible and Beyond Discussion will organize and categorize texts that are both familiar and unfamiliar, focusing on the kinds of evidence we have for trying to piece together what was eventually included in the New Testament and what was not. Taken as a whole, they shed new light on the history of the early Christ movements as each one tells us just a little more about the centuries before there was any such thing as a New Testament.
Texts used in this discussion:
Odes of Solomon, #8; Acts of Paul and Thecla, chapter 37
Reading One: The Odes of Solomon 8:1-6
Open, open your hearts to the dancing joy of the Lord
And let your love abound from heart to lips:
In order to bring forth fruits for the Lord, a holy life,
And to speak with attention in his light.
Stand and be restored,
All of you who once were flattened.
Speak, you who were silent,
Because your mouth has been opened.
From now on be lifted up, you who were destroyed
Since your justice has been raised.
For the Right Hand of the Lord is with you all,
And she will be a helper for you.
Reading Two: Excerpt from the Acts of Paul and Thecla
The following is a short speech made by Thecla, an early follower of Jesus in the first century who is sentenced to death at the hands of wild beasts in the arena but who survives the ordeal. This is what she says when the governor who has been watching from the stands asks her who she is and why none of the wild animals have touched her.
Thecla replies, “I indeed am the slave of the living God. And as to what it is about me, I have trusted in the Child of God, in whom he finds pleasure, and through whom not even one of the wild animals touched me. For this one alone is the limit of salvation and the foundation of life through the ages. For he is a refuge for those in a storm; freedom for the oppressed; for the despairing a shelter; and once and for all, whoever does not trust in him will not live but die forever.” (chapter 37, p. 342, A New New Testament)
From the “Acts of Paul and Thecla” in A New New Testament (edited by Hal Taussig).
Access the Acts of Paul and Thecla online here.