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The Bible and Beyond Discussions

Monthly Monday Textual Study

Once a month, at 8:00–9:00 p.m. Eastern Time on Monday nights (generally the fourth of the month), Early Christian Texts hosts a presentation and discussion of one of the early Christian texts.  Dr. Hal Taussig, who leads the sessions, shares a well-framed overview of the particular text, and gives time for all participants to ask questions or share their own insights about the meanings and potential for these texts.

There is no charge, but people are invited to donate to Early Christian Texts.  One does not have to attend every session, and anyone is welcome any time.  We look forward to your joining these textual studies.

Folks who need a brief introduction to these rather surprising and deeply moving texts are invited to check out several short films on the Tanho website home page. People who would like a more in-depth introduction will enjoy the book, A New New Testament: A Bible for the Twenty-First Century Combining Traditional and Newly Discovered Textsedited by Hal Taussig and published by Houghton, Mifflin, and Harcourt.  

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Upcoming Discussions

(Please note:  The Zoom meeting is online approximately 10 minutes before and during the meetings.)

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    Luke, Didache, and Prayer of Thanksgiving: It Began with Meals

    Monday, April 25, 2021
    8:00 – 9:00 pm Eastern Time
    Click here for the Zoom meeting link
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    Presenter: Dr. Hal Taussig

    Please join us for a study of meal-based gatherings of the first two hundred years of Christ communities. The three very different early texts to be studied are the Gospel of Luke 23:13-32, the Prayer of Thanksgiving from the Nag Hammadi Library, and a set of prayers from The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles (Didache). These meals were joyous and very conversational gatherings with wide mixes of religious practices and theological directions. The study of these three texts helps point to the very meal-based practice of the first two centuries of Christ people gatherings and the early lack of the later church-based liturgical and mass-related ‘worship services.’ This study also examines closely the strong ways that these early meal-centered practices are primary in the making of meaning for the early Christ-people. And it considers practices, performances, rituals, and public demonstrations as key to meaning.  This then prompts important building blocks for community and relationships.

    Click here for a document with all the texts we’ll be using in the discussion.

    Past Discussions

    Light and Fragrance in the Gospel of Truth

    Monday, March 22, 2021
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    Presenter: Dr. Hal Taussig

    The Gospel of Truth—written sometime in the second century—is almost certainly the most lush and sensuous of early Christ literature. Often this 6500 word document overwhelms the ordinary reader with too much goodness, light, love, and body, but in this hour-long study Dr. Hal Taussig focuses on just 13 verses, so participants will be able to take in the general character of the larger text. Listen to the archival recording of the ascent into this rollercoaster of tenderness.  The text utilized in this discussion is the Gospel of Truth 17:10-16; 19:1-6 (Versification from A New New Testament).

    Jesus Sophia in the Bible

    Monday, February 22, 2021
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    Presenter: Dr. Hal Taussig

    This Bible and Beyond Discussion looked at the figure of Jesus Sophia.  A quick overview of the divine female figure Wisdom/Sophia in Proverbs, the Book of Wisdom, and Ecclesiasticus was followed by the figure of Jesus Sophia in Matthew, Luke, John, and I Corinthians. Overlaps of Jesus and Sophia in the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Truth, and the Secret Revelation of John were examined.  Gender bending, gender pluralism, and divine-human figures provided backdrops for understanding the intersections of Wisdom, Jesus, and Sophia in ancient literature and contemporary theology and spirituality. These three texts were helpful: Proverbs 8; Book of Wisdom (or, Wisdom of Solomon) chapters 10-12 ; and Ecclesiasticus (or Sirach) chapter 1.

    Stories of Jesus’s Resurrection, Especially Gospel of Peter

    Monday, January 25, 2021
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    Presenter: Dr. Hal Taussig

    The Gospel of Peter has a story of the resurrection of Jesus like no other.  The story starts in ways that are like some of the stories in the Bible.  And then it veers wildly with intense metaphor that opens up completely new interpretations.  In our study of this text, we consider seriously why this resurrection may be the oldest and the first one.  At the same time we explore how—once a veil is lifted—it is quite important for the way we read other resurrection texts in the biblical gospels, the letters of Paul, and the Gospel of Mary. This study of this nine-verse-text in the Gospel of Peter is not primarily interested in “whether the resurrection really happened.”  Rather, our primary approach is to help think about the meanings of resurrections of Jesus.  The portion of the fragmented Gospel of Peter under consideration is chapters 9 and 10 or verses 35-42. These are available on the Gospels.net or Early Christian Writings websites.

    The Gospel of Mary

    Monday, December 28, 2020
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    Presenter: Dr. Hal Taussig

    The Gospel of Mary is a document whose attractiveness is still on the rise since its discovery about 120 years ago.  This discussion focuses directly on the character of the Gospel of Mary and whether it makes a difference for the principle challenges and opportunities of our day.  How does it engage readers spiritually?  Does this ancient document’s very explicit and poignant participation in current gender and sexuality discussions make a difference?  How does the Gospel of Mary compare to biblical texts in contemporary relevance?  Participants discuss their own opinions about whether the Gospel of Mary matters. Listeners might be interested in reading December’s Bible and Beyond post on the Gospel of Mary, Seven Stunning Gifts from the Gospel of Mary.  You can find the text for the session here: Mary of Magdala; Gospels.net; Early Christian Writings.

    Jesus’s Beginnings in the Gospel of John

    Monday, November 23, 2020
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    Presenter: Dr. Hal Taussig

    The Gospel of John is one of four gospels in the Christian Bible.  It is strikingly different than the other three, in that it contains almost none of the teachings in Matthew, Mark, or Luke.  The character of Jesus is quite different, as are most of the stories.  This is in many ways a cosmic set of beginnings, and is only somewhat of a story.  It is based in two different story-like persona: the figure of the Word or Logos from ancient Greek philosophy and the figure of Wisdom or Sophia from Hebrew wisdom literature.  John 1 calls forth questions, insights, and images of how everything begins.

    The Relationship of ‘The Odes of Solomon’ to Jesus

    Date: Monday, October 26, 2020
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    Presenter: Dr. Hal Taussig

    This Monday Textual Study introduces a moving and fascinating set of documents, closely connected to Jesus, from the first and second centuries.  While the documents, discovered for the first time in the early 20th century, are capable of deepening our understanding, they also promise to be wildly confusing.  Despite being called ‘The Odes of Solomon,’ implying directly that the songs (odes) are from King Solomon of Israel about a thousand years before Jesus, many of the songs in this text (if not all of them) are clearly about Jesus.  Both carbon dating and historical examination indicate that the songs are from the early years of the Christ people in the first centuries CE. One of the strangest riddles and some of the most beautiful poems are at hand as we study five of them. Click here to access a page with translations of odes 16, 36, 19, and 8.

    Israel Everywhere: Clement II

    Date: Monday, September 28, 2020
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    Presenter: Dr. Hal Taussig

    The Second Letter of Clement is not quite a letter, and it is probably not from any known early Christ movement leader. It is, however, a very revealing communication of some kind that articulates a particularly clear and ordinary set of thoughts about a community’s working on who they are. Their relationships to each other and to God and Jesus are especially important. The Second Letter is quite a precious early writing in that it shows clearly how it belongs thoroughly to greater Israel, even while being devoted to Jesus. It cites and quotes extensively both teachings of Jesus (some of which we do not know from any other writing) and writings from major works of the people of Israel.  Most scholars think it is from probably from approximately the middle of the second century.  Here’s a pdf of the text available on the web.  We’ll be working on its overview.

    Thecla, Paul, Jesus, and Family

    Date: Monday, August 24, 2020
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    Presenter: Dr. Hal Taussig

    The Acts of Paul and Thecla is the primary early document that introduces the life of Thecla from her teen years to her death of old age. She is portrayed as an occasional colleague and follower of Paul in the role of teacher and healer. Later manuscripts of the fourth through seventh century elaborate on these roles, but some of them also portray her as a martyr. However, the earliest version of The Acts of Paul and Thecla explicitly picture her as never having submitted to a Roman death. This study will also continue with these themes, but we will also look substantially into the very experimental role she played in challenging traditional family values.  This dimension of our study will look especially into how her opposition to traditional family parallels and enhances the seven different sayings of Jesus in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Thomas that oppose conventional family.

    The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles (the Didache)

    Date: Monday, July 27, 2020
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    Presenter: Dr. Hal Taussig

    Thought of by many as the first community handbook written for communities of Christ and Jesus peoples, The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles has a fairly complicated organization and set of teachings. One of the most fascinating dimensions of this document is how many of the teachings are found in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke as from Jesus himself. But in The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles these teachings are not attributed to Jesus at all. Study of this text then raises key questions about whether to consider Jesus as an important teacher.  Or, was the content what mattered, at least as much as who said it? One might  think that the title of this document as “The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles” indicates that all the teachings were meant to be understand as having been taught not by Jesus, but by twelve apostles, but the title is almost certainly a secondary and later title.

    Gender Creativity and Problems in the Gospel of Thomas

    Date: Monday, June 22, 2020
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    Presenter: Dr. Hal Taussig

    The Gospel of Thomas (GThomas) is full of gender issues. This has mostly to do with the fascinating creativity of the Gospel of Thomas in general and also specifically its approaches to gender. One of the most challenging and promising parts of GThomas’ gendering is how fluid and flexible it is. Jesus himself in the Gospel of Thomas is not singly gendered, and is pictured more than once like the female divine Wisdom/Sophia. However in the last saying of Jesus in GThomas (114), both Jesus and Peter appear more than slightly dismissive of women. A close look at its whole teaches us much about the complexities of gender in the ancient Mediterranean world and our own.

    Creativity in and Rejection of Hebrews

    Date: Monday, June 1, 2020
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    Presenter: Dr. Hal Taussig

    The creative metaphors for life in Jesus Christ in the Letter to the Hebrews are some of the most imaginative to come out of the first two centuries. But Hebrews has been mostly ignored by official Christendom. In a real way, it has been treated as if it were never really discovered, even though it was eventually included in the traditional New Testament. It extensively reworks Hebrew scriptures — often combining it with Greek philosophy — and introduces an entirely new concept of Jesus simultaneously as priest and sacrifice, and invents an entirely new lineage for Jesus. For its creativity alone, Hebrews deserves to share the limelight with those books that have only recently been discovered as parts of the larger family of early Christ people texts.

    Norea: Key Dimension of God’s Fullness and/or Eve’s First Daughter

    Date: Monday, April 27, 2020
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    Presenter: Dr. Hal Taussig

    On April 27 we investigated one of the most hidden and fascinating female divine characters of Christ texts in the second century.  This figure is Norea, who is found in a number of first through third century texts, but perhaps best known in two works of the famous Nag Hammadi jar of 52 early Christ texts found in the Egyptian desert in 1945.  We focused on this divine figure in the Nag Hammadi documents “The Thought of Norea” and “The Reality of the Rulers” (sometimes titled “The Hypostasis of the Archons”). Norea is a powerful female character in both texts, which complement what we know about her but do not give a completely matching picture.  Our study depended substantially on the scholarship of Professor Celene Lillie and Professor Birger Pearson.

    Read more about the texts here.

    Many Jesuses or Just One? (Part II)

    Date: Monday, March 23, 2020
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    Presenter: Dr. Hal Taussig

    When we compare the Jesus in the Gospel of Mark with the Jesus in the Gospel of John, we notice many major differences. So many, in fact, that it raises the question of whether this is even the same Jesus! In our last discussion (February 2020) we also carefully considered the Jesus portrayed the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Matthew, and the Gospel of Truth. The astonishing variety and diversity in these Jesus portraits was even more surprising and interesting. In this follow-up discussion we expand the conversation to include a number of other early Christ documents: four or five documents written by Paul of Tarsus; the Gospel of Mary; the Letter of Peter to Philip; the Secret Revelation of John; and the canonical Revelation to John.

    Many Jesuses?

    Monday, February 24, 2020
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    Presenter: Dr. Hal Taussig

    With more and more different documents about Jesus discovered, a certain kind of question is being asked more frequently. The question goes something like this, “Since Jesus seems quite different and quite attractive and meaningful in many texts, can we think about one Jesus? Or would it help to think of different Jesuses?”  How many Jesuses are there? How do we account for such different Jesuses between the likes of the Letter to the Ephesians, the Gospel of Mark, the Gospel of Truth, the Gospel of Mary, and the Gospel of Thomas? What advantages and disadvantages are there to one, several, or many Jesuses? Good examples of the texts used in this study are available on the gospels.net website, and Early Christian Writings.

    Parables of Jesus in the Gospel of Thomas

    Monday, January 27, 2020
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    Presenter: Dr. Hal Taussig

    Like many other canonical and extra-canonical documents from the first and second centuries, the Gospel of Thomas contains a number of parables.  Gospel of Thomas has more or less three kinds of parables: those with almost exact parallels with Matthew, Mark, or Luke; those with similar story-lines to canonical gospels but with strikingly different meanings; and those that have little or no similarities to canonical gospels.  This Monday Textual study examines the Gospel of Thomas parables from several different angles.

    Good examples are available on the gospels.net website, and Early Christian Writings.

    First Revelation of James

    Monday, December 30, 2019
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    Presenter: Dr. Hal Taussig

    The First Revelation of James (also called the First Apocalypse of James) comes from the very important discovery in 1945 at Nag Hammadi, where two Egyptian farmers found a large jar in the desert with 52 (mostly Jesus-related) documents, many of which had not been know before.  This is a story and teaching between Jesus and James, which focuses on what to do with the violent attacks on people by the Roman Empire.  James and the Lord talk at some length about the reputation that the Jesus movement welcomes women. Indeed in this document Jesus seems to be known for his association with four women leaders. Find the text for the First Revelation of James (or, The First Apocalypse of James) on the Early Christian Writings website here.

    The  Gospel of Mark

    Monday, November 25, 2019
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    Presenter: Dr. Hal Taussig

    The Gospel of Mark rarely gets studied for itself. But it deserves to be taken seriously for the creative and very different picture it draws of the person of Jesus and for its thorough-going challenge to Roman imperial hegemony.  These dimensions of Mark have much to offer 21st century spiritual and social strategies, especially in its inventive options to Christian orthodoxy. One of the recent interests in Mark are its resistance and responses to (especially) violence through its comical, flexible, and complicated identity constructions. The verses discussed:  1:1–15; 2:1–12; 4:1–14, 26–32; 5:1–43; 6:1–16; 7:14–15; 8:22–38; 9:1–8; 10:13–27; 11:1–25; 12:38–44; 13:1–13; 14:1–9, 53–65; 15:1–47; 16:1–8

    The Wisdom of Solomon: A First Century Divine Female

    Monday, October 28, 2019
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    Presenter: Hal Taussig

    One of the earliest lists of important books in the Christ movements (the Muratorian fragment) lists “The Wisdom of Solomon” along with Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, thirteen letters of Paul, and two letters of John.  The most fascinating dimension of The Wisdom of Solomon on such a list of well-known early writings about Jesus is that the word ‘Jesus’ does not occur in The Wisdom of Solomon. The Wisdom of Solomon is now considered to have been an important writing for the hundreds of thousands people of Israel in first century Egypt. Find the text in The New Jerusalem Bible and The Oxford Annotated, or find it here on the web.  Specific verses discussed: 6:12–17; 7:7–17; 7:22–30; 8:1–18; 9:9–11; 10:1–21; and 11:1–26.

    The Thunder, Perfect Mind II
    Vulnerable Divinity: An Innovative Approach to God in the 21st Century from an Early Christ Movement

    Monday, September 23, 2019
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    Presenter: Hal Taussig

    The recently discovered “The Thunder: Perfect Mind” from the second or third century introduces a full-blown picture of a vulnerable God that for may help make sense of Divinity for 21st century people seeking a new way of thinking about God.  Here is a key sentence from this recently discovered document: “I am she who exists in all fear and in trembling boldness.”

    Read the text here,

    The Acts of Paul and Thecla

    Monday, August 26, 2019
    Facebook Event Page
    Presenter: Dr. Hal Taussig

    The text is available here, here, and here.  This discussion concentrates on Thecla’s freedom and leadership, especially the ways her gender and sexuality is far more than what has often been considered “virginity” and/or “celibacy.”

    The Thunder: Perfect Mind

    Monday, July 22, 2019
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    Presenter: Hal Taussig

    Click here for the text we’ll be using in this discussion. University of Pennsylvania professor Andrew Lamas calls The Thunder: Perfect Mind “one of the ten most important documents in history.”  Replay the discussion on YouTube (right).  Audio starts after the introductory text.

    No Such Thing as ‘Gnosticism’?

    Monday, June 24, 2019
    8:00 – 9:00 pm Eastern Time
    Facebook Event Page
    Presenter:  Deb Saxon

    Read discussion information and texts here. Deb Saxon tackled this complex topic and engaged us in a discussion about why it is important to avoid this label.

    “The Letter of Peter to Philip”

    Monday, May 20, 2019
    8:00 – 9:00 pm Eastern Time
    Facebook Event Page
    Presenter:  Hal Taussig

    “The Letter of Peter to Philip” is a text that was first discovered in the famous Nag Hammadi jar found in Egypt in 1945.  Click here for the text that was used in this discussion.

    “The Sentences of Sextus”

    Monday, April 29, 2019
    8:00 – 9:00 pm Eastern Time
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    Presenter:  Hal Taussig

    Learn and discuss one of the intriguing Nag Hammadi text, “The Sentences of Sextus.”