The Bible and Beyond Podcast Episode
Reading the ‘Other’ Gospels
An interview with Mark M. Mattison
When Mark M. Mattison, an independent scholar of ancient Christian texts, first encountered the Gospel of Thomas, he was intrigued. The full text of this Gospel had been discovered in 1945 with a collection of other unknown texts near Nag Hammadi, Egypt, and it subsequently became a proxy for a larger debate about the legitimacy of the institutional church. Some, fearing it would undermine the authority of the Bible, argued that it was a deviant version of the canonical Gospels. Others, who argued for an early date and independent source, seemed to be motivated (at least in part) by a desire to question the ecclesiastical status quo.
Mark is one of the scholars who articulates a broader approach: The dozens of Gospels written in antiquity shed light not just on the meaning of Jesus, but also on the communities that produced them. Different Gospels have different purposes. The Gospel of Mary, for instance, teaches a mystical (or contemplative) view of Jesus’ teaching. Others, like the Gospel of Matthew, focus on church issues.
All are worthy of deeper engagement.