You could fill a lot of books…

You could fill a book – a lot of books – with things Dad doesn’t know. And they have!
-Remy, Ratatouille

Well, I’ve been plowing through all my notes on N.T. Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God. It reminds me again of how minuscule my own biblical and historical scholarship really is. I’d grown up going to church and reading the bible every day (or at least most days). I’ve read through the whole thing several times and certain sections of it (like much of John) more than I can count. I’d heard lots of sermons on Jesus and the resurrection. I’d even heard some teaching that tried to fill out the picture with some “outside” material like writings from Josephus. I guess I always had been taught or imagined this great BIBLE from 2000 years ago… and then not much else was written worth reading until the reformers came along.

Grinding through Bishop Wright’s tome was like growing up in the backwoods and reading all the books in our tiny public library and then being thrown into the atrium of the Library of Congress. Wright fills out the context of Jesus’ ministry and the early church’s understanding of him by meticulously pouring through many period writings, including:

The Apostolic Fathers
1 Clement
2 Clement
Ignatius of Antioch
Polycarp: Letter and Martyrdom
The Didache
The Shepherd of Hermas
The Epistle to Diognetus

Early Christian Apocrypha
The Ascension of Isaiah
The Apocalypse of Peter
5 Ezra
The Epistula Apostolorum

The Apologists
Justin Martyr
Minucius Felix

The Great Early Theologians

Early Syriac Christianity
The Odes of Solomon
The Acts of Thomas

Gnostic Stuff
The Gospel of Thomas
Epistle to Rheginos
Gosple of Philip
Other Nag Hammadi Treatises
Gospel of the Saviour

I am sad to admit that the only one of these author’s or writings that I had even heard of was Polycarp. Wow. And after all that, the core narrative in the Bible is still the same. I think it has even more meaning having read the testaments of those early Christians who clung to it, just as we do. They may have had understood it differently than we do now (some more than others), but we worship the same risen savior!