Saturday, October 24, 2009

Banned from the Bible

Banned from the bible

This new two hour special deals with a raft of extra-canonical texts that did not make it into the orthodox bible. Gnostic, heretical, the products of forgery or ancient midrash – these stories circulated for centuries, were lost, rediscovered, or survived in fragmentary forms.

Though they feature characters and events we know from today’s bible, each was deemed unfit for inclusion in canon. We ask what made these texts so problematic. Some of today’s best-known scholars and authors examine writings left out of both the Old and New Testaments, explaining the myriad reasons behind their exclusion from the bible.

In the first hour, we strive to solve the enigmas of the Old Testament. We examine a mysterious text that Jesus and the disciples may have known and made reference to: the controversial ‘Testament of Solomon’. In the course of this contentious text, the wisest of all men is revealed to be a master exorcist, using demonic power to build his monumental temple. This has been recounted by noted author Kenneth Hanson, who wrote ‘The Lost Gospels’.

The legend of Lilith, the wilful first wife of Adam who refused to be subordinate to him, is scrutinised by scholar Rabbi David Copeland. He explains why her early feminism transformed her into a legendary demonic succubus. The lost story of Aseneth, the pagan wife of biblical patriarch Joseph, is also revealed. Mentioned by name in Genesis, the remainder of her story disappeared from canon, though it circulated for centuries.

We also re-examine the expunged saga of Daniel. Thrown into the lions’ pit in Protestant bibles, he has a far more expansive adventure – defeating dragons and debunking pagan gods -- in the Catholic bible. These travails appear in n a section called Apocrypha, or hidden writings. We ask why part of Daniel’s story was embraced, while the other part was emphatically rejected. A number of prominent authors and scholars outline present and past cultural and religious pressures, providing some surprising answers.

In the second hour, we look at the secrets of the Apostles, revealing lost texts that feature Jesus and His followers. Found in forgotten libraries, buried in caves or in the sands of the holy land, these texts shed new light on the many competing Christian sects that sprang up in the first centuries after the crucifixion. In the Acts of Peter, uncovered in a library in Vercelli, Italy, the apostle Peter fights heretics in the heart of Rome – using powers which seem like something from ‘Lord of the Rings’.

The suppressed story of the female apostle Thecla, a heroine to early feminist Christians, is also revealed, and placed in context by respected author and scholar John Dominic Crossan. Other lost texts, sacred to the Ascetic, or celibate Christian cults and the early Christians known as Gnostics, are placed under the microscope. Theses include the mysterious saga of Peter’s death and upside down crucifixion.

We also revealed the controversial ‘Lost Gospel of Mark’, banned due to its homoerotic undertones and its suggestion that the early Christian church kept secret gospels. Next, we look at the newly-discovered ‘Gospel of Judas’, which turns the well known story of the betrayal on its head, portraying Judas as Jesus’ most trusted apostle. These ancient texts fall outside the New Testament, preserved as sacred legends or condemned as heresies. Yet they all shed new light on the centuries when Christianity was in its formative years, raising provocative questions about what was ultimately included in today’s bible – and why.

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