A culminating work of the Jesus Seminar era and of others influenced by it, this collection of manuscripts serves to complete and update the standard Christian New Testament.
In addition to the established canon of New Testament books, this book includes 10 “recently discovered” works, varying greatly in form and content. The book also features extensive introductory matter written by Taussig (Union Theological Seminary; In the Beginning Was the Meal: Social Experimentation and Early Christian Identity, 2009, etc.). The work of choosing which manuscripts to include, and guidance in translation for all the texts, was accomplished by “a council of wise and nationally known spiritual leaders,” somewhat pretentiously referred to throughout the book as the New Orleans Council. While the “Council” does indeed include some well-known progressive Christian scholars—e.g., John Dominic Crossan and Barbara Brown Taylor—it also consists of several less-credentialed individuals, a charge often lobbed against the Jesus Seminar itself. It is, indeed, laudable to make any ancient manuscript more readily available for widespread study. However, what this collection attempts to do is to present these newly discovered texts as equal to established New Testament writings in virtually every way, without viewing them critically. While some texts, such as “The Acts of Paul and Thecla,” are certainly important and relevant to modern Christian study, others, such as “The Thunder: Perfect Mind” and “The Secret Revelation of John,” are simply bizarre and scream of Gnostic and mythic underpinnings. Though that does not make them without merit for study, it does mean they are not equal to the established New Testament, in that they may not even be considered “Christian” in origin.
Not a substitute for the real thing.