The Lost Gospel
The centerpiece of THE LOST GOSPEL is the first complete translation of the “Book of Q,” which consists of sayings attributed to Jesus and collected by his earliest followers. This work is significant because it demonstrates that the earliest “Jesus people” viewed Jesus as a teacher in the tradition of the Cynics rather than as a divine messiah. According to Burton Mack’s analysis of “Q”, Jesus’ early followers viewed their teacher as a man who envisioned a new social order, not as the founder of a new religion that was incompatible with Judaism.
Mack recounts the fascinating way in which scholars discovered the “Book of Q” and pieced it back together, discussing the way in which “Q” was used as a resource by the authors of the New Testament narrative gospels. He argues convincingly that the authors of the narrative gospels fictionalized the story of Jesus as it was known during the first century of the Christian era, in the process creating the myth of the “Christ.” The Jesus people who compiled the “Book of Q” did not believe, for example, that Jesus was the son of God or that he rose from the dead. According to Mack, these beliefs, as well as the belief in a first church in Jerusalem and that of Jesus’ desire to reform Judaism, are creations of later writers. Mack’s view is that such mythologizing was indulged in by these writers partly in order to explain inconsistencies in the various accounts of the origins of Christianity and partly in order to coopt the Hebrew writings of the Old Testament, making it seem that they predicted the coming of Jesus as the messiah. The author also demonstrates that the writings of the Old Testament were rearranged by Christian writers in order to highlight this apparent prediction.
THE LOST GOSPEL is a fascinating work of scholarship that will force many people to reexamine the origins of Christianity. Devout Christians, however, may be disturbed by the fact that Mack’s work seems to indicate that the New Testament should not be viewed as simple historical fact. As Mack indicates, Christianity in its present form developed as the result of deliberate mythologizing. The religion now known as Christianity would certainly not be recognized by the earliest followers of Jesus.