The title of the book speaks for itself, as it is a book that considers the true origins of Christianity. What is so fascinating about it, is that this type of information is out there and available, but so few of us know about it. Most, whether Christian or not, live their lives never knowing that there were such things as “hidden gospels” and so many other texts that completely contradict much of what is taught as the basis of the Christian religion and its original history.
I recently had the pleasure of reading The Lost Gospel: The Book of Q and Christian Origins. It is not a book many would think to pick up and read, but one that I think is essential to talk about, as we continue to expand our awareness in all different areas. Like so many other books, this book found me. It is not a new book, published in the early 90′s and upon staying at a friend’s place, this book caught my eye in a pile. Its energy drew me in, and so I asked to borrow it.
This is why today, I love reading and gathering information from all areas of life. The whole area of theology has always fascinated me, but today in such a broader, richer and unbiased way. Today, I no longer accept what others just tell me to believe and accept, but I look for and consider many sources and than draw based on all those, my own conclusions. Today I listen to my own internal guidance system as the number one place for all answers. Such is the case with The Lost Gospel: The Book of Q and Christian Origins, as it inspires us to continue to expand our awareness and consider some alternate possibilities when it comes to the history we have always been told.
Book and Author
The Lost Gospel: The Book of Q and Christian Origins was written by Burton L. Mack and published in 1994.
Burton L. Mack is an author and scholar of early Christian history and the New Testament. Mack carried out his doctoral studies in Germany and has played a leading role in helping the modern field of New Testament studies reinvent itself as the histroically-grounded field of Christian origins.
His main line of work is reconstructing the more historically sound Christian origins and life of Jesus, and through this, he sees the Gospels more as charter documents of the early Christian movement, rather than reliable accounts of the life of Jesus.
Mack’s work therefore closely examines non-canonical texts (texts from the same era as those subsequently included in the Bible but which early Christian leaders excluded from their authoritative collections, or canon) as well as the highly controversial “Q” document.
Mack has published many other texts along these same topics, including his latest from 2003, The Christian Myth: Origins, Logic, and Legacy.
Book Format and Structure
This book is comprised of just over 250 pages and is divided into 4 parts, which together hold 13 chapters. There is a short prologue and longer epilogue that considers the consequences of the works of Q. There are also 2 appedicies of Early Christian Literature and Q Segments.
The 4 parts and 13 chapters are broken down as follows:
Part 1 – The Discovery of a Lost Gospel
- Chapter 1: Finding the Shards
- Chapter 2: An Uncommon Wisdom
- Chapter 3: Removing the Patina
- Chapter 4: Galilee Before the War
Part 2 – The Text of the Lost Gospel
- Chapter 5 : The Book of Q
Part 3 – The Recovery of a Social Experiment
- Chapter 6: Dancing to the Pipes
- Chapter 7: Singing a Dirge
- Chapter 8: Claiming a Place
- Chapter 9: Coming to Terms
Part 4 – The Reconception of Christian Origins
- Chapter 10: Jesus and Authority
- Chapter 11: Mythmaking and the Christ
- Chapter 12: Bishops and the Bible
- Chapter 13: Christians and Their Myth
The book is not necessarily a long read, but due to all the intricate details provided and the pieces to put together, it is definitely not a short read. A book like this I think needs to be enjoyed and digested piece by piece, to really grasp all that the author is presenting through their work and research.
Book Content & Personal Commentary
Depending on your level of spiritual awareness, you may have all the interest in the world for works like these, or none whatsoever. And that is all good. I know a book like this may be a difficult read for the average person out there, as I will just put it bluntly, many will claim “it is boring” and that may very well explain why more people do not know information like this exists. There is definitely a certain sort of seeking and searching that will draw one to a book like this. It is packed with history, theory, philosophy and theology. So while it can be an incredibly interesting book for one, it can also be incredibly useless or boring for another.
While so many of us are spiritually free, too many people out there still believe that everything their religious leaders, texts and churches tell them is the absolute truth and shape their lives in confining ways around that, when nothing could be further from the truth. This is why I believe in sharing all sorts of information for the empowerment of each being. We are currently shaping a new world – a world where love, unity and peace, not politics, separation and fear are the cornerstones of society.
So when it comes to this book, generally speaking I loved it. I love learning all sorts of new things, and in the case of information like this, it should really not have been a new thing. As I mentioned above, I always held a special interest in matters that revolve around theology, and so I actually took various religious courses alongside my science degree. However, even though they answered a few questions for me, and awakened me in small bits and pieces, the majority of the information was highly biased towards the greatest branch of Christianity – the Catholic Church.
Thus today, it is wonderful to read and learn more about the religious history of the world, as it helps me understand why we are where we are as a society, and how to help people better during this time of the great awakening.
What I find interesting to this day, is that so many people will argue and defend their own religion, with most of them never having read their primary religious texts themselves, never having given what they really believe conscious thought and not having looked into the history of it all from an unbiased angle. Too many of us still blindly trust and follow what others tell us, and than defend it till we are blue in the face, even when it makes no sense to us, our lives or just in general.
This is where The Lost Gospel – The Book of Q & Christian Origins is just fantastic as it introduces us to new historical texts, theories and broader understandings of the life and works of the man named Jesus.
In part 1, the author explains that if one reads the 4 gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, they are bound to see various problems with the information and accounts provided. Scholars have studied these over the years and have theorized that there must have existed another text, an earlier text, which was written at the time of Jesus, and used later as a reference for the four and other Gospels. This was known as the “sayings Gospel” and is today known as the “Book of Q” (Q for quelle, meaning “source“).
In this part, the author also explains all the research that has been uncovered over the years when it came to the geography, history, political and cultural ways of the people of the first century – the time of Jesus, as well as that shortly before and after. Through all the research and data presented, the author explains how inaccurate the current history and literature taught about that time is. He attempts to uncover the true motivation for Jesus’ work and why the crowds were attracted to it so much, making Jesus and his work draw so much attention.
The author shares how the discovery of “Q” upsets the conventional picture of the origins of Christianity, which is based on the popular conception that Jesus appeared as the Jewish Messiah to reform the religion of Judaism, get people to repent and become saved for the “ Kingdom of God“.
The works and people of “Q“, as the author states were all about completely different things. People were encouraged to free themselves from traditional social constraints, to think of themselves as belonging to a larger human family, develop a new social vision for all human well-being and to act “naturally”, not according to some laws or rules of religions.
The attraction of the new community was not rooted in a plan to reform a religious tradition that had missed its calling, or in a clarion call to start a new world religion baed on recent revelation, but in the enhancement of human values experienced in the process of social formation itself.
Burton L. Mack
As I was reading part 1, I could not help to think of the incredible parallels that shine between the people of Jesus’ time and what is happening on the planet today. We are today seeing a movement where people are seeing the old ways not working, and instead of one messenger, we have many today all around the world, awakening people to a better and more natural way of life. Perhaps this is simply a natural cycle of evolution in humanity’s cultural ways of life.
This was an exciting and really eye-opening part of the book to read.
In part 2, the author presents the text of the lost Gospel. What I loved most about reading this, is that it is perhaps the closest I can get to the original words of Jesus and nothing more, without all the staging for this event or that. It is just the wisdom of Jesus. It is profound to say the least. To be blunt, even though I know there is of course some loss of the original meaning through the translations, it can really make ones head spin when looked upon deeply, for it is so simple and yet so rich in what it offers for each of us. In the words of the author:
Q bristles with critical judgements on truths held to be self-evident and social conventions that most people would have taken for granted. Q’s challenge to its readers was to have another look at their world and dare to dance a different tune.
Burton L. Mack
In part 3, Mack goes on to explain the significance of all these findings with respect to the historical data that was and is available. I will admit this part was very tough to read for me, as it seemed to drag on and get lost in details that I really did not care for much.
In part 4, the book came to an amazing climax. The story picked up here with each chapter, as Mack presented some incredible facts and food for thought. One cannot help to ask the “ what if?” questions. What would our world look like today, if a more accurate approach was taken, when it came to the words and the life of Jesus?
The teachings of Jesus to his disciples tell them that true knowledge is self-knowledge, and that true self-knowledge is a state of being untouched by the world of human affairs, a state of being in touch with a noetic world of divine light and stability.
Burton L. Mack
Ultimately Mack explains the expanded definition of what a myth is, and how myth making was a way of life to the people of the first centuries. Between the cultural mix that was present and influenced the political and social order, and the unstable political situations, it is easy to see how it is possible that the work, words and complete view of who and what Jesus was really all about got lost in the mix.
As it turns out, it was hardly the myth, or the message that generated Christianity. It was the attraction of participating in a group experimenting with a new social vision.
Burton L. Mack
And although today, that vision may not be so novel any longer, we as humans still have this incessant need to belong. This can be wonderful, as it can cultivate connections and relationships, but it can be paralyzing to our growth and conscious evolution, if it is based on a set of fixed, boxed or limiting beliefs.
So why did the Gospel of Q dissapear? According to the author and research on the history and works of the early church establishment, it simply did not fit in with the newly formed church’s theologies or ways of doing things.
There is simply no place for Q and the first followers of Jesus who were not Christians.
Burton L. Mack
The author finishes in the last chapter by explaining that myths are all innocent and well, unless they are taken literally. And this he highlights is the greatest problem with the Christian origins – they are based on a myth, vulnerable to unsettling questions – and yet claim to be history, asking its adherents to believe that it is true.
Thus, it is most important I think for us all to understand (whether Christian or not) that the New Testament was not put together because those writings were all there was, or to commemorate Jesus’ earliest records. It was put together to consist of a very select group of writings, very carefully arranged to suit the times of that era. What we have come to see them as today, is a whole other story.
Q challenges the authority Christians assume when making judgements about their world.
Burton L. Mack
Although this review was long, it was not nearly long enough as to the many other incredible facts and lessons that I wanted to share with you. But I guess those, with whom this topic resonates, will find a copy of this book, and find out what it means for them personally.
While I will not claim that everything Mack says is the new amazing truth, one cannot dismiss the history and facts that his life’s research and work presents.
For me personally this book opened even more doors of a conscious nature, and lead me to more questions as to why things are the way they are, and where is the truth of it all.
We have millions of people out there in the world today calling themselves Christian and living their life a certain way (some for better and some for worse) simply because they hold on strongly to a story that they believe to be true in every sense of the word. But as part of awakening and critical thinking, it is important to question all that we have been led to believe. And equally so, it is important to consider what would your life be like if what you believed wasn’t true.