We possess no Aramaic, Hebrew, or first century New Testament manuscripts. The earliest Greek manuscripts employ different words, verses, and even entire chapters. English editions of the Bible suffer from inaccurate sources, poor translation, and later redaction. Some 200 sources – gospels, sayings collections, dialogues, commentaries, and other accounts – contribute to an understanding of what Jesus might have said. Historians make no substantial distinction between canon and non-canon literature. The following sources provide a comprehensive foundation of the complete gospels:
1. The New Oxford Annotated Bible (Oxford U. 1973, 1994): A reliable modern translation of the standard Bible, with notes explaining the problems, uncertainties, and history of revisions. The “New Revised Standard Version” is edited by Bruce M. Metzger and Roland E Murphy. The translation panel includes 34 renowned contributors, including John Knox, Herbert G. May, John Breck, Leslie J. Hoppe, and Mary C. Callaway.
Westar Institute, Polebridge Press
3. The Five Gospels, by Robert W. Funk, Roy W. Hoover, (Scribner, 1993): Includes the four canon gospels, plus Thomas, with a commentary on statements attributed to Jesus. The scholars examine sayings that Jesus borrowed from common tradition, those attributed to him by later writers, and those he may have originated and spoken. The translation panel includes Ron Cameron, Karen L. King, Julian V. Hills, J. D. Crossan, John S. Kloppenborg, Helmut Koester, Mahlon H. Smith, Marvin W. Meyer, and other experts in Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Coptic languages, middle eastern history, and text analysis.
Westar Institute, Polebridge Press
4. The Nag Hammadi Library, ed. James M. Robinson (Harper & Row, 1988): The complete contents of the thirteen books found near Nag Hammadi, Egypt in 1945, plus four manuscripts from Oxyrhynchus, Egypt. A team of 38 translators and contributors includes Elaine H. Pagels, Helmut Koester, Marvin W. Meyer, and other distinguished scholars. The 47 texts include the gospels of Thomas, Mary, Philip, Egyptians, the Gospel of Truth, Pistis Sophia, Dialogue of the Saviour, Thunder: Perfect Mind, and the “Apocalypses” of James and Peter.
The Gnostic Society Library: the Nag Hammadi Library online, texts and commentary.
5. The Gospel of Mary of Magdala, Karen L. King (Polebridge, 2003). The Mary gospel merits particular focus due to the purging of the feminine voice in the historical record. Karen King provides excellent translation and commentary.
Gospel of Mary at The Gnostic Society Library:
6. Early Christian Writings: 156 ancient texts from the first three centuries after the life of Jesus, including most of those mentioned above, plus Didache, Epistle of Barnabas, Shepherd of Hermas, Gospel of Judas, treatises by Church patriarchs such as Ignatius and Origen, and evidence from historians such as Titus and Pliny. Each entry includes alternative translations and commentary from the expert scholars, compiled by Peter Kirby, listed chronologically and by source type.
7. The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, James Strong (Thomas Nelson, 1991): The classic source for definitions of Hebrew and Greek words used in the Bible. Since it relies on the King James English Bible, the Greek passages are not necessarily original. Nevertheless, the links to meanings and roots of Greek and Hebrew words is extremely useful.
Strong’s Dictionary and Concordance online
Hebrew and Greek Concordance Index
Translations: All quotations attributed to Jesus, including the earliest Greek versions, reflect reconstructed, paraphrased renderings created second-hand by scribes drawing from the oral traditions. The known text that likely comes closest most often to the language and ideas of the Galilean Jesus, or Yeshua, is the Thomas anthology of sayings without narrative. The “Q” or source verses from Matthew and Luke, and certain sayings in Mark, the Dialogue of the Saviour, and fragments from Oxyrhynchus and Eagerton sound like an authentic first-century Galilean voice.
Greek, Latin, German, and English translations since the first century face interpretation and translation difficulties. The English renderings in The Jesus Sayings rely primarily on the sources above, particularly on the Oxford NRSV and “Scholars Version” translations. Where these versions diverge or offer alternatives, I attempt to balance academic precision with common language. The renderings in The Jesus Sayings sometimes merge sources. For example, I substitute the traditional “kingdom” for the “Scholars Version” translation “imperial rule” or “domain” because “kingdom” sounds to me more like the metaphoric language of a peasant teacher.
Varieties of Religious Experience, William James (Collins, 1971)
Letters and Papers from Prison, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a priest and prisoner in Nazi Germany writes about the authentic message of Jesus (1945; Touchstone, 1997).
Lost Christianity, Jacob Needleman (Doubleday, 1980).
Reading the Bible Again For the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously But Not Literally, Marcus J. Borg (Harper, 2002). Borg helps readers understand both mythology and history.
God & Empire, J. D. Crossan (Harper, 2007)
Rosemary R. Ruether: Goddesses and the Divine Feminine (2005) ; To Change the World: Christology and Cultural Criticism (Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2001) ; and Religion and Sexism, ed. (Simon and Schuster, 1974).
Karen King: Images of the Feminine in Gnosticism, (Trinity, 2000), and Women and Goddess Traditions in Antiquity and Today (Fortress Press, 1997).
The Chalice and the Blade, Riane Eisler (Harper & Row, 1988)
The Rebirth of Nature: The Greening of Science and God, Rupert Sheldrake (Bantam, 1991)
Trilogues at the Edge of the West: Chaos, Creativity, and the Resacralization of the World, Rupert Sheldrake; T. McKenna; and R. Abraham (Bear, 1992) ;
The Reenchantment of the World, Morris Berman (Cornell U., 1981).
From Science to God, Peter Russell, (New World Library, 2003)
John Shelby Spong: Liberating the Gospels (Harper, 1997) ; Why Christianity Must Change or Die (1998) ; The Sins of Scripture (2005) ; A New Christianity for a New World, John Shelby Spong (Harper, 2002).
Mathew Fox books: A New Reformation (Wisdom, 2005; Inner Traditions 2006). One River, Many Wells (Tarcher, 2004) ; Original Blessing, (Tarcher, 2000) ; The Coming of the Cosmic Christ (Harper, 1983) ; A Spirituality Named Compassion, (Inner Traditions, 1999) ; Illuminations of Hildegard of Bingen (Bear & Co., 2002) ; Meditations with Meister Eckhart (Bear, 1983) ; and Natural Grace, dialogues with Rupert Sheldrake (Doubleday, 1977). Fox was ordained as a Dominican Catholic priest in 1967. He has pioneered a humanized, gender-equal spirituality that honours nature and promotes social justice. John Shelby Spong says, “History will name Fox one of the great Christian spirits of our age.”
Ancestral Wisdom Education: The A.W.E. Project: Reinventing Education, Reinventing the Human, Matthew Fox, with DVD (Copperhouse, 2006).
A Sociable God, Ken Wilber (McGraw Hill, 1983; Shambhala, 2005)
Divinity and Diversity, Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki (Abingdon, 2003)
In the Footsteps of Gandhi: Conversations with spiritual activists, Catherine Ingram speaks with the Dalai Lama, Joan Baez, Thich Nhat Hanh, and others (Parallax, 1990).
Encountering God: A Spiritual Journey from Bozeman to Banaras, Diana L. Eck (Beacon, 2003)
Introducing Liberation Theology, Leonardo Boff (Orbis, 1987)
The Violence of Love, Oscar A. Romero (Plough, 1998)
Why I am not a Christian, Bertrand Russell, (Touchstone, 1957) ;
The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins (Houghton Mifflin, 2006) ;
God is not Great, Christopher Hitchens (Hachette, 2007).
For a response to these books, see Letter from a Christian Citizen by Douglas Wilson; Letter to an Atheist by Michael Patrick Leahy; Letter to a Christian Nation: Counter Point by RC Metcalf; and The Dawkins Letters: Challenging Atheist Myths by David Robertson.
P52 Fragment: Jesus before Pilate: shows how the few fragment letters fit with the larger scene from the Gospel of John. Translation by K. C. Hanson.
Bruce Metzger: Manuscripts of the Greek Bible, (Oxford U., 1981) and The Early Versions of the New Testament (1968)
Constantin von Tischendorf, When Were Our Gospels Written? (American Tract Society, 1866) ; excerpt, “Discovery of the Sinaitic Manuscript”
The Nazarene Way: The Top Ten Exegetical Discoveries of the Historical Jesus
Excerpt from The Complete Gospels: Twenty early accounts
John Kloppenborg, University of Toronto: a list of his publications, a bibliography, and other resources. See The Formation of Q; (Fortress, 1987) ; Q Parallels (Polebridge, 1988) ; Excavating Q: The History and Setting of the Sayings Gospel (T. & T. Clark, 2000) ; Kloppenborg and Marvin W. Meyer, Stephen J. Patterson, Michael G. Steinhauser, eds., Q Thomas Reader (Polebridge 1990) ; Kloppenborg and Leif E. Vaage, eds., Early Christianity, Q and Jesus (Scholars Press, 1991) ; and Kloppenborg, James M. Robinson, and Paul Hoffmann, eds., The Critical Edition of Q (Fortress, 2000).
For a critique of Kloppenborg’s stratification of Q, see “Q-community and implications for historical Yeshua,” by Dennis Ingolfsland, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, June 2003
For a summary analysis of Kloppenborg, see: “The Sayings Gospel Q and the Quest of the Historical Jesus,” by Helmut Koester, Harvard Theological Review, October 1996.
Burton Mack books: The Lost Gospel: The book of Q, Burton Mack (Harper Collins, 1993) A Myth of Innocence: Mark and Christian Origins (1988)
The Four Gospels: A Study of Origins, Burnett H. Streeter (Macmillan, 1930)
The First Gospel: An Introduction to Q, Arland D. Jacobson (Polebridge, 1992)
The Jesus Tradition in Q, Dale C. Allison (Trinity, 1997)
The Quest for Q, David R. Catchpole (T. & T. Clark, 1993)
Q: The Sayings of Jesus, Ivan Havener (Michael Glazier, 1987)
The History and Theology of the New Testament Writers, Udo Schnelle, (Fortress, U.S. / SCM, London, 1998)
The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, Bart Ehrman (Oxford U., 1999)
Studying the Synoptic Gospels, E. P. Sanders and Margaret Davies (Trinity, 1990).
Francis and Clare of Assisi:
Clare of Assisi at Other Women’s Voices, with additional resources and links.
The Poor Clares
Francis of Assisi: A Revolutionary Biography, Karen King
Francis and Clare: The Complete Works Regis Armstrong and I. C. Brady; (Paulist Press, 1986).
St. Francis of Assisi: A Biography, Omer Englebert (Servant Ministries, 1979).
Pope Innocent III:
Innocent III: Vicar of Christ or Lord of the World? Edited by James Powell (Heath & Co. 1963). Inquisition, Edward Peters (The Free Press, 1988).
Abuse of religious authority:
Vows of Silence: The Abuse of Power in the Papacy of John Paul II, Jason Berry and Gerald Renner; (Free Press, 2004).
Father Thomas Doyle’s research bibliography on Papal abuse of power, sex abuse in the churches.
Taking Five: Vows of Silence, review and commentary by Ruth Bertels.
Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church, Geoffrey Robinson (Australia, John Garrett, 2007)
Church, Charism and Power, Boff, Leonardo on church collusion with South American dictatorships (Crossroad, 1985)
Christianity, Patriarchy and Abuse, Joanne Carlson Brown and Carole Bohn; (Pilgrim, 1989)
Vicars of Christ: The dark side of the Papacy, Peter DeRosa (Poolbeg, 1988)
Sex, Priests, and Secret Codes, Thomas Doyle, Richard Sipe, and Patrick Wall (Bonus Books, 2006)
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More links to come: I’ll add more links as time allows. In the meantime, here are some useful books and websites to consider:
The Gospel of Thomas: The Thomas Gospel: Meyer and Patterson translation in The Complete Gospels (1994) and online at www.users.misericordia.edu. The Gospel of Thomas, Marvin Meyer (Harper, 1992) ; The Gospel of Thomas: Discovering the Lost Words of Jesus, John Dart, Ray Riegert, and John Dominic Crossan (Ulysses, Seastone, 2000) ; and The Gospel of Thomas: A Guidebook For Spiritual Practice, Ron Miller and Stevan L. Davies (Skylight Paths, 2004). For an examination of Thomas in relation to oral tradition, the John Gospel, women disciples, Gnosticism, ritual, and asceticism, see: Thomas at the Crossroads, ed. Uro Risto (T & T Clark, 1998) and Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas, Elaine Pagels (Random House, 2003) :
Jesus as a Jew: Géza Vermes: Jesus the Jew (Fortress, 1981) and Jesus in His Jewish Context (2003). Jesus and Judaism, E. P. Sanders (Fortress, 1987) ; Rabbi Jesus, Bruce Chilton (Image, 2002) ; Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews, Paula Fredriksen, (Vintage, 2000) ; and A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, John P. Meier, in three volumes: 1. “The Roots of the Problem and the Person” (Doubleday, 1991) ; 2. “Mentor, Message, and Miracles” (1994) ; and 3. “Companions and Competitors” (Anchor, 2001).
Early quest: An Apology for the Rational Worshipper of God, Hermann Reimarus (1774) ; The Life of Jesus Critically Examined, David F. Strauss (1835) ; Quest of the Historical Jesus, Albert Schweitzer (1909) ; and The History of the Synoptic Tradition, Rudolf Bultmann (1921).
The Modern quest: John Dominic Crossan: The Historical Jesus, (Harper Collins, 1992) ; Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography (Harper Collins, 1994) ; The Essential Jesus (Castle Books, 1994), examining the earliest sayings and images of Jesus; and Excavating Jesus, with Jonathan L. Reed (Harper Collins, 2001). For a rebuttal of Crossan’s conclusions about a historical Jesus, see Earl Doherty’s review of The Birth of Christianity (Harper, 1999) at www.jesuspuzzle.humanists.net.
Writers reconciling Christian faith with a historical Jesus: Jesus, Marcus J. Borg (HarperCollins, 2006). N. T. Wright: The Resurrection of the Son of God (HarperOne, 2003) and The Original Jesus: The Life and Vision of a Revolutionary (Eerdmans, 1997).
A Historical Jesus in Modern Literature: Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita (Russian original first published in English, Harper & Row, 1967) includes a subplot about Jesus (“Yeshua ha-Notsri”). Bulgakov’s sources include Strauss’ Life of Jesus Critically Examined, The Life of Christ by Frederic Farrar (1874), Josephus’ Jewish history, and Jacques Thibault’s Le procurateur de Judée (1892). The Gospel According to Jesus by José Saramago (Portugal, 1991; English translation, Harcourt Brace, 1994), a mythic/historic portrayal of Jesus. Also see The Man Who Died, D. H. Lawrence (1929; Harper, 1995) ; The Last Temptation of Christ, Nikos Kazantzakis (1951; Touchstone, 1998) ; and The Gospel According to the Son, Norman Mailer (Random House, 1999).
Historical Jesus online:
“Historical Jesus Theories” at www.earlychristianwritings.com. Westar Institute and Jesus Seminar scholars – Robert Funk, Karen Armstrong, Marcus Borg, John Shelby Spong, and others – at www.westarinstitute.org and “The Jesus Seminar Forum” at www.virtualreligion.net. The Jesus Project: www.jesus-project.com.
The life and times of Paul: From Jesus to Paul, Joseph Klausner, trans. William Stinespring (MacMillan, 1943) ; Saint Saul, Akenson (2000) ; Paul: A Critical Life, Jerome Murphy-O’Connor (Clarendon, 1996) ; The Life and Epistles of St. Paul, W.J. Conybeare and J. S. Howson (1858, U. Michigan, 2005), excerpt at www.austinbiblechurch.com) ; Peter Richardson’s University of Toronto course outline, “The Historical Paul,” www.chass.utoronto.ca; and “Paul as Herodian,” Robert Eisenman, www.depts.drew.edu/jhc/eisenman.
Paul’s mission and theology: Psychological Aspects of Pauline Theology, Gerd Theissen, (T&T Clark, 1999) ; Paul and the Competing Mission in Corinth, Michael Goulder (Hendrickson, 2001) ; What Saint Paul Really Said, N. T. Wright (Eerdmans, 1997) ; E. P. Sanders: Paul: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford U., 2001) and Paul and Palestinian Judaism (Fortress, 1983) ; The Mythmaker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity, Hyam Maccoby (Harper, 1987) ; and Social Science Commentary on the Letters of Paul, Bruce J. Malina (Fortress, 2006).
Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 18:5, The New Complete Works of Josephus (Kregel, 1999). For the social context of John the Baptist and Jesus, see Richard Horsley: Bandits, Prophets, and Messiahs: Popular Movements in the Time of Jesus (Trinity, 1999) and Archaeology, History, and Society in Galilee (Trinity, 1996) ; Helmut Koester: Introduction to the New Testament, Volume II: History & Literature of Early Christianity (Walter de Gruyter, 2000) and Ancient Christian Gosepls (Trinity Press, 1990) ; The Historical Jesus, Crossan (1992), “John and Jesus,” Chapter 11; and John the Baptist and Jesus, W. Barnes Tatum (Polebridge, 1994). For a Christian perspective on John’s example of righteousness, see John the Baptist, Alexander J. Burke (Saint Anthony Messenger, 2006).
Jesus’ mission: Jesus, a Revolutionary Biography, J. D. Crossan (Harper, 1989) ; Sheep among the Wolves: A Study on the Mission Instructions of Q, Risto Uro (Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia, Helsinki, 1987) ; and Asceticism and the New Testament, Leif E. Vaage (Routledge, 1999).
Jesus and Cynic philosophers: The Greek Cynics, Farrand Sayre (Furst, 1948) ; A History of Cynicism: From Diogenes to the 6th Century A. D., Donald R. Dudley (1937; Duckworth, 1996) ; and Downing: Christ and the Cynics (1988) ; Cynics and Christian Origins (1992) ; and Jesus and the Threat of Freedom (Trinity, 1988).
Mary Magdalene: The Gospel of Mary of Magdala, King (2003) ; Which Mary? Marys in the Early Christian Tradition, ed. F. Stanley Jones (Society of Biblical Literature, 2002) ; Mary Magdalene: Myth and Metaphor, Susan Haskins (Harcourt Brace, 1994) ; Mary Magdalene: The First Apostle, Ann Brock (Harvard U., 2002) ; The Resurrection of Mary Magdalene, Jane Schaberg (Continuum, 2004) ; Margaret Starbird: Bride in Exile (2005) ; Woman with the Alabaster Jar (1993), and The Goddess in the Gospels (Bear & Co., 1998).
Feminine Spirituality: Rosemary R. Reuther: Goddesses and the Divine Feminine (2005) and Religion and Sexism, ed. (Simon and Schuster, 1974). Elaine Pagels: The Gnostic Gospels (1979) and Adam, Eve and the Serpent (Vintage, 1988). Karen King: Images of the Feminine in Gnosticism, (Trinity, 2000), and Women and Goddess Traditions in Antiquity and Today (Fortress Press, 1997). The Chalice and the Blade, Riane Eisler (Harper & Row, 1988) ; The Spiral Dance, Starhawk (Harper, 1989) ; The Language of the Goddess, Marija Gimbutas (Harper, 1989) ; and The Gospel According to Woman, Karen Armstrong (Hamish Hamilton, 1986).
Jesus as healer: Jesus the Magician, Morton Smith (Barnes & Noble, 1993) ; Jesus the Healer, Stevan L. Davies (SCM, 1995) ; From Jesus to Christ, Paula Fredriksen (Yale U., 1988, 2000) ; The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation, Hans Dieter Betz, popular magic during Jesus era, (U. of Chicago, 1992) ; The Faith Healers, James Randi (Prometheus, 1989) ; and Religion, Science, and Magic, Jacob Neusner, E. Frerichs, P. Flesher, eds., Oxford U., 1992). The third century Books of Jeu (Ieou) identify Jesus as the “holy comforter;” available online at Early Christian Writings; see The Books of Jeu, Carl Schmidt and V. Macdermot (Brill Academic, 1997).
Burnett Hillman Streeter: The Buddha and the Christ (Kessinger, 2004) ; The Primitive Church (Macmillan, 1930; Kessinger, 2003) ; and The God who speaks, Warburton lectures; (Macmillan, 1937). Alvin Boyd Kuhn: The Root of all Religion (Kessinger, 2005) and Lost Light: An Interpretation of Ancient Scriptures (Filiquarian, 2007).
Ancient influences on Judaism, Jesus, and Christianity: Moses the Egyptian: The Memory of Egypt in Western Monotheism, Jan Assman (Harvard U., 1998) ; Zoroastrianism, Peter Clark, (Sussex Academic, 1999) ; The Ancient Jewish Mysticism, Joseph Dan, (Mod Books, 1990) ; The Pagan Christ, Tom Harpur (Thomas Allen, 2004) ; The Messiah Texts, Raphael Patai, (Wayne State U., 1989) ; Mythologies Last Gods: Yahweh and Jesus, William Harwood (Prometheus, 1992).
Wisdom east and west: Sacred Texts of the World, ed. Ninian Smart and Richard D. Hecht (Crossroad, 1982; Herder, 1984) ; The Dhammapada: The Sayings of the Buddha: trans. Thomas Byrom (Vintage, 1976) ; The Dhammapada, Gil Fronsdal (Shambhala, 2006). Tao Te Ching, Lao Tsu: trans. Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English (Vintage, 1972, 1997) ; trans. Stephen Addiss and Stanley Lombardo (Hackett, 1993) ; and trans. Stephen Mitchell (Harper, 2006).
Early Factions of Jesus followers: The Other Side of Early Christianity, Gerd Lüdemann (John Knox, 1996) ; The Mysterious Origins of Christianity, Paul Angle (Wheatmark, 2007) ; Jews and Christians: The parting of ways AD 70 to 135, ed. James Dunn (Eerdmans, 1992). The Gospel and the Church, Alfred Loisy, trans. Christopher Home (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1909) ; The Writings of the Apostolic Fathers, Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (1867; Apocryphile, 2007; Part I, Kessinger 2004) ; A Myth Of Innocence, Burton Mack (Fortress, 1998) ; The Religion of the Earliest Churches, Gerd Theissen (Fortress, 1999). The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption and Restoration, Bruce M. Metzger (Oxford U., 1968) ; Antioch and Rome: New Testament Cradles of Catholic Christianity, Raymond E. Brown and John P. Meier (Paulist Press, 1983).
The early Christian Church: The Social Record of Christianity, Joseph McCabe, (Watts, London, 1935) ; When History and Faith Collide: Studying Jesus, Charles W. Hedrick (Hendrickson, Peabody, 1995) ; The Just War and Jihad: Violence in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, ed. R. Joseph Hoffmann (Prometheus, 2006) ; A History of Christianity, Paul Johnson (Penguin, 1976) ; Books and Readers in the Early Church, Harry Y. Gamble (Yale U., 1995) ; Shadow of the Third Century: A Revaluation of Christianity, Alvin Boyd Kuhn (Kessinger, 1992). Forgery In Christianity, Joseph Wheless (1930; FQ Classics, 2007) ; Gospel Fictions, Randel Helms (Prometheus, 1988) ; and Social Reality and the Early Christians, Gerd Theissen, trans. Margaret Kohl (Fortress, 1992).