Literature in the Dark Ages: the Apocrypha

The Dark ages is referred to as such for many reasons there was plague and sickness that hit humanity during this time and people lived in fear to name a few. But one main reason is the fact that not much information exists about this period in history. Nearly all the ancient critical texts were lost during the Middle Ages. Emperor Flavius Juvianus ordered the burning of Antioch Library.

Tons of books were burnt. Pagan temples and libraries were looted or burnt down (1). During the Dark Ages the literature by clergy was produced and preserved more than any other literature. The church was considered the authority on intellect at the time so it was there works that were reproduced in the greatest volume.

Clergy therefore dominated literature during this time period. It was in the Dark Ages that there were records of as many as 200 epistles and accounts of the life of Jesus Christ that were said to have been written.Only 27 were preserved. Of the 193 that were discarded Claytor 2 some people considered them to be fiction pieces of literature, some esteemed them as true and to some they were thought to be fraudulent. The writings that were believed to have been oppressed by Christians during the Dark ages are esteemed by some as lost spiritual teachings.

In fact some of these teachings were discovered in 1945 and they expounded on the teachings that are recorded in the bible.They speak of a secret gospel of Mark, secret teachings of John, an account of the Gospels written by Thomas, the Apocalypse of Paul, as well as spiritual insight written by a woman which is called Pistils Sophia. These teachings are by a group called Gnostics. Gnostics were Christians whose belief system was based more upon knowledge than faith.

Their name is derived the word Gnosis which is spiritual insight. They heavily embraced the hidden writings.It is likely that due to their Criticisms and differences with the Roman Orthodox church that members of the Gnostic sect were burned at the stake and many of their writings destroyed by the Church. Before the discovery of Gnostic writings, our only knowledge of additional accounts of the life and death of Jesus Christ came from a letter written by Church Father Clement of Alexandria (150 AD – 211 AD).

In the letter Father Alexandria quotes this secret gospel and refers to it as “a more spiritual gospel for the use of those who were being perfected.   He said, “It Claytor 3 even yet is most carefully guarded [by the church at Alexandria], being read only to those who are being initiated into the great mysteries. (2). It is important to note that while Father Alexandria was a proponent of Gnosis, which was a knowledge or insight into the infinite, he rejected the concept as defined by the Gnostic sect.

The oppressed writings were considered by some scholars as According to the Early Christian Church the additional writings of the life of Jesus were considered useful but were omitted from records because they weren’t considered to be divinely inspired.The gospels were separated into two categories. They are considered either canonical or non-canonical. The canonical writings are those that were included in the gospels in the bible.

The non-canonical were called were considered apocryphal. The word Apocrypha literally means hidden writings. While the different branches of the early church disagreed about which writings were canonical and which were apocryphal they all subscribed to the belief that some writings were divinely inspired by God and others were not. Within the apocryphal writings are accounts of the infancy of Jesus in which they account the childhood of Jesus.There are those that give different perspectives of the passions and the Gospel of Thomas records many sayings of Jesus that are Claytor 4 not included in the bible.

The early Christian church deemed many of these writings useful but do not believe all were divinely inspired. There are those who believe the lost writings are fraudulent or fiction works. Some of them that subscribe to this belief have concluded that, whether canonical or apocryphal, none of the accounts of the lives of Jesus are true.They believe that by omitting 173 of 200 accounts of the life of Jesus the church proves that it used the writings they selected to merely maintain their power and control. Edward Gibbon, a historian whose work has been heavily criticized by the Christian church, wrote “The origin of these fraudulent documents was none other than the church.

Gibbon tells us: “Orthodox theologians were tempted, by the assurance of impunity, to compose fictions, which must be stigmatized with the epithets of fraud and forgery. They ascribed their own polemical works to the most venerable names of Christian antiquity. Others who challenge the validity of these writings are Christians who believe some accounts to be true but not others. J. G. Davis, A Christian teacher of Theology, wrote in his book The Early Christian Church “(they are merely) another genre of literature, devised for reading by the faithful during their leisure time, and corresponding in some ways to the novels of a later era. ” Claytor 5

The oppressed ancient writings of Christianity are very controversial.There are little to no facts about the writings that are not debated, disagreed upon or refuted in some way. What is clear is that there are some writings about the life of Jesus that are either currently in existence or evidently existed at some time in history, although the number of apocryphal writings is uncertain. It is also certain that these writings give an account of the same occurrences as those considered canonical by the early Christian church. They are closely related writings that are recorded in the bible and considered by Christians as the true accounts of the life of Jesus.Claytor 6

Cited Works

  • http://reluctant-messenger. com/Lost-Doctrines-Christianity003. htm  The Early Christian Church, p. 83 (1965).
  • History of Christianity, p. 598http://www. gnosis. org/library/strom2. htm

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