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Bible Secrets Revealed?: A Response to the New History Channel Series (Part 3)
by Michael Kruger
This is the third installment of a new series reviewing the History Channel series entitled Bible Secrets Revealed (for others, see here and here). The newest episode is entitled, “The Forbidden Scriptures,” as is definitely one of the most provocative so far. It is designed to argue that certain books were “banned” or “forbidden” from the New Testament.
This episode makes numerous claims about the development of the New Testament that, once again, prove not to be the whole story. Many such claims were made, but I will only mention a few of the key ones here.
1. Was the canon just a power-play? This episode repeats the standard narrative that the canon was chosen by men with an agenda trying to preserve the power of the church. The canon is just about politics, we are told.
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Kathleen McGowan makes this point in the video: “There were a group of men with specific agendas determining what would and what would not become canon. And this agenda was about preserving the power of the church.”
But, there are problems with this sort of claim. One major problem is that there was no unified political or ecclesiastical infrastructures during the first centuries that could have accomplished such a feat. The church had no real political power until Constantine in the fourth century. And, the ecclesiastical structure of the church was quite undeveloped in the earliest stages. Even if a group wanted to force their books on others, it would have been difficult to pull such a thing off.
What is remarkable is that despite this lack of infrastructure, the church did seemed to have a “core” canon of books that they agreed upon by the middle of the second century. Thus, in the earliest phases of the church there are appears to be a canon of sorts that is decidedly NOT the result of politics.
There are also problems with referring to apocryphal books as “left out” or “banned”. While such terminology adds to the dramatic nature of the documentary, it is inherently misleading. Such books were not “left out” because they were never “in” to begin with…