Now I'm getting the chance to read books I didn't have time for before. Think of me whenever you see the slogan "So many books, so little time!" Now I've got the time.  Cheers, Fred.

The Many Faces of Christ: The Thousand-Year Story of the Survival and Influence of the Lost Gospels

Book Number: 
Date Fred Read: 
August 2017
Fred's Rating: 
Philip Jenkins
Total Pages: 
Basic Books

Philip Jenkins is Distinguished Professor of History at Baylor University, where he is based in the Institute for Studies of Religion. He is author of many books, including The Lost History of Christianity. His work has appeared in several prominent journals. (For his books I’ve read, click on his name.)

The Amazon website for the hardcover edition I was given is

[None of the ISBN-10, ISBN-13, or ASIN numbers on Amazon’s websites for the three editions (Kindle, hardcover, or paperback) are recognized by Amazon, thus the ‘no image Circle' appears. I think this new change by Amazon is not good. However, you can see the images of this books' covers at the website above.]

The home page has a good summary (click on the ‘Read more’ option). I recommend using Amazon’s ‘Look inside’ option and scroll down to the 2-pp Contents. I’m glad that his subtitles of each chapter reveal the order in which he approached his story of the very many non-canonical gospels that have been found. The Amazon preview of the hardcover edition gives you most of the 26-pp Chapter 1 – Gospel Truths: The Myth of the Lost Gospels. The first six pages are given without any missing pages (Amazon’s preview omits about a half dozen pages of Chapter 1), but this still allows you to get a taste of his style of writing and his use of tables, such as the 2-pp Box 1.1 – Some “Lost” Gospels, which includes some of the most well-known gospels that were not included among the earliest writings declared as canonical by the early Roman Catholic Church.

There is a lot of turf to cover in this book. His 49-pp Notes and 18-pp Index told me that he had a lot to discuss. Had I been asked to ‘guesstimate’ how many non-canonical gospels and letters existed, I would have thought about 100 or so. After reading this book, which was not hard to put down, I would now say about 1,000 or so. The factor of ten increase is necessary to include all the various languages and various editions thereof. Even after the Christian authorities (first the various Catholics and then the many Protestant bishops) declared the non-canonical writings as heresy and, in much of the thousand-year story, catching someone with such an ‘evil’ book would at best lead to expulsion and at worst lead to very painful and horrible deaths, sometimes of all family members. Yet very many Christians found good reasons to take the risk. Although many books and letters were burnt, it may surprise some as to wonder why people would take such a dangerous risk. This is where this book is lacking, for the author fails to make it clear why certain written works were worth the risk. This lack and the sheer number of ‘evil’ works is hard for me to understand. But to do so would probably mean not a two-hundred or so page book, but more like two thousand or so pages in several volumes.

But I would never have attempted to read a book of very many pages. I would probably attempt to read all of the gospels in Box 1.1. I’ve already read some because of what I heard from other folks about them. My historian friend who has given me or recommended I read religion books by Philip Jenkins is not a religious historian – he had focused during his career on history of various wars or battles, which are not topics that I have read very much about (beyond the major wars of America and Europe). I give this book a rating of three stars. I view it as a sideways path of my spiritual growth – the main feature that kept me reading was my amazement that so many different cultures of Christianity took such risks – amazed because I failed to see much worth or spiritual value they felt they should obtain. This book is not like “a cure for insomnia” since Jenkins covers much turf often in a page or two.