(By Viola Larson, Naming His Grace blog). We have come to those last three lessons in the Presbyterian Women’ Bible study, “Who is Jesus?: What a Difference a Lens Makes,” where the author bypasses the biblical text. Using non canonical gospels, the perspectives of Islam and Judaism and lastly contemporary culture, Judy Yates Siker looks at non-scriptural answers to the question “who is Jesus?” With this review I will focus on the questions that Siker fails to address. Why were the fanciful, too often gnostic and docetic, texts used by Siker rejected by the early church? And why must we, as Christians, also reject the non-canonical texts?
Yes, Siker does explain some of the differences between the non-canonical texts and the biblical texts but she fails to warn her readers that the non-canonical ones are damaging to the faith of the church. Most of them were written after the biblical texts were written and were rejected by the early church and the church universal through all ages. They were rejected because they redefine the person of Jesus, the redemption of the saints and the God of the Hebrew Bible.
Siker’s reasons for turning to texts outside of the Bible are twofold. In her view concerning the three final lessons, she insists that the question, who is Jesus, for this study, is not “Who is Jesus according to our New Testament.” Siker writes:
“I believe the question is broader than this, and I think we owe it to ourselves, as world citizens, to have a broader understanding of how this significant figure, Jesus, is seen and understood beyond the bounds of the New Testament.”
Concerning the ancient non-canonical texts featured in lesson seven, Siker writes:
“These writings are significant because they show us something of the diversity of early Christianity. As Christians today, we have a variety of views of Jesus and we certainly do not all agree on how we would answer the question “Who is Jesus?” It is important to realize that the earliest generations of Christians were dealing with similar questions, and were trying to determine just who Jesus had been and what was the most appropriate way to talk and teach about him. As we continue our efforts to understand and answer the question for ourselves, it can be interesting, enlightening, and valuable to know that even those among his earliest followers found the work of God in Christ to be expressed in various ways. It remains our task today to explore these ways and to engage the Gospel message of and about Jesus anew.”
So first, in answer to Siker’s statements, we are not only citizens of this world, we are citizens of heaven and we owe nothing to ourselves and everything to our Lord. If we study the texts she covers it must be to better answer those who have fallen into deceptive teaching.