burg—I am told b a close student ot thernsubject—returned to Confederate linesrnmarked bv a multitude of black faces.rnClyde Wilson teaches history at thernUniversity of South Carolina.rnNew Skins, Old Winernby Harold O.]. BrownrnHidden Gospels: How the Searchrnfor Jesus Lost Its Wayrnby Philip JenkinsrnOxford: Oxford University Press;rn216 pp., $25.00rnFor almost 2,000 years, Christiansrnhave been confessing Jesus Christ asrnGod and Savior in the assurance thatrnthey knew enough about Him to justif}’rnmaking this confession. From the earliestrndays of Christianity, its adversariesrnhave repeatedly challenged the fiicts andrndoctrines recorded about Christ in thernfour canonical Gospels and in the greatrncredal statements of the early Church,rnclaiming that they were fraudulent.rnEven from within the Christian communit)’rnin the early centuries of our own era,rndocuments claiming to reveal more andrnother things about Jesus than those fourrnGospels record have been advanced —rnthings sometimes in conflict with therndogmatic statements of the orthodoxrncreeds. Although Professor Jenkins properlyrncalks them “hidden” (in the sensernthat they have not received regular attention),rnfor the most part the were not unknownrnbut rather known and found inauthenticrnor unreliable. However, inrnaccord with the spirit of poshnodemity, itrnis possible to argue that the four canonicalrnGospels became the standard forrnChristianity’ not because of their greaterrnreliability but because of political factorsrn—specifically, the Church at Romernseeking to impose her will on the entirernChristian communit)’.rnWhat Professor Jenkins deals with herernare not attacks from outside the Faith butrnthe works of people closely connectedrnwith Christian scholarship, purporting tornshow how misguided and mistaken orthodoxrnChristian teachings are. Severalrntimes in the past few years, scholars atrnleast loosely attached to Christianih’ havernclaimed to have discovered the “truth”rnabout Jesus, usually one that refutes thernmajor tenets of Christian orthodoxy.rnSuch writers as Elaine Pagels, John DominicrnCrossan, and—of course —RobertrnW. Funk of the Jesus Seminar have reliedrnon Gnostic texts and apocrphalrn”gospels” to show us quite a different Jesusrnfrom the Savior of orthodox Christianrnfaith. To the extent that their presentationsrnare taken seriousl}’ by readers, theyrncannot help but undermine traditionalrnChristian faith, making it look like onernamong many ancient religious fantasies.rnThe phenomenon of Christians employingrnscholarship to show that Chri.stianit)rnis based on a misunderstanding isrnnot a new one. The 19th centur’ saw effortsrnto produce a non-nnraculons Jesus-rnsometiirres Jesus the Good Teacher,rnsometimes Jesus the religious fraudrn(for examples, David Friedrich Strauss’srnLife of Jesus and Ernest Renan’s La Vie dernJesus). Ever)’ decade brought irew effortsrnto separate the Jesus of history, the Manrnas He really was, from the Christ of faithrnin whom the Church believes. At the beginningrnof the 20th century, AlbertrnSchweitzer published Von Reimarus ziirnWrede (better known by its catchy Englishrntitle. The Quest for the Historical Jesus),rnsumming up more than a centur)’ ofrnsuch efforts. Schweitzer reached thernconclusion that all were in vain. There isrnno valid historical or exegctical methodolog}’rnthat will permit one to extract a humanrnJesus, the Good Teacher, from Hisrnmessianic and eschatological claims asrnattested in the Gospels. Unwilling to acceptrnthose claims, Schweitzer abandonedrntheolog)’ for medicine and went tornAfrica as a medical missionar)’.rnFor the past half-century, we havernbeen treated to a “new quest” for that elusivernJesus, again largely by scholars workingrnwithiir the Christian context. ProfessorrnJenkins’ book takes its title from thernrepeated claim of the new questers tornhave found—or, at least, to have exploitedrn— new, reliable, and previously disregardedrnsources of information about Jesusrnin the form of noncanonical gospelsrnand other Gnostic writings, sourcesrnwhich in their e’es are more to be trustedrnthan the canonical Gospels themselves.rn(These are considered less trustworthy onrnaccount of their success in edging out orrnsuppressing the noncanonical sources, arnnice bit of circular logic.)rnW^iv do Christians engage in this sortrnof radical reconstructionism, the effectsrnof which can be expected to turn Christiansrnawa}’ from Christ and to warn non-rnChristians not to take Him seriously?rnAUhough he does not engage in ad hominemrnarguments, Jenkins (having pointedrnout that many of the skeptics were at onerntime confessing Christians) does speculaternon the extent to which their “discoveries”rnmight be motivated by a rebellionrnagainst their own past. (One was a ministerrnin the conservative Chiuch of thernNazarene; one, a Rindamentalist in NorthrnCarolina; one, a coimtry preacher inrnTexas; and so forth.)rnWhile the “hidden gospels” are frequentlyrnpresented as “new evidence,”rnthey were not all that hidden in the daysrnof the early Church. A curious feature,rnindeed, of most of these “discoveries” isrnthat tiie are not new at all: Wliat is newrnis the attention being paid to thcnr b’rnpeople who claim to be contributing to arnbetter understanding of ChristianiK’s origins.rnOn the very first page of his text.rnProfessor Jenkins tips us off to this fact byrnquoting the third-century Churcli fatherrnOrigen of Alexandria: “I know a certainrnGospel which is called the Gospel accordingrnto Thomas and a Gospel accordingrnto Matthias, and man) others . . . “rnMany of the most important Gnosticrnwriters were well known to the earlyrnChri.stians. hi fact, for centuries, many ofrnthem were known chiefly from anti-rnGnostic writing by early Christians, suchrnas the second century Against Heresies byrnSt. henaeus of Lyons.rnProfessor Jenkins writes in a disarminglyrncourteous shle and does not explicitlyrntake a stand for or against the practitionersrnof the “new quest.” But he doesrnshow tile extent to which they are turningrnover fields that have already been plowedrnmany times, leaving the reader to sympathizernwith Origen’s lines on page three:rn[Two apocr)’phal gospels] andrnmany others have we read—lest wernshould in any way be considered ignorant.rn. .. Nevertheless, among allrnthese, we have approved solelyrnwhat the churcli has recognized,rnwhich is that only the four Gospelsrnshould be accepted.rnFor those readers whose confidence inrnthe Jesus of the canonical Gospels hasrnbeen undermined, as well as for thosernwho might hope to be taught wonderfidrnneyy truths by the “hidden gospels” —rntlius liberating them from bondage to traditionalrnChristianity —Philip Jenkins’rnbook is a marvelous support, or, as thern30/CHRONICLESrnrnrn