.................................SCANDAL at NICEA


                   You've been hearing about it for some time now.  It's
                 all over the media.  The horrible secret is out:  Every-
                 one has just learned that the Holy Bible was "censored"
                 by the Roman Catholic Church in 325 AD at the Council
                 of Nicea.  You can hardly turn on a talk show without 
                 someone repeating this claim.  But is it true?

                   No.  How could it be?  One of the rulings of Nicea 
                 was that Rome only ruled over Europe, while Alexandria
                 had charge of Africa and Antioch had charge of Asia and
                 the Middle East.  The Roman Catholic domination we are
                 now so familiar with was not officially declared until
                 55 years after the Council of Nicea.

                   Okay, but what about all the changes in the Bible we
                 keep hearing were made by that Council?  Didn't Nicea
                 edit books or verses out of the Bible?

                   No.  The subject never came up at that council.  And
                 we have all the Council rulings, plus reports by several
                 attendees, to absolutely prove that the Council never
                 issued any such rulings, nor even discussed such ideas
                 as censoring or changing the Bible in any way.

                   On the contrary, the Arian debate was over whether or
                 not to add A SINGLE WORD to the Creed, not the Bible.
                 And that one word was disputed precisely because it was
                 NOT found in the New Testament's vocabulary anywhere.
                 [For the details on the Council of Nicea, by a Jewish
                 historian with no pro-Vatican bias, see: "WHEN JESUS
                 BECAME GOD" by Richard E. Rubenstein, Harcourt, Brace
                 & Company(NY, 1999).]

                   In other words, EVERYONE AGREED ON THE WORDING OF THE
                 NEW TESTAMENT (and Greek version of the Old Testament),
                 right down to the intimate details of every single word
                 used in its vocabulary.  All the bishops of the church
                 were using the same Bible in 325 AD.  No one suggested
                 "adding" a book or "changing" the wording as a way to
                 help resolve the dispute over this one word.

                   Moreover, earlier canon lists and manuscripts show that
                 the Bible in use before the Council was really the same
                 one in use after it.  The great Nicean censorship we keep
                 hearing about never happened.  The story is a hoax.
                 [See especially "THE NEW TESTAMENT MANUSCRIPTS" in many
                 volumes (in progress) by Reuben Swanson, William Carey
                 International Press(Pasadena, 1995-present). Allows a
                 comparison of all variations in the earliest manuscripts.]

                   In other words, we're being "had" by a modern religious
                 legend--a myth repeated so often it has taken on a life
                 of its own, being repeated in books and articles as if it
                 has some sort of academic "source" somewhere. Yet there's
                 not a word of truth in it.  Of course, that does not mean
                 the Council of Nicea was free of scandal. On the contrary,
                 hired gangs of thugs roamed the streets intimidating the
                 bishops, beating some.  Venal plots against the Arians and
                 mob rule typified the real "Council."  But censoring the
                 Bible was one of the few evils that did NOT occur there.

                   Okay, you say, but maybe some OTHER early church council
                 censored the Bible and took books out.  Did that happen
                 at any council before or after Nicea?

                   Surprisingly, it was mostly just the opposite. Although
                 there were a few books--like BARNABUS, SHEPHERD OF HERMAS,
                 CLEMENT, and THE APOCALYPSE OF PETER--that had been read
                 widely in the Church and thought to be genuine Christian
                 writings (vs books by heretics & con artists), the debate
                 never really was over those texts. Christians were already
                 reading them, but hardly anyone thought they were part of
                 the New Testament handed down by the Apostles.  SHEPHERD
                 OF HERMAS, for example, was known to have been composed
                 in the last half of the second century.  People read it,
                 but they knew it was not Apostolic in origin.

                   Book binding wasn't very good then.  So the 4 Gospels
                 were usually bound separately from the rest of the New
                 Testament to keep the Bible from being too big to bind.
                 There were thousands of these Gospel books produced over
                 the period from within a century after the Apostles down
                 to the 16th century, yet we have no ancient New Testament
                 manuscript with any other gospel but the familiar MATTHEW,
                 MARK, LUKE, and JOHN.  Old manuscript copies of "complete"
                 Bibles--with both Old and New Testaments--remained very
                 difficult to assemble until the Crusades. Complete Bible
                 collections were rarely made.  Breaking the Bible up into
                 smaller books was easier for research.  They could refer
                 back and forth between books, and more than one person
                 could use a Bible if it were in multiple sections--a good
                 thing in days when a local church had only one Bible for
                 the whole congregation.

                 [Our book, "THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE BIBLE," contains
                 a Bibliography of hundreds of sources documenting the
                 statements in this article.]

                 THE GOSPEL OF THOMAS

                   The little dialogue called "THE GOSPEL OF THOMAS" never
                 seems to have made it into anyone's Bible.  Not even the
                 Gnostics at Nag Hammadi where it was found put it in with
                 the New Testament books.  No one did.  The idea that this
                 so-called GOSPEL OF THOMAS was somehow "taken out" of the
                 Bible is another one of those myths people believe, but
                 which has no evidence at all behind it.

                   A "GOSPEL OF THOMAS" is mentioned by some early Church
                 fathers, but never as a legitimate part of the Bible, and
                 when they do quote from it, it is from a totally different
                 text than the one found in the 5th century AD "Library" at
                 Nag Hammadi.  The text quoted by the very early Christian
                 writers is about the CHILDHOOD of Jesus.  This "INFANCY
                 GOSPEL OF THOMAS," as it is now called, has no connection
                 in subject, style or viewpoint with the other "GOSPEL OF
                 THOMAS" of Nag Hammadi.

                   Nor is there much evidence for an early version of this
                 Nag Hammadi THOMAS.  The few pieces of papyri that quote
                 this THOMAS cannot be with certainty dated earlier than
                 around the start of the 4th century.  They come from piles
                 of fragments found at Oxyrinchus in Egypt.  Again, while
                 some would like to speculate about THOMAS being as old as
                 the late 1st century--and a popular myth even "dates" it
                 to the 30's AD!--all this is totally undocumented. Without
                 quotations in early authors or datable fragments, THOMAS
                 remains a relatively late text compared to the 4 Gospels
                 which are well-attested as existing by the late 1st or the
                 very early 2nd century (as even harsh critics would date
                 them) when several eyewitnesses of Jesus were still living.
                 Nobody took THOMAS seriously. Even the Nag Hammadi Library
                 bound it together with the pagan REPUBLIC OF PLATO, but not
                 with any New Testament books. On the other hand, fragments
                 of the 4 Gospels exist from between 60 and 135 AD--perhaps
                 200 years earlier than any fragments of THOMAS.

                   Even if THE GOSPEL OF THOMAS were genuine and as early as
                 the day of the Crucifixion itself [and it obviously is not],
                 it is a short, confused dialogue at an unstated time & place
                 of little value for historical purposes. It simply contains
                 no reference to the actual life of Jesus.  It is merely a
                 few rambling questions and answers.  Hardly a chapter's
                 worth of text. It is disappointing to anyone but a scholar.

                   In fact, if we had never heard of Jesus, this "GOSPEL"
                 would be a real puzzle.  It never explains who these people
                 are, when the lived, or why we should care about this very
                 strange discussion they are having, with its bizarre half-
                 quotations from the 4 Gospels.  Without the New Testament
                 as a background, this ill-defined dialogue could have been
                 attributed to some obscure ancient Gnostic sect whose ideas
                 apparently never got far.  Indeed, if the text of THOMAS
                 had not borrowed the names of Jesus and a few Apostles, it
                 would be recognized as just another piece of arcane Gnostic
                 philosophy and treated like the other Gnostic writings that
                 were found with it.  Of course, if the Gnostics could have
                 stood on their own, they would not have ever needed to wrap
                 themselves up in the authority of the New Testament by pre-
                 tending to have been part of it.

                   Notice how you never see Christian books pretending to be
                 part of some Gnostic tradition?  John, for example, whose
                 style of writing sounds much like the Gnostics, went out of
                 his way in his epistles to condemn the Gnostics so that no
                 one would have any grounds for misidentifying him. Why is it
                 that every heretic and Gnostic in the early Christian era
                 was trying to use the New Testament to boost his authority,
                 but none of them ever cited THOMAS or other Gnostic writings
                 as their authority?  If the New Testament was later and less
                 reliable than THOMAS, why didn't anyone cite THOMAS instead?

                   Scholars have found evidence for "Q"--a supposed original
                 collection of "sayings" of Jesus shared by several of the
                 New Testament writers.  This may have been part of the first
                 HEBREW GOSPEL OF MATTHEW mentioned by several early Church
                 fathers.  But every word of "Q" as we now have it is found
                 right in the New Testament itself.  Every word.  Speculation
                 about hypothetical other parts of the original "Q" document
                 that are now "lost" is a nice parlour game for some critical
                 scholars, but--without any hard evidence--there is no proof
                 a word of "Q" is lost.

                 THE REAL BIBLE CENSORS

                   You'd never guess who it was, but some Christians DID in
                 fact censor their Bibles.  It was none other than that other
                 popular group among our modern myth-makers, the creators of
                 the Aramaic New Testament.

                   Most people know this text from the English translation
                 of it done by George M. Lamsa.  What most do not realize--
                 unless they read Lamsa's footnotes and Introduction--is that
                 the "original" Peshitta Aramaic New Testament edited no less
                 than 5 books out of the Bible:  REVELATION, 2 PETER, 2 JOHN,
                 3 JOHN, and JUDE.  Aramaic texts of these books did exist,
                 but the churches under the Bishop of Babylon and the East
                 did not like them because they criticized Babylon and other
                 eastern churches.  So they edited them out around 300 AD.

                   Another popular myth contends that this Aramaic text was
                 the "original" New Testament and that the Greek text came
                 later.  Is that true?

                   Hardly.  Anyone with a copy of the Aramaic New Testament
                 --even in Lamsa's doctored English version--can see plainly
                 that MATTHEW in his Aramaic text contains in the very first
                 chapter the smoking gun that proves it is translated from
                 a GREEK original. It says: "IMMANUEL, which is INTERPRETED,
                 ('translated') 'God with us.'"

                   Now why would an Aramaic (Hebrew dialect) Bible need to
                 "INTERPRET" the well-known Hebrew/Aramaic name "IMMANUEL"
                 to an ARAMAIC readership?  Interpretating is needed for a
                 FOREIGN language.  Obviously, this verse was not written
                 in Hebrew or Aramaic, but in ANOTHER language, namely the
                 Greek tongue.  Its Greek readers needed an INTERPRETATION
                 of Hebrew terms--something that occurs often Lamsa's New
                 Testament, proving it was not originally an Aramaic text,
                 but a Greek work.

                   Further proof is found in the epistles, which are often
                 written to gentile Christians in Greek cities.  They are
                 sometimes instructed to read these epistles aloud in the
                 church.  Imagine the confusion if the text had been read
                 in Aramaic to these Greeks in Greece!

                   Luke's Gospel and ACTS are addressed to a Greek man he
                 calls "Theophilus"--who would hardly be written to in a
                 language other than Greek, which Luke as a physician, was
                 required to know well, since most medical texts and terms
                 were Greek.

                   Moreover, the early church fathers specifically single
                 out MATTHEW as the only New Testament book to ever have
                 a Hebrew original, and that text obviously is not the one
                 found in the Aramaic manuscripts available to Lamsa, who
                 claimed to be using the oldest Aramaic text available.

                   The irony is that all the claims of antiquity for this
                 Aramaic New Testament only serve to push back the date of
                 the Greek text from which it is so clearly translated.

                   Lamsa and other defenders of the Aramaic text claim it
                 is dated to the 1st century.  Many scholars have smiled at
                 this claim, but a few have taken it seriously. Even so, it
                 is clear that the New Testament underlying the Aramaic is
                 a Greek work--even in the case of MATTHEW.  Since MATTHEW
                 has been found in a few Greek fragments from the late 1st
                 century, any translation into Greek must have taken place
                 well before the end of the 1st century--that is, within
                 the lifetime of John and other eyewitnesses of Jesus.  The
                 Aramaic text of Lamsa must date after that time.


                   One of the most powerful proofs for the historical basis
                 of the Greek New Testament is its citation by pagan Greek
                 authors who attacked Christianity, beginning in the latter
                 1st century and continuing unabated until about 100 years
                 after the Council of Nicea.  These pagans had no reason to
                 endorse the Greek New Testament, yet they repeatedly cite
                 it as having 4 Gospels, and as teaching a virgin birth,
                 miracles, the atoning of sin by the Crucifixion, and a
                 Resurrection for both Jesus and for His followers.

                   The pagans ridiculed these teachings they found in the
                 New Testament--and thereby provided unassailable proof for
                 the existence of these Gospels and their doctrines at very
                 early times.  Among the teachings being attacked centuries
                 before the Council of Nicea was the divinity of Christ--
                 which the pagans could not believe possible in light of
                 the Crucifixion's brutal suffering.

                   Celsius, a pagan critic of the 2nd century, wrote:

                   "The assertion that some God or Son of God has come down
                 to the earth as Judge of mankind is most shameful...Is it
                 that God wants to give us knowledge of himself for our own
                 salvation in order that those who accept it may become good
                 and be saved...?"

                   Porphyry, a 3rd century philosopher and occultist, wrote:

                   "[It is stupid] to accept that the Divine [One] had
                 descended into the womb of the Virgin Mary, that He had
                 become an embryo, that after His birth he had been wrapped
                 in swaddling clothes, stained with blood, bile and worse...
                 Why, when He was taken before the High Priest and Governor,
                 did He not say anything worthy of a divine man?  He allowed
                 Himself to be struck, spat upon on the face, crowned with
                 thorns...allowing Himself to be assaulted like some rabble
                 from off the streets..."

                   Lucian of Samosata in Syria, in the 2nd century, tried
                 to portray Christians as naive:

                   "The poor wretches have convinced themselves...that they
                 are going to be immortal and live for all time, as result
                 of which they despise death...Furthermore, their lawgiver
                 persuaded them that they are all brothers of one another
                 after they have transgressed once and for all by denying
                 the Greek gods and by worshipping that crucified Wise-Man
                 Himself and living under His laws..."

                   Porphyry, writing scarcely 200 years after the deaths of
                 Peter and Paul, took pains to point out "contradiction" in
                 the FOUR gospels, citing exactly the same four scriptures
                 that have down to our day.  Porphyry says nothing of any
                 GOSPEL OF THOMAS (or any other outside gospel).  He cites
                 nothing of the apocryphal apocalyses or pseudo-epistles.
                 Writing half a century before Nicea, Porphyry quotes from
                 a New Testament indistinguishable from our own.

                   The pagan critics and the early Church fathers haggle
                 over the same verses in the same books in the same canon.
                 There is no debate over the GOSPEL OF THOMAS or any other
                 Gnostic text or apocryphal book.  The pagan critics are
                 not interested in such writings.  Their total focus is on
                 the New Testament text as we still know it.

                   How strange it is to read the pagan critics and realize
                 they do not take seriously these silly Gnostic gospels
                 our modern scholars now deem so important.  

                   You'd think our modern critics would be embarrassed by
                 the lack of interest their pagan forebears show these odd
                 Gnostic ravings. How can it be the pagans knew so much of
                 the New Testament and so little of these other texts? Did
                 the pagans ignore the Gnostics because they were so few
                 compared to the New Testament-toting Christians? Were the
                 Gnostics a minor theological backwater not worth the time
                 of pagan critics?  It certainly seems our scholars have
                 greatly inflated the importance of the Gnostics and their

                   Indeed, if it were not for mainstream Christian works,
                 we not only wouldn't know what the Gnostics were rambling
                 on about so incoherently, we wouldn't even know who the
                 Gnostics themselves were. Not only does the New Testament
                 explain who Jesus and the Apostles are(which the Gnostics
                 often fail to explain), but Church writers are often the
                 only ones to preserve the names and works of the Gnostic
                 heretics known to us.  The pagans, on the other hand, do
                 not pay any attention to these marginal heretics.


                   Some 20,000 manuscripts or fragments of the books of
                 the New Testament are known.  It is the best-attested of
                 all the works of ancient literature, having more evidence
                 in support of it than ALL THE REST OF ANCIENT LITERATURE
                 COMBINED.  It is in a class by itself.  To deny the text
                 of the New Testament is to dismiss the validity of the
                 entire written ancient history of mankind--for none of
                 it can pass the tests the New Testament passes.

                   Not only are there more copies of the New Testament,
                 but the New Testament manuscripts are far closer to the
                 times of their composition by the original authors than
                 any of those manuscripts of other ancient writings that
                 no one dares question.  We have no manuscripts of Julius
                 Caesar's GALLIC WARS copied within half a dozen centuries
                 of his lifetime, yet we have Gospel texts written within
                 decades of the Apostles.  Was Julius Caesar literate?  Is
                 he really the author of his works?  No one dares ask such
                 questions, yet the evidence for his authorship is puny,
                 compared to the voluminous ancient attestation for those
                 who wrote the New Testament books.

                   The New Testament is verified by quotations in the very
                 writings of its enemies.  Taking all the quotations of it
                 by friend and foe prior to the Council of Nicea, we could
                 reconstruct better than 90% of it with little trouble.

                   More amazing still is the condition of the manuscripts
                 found in so many old monasteries.  These crumbling texts
                 reveal an astonishing variety of book sequences, but the
                 selection of books almost never exceeds the collection we
                 now find in our modern Bibles.

                   The astonishing thing is how often our modern books are
                 MISSING.  That is, books like REVELATION show up early in
                 the Christian era, only to disappear during the Medieval
                 period, and then return with the Reformation.  HEBREWS is
                 another book that appears and disappears, but finally is
                 rescued in the end.

                   The surprising conclusion is that our Bibles are not at
                 all censored, but rather, they are RESTORED from a period
                 of censorship that arose in the 4th century and continued
                 off and on until the Reformation.

                 THE BATTERED BIBLE

                   The canon of the Old Testament has never been in doubt.
                 The Jewish people have preserved its books, even the order
                 of the scrolls, extremely well.  For a time, scholars had
                 convinced themselves that Jewish rabbis fiddled with the
                 text during the Middle Ages. Yet the Dead Sea Scrolls were
                 found to have so many copies of the Hebrew Scriptures in
                 virtually the same text still used in the synagogues that
                 no one but anti-Semites and the ignorant dares anymore to
                 utter that old slander about rabbis changing the Bible.
                   The New Testament was also not in doubt at first.  Those
                 early church fathers who quote it have made it possible to
                 not only determine that the list of books was virtually the
                 same as we now have, but even the text itself can nearly
                 be reconstructed in its entirety from their citations, they
                 were so numerous and wide-ranging. Irenaeus (c.140-202AD), a
                 disciple of Polycarp, a disciple of the Apostle John, cites
                 every New Testament book but PHILEMON in his writings. There
                 can be no doubt that by the early 2nd century New Testament
                 books were regarded as a sacred collection, or canon, and at
                 least John, if not other Apostles, must have had a hand in
                 selecting which books belonged in this collection.

                   This is not to say that there was universal acceptance of
                 this canon of books, but the dissenters stand out for their
                 REMOVAL of books from the standard canon we now have. There
                 are hardly any indications of ADDITIONS to the canon which
                 involve "heretical" texts.  Instead, there were occasional
                 efforts to add "BARNABUS" or "HERMAS" or other "orthodox"
                 Christian writings, but few took such efforts seriously.

                   Certainly no one wished to add the 3rd century writings
                 of Origen to the Bible, or any "late" documents; the books
                 of the New Testament were limited to writings of Apostles
                 and disciples of the Apostles under their direction (like
                 Luke under Paul's direction).  Clement was thought to have
                 been Paul's personal disciple, but his epistles were done
                 after Paul's death (as Clement himself says); so Clement's
                 epistles were not part of the canon, albeit one manuscript
                 of the Bible(out of thousands)did append them to the text
                 of the New Testament--probably for convenience.  There is
                 no mention anywhere of anyone actually believing Clement's
                 epistles belonged in the canon itself.

                    Only one other book besides "BARNABUS," "HERMAS," and
                 "CLEMENT" has ever been found bound with the New Testament
                 canon: "THE APOCALYPSE OF PETER."  So what was this book?

                    Our earliest reference to "THE APOCALYPSE OF PETER" is
                 found in the Muratorian Canon, which is to be dated partly
                 to about 160 AD, at the earliest.  Part of this document
                 may date to a later period, for it seems to locate the
                 book of REVELATION in two different positions in the New
                 Testament Canon: Before Paul's epistles [an early location]
                 and at the very end [an apparently late development].  So
                 the reference to "THE APOCALYPSE OF PETER" which follows
                 immediately after the latter mention of REVELATION would
                 suggest a later date than 160 AD.  However, if the date is
                 160 AD, a time when disciples of the Apostles still ruled
                 the church, then we should be aware that the Muratorian
                 text says that "THE APOCALYPSE OF PETER" was not allowed
                 to be read in some churches because it was deemed spurious.

                    It is clear that "THE APOCALYPSE OF PETER" was in doubt
                 from the early church, by the middle of the 2nd century.
                 Yet many obviously were willing to take it seriously even
                 though Apostolic church authorities had not given it their
                 full endorsement, which would have silenced the doubters.

                    What was it about this disputed text that caused such
                 conviction by so many that it might actually be genuine?
                 Was it something in the text itself, or something else?

                    Was it something--a tradition--that everyone knew and
                 accepted as true, something even the Apostolic leaders
                 could not dispute, that led early Christians to believe
                 Peter had had a special "Apocalypse"(ie "Revelation") and
                 that this text just might be what Peter wrote down?

                    There was precisely such an early church tradition. It
                 and this article are documented in "THE SECRET HISTORY OF
                 THE BIBLE," our new book [ORDERING]. 

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