The Bible, and those other books
Get past who says what they said with Early Christian Writings. This site, produced by history student Peter Kirby, has writings from the first to the third century in astonishing amounts — 250 gig, according to the author — all free for the reading or downloading.
Kirby supplies much more than the usual Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. He also posts manuscripts like the Egerton Gospel, early teachings like the Didache, and even reconstructed hypothetical scriptures like “Q” and the Passion Narrative.
One thing you’ll notice is how the biblical and nonbiblical books are interwoven, rather than the traditional “canon” and “aprocrypha.” Kirby says he purposefully listed them in approximate chronological order, considering it more intuitive to use. But he does keep the traditional classes — plus Gnostic, Church Fathers and contemporary pagan writings — in mouseover pulldown menus. He even lists all the writings alphabetically as well.
Unfortunately, not all the links work. There’s a tantalizing book called Odes of Solomon, a book from the second or third century, which has been related to the Gospel According to John. But the two linked articles explaining this have expired.
An interesting discussion about theories of the historical Jesus collects all the major ideas about him: Myth, Messiah, sage, prophet, revolutionary. Oddly, the historical default ideas are represented by only three of the 24 scholars cited.
Finally, make sure to check out the Online Books section, both from Early Christian Writings and other sites. They span the range of viewpoints — from liberals like Thomas Paine and Robert Ingersoll, to conservatives like Matthew Henry and John Knox. It’s like a trek through the recent history of Christian thinking.