Joe Nocera for The New York Times: The Gospel According to Mary

December 23rd, 2013

The New York Times
by Joe Nocera
December 23, 2013

One Sunday morning a few weeks ago, Hal Taussig, the co-pastor of the Chestnut Hill United Church in Philadelphia, chose one of his favorite bits of scripture to build his sermon upon. It’s called The Thanksgiving Prayer, and the portion of it that Taussig chose goes like this:

“O light of life we have known you/

O womb of all that grows we have known you/

O womb pregnant with the nature of the Father we have known you/

O never-ending endurance of the Father who gives birth, so we worship your goodness.”

If you are thinking that you’ve never come across such a prayer in the New Testament, you’re right, of course. The prayer was part of a treasure trove of early Christian documents, written in Coptic, discovered in Nag Hammadi, Egypt, in 1945. The Nag Hammadi find was, in turn, among the 75-plus early Christian documents that have been unearthed over the last century and a half. Collectively, these works were once known as The Gnostic Gospels, and they were viewed by many theologians as the work of early Christian heretics, as their interpretation of the life of Jesus was often quite different than the one recounted in the four gospels of the New Testament.

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