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Cracking the Canon: John Toland, ‘Lost’ Gospels, and the Challenge to Religious Hegemony

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Chapter Summary

This chapter intersects with the theme of religious pluralism, and some of the critical methods employed by biblical scholars and historians of ancient Christianity. Specifically, it offers a sketch of personalities and controversies in the history of modern scholarship, focusing on debates about the authenticity of ancient religious texts, and the legitimacy and limits of religious diversity within a modern context. It is appropriate that the protagonist in the second half of the chapter, which enquires into the religio-political possibilities of biblical scholarship in the Augustan Age of literature, is a former student of the University of Glasgow: the radical Irish writer John Toland. One of the many controversial characteristics of Toland's work on the Bible and Church history is his flirtation with non-canonical sources in his reconstruction of Christian origins, and the role of canonicity as a theme in his rhetorical skirmishes with defenders of the English Church-State establishment.

Keywords: ancient Christianity; Bible; John Toland; religious hegemony; socially discriminatory views; socio-cultural diversity



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