Finding "The Lost Way"

by University Communications,

Nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known.

The Gospel of Thomas was discovered near Nag Hammadi, Egypt, in December of 1945. It is one of two non-canonical gospels that Steve Patterson discusses in his latest book, “The Lost Way.” Together with “Q,” the lost gospel behind the biblical gospels of Matthew and Luke, it opens a window onto a world of forgotten paths once trod in the earliest years of Christianity.

Thomas and Q don’t include a story of Jesus’ life. No miracles, no death, no resurrection. Instead, these gospels are collections of sayings attributed to him. According to Patterson—chair of the religious studies department at Willamette—the followers of Jesus who created these gospels had a different conception of him than most modern Christians.

“Instead of thinking about Jesus as God, God’s son, or even a martyr, these early followers of Jesus considered him a great teacher who shared divine wisdom,” Patterson says. “I think that many will be surprised to learn that Jesus’ death and resurrection were not always the focus of Jesus’ followers. For many, it was Jesus’ words that made him significant.”

Patterson has spent his life considering the question, “Who was Jesus?” from the perspective of lost and forgotten writings not found in the Bible. He’s still intrigued by the pursuit and shares this dramatic story in “The Lost Way.”

About Stephen Patterson

Before becoming the George H. Atkinson Professor of Religious and Ethical Studies at Willamette University in 2010, Patterson taught for more than 20 years at Eden Seminary in St. Louis, and, as a fellow of the Westar Institute, he chaired the Jesus Seminar on Christian Origins.

In nine books and more than 75 essays, Patterson has explored various aspects of Christian origins, but he is best known for his work on the Gospel of Thomas. A former Fulbright Fellow, he holds graduate degrees from Harvard and the Claremont Graduate University, where, in 1988, he earned a doctorate in religion.