Ancient Christian texts for modern healing
What you'll learn
- Explain the principles of healing from an early Christian text
- Gain a richer view of the Bible through the newly discovered texts of antiquity
- Take lessons from the ancient controversies related to healing and extracanonical texts
- Apply your learned knowledge to heal or transform at least one contemporary place of pain in mind, body, or community
- General knowledge of the Bible (such as the difference between Old or New Testament, gospels, letters, proverbs)
- General knowledge of Christian history (such as, Who is Paul? What was the Protestant Reformation?)
Seeking health and wholeness is being human, and the wisdom from antiquity regarding health offers immeasurable value and a firm basis. This course opens the pages of mostly forgotten books written by the earliest followers of Jesus. Although we discuss why these ancient texts were not included in the Bible and how they were re-discovered, our main interest for this course lies in the healing messages they contain. The more we ponder their meaning, the more we find resonance in Biblical teachings as well.
Students of this course do not need to know the Bible to understand and appreciate the healing messages we will explore in the extra-biblical books. But those who do know the Bible or have faith in it will discover how these more recently discovered texts add dimension to the whole picture of the early years of Jesus followers.
Since this is an introductory course, I presume you know little or nothing about the lost and forgotten books, gospels, letters, and texts written about a hundred years after Jesus. Some of them are controversial, some inspiring, and some quite confusing to modern readers. But I will introduce you to the ones we’ll use in the course – how to find them, how to read them, and how to understand their basic messages.
Who should or shouldn’t take this course?
If you’re interested in expanding your ideas about healing…
If you’re a scholar of religion without specific training in extra-canonical texts…
If you want to alleviate suffering in the world or deal with tragedies and human sorrows…
If you’re curious about what was going on during and after the New Testament time…
If you like challenging yourself with big philosophical and religious ideas…
If you are seeking deep answers to religious questions…
If you have had some kind of uplifting, inspiring experience with a sacred text…
Then you definitely want to get going with this course!
On the other hand, if you have already studied the Coptic language and read Nag Hammadi literature…
If you are seeking the full interpretation of Nag Hammadi texts…
If you want to know all the ancient texts that touch on the subject of healing…
It’s better to skip this course and wait for my next courses.
Do I need to purchase any study materials?
Nothing is required for taking the course. It is possible to complete the course using only free online references, but you may find it helpful to purchase a hard copy book (roughly $35). Further explanation about the resources you may wish to obtain will be in lecture 5.
What’s in the course?
After an introductory video, the course consists of four sections:
1. Getting familiar with some ancient texts and learning to use them
2. Identifying key healing principles from these early Christian texts
3. Finding a common message of healing from the diverse followers of Jesus
4. Exercising your authority to adapt ancient healing ideas to your 21st-century life
What to expect in each section:
1. We’ll approach the search for healing in these texts by first identifying your own pain points – or the places you would like to see healing, or resolution, or transformation. Then I’ll explain a little about what happened to these texts written around the same time as the New Testament and how we can find and use them today. I’ll give you the resources you need, including links to free online courses, and references to a couple of books you may want to purchase. No purchase is necessary, but you might appreciate buying one or two of the books to enhance your study. You’ll also find four exercise sheets that will help you know how to find and use the texts.
2. In the next section, I'll introduce you to three specific texts:
* The Secret Revelation of John
* The Tripartite Tractate
* The Dialogue with the Savior
Each of them includes special teachings from ‘the Savior’ (portraying Jesus, or Christ) that teach something about God (or the divine Being), evil, and how the Savior saves us from evil. They were all written around the same time, perhaps a little more than a hundred years after Jesus. But each text is consistent with the main message, and yet they say it differently and for different reasons. The main activity in this section consists of writing a couple of reflections on the texts, followed by a quiz at the end. The quiz will help you feel confident in your knowledge of the basic healing concepts.
3. Next, we’ll make a comparison between these new-to-us (but ancient) texts and more familiar passages in the Bible. Again, I want to emphasize that prior knowledge of the Bible is not necessary for this course. But those of you who do know the Bible will recognize familiar passages, and you’ll see why the comparison sheds further light on both the familiar and unfamiliar works. We’ll also take a closer look at some possible reasons for why these newer works (to us) were not included in the canon of the Bible, even when we find valuable ideas in them. This section includes a couple of PDF essays that will be helpful references in your later research and thinking about these texts. The topics are “When and why the Bible became a canon” and “No such thing as ‘Gnosticism’.” A couple of written assignments will help you analyze some of the healing themes
4. Finally, in the last section, I’ll give you a couple of examples of healing from my own experience, demonstrating how to put these ideas to use in our 21st century world. I think you’ll also enjoy a couple of prayers from the Odes of Solomon that may have been composed around the time these other texts were written. And then I’ll turn it over to you. It will be your turn to take what you selected at the beginning of the course, and put into practice the ideas from “the Savior” that you identified and pondered. You will want to take the time here to reflect, allow the grace of the divine idea to move you, confront the fear or resistance you may encounter, and then yield to the transforming ideas that heal.
Healing is always an individual experience, and I will be happy to support you through this final portion. Although I do have a healing tradition of my own, I will use only the texts we study for this course. When you experience the change or transformation you are seeking, it may feel more natural than miraculous. because you will see how naturally the goodness of God/Infinite Spirit is made manifest in your life. But you will discover the vital practicality of these teachings, whether the change/healing appears quickly or slowly.
The bonus lecture at the end will provide more resources to support your ongoing journey with these ancient healing texts.
About the instructor – Shirley Paulson, PhD.
I care about my students the same way I care about the subject matter in this course – passionately. The reason is that I have always wanted to alleviate suffering in the world and have spent my life searching for a better understanding of the love that heals, saves, and uplifts. I’m eager to support and encourage others who want to bring light and healing to the world as well.
My own journey began in my pre-teen years when I started asking the big questions about God, life, meaning, and spiritual existence. But my path has not been all intellectual. My heart guided me first. I worked as a volunteer in an inner-city school, because I wanted to understand the lives and needs of those who lived there. I have devoted myself to a healing career over twenty-five years, because I have compassion for those who are suffering.
And all during this ministry of love, my questions have never ceased. In my early adult years, I studied the Bible deeply and began to discover real healing messages in it. I began my healing career when my children were in school, and my questions persisted. I went to a Protestant seminary to learn how others thought about the Bible, and finally my questions led me on to further studies at the University of Birmingham, UK, where I completed my PhD in religion and theology. My research topic was what this course is all about: healing theologies in the ancient text, the Secret Revelation of John, and how those healing ideas can be made practical today.
Now that I have completed all this research, I am convinced that you don’t need a PhD to grapple with these ideas. In fact, I am confident that anyone with spiritual curiosity, a sincere desire to help others, and humility will succeed. I want to offer you a strong foundation for your success. I plan to build more courses beyond the introductory level, so I would appreciate your input as to what direction you would like to go after you complete this course.
Who this course is for:
- People interested in religious thought, but with little or no education in extracanonical (or 'gnostic') texts
- People who want to contribute to the healing of minds, bodies, and communities
- People who have had some kind of positive experience with an ancient sacred text (usually the Bible)
- People curious about big philosophical questions and connections between the human and divine
- Spiritually minded people who either welcome change for organized religion or are comfortable with no organization
My PhD, from the University of Birmingham, UK, is in religion and theology. I studied forgotten ancient Christian texts and their healing messages in conjunction with what they mean to the modern world. My personal experience with healing helps me recognize and understand the relevance of the ancient texts. And through my academic work in Practical Theology, I strive to learn from my students how their own experiences enlighten the texts as well.