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Monday, July 19, 2010

Missing Gospels

A Whole Lot of 'Em 

Ok, first off, let us bask in the pool of what is all called 'Gospels'. Skip on ahead if you so choose.

Completely preserved Gospels

Gospel of Mark (canonical)
Gospel of Matthew (canonical)
Gospel of Luke (canonical)
Gospel of John (canonical)
Gospel of Thomas
Gospel of Truth
Coptic Gospel of the Egyptians
Gospel of Nicodemus (also known as the "Acts of Pilate")
Gospel of Barnabas
Gospel of Gamaliel

Infancy Gospels

Gospel of the Nativity of Mary
Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew
Infancy Gospel of Thomas
Infancy Gospel of James
Arabic Infancy Gospel
Syriac Gospel of the Boyhood of our Lord Jesus

Partially preserved Gospels

Gospel of Judas
Gospel of Peter
Gospel of Mary
Gospel of Philip

Fragmentary preserved Gospels[α]

Dialogue of the Saviour
Papyrus Egerton 2
Gospel of Eve
Fayyum Fragment
Gospel of Mani
Oxyrhynchus Gospels
Gospel of the Saviour (also known as the Unknown Berlin gospel)
Gospel of the Twelve

Reconstructed Gospels[β]

Gospel of the Ebionites
Gospel of the Egyptians
Gospel of the Hebrews
Secret Gospel of Mark
Gospel of Matthias
Gospel of the Nazoraeans
Gospel of Q (also known as the "Q document")
Signs Gospel
Cross Gospel

Lost Gospels

Gospel of Bartholomew
Gospel of the Seventy
Gospel of the Four Heavenly Realms
Gospel of Perfection
Gospel of Marcion
Gospel of Basilides
Gospel of Andrew
Gospel of Apelles
Gospel of Cerinthus
Gospel of Bardesanes
Gospel of the Encratites
Gospel of the Gnostics
Gospel of Hesychius
Gospel of Lucius
Gospel of Longinus
Gospel of Manes
Gospel of Merinthus
Gospel of Scythianus
Gospel of Simonides
Gospel of Tatian
Gospel of Thaddaeus
Gospel of Valentinus
The Clementine Gospel

Modern Gospels

Aquarian Gospel (1908)
Book of Mormon (1830)
Crucifixion of Jesus, by an Eyewitness (1919)
Essene Gospel of Peace (1937; 1974)
The Fifth Gospel (1908, Steiner)
The Fifth Gospel (1956, Naber)
Gospel According to Seneca (1996)
Gospel of Ares (1974)
Gospel of Barnabas (16th century; not the apocryphal Epistle)
Gospel of Jacob (1952; aka The Adolescence of Jesus)
Gospel of Jacob (1982; aka The Message of Jacob)
Gospel of Jesus According to Gabriele Wittek (1977)
Gospel of Josephus (1927)
Gospel of Judas Iscariot (1975; not the apocryphal Gospel of Judas)
Gospel of Satan (1996)
Gospel of the Childhood of Our Lord Jesus Christ According to St. Peter (1904)
Gospel of the Perfect Life (1881; aka Gospel of the Holy Twelve; not the lost Gospel of the Twelve)
Life and Morals of Jesus (1820)
Jehoshua the Nazir (1965)
Jesus Amidst His Own (late 1700s)
The Mystical Life of Jesus (1929)
Secret Gospel of Mark (1973)
The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ (1894)
Ur-Gospel of the Essenes (1867)


Hmm, the Gospel of Truth? Well now, that's got to be true. The Gospel of Perfection? Who doesn't want to strive for that? The Gospel of Peace? Ah, that sounds nice. Psuedo-Matthew? Wha?..  and umm, a Satan one? Well, its safe to say those in the modern list probably shouldn't rewrite the biblical canon anytime soon.

I mean, what did they do with the plentious amount of books? Were there a bunch of robed old guys sitting around a room throwing darts at a wall full of prospects? Who decided the four that inevitably wound up in the good ol' compilation. Who's to say they didn't scheme to fit some agenda they had at the time. Was history determined by the victors so to speak?  The ''What is history, but a fable agreed upon?'' quote comes to mind.

It seems a growing sensationalism has been sparked by popular movies, novels, and commentaries that have been springing up as of late. Many ideas, reflecting the 'lost' Gospels, propose that Jesus may have been married, with even his bloodline going on into royal families of Europe. There is also the belief that Jesus was made into God status only by somewhat of a decision later on. It has been stated that traditional views of religion, notably Christianity, have only served as a tool of controlling the masses. Conspiracy I say! I'm sure most definitely it has been used as a means of gain and control, no question, even in many instances today. I'm primarily looking at you, organized religion. Ironically, in current culture, it seems that entertainment has been the influential driving tool, yet just another form in the more modern passive sense; but I believe that is irrelevant in this case. We humans have scads of little manipulative devices. But I digress, we are talking about the validity of the Gospels. So I'll leave it be.

So I decided to look into this, what makes the four Gospels so special? Why did they get picked? Why the others rejected? Was Jesus' diety attributed by a later decree? Here is what I came up with so far...

Gospels “Selected”?

There are some that assert that the Gospels were selected by Constantine from more than 80 available at the time. Twenty rulings were issued at the Council of Nicaea, the contents of all of them are still in existence and not one of them involved issues regarding the Canon.

Constantine did not collect the books of the Bible: The Old Testament was in place long before Jesus’ time; the New Testament was compiled by the end of the 1st century—200 years before Constantine. By the end of the 2nd century, thousands of quotations from Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were already being inserted into the writings of church leaders (Ireneaus, Origen, et al.). Eastern and Western churches independently agreed on the New Testament canon (Albanes p.24).

-There is a belief that Constantine made Christianity the state religion of the Roman Empire. But he simply granted freedom of worship with his Edict of Milan in A.D.313 (Theodosius, A.D. 379-395 made Christianity the state religion in 381.)

The Gnostic Gospels

The term ''Gnostic'' refers to gnosis, or knowledge. However, here it refers to the concept of hidden, secret, or special knowledge. The Gnostics were a growing problem in the early church and many of the New Testament epistles, as well as the numerous quotes from the early church fathers, were in rebuttal to the several heresies promoted by the Gnostics.

(In fact, Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians was a response to a forgery being circulated as if from him.)

"For the time will come when they will not endure sound doc-trine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables." - 2 Timothy 4:3

A large number of spurious documents emerged during the centuries following the ministries of the Apostles and were universally rejected by the early church. Copies of a group of these were found at Nag Hammadi (in Egypt) dating from the 3rd and 4th centuries, and these are uncritically accepted by some as accurate. These include The Gospel of Thomas, The Gospel of Philip, The Gospel of Mary, The Gospel of Truth, and about four dozen others.

They are not ''Gospels'' at all, but rather speculative opinions, totally devoid of any verifiable facts. Furthermore, they were written under false pseudonyms in an attempt to gain legitimacy. The early church rejected any documents under pseudonyms as being inconsistent with the concept of God-breathed inspiration.

Lastly, they were all written centuries after the Gospel period - in contrast to the contemporaneous eyewitness accounts in the New Testament - and make no pretense of being actual records of events - in fact, they are anti-historical rather than simply non-historical.

(Many would seem to accept Napoleons cynical perspective: ''What is history, but a fable agreed upon?'')

"Even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you:" - 2 Peter 2:1-3

 Concerning Mary Magdalene:

She was identified by her native city, Magdala, on the NW shore of the Sea of Galilee. She was healed by Jesus of seven demons (Lk 8:2) and was a person of means and a leader among the women.

Mary Magdalene is very visible in the Gospel record: She followed Jesus from Galilee, ministered to Him (Mt 27:56), beheld the crucifixion from afar (Mk 15:40), stood by the cross (Jn 19:25), located and watched the tomb (Mt 27:61), came early to the tomb with spices (Mk 16:1), was first to see the risen Lord (Mk 16:9), and reported the resurrection to the disciples (Lk 24:10; Jn 20:18). There is no reason to identify her with Mary of Bethany, sister of Martha and Lazarus. Legends about Jesus and Mary Magdalene began to emerge in southern France during the 9th century.

Was Jesus Married?

There is no evidence whatsoever; unless you count the future corporate bride mentioned in Biblical texts.

The Development of the Canon

The Old Testament (Tenach) was canonized (“canon” = standard measurement) in 400 B.C. as The Law, Prophets and the Writings. Jesus Himself endorsed this division (Lk 24:44) and ratified them by frequent references.

The New Testament was canonized in the 1st century while the apostles were alive and all facts could be checked out (Lk 1:2; Acts 1:21,22; 1 Jn 2:3). It was endorsed by Christ in advance (Jn 14:25-26) and was considered a ''more sure word of prophecy'' (2 Pet 1:16-19).

The Process

Letters were received and then circulated by the early church, and a growing group of them became recognized as authoritative (Apostolic) and in harmony with accepted doctrine. All 27 books were accepted by the end of the 1st century and every New Testament book was cited as authoritative by a church father within one generation.


Apostolicity; Conformity; Consistency with Old Testament prophets and New Testament apostles; continuous and widespread acceptance. All 27 books were accepted by the end of the 1st century; every New Testament book cited as authoritative by a church father within one generation.

Confirmation of the Canon

- A.D. 175: Muratorian Fragment (damaged; 23 of 27 confirmed; others recognized as forgeries).

- A.D. 325: Constantine’s 50 Bibles (Eusebius of Caesarea was responsible; included 27 universally acknowledged).

- A.D. 367: Easter letter by Athanasius.

- A.D. 393: Council of Hippo.

- A.D. 397: 3rd Council of Carthage.

[From F.F. Bruce, 20 yrs; Rylands Professor of Biblical Criticism and Exegesis at the University of Manchester.]

Three Tests

- Biographical (reliable documents; citations of early church fathers).

- Internal (credibility of the writers themselves).

- External (supporting historical material; archaeological confirmations).

[John Warwick Montgomery, History and Christianity, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove IL 1971.]

Council of Nicaea

The Council of Nicaea was convened in A.D. 325 with 318 bishops to settle disputes about Christology, not to dispute or modify the ''canon.'' (''Canon,'' meaning standard, refers to those Scriptures that were accepted by the early churches as God-breathed, or inspired.) The principal precipitating issue was between Arius and Athanasius. Arius argued that Jesus was simply a created being. He was a great communicator and was causing deep disputes throughout the Empire. Athanasius argued for the full deity of Christ and was clearly vindicated by the proceedings of the Council.

1st Century Church Fathers

Before the end of his earthly ministry Jesus’ divinity was already being acknowledged as evidenced by Thomas: “My Lord and my God” (Jn 20:28; Cf. Jn 1:1; Titus 2:13; Heb 1:8-10; 1 Pet 1:1, et al.)

2nd Century Church Fathers

Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch (A.D.110), 200 years before the Council of Nicaea (in letters he wrote several churches on his way to martyrdom in Rome): “There is One God who manifests himself through Jesus Christ his son.” “Son of Mary and Son of God… Jesus Christ our Lord …God Incarnate…Christ God”

Polycarp of Smyrna (112-118): in a letter to the church at Philippi assumes the divinity of Jesus, His glorification, etc.

Justin Martyr (~150): “being the first-begotten Word of God, is even God” (First Apology, ch. 63); both God and Lord of hosts” (Dialogue with Trypho, ch 36).

Irenaeus (~185): “our Lord, and God, and Saviour, and King” (Against Heresies, bk1, ch 10).

Clement of Alexandria (~200): “truly most manifest Deity, He that is made equal to the Lord of the universe; because he was His Son.” (Exhortation to the Heathen, ch 10, Vol 2; The Ante-Nicene Fathers, 10 Vols).

Roman Persecution

The persecutions in Rome were in response to the commanded worship of the Emperor. Paganism has always been tolerant of other finite gods: the Romans celebrated the spendor of diversity… The Christians’ martyrdom was a result of their exclusive commitment to Christ as God.

(Information aided from wikipedia, http://www.khouse.org/ )

Conclusion   ...There Shall Be Knockoffs

Yes, my email inbox is flooded with formal letters from Nigeria containing spellings errors. Does that mean that all digital mail wants to rape my wallet? Na, that's just excessive paranoia. I'm sure I'll be fine.

The evidence is clear that the four Gospels were firmly established and the divinity of Jesus Christ was clearly recognised centuries before any council or deluge of wannabes. Its kind of a shame that misinformation has painted this broad overtone in the gaps of some peoples' minds. I mean, not everyone is a scholar; and I'm sure these ideas have troubled some of faith and fueled the hostility of those antagonistic to those upholding it. 

As I look at the mass of texts that plagued mankind during those olden days I am yet reminded of my own day to day goings on.

Here are some knockoff products brought to you by China. Enjoy!

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