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There are more Gospels!

The Gospels that most people know about are Matthew’s, Mark’s, Luke’s and John’s. In reality, in the early “days” of Christianity, there were many Gospels: Gospel of Marcion, of Mani,  of Apelles, of Bardesanes, of Basilides, of Thomas, of Peter, of Nicodemus, of Bartholomew and many more. All these Gospels are supposed to tell the same story: we would call it today the Biography of Jesus. But the word gospel means good news, and these books were supposed to divulge the message that Jesus himself was divulging as well. All these versions are not only justified by what different witnesses might have seen or heard, but also by which message they were trying to divulge. The Christian communities, the Churches, needed consistency from a theological perspective and also to help keeping the communities united.

Canonical Gospels

The debate on which Gospels to consider canonical was on for three centuries. By the turn of the V century, the Catholic Church in the West, under Pope Innocent I, recognized a biblical canon including the four Gospels, which had been previously established at a number of regional Synods, namely the Council of Rome in 382, the Synod of Hippo in 293 and two Synods of Carthage (397 and 419). This canon, which corresponds to the modern catholic Canon, was used in the Vulgate, an early V century translation of the Bible made by Jerome under the commission of Pope Damasus I in 382.

Apocryphal Gospels

This is the first large scale standardisation exercise that the early Western Church conducted. The other Gospels soon became apocryphal: a Greek-origin word which means obscure, suspect, to be hidden away. Like Barth D. Ehrman said:

The victors in the struggles to establish Christian orthodoxy not only won their theological battles, they also rewrote the history of the conflict; later readers then naturally assumed that the victorious views had been embraced by the vast majority of Christians from the very beginning…. The practice of Christian forgery has a long and distinguished history….

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{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Despre 04-Nov-2013, 23:06

    There is a study never done before and published in 2006 showing that the authors of the current canonical gospels were eye witnesses[1], and is based on a 2002 study, yet again never done before. If we accept the apostolic signature on Matthew and John, the writing of Mark as coming from Peter, and the writing of Luke as being extremely accurate [2] study and using “we” when he talks about Paul and the writer as travelling together in Acts, I think that the other texts mentioned as gospels don’t meet the criteria to be added to the canon.

    The center piece in all the gospels is the resurrection of Jesus. There are historical (therefore scientific), prophetic, philosophical, moral and experiential facts to sufficiently support this. You don’t even need all the canonical writings to support this because is sufficiently supported outside the gospels by the empty tomb, the message promoted by the early Church which was completely out of cultural frame of that time (hey, no one was resurrected before, let alone three days after his public execution and burial in the property of one part of the Sanhedrin!) and which was spread very fast in all Roman Empire, therefore the non-canonical writings are redundant.

    [1] Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony by Richard Bauckham
    [2] The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict – Josh McDowell

    • Armando Gherardi 04-Nov-2013, 23:55

      Thank you very much, for your documented comment!
      I will look into it and, possibly, return on the topic with another post….