This article is written in response to a Science Channel show presented April 25, 2013 called The Lost Gospels. The tone of it (complete with sinister-sounding music) was to suggest that these gospels somehow may change the whole face or foundation of Christianity. Not so! A question mark was put on the fact that for 2000 years the Christians churches accepted only 4 Gospels as inspired. There are valid reasons why that has been the case.
Four "lost" gospels were described: the lost gospels of Peter, Thomas, Mary Magdalene and Judas. Others, as many as 50 have also been found.
The Gospel of Peter was a Gnostic gospel*, a copy of which was found in 1886 held by a deceased Monk, and was dated to 700 AD, with fragments of another copy found dated to around 500 AD. It was mentioned by church fathers in 198 AD, and had parts of it copied from all 4 of the accepted gospels. It has fanciful material in it, suggesting that Peter SAW Jesus emerge from the tomb along with two angels. In size, the three stretched to the sky, and a question was asked "Have you preached to those who died?", and an image of the cross answers the question, "Yes". This would INVALIDATE the story of the other 4 gospels which indicate that Peter and the other disciples were in hiding and women came and told them of the resurrection. Another MAJOR insult to the story of the cross is the suggestion that Jesus didn't suffer pain on the cross!
The gospel of Thomas was also a Gnostic gospel* which emphasized mysticism and secret knowledge that placed the Gnostics above other followers of Christ. They suggested a oneness with God that meant there was no need for association with a church, priests or bishops. What the program failed to mention is that the Gnostics also denied the very essence of sin and our sin nature, which would mean one did not even need a SAVIOR from sin. (In other words, Gnostics weren't true Christians, acknowledging Jesus as their Savior.) THIS is why the Gnostic gospels were rejected, as well as because they denied the fact that Jesus was uniquely BOTH human and divine. The program suggested this gospel might be older and thus more reliable (faulty logic) than the other gospels, because of simpler content (just sayings of Jesus, no statements of miracles). But the Smithsonian tested the manuscript (C-14) found near Nag Hammadi and found it dated to about 300-400 AD. There was reference to the gospel of Thomas around 150 AD, but it cannot be proven to be early.
The gospel of Mary Magdalene, found in 1896 presents her as a leader of the disciples. It suggests that secret instructions were given to her and details about the after life. It said that on one's journey to heaven one would see both angels and demons. It suggests that Peter did not want to accept this information given to her rather than the disciples, but the others DID accept it. (Fanciful story given the prevailing attitute towards women!) I would have to wonder if a former prostitute would have the ability to write. This manuscript was found in Egypt and study of it shows it to be written about 200 AD, and it is also tied to the Gnostic gospels in content.
The gospel of Judas was found in 2006 near Nag Hammadi. It presents Judas as more of a hero than the Bible does, suggesting that Jesus said Judas was the wisest of the apostles(!) He was, of course, just fulfilling God's plan. In it the idea is given that only Jesus' body, not his spirit, suffered in the crucifixion....an idea rejected directly in the book of I John. It was admitted that most scholars say it is a fake, and is dated to 280-330 AD.
The program presents Christianity as being unstructured before 325, with varying beliefs and varying ideas of which scriptures were inspired. This is somewhat inaccurate. It presents the council of Nicea called by Constantine as a political move to unify his empire. It suggests that it was Constantine and this council who decided which gospels the church should accept as inspired. This is not honest history!
Throughout the early centuries of the church, few books were ever disputed and the list was basically settled by AD 303! (www.gotquestion.org/canon-of-Scripture)
The basic discussions of the 300 Bishops at the council of Nicea involved doctrinal disputes, not the canon of scripture. The Nicene creed was one big accomplishment of the council. But generally, the 27 New Testament books were identified on the basis of a number of criteria, including having been written by someone who companied with Christ on the earth, being in agreement with other scriptures, and being widely accepted by the Christian community as scripture.
Athanasus, a church father, made reference in 387 AD to the 27 New Testament books, and indicated that the false (heretical) gospels should be destroyed. That led perhaps to the burial or hiding of a few copies rather than the destruction of all of them. The true gospels were all written in the first century, and none of these others can be dated that early.
Church history has all along given us references and information about these so-called lost gospels, and why they were never considered genuine. It makes good "press" to suggest this is something new, radical or upsetting to the Christian community, but these gospels just don't FIT with the inspired writings. Jesus said He is the way and the TRUTH and the life... any so-called scripture that creates a CONTRADICTION between the stories or doctrines of Christ is rightly to be rejected, and that is just what happened.
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*Gnostics were condemned in the book of I John because of their denial of sin acts and sin nature, their denial that Jesus was both human and divine, and their idea that they had special knowledge that placed them above other Christians.