Should ‘Lost’ Gospels Be In The Bible?
by Jonathan Morrow
Every Christmas and Easter skeptics (like Bart Ehrman in Newsweek) love to make provocative claims about missing Gospels, Lost Christianities (yes plural), and what we don’t really know about Jesus. Let’s just focus on one of the questions raised. Should lost Gospels be included in the Bible? (see my recent post on how we know we have the right books of the Bible for more on that question)
In 1945, fifty two papyri were discovered at Nag Hammadi in Lower Egypt and some of these texts had the word ‘gospel’ in the title. Now Scholars have known about these and other 2nd – 4th century documents for a long time, but only recently has the general public been introduced to them. This has caused quite a bit of controversy and speculation. Why?
Our culture is generally skeptical of authority and enjoys a good conspiracy theory; sprinkle in some high definition documentaries around Easter and Christmas with titles like ‘Banned Books of the Bible’ and the recipe for confusion is complete. Was there a cover up by the Church? Were we lied to about Jesus?
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These so called ‘lost gospels’ fall into two categories: (1) New Testament Apocrypha (2) Gnostic writings.
Apocrypha means ‘hidden things’. These writings tried to fill in the gaps about two periods of Jesus’ life—his childhood and the three days between his death and resurrection. The motivations for these works ranges from entertainment to the comprehensive redefinition of the Jesus revealed in the 1st century writings of the New Testament.
The first time I heard about these ‘lost gospels’, it honestly made me nervous…until I read them. The juiciest of the apocryphal writings is probably the Infancy Gospel of Thomas. Here are some things I discovered about Jesus’ childhood: he called a child an “unrighteous, irreverent idiot” (3:1-3). Another child bumped into Jesus, which aggravated him so much that Jesus struck him dead (4:1-2). Evidently those who provoked childhood Jesus fell dead a lot (14:3). No, I’m not making this up.
Then there are the Gnostic writings. Gnosticism can get kind of complicated…
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