by J Warner Wallace
I get email occasionally from skeptics who challenge the historicity of Jesus due to what they see as a deficiency in the historical record. If a man such as Jesus really existed, performing miracles and rising from the dead, wouldn’t his life and resurrection have created a much larger historical “ripple” in antiquity? Wouldn’t such a life result in more than four Gospels? As it turns out, the life of Jesus produced the kind of response we would expect if it was actually true. Authors in the first four hundred years following the life and resurrection of Jesus produced a varied plethora of non-canonical writings about His incredible appearance on planet earth. Unsurprisingly, Jesus’ life did not go unnoticed by the ancient world. Dozens of documents emerged in locations all around the Mediterranean, written by authors with a variety of motivations. These authors often co-opted the person of Jesus for their own purposes, crafting a lie upon the foundational truths of the accurate canonical Gospels. The result? A number of untrustworthy legends and distortions in the following categories:
These texts were written in order to supplement information lacking in the four Gospels related to the childhood of Jesus. Early believers hungered for more information about this period of Jesus’ young life, and these gospels sought to satisfy that hunger. Most of these stories about Jesus are based on the “Infancy Gospel of James” and the “Infancy Gospel of Thomas”, and they appear in history well after the canonical Gospels (as they are written in response to these eyewitness accounts).
There were many groups of Jewish converts in early Christianity who retained their strong Jewish identity. As a result, these groups typically upheld and maintained the Mosaic Law, and their gospels reflected this theological leaning. The “Gospel of the Ebionites”, the “Gospel of the Hebrews” and the “Gospel of the Nazoreans” are the three texts representing this group. None of these texts have survived, but we do see references to them in letters written by Early Church Fathers who were critical of their theology and their representation of the life of Jesus…
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