The Canon Conspiracy
By Timothy Fox
I’ve always been intrigued by conspiracy theories. New World Order, Illuminati, stuff like that. Christianity has its own share of conspiracy theories, like the existence of “lost” gospels suppressed by the Church. However, we all must wonder why the Bible contains the books that it does. What if there really are texts purposely omitted from the canon that would have produced a radically different Christianity? Far from being mere conspiracy theory, this is an important claim to explore. So, let’s briefly examine three of the most infamous “lost” gospels:
The “Lost” Gospels
Gospel of Thomas
The Gospel of Thomas is the most popular of all “lost” gospels. It was discovered in 1945 within a collection of texts near Nag Hammadi in Egypt. Thomas seems very primitive, being a collection of sayings with no clear narrative and no mention of Jesus’ death and crucifixion. Thus, its proponents consider it an extremely early gospel source.
However, scholars believe Thomas was heavily influenced by the synoptic gospels, and possibly Paul’s writings and the Diatessaron, another ancient Christian text. Also, gnostic elements within the text discredit an early origin, as gnostic reinterpretations of Christianity hadn’t surfaced until the 2nd century. Thus, Thomas should be rejected as an early, independent account of Jesus’ life.
Gospel of Mary
The idea that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were lovers was popularized by Dan Brown’s bestselling book, The Da Vinci Code. However, its roots lie in the so-called Gospel of Mary. Fragments of it were found in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries and it advances a radically different message than what is contained in the Bible. Mary’s proponents herald it as proof of the patriarchal suppression of women within Christianity.
But while its small size makes dating difficult, scholars place it at the end of the second century, much too late to be considered reliable. Also, no scholar takes the Jesus-Mary coupling seriously as it is mentioned nowhere else in any other early Christian writings.
Gospel of Judas
A gospel written by the scoundrel who betrayed Jesus?! Now this is juicy. Do we get to see the other side of the story? Sorry, Judas is an obvious fake. In fact, church father Irenaeus smacked down this false gospel way back in 180 AD, condemning it as heretical, Gnostic fan fiction.
Let’s now examine some general arguments and statements concerning “lost” gospels…
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