The Hidden Gospels - Part 1

26/03/09 | Posted by MattPage

If you had had asked anyone twenty years ago how many gospels there were, almost everyone would have given you the same reply – “four”. These days things are very different. Dan Brown’s religious conspiracy theory novel, “The DaVinci Code” opened the eyes to millions of people to the fact that there were whole bunch of gospels that they had never even heard of. Suddenly all kinds of people were claiming that there was all sorts of information about Jesus that the general public never knew existed.

image
 Medieval tile showing a scene from the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew

Over the years, the meaning of the word “gospel” has been confused by phrases such as “gospel truth” or “gospel music”. In fact originally, the word simply meant “good news”. The earliest gospels were a new literary genre: they weren’t just recounting historical events but trying to convince their readers that Jesus’ life, death and resurrection needed a response. Later gospels tinkered with the style somewhat, and indeed some of these lost gospels, such as the Gospel of Thomas, are little more than a collection of sayings.

By the end of the second century there were, perhaps, over 20 of these gospels, and their numbers continued to grow. So what happened to them all? “The Da Vinci Code” proposed that once the Roman Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity he forced the church to choose the gospels that best suited his political agenda. “Constantine commissioned and financed a new Bible, which omitted those gospels that spoke of Christ’s human traits and embellished those gospels that made him godlike. The earlier gospels were outlawed, gathered up and burned”.1

Conspiracy theories which challenge the established view make for very popular fiction. They even make for more interesting documentaries. But the reality is somewhat different. The formation of the New Testament was a long process, rather than the result of a single council. Almost 150 years before the conversion of Constantine, Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons wrote that the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were all that were required. In the intervening period various lists were drawn up of those books that the mainstream church considered authoritative, none of which included these now lost gospels, and it wasn’t until 60 years after Constantine died that the final selection of New Testament books was decided on.

At the same time, it’s true that there were disputes in early Christianity which did, on occasion, lead to some texts being burned, and others being buried for safety. The rediscovery of these buried early gospels give us a fascinating insight into the diversity of views about Jesus that existed even then. Scholars such as Elaine Pagels suggest that had the Christianity represented by these texts had better equality between the sexes, and a stronger emphasis on Jesus’ humanity. Yet other writers dispute such claims.

In this series we’re going to be taking a closer look at some of the gospels that didn’t make it into the Bible. What do they say? When were they written? Who might have written them or read them? And what did they have to say about the historical Jesus?

 

1 – Brown, D., “The Da Vinci Code” p.234.

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Interesting subject looking forward to the next part.

#1. By Andrew Whiteley on April 01, 2009

Looking forward to this information

#2. By Frank Prior on April 05, 2009

i have had dreams every night about the coming of the end.i have had spiritual forces taske control of my body and had people call me saint peter and and i quote” you are the one” or “he is holy” and then they have washed my feet with their hair.I have also walked on water and other things.I was recently given a dream that gave me a date of the first sign of the starting of the end and i was told i would have to find it my self. they would not tell me a pacific day when i asked as the bible tells you no one will know the pacific day i will come back. all i can tell you is that they told me the 7th month on the year of the dragon. i am writing to anyone who can help me. if you can please contact me or write to me at justinmcdaniel12161988@gmail.com. my name is Justin Lee McDaniel. i am 23 years old. I live at 723 north avenue c #13 ,freeport /texas.if anyone can help me contact me may the father be with you AMEN

#3. By Justin Lee McDaniel on July 30, 2013

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