This Volume Three of a three volume set covers books not included in the New Testament. These books include the writings of the Apostolic Fathers, who were Church leaders and writers of the late first to mid-second centuries, along with “apocryphal” books, both orthodox and Gnostic. Among these apocryphal books are some that have received much publicity of late and from which many people derive their ideas of early Christian history.
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The Three Volumes
Why Are These Books in the Bible and Not Others?: Volume One - A Translator’s Perspective on the Canon of the Old Testament
Why Are These Books in the Bible and Not Others?: Volume Two - A Translator’s Perspective on the Canon of the New Testament
Why Are These Books in the Bible and Not Others?: Volume Three - The Apostolic Fathers and the New Testament Apocrypha
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Table of Contents
[Page numbers refer to the hardcopy versions]
Introductory Pages: ………………………………… 5
Preface ………...………………………………..…… 7
Analytical-Literal Translation …………………..…….. 8
Terminology Notes …………………………………… 9
Chronology …………..……………………………… 10
Church Fathers …………..………………………….. 11
Abbreviations and Other Notes …………………….... 12
Chapters .………………………………………… 19
1 – Introduction to Volume Three .…………………. 21
Section One – The Apostolic Fathers …………… 25
2 – Introduction to the Apostolic Fathers ………….. 27
3 – The Apostolic Fathers – Part One ..…………….... 33
4 – The Apostolic Fathers – Part Two .……………….. 61
5 – Conclusion on the Apostolic Fathers …………….. 99
Section Two – Orthodox NT Apocryphal Books ….. 101
6 – Introduction to Orthodox NT Apocryphal Books .... 103
7 – Orthodox Apocryphal Gospels …………….,,,,….. 111
8 – Orthodox Apocryphal Acts …………………….... 153
9 – Other Orthodox Apocryphal Books ……………... 193
10 – Conclusion on Orthodox NT Apocryphal Books .. 217
Section Three – Gnostic Books ………………….. 219
11 – Introduction to Gnostic Books ……………….... 221
12 – Gnostic Gospels ……………………………….. 229
13 – Commentary on the Gospel of Thomas ………... 289
14 – Gnostic Acts …………………………………... 343
15 – Other Gnostic Books ………………………… 373
16 – Conclusion on Gnostic Books ………………... 411
17 – Conclusion to Three Volume Set …………… 413
Appendixes …………………………………….. 417
1 – Bibliography ……………………………....… 419
2 – Current Books by the Author ………………… 429
3 – Proposed Books by the Author ……………….. 437
4 – Author’s Websites, Newsletters, and Social Sites/
Contacting the Author ………………………. 445
Christians claim the Bible is the Word of God, that it is the final authority in all matters relating to Christian faith and practice, and that it is absolutely reliable in all that it teaches. But to put such confidence in the Bible requires that we have the correct books in the Bible. But do we? Why are the 66 books that are in the Bible included in the Bible, and why were other books that could have been included not included?
This subject is very important and complicated, so complicated it took three volumes to fully cover it. Volume One studied the books included in the Old Testament (OT) and considered other books that could have been included but were not. Volume Two covered the books included in the New Testament (NT). This third and final volume will consider other writings which are not in the NT. They are of three types:
The first type is the writings of the Apostolic Fathers. These are Church leaders and writers of the late first to mid-second centuries. Most were direct disciples of the apostles, and some of their writings were seriously considered for inclusion in the NT. It will be explained why this was so and why these writings were eventually rejected.
The second and third types are “apocryphal” books. This term originally meant “hidden” but now means “extra-canonical,” meaning the books are not considered to be inspired by God and thus are outside of the canon (list of authoritative books) of Scripture. These books are divided into two types: ones that are mostly orthodox in their theology and ones that are heretical or Gnostic.
Among these apocryphal books are some that have received much publicity of late. The media has been abuzz in recent years about books like the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Judas, and the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife. It is said these books present a radical new viewpoint of Christianity and are more reliable than the NT books.
In addition, the conception many people have of early Christian history often comes from apocryphal books and not from NT books. For instance, at Christmastime, the manner in which nativity scenes are displayed comes more from apocryphal “infancy gospels” than from the NT Gospels. Thus many people today will find a discussion of these books to be of interest.
The author is the translator of the Analytical-Literal Translation of the Bible. He is also the author of many other books related to the Bible. Working on this distinct translation of the Scriptures and these other Bible-based books gives the author a unique perspective on this topic.
Introduction to Volume Three
Before looking at these later books, it would be good to review the standards discussed in Volume Two that were used by the early Church to determine if a book would be included in the NT. This first chapter will also explain the terminology and methodology to be used in this volume.
For a book to be included in the NT it had to meet the following standards:
Be based on the OT conception
of God and His creation.
2. Be in accordance with the doctrines of the OT in general.
3. Be written in Greek.
4. Be written by an apostle or a direct associate of an apostle.
5. Be written in the first century.
6. Be well-known throughout the churches.
7. Bear the mark of inspiration.
8. Be in accordance with the essential tenets of the early Church.
The last standard comes from early creeds and hymns embedded in the NT and the symbolism behind the apostolic Christian ceremonies of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Most notable among these is the creed reprinted in 1Corinthians 15:3-7. It teaches:
1. Jesus died
for our sins according to the Scriptures.
2. Jesus was buried.
3. Jesus was raised bodily from the dead according to the Scriptures.
These are the bare minimum essentials doctrines. But a full list is based on all of the embedded creeds and hymns and the two ceremonies. They are:
existed before His earthy life.
2. Jesus is fully human with a real physical body.
3. Jesus is the Son of God.
4. Jesus is fully God and worthy of worship.
5. The possibly of repentance and the forgiveness or passing over of sins.
6. Jesus died on the cross.
7. Jesus’s death was a sacrifice for our sins.
8. Jesus redeemed and ransomed us from our sins.
9. Jesus was buried.
10. Jesus was raised bodily from the dead.
11. Jesus was seen by many after His resurrection.
12. Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection were foretold in the OT Scriptures.
13. Jesus ascended to heaven in glory.
14. Jesus is Lord.
15. Jesus is the Christ.
16. Jesus is the Mediator between people and God the Father.
17. Jesus will come again (a.k.a. the Second Coming).
18. Through Christ, we can deal with difficulties in life.
19. Through Christ, we can have renewal of life.
20. This renewal establishes a New Covenant between God and people.
21. The importance of the Holy Spirit in believer’s lives.
22. God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit are associated together.
23. Unity of believers based on essential beliefs.
24. The conception of God and of nature as asserted in the OT.
The last point was elaborated upon in Volume One. But in sum, the OT conception of God and of nature is there is only one true God, that this one true God directly created the real physical universe and thus this one true God is intimately involved with His creation and especially with human beings, who are the pinnacle of His creation, that this universe as it was created was good, but that it is fallen and thus suffering and death now exist in it, but there is the hope of a future Redeemer and thus of a better world, as God is still sovereign over His creation.
The early Christians also accepted the Jewish (OT) canon and all that those 39 books teach. As such, any books to be included in the developing NT canon would have to uphold this conception of God and be in accordance with the teachings of the OT.
To reiterate from Volume Two, this does not mean a book had to affirm every one of these tenets, but it does mean it could not contain anything contradictory to them.
These standards will now be applied to the books to be discussed in this volume.
Introduction to The Apostolic Fathers
The Apostolic Fathers (APF) were Christian leaders and writers immediately after the apostles and who lived in the first through mid-second centuries. Many were direct disciples of the apostles. Being so closely associated with the apostles, the APF were held in high-esteem, and their writings were greatly valued in the early Church. Some of their books were seriously considered for inclusion in the New Testament (NT).
Sixteen books are usually included among the APF. There is no standard order in which they are listed….
Prior to writing this book, I had read through all of these books a couple of times. The first time was via a paperback English translation of the texts; the second was via a hardback volume that contained both the Greek texts and an English translation. At that time, I was very impressed with some of these books. I even asked my NT professor at Denver Seminary why a particular one of them was not included in the NT, as it seemed to me that it should have been. However, I was also rather disappointed with some others of them as they were obviously far inferior to the NT books.
Years later, when I began work on this three volume set, I had just updated my BibleWorks program from version 6 to version 10. As I worked on this three volume set, I noticed that BibleWorks 10 not only contained all of these APF books, but it contained three different English translations and two different Greek texts for them, with full lexical and grammatical aids for both. It was then that I decided to add a seventh volume to my Analytical Literal-Translation (ALT) containing these books. Thus at the same time I was working on this three volume set, I was working on that volume, with plans to publish all four volumes at about the same time. As such, if you are reading this book, my translation of the APF and the other two volumes of this set should be available as well.
I give this background so the reader knows I am very familiar with these APF books, and this Volume Three serves as background for my translation of them, just as Volume One does for the ALT translations of the Old Testament and the Apocryphal/ Deuterocanonical (A/D) Books and Volume Two for the ALT: NT (see Appendixes One and Two).
Before looking at each book individually, if would be good to provide some further background on these APF books in general.
Background to the APF
I searched the Internet and other sources for as much background on these books as I could find, and varying opinions thereof. Below is the most pertinent information I came across….
To summarize, these quotes are saying these books are very much worth reading, but they are inferior to the canonical books of the NT. Having read and translated all of these books, I can attest to this general observation. I would thus encourage the reader to read these books, and the next two chapters will assume the reader is familiar with them.
The texts of most of these books can be found on various websites, and they are available in various hardcopy books and ebooks. My translation of these books is available in both hardcopy and various ebook formats (see Appendix Two). The next two chapters will provide background information and this writer’s evaluation of these books.
Introduction to New Testament Orthodox Apocryphal Books
To be covered in this next section of this book are apocryphal or pseudepigraphal books that are mostly orthodox in their theology. These books are to be distinguished from the apocryphal books covered in Volume One in that those books were related to the Old Testament (OT), while these books are related to the New Testament (NT). These books are also to be distinguished from books that are heretical or Gnostic in nature. Those type of books will be covered in Section Three….
Terminology and Introductory Thoughts
The term apocryphal originally meant “hidden” but now means “extra-canonical,” meaning the books are not considered to be inspired by God and thus are outside of the canon of Scripture. The word “canon” means authoritative list of books. The apocryphal books to be discussed in this section reflect a Christian influence and were written after 100 AD. Another term often used for these books is “pseudepigraphal” [“false writing”]…
In the first quote, the dating of 200 BC to AD 300 includes OT pseudepigraphical books that were discussed in Volume One. This volume will discuss ones written after 100 AD. We would call these books forgeries today. On that basis alone, any pseudepigraphical (PEG) works would be excluded from the canon of Scripture, as “Any pretense or falsehood in a book naturally negates its claim of truthfulness” (GotQuestions.org; pseudepigrapha).
Others points that preclude these books from being canonical are:
1. They were written after the deaths of the claimed authors.
2. They often consist of attempts to fill in “gaps” in NT histories, such as giving information about Jesus’ childhood. But given their very late compositions, none of this added history is reliable.
4. They are often filled with historical blunders and thus were obviously not written by an eyewitness of the events or even by someone who received his information either directly from eyewitnesses or from eyewitness written source materials.
5. They are often theological unsound, presenting viewpoints of God contrary to the essential attributes of God outlined previously, or they contradict the NT in other theological ways.
6. They often contradict the NT in their histories or in other ways.
7. If they do not contradict the NT, they are redundant of material found in it and are thus of little purpose.
8. There are few if any extant manuscripts of these books. Many are only known by way of mention of them in other books or by fragments of them being found among the Hag Hammadi documents in 1945. Prior to that discovery, they were often unknown.
9. The style of language is hard to understand.
These books thus fail all of the standards for a book to be included in the canon of Scripture and are far inferior to the NT books or even to the Apostolic Fathers. That is why they were never considered for inclusion in the NT canon, except for a couple of possible exceptions that will be noted….
Methodology and More Terminology
These books are not near as readily available as the canonical NT books or even the Apostolic Fathers. There are also so many of them it would be difficult for the average person to have read more than a few of them. As such, in the following reviews it will be assumed the reader is not familiar with these books. Thus before evaluating each book, a summary will be provided. I will also try to mention points that would be of interest to most readers….
List of Orthodox Apocryphal Books
Below is the list of books that most likely would fall under the category of orthodox apocryphal books. They are listed as they would be if they were included in the NT: gospels and related books, acts of apostles and related books, epistles, apocalypses (revelations), and miscellaneous….
The next chapter will study the most notable apocryphal gospels, Chapter Eight the most notable of the acts-type of books, and Chapter Nine the rest of the books. This sampling will give the reader a good idea of what these books are like….
New Testament Orthodox Apocryphal Gospels
To be covered in this chapter are orthodox apocryphal books that resemble the canonical Gospels of the New Testament (NT). These books purport to recount events related to the life of Jesus….
Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew
This book contains four parts:
1. A correspondence between Jerome and two bishops.
2. The Nativity of the Virgin Mary.
3. The Gospel of the Birth of Mary.
4. The History of Joseph the Carpenter.
Each of these parts will be discussed in order….
The salutation to the first letter in the correspondence is:
To their well-beloved brother Jerome the Presbyter, Bishops Cromatius and Heliodorus in the Lord, greeting.
Jerome is a well-known Church Father, who lived 340-420 AD. Cromatius was “Bishop of Aquileia, died about 406-407” (New Advent; “St. Cromatius”). Heliodorus was “Bishop of Altino” and “died about the year 390” (Lives of the Saints; Saint Heliodorus). Putting these dates together, this correspondence had to occur after Jerome rose to prominence, which most likely was after he turned 30, but before the death of Heliodorus. It thus was probably occurred between about 370-390 AD. This date is important as we proceed….
Nativity of the Virgin Mary
It is from this Nativity gospel that many common ideas not found in the canonical Gospels about the birth of Jesus and about Mary are found. But it is hard to determine if these ideas originated with this gospel or if this book was written to give credence to already existing traditions. But one thing is certain—Roman Catholics would like this gospel as many unique Catholic doctrines find support in this book….
Appeal and Mark of Inspiration:
The appeal of this book is two-fold. First, it explains why modern-day nativity scenes look the way they do, with Joseph being depicted as an old man with a beard and Mary as a teenager, with the Holy Family in a stable with an ox and donkey in the background. None of this is found in the canonical Gospels, but instead comes from this Nativity gospel. Second, this book is the origin of or at least gives credence to unique Catholic doctrines about Mary.
However, given that this Nativity gospel was most likely written at least 300 years after the described events and given that it cites no early sources for this information, it can hardly be considered reliable in these regards. Moreover, this gospel contradicts the canonical Gospels in many respects; thus its reliability is further suspect. For these reasons this book was rightly excluded from the canon of the NT….
History of Joseph the Carpenter
Joseph is mentioned in the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke and in the incident of Jesus being lost and found in the temple when He was twelve years old. But then when Jesus starts His ministry at the age of thirty, there is no mention of Joseph (Luke 2:42; 3:23). It is thus generally assumed that Joseph died sometime during these eighteen intervening years. But why is such an important event not recorded? That is a question many have asked, including my own father. He has often expressed dismay that Joseph is given such short treatment that even his death is not mentioned in the canonical Gospels. This book was written to fulfill this perceived need….
The timeline is as follows: Joseph was 40 years old when he married his first wife. He had four sons and two daughters by her. Along with the names of the sons given in the canonical Gospels, this book adds that the daughters were named Assia and Lydia.
He was married to his first wife for 49 years before she died, making Joseph 89 years old. A year later, Mary is put under his care, Mary being 12 at that time. Two years later, Mary conceives Jesus, and Joseph marries Mary, Mary then being 14. A year later, Jesus was born, making Joseph 93. Joseph lived to 111 years before he died, thus making Jesus 18 at his death.
That should satisfy the curiosity factor…
Conclusion on Pseudo-Matthew
Many readers today would probably find the three books contained in “The Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew” fascinating for their filling in of details about Mary, Joseph, and the childhood of Jesus. That was one purpose of apocryphal books. They were also often written to promote a particular theological viewpoint, such as these books promoting unique Catholic doctrines…
However, none of the history or theology in these books or other apocryphal gospels is reliable as they were written centuries after the time of the described events. Some of the contents of Pseudo-Matthew probably came from the previous two infancy gospels, but much of their contents were probably simply made up by the authors….
Conclusion on New Testament Orthodox Apocryphal Books
The New Testament (NT) orthodox apocryphal books have little appeal to them. They were mostly attempts to satisfy people’s yearnings to have the “gaps” in the canonical NT books filled in. Or they were written to buttress doctrines that developed after the time of the NT and Apostolic Fathers, especially in regards to Mary, or they were written to satisfy the need of the self-righteous to read about the suffering of sinners. But none of this information is reliable given the late date and forgery nature of these books.
Moreover, despite being mostly orthodox when touching on doctrinal issues, these books spend so much time satisfying people’s curiosity, there is little in them proclaiming the true nature of God or the essential doctrines of the Christian faith. And nowhere do they mention the renewal of believers by the Holy Spirit. In fact, they only very rarely mention the Holy Spirit at all. How different this is from the canonical NT books, which affirm tenant after tenant, with a strong emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers.
These apocryphal books thus do little to propagate the Christian faith or to aid Christians in their spiritual growth. Personally, I did not find reading these books to be in any way spiritually enriching.
It is thus good that these books were not included in the NT. And their rejection shows that the early Church was very conscientious in deciding on which books were to be included in the NT. They did not blindly accept every book that claimed to be written by an apostle. They instead held firmly to the standards set forth in Volume Two of this three volume set. Only books that met all of these standards were included, and those that did not were excluded. The readers of the New Testament can thus be assured they are reading the correct books….
However, more so than for these mostly orthodox apocryphal books, there are many today who believe the Gnostic apocryphal books are more reliable than the canonical NT books. To those Gnostic books we now turn.
Introduction to Gnostic Books
Like the books in the previous section, the books to be discussed in this section would also be classified as being apocryphal or pseudepigraphal (PEG), since they are mostly written under the name of notable New Testament (NT) figures. Thus all of the comments about problems with such books in that section would also apply to these books. But these books differ from those books in that these books are not at all orthodox in their theology. They instead reflect a heretical or more specifically Gnostic theology.
Basics of Gnosticism…
Gnosticism starts with the problem of evil. It believes the material world is intrinsically evil, but that the true God is intrinsically good. As such, the true God cannot have any relationship whatsoever to the material world. The true God therefore could not have directly created the material world. Instead, a long series of “aeons” emanated from the true God. These emanations are not creations but an extension of the true God. But each aeon is less God and thus less good and more evil, until you come down to the last aeon. This last aeon is pure evil and is the creator god. This god was later identified with Jehovah (or Yahweh), the creator God of the Old Testament (OT).
Given this theology, Jesus could not be God in the flesh as Christians claimed, as the good God could not inhabit an evil physical body. But rather than deny the deity of Jesus, Gnostics denied His humanity. They said Jesus only appeared or seemed to have a body. This is known as Docetism, from the Greek word for “seem” (dokeo, e.g., 1Cor 12:22; Gal 2:6). Thus Jesus did not really die, nor was He raised bodily from the grave.
In some Gnostics circles, “the Christ” was separate from Jesus, with the Christ being a divine influence or idea rather than the Jewish Messiah. In Gnosticism, the Christ came upon Jesus at His baptism under the guise of the dove (Matt 3:16), and it left Jesus while He was hanging on the cross, hence His cry “My God, My God, why did You abandon Me?” (Matt 27:46). Thus only the Man Jesus died; the Christ did not die.
Salvation in Gnosticism is attained by learning secret knowledge. The Greek word for knowledge is gnosis, hence the name of this movement (e.g., Luke 1:77; 11:52). This knowledge can only be learned by being initiated into Gnostic circles. This secret knowledge was given to prominent OT and NT figures. These figures then wrote books reflecting this secret knowledge. The reading of these books would thus bring someone into possession of this secret knowledge necessary for salvation.
In addition, human souls were all pre-existent within the one true God. At that time, we had no individuality and no sexual distinctions. We were all part of the one God essence. But our souls emanated from God. When they did, we lost our divinity and remembrance of being one with God. We were then trapped within evil bodies and became individuals with a distinction between male and female.
Salvation then involves having a divine experience that enables us to remember our divine nature and oneness with God and eventually to be freed from our evil bodies. The concept of bodily resurrection was thus repugnant to Gnostics, as it would be a re-entrapment of the good soul in an evil body. Ultimate salvation is for our souls to be reabsorbed into the one true God, thus losing our individuality and sexual distinctions….
Rejection of Gnostic Books
It can be seen that at every point this theology contradicts OT and NT theology about the nature of God, the physical world, resurrection, the nature of Jesus, salvation, and the nature of human beings. It is for this reason that any books with a Gnostic basis to their theology were rejected for inclusion in the NT. There was no “conspiracy” as some claim. These books were not “suppressed” or “lost.” They were rejected due to not meeting the most basic standard for a book to be included in the NT; that its theology was in accordance with the OT theology of God and of the natural world and of early essential Christian tenets.
Moreover, if the Biblical viewpoint on these matters is the correct viewpoint, then Gnosticism is an incorrect view. It is not a different viewpoint that an “open-minded” person needs to consider….
List of Gnostic Books
The following is a partial list of Gnostic gospels and other Gnostic writings. There are others, but these are the most notable. They are listed as they would be if they were included in the NT: gospels, acts of apostles, epistles, apocalypses (revelations), and miscellaneous….
It is not possible to review all of these books, but the rest of this section will study the most notable of these books. This sampling will give the reader a good idea of what these books are like.
In these reviews it will be assumed the reader is not familiar with these books. Thus before evaluating each book, a summary will be provided. I will also try to mention points that would be of interest to many readers.
This chapter will study the most notable Gnostic gospels….
Gospel According to Philip
The next book to be studied is the Gospel According to Philip. The only full extant text is a Coptic translation of a probable Greek original found with the Hag Hammadi documents. The main claim to fame for this book is it being mentioned in the book and movie The Da Vinci Code, with the claim that it teaches Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married. That controversial idea will be addressed later. We will first look at the background and contents of this book.
Author and Dating…
Whether late second or late third century, this dating is obviously far too late for the book to have been written by Philip or any of the other apostles or for that matter by any eyewitness of the life of Jesus. Thus anything it teaches about Jesus would be highly suspect.
Comments on Notable Passages…
The first five sayings are a series of contrasts, but they are rather unintelligible. For instance, consider the following:
Those who are heirs to the dead are themselves dead, and they inherit the dead. Those who are heirs to what is living are alive, and they are heirs to both what is living and the dead. The dead are heirs to nothing. For how can he who is dead inherit? If he who is dead inherits what is living he will not die, but he who is dead will live even more.
The contrast here is probably between the spiritually dead and the spiritually alive. But even with that allegorizing, this is still rather unintelligible….
No one will hide a large valuable object in something large, but many a time one has tossed countless thousands into a thing worth a penny. Compare the soul. It is a precious thing and it came to be in a contemptible body.
Here we see the Gnostic idea of the good soul being trapped in evil flesh. This of course contradicts the Biblical idea that all which God created was good (Gen 1)….
When Eve was still with Adam, death did not exist. When she was separated from him, death came into being. If he enters again and attains his former self, death will be no more.
This saying refers to the Gnostic idea that the evil god separated Adam into male and female. This separation was evil and was the sin that led to death. This of course conflicts with the Genesis account that the good LORD God took a part of Adam (his rib) and made “a helper according to him [fig., suitable for him]” (Gen 2:18). It was thus a good thing. But Adam and Eve’s disobedience was the sin that led to death (Gen 3)….
The world came about through a mistake. For he who created it wanted to create it imperishable and immortal. He fell short of attaining his desire. For the world never was imperishable, nor, for that matter, was he who made the world. For things are not imperishable, but sons are. Nothing will be able to receive imperishability if it does not first become a son. But he who has not the ability to receive, how much more will he be unable to give?
Here we see the Gnostic ideas about the creator god and creation. Philip is saying the creator god is imperfect, incompetent, mortal, and perishing. Moreover, it says creation was originally perishable and a mistake. This is all in direct contradiction to the Biblical teachings on the nature of God and of nature….
Jesus and Mary Magdalene:
The claim to fame for this book is not what it teaches about God and other doctrinal issues, but the idea that it teaches Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene….
Appeal and Conclusion:
This gospel might appeal to those with a conspiratorial attitude and who claim the early Church “suppressed” the truth about Jesus and His romantic relationship with Mary Magdalene. That is why it was used as the basis for a novel and movie, as it makes for a good fictional storyline. But it just that, fiction, as is everything else in this gospel. It was not written by an apostle or an apostolic delegate. It was not written in the first century. It was instead written by an unknown Gnostic writer long after all eyewitnesses of the life of Christ had died. As such, it is a work of friction, designed to promote heretical Gnostic doctrines. Knowing this, the early Church rightly rejected this book for inclusion in the NT….
Chapter Sixteen: Conclusion on Gnostic Books
It is said these Gnostic books present a different viewpoint of early Christianity than we get in the pages of the NT. It is further claimed this means many different Christian viewpoints were circulating in the early centuries, and what we have in the NT is just the one that won.
But that is far from the truth. In reality, as Volume Two of this three volume set demonstrated, the essential doctrines of the Christian faith were there from the start. There were debates about secondary issues like eating meats sacrificed to idols or spiritual gifts, but on the essential doctrines there was no debate.
The only denials came by way of those who were coming from a completely different background and worldview, namely the Gnostics. That viewpoint began in the first century, but it became full-blown in the second century, which is when Gnostic writings began to emerge. Given their late dates, few accepted these texts as reliable or had any respect for them except for the specific Gnostic sect that wrote them. …
That is why these Gnostic books fell into disfavor and disappeared. If they had been respected, they would have been copied and preserved like the NT books were. As such, these Gnostic books were not “suppressed” in some kind of conspiracy as some claim today; they just fell out of disfavor or had little respect from the start. The same could happen to any book today, such as this one. If no one likes this book and it is little read, then eventually it will cease to be published, few copies of it will be in circulation, and eventually, even those will be lost, and there will be little or no memory of this book ever having been written. But if by some miracle this book becomes a best-seller, then it will be greatly circulated; there will be many copies of it, and centuries from now you would still be able to find copies of it. The former is what happened with the Gnostic books; the latter with the NT books.
Personally, I did not find reading these Gnostic books to be in any way spiritually enriching, but rather spiritually and emotionally depressing. That is how I always feel when reading heretical material. Moreover, reading and reviewing them was a drudgery given the very hard to understand nature of much of the texts. In addition, the viewpoint of God and Jesus in these books is so far from the Biblical teachings that it is disheartening they were believed by some people in the ancient world, and it is even more distressing that such ideas are experiencing a revival today.
However, it is far different for the canonical New Testament books. Reading and understanding them is relatively easy, and doing so is a very spiritually and emotionally uplifting experience…
Conclusion to Three Volume Set
In hardcopy format, this three volume set consists of a total of over 1,200 pages and took this writer one and half years to finish. But I took the time to write so many pages as the topic covered in these volumes is so important. For people to be able to trust the Bible they need to have assurance that the correct books are in the Bible. But with sensational headlines of late, that has been called into question.
However, it has been shown in this set that there are sound reasons for why the 66 books in the Bible were included in the Bible. They were written by eyewitness of the events covered or by people who received their information from eyewitnesses. They were written during the time of the events covered or shortly thereafter, or at least by people working from sources that were written during those times. They were written by the people who claim to have written the books or whose names are traditionally associated with them. They present a consistent viewpoint of the nature of God and His creation, and in the New Testament books, of the Person and Work of Jesus Christ.
The Old Testament historical books flow one to the other in a logical manner, giving an unbroken history of the Jewish race from creation to after the exile. Then the New Testament presents a reliable history of Jesus and of the first decades of the Christian movement. The didactic (teaching) and poetic books presents one consistent worldview throughout the Old and New Testaments. The prophetic books of both Testaments present prophecies that have proven to be true and present this same worldview.
All of the books are relatively easy to understand, using everyday language written in the common Hebrew or Greek of the time. They had widespread appeal when they written and still do so today. As such, they were much copied and carefully preserved, so that we have a multitude of complete manuscripts of them today. They have provided spiritual enrichment to billions throughout history. They thus bear the marks of being inspired by the one true God.
But it is a far different picture for the books that were not included in the Bible but which many today seem to think should have been. They were written long after the events covered and thus were not written by eyewitnesses nor even attained their information from eyewitnesses. Even worse, they were forged in the names of prominent Biblical figures. They present a cacophony of various ideas about God and Jesus, often in conflict with Biblical teachings. There are no logical timelines to their histories, no logical basis to their often conflicting worldviews, and they contain prophesies that have proven to be false.
These non-biblical books do not provide spiritual enrichment to those who read them and have little appeal. They will only lead a person into a confused worldview and distorted viewpoints about God and Jesus. The only appeal they might have is to fulfill carnal desires to have “gaps” in the Bible filled in, but they do so with unreliable and fanciful information.
These books were thus little copied and were not preserved as no one cared enough to do so. As a result, they exist today in just a few or sometimes even only one manuscript, often fragmentary in nature, or even are only known by way of mention of them in other books.
But most of all, reading these apocryphal books would not bring a person into a correct understanding of God or a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. But the Biblical books will do this and more. They present God in all His glory and Jesus Christ as the Savior of people. They will lead a person into a sound worldview. They will enable a person to come to know God through His Son Jesus Christ:
3Now this is eternal life: that they shall be knowing You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You sent (John 17:3).
31But these have been written so that you* shall believe [or, be convinced] that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and so that believing you* shall be having life in His name (John 20:21)….
The above Book Preview was posted on this site November 15, 2016.
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