CNN loves to talk about them.
National Geographic has spilled plenty of ink covering them.
They are the darlings of the media whenever they turn up somehow and especially when they tell any kind of story or say anything that directly casts doubt on any of the four canonical gospels.
They also stir up plenty of money for those who find them. The Gospel of Judas was reportedly sold in the 1970's for a sum of between $3M and $10M!
The Gospel of Judas, The Gospel of Thomas, The Gospel of Philip, The Gospel of Peter, just to name a few.
In fact, there are some 16 "other" gospels that are out there. They date from the 2nd and 3rd century. While one of them is a "narrative" gospel (it tells the story of Jesus), the others are "saying gospels"--full of sayings attributed to Jesus or "dialogue/discourse" gospels where Jesus is having a conversation with others.
The thing is, because they are so different from the gospels in the New Testament, which tell an entire narrative of Jesus and can be historically authenticated (they mention places, rulers and characters, for example, that can be used to verify the history they tell), these other gospels are kind of short on verifiable content. Jerusalem and Nazareth, for example are the only places usually mentioned in them.
Furthermore, they date from a period after the first century A.D., which means they cannot be considered to be the product of eyewitness accounts or testimony, as the four gospels either appear to be or claim to be.
These other gospels also were not embraced by the ancient Church. The canon, or list of books that we consider holy scripture, is not the product of one pope declaring a certain list of books to be "it". Instead, the canon that the Church reveres worldwide comes from a deliberative process where Church leaders from across the ancient Mediterranean world met in "councils" for the purpose of deciding on matters like which books would be considered authoritative and which one would not.
They found that they were using the same books and letters for the purposes of worship and teaching and agreed, in general, on which books should make the "list" and which ones should not.
The thing is, these other gospels didn't make the list. Some of them weren't even considered. That may be because they were known to be driven by people who were heretics or who were actually challenging the authority of the Church through their writings. It could also be that these books just didn't carry with them the "authority" of the four gospels that were chosen.
It's ironic to me, really. Why does the world get so excited over books that end up dating from 150-300 years after Jesus lived? Why find so much intrigue in these books?
I think it ultimately is because the message of the four gospels is so incredibly challenging and counter-cultural that to throw doubt on the message and Person they portray is much more comforting than having to deal with the message and Person presented in the four canonical gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
In the end, these "other gospels" aren't gospels at all. They didn't make the list because they either don't tell a historically verifiable story full of details or they differ so much in what they say about Jesus from the four gospels (verified to have been written in the first century), that they can't be written from the same perspective as the apostles who knew and first proclaimed Christ.
There's no smoke, and there's no fire here, just reporters and scholars who would like to distract the world from the claims of the four gospels that made it into the New Testament.
Share this post today to help people in your life who are resisting Jesus by repeating this old myth about him. You can learn more about the 21 Myths in 21 Days blog series by clicking here!
Check out these other posts on the following myths: no historical proof of Jesus' life, that it's possible to follow Jesus and check out of the Church, that Jesus taught the same thing other world religious leaders have, that Jesus is soft, easy, and accepting, that there are natural explanations for the supernatural miracle of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the idea that Jesus wants his followers to be rich, the denial of the divinity of Jesus, the myth that the Bible teaches theological truths about Jesus, but not historically reliable ones, the myth that the Bible's story about Jesus has changed over time, the fable that Jesus was never crucified, as well as the myth that Jesus was an only child.