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A Fatal Plethora

Dozens of "all sorts of" gospel versions are around. The earliest records of the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John appear within eighty years after the death of Jesus Christ. Among Nag Hammadi documents uncovered in Egypt in the 1940s, there were more gospels and other gospel versions than the four (Vermes 2010b). Elaine Pagels comments:

If [church leaders] suppressed so much of early Christian history, what else don't we know about? What else is there to be known? . . . As a historian, I think it’s a really important question because the answer means a great deal.

Can anyone be certain that the gospel accounts included in the New Testament are authentic and authoritative? No, concludes the Bible scholar Geza Vermes, author of The Authentic Gospel (2005), after decades of investigations. Can we be sure that leaving out some of these additional accounts was not goofing around according to strategy? See how many are left out apart from the four canonical gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke and John - gospels that might have several hypothetic sources. "Hypothetic" means guessed at:

There are gnostic gospels: of Thomas (1st to mid 2nd century); of Marcion; of Basilides (ca 120 to 140 AD) of Truth (Valentinian) (mid 2nd century); of the Four Heavenly Realms (mid 2nd century, in the form of a dialogue between Jesus and his disciples); of Mary (2nd century); of Judas (2nd century; the Greek Gospel of the Egyptians (second quarter of the 2nd century); the gospel of Philip; the Pseudo-Gospel of the Twelve; and the Gospel of Perfection (a poem of the 4th century).

There are Jewish-Christian gospels too: of the Hebrews; of the Nazarenes; of the Ebionites; and of the Twelve.

There are so-called Infancy gospels too - eight of them.

Other Gospels: Gospel of the Lots of Mary (Coptic collection of 37 oracles; ca. A.D. 500)

Partially preserved gospels: Gospel of Peter.

Fragmentary preserved gospels: of Eve; of Mani (3rd century); of the Saviour (also known as the Unknown Berlin gospel) – highly fragmentary 6th-century manuscript); Coptic Gospel of the Twelve (late 2nd century Coptic language work.

Reconstructed gospels: Secret Gospel of Mark - suspect; Gospel of Matthias.

Lost gospels (they are mentioned in other works): Gospel of Cerinthus (ca. 90–120 AD); of Apelles ( mid-to-late 2nd century); of Valentinus; of the Encratites; of Andrew; of Barnabas; of Bartholomew; of Lucius; of Merinthus; and besides an unknown number of other Gnostic gospels not cited by name; Gospel of the Adversary of the Law and the Prophets; Memoirs of the Apostles – Lost narrative of the life of Jesus, mentioned by Justin Martyr.

"Fragments of possibly unknown or lost (or existing) gospels" include: Papyrus Egerton 2 (late 2nd-century manuscript); Fayyum Fragment; Oxyrhynchus Papyri (the source text is probably mid 2nd century); Gospel of Jesus' Wife (4th century at the earliest); Papyrus Berolinensis: Papyrus Cairensis (6th–7th century Greek fragment); Papyrus Merton 51; Strasbourg Fragment – Fragment of a lost gospel, probably related to Acts of John.

Medieval gospels: of the Seventy; of Nicodemus; of Barnabas.

(Source: Wikipedia, "List of Gospels")

Thus, there is an unknown amount of differing gospels - at any rate dozens of them.


Bible chats, Jesus Christian teachings pinpointed, etc., Literature  

Vermes, Geza. 2005. The Authentic Gospel of Jesus. London: Penguin.

Vermes, Geza. 2010b. The Story of the Scrolls: The Miraculous Discovery and True Significance of the Dead Sea Scrolls. London: Penguin.

Harvesting the hay

Symbols, brackets, signs and text icons explained: (1) Text markers(2) Digesting.

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