THE QUESTION: How do we know that the four gospels of the New Testament are telling the truth, especially since there were so many other ‘gospels’ that the Church rejected? What about them?
“ More than eighty gospels were considered for the New Testament, and yet only a relatively few were chosen for inclusion – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John among them.” - Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code, 231 “ The early church needed to convince the world that the mortal prophet Jesus was a divine being. Therefore, any gospels that described earthly aspects of Jesus’ life had to be omitted from the Bible.” - Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code, 231 “ All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate” - Dan Brown, Preface to The Da Vinci Code
“ Eventually, four Gospels and twenty-three other texts were canonized into a Bible. This did not occur, however, until the sixth century.” – Dan Burstein, Secrets of the Code , 116. Fact: Only in the Syrian branch of the church were SOME books not considered “in”, but all were accepted by the church in the West by the end of the 4 th century. The majority of the NT were accepted as authoritative much earlier.
<ul><li>Written by apostle (defined as person seeing Jesus Christ after His resurrection) or companion of apostle </li></ul><ul><li>No contradiction in core teachings of the faith (analogy of faith) </li></ul><ul><li>Accepted early and by majority of churches (catholicity) </li></ul>
<ul><li>First collection of New Testament books proposed by Marcion in AD 140. Facts about Marcion and his collection: </li></ul><ul><li>Was Docetist (says Jesus only appeared human) </li></ul><ul><li>All spirit is good, all material is evil </li></ul><ul><li>Excluded Matthew, Mark, John </li></ul><ul><li>Included 10 of Paul’s letters, but edited them </li></ul><ul><li>KEY POINT: No other gospels included in his ‘canon’. If the Gnostic ‘gospels’ were available, he would have included them </li></ul>
<ul><li>Next collection of New Testament books is the Muratorian Canon, dated AD 170. Included: </li></ul><ul><li>All four gospels </li></ul><ul><li>Acts </li></ul><ul><li>13 of Paul’s letters </li></ul><ul><li>1, 2, 3 John </li></ul><ul><li>Jude </li></ul><ul><li>Revelation </li></ul>Final New Testament canon pronounced in AD 367 by Athanasius in his Thirty-ninth Festal Letter. Some disagreement by some in the East, but no new gospels ever proposed being added .
Proof that the writings of Paul and Luke were available very early in the first century and regarded as Scripture: "and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul , according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters , speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures , to their own destruction." (2 Peter 3:15-16) "For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,” and “ The laborer is worthy of his wages .”" (1 Timothy 5:18; cf. Luke 10:7)
Are there differences between the 24,000 known Greek, Latin, and other manuscripts? Yes, these are called variants . However, none call into question one doctrine of the Christian faith. Only 1% of the text has variants considered “meaningful”. Example of meaningful variant: 1 Thessalonians 2:7, Paul either describes himself as ‘gentle’ or as ‘little children’ – one letter difference: epioi vs. nepioi.
Death of Jesus AD 30-33 AD 42 AD 58 AD 66 AD 90 AD 120 AD 140 AD 160 AD 170 AD 180 Matthew Written Luke Written Mark Written John Written Gospel Egyptians Gospel Hebrews Gospel Mary Gospel Peter Gospel Thomas <ul><li>All Gnostic gospels come much later </li></ul><ul><li>All written after the lifetime of the eyewitnesses </li></ul><ul><li>Early writing is key as eyewitnesses can refute error </li></ul>* Sources: Why Four Gospels? , David Alan Black; Fabricating Jesus , Craig Evans
“ For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” (Jude 4) Crept - a Greek term only found in Jude. The word – pareisduno – literally means to slip in beside in a manner that is hard to detect, with Jude presenting it in the indicative mood indicating the invasion is real and not just a future possibility. In extrabiblical Greek the term describes the cunning craftiness of a lawyer who, through clever argumentation, infiltrated the minds of courtroom officials and corrupted their thinking. Just like tares look like wheat in the beginning, so too these apostates appeared like the real thing on the surface, but are now revealed for what they truly are and are working against the apostles’ teaching. What better way to enter the sheep’s fold than when cloaked in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15)?
<ul><ul><ul><li>“ Gnostic” simply means “to know”. Termed coined in 1669 by Henry More as a polemic name for heresy. </li></ul></ul></ul>Gnosticism was a Greek philosophical belief system that prided itself in having unique and superior knowledge about all spiritual matters, and was not an offshoot from Christianity as some have been led to believe. In all genuine Gnostic literature, the physical universe is said to have been birthed from the act of an arrogant and powerful subordinate god named “demiurge” who made a huge mistake by mixing the spiritual and physical realms together in the act of creation. Man was created with a spark of divinity, which, when fully awakened, is supposed to make him completely divine once he sheds his outer “shell”. Gnostics held that all spirit is good, all physical matter is evil, and therefore God could never take on the form of a human being. Gnostics maintained that mystical intuition and secret knowledge was necessary; reason and rationality weren’t reliable (postmoderism in early stages)
<ul><li>A claim on the part of the initiated to a special knowledge of the truth; ordinary Christians did not possess this secret and higher doctrine </li></ul><ul><li>The essential separation of matter and spirit, matter being intrinsically evil and the source from which all evil has arisen; </li></ul><ul><li>An attempt to solve the problems of creation and the origin of evil by postulating a demiurge, i.e., a creator or artificer of the world distinct from Supreme deity, and emanations extending between God and the visible universe </li></ul><ul><li>A denial of the true humanity of Christ; a docetic Christology which considered the earthly life of Christ and especially His sufferings on the cross to be unreal; </li></ul><ul><li>The teaching, on the one hand, of asceticism as the means of attaining spiritual communion with God, and, on the other hand, of an indifference that led directly to licentiousness </li></ul><ul><li>A syncretistic tendency that combined certain more or less misunderstood Christian doctrines and various elements from oriental, Jewish, Greek, and other sources; </li></ul><ul><li>Keywords in writings are ‘aeons’ (word for ‘age’), bridal chamber (sexual activity that contributes to the path of Christhood) </li></ul>
<ul><li>Accidentally discovered in 1945 near the Egyptian village of Nag Hammadi. </li></ul><ul><li>Six Bedouin camel drivers were digging for fertilizer when one of them uncovered a human skeleton buried next to an earthenware jar. </li></ul><ul><li>Inside the jar, they found thirteen leather-bound volumes containing fifty-two treatises. </li></ul><ul><li>The books included Gospels (e.g. Thomas, Philip), Acts (e.g. Peter and the Twelve Apostles), letters (e.g. Peter to Philip) and Apocalypses (e.g. Paul, Peter). </li></ul>
<ul><li>Clearly Gnostic in their writing </li></ul><ul><li>Departure from core teachings of Scripture (Nature of God, person of Christ, nature of mankind, salvation, view of women, etc.) </li></ul><ul><li>Not written by apostle or companion of apostle </li></ul><ul><li>Rejected by early churches </li></ul>Key take-away from the New Testament vs. ‘other gospels’ debate: Whereas the argument states that the other ‘gospels’ were excluded because they omitted Christ’s supernatural nature (with the insinuation being that Christianity is therefore fictitious and mythological), on the contrary, the Gnostic ‘gospels’ make the New Testament look tame by comparison when it comes to supernatural claims and statements . “ Some of the Nag Hammadi documents... are Christian and do mention Jesus. Included in this collection are noncanonical gospels that appear to represent a Gnostic perspective. Far from portraying Christ as human, however, these documents are more interested in his divine qualities .” Bart Ehrman, Lost Scriptures , (pp. 44-45)
<ul><li>Infancy Gospel of Thomas: </li></ul><ul><li>The boy Jesus sows a handful of seed that yields a huge harvest </li></ul><ul><li>When five years old, Jesus commands another child to die because he stirs up water than Jesus had gathered (3:1-3) </li></ul><ul><li>Another child runs into Jesus, and Jesus says, “You shall not go further on your way’, and immediately he falls down dead (4:1-2) </li></ul><ul><li>Mary says, “Do not let him go outside the door, for all those who provoke him die.” (14:3) </li></ul><ul><li>Rebukes his father for Joseph chastening him about these things and blinds his other accusers (5:1-3) </li></ul><ul><li>In the Arabic Infancy Gospel (40), Jesus turns his playmates into goats and then back into children </li></ul>
<ul><li>Gospel of Thomas: </li></ul><ul><li>114 Proverb-like sayings supposedly of Jesus </li></ul><ul><li>Begins with “These are the secret words which the living Jesus spoke…” </li></ul><ul><li>References many of the NT writings (more than half); took time for NT to be compiled – dependent on them </li></ul><ul><li>Thomas 75: “Jesus said, Many are standing at the door, but it is the solitary who will enter the bridal chamber .” </li></ul><ul><li>Pantheistic: Thomas 77: “Jesus said, ‘It is I who am the light which is above them all., It is I who am the all. From me did the all come forth, and unto me did the all extend. Split a piece of wood, and I am there, Lift up the stone, and you will find me there.” </li></ul><ul><li>Not a high view of women: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>114: Peter says, “Make Mary leave us, for females are not worthy of eternal life.” Jesus says, “Every woman who will make herself male will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” </li></ul></ul>
<ul><li>Gospel of Peter: </li></ul><ul><li>Sports men whose heads reach to heaven and a walking cross in v10: “When therefore those soldiers saw it, they awakened the centurion and the elders; for they too were hard by keeping guard. And, as they declared what things they had seen, again they see three men come forth from the tomb, and two of them supporting one, and a cross following them: and of the two the head reached unto the heaven, but the head of him that was led by them overpassed the heavens. And they heard a voice from the heavens, saying, Thou hast preached to them that sleep. And a response was heard from the cross, Yea. ” </li></ul><ul><li>Hangs on cross (4:10) but feels no pain (docetic idea) </li></ul><ul><li>Acts of Paul: </li></ul><ul><li>Paul is facing down a lion in the Ephesians' amphitheater, but Paul approaches the lion and then reminds the animal that he had baptized him. The lion then helps Paul escape. </li></ul>
<ul><li>Gospel of Philip: </li></ul><ul><li>Denies the virgin birth and argues that Mary did not conceive by the Holy Spirit because a woman does not conceive by another woman. Philip sees the Spirit as a female (Sophia) 55:23-27 </li></ul><ul><li>Jesus is the seed of Joseph (73:9-15) </li></ul><ul><li>75:2b-14: “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 was never imperishable, nor, that matter, was he who made the world.” </li></ul><ul><li>Apocryphon of John: </li></ul><ul><li>God is an “aeon giving aeon” (4:3) </li></ul><ul><li>God brought forth Barbelo an invisible virginal Spirit and then another series of aeons </li></ul><ul><li>Jesus in II 2:9-25: “I am the Father; I am the Mother; I am the Son” </li></ul>
<ul><li>"By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world." (1 John 4:2-3) </li></ul><ul><li>"For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh . This is the deceiver and the antichrist." (2 John 7) </li></ul>
<ul><li>The Colossian church came under a heretical attack by philosophies that would bloom fully into Gnosticism later (Jewish legalism and ceremonies also played a part) </li></ul><ul><li>"yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death…” (Colossians 1:22) </li></ul><ul><li>"For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness ( pleroma ) to dwell in Him," (Colossians 1:19) . Pleroma was a term used by later Gnostics to speak of the divine powers and attributes that were divided among the various deities. Paul here counters by saying Christ has all the fullness </li></ul><ul><li>"For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9) </li></ul><ul><li>"Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels…" (Colossians 2:18; angels were seen as one of the emanations of the Supreme deity. Asceticism was one side of the Gnostic coin; immorality was the other) </li></ul><ul><li>“ Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." (Colossians 2:2-3; no secret knowledge needed) </li></ul>
Imagine you’re in charge of keeping the legacy of Kennedy at the John F. Kennedy library. Someone brings you a book they want included that says Kennedy recovered from his head wound in Dallas, lived to be a two-term president, and admitted that he had Lee Harvey Oswald shoot him on purpose. What would you do…?
<ul><li>The other ‘gospels’ were excluded because they were heretical Gnostic writings that clearly deviated from the truthful, historical, eyewitness accounts written by the apostles and their companions </li></ul><ul><li>The other ‘gospels’, contrary to false claims that they portrayed an ordinary and human Jesus, instead cast a picture of a non-human god accompanied by plenty of supernatural events </li></ul><ul><li>Rudolf Bultmann, non-conservative a biblical scholar, said that the other ‘gospels’ are “legendary adaptations and expansions”. </li></ul><ul><li>Irenaeus, an early church apologist, calls the alternate gospels “ropes of sand” </li></ul><ul><li>Ephesians 2:20 says that the church has “been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.” </li></ul>