There are only Four True Gospels

The Historical Roots Of The Gospel Canon

(by Jason Engwer at the excellent and massive Triablogue)

One of the best books I’ve read on the historical origins of the four-gospel canon is C.E. Hill’s Who Chose The Gospels? (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010). I want to quote some portions of it, though what I’m about to quote only represents a small portion of the evidence Hill discusses:

In the last two or three decades of the second century Irenaeus in Gaul, Clement in Alexandria, Theophilus and Serapion in Antioch, and the author of the Muratorian Fragment in or near Rome, at points far distant from each another on the map, are all saying or implying that the church has the same four acknowledged Gospels….

It is thus not without reason that Perkins sees the Apocryphon of James [an anti-orthodox heretical document written in the early to mid second century] as an example ‘of the growing influence of the canonical Gospels’. It assumes the previous acceptance of probably all four of these Gospels and does not contest the tradition that they go ultimately back to Jesus’ original disciples. It simply treats those Gospels as inadequate….

And not to be forgotten is the fact that opponents of ‘apostolic Christianity’ generally conceded that its faith was indeed ‘apostolic’. ‘The Gospel of Judas’, for instance, writes DeConick, ‘attempts to harpoon apostolic Christianity for its blind reliance on the authority of the twelve apostles for its teachings.’ Nor did opponents typically dispute even the idea that the four Gospels ultimately went back to the apostles of Jesus. As we saw in Chapters 7 and 8, some of the most striking testimony on behalf of the four Gospels, and other parts of the New Testament, comes from outside of apostolic Christianity. Most, if not all, of the known rival Gospels, and other pseudepigraphical works as well, actually presuppose to one extent or another the witness of the canonical Gospels. Pagan critics of Christianity like Celsus, when they took the time to read the Christian sources, went to the same canonical Gospels, which Celsus, at least, accepted as written by Jesus’ disciples….

But by and large, the apostles of Jesus could simply be treated [by heretics] as spiritual novices, or something much less complimentary. For the highest appeal among such groups as these was typically to a professed ‘secret knowledge’, superior to the commonly received, public teaching of the apostles (cf. Irenaeus, AH 3.2.1). The Gospel of Thomas begins: ‘These are the secret sayings that the living Jesus spoke and Didymos Judas Thomas recorded.’ The Gospel of Judas begins: ‘The secret revelatory discourse in which Jesus spoke with Judas Iscariot.’ The persistent appeal to secret teachings of Jesus given to one or another of the apostles is a tacit admission that not very much support could be gained [for heretical beliefs] from his acknowledged public teachings. (99, 169, 234-235)

About Ken Temple

I am a follower of Jesus Christ. I am a sinner who has been saved by the grace of God alone (Ephesians 2:8-9), through faith alone (Galatians 2:16; Romans 3:28; 4:1-16), in Christ alone (John 14:6). But a true faith does not stay alone, it should result in change, fruit, good works, and deeper levels of repentance and hatred of my own sins of selfishness and pride. I am not better than you! I still make mistakes and sin, but the Lord is working on me, conforming me to His character. (Romans 8:28-29; 2 Corinthians 3:16-18) When I do sin, I hate the sin as it is an affront to God, and seek His forgiveness in repentance. (Mark 1:15; 2 Corinthians 7:7-10; Colossians 3:5-16 ) Praise God for His love for sinners (Romans 5:8), shown by the voluntary coming of Christ and His freely laying down His life for us (John 10:18), becoming flesh/human (John 1:1-5; 1:14; Philippians 2:5-8), dying for sins of people from all nations, tribes, and cultures (Revelation 5:9), on the cross, in history, rising from the dead (Romans 10:9-10; Matthew 28, Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24; John 20-21; 1 Corinthians chapter 15). His resurrection from the dead proved that Jesus is the Messiah, the eternal Son of God, the word of God from eternity past; and that He was all the gospels say He was and that He is truth and the life and the way to salvation. (John 14:6)
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