The Top Three Heresies in the Gnostic Gospels
Early Christian scripture depicting Jesus as a married man was recently uncovered and made public, bringing the entire world to attention. While the story of Jesus’ wife may be the talk of the town right now, stunning and uncommon variants on Christian religion have been around for a very, very long time. Whether you refer to them as the heretic gospels, the apocrypha, or Dan Brown’s raw material, the documents left behind by some of Christ’s early followers make for some fascinating reading, to say the least.
The Infancy Gospel of Thomas portrays Jesus as a 5-year-old dictator who throws temper tantrums.
“Thou shall be withered like a tree, and shalt not bear leaves, neither root nor fruit,” Jesus chastised a neighbor who had interfered with him playing in the brook when he was supernaturally playing.
When he is bumped into by another youngster, Jesus kills the kid in cold blood (IV.1).
- The righteous ear-twisting of Joseph was an attempt to reprimand Jesus, but Jesus responded with the words, “Vex me not” (V.3).
- In addition, I should point out that Jesus does finally determine that his blinded, withered, and dead victims have learned their lesson, and he brings them all back to life: “Now let those who were barren grow fruit, and let those who were blind in heart see,” Jesus says.
- And as soon as the tiny youngster stopped speaking, all of those who had been affected by his curse were quickly restored to health.
- True storyYou remember that moment in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows when Harry finds, too late to save his own life, that Severus Snape had been on Harry’s side from the beginning?
- He’s a wuss.
- After two millennia of people using the name “Judas” to denote a traitor, this gospel reminds us that the poor guy was simply going about his business.
JUDAS: “You will become the thirteenth generation, and you will be condemned by the other generations—and you will come to reign over them,” says Jesus, while simultaneously warning him of his impending doom and promising him that he will be rewarded later on.
Because you intend to sacrifice the guy who provides me with clothing.” There are a lot of missing pieces, but it appears that Jesus and Judas are planning the specifics of Judas’ treachery and Jesus’ crucifixion in collaboration with one another.
This is in stark contrast to Jesus’ decision to allow Judas to betray him.
However, this does not imply that he was pleased with the outcome.
Matthesh 26:21-24 is an example of this.
Some people were still over over heels in love with Judas, baby, even as late as the 2nd century BC.
When it comes to the PhilipGospel, which is a part of the Nag Hammadi codex, it is most well-known for the line that states, “And the companion of the savior is Mary Magdalene.” Because the Savior adored her more than any other disciple, he used to kiss her on the lips on a regular basis,” as you can guess, this has resulted in some pretty great academic Mad Libs.
- “Mary was conceived by the Holy Spirit,” others have said.
- They are completely oblivious to what they are saying.
- (At this juncture, it would be appropriate to note out that some Gnostic groups appear to have believed in a female Holy Spirit, a type of Mother figure to accompany the Father and the Son.) Mary is the virgin who has not been soiled by any force.
- And the Lord would not have said “My Parent who is in Heaven” unless he had another father, but he would have simply said “My father” if he did not have another father.
- Instead, Jesus has two dads, one in Heaven and one who is not in Heaven, and it is presumed that the father who is not in Heaven is the inseminator; nonetheless, even though Jesus had two fathers, his mother was still a virgin.
It is important to note that these non-canonical texts are not biographical evidence; the discovery of the new document does not prove that Jesus was married any more than the gospels of Thomas, Judas, or Philip prove that Jesus was a terrible five-year-old, Judas was a secret Snape, or that the virgin birth was a hoax.
Instead, all of the non-canonical texts serve as evidence of the diversity of early Christian thinking, demonstrating (often in a comical manner) that, prior to the establishment of Church orthodoxy, early Christian ideas were extremely diverse.
There was no “canon” to challenge when these non-canonical books were written: while churches now label them heresies, these Christian scriptures were considered to be God’s own truth by the gospel-writers who recorded them thousands of years ago.
THE GNOSTICS AND JESUS
In the March 2004 issue of Redeemer Report, Tim Keller writes on thegnostics and Jesus. When compared to the rest of the Bible, the Gospel of Thomas appears to be significantly more sexist. For some months now, I’ve been receiving queries concerning the “Gnostic gospels” and The Da Vinci Code, so it seems appropriate to provide some information to subscribers to this email on the subject. While not a conclusive response or analysis, this is more of a pastoral counseling session, and I hope it will help to clarify a few points in the process.
JESUS CHRIST CHRIST CHRIST CHRIST CHRIST CHRIST CHRIST CHRIST CHRIST CHRIST CHRIST CHRIST CHRIST CHRIST CHRIST CHRIST CHRIST CHRIST CHRIST CHRIST CHRIST CHRIST CHRIST CHRIST CHRIST CHRIST During the Egyptian Revolution of 1945, a red pottery jar was discovered buried in Nag Hammadi, a village in Upper Egypt.
- 350 was uncovered within the site.
- It is significantly inspired by the Hellenistic concept that the material world is wicked and the spirit is virtuous, which forms the basis of Gnosticism.
- As a result, we now live in a material world characterized by deterioration, weakness, and death.
- This spark, if it is fanned into a flame, has the potential to liberate us and assist us on our journey back to spiritual purity.
It is true that the scope of Gnostic writings was much broader than that of the Nag Hammadi texts, but what distinguishes the NH texts is that they use the purported conversations of Jesus with his disciples as “little more than an artificial framework for imparting Gnostic doctrine,” as Craig Blomberg writes in his introduction to the NH texts.
The teachings of the gnostics Jesus are diametrically opposed to the teachings of the Jesus of the Bible.
You will come to recognize that you are the sons of the living father, not the other way around.
Gnostic-Jesus further states, “When you disrobe yourselves without being embarrassed, and remove your clothing and lay them beneath your feet like small children, and stomp upon them, then the Son of the living One will appear, and ye shall have no need to be terrified.” (Thomas-37) This, together with the other undressing statement (Thomas-21), exhorts us to disrobe, to tread underfoot, and to reject the corporeal character of things.
- It is Thomas-71, where the Gnostic-Jesus declares, “I will demolish this home, and no one will be able to reconstruct it,” that is the most fascinating of all.
- This expresses the gnostic scorn for the whole concept of a resurrection in the first place.
- In the view of the gnostics, Jesus was not bodily risen, and so neither will we be.
- As Helmut Koester of Harvard University has maintained, the Nag Hammadi Gnostic-Jesus texts were written extremely early in history, maybe even as early as the Biblical gospels themselves.
- However, in the realm of study, this is a minority viewpoint that is widely held.
- What is the source of this agreement?
- Wright reminds out in his book The Resurrection of the Son of God, the early Christians were all sprung from Jewish families and communities.
They were adamant that God had created the material world in order for it to be good (see Genesis 1), and that despite sin, God would replenish it and revive our bodies (Daniel 12:1-2.) Jews had no hope (or even an idea) of disembodied souls existing in a separate existence from their physical bodies.
- We know from the Pauline letters, some of which were written only 13 years after the death of Jesus, that all of the early Christians claimed to have encountered Jesus and that he was still alive at the time of their writing.
- As Helmut Koester and others have argued, the gnostics thought that Jesus had only been spiritually resurrected, and it was only decades later that the notion of a bodily resurrection began to take hold among Christians.
- Wright, the movement of Christianity could never have begun among Jews unless the early believers were aware that Jesus had been raised physically from the grave.
- It is impossible that the texts reflected an early but suppressed accurate version of Jesus-faith in its entirety.
- That the concept of a spiritual resurrection, in the sense used by, could not be anything other than a late, drastic modification of Christian language, should be abundantly clear.
- But I’ll come to a close here.
- The story assumes that Jesus was not resurrected and did not claim to be God, but rather married Mary Magdalene.
The Biblical gospels were written later and the original truth of Jesus� life and teaching was repressed by the church.
It�s only a novel �so how can you criticize it?
But as we showed, the scholarly world sees very little evidence that this is the case.
The story lifts up the Gnostic gospels as the “truth” and depicts the church as a repressive regime that wants to hide the importance of Mary Magdalene as one of the early disciples.
But the last saying in the Gospel of Thomas is far more misogynist than anything found in the Bible.
Jesus said: Behold, I shall lead her, that I may make her male, in order that she also may become a living spirit like you males.
(Thomas-114) This saying reflects the low view of women in the Gnostic philosophy.
No changed lives Thirty years ago when we were in seminary my wife and I (like all graduate students of Bible and theology) studied the Gnostic writings.
Even young seminary students could see it was an effort of a different religion to co-opt Jesus�and the effort failed miserably.
Few took the Gnostic-Jesus seriously.
And there won�t be any explosion of changed lives today.
The Gnostic-Gospels fail in their fundamental definition �they are notgospels,good news.
This is NOT the good news that transforms lives.
Nothing could be farther from the true Gospel, the news that Jesus, by his life and death, has actually SAVED us and given us new life, free for the taking.
The Gnostic Gospels reveal a Jesus with a very different message for us
It is likely that if a modern Christian were to travel back in time to the first and second centuries, she would be startled to discover that the simpler, purer, and more homogeneous Christianity that is commonly depicted in Christian children’s novels was never the case. Instead, there were several minor sects, each of which had a distinct perspective on Jesus and his teachings, and each of which had generated a new scripture. After some time had passed, according to Antonio Pinero, who wrote a 2017 National Geographic article titled “Seeking the Hidden Gospels” (or Gnostic gospels), three main perspectives emerged: that of the Jews, who viewed Jesus as a mortal messiah (a leader chosen by God) who would re-establish them in an earthly paradise; that of St.
Paul side that ultimately prevailed.
Anyone who pushed for other types of Christian teaching was labeled a heretic and excommunicated from the church.
12 leather-bound Gnostic codices–what we now refer to as the Gnostic Gospels–were put inside a big jar and buried outside the Egyptian village of Nag Hammadi about that time, most likely as the result of the previously mentioned papal mandate.
Now that we have found them, albeit in a deteriorated state, one point of special relevance is their claim that Jesus delivered secret teachings that were kept from “the masses.” Despite the fact that this is spectacular, implausible, and the product of the wildest fantasies of first-century conspiracy theorists, it is not as radical as it appears.
The Masks of Christ, written by Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince, is based on a letter sent by Clement of Alexandria, one of the most prominent of the Church Fathers, in which he expresses his displeasure at how a particular group has corrupted one of Jesus’ “hidden teachings.” There were “effectively three levels to Jesus’ teaching: one for public consumption—as in the canonical Mark; one for a more spiritual set for “initiates only”; and a third grade so exalted that it was beyond the capabilities of human expression and could never be written down at all, presumably reserved for the highest graduates and passed on orally,” according to Clement.
(See page 32 for further information.) To put it another way, according to Gnostic teachings, Jesus taught that knowledge of one’s own self and, through this, knowledge of God, is what leads to one’s own union with God.
Take yourself as the beginning point for your search and see if you can find him.
If you look at these topics thoroughly, you will discover that he is within yourself.” To summarize their beliefs, they were of the opinion that In addition, “that all humans contain a glimmer of divinity, and their spiritual quest was to reconnect with it,” he believed that one may encounter the divine via inner transformation.
Instead of coming to free us from our sins, he comes to serve as a spiritual guide who opens the door to spiritual insight.
When Thomas identifies Jesus in the gnostic Gospel of Thomas, Jesus responds with the words, ‘I am not your master.’ That which he ingests from my lips will transform him into what I am: I will become he, and the things that are hidden will be disclosed to him.” (Pagels) As can be shown, the Jesus of the Gnostic Gospels was a very different person from the Jesus of the New Testament gospels—a Jesus whose life narrative, according to most theologians, is wrongly presented or even created in some places.
(For example, Herod’s killing of the innocents is highly unlikely to have occurred.).
So, while the Gnostic version of Jesus just adds to the intricacy of the changing sands beneath the historical Jesus’s feet, it is a fascinating version that, for some, may revitalize their faith rather than enervate it, while for others, it will enervate it.
The Lost Gospels Don’t Belong in the Bible
In an attempt to undermine God’s Word, some opponents argue that it was formed as a result of a power struggle amongst the authors of the Scriptures. In other words, what is included in the Bible — and, conversely, what is omitted — was determined by a small group of individuals who happened to be in positions of political power at precisely the proper period in history. Novels such as The Da Vinci Code have helped to spread this theory, despite the fact that the assertion is as fictitious as much of the “facts” in Dan Brown’s fictional narrative of the same name.
- The Council of Nicea (AD 325), for example, did not decide which books should be included in the New Testament, nor did it declare which writings should be excluded.
- The Old Testament has 39 books, which is the Bible of Judaism; the Christian Bible includes an additional 27 books, which is the Bible of Christianity.
- You’ve probably heard the media push their arguments for adding these missing gospels in the Bible, claiming that they contain “truth” and “improve” our understanding of Jesus.
- No.) In this section, we’ll take a look at only four of these lost gospels to help you understand why they do not belong in God’s Word — and why the Bible can be considered a historically accurate text, in large part because it has been so meticulously researched and verified.
~ Stringent Guidelines Matter ~
As the books of the New Testament were being considered for inclusion, the following key question was posed: Were any of the books authored by apostles or by associates of apostles of Jesus? Is it possible that it was composed around the period of Christ’s life and death? Archaeological evidence continues to verify the Bible’s Gospels, particularly in terms of specifics regarding people, locations, and time periods mentioned in the text. It is possible that eyewitnesses were summoned at the time of their writing to either confirm or deny the contents of the book.
The main criticisms leveled at these gospels and their authors are as follows: the Jesus depicted in them is not recognizable as the Jesus known in the Bible Gospels; they distort God’s nature; they contain errors on important Christian fundamentals such as sin, holiness, and redemption; and they cannot be proven to have originated among Jesus’ earliest followers.
The majority of them weren’t penned until the 2nd century or later.
Gnosticism, which posed a severe challenge to the early church, was devoted to the pursuit of “enlightenment” through the discovery of secret and hidden wisdom within Christ’s teachings.
~ The Gospel of Thomas ~
Undiscovered in Egypt during World War II was a collection of codices (book-form scrolls) written entirely in Coptic, which were found in 1945. The Gospel of Thomas was one of such books. After a short while, scholars learned that three pieces of it written in Greek had previously been unearthed in Egypt in the 1890s, with the earliest of these fragments dating back to roughly the year 200. The gospel of Matthew is a collection of 114 sayings, the majority of which are ascribed to Jesus. This Jesus, on the other hand, is much different from the Jesus we are familiar with from the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
- As a result, only those who are qualified to understand the secrets of the Gospel of Thomas can learn them from Jesus of the Gospel of Thomas.
- These researchers, who were founded in the 1980s, declared that their purpose was to examine the canonical Gospels and other early Christian writings in order to unearth the genuine words and acts of Jesus himself.
- They also did not believe that the Holy Spirit was responsible for the composition of biblical Scripture.
- However, they believed that the Gospel of Thomas was mostly red or pink in color, making it, in their opinion, more true than the Gospel of John.
- That is a display of arrogance!
- In addition, the Gospel of John contains several detailed allusions that have been confirmed by archaeological finds.
- However, we must keep in mind that this was a time-honored ritual of careful digestion and remembering.
- (All of the books of the Bible, in fact!) In the words of Craig L.
- Our belief is that everything took place under the supervision of the Holy Spirit, and that the writers properly recounted exactly what He intended them to convey about the life and teachings of Jesus as a result of His inspiration.” The biblical Gospels may be relied upon.
Is it the Gospel of Thomas that you’re looking for? Not.
~ The Gospel of Peter ~
Egypt’s tomb was discovered to contain parts of a gospel book, which was discovered in a codex during the winter of 1886-1887. More pieces were published in the 1970s and 1980s, some of which were considered to represent sections of the Gospel of Peter, which was written in the later half of the second century, according to some scholars. Despite the fact that the passage is credited to the disciple Peter, experts do not believe he was the author, in part because of the text’s date. In many ways, the Gospel of Peter resembles the New Testament Gospels, particularly in regard to Jesus’ trial and crucifixion as well as his burial and resurrection.
- In addition, the scripture absolves Pontius Pilate of any guilt for Jesus’ crucifixion and suggests that Jesus did not suffer or die as a result of his execution.
- Following the development of Gnosticism, which we discussed before, docetism became an important theological stance.
- If God was merely “acting,” then His gift to us was nothing more than a bunch of smoke and mirrors.
- As an illustration: At the same time, the curtain of the Jerusalem temple was ripped in two.
- And they took the nails from the Lord’s hands and laid him on the ground, and the entire earth trembled, and a great terror descended over the people.
- And the Jews celebrated, giving his corpse to Joseph so that he may bury it because he was one of those who had witnessed the numerous excellent things he had done.
As a result of realizing how much harm they had done to themselves, the Jews and the elders and the priests began to beat themselves and cry out, ‘Woe to our misdeeds.’ “The day of judgment has come, and Jerusalem’s days are numbered.” But I, along with my comrades, was dejected; and, having been wounded in spirit, we were forced to flee because we were suspected of being wrongdoers and of trying to set fire to the sanctuary.
Apart from all of this, we were fasting and sitting in grief and crying from morning till night, until the Sabbath came around once more.
A large group of people from Jerusalem has gathered to visit the locked tomb of Jesus.
The Jewish leadership is concerned about the well-being of the Jewish people.
The account of Jesus’ resurrection truly details how he emerged from the tomb accompanied by two huge angels, a super-sized Jesus, and a talking cross. In general, researchers do not rely on the Gospel of Peter for serious investigation into the life and teachings of Jesus.
~ The Gospel of Mary ~
Unknown to scholars until recently, an unfinished fragment of Mary Magdalene’s Gospel — which tells the story of Mary Magdalene recalling to the disciples teachings Jesus had given her privately — was discovered in the late nineteenth century, and two additional Greek fragments were discovered in the twentieth century. As of today, there is no full copy of the Gospel of Mary, and the three overlapping portions make up just about half of the whole gospel. Scholars are divided on whether Mary composed the work, and they are divided on when it was written.
The fragments show that Mary discusses her lessons from Jesus with Andrew and Peter, both of whom are exceedingly dubious of what she has to say and reject it outright.
Modern literature, such as the novel The Da Vinci Code, have speculated that Jesus and Mary were in a romantic relationship.
There is no other early Christian source that makes any mention of Jesus being married or having a wife outside the Gospels.
~ The Gospel of Judas~
Discovered in Egypt in the 1970s, this “lost gospel” is a 3rd-century Gnostic literature that was translated into English by the National Geographic Society during a five-year period. It is revealed in this hidden narrative, which was written by an unknown author, that Jesus conducts discussions with Judas, who is represented not as His betrayer, but rather as His most loyal disciple. As stated in the Bible, Jesus encourages Judas to “step aside from the others” so that he might hear him speak about the mysteries of the kingdom.
- For someone else will take your place, in order for the twelve to once more come to a complete understanding with their deity.” Jesus promises Judas that if he betrays Jesus, he would be elevated above all of the other disciples, and this “enlightenment” occurs as a result of this revelation.
- Due to the fact that by doing so, he would assist Jesus in being released from the restrictions of His earthly body.
- As a result, scholars who believe this tale to be credible consider Judas’ acts to be heroic.
- Rice University professor April D.
- DeConick is a specialist in biblical studies.
According to the legend, Judas is a special demon known as the “Thirteenth.” As mentioned above, in many Gnostic traditions, this is a given name for the demon king – an entity known as Ialdabaoth, who resides in the 13th world above the earth and is referred to as the “King of Demons.” As his human alter ego and covert spy in the world, Judas is a double agent for him.
In the 1970s, it had been plundered from an Egyptian tomb and had been for decades dormant on the underground antiquities market, where it had even spent time in someone’s freezer.
Having said that, I believe that the major issue is that National Geographic sought an exclusive.
Best scholarship is accomplished when life-sized images of each page of a new manuscript are provided before a translation, allowing specialists across the world to share knowledge as they work their way through the text independently.” In fact, prior to the discovery of this book, the only other place where this narrative was mentioned was in the works of Irenaeus, a Christian who lived in the second century.
To put it simply, Irenaeus claimed that the Gospel of Judas was the “fabricated history” of a long line of heretics and rebels against God who had come before them.
The Lost Gospels Lack the Truth of Jesus
Does the following summary of the so-called “lost gospels” make you believe that they support biblical Scripture — or that they in any way expand or deepen our understanding of who Jesus is and what He came to earth to achieve — is correct? Some scholars hold the Gnostic viewpoint, which holds that Jesus was just a “discoverer of wisdom and understanding,” who may guide us to a “inner knowing.” Unquestionably, it is because of their Gnostic orientation that these lost gospels have not been incorporated in the Bible.
He desired for His message of forgiveness, grace, and acceptance to be broadcast far and wide, to anybody who would hear, listen, and embrace the reality of what He was saying.
This blog article discusses Josh and Sean McDowell’s freshly updated apologetics classic,Evidence That Demands a Verdict, which was published in 2012.
Know what you’re talking about, since what you’re saying is true.
The Beginner’s Guide to the Gnostic Gospels
There are several ancient religious works known as the Gnostic Gospels that erroneously claim to have been authored by notable biblical persons such as Peter, Thomas, and Mary. In a collection of 13 volumes dating from the third and fourth centuries AD, scholars discovered the majority of the Gnostic Gospels that have survived to the present day. The volumes comprise a total of 52 Gnostic works, not all of which are referred to as “gospels” or even claim to be Christian in any kind. These were discovered buried in a jar in the Egyptian village of Nag Hammadi in 1945, and they were thought to be lost.
- Many major Gnostic literature are only available in these copies, which are the only ones left in existence.
- Clues within the book, such as substantial differences in writing style and theology, as well as connections to historical events, lead to the Gnostics as the source of the work (a catch-all term for ambiguous religious sects that sought divine knowledge).
- The titles of these books have been referred to as “lost books of the Bible” by some, as though they were formerly considered part of the Christian canon.
- Some of these books (for example, The Gospel of Thomas) just barely touch on Gnosticism and have no connection to any one Gnostic sect, despite the fact that they are all categorized as such.
- Christians of all faith traditions, including Catholics, Orthodox Christians, and Protestants, believe the Gnostic Gospels to be apocryphal works that weren’t divinely inspired and shouldn’t be included in the Bible’s canon.
- Are they only valuable for gaining an understanding of the ancient world?
Is it more likely that they demonstrate that early Christian views were more complicated and diverse than orthodox writers would have us believe? To understand the relevance of the Gnostic Gospels, we must first examine the history of Gnosticism itself.
What is Gnosticism?
Gnosticism is a broad word that refers to a heterogeneous movement of more than 50 ancient spiritual groups that arose about the same time as early Christianity and have a long history (though some sects predated Christianity). Gnosticism reached its zenith in the first and second centuries, but it continued to have an impact on Western thinking for decades afterward—and it may still be seen in certain spiritual belief systems to this day. The phrase derives from the Greek word gnosis, which literally translates as “knowing.” To put it another way, Gnosticism was concerned with the attainment of salvation by knowledge.
- Humans were spiritual beings who had become entrapped in physical bodies.
- Historically, owing to the way ancient Christians referred to the writers who are now known as the Gnostics, categorizing Gnosticism has proven to be a tough task.
- They referred to certain authors asgnostikos (which means “educated” or “intellectual”), and it was only long later that the term became associated with heretical notions.
- Later writers began to use the term Gnosticism to apply to other heretical ideas that originated during the early Christian period.
- It remained unclear to modern researchers whether Gnosticism was an interreligious movement, a distinct religion, or a special branch of Judaism or Christianity.
Were the Gnostics Christians?
Gnosticism is sometimes referred to as Christian Gnosticism or Jewish Gnosticism, depending on who you ask. In part, this is due to the fact that variants of Gnosticism sprang from Judeo-Christian doctrines (among other things) and broke away from mainstream Christian views. For example, certain Gnostic arguments may have been riffs on Paul’s teachings on the separation of the flesh and the spirit (such as those found in Galatians 5:17–19), which may have been used to support their claims. And, as you can probably guess from the names of the Gnostic Gospels, some Gnostic organizations claimed to be Christian, despite the fact that they rejected the fundamental principles of the Christian faith in their entirety.
The Gnostic religion, on the other hand, was not based on the Bible or Christian tradition, and it adapted components of Christianity to match the ideas of other intellectual and spiritual systems.
Adolf von Harnack, a German theologian who lived in the nineteenth century, described Gnosticism as “the extreme Hellenization of Christianity.” Despite this, because Gnosticism was such a broad movement, there are many alternative techniques to defining it.
For example, while the early church denounced “Gnostic Christian” works as heretical, some researchers continue to refer to them as such.
Why did they write about Jesus, using the names of biblical figures?
Historically, ancient writers occasionally employed pseudepigraphal writings to establish legitimacy for their beliefs among certain groups of people. In the case of the Letter of Aristeas and the origins of the Septuagint, this is true. Not all pseudepigrapha, on the other hand, were ill-intentioned forgeries or outright forgeries. Sometimes it was a simple clerical error: the original author was unknown, and the work was later credited to the wrong person by mistake. Pseudepigrapha might also be a memorial to a well-respected somebody who has lately passed away.
Regardless of how it happened, these texts raised a problem: would people be able to tell the difference in the future?
Following the discovery of evident forgeries, the early church typically regarded pseudepigrapha as being unauthentic and unauthoritative in their content (with some exceptions).
Interesting tidbit: In addition, the Nag Hammadi Library featured a copy of Plato’s Republic that had been extensively modified to conform to Gnostic beliefs.
Who really wrote the Gnostic texts?
The majority of Gnostic sects were called after the individuals who were the first to advocate for their theories. We only have fragmentary excerpts, allusions, and descriptions from their detractors because the majority of these Gnostic publications were lost to time or were destroyed. However, while some of the books known as the Gnostic Gospels have survived, it is unlikely that we will ever be able to determine who authored them. The only bylines that appear are made up. The writings themselves cannot tell us who authored them, despite the fact that hints within them can tell us what strains of Gnosticism they may have been inspired by.
The complete list of Gnostic texts
While the great bulk of the Gnostic literature that we have now originate from the Nag Hammadi Library, a small number of manuscripts came from other sources, and we had access to them prior to the establishment of the United Nations in 1945.
Before the discovery of the Nag Hammadi Library, scholars had access to 11 Gnostic writings, albeit not all of them were full (one is only a summary). Some of them were “reconstructed” from writers who were critical of Gnosticism as well. Below you’ll find them arranged according to the codex (book) in which they were found or the way in which they were kept.
Saved by the church
- The Gnosis of the Invisible God, also known as The Books of Jeu, The Untitled Apocalypse, also known as The Gnosis of the Light, and the Untitled Apocalypse, also known as The Gnosis of the Light
The Askew Codex
- The Gospel of Mary
- The Apocryphon of John
- And other works. A synopsis of the Book of Acts of Peter
- The Divine Understanding of Jesus Christ
In the wake of the discovery of the Nag Hammadi Library, researchers were able to get a far more comprehensive understanding of Gnosticism—one that had not previously been sifted through the lenses of its detractors.
The Nag Hammadi Library
It is believed that each volume from the Nag Hammadi Library comprises numerous writings that were written in Greek (perhaps as early as the first century) and then translated into Coptic—an Egyptian language linked to both Greek and ancient Egyptian—before being preserved in its original form. Scholars assume that the books were translated from Greek because, while the texts themselves are in Coptic, the titles are in Greek, leading them to conclude that they were. According to certain scholars, some books, such as The Secret Book of James, were first written in Hebrew before being translated into Greek before being finally translated into Coptic.
A substantially modified (in other words, Gnosticized) version of Plato’sRepublic was included, as well as three Egyptian wisdom writings from theCorpus Hermeticum and one version of Plato’sRepublic.
Some of them are repetitions.
- Prayer of the Apostle Paul
- The Apocrypha of James (also known as the Secret Book of James)
- The Prayer of the Apostle Paul The Gospel of the Resurrection
- The Treatise on the Resurrection of Jesus Christ
- It is referred to as the Tripartite Tractate.
- In this section, you will find the Apocryphon of James, the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Philip, The Hypostasis of the Archons, On the Origin of the World, and other works. The Exegesis on the Soul, or the Exegesis on the Human Soul
- The Contender’s Book, also known as the Thomas the Conqueror’s Book
- The Gospel of the Egyptians
- The Apocryphon of John
- And other works. Eugnostos the Blessing
- Eugnostos the Blessed The Sophia of Jesus Christ
- The Dialogue of the Savior
- The Sophia of the Father
- The Gospel of the Egyptians
- The Apocryphon of John
- And other works.
- In this section, you will find information on Eugnostos the Blessed, the Apocalypse of Paul, the First Apocalypse of James, the Second Apocalypse of James, and the Apocalypse of Adam.
- The Acts of Peter and the Apostles (also known as the Acts of the Apostles)
- The Thunder, Perfect Mind
- Authoritative Teaching
- The Concept of Our Great Power
- Republic (authored by Plato, translated and revised by Gnostics)
- The Thunder, Perfect Mind
- The Concept of Our Great Power The Discourse on the Eighth and Ninth Books of the Bible
- From Asclepius 21-29, we get the Prayer of Thanksgiving.
- The Paraphrase of Shem
- The Second Treatise of the Great Seth
- The Gnostic Apocalypse of Peter
- The Teachings of Silvanus
- The Three Steles of Seth
- Norea’s Thought
- Truth’s Testimony
- And others.
- It includes: The Interpretation of Knowledge
- A Valentinian Exposition, On the Anointing, On Baptism, and On the Eucharist
- And other works. It also includes:
- In this section, you will find the Sextus sentence, the Gospel of Truth, and fragments.
- On the Origin of the World
- Trimorphic Protennoia
- On the Origin of the World
Many of these works had never been seen before by scholars, who had only heard of them from other ancient writers or read quotations from them in other texts. Fun fact:“Codex XIII” isn’t actually a distinct book. It’s barely eight pages, and only contains the opening few words ofOn the Origin of the Worldat the bottom of the eighth page. At some time before the codices were placed in a jar and buried in the ground, someone removed these pages from another book and inserted them in the cover of the sixth book.
How was the Nag Hammadi Library discovered?
Many parallels can be drawn between the discovery of the Nag Hammadi Library and that of the Dead Sea Scrolls, including an accidental encounter, disagreements over who “owned” the books, backchannel sales of the texts, mishandling of the manuscripts, and debate over what the discovery means for the Bible. The nuts and bolts are located here. When a farmer called Muhammad Ali al-Samman and his brother were digging for fertilizer near some caverns, they came across the jar filled with books. They came up more than 1,000 papers that were more than 1,000 years old, which they were able to date.
- During this time, their mother was concerned that the writings would have “hazardous repercussions,” so she burnt some of the documents.
- They were sold to an antique dealer in Cairo over the course of the following few years by the priest.
- In 1951, the Carl Gustav Jung Institute bought the property.
- The process was quite political, much like the process that led to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and researchers from all over the globe had to wait an agonizing long time before they were able to view the writings.
The first translation was not published until 1977, more than 30 years after the discovery of the original manuscript.
What do we do with the Gnostic Gospels?
The Gnostic Gospels asserted that they were authored by historical individuals from the Bible. However, this was not the case. Even though many Gnostic sects acquired popularity, the early church categorically denounced them as heretical within a short period of time. For most of the twentieth century, the majority of what we understood about these gospels came from early church fathers who wrote about them especially to condemn them. But that has changed dramatically since then. Reading these gospels now can tell us a great deal about the belief systems with which early Christianity interacted, but researchers are still debating what, if anything, we can put our faith in when it comes to these documents.
Alternatively, you may say “no.” It is all up to you.