Noteworthy Apocryphal Gospels
and Related Writings
- Clearly the most important of the surviving apocryphal gospels is that of Thomas,
which supposes to be written by Thomas called Twin ("Doubting Thomas"). If
Thomas indeed wrote the original form of the work, then he may have done so c. 52 AD, but
most scholars consider the entire gospel to be a product of later hands, c. 150 AD,
somewhat near the beginning of the gnostic debate. The link above will take you to a
page dealing with the Gospel of Thomas, including some of the sayings. The Gospel of
Thomas is a "sayings gospel."
- Papyrus Egerton II
- Only a fragment, c. 150 AD
- Secret Mark
- There is one citation (in two places) of a "Secret Gospel of Mark." Legend has it
that before Mark wrote his canonical gospel, he wrote down a collection of sayings of Jesus
expressly for Jesus' followers. This collection became known as the "Secret" or "Private"
gospel of Mark, as compared with the "Public" gospel, which became canonical. The legend
may or may not be true, and the fragmentary manuscript discovered in the 19th century may
or may not be part of a genuine "Secret Mark." If the legend is true, Secret Mark was
written c. 40-50 AD, and the canonical gospel followed. Otherwise, Secret Mark may have
borrowed from canonical Mark and been written c. 150 AD. The citations concern a young
man (Mk 14:51-2) who followed Jesus and ran away naked. Was this Markus himself? Was
this account related to that of Lazarus?
- Gospel to the Nazarenes
- written before 180, but exists only in fragmentary quotations
- Gospel to the Ebionites
- written before 175, but exists only in fragmentary quotations
- Gospel to the Hebrews
- written c. 150, but exists only in fragmentary quotations. Some appear to have
upheld this gospel as important, but not canonical.
- 2nd century. This gospel is gnostic and is now known to have been written by
- Gospel of the Egyptians
- exists only in fragmentary citations
- written at the end of the first century, claiming to be Peter's. Contains portions
that some scholars believe may represent authentic sayings
- written c. 150-200 AD. Parts are shared with Matthew and Mark. One portion, called
the Acts of Pilate contains a saying that either is borrowed from or is the source
of part of the "long ending" of Mark.
- Freer Logion (5th century)
- Previously mentioned, this is an addition to Codex W and certain later manuscripts of Mark
16, containing an extended dialog between v.14 and v.15 as follows:
And they excused themselves saying, "This age of lawlessness and distrust is under
the Enemy, who does not allow God's truth and power to be victorious over the unclean
things of the spirits. Therefore, reveal your righteousness now." They said this to Christ,
and Christ said to them, "The term of years for the Enemy's power has been completed, but
other horrible things are nearing. And I was handed over to death for those who have sinned,
so that they would return to the truth and sin no longer--that they would inherit the
spiritual and incorruptible glory of righteousness which is in heaven...."
- Book of Thomas
- Gnostic in nature, written near the beginning of the III century AD
- Epistula Apostulorium
- Written c. 150 and part of the Ethiopic canon. Gnostic.
- Apocryphon of James
- Written c. 80-100 and edited by gnostics. It borrows material with Matthew, John,
and 1st Corinthians.
- Dialog of the Savior
- A gnostic dialog probably written during the II century
- Letter of Peter to Philip
- forged at a later date by a gnostic writer
- Pistus Sophia
- Fragmentary and written in the latter half of the III century
- Two Books of Jeu
- an undated later work
- fragmentary citations exist, placing it near the beginning of the III century
- Found in the Nag Hammadi (gnostic) Library. Written before the III century.
Manuscript is fragmentary.
- not extant; an edited gospel of Lukas
- Questions of Bartholomew
- III century
What might Jesus have done as a young child?
- Protoevangelium of James
- Written earlier (c. 150-200 AD) and found among the Bodmer Papyri
- Infancy Story of Thomas
- II century; ascribed to Thomas
Not all works called "gospels" are written in the teaching styles of the canonical or
traditional gospels and therefore are not classified here. Push the "Back" button/icon
to return to the previous page.
What? No mention of the Gospel of Barnabas?
The Gospel of Barnabas is a forgery, based loosely on the canonical gospel of John, but
created by Muslims. Therefore, in it Jesus proclaims the future coming of Muhammad. There
is no mention of the Gospel by anyone (Muslim, Christian, or otherwise) before the 15th
century, and no manuscripts exist prior to the end of that century. It was composed
by Muslims during the fifteenth century in an attempt to add credibility to the Qu'ran,
even though it contradicts the Qu'ran in places. To read more about it,
select this link at the
"Answering Islam" site.