When discussing the canon of the New Testament, we saw how the nature of the NT settled down over time, being finally and completely settled by Protestants at the time of Martin Luther and for the Catholic Church officially at the Council of Trent (but in effect before the ninth century or earlier).
Many writings exist which were rejected from the canon. Some people will hear of this and wonder what hidden truths might be lurking in those rejected books, but for the most part those books were written much later than the time of the apostles, and the vast majority of them were written to support a gentile-influenced way of thinking known as Gnosticism. Gnosticism took on several forms, and it appears that many gnostics wrote down their beliefs in an effort to combat what the majority of Christians were thinking and communicating. In addition to the gnostic writings, there are also other rejected works. We choose to group all of the rejected works into certain categories and will examine at least one from each category.
These are narratives of the life of Jesus, of portions of his life; in some cases these are merely collections of sayings. Some of these are mentioned by church fathers in positive ways (such as quotations), some are mentioned in derogatory fashion, and some appear to have circulated widely. A few of these exist at least in fragmentary form, while some survive only in quotations. Some of the sayings in these gospels also appear in the canonical writings; some appear in modified form; others are unique to the apocryphal gospel.
There are a few of these written before the 5th century and several later ones. Most of them claim to be written by a person famous to Christians (e.g., Paul, Barnabas) or by a relative unknown exhibiting special knowledge.
There are several gospels written in the names of NT personages and others written by later Christians. Most of these appear to have been written to prove a point of doctrine. The list examines those claiming to be involved with a NT person.
Perhaps the most interesting of the groups is the collection of acts, which collectively relate traditions about nearly every person of stature in the New Testament--and quite a few unknown people as well. Generally, the more distant the time of writing is from the first century, the more wild and fantastic the stories become. There are also several "narrative" or "discourse" apocryphal works.
Select one of the headlines above to be transported to a list of such writings. Certain writings are translated in part for the benefit of the reader.
Click here to proceed to next week's discussion of the Bible as transmitted and translated into other languages.