Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Lost Scriptures: Books that Did Not Make It into the New Testament

Catches your attention, doesn’t it? 

Gospel of Thomas
(public domain)
This was the title Bart Ehrman gave to a collection of early Christian texts which he published in 2003. In the introduction, Ehrman explains that the early church was embroiled in disputes over fundamental doctrinal issues. “Eventually – by about the end of the third Christian century – the views of one group emerged as victorious. ... This group promoted its own collection of books as the only true and authentic ones.” The books from the other groups were deemed heretical and excluded from the New Testament. 

All of this is true, but Ehrman fails to mention something rather important. He fails to mention that the victorious group was right! Their texts did have the strongest claim to authenticity.

The following table shows the books of the NT (in red), followed by the “Lost Scriptures” which Ehrman has included in his collection. The dates shown in the table are not my own; the dates listed for both the NT and the "Lost Scriptures" are the dates given by Ehrman himself in his published works.

(Note that not all of these texts were excluded from the NT because they were deemed heretical. The Didache and 1 Clement, for example, are quite orthodox. Note also that some texts, such as the Gospel of the Nazarenes, are lost and survive only in scattered citations.)

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