The Gnostic gospels – What are they?
The Gnostic gospels are writings produced from approximately the second to fourth century AD. The popular collection of Gnostic gospels includes about 52 different writings. The earliest is the Gospel of Thomas, written sometime in the second century.
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Though some have suggested these writings are "lost gospels" the term is highly misleading. The writings were actually well known in their time and were widely condemned by the early church as being outside of accepted church teachings. The word "gnostic" comes from the Greek word for "knowledge" and was part of a philosophy that emphasized enlightenment. The early church rejected both the content of these writings and the idea of including them with the books of the New Testament.
The discovery of the Nag Hammadi library in Egypt in 1945 brought the Gnostic gospels to the attention of the public when many of the writings were rediscovered at this location. The Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Truth, and the Gospel of Philip, among others, were published and in some cases popularly marketed as "lost gospels." However, scholars agree these writings were not produced by the famous Christians to whom the titles attribute the works, nor were they written during the time period in which those figures lived. Instead, the Gnostic gospels were known during the time of their writing and rejected, leaving them outside of the attention of study by most until their rediscovery in the twentieth century.
Is there any value to the Gnostic gospels? While they are not inspired Scripture, and in fact conflict with much of the New Testament, the Gnostic gospels can offer value for historical research. They offer a detailed look at the alternative beliefs among the Gnostics of the time period, along with their views of God, Scripture, sin, judgment, the afterlife, and other topics. In addition, details concerning cultural life and the use of language are often noted that are otherwise unknown from the period.
In summary, the Gnostic gospels are not lost gospels. They are neither lost nor are they gospels. While they may include helpful historical information, the fact that they were written after the New Testament period, were often attributed to long-dead authors, were rejected by church leaders in their time period, and include theology that conflicts with the New Testament should make clear the Gnostic gospels are not Scripture.
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What is the canon of the Bible and how did we get it?
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The Gospel of Mary (Magdalene) – What is it?
Truth about the Bible