Quotes & Sayings

We, and creation itself, actualize the possibilities of the God who sustains the world, towards becoming in the world in a fuller, more deeper way. - R.E. Slater

There is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have [consequential effects upon] the world around us. - Process Metaphysician Alfred North Whitehead

Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem says (i) all closed systems are unprovable within themselves and, that (ii) all open systems are rightly understood as incomplete. - R.E. Slater

The most true thing about you is what God has said to you in Christ, "You are My Beloved." - Tripp Fuller

The God among us is the God who refuses to be God without us, so great is God's Love. - Tripp Fuller

According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater

Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater

Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger

Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton

I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – Anon

Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII

Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut

Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest

We become who we are by what we believe and can justify. - R.E. Slater

People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – Anon

Certainly, God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater

An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater

Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann

Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner

“Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh” means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14) or, conversely, “I AM who I AM Becoming.”

Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton

The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens, we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – Anon

The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah

If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – Anon

Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord

Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another, so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

To promote societal transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework which includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace. - The Earth Charter Mission Statement

Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma

It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

God's love must both center and define the Christian faith and all religious or human faiths seeking human and ecological balance in worlds of subtraction, harm, tragedy, and evil. - R.E. Slater

In Whitehead’s process ontology, we can think of the experiential ground of reality as an eternal pulse whereby what is objectively public in one moment becomes subjectively prehended in the next, and whereby the subject that emerges from its feelings then perishes into public expression as an object (or “superject”) aiming for novelty. There is a rhythm of Being between object and subject, not an ontological division. This rhythm powers the creative growth of the universe from one occasion of experience to the next. This is the Whiteheadian mantra: “The many become one and are increased by one.” - Matthew Segall

Without Love there is no Truth. And True Truth is always Loving. There is no dichotomy between these terms but only seamless integration. This is the premier centering focus of a Processual Theology of Love. - R.E. Slater


Note: Generally I do not respond to commentary. I may read the comments but wish to reserve my time to write (or write from the comments I read). Instead, I'd like to see our community help one another and in the helping encourage and exhort each of us towards Christian love in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. - re slater

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Divine Inspiration, Reading God's Word, & the Apocryphal Books of the Bible

click to enlarge

Divine Inspiration, Reading God's Word,
& the Apocryphal Books of the Bible

by R.E. Slater

Part I - Old Wineskins

My Christian heritage and bible training all concentrated on the "approved" books of the bible of which my faith recognizes 66 books - 39 in the OT and 27 in the NT.... All other bible sources are regarded as oral narratives / beliefs by Christian fellowships and the early church. In this matter of a divinely inspired biblical canon I still feel the same as my previous fundamental/evangelical teachings however I've crossed a "tipping point" in my faith life which I believe will only continue to expand for me in regards to the subject of divine inspiration....

Let's just say I believe God continues to speak today as commonly as we do with one another. That God's breath and melodies, wisdom and love, warnings and forebodings, continue apace with our movements through this life. I have spoken to divine synchronicity in articles past but generally, God's "Word" - however it comes - is alive and active and always about us everywhere we turn. In this then I have expanded the idea of divine inspiration rather than to limit it or qualified it to certain individuals, fellowships, churches, or movements. Every man, whether believer or not, God is whispering, pursuing, working through (in good ways, not evil), and so on. Spirit inspiration was never a "one-and-done" process. Nope, it ever was and it ever is.

Many of those friends and acquaintances in my previous faith will regard my "transgression" as a heresy and no longer consider my words or my Spirit-driven passion to expand the bible beyond its ancient milieu. Which is OK with me as many of my fellowship had left me when I left Dispensational Calvinism for Covenant Theology and Arminianism (that is, by returning to my roots found in early Baptist assemblies and in today's Wesleyan congregations). To which I've updated Jacob Arminius' "freewill" theology (sic, Divine indeterminancy v Calvinism's determinant future) with Open-and-Relational (Process) Theology along with that of Whiteheadian/Cobb Process Philosophy and Theology.

In the long run it's been a good trade for me and my continuing Christian faith. As the old adage says, "Out with old-line thinking and in with the new." Jesus said something similar when exclaiming the new wine of the gospel (which was bathed in Jesus' atoning sacrifice) would burst the used skin-bags of the old wine. That is, if new wine were poured into old wineskin bags those bags would burst under the fermentation period of the new wine - splitting the "leathered" (inflexible) winebags of the Law with the resurrection Love of God. Meaning, even as God had loved in the OT God would continue to love in the NT forever and forever regardless of man's teachings.

And so, I've taken this charicature of God's Love and have "run" with it by expanding Jesus' New Covenant Love (or, by writing a "Theology of Love") in every manner I can think of - which brings me to the bible and the "heresy" I present to my former evangelic faith....

Part II - New Wineskins

As I see it, God's love got lost in man's "prophetic" statements of God a long time ago. In order for me to reconcile God's love with Israel's religious laws and tribal / nationalized policies of killing and war I now regard those acts of religious man as unlike God's love and but a mere interpretation by God's people of God's love. An interpretation which tells us more about our own hearts then they did God's heart.

And so, I've drawn a "virtual line" in the sand like Jesus did before his accuser's when the priests and scribes spoke ugly statements about his compassion and forgiveness of the adulterous woman. He possibly sat there idly drawing in the sand speaking to their sins until one by one they left him alone with the woman whom he blessed before she turned to leave and proclaim her new found faith.

I too believe that the bible has its stories of redemption but inside-and-around those stories runs man's stories of not loving nor showing wisdom. The failures of religious priest, tribe, and nation tell not of God - but the struggles of the bible characters in determining what God's love means to them when working it out on individual, family, tribal, and national religious levels. By which I mean, the "wobbly" religiously ethos' I read of in the bible is not necessarily something we should be doing today... nor yesterday as Israel had at one time. In this way the bible is not "inspired" as it usually is regarded.

Part III - Working It Out

The best I can say is that my evangelical "bible" church of the past in all it's faithfulness and zealous passion has shown to history that many of its decisions for themselves and for those around them have proven dishonoring to God's image in us, harmful and harming, oppressive, colonizing, murderous, and discriminative. God's love isn't these things no matter what we tell ourselves when we read the bible (in a literal fashion) pretending we're "at war with the world". If God loves, and is not at war with the world, why then - may I ask - are we???

Hence, my long introduction here to say that the apocryphal books of the Old and New Testament as well as those outside of the biblical canon may have value in themselves even as the church's early commentaries by its leaders and historic names as well as those down through history.... And since the 19th century - even as I survey the "book/bible" sections of bible and retail stores - it seems lately every man and woman has become a "biblical prophet" in their own right.

Which is why I write with the hindsight of age and experience. I'm less bound up in the church's dogmatic words of a bible which is "God-breathed" or "divinely inspired" or that horrid word of "inerrancy" used to "bind up the literalism of the bible" for unreflective dogmatic thinking granting all manner of ugly acts in the name of God. My God is a God of Love and this same God is not a God who executes wrath and judgment willfully upon mankind no matter what the church believes.

Where sin and evil, wrath and judgment, reside - so comes with it our own freewill agency as well as that of nature's. God's love - and loving example in Christ Jesus - forewarns us that when we cease to consider how to love each other, and nature around us, we may expect ugliness to arise. And like the proverbs in the bible we are forewarned to be wise and not fools when moving about this world we live; that we are to bless and be a blessing like Melchizedek of old when he blessed Abram (sic, Abraham) travelling from Ur at our Lord's bequest to the lands of Canaan.


R.E. Slater
February 21, 2023

* * * * * * * *

Who Wrote the Bible? Episode 4: The Apocrypha
 Aug 13, 2021

Complete series in one video: https://youtu.be/KqSkXmFun14
Individual episodes:
5. Gospels & Acts - https://youtu.be/Z6PrrnhAKFQ
7. Daniel & Revelation - https://youtu.be/fTURdV0c9J0
8: Summary Chart - https://youtu.be/9uIXzUEwrOg

* * * * * * * *

Books that Didn’t Make the Cut:
The Gnostic Gospels

by Rich Herbster  |  September 8, 2016

Capernaum - Kfar Nahum - Israel

Jesus didn’t really die on the cross.  He married Mary Magdalene, moved to France, and had several children.  All that claptrap about his identity as God’s incarnate Son, his sacrificial death and resurrection from the dead?  All propaganda foisted upon you by a deceptive church.  The real truth is to be found in the writings of other groups of “Christians” you never heard of: they were repressed and silenced…until now!

The preceding paragraph is idiotic (as well as blasphemous).  Fortunately, it doesn’t reflect my own thinking.  It does reflect the teaching of a group of ancient heretics: Gnostic Christians.  It also reflects the historical assessment of some scholars of our day (folks like Princeton’s Elaine Pagels) that the writings of these heretics deserve at least equal standing with the gospels in your bible.

Gnosticism (the “g” is silent) has been big business in recent years.  We need look no further than author Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code – a bestselling book turned Hollywood blockbuster (featuring Tom Hanks!) – to see the popularity of this long ago almost forgotten movement.

Where did Dan Brown and Elaine Pagels find this stuff?  Their sources are documents (dating from the second through the fourth centuries) such as The Gospel of Thomas and The Gospel of Judas.  What are these books?  Why aren’t they found in our bibles?  Is this a conspiracy?!?

Let’s rewind and start at the beginning.  With Jesus himself.  Jesus chose twelve men to be his apostles.  In so doing, Jesus announced that he is reconstituting Israel.  Just as there were twelve tribes in Israel, now there are twelve apostles – true Israel is centered on and identified with Jesus and his work.  These twelve carried on the ministry of Jesus and authoritatively grounded the church and its teaching.  The scriptures of the New Testament gained their standing based on the apostolic origin and the authority of those apostles.

The canonical gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were written within the first century, as early as the 50’s (for Mark), as late as the 90’s (for John).  They had a well established pedigree and identity with their apostolic authors.  The canon itself was formally fixed later, but the early apostolic bona fides of these books are what won the day in recognizing them as scripture.  The church was also aware of another group of writings which lacked these credentials: the writings of the Gnostics.

Who were the Gnostics?  The Gnostics were a group who had a set of fundamental beliefs very different from those taught in traditional Christianity.  There are lots of different types of Gnosticism, but most Gnostics teach some form of the following:

  • Spirit/Matter. Spirit is good; Matter is bad.  Bodies are bad.  Our souls are trapped in these material shells.  We want to get rid of our bodies and get back to good spiritual realities.  (Christianity doesn’t teach that matter is bad – God declared the Creation “very good.”  The problem with the body and the soul is sin.)
  • Two gods. There are two gods: the bad god, called the Demiurge, is the god of the Old Testament – he created everything, which is bad.  The good god is the God of the New Testament – he is spirit and we want to get back to him.
  • Secret Knowledge. Gnosticism gets its name from the Greek word gnosis, which means “knowledge.”  All Gnostics taught that you needed to get some sort of secret knowledge to escape the bad body and get back to the good god.  Salvation is essentially learning the secret handshake.
  • Jesus and the Gnosis. Not all Gnostics claimed to be Christians, but some glommed on to Christianity because it seemed to offer a suitable vehicle for their secret knowledge philosophy.  Jesus became the keeper of secret knowledge and you can get “saved” through him, though not in the orthodox sense of faith in his substitutionary atoning death for your sins.  Rather, you get access through Jesus to the secret handshake that would open the door to the spiritual world.
  • Weird Ethics. Because the Gnostics taught that the body was bad, they taught that it was good to punish the body by treating it poorly. Therefore, some Gnostics were very hard on the body, embracing a form of radical asceticism (intense fasting, absolute chastity even in marriage, etc.). Others pursued the opposite course and embraced a form of licentiousness – the body is bad so let’s punish it by doing all sorts of base things with it: drunkenness, sexual promiscuity, etc.  Either course led in a direction contrary to orthodox Christian ethics.

To ground their teaching they penned documents that use the form of the canonical gospels, attributing them to the apostles – Thomas, Judas, and so on.  But these “gospels” have no connection to the historical person of Jesus.  They don’t reflect his teaching or his work.  They also have nothing to do with the apostles that they identify with ( The real Thomas had nothing to do with the “Gospel of Thomas”!).  They instead reflect the beliefs of people with an alien worldview living centuries later.

Unfortunately, this isn’t communicated to modern audiences.  Instead people are told, “We’ve discovered these ancient documents that the church doesn’t want you to know about.  They reveal a very different Jesus from the one in your bible.  And these should be read alongside of, or even instead of, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.”  And people believe it.  Some folks just love a good conspiracy theory.  Some are just too lazy to study the history of the canon.  Some are just happy for an excuse not to have to deal with the actual Jesus of the bible.

The Gnostic gospels aren’t reliable documents for learning anything at all about Jesus.  They are late documents (though ancient from our perspective) that teach us more about the confused people who wrote them than they do about Jesus.  If you really want to know anything about Jesus, you’ll have to open the New Testament.

* * * * * * * *

New Testament apocrypha

The New Testament apocrypha (singular apocryphon)[1] are a number of writings by early Christians that give accounts of Jesus and his teachings, the nature of God, or the teachings of his apostles and of their lives. Some of these writings were cited as scripture by early Christians, but since the fifth century a widespread consensus has emerged limiting the New Testament to the 27 books of the modern canon.[2][3] Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant churches generally do not view the New Testament apocrypha as part of the Bible.[3]


The word "apocrypha" means "things put away" or "things hidden", originating from the Medieval Latin adjective apocryphus, "secret" or "non-canonical", which in turn originated from the Greek adjective ἀπόκρυφος (apokryphos), "obscure", from the verb ἀποκρύπτειν (apokryptein), "to hide away".[4] From the Greek prefix "apo" which means "away" and the Greek verb "kryptein" which means "to hide".[5]

The general term is usually applied to the books that were considered by the church as useful, but not divinely inspired. As such, to refer to Gnostic writings as "apocryphal" is misleading since they would not be classified in the same category by orthodox believers. Often used by the Greek Fathers was the term antilegomena, or "spoken against", although some canonical books were also spoken against, such as the Apocalypse of John in the East. Often used by scholars is the term pseudepigrapha, or "falsely inscribed" or "falsely attributed", in the sense that the writings were written by an anonymous author who appended the name of an apostle to his work, such as in the Gospel of Peter or The Æthiopic Apocalypse of Enoch: almost all books, in both Old and New Testaments, called "apocrypha" in the Protestant tradition are pseudepigrapha. In the Catholic and Orthodox traditions, what are called the apocrypha by Protestants include the deuterocanonical books: in the Catholic tradition, the term "apocrypha" is synonymous with what Protestants would call the pseudepigrapha, the latter term of which is almost exclusively used by scholars.[6]


Development of the New Testament canon

That some works are categorized as New Testament apocrypha is indicative of the wide range of responses that were engendered in the interpretation of the message of Jesus of Nazareth. During the first several centuries of the transmission of that message, considerable debate turned on safeguarding its authenticity. Three key methods of addressing this survive to the present day: ordination, where groups authorize individuals as reliable teachers of the message; creeds, where groups define the boundaries of interpretation of the message; and canons, which list the primary documents certain groups believe contain the message originally taught by Jesus. There was substantial debate about which books should be included in the canons. In general, those books that the majority regarded as the earliest books about Jesus were the ones included. Books that were not accepted into the canons are now termed apocryphal. Some of them were vigorously suppressed and survive only as fragments. The earliest lists of canonical works of the New Testament were not quite the same as modern lists; for example, the Book of Revelation was regarded as disputed by some Christians (see Antilegomena), while Shepherd of Hermas was considered genuine by others, and appears (after the Book of Revelation) in the Codex Sinaiticus.[citation needed]

The Syriac Peshitta, used by all the various Syrian Churches, originally did not include 2 Peter, 2 John, 3 John, Jude and Revelation (and this canon of 22 books is the one cited by John Chrysostom (~347–407) and Theodoret (393–466) from the School of Antioch).[7] Western Syrians have added the remaining five books to their New Testament canons in modern times[7] (such as the Lee Peshitta of 1823). Today, the official lectionaries followed by the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church and the East Syriac Chaldean Catholic Church, which is in communion with the Holy See, still only present lessons from the 22 books of the original Peshitta.[7]

The Armenian Apostolic church at times has included the Third Epistle to the Corinthians, but does not always list it with the other 27 canonical New Testament books. This church did not accept Revelation into its Bible until 1200 CE.[8] The New Testament of the Coptic Bible, adopted by the Egyptian Church, includes the two Epistles of Clement.[citation needed]

Modern scholarship and translation

English translations were made in the early 18th century by William Wake and by Jeremiah Jones, and collected in 1820 by William Hone's Apocryphal New Testament.[9] The series Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 8, contains translations by Alexander Walker.[10] New translations by M. R. James appeared in 1924, and were revised by J.K. Eliott, The Apocryphal New Testament, Oxford University Press, 1991. The "standard" scholarly edition of the New Testament Apocrypha in German is that of Schneemelcher,[11] and in English its translation by Robert McLachlan Wilson.[12]

Constantin von Tischendorf and other scholars began to study New Testament apocrypha seriously in the 19th century and produce new translations. The texts of the Nag Hammadi library are often considered separately but the current edition of Schneemelcher also contains eleven Nag Hammadi texts.[13]

Books that are known objectively not to have existed in antiquity are usually not considered part of the New Testament apocrypha. Among these are the Libellus de Nativitate Sanctae Mariae (also called the "Nativity of Mary") and the Latin Infancy gospel. The latter two did not exist in antiquity, and they seem to be based on the earlier Infancy gospels.[citation needed]


Canonical gospels

Four gospels came to be accepted as part of the New Testament canon.

Infancy gospels

The rarity of information about the childhood of Jesus in the canonical gospels led to a hunger of early Christians for more detail about the early life of Jesus. This was supplied by a number of 2nd-century and later texts, known as infancy gospels, none of which were accepted into the biblical canon, but some scholars have noted that the very number of surviving infancy manuscripts attests to their continued popularity.[14]

Most of these were based on the earliest infancy gospels, namely the Infancy Gospel of James (also called the "Protoevangelium of James") and Infancy Gospel of Thomas, and on their later combination into the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew (also called the "Infancy Gospel of Matthew" or "Birth of Mary and Infancy of the Saviour").[citation needed]

The other significant early infancy gospels are the Syriac Infancy Gospel, the History of Joseph the CarpenterLife of John the Baptist.

Jewish-Christian gospels

The Jewish–Christian Gospels were gospels of a Jewish Christian character quoted by Clement of AlexandriaOrigenEusebiusEpiphaniusJerome and probably Didymus the Blind.[15] Most modern scholars have concluded that there was one gospel in Aramaic/Hebrew and at least two in Greek, although a minority argue that there were only two, Aramaic/Hebrew and Greek.[16]

None of these gospels survives today, but attempts have been made to reconstruct them from references in the Church Fathers. The reconstructed texts of the gospels are usually categorized under New Testament Apocrypha. The standard edition of Schneemelcher describes the texts of three Jewish–Christian gospels as follows:[17]

1) The Gospel of the Ebionites ("GE") – 7 quotations by Epiphanius.
2) The Gospel of the Hebrews ("GH") – 1 quotation ascribed to Cyril of Jerusalem, plus GH 2–7 quotations by Clement, Origen, and Jerome.
3) The Gospel of the Nazarenes ("GN") – GN 1 to GN 23 are mainly from Jerome; GN 24 to GN 36 are from medieval sources.

Some scholars consider that the two last named are in fact the same source.[18]

Non-canonical gospels

Passion Gospels

A number of gospels are concerned specifically with the "Passion" (from the Latin verb patior, passus sum; "to suffer, bear, endure", from which also "patience, patient", etc.)[19]) of Jesus:

Although three texts take Bartholomew's name, it may be that one of the Questions of Bartholomew or the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is in fact the unknown Gospel of Bartholomew.

Harmonized gospels

A number of texts aim to provide a single harmonization of the canonical gospels, that eliminates discordances among them by presenting a unified text derived from them to some degree. The most widely read of these was the Diatessaron.

Gnostic texts

In the modern era, many Gnostic texts have been uncovered, especially from the Nag Hammadi library. Some texts take the form of an expounding of the esoteric cosmology and ethics held by the Gnostics. Often this was in the form of dialogue in which Jesus expounds esoteric knowledge while his disciples raise questions concerning it. There is also a text, known as the Epistula Apostolorum, which is a polemic against Gnostic esoterica, but written in a similar style as the Gnostic texts.

Dialogues with Jesus

General texts concerning Jesus

Sethian texts concerning Jesus

The Sethians were a gnostic group who originally worshipped the biblical Seth as a messianic figure, later treating Jesus as a re-incarnation of Seth. They produced numerous texts expounding their esoteric cosmology, usually in the form of visions:

Ritual diagrams

Some of the Gnostic texts appear to consist of diagrams and instructions for use in religious rituals:


Several texts concern themselves with the subsequent lives of the apostles, usually with highly supernatural events. Almost half of these, anciently called The Circuits of the Apostles and now known by the name of their purported author, "Leucius Charinus" (supposedly a companion of John the apostle), contained the Acts of Peter, John, Andrew, Thomas, and Paul. These were judged by the Patriarch Photios I of Constantinople in the ninth century to be full of folly, self-contradiction, falsehood, and impiety. The Acts of Thomas and the Acts of Peter and the Twelve are often considered Gnostic texts. While most of the texts are believed to have been written in the 2nd century, at least two, the Acts of Barnabas and the Acts of Peter and Paul are believed to have been written as late as the 5th century.


There are also non-canonical epistles (or "letters") between individuals or to Christians in general. Some of them were regarded very highly by the early church. Those marked with a lozenge (♦) are included in the collection known as the Apostolic Fathers:


Several works frame themselves as visions, often discussing the future, afterlife, or both:

Fate of Mary

Several texts (over 50) consist of descriptions of the events surrounding the varied fate of Mary (the mother of Jesus):


These texts, due to their content or form, do not fit into the other categories:


In addition to the known apocryphal works, there are also small fragments of texts, parts of unknown (or uncertain) works. Some of the more significant fragments are:

Lost works

Several texts are mentioned in many ancient sources and would probably be considered part of the apocrypha, but no known text has survived:

Close candidates for canonization

While many of the books listed here were considered heretical (especially those belonging to the gnostic tradition—as this sect was considered heretical by Proto-orthodox Christianity of the early centuries), others were not considered particularly heretical in content, but in fact were well accepted as significant spiritual works. Those marked with a lozenge (♦) are also included in the collection known as the Apostolic Fathers.

While some of the following works appear in complete Bibles from the fourth century, such as 1 Clement and The Shepherd of Hermas, showing their general popularity, they were not included when the canon was formally decided at the end of that century.


Present day

Among historians of early Christianity the books are considered invaluable, especially those that almost made it into the final canon, such as Shepherd of HermasBart Ehrman, for example, said:

The victors in the struggles to establish Christian Orthodoxy not only won their theological battles, they also rewrote the history of the conflict; later readers then naturally assumed that the victorious views had been embraced by the vast majority of Christians from the very beginning ... The practice of Christian forgery has a long and distinguished history ... the debate lasted three hundred years ... even within "orthodox" circles there was considerable debate concerning which books to include.[20]

Historical development towards today's canon

The historical debate primarily concerned whether certain works should be read in the church service or only privately. These works were widely used but not necessarily considered Catholic or 'universal.' Such works include the Didache, Shepherd of Hermas, 1 Clement, 2 Clement, the Epistle of Barnabas, and to a lesser extent the Apocalypse of Peter.

Considering the generally accepted dates of authorship for all of the canonical New Testament works (ca. 100 CE), as well as the various witnesses to canonicity extant among the writings of Ignatius, Polycarp, Irenaeus, etc., the four gospels and letters of Paul were held by the gentile Christian community as scriptural, and 200 years were needed to finalize the canon; from the beginning of the 2nd Century to the mid-4th Century, no book in the final canon was ever declared spurious or heretical, except for the Revelation of John which the Council of Laodicea in 363–364 CE rejected (although it accepted all of the other 26 books in the New Testament). This was possibly due to fears of the influence of Montanism which used the book extensively to support their theology. See Revelation of John for more details.

Athanasius wrote his Easter letter in 367 CE which defined a canon of 27 books, identical to the current canon, but also listed two works that were "not in the canon but to be read:" The Shepherd of Hermas and the Didache. Nevertheless, the early church leaders in the 3rd and 4th Centuries generally distinguished between canonical works and those that were not canonical but 'useful,' or 'good for teaching,' though never relegating any of the final 27 books to the latter category. One aim with establishing the canon was to capture only those works which were held to have been written by the Apostles, or their close associates, and as the Muratorian fragment canon (ca. 150–175 CE) states concerning the Shepherd of Hermas:[citation needed]

...But Hermas wrote The Shepherd very recently, in our times, in the city of Rome, while bishop Pius, his brother, was occupying the chair of the church of the city of Rome. And therefore it ought indeed to be read; but it cannot be read publicly to the people in church either among the Prophets, whose number is complete, or among the Apostles, for it is after their time.[21]

Published collections

  • Cumberlege, Geoffrey (1926) [1895]. The Apocrypha: translated out of the Greek and Latin tongues: being the version set forth A.D. 1611 compared with the most ancient authorities and revised A.D. 1894 (reprint ed.). Oxford: University Press.
  • Michel, Charles; Peeters, Paul (1924) [1911]. Évangiles Apocryphes (in French) (2nd ed.). Paris: A. Picard.
  • James, Montague Rhodes (1953) [1924]. The Apocryphal New Testament (2nd ed.). Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  • González-Blanco, Edmundo, ed. (1934). Los Evangelio Apócrifos (in Spanish). Vol. 3 vols. Madrid: Bergua.
  • Bonaccorsi, Giuseppe, ed. (1948). Vangeli apocrifi (in Italian). Florence: Libreria Editrice Fiorentina.
  • Aurelio de Santos Otero, ed. (1956). Los Evangelios Apócrifos: Colección de textos griegos y latinos, versión crítica, estudios introductorios y comentarios (in Spanish). Madrid: Biblioteca de Autores Christianos.
  • Kekeliże, Korneli, ed. (1959). Kartuli versiebi aṗoḳripebis mocikulta šesaxeb [Georgian Versions of the Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles]. Tbilisi: Sakartvelos SSR mecnierebata akademiis gamomcemloba.
  • Moraldi, Luigi, ed. (1994) [1971]. Apocrifi del Nuovo Testamento (in Italian). Translated by Moraldi, Luigi (2nd ed.). Turin: Unione tipografico-editrice torinese.
  • Robinson, James M. (1977). The Nag Hammadi Library in English. San Francisco: Harper & Row.
  • Erbetta, Mario, ed. (1966–1981). Gli Apocrifi del Nuovo Testamento (in Italian). Vol. 3 vols. Translated by Erbetta, Mario. Turin: Marietti.
  • Aurelio de Santos Otero (1978–1981). Die handschriftliche Überlieferung der altslavischen Apokryphen (in German). Vol. 2 vols. Berlin: De Gruyter.
  • Herbert, Máire; McNamara, Martin (1989). Irish Biblical Apocrypha: Selected Texts in Translation. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark.
  • Elliott, J. K. (1993). Apocryphal New Testament.
  • Bovon, François; Geoltrain, Pierre; Kaestli, Jean-Daniel, eds. (1997–2005). Écrits apocryphes chrétiens (in French). Paris: Gallimard.
  • Ehrman, Bart D.; Pleše, Zlatko (2011). The Apocryphal Gospels: Texts and Translations. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-973210-4.
  • Markschies, Christoph; Schröter, Jens, eds. (2012). Antike christliche Apokryphen in deutscher Übersetzung (in German). Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck.
  • Burke, Tony; Landau, Brent, eds. (2016). New Testament apocrypha: More noncanonical scriptures. Vol. 1. Grand Rapids. MI: Eerdmans.

See also


  1. ^ Kelly, Joseph F. (2017-03-15). The World of the Early Christians. Liturgical Press. ISBN 978-0-8146-8379-8There are both Old and New Testament Apocrypha [singular: Apocryphon],
  2. ^ Van Liere, Frans (2014). An Introduction to the Medieval Bible. Cambridge University Press. pp. 68–69. ISBN 9780521865784.
  3. Jump up to:a b Ehrman, Bart D. (2003). Lost Christianities: Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew. Oxford University Press. pp. 230–231. ISBN 9780199756681.
  4. ^ "Apocrypha – Definition"merriam-webster.com.
  5. ^ "apocrypha | Search Online Etymology Dictionary"www.etymonline.com. Retrieved 7 March 2021.
  6. ^ Charlesworth, James H (1985). Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson. p. 2257. ISBN 978-1-59856-489-1.
  7. Jump up to:a b c Peshitta
  8. ^ Reliability Archived October 8, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ The apocryphal New Testament, being all the gospels, epistles, and other pieces now extant. London, W. Hone. 1820.
  10. ^ ANF08...Apocrypha of the New Testament.
  11. ^ James McConkey Robinson, Christoph Heil, Jozef Verheyden, The Sayings Gospel Q: Collected Essays, Leuven, Peeters 2005, p. 279 "Not only has a third, fourth, fifth, and sixth edition of the standard German work by Edgar Hennecke and Wilhelm Schneemelcher prepared under the editorship of Schneemelcher appeared, but independent editions are being produced ...
  12. ^ New Testament Apocrypha, Vol. 1: Gospels and Related Writings (1990), Vol. 2: Writings Relating to the Apostles Apocalypses and Related Subjects (1992), Westminster John Knox Press.
  13. ^ Stephen J. Patterson, James McConkey Robinson, Hans-Gebhard Bethge, The fifth Gospel: the Gospel of Thomas comes of age. 1998. pg. 105. quote: "The current edition of Wilhelm Schneemelcher's standard New Testament Apocrypha contains eleven Nag Hammadi tractates."
  14. ^ Cook, William R. (2009). The Catholic Church: A History. Chantilly, VA: The Teaching Company. pp. Lecture 3. ISBN 9781598035964.
  15. ^ Elliott 2005, p. 3.
  16. ^ Ehrman & Pleše 2011, p. 199.
  17. ^ Vielhauer & Strecker 1991, pp. 134–78.
  18. ^ Craig A. Evans
  19. ^ Cassell's Latin Dictionary, Marchant, J.R.V, & Charles, Joseph F., (Eds.), Revised Edition, 1928, p.396
  20. ^ Ehrman, Lost Scriptures pp. 2, 3
  21. ^ The Muratorian Fragment : 74–76


External links