Last time we considered the Old Testament Apocrypha, books written between the time of Malachi and the beginning of the New Testament. I want to discuss works written after the New Testament, after about 95-96 AD. These range from the 2nd to 5th century.
First of all, there are books that no one considers inspired, which were written by the Early Church Fathers, the second generation Christians and disciples of the apostles, and successive generations of Christians.
These are not inspired. Even the Early Church Fathers who wrote them knew they weren’t. They never claimed they were. They are helpful because they contain quotes of Scripture, sermons, and theology and Christian thought.
Other writings from this time period are called Pseudepigrapha, meaning “false writings.” Christians railed against many of these types of writings and consider most of them heretical.
One common heretical group was known as the Gnostics. Gnostic comes from the Greek word for knowledge. These were false teachers who believe that a person could gain a secret knowledge of Jesus.
It’s possible John addressed them in some of the messages in Revelation 2-3 and 1 John. They didn’t believe Jesus was physically human. They considered him a spirit masquerading in a body. They also believed the spirit was good, but the flesh was evil.
These Gnostics would take scriptural quotes and sayings that sounded like Scripture and weave false stories and doctrines throughout the work. Recently, they’ve become very popular again and many want them added to the Canon. But this must never be done.
You can find the whole text of many of them on the internet. Lists of these false writings include:
- Gospel of Thomas
- Gospel of Peter
- Gospel of Mary
- The Acts of Peter
- The Acts of Paul
- The Infancy Gospels of James and Thomas
There are more where those came from. But notice already why they are called the false writings? They are taking the names of biblical authors and also the genres that they would use, for instance the gospel style or the acts style.
Even the scholars who want to pass these off as biblical books date them later than the first century. They were written after the deaths and martyrdoms of the apostles. This means the apostles didn’t write them, one of the requirements for inspiration.
If we considered their dates to fit near the time of New Testament books, we still have many problems with these writings. They contradict historical and theological data that we have in the inspired books.
Some tell fanciful stories of Jesus stretching wood because as a carpenter he cut the piece too short. Others talk of Jesus resurrecting childhood friends that jump off of roofs. Several of these books sound like they would fit until they hit that, “Umm, what just happened?” moment.
Would Jesus cut a board too short? Resurrections are rare even in the New Testament and they always had a purpose behind them. These writings make light of Jesus’ life and ministry. They strip the biblical books of their profound power.
A popular example will show the theological dangers of including these books in the Canon of Scripture. The Gospel of Thomas, a Gnostic gospel, can be found in an online translation here: http://www.gnosis.org/naghamm/gthlamb.html.
As you read, you can see how some verses of this text might pass for sayings of Jesus. But as you get farther and farther, there is one terribly shocking ending to the book. Take a look at verse 114. This one will make all the ladies super happy. It reads:
(114) Simon Peter said to him, “Let Mary leave us, for women are not worthy of life.”
Jesus said, “I myself shall lead her in order to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every woman who will make herself male will enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Now I thought that we had to become like children (and even then not literally children but LIKE them) to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. It’s a good thing I’m a guy, because I don’t need a sex-change to get to heaven.
But sorry, ladies. This Gnostic gospel demands that women must go through some miraculous sex change to enter heaven. Does that bother anyone? Inspired books in the Canon include these types of thoughts:
- Genesis 2:18, 20 – Where it is not good for the man to be alone and God makes a “helper” for him.
- Proverbs 31:10-31 – If such a woman is so wonderful, then why must she be changed to enter heaven?
- The whole books of Esther and Ruth. Without them, the line of David in Ruth and the whole Jewish nation in Esther would not exist.
- The first evangelists were women who went to Jesus’ tomb early on Sunday morning after His resurrection. Why did they get to be first in a male-dominated society if they are not good enough to share the gospel?
- Galatians 3:28 – I cannot stress how paramount this verse is. Paul says that anyone can be saved despite their background and environment. When we are part of Christ’s kingdom, there is neither male nor female. Gender isn’t a dividing factor in God’s kingdom.
It makes no sense and violate Scripture to suggest that a woman must have a sex change to enter heaven. These kinds of misogynist texts being pushed by liberals actually go against their principles!
These are only a few of the reasons the Pseudepigrapha are very dangerous. I don’t recommend reading them unless you are strong in your faith and can discern between the truth of God’s Word and these works in which truth and lies are interwoven.
I have found as I study these works and the Apocrypha that God has given us more than enough in the 66 books we have. He has already blown our minds hundreds of times over. They are a complete Canon with everything we need to know to become part of God’s family, learned God’s truth, and guide us into his presence. We don’t need the other books.
We are not missing any essentials or even non-essentials of the faith by not having these extra books in the Bible. Until we can say with assurance that we have mastered what God has given us in the 66 books, we should not attempt to put our efforts into these books, especially when they are contrary to His Word.
The final point I wish to make about inspiration and the canon and whether or not the Bible is complete is this: Do we trust God that He would give us everything we need to know Him?
You see, these questions over the canon come down to our trust in a good Father who gives us every good gift. Would God leave out essentials that we need to know to love and serve Him? Is He that kind of God?
If we have everything that we need in the canon, we don’t need the other books. Is there mystery in the Word of God? Absolutely. But it is a mystery that is designed to be there. So when we look at Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha they don’t help us grow closer to God.
And after all, that is the true test for inspiration, that His Words facilitate
Next week I will share my personal recollections and takeaways about the Canon of Scripture, inspiration, authority, and the possibility of missing books. https://www.Jonathansrock.com/
with him. Leave a comment and let me know what you think of missing books in the Bible. Next week I will share my personal recollections and takeaways about the Canon of Scripture, inspiration, authority, and the possibility of missing books. https://www.Jonathansrock.com/