Why Are Other Gospels Not Included In The New Testament Canon?
Through the years there have been claims that other "gospels" were reportedly found (such as the Gospel of Thomas, Phillip, Mary, etc.). You can find a list of these books on www.earlychristianwritings.com . Why are these not included in our New Testaments along with Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John?
There are several reasons as to why Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were included in the New Testament canon and the other "gospels" were not.
- Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are the earliest gospels. These gospels have been dated from the late 50s A.D. to the late 60s A.D. They were written during the 1st century A.D. just a few decades after the life of Jesus. It is very likely that many of the people who witnessed and saw the events recorded in the gospels could critique the gospel records because they could confirm or deny if those events were true or false. It is interesting from the ancient records we have that people do not critique the historical reliability of the gospel records. We rely upon the earliest documents for their reliability and trustworthiness. In contrast, the apocryphal gospels have been dated in the late 2nd and 3rd centuries A.D., which is a long time after the events occurred with no eyewitnesses to confirm or deny the events that occur in it.
- Canonical gospels have an incredible connection to the apostolic circle. The apostles were the official representatives who served as ambassadors for Jesus Christ. We have early testimony from the church writers that the canonical gospels were written by the apostles or someone close to an apostle. Matthew and John were apostles and eyewitnesses of the early life of Jesus. The testimony of Papias, an early church writer, claims that Mark wrote down the memoirs of the apostle Peter. Luke was a very close companion of the apostle Paul. There are no authoritative connections to the apocryphal gospels.
- The canonical gospels lack legendary material. The apocryphal gospels try to fill in the gaps of the canonical gospels and include some outlandish stories that are full of myth and legend. For example, the Infancy Gospel of Thomas has Jesus, when He was young, making clay birds on the Sabbath. If this were authenticated it would not contradict John 2:11. It was in Cana of Galilee where Jesus performed His first miracle. In the Gospel of Peter, the resurrection event includes a very tall Jesus walking out with His head in the clouds and He is followed by a talking cross. These gospels also contain a lot of geographical and historical mistakes that the canonical gospels do not make.
- The canonical gospels were recognized and copied early by the church. There are a couple of reasons as to why the canonical gospels were recognized. First, many of the early church writers write about them (such as Origen, Iranaeus, Justin Martyr, etc.). Second, the manuscript copies we have of the gospels are numbered around 2,500. They were copied frequently in the early church; whereas the so-called "Gospel of Thomas" has only three fragmentary copies.
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