I don’t always remember that not everyone knows there were many other gospels in circulation post Jesus death and many were as popular as the Canonical Gospels attributed to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Let’s even start there – we have to remember that Matthew, the earliest of the 4 Canonical Gospels was written at least 40 years after the death of Christ, Mark and Luke more like 50 years and John 60 years post the death of Jesus. It is believed that the “Q” document or sayings source was the foundation for at least Matthew and the others were written based on that – with the exception of John. We also need to keep in mind that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were not the authors of the Gospels – they are attributed to them and written by an unknown author.
During this time there were many other Gospels being used by Jesus followers and many were equal in popularity; The Gospel of Thomas nearly made it into the Bible in place of John, the Gospel of Truth, the Gospel of the Hebrews all were also very popular. In 1947 a local farmer in Upper Egypt discovered 12 leather bound books – or papyrus codices sealed in a jar, among those was the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Truth and the jar also contained works attributed to Peter, James and Paul as well as a number of “Gnostic” works.
Why are these important? Because they show another side of Christianity, another view of the followers of “the Way” as it was called then and broadens our perspective. We have to keep in mind that the books chosen to be included in the Bible were chosen in 325AD – long after the death of Jesus and all of the Apostles. They were also chosen by Emperor Constantine during the time when the Roman Empire was in decline. Much of what has shaped our current understanding has a truly Roman influence and the entire structure of the Church is also based on the political structure of the Roman Empire.
We need to understand that Christianity was framed by men with an agenda and that wasn’t necessarily for the spiritual growth of it’s followers. It was designed for external obedience and practices, prayers and understanding based on what one was told to believe. It left little room for inner understanding, for contemplation and for individual spiritual growth. This framework exists today to maintain a corporation called the Roman Catholic Church – without the structure the behemoth of an organization would be fractured and chaotic.
But at one time there was more, the kingdom or heaven is within us – that is what Jesus taught.
But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have told you. ~ John 14:26
And as for you, the anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But just as His true and genuine anointing teaches you about all things, so remain in Him as you have been taught. ~ 1 John 2:27
We need to look back at these other Gospels and gain a new perspective that may bring us closer to the truth. We need to look with a discerning eye at how and by whom the Gospels and Jesus teachings were remembered. History is transcribed by the victors and maybe there is more for us to discover that what we have been indoctrinated into believing.
Let’s also remember Paul never met Jesus and there is documentation of his disagreements with the Apostles. How did his letters come to represent a greater portion of the Bible? What else is left for us to discover?