The Lost Books Of The Bible
Some people claim there are "lost books" that should have been included in the Bible. This view doesn't make sense, whether or not you think the Bible has supernatural origins.
The Canon of Scripture and The Apocrypha
The basis of Christianity is found in the authority of Scripture. If we can't identify the content and extent of Scripture, then we can't properly distinguish any theological truth from error. There were literally dozens of spiritual books that were written in the same time period as the books of the Bible, and many people believe that, because they were unfairly prejudiced against the teachings in these books, church councils weeded those ones out, with the result that many books that should have been included in the Bible, were not. The question is then, how the Hebrew canon (The Old Testament) and the Christian canon (The New Testament) were formed. In other words, what the selection process was that gave us our current 66 books of the Bible, and why certain books (called the apocrypha) accepted into the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Bibles, are not included in Protestant Bibles.
The apocryphal books were sometimes highly regarded or cited for their antiquity or for their historical, moral, or literary value, but there is a huge difference between "valuable" and "divinely inspired". Who decided which prophets/authors of the Bible were valid? Who decided which books were inspired, and which weren’t? What most people do not realize is that past councils were not the one who decided which books were inspired, and which were not. The books were inspired the moment pen hit parchment, and were widely recognized as such. Within a short time after the last book in the Old Testament was written, the entire Jewish nation was unanimous in accepting every one of its books as canonical, and in rejecting as false the claims of any other book to similar recognition. Similarly, not long after the last New Testament book was written, the professing Christian church, almost unanimously accepted those books which are in our present New Testament. Both situations show a distinct lack of an influential human leader or decision making council. That such unanimity should have been reached is little short of a miracle.
is often called the LXX for the 72 Jewish scholars who were supposedly commissioned to carry out the task of translating the Hebrew Bible into Koine, or common Greek. The story is based on an ancient document called the Letter of Aristeas, which is riddled with improbabilities and historical errors. After taking all factors into consideration, it seems reasonably clear that the story of the seventy elders is a work of fiction. And if there never were 72 translators commissioned by king Ptolemy, then they did not individually, and miraculously, come up with the same wording, and there is absolutely no grounds on which to base the claim that the Septuagint is an inspired version. It is far more likely that the first five books of Moses were translated into Greek by Hellenistic Jews living in Alexandria, Egypt, during the time of the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus. They were losing touch with Hebrew and needed the Law in a language they probably used on a daily basis... Greek. Other books were added later. This goes a long way in explaining why some of the Old Testament books show obvious signs of incompetent translation.... the translators often showing an "insufficient knowledge of Hebrew, or a failure to grasp the sense of the context". Besides which it is very clear that Jesus quoted the Hebrew Old Testament, not the Greek Septuagint.
The Gnostic Gospels
Gnosticism and The Gnostic Jesus
Elaine Pagels's book The Gnostic Gospels, arguably did more than any other effort to ingratiate the Gnostics to modern Americans. She made them accessible and even likeable. Her scholarly expertise coupled with her ability to relate an ancient religion to contemporary concerns made for a compelling combination in the minds of many. Her central thesis was simple: Gnosticism should be considered at least as legitimate as orthodox Christianity because the "heresy" was simply a competing strain of early Christianity. Yet, we find that the Nag Hammadi texts present a Jesus at extreme odds with the one found in the Gospels.
The Gnostic Gospels: Are They Authentic?
Although much excitement has been generated by the Nag Hammadi discoveries, not a little misunderstanding has been mixed with the enthusiasm. (Includes The Gospel of Thomas.)
“The Gospel of Judas” From Traitor to Hero?
Headlines around the world are announcing the publication of a "long lost" and "suppressed" ancient document, known as The Gospel of Judas. The announcement led to a frenzy of media coverage, ranging from responsible reports to outrageous sensationalism. According to some commentators, the publication of this new document will force a complete reformulation of Christianity and our understanding of both Judas and Jesus. In reality, nothing of the sort is in view. The document is highly interesting, however, offering an ancient and authoritative source into the thinking of heretical groups who offered alternative understandings of Christianity.
The Gospel of Thomas
The evidence for the authenticity of the Gospel of Thomas does not even compare with that for the New Testament. The New Testament dates from the first century; the Gospel of Thomas, the second. The New Testament is verified by many lines of evidence, including self-references, early canonical lists, thousands of citations by the early Fathers, and the well-established dates for the Synoptic Gospels.
The DaVinci Code
The DaVinci Code
Dan Brown opens his novel with the words “FACT” in bold, capital letters and this statement: “All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate”. In terms of documents and rituals, and even artwork and architecture, The DaVinci Code contains few “facts” and what few it does contain require serious qualification. (Section)
Did Constantine Decide What Books Belonged in the Bible?
It is very important to clarify exactly what role Constantine played in the council of Nicea, what the purpose for the council was, what happened at Nicea and briefly how the canon (the Bible as we know it) was formed. Constantine was a Roman Emperor who lived from 274 to 337 A.D. He is most famous for becoming the single ruler of the Roman Empire and (after deceiving and defeating Licinius, his brother-in-law) before supposedly converting to Christianity. It is debated whether or not Constantine was actually a believer (according to his confessions and understanding of the faith) or just someone trying to use the church and the faith to his own advantage.
Constantine called the council of Nicea (which was the first general council of the Christian church, 325 A.D.) primarily because he feared that disputes within the church would cause disorder within the empire. The dispute in mind was Arianism, which was the belief that Jesus was a created being. The famous phrase they were disputing was, "There was when He was not." This was in reference to Jesus and was declared heretical by the council and thus resulted in the following words about Christ in the Nicene Creed, "God from true God…from the Father…not made". It was determined by the council that Christ was homoousia (meaning, one substance with the Father).
Concerning manuscripts that were burned at the order of Constantine, there is really no mention of such a thing actually happening at the order of Constantine or at the Council of Nicea. The Arian party's document (about Christ being a creature) was abandoned by them because of the strong resistance to it and was torn to shreds in the sight of everyone present at the council (see Elwell, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology). Constantine (and the Council of Nicea, for that matter) had virtually nothing to do with the forming of the canon. It was not even discussed at Nicea. The council that formed an undisputed decision on the canon took place at Carthage in 397 (60 years after Constantine's death). However, long before Constantine, 21 books were acknowledged by all Christians (the 4 Gospels, Acts, 13 Paul, 1 Peter, 1 John, Revelation ). There were 10 disputed books (Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2-3 John, Jude, Ps-Barnabas, Hermas, Didache, Gospel of Hebrews) and several that most all considered heretical (Gospels of Peter, Thomas, Matthaias, Acts of Andrew, John, etc.)
Liberal scholars and fictional authors like to purport the idea that the gospels of Thomas and Peter (and other long-disputed books) contain truths that the church vehemently stomped out; but that simply has no basis historically. It is closer to the truth to say that no serious theologians really cared about these books because they were obviously written by people lying about authorship and had little basis in reality. That is one reason why a council declaring the canon was so late in coming (397) because the books that were trusted and the ones that had been handed down were already widely known.
Also See Catholicism and The Councils
Regardless of how esteemed we believe early church doctrines to be, the fact remains that, as the apostles began to die out, the church began to stray farther and further away from the Gospel established by Christ, which the disciples and apostles fought so hard for. Perhaps, a good starting point to show just how how early, and how far the church had deviated from its roots are the first four of the seven Ecumenical councils, the first two of which are held in great esteem, even by modern day evangelicals. In spite of the torrent of words and the many Scriptural verses quoted, the decisions the various councils came to were based on on the aye's and the nay's. Not only did numerical superiority win the day, but these decisions were based, not what they supposed Holy Scripture might mean, but on tradition. In describing various practices in the church, Tertullian (c. 155/160 - 220 A.D.) said "If no passage of Scripture has prescribed it, assuredly custom, which without doubt flowed from tradition, has confirmed it. For how can anything come into use, if it has not first been handed down?.... If, for these and other such rules, you insist upon having positive Scripture injunction, you will find none. Tradition will be held forth to you as the originator of them, custom as their strengthener, and faith as their observer".
But none of this should be surprising. Although evangelicals are fond of telling us that the churches of the day did not have a papacy, did not believe in the Immaculate Conception/Bodily Assumption of Mary, purgatory, indulgences etc. And certainly did not have tabernacles on the altars in their churches (which signified their belief in transubstantiation). Unfortunately, very little of this is true. Much to the contrary, most of these practices were well established in the church of the day, and taught by many of the so called "fathers". In fact, as early as 155 A.D., Justin Martyr described what is, quite clearly, an early version of the Catholic Mass. And basing doctrine on tradition, rather than the teachings of Scripture, has always been the practice of the Roman Catholic Church.