Case-Making 101: What are those other “gospels” and why aren’t they in the Bible?


Have you ever heard someone talk about the missing books of the Bible? There have been numerous documentaries and some movies based on these “missing” books, but do they have any credibility? Let’s take a look at the reasons for rejecting them as part of the Christian Bible:

There are two basic categories: The Apocrypha and Gnostic gospels. Sometimes the term Pseudepigraphal book is used (Greek: pseudo=false; epigraphein=to inscribe, thus, to write falsely).

Apocrypha book

The Apocrypha: (meaning hidden or doubtful)

  • Contains writings from the intertestimental period (c. 250-60 B.C.) and can be useful in understanding some of the historical content between the Old and New Testaments, but they have never been considered God inspired writings by either Jews or early Christians.
  • Most of these books were included in the Latin Vulgate, in part to defend some of the teachings of the Catholic Church (such as purgatory).
  • They are still found in the original King James (1611) between the Old and New Testament.
  • The Catholic Bible today contains eleven of these books in their deuterocanonical section between the Old and New Testaments.

Why we should not consider these books as part of the Christian Bible:

The Apocrypha…

  • Does not claim to be inspired by God
  • Was not written by prophets of God (1 Mac. 9:27)
  • Was not confirmed by supernatural acts of God (Heb. 2:3-4)
  • Was not accepted by the people of God (Judaism) and they were never included in the Hebrew Old Testament
  • Does not always tell the truth of God, for example: On praying for the dead (2 Mac. 12:46) or on working for salvation (Tobit 12:9)
  • Was not written during period of the prophets of God
  • Was not accepted by Jesus the Son of God (Lk. 24:27)
  • Was not accepted by the Apostles of Jesus (who never quoted it)
  • Was not accepted by the early Church and was never included in the Protestant New Testament
  • Was rejected by the great Catholic translator Jerome
  • They contain some absurdities and inconsistencies with the rest of the Biblical Canon

Apocrypha book - Esdras

A List of Apocryphal books:

  1. The Wisdom of Solomon (C. 30 B.C.)
  2. Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) (c. 132 B.C.)
  3. Tobit (c. 200 B.C.)
  4. Judith (c. 150 B.C.)
  5. *1 Esdras (c. 150-100 B.C.) [3 Esdras in Roman Catholic Bible]
  6. *2 Esdras (c. 100 A.D.) [4 Esdras in Roman Catholic Bible]
  7. 1 Maccabees (c. 110 B.C.)
  8. 2 Maccabees (c. 110-70 B.C.)
  9. Baruch (c. 150-50 B.C.)—Baruch 1-5 (Letter of Jeremiah [c. 300-100 B.C.])–Baruch 6
  10. Addition to Esther (140-130 B.C.)
  11. Prayer of Azariah (2nd or 1st cent B.C.)–Daniel 3:24-90
  12. Susanna (2nd or 1st cent B.C.)–Daniel 13
  13. Bel and the Dragon (c. 100 B.C.)–Daniel 14
  14. *Prayer of Manasseh (2nd-1st cent B.C.)

*Not in Catholic Bible

See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.  Colossians 2:8

gnostic image

Gnostic gospels: (Gnosis means knowledge)

  • Gnosticism comes out of Greek philosophy and promotes the belief that one could gain “secret knowledge” of God through certain practices.
  • It fosters the conviction that matter is evil and that emancipation (being set free) comes through special knowledge.
  • There was an attempt to assimilate it with early Christianity.
  • Gnosticism has had conflicting beliefs: 1) Jesus wasn’t human but only spirit; and 2) some believed that Jesus was only human and not spirit.

Reasons for rejecting Non-Canonical New Testament Books: (also see previous reasons for rejection of Apocryphal books)

  • The Gnostic heretic Marcion, about AD 140, was the first to promote Gnostic writings in the Christian community.
  • Gnostic gospels and writings were written well into the second through fourth centuries by authors who were not primary eyewitnesses and who falsely took the names of many of the apostles and disciples such as the gospel of Thomas, James, and Phillip (there are over 300 of these writings).
  • Gnostic literature contain absurdities and inconsistencies with the teachings and beliefs of Jesus and His Apostles.
  • Gnostic literature does not reflect a first century Palestinian Jesus but rather an esoteric philosopher.
  • Gnostic writings have no basis in primary evidence, cross-references to other Scripture, or confirmation from the first and second century Christian Church.
  • The early Church Fathers (Leaders), like Justin Martyr, unanimously rejected them and wrote specifically against them.
  • These Gnostic documents contain false doctrines and heresies (gnostic philosophy, ascetisicm, docetism, modalism, etc.) that are inconsistent with the doctrinal essentials of Classic Christianity. 
  • The New Testament authors and Jesus himself explicitly warn of false teachers and teachings coming into the Church.

Check out this short article by J. Warner Wallace: Do the Non-Canonical Gospels Challenge the Historicity of the New Testament?

Da Vinci Code image

Dan Brown’s book and movie was based on the Gnostic gospel of Thomas

Some examples of Gnostic books:

  1. Gospel of Thomas (early 2nd cent)
  2. Gospel of Peter (2nd cent)
  3. Protevangelium of James (late 2nd cent)
  4. Gospel of the Egyptians (2nd cent)
  5. Gospel of Philip (2nd cent)
  6. Gospel of the Ebionites (2nd cent)
  7. And some 300 more….

In conclusion:

The standard used to canonize and confirm the books we have in our Christian Bible today was not just simply a vote by a group of men, as skeptics will claim, but a careful process that really began as early as the first century:

Guidelines followed by the early Church Fathers (Leaders):

1.  Does it speak with God’s authority?

  • It must be consistent with God’s teachings throughout history.
  • There must be evidence of God’s Word and Promises from Scripture (prophetic—”Thus says the LORD”).

2.  Does it have the authentic stamp of God?

  • The teachings must relate to truth and the truths of the Old Testament.
  • The teachings must be consistent with the teachings of the Old Testament Prophets, Jesus and the Apostles.

3.  Does it impact us with the power of God?

  • The reported miracles must give evidence of the power of God and His Word.
  • Changed lives as evidenced in the believers give further testimony to the truth of the writings.

4.  Was it accepted by the people of God?

  • The believers in the early church had lived by it.
  • The teachings that were canonized were already in common use before the fourth century and we can find evidence of this in the lectionaries and quotations of the early leaders from the first three centuries.

When were the books chosen?

Old Testament

  • No question on these books as they are the same as the Hebrew Bible used in Old Testament times, the one used by Jesus in the first century, and are the same ones used by Jews today.
  • Dead Sea Scrolls (c. 250 B.C. to 100 A.D.) have confirmed the unchanged reliability of the Old Testament today.

Initial Acceptance of New Testament:

  • Before 100 A.D. all the books were written by the Apostles of Jesus and the early believers used them.
  • By 120 A.D. virtually all of the New Testament was cited by Church Leaders (all but a couple of one chapter books).
  • By 170 A.D. all of the New Testament was recognized by the Church Fathers (Leaders).

Eventual Recognition of New Testament by All:

  • By 400 A.D. all of the New Testament was accepted by the Church Councils of Hippo (393) and Carthage (397).

Watch this 22 minute video from one of the top New Testament Scholars, Dr. Craig Evans called Fabricating Jesus from the Gnostic gospels:

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  Hebrews 4:12

Join us next week as we continue investigating our “Case for Christ.”


You will not find this material in the public school curriculum even though it is based on solid evidence and grounded in research. It is ironic that following the evidence to where it leads stops at the door of our public schools as they will not let a “Divine footprint” in!  Join us as we examine evidence for Christianity and learn how to become a thoughtful defender and ambassador of your faith.

Click into the resource page of this website to view many of the top Christian thinkers and apologists along with some of their work; connecting to these types of resources is essential in your Christian growth.

Please let me know what you think: Give feedback, ask questions or send concerns in the comment section of the blog.

Teri Dugan

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