Other ‘gospels’ and books missing from the Bible

  • Question 193, from Frank

    I have come to understand that there are a lot of books and scriptures that are missing from the modern Christian bible. Is there a complete volume that includes all the books of the catholic bible as well as those that are omitted from the bible such as those from the Hebrew bible and the books of Enoch? I know there are Dead Sea Scrolls and those of the Gnostic scriptures that have been omitted as well as others. I guess what I am asking for is there a “complete” book of all scriptures that exist?

    Early Christianity is often described as ‘heterodox’, meaning there were a number of different communities and ideas that broadly speaking claimed to be Christian. Some of these groups wrote their own books and the confusion this caused led to ecumenical councils deciding which books were accurate and authoritative. The books that made the cut were considered ‘canonical’.

    There are a group of books known as the Apocrypha, which appeared in the ancient Greek version of the Old Testament, but not in the Hebrew version. There are also other books, the most well-known being The Gospel of Thomas and the Book of Enoch, which were not included in the Christian canon.

    To be accepted, books generally had to be regarded as having apostolic authorship, or be in widespread use. Generally, the books excluded were used in small sects, or were written after the books that were included in the New Testament. The Dead Sea Scrolls were written by the Essene community of Jews, who withdrew from mainstream Jewish society at around the time Jesus was active. The scrolls contain a mix of Old Testament writings and other material and are not considered ‘Christian’.

    When compared to the books in the accepted canon, the other texts often have very different ideas, usually promoting beliefs that are regarded as ‘gnostic’ with a very different view of salvation.

    There is also a wealth of other Christian material that does not claim to be ‘scripture’, including letters from bishops, accounts of historical events like church leaders being martyred, and arguments for Christianity against its critics.

    Much of this extra-Biblical material has been gathered, translated and published. The additional scriptures do shed some light on the culture that surrounded the earliest Christian communities, but few Christians would regard them as authoritative.

    Previous articles on freelance theology on related subjects:

    The Apocrypha

    The Book of Enoch – Article 1 & Article 2

    The Gospel of Thomas

    The Essenes

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