The Christian Holy Bible has four (4) very special books known as the Gospels. These canonical books serve as narrations about the life of Jesus. The majority of the stories are legendary and well-known, and all Christians can quickly repeat the main events in those four books. Many of them are also able to list them by their name and their order. However, there are not very many people – including Christians – who are able to name any the gospels were not included in the Bible.
In this list, we have identified the top seven (7) of the most interesting (or controversial) gospels that did not make into the Bible. All of these missing gospels were authored by Christians in ancient times, but they were surprisingly rejected. Most shocking is that some of them were written by the disciples of Jesus.
Some of these texts were excluded for strictly editorial reasons, such as issues as to whether or not their authorship was truly known. And then there were others that had stories and teachings pertaining to Jesus that were considered to be heretical or way too controversial. The good news for today’s readers is that most of these forgotten texts actually still exist – either in whole or in part, and can be read online by those who enjoy religious texts.
The Gospel of Philip
As with the four Gospels, the Gospel of Philip has been supposedly written by one of Jesus’s original followers. What makes it different from the published Gospels is its content and style. While the other gospels have focused on narrating the life of Jesus, the Gospel of Phillip is something that is more like a treatise or a sermon. Several Christian rituals and concepts are brought up in this, but the author treats them as philosophical allegories instead of rituals. Experts agree that this text is perhaps the most complex and hard to understand of all the gospels listed here.
In the end, this gospel was probably rejected for many reasons. The main reason is that its philosophy is far different than what Christians observe. There are actually portions of it that seem be like other religions and not Christianity at all. This certainly leads some experts to question the authorship. And then the complexity is not very practical for ordinary people.
The Gospel of Truth
It is believed that The Gospel of Truth was written during the second century. Most experts think that the ancient Christian philosopher Valentinus was the likely author. The interesting and perhaps odd name for this text implies that its purpose was to correct and clarify ideas introduced in other gospels. However, just like with the Gospel of Philip, this text is not actually a real gospel. It does not describe Jesus’s life or discuss his deeds. It just reads like a theological book or a sermon.
This gospel was flatly excluded because of the content. It is quite difficult to understand, but the portions that are understood vary greatly from the other canonical Gospels. It was fiercely criticized by practically all of the ancient Christian writers for lots of discrepancies, and it was also considered to be heretical. For those who are interested, this book is available today.
The Gospel of the Savior
This gospel was actually just recently discovered. During the year 1997, American scholars sifted through some archives from a museum in Berlin. In a huge pile of ancient manuscripts, fragments of a never before seen gospel was discovered. Unfortunately, the majority of the book was heavily damaged, but there was enough of it available to get an idea of what the complete text must have been like.
This book tells the story of Jesus, just like the canonical gospels do, but many of main details were different. Jesus does most of the same things and events, but they occur at different places and times.
The Gospel of the Savior was probably authored during the second century, but accurately dating the script has been very hard because there is hardly any historical mention of it in existing records. There is no official reason why the book was rejected, but scholars suspect it was because of its inconsistencies with accepted gospels.
The Gospel of Peter
This book has the claim of being authored by Peter, who was a close friend and disciple of Jesus. However, this is actually not true. To begin with, it was written at least 100 years after the period in which Peter lived. Secondly, it refers to all four canonical Gospels as its sources.
The book was found inside an Egyptian tomb during the 19th century. Christian scholars believe it was probably popular for a limited time before falling out of favor. Many teachings mentioned in the book have become heretical and outdated. For example, it makes the claim that Jesus didn’t suffer at all on the cross.
Like several gospels on this list, only a partial text is available. Fortunately, the part that does remain is quite interesting. The Gospel of Peter has a very common event and scene that describes Jesus ascending to Heaven. Except in this rendition, there are a couple of giant angels who are taller than the sky who are supporting Him as he ascends. There is also a cross that actually talks to the audience and then converses with another voice that is coming from heaven.
The Gospel of Thomas
The Gospel of Thomas is by far most well-known of all the gospels that were excluded from the Bible. The book was written in either the first or second century, but it had been lost for a long time. It was found again in the year 1945 in Egypt. Ever since that discovery, this book has been a fascination of many researchers.
The Gospel of Thomas is very different from all the other gospels. Rather than simply telling the story of Jesus, or even having the mere words of a sermon, it contains sayings of Jesus. The other thing is that the majority of these sayings are not even found in the Bible. Many of them are quite cryptic and actually contradict other sayings that exist in the official Gospels. There are some portions that feature Jesus as a god and not human at all. Almost all scholars think this is one of the primary reasons that this book was excluded. But there is the possibility that the Gospel of Thomas enjoyed popularity during the early years of Christianity.
The Gospel of Mary Magdalene
As most would imagine, the Gospel of Mary Magdalene was one of the most controversial of all gospels to ever be found. A German scholar actually bought the text in Cairo during the 19th century from a prominent antique collector. No one had even known about it until then.
The main reason this gospel has become an important discovery is because of its contents. Like most of the gospels, it also narrates the life of Jesus, but this gospel focuses on His close followers. However, rather than placing the focus on the 12 original disciples that Christians are most familiar with, it focuses on Mary Magdalene and places here at the center of the narrative. Instead of featuring her as a meager, repentant lady that Christians believe her to have been, she is described as a competent philosopher and even a leader. This implies that in early years of Christianity, women had played a more significant role than was previously taught. When you consider the fact that some Christian denominations oppose the idea of female preachers and ministers, having a gospel that states otherwise would drastically change the way many believers perceive Christianity.
The Gospel of Judas
Even more controversial than the Gospel of Mary Magdalene was the Gospel of Judas. It is believed that this book was actually written during the fourth century and was subsequently lost until the 20th century.
Where all the other gospels are named after a follower or disciple of Jesus, this one is named after an antagonist of Jesus. It is well known in the existing gospels that Judas betrayed Jesus for a mere 30 pieces of silver. Since that time, Judas has been viewed as the very epitome of betrayal and treason. Discovering a gospel named after Judas is mind-boggling and almost too bizarre to believe.
When this book was initially exposed to the world, its translation described Jesus in a negative way. Rather than being the protagonist, Jesus is painted as a very dark and menacing person. Even more incredible, Judas, who is portrayed as a villain in the Bible, is actually the protagonist in this gospel! The book implies that it was actually the plan of Jesus to be betrayed, and therefore, Judas was a hero. Several passages found in this book openly challenges many fundamental beliefs in the Christian faith.
However, the text was retranslated, and now much of its content comes across as odd or extreme. While Judas still betrays Jesus, he is no longer made out to be the story’s hero of the story. In any event, whoever originally wrote this book has an agenda and was very critical of Christianity. Thus, this gospel has zero chances of ever becoming part of the Bible.