Objections to the Bible: Missing Books

by Kyle
published October 10, 2015


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I inherited a curious habit from my grandmother. When I meet someone new, I immediately begin trying to figure out what people we have in common. For instance, a man recently began attending my church. When we met, he told me what he did for a living and I immediately began running through all the people belonging to that profession in my mental Rolodex. I discovered that we both know John.

John is a farmer and a brother in Christ. He lives in a particular town close to San Angelo. He has a calm and humble demeanor. He has a set number of children and grandchildren. As I talked to the man in church about John, it became evident that we were talking about the same person because not only did we use the same name for him, but we also described him the same way. If my new friend in church described John as an atheist rocket scientist from Russia, we would both have known pretty quickly that we were talking about different people.

There are ancient documents that were purposefully left out of the Bible. Often, this fact is used to support the claim that the Bible is the willful invention of early Christians. The idea that ancient men cherry-picked the books of the Bible based on what they liked and arbitrarily rejected valid documents that should have been included would certainly cast doubt on the trustworthiness of the Bible. When you read those documents, though, it becomes clear that early Christians were probably right to reject them. The same way I would have known my friend and I would have known we were talking about a different John, the documents left out of the Bible clearly talk about a different Jesus.

These documents are called the gnostic gospels. They include the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Mary Magdalene.

First, scholarship universally recognizes that these documents were not written by Thomas or Mary Magdalene. If they were, they might be reliable, but instead they were written by people more than a century after the death of the people the documents claim they were written by. In scholarship, this is called “pseudonymity.” In ethics, this is called lying.

Second, and more importantly, they directly contradict the character of the Jesus of the Bible.

The Gospel of Thomas is less a story of Jesus’ life than it is a collection of sayings attributed to Jesus. Some of them are similar to things Jesus said in the Bible, but others are wildly different. For example, in verse 25, Jesus says, “Love your friends like your own soul, protect them like the pupil of your eye.” By contrast, the Jesus of the Bible in Matthew 5:43-47 and Luke 6:27-36 calls loving your friends worthless and instead commands people to love their enemies. In verse 27 of the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus says, “If you do not observe the sabbath as a sabbath you will not see the Father.” But the religious leaders in Jerusalem decided to kill the Jesus of the Bible precisely because he worked on the sabbath in Matthew 12:14. Instead of affirming the value of women and offering them eternal life just as they are like the Jesus of the Bible, the Jesus of the Gospel of Thomas requires women to turn into men to go to heaven. The Gospel of Mary Magdalene says nothing about Jesus’ death or resurrection and in 4:26, Jesus actually denies the existence of sin, explaining it as something that humans made up. The Jesus of the Bible not only decried sin, but raised the standard for what sin is. In Mary’s gospel, his purpose is to demonstrate a good example of living. The biblical Jesus claimed that his purpose on earth was “to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). In fact, Jesus predicts his death and resurrection multiple times in each of the biblical gospels, but he doesn’t talk about it once in Thomas or Mary’s pseudonymous gospels.

Put simply, the “missing” books were not included because they don’t talk about Jesus, the God of the Bible or the historic Christian faith at all. They use some of the same words and names, but the differences between the Jesus described by the Bible and the Jesus described by pseudo-Thomas and pseudo-Mary are as wide as the differences between a West Texas cotton farmer and a Russian rocket scientist. Instead of being arbitrary, leaving out these books just makes good sense and makes the Bible more trustworthy rather than less.

What do you think?

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