Books not included in the NT?

Does anybody have a rough idea on how many books were up for but did not make it into the NT canon… It seems there are atleast 10 that come up regularly, but surely there were many other writings that were atleast considered that were not as prominent.


There were a number of books that were considered Scriptural by various Church figures in the first centuries of Christianity, and it often broke down on regional grounds. The Four Gospels, Acts, and the 13 letters of Paul were basically accepted everywhere by everyone (at least everyone orthodox) by the middle of the 2nd century. But all the other books were disputed in some form or other, and other books were also included in some regions’ canons. Here are some examples:

Irenaeus in the latter half of the 2nd century accepted the Shepherd of Hermes as Scripture.

The Muratorian Canon, which dates to the 2nd half of the 2nd century, included the Wisdom of Solomon and the Revelation of Peter in the canon (although it acknowledged that the Revelation of Peter was not accepted in some Churches). It explicitly rejected the Shepherd of Hermes as scriptural.

Tertullian (early 3rd century) accepted the Shepherd of Hermes (until he became a Montanist).

Clement of Alexandria (early 3rd century) accepted Shepherd of Hermes, 1 Clement, Epistle of Barnabas, Revelation of Peter, and the Didache.

Origen (mid-3rd century), also of Alexandria, accepted 1 Clement, Epistle of Barnabas, and Shepherd of Hermes but acknowledged they were disputed.

Eusebius of Caesarea in the early 4th century makes the following distinctions:


  • Four Gospels and Acts
  • Epistles of Paul (including Hebrews)
  • 1 John
  • 1 Peter
  • Revelation of John (by some)


  • James
  • Jude
  • 2 Peter
  • 2 & 3 John


  • Acts of Paul
  • Shepherd of Hermas
  • Revelation of Peter
  • Epistle of Barnabas
  • Didache
  • Revelation of John (by some)
  • “other” Gospels: to the Hebrews, Peter, Thomas, Matthias

By the end of the 4th century, there was general agreement on the 27-book canon we have today.

So it looks like the following books were accepted at least by some prominent figures or churches at one time or another but were eventually rejected:

Shepherd of Hermas
1 Clement
Wisdom of Solomon
Revelation of Peter
Epistle of Barnabas

The fact that Eusebeus explicitly mentions some other “Gospels” (to the Hebrews, Peter, Thomas, Matthias) as being inauthentic probably means that some people or groups accepted them, but likely not very many since we don’t have any other record of their support.

Thank You this was a good list:) … I’ve read that there could have been hundreds… do you think that’s possible or do you think there were probably only around 40 to 50 or so? I’m sure we don’t know the exact number, but if these were the highly debated ones, then there were probably others that were offered up but never really highly debated so they were thrown out and never really mentioned by the Fathers. Would this make sense?


I am sure that there were many documents floating around; in fact, some are mentioned in other writings but we have no copy of them today. Luke himself mentions that he consulted other writings in compiling his Gospel, and that was the middle of the 1st century.

However, I don’t think many writings outside of our NT were ever considered as Scriptural. The consensus on the four-fold Gospel was very strong and very early - no other Gospels really ever were seriously considered. Paul’s 13 letters too gained widespread consensus early in the process. Since the early Church was so particular about what could be read in the liturgy (the primary means used to determine if a book would be considered “canonical”), I doubt many other writings were seriously considered. It’s not like a writing could just pop up one day and the churches would start to read them at the liturgy - they were generally very conservative (at least the orthodox churches were) and would only accept something into the liturgy that had passed on to them from the time of the apostles. This would eliminate the vast majority of later writings.

The number I often hear is 110 books were considered, albeit some more seriously than others. Henry Graham’s “How We Got the Bible” is where I seem to recall getting this information.

Hmmmm… thanks Jon… I haven’t read that book… is it worthy of a read?


Yes, it’s a good easy read. I think you can find it free as an e-book. Google Henry Graham “How We Got the Bible”. The Sub-title is “Our Debt to the Catholic Church”.

its rather funny, Fr. Mitch Pacwa is speaking about some of these books as we speak…

Don’t forget about the Infancy Gospel of Thomas and the hoardes of other gnostic books.

If you ever want to read these books and see just how outlandish they are…

look for the subheading Church Fathers

Don’t forget about the Infancy Gospel of Thomas and the hoardes of other gnostic books.

Remember that these books, unlike some others such as the Shepherd of Hermes or 1 Clement, were never considered by the great Church to be part of the canon - they were simply either devotional writings never intended to be Scripture or writings embraced by heretic groups to counter orthodox beliefs and claims.

The church probably destroyed many gospels. In 1945 the Nag Hammadi papers were found in a clay jar, with scrolls of gnostic gospels that the church probably thought they had eradicated. The Gospel of Thomas is one of them. Many of these gnostic churches believed in reincarnation, even Origen believed in it. The church did not think reincarnation was compatible with the ressurection of the body after death. They also wanted people to put their faith in Jesus and the church for everything and not try to find an individual spiritual path.

Sure… I was initially interested in any books or writings that were presented or even brought up that atleast some bishop of the Church had to read through and say, “I don’t think so”… but all information is interesting.


Where do you get information that the Church destroyed false gospels?

There had been references to them, but until the discovery in 1945there was no evidence of them. That leads to the conclusion that these books were destroyed en masse, but someone hid this pot containing the gospels away in a cave.

That leads to evidence that they were destroyed, yes. But don’t necessarily point the finger at the Church. It was common practice among invading armies that the first things destroyed when conquering a city or country was the library.

The intent was to wipe out the cultural unity that could bind various factions into rising up against the invaders. This is also why you see people like the Assyrians taking the 10 tribes of Israel and dispersing them throughout their realm. Break the national identity of someone and its easier to assimilate them into your culture.

I think that 2000 years of warfare destroyed the gnostic gospels. But the greater loss was the wealth of information on the early Church. Its sad to think of the knowledge and wisdom that was burned up and destroyed.

There had been references to them, but until the discovery in 1945there was no evidence of them. That leads to the conclusion that these books were destroyed en masse,

That is a faulty conclusion. You have to remember the culture of the times. Almost EVERY writing is lost from that time; not from some plot to suppress information, but just from the fragility of the medium and the vicissitudes of history. There were very few copies of most documents, so it was quite easy to lose them over time.

When the monks had to decide which writings to copy for posterity, naturally they would choose the ones they found valuable, which would leave out most writings they would consider heretical - there were simply not enough resources to copy everything. This is a much different situation than some supposed decision to have “these books…destroyed en masse.”

Yes, it’s sad that it was destroyed and you are right, it could have been other people who destroyed the documents. Here is an interesting link to the Gnostic gospels and their binary soul ideas.

Methinks this is merely someone using their bias to jump to a conclusion that they wish to believe is true.

Take, for example, this quote:

The Roman Church misunderstood what the Logos was in John and incorrectly concluded from this that only Jesus is divine - the Word made flesh. The orthodox Church either rejected or ignored this Christian Gnostic concept found in John. This may have been a factor when the gospel of John was almost rejected from New Testament canon when it was being put together. This was during a time when Christian Gnosticism became an enemy of the organized Church. Nevertheless, it was the idea of the preexistence of the soul and its corresponding doctrine of reincarnation that the Roman Church had great difficulty with.
Some of the most important writings of the early Church come from St. Ignatius, who was a disciple of John. St. Polycarp, another disciple of John, then taught St. Ireneaus.

I would trust disciples of John and their disciples to understand what John meant by “The Logos” and not a sect that the Early Church rejected.

But one thing is, the Church keeps matters like this available for posterity’s sake, in the hope that we don’t make the same mistake the early Gnostics make. Sadly, this guy’s website proves that this is a vain hope.

Only 27 of all of the hundreds of thousands of books in existance at the time were included in the New Testament.

Wow!! Do you work for Microsoft? :wink:

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit