You just found a new gospel

You were out for a stroll near the caves at Qumran and happened across a little clay pot. You pick up the pot and find some very old manuscripts in it. You happen to be an expert in Biblical texts and koine Greek and try to make out what is on the pages. You realize that this is an incredible discovery, a NEW GOSPEL that seems to have been inspired by the Gospels of Thomas and Phillip. A lot of what it says you can’t make out, but some of it is rather “juicy” and throws the traditional narrative of the life of Christ into disarray.

You take it back home with you are left alone in your house with the manuscript, knowing that this is an incredible discovery that will shed light on the early Christian world but is totally gnostic and potentially very dangerous to the faith of many people.

There’s a blowtorch nearby. What do you do?

The canon is already sealed, as far as I know, so I don’t think it’s a huge issue if some other apocryphal/non-canonical gospel was found. It would certainly be of academic interest, so no, I most certainly wouldn’t blowtorch it. :shrug:

Remember, even works that aren’t canonical, such as the Protoevangelium of James (which I know is not Gnostic, but I’m using it as an example of an ancient source which wasn’t deemed as canonical by the Church) can contain interesting information that can potentially shed light on Scripture – this Protoevangelium makes the case for Mary’s perpetual virginity, explaining that Christ’s “brethren” are actually his step-brothers through Joseph and a previous marriage of his (that St. Jerome would challenge this later is irrelevant; in any case, Mary’s perpetual virginity is left intact.)

So while it certainly won’t be considered inspired and make its way into canon, there’s no good reason to outright destroy it.

EDIT: Erm, OK, did you just add the poll now? :confused: I swear I didn’t see it before.

No the poll was original to the post.

Of course it’s academically interesting, but could it possibly inspire the next generation of Dan Brown-ish literature?

I suppose one would need to consider which would be the lesser of two evils: the loss of an ancient document which may contain interesting information but on the other hand may be a source of heterodoxy; or the possibility of polemic fiction being written based on this document.

Can’t answer the poll. The answer is obvious, turn it over to the church and be Obedient to Her…

Neither option in the poll is sufficient, and I don’t know that St. Jerome would advocate the burning of a non-canonical text. I would preserve it for historical and academic interests. There are lots of gospels out there, there are only 4 (canonical) Gospels - that will not change in light of such a discovery. What those who are not obedient to the Church want to make of a ‘new’ ‘gospel’ is up to them.

There was an age in which the Church went around trying to destroy these very kinds of texts, FWIW. That’s what makes these discoveries rare and not already commonly available.

I hadn’t heard of the Church trying to destroy non-canonical/heterodox/Gnostic gospels; I do know Bibles which had copyist errors were burned. It’s possible that what you’re saying is correct, but I’ve never heard that claim before.

The Church has spoken. I trust Her. Burn it.

When has the Church spoken on this? Just curious. :slight_smile:

What did She say?

The Church has spoken from the very fact that the Canon is closed. Like I said in the first post, this is, on its face, a Gnostic Gospel, not something like the protoevangelion of James…

A quick Google search should provide you with information on the destruction of these sorts of texts.

BUT, it certainly could be valuable academically.

I understand and know that the canon is closed, that does not mean that anything else that shows up from a similar time frame needs to be wiped off the face of the planet. I’m not saying that this isn’t what the Church actually did with these kinds of documents, but I’m asking, when has the Church made it an explicit requirement for them to destroyed?

Of course cannon is closed. So the manuscript could be studied in a correct theological setting. Bottom line, the church should decide the value and purpose of a historical manuscript.

To miraculously find a piece of writing like that intact from the first century and then burn it would not only be unwise, unfair, and irresponsible…it would be a crime against humanity.


Not only that but the definition of a “gospel”. Is different. There are only the finite gospels. But there are many historical manuscripts to help us understand the early Church. From them we can see better the heresy they had to dicern as false. A new source would be valuable for that purpose. Either way it is not for us to decide what is and is not worth saving. It is the church’s right.

Why don’t you help me out with that and give me a link or two?

Originally Posted by Micosi
I hadn’t heard of the Church trying to destroy non-canonical/heterodox/Gnostic gospels; I do know Bibles which had copyist errors were burned. It’s possible that what you’re saying is correct, but I’ve never heard that claim before.

After the canon was somewhat decided upon, Athanasius–among many others–condemned the use of non-canonical books in 367 A.D.
No freedom of religion then, that’s for sure. I find it unforgivable.

Thank goodness a handful of thinking people, like those at that Egyptian monastery, had the foresight to secretly bury some books…like the codices that were found in 1945 that now make the Nag Hammadi library.
When I think of all the other books that were banned and burned, never to be seen by us, it makes me sick.

These are writings that give us insight into the people of that time.
To burn them just because one doesn’t agree with them…or just because they contradict what one believes…is selfish and wrong.


This old chestnut again?

The source for the claim that Athansius ordered the burning of book is Elaine Pagels, “In AD 367, Athanasius, the zealous bishop of Alexandria… issued an Easter letter in which he demanded that Egyptian monks destroy all such unacceptable writings, except for those he specifically listed as ‘acceptable’ even ‘canonical’ — a list that constitutes the present ‘New Testament’”. [Elaine Pagels, *Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas (Random House, 2003)], Pagels cites Athanasius’s Paschal letter (letter 39) for 367 AD, which merely prescribes a canon, but no where explicitly order monks to destroy excluded works.

**In other words its a damned lie. **[and I mean that quite literally, not as a curse]

Similar thought: How would one know they had found a “new GOSPEL?” I somehow don’t think the original manuscripts of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John had “Euaggelion” across the top page.

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