the shape of leadership

Canonical Gospels vs. Apocryphal Gospels

A conversation with Simon Gathercole

George P Wood on September 15, 2022


Many Gospels circulated in early Christianity. Everyone knows about Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, but what about the Gospel of Peter or the Gospel of Thomas? Why were some Gospels included in the New Testament but not others?

Scholars such as Bart Ehrman reduce the debate to politics: “one of the competing groups in Christianity succeeded in overwhelming all the others,” he writes.

“This group became ‘orthodox,’ and once it had sealed its victory over all of its opponents, it rewrote the history of the engagement — claiming that it had always been the majority opinion of Christianity, that its views had always been the views of the apostolic Churches and of the apostles, that its creeds were rooted directly in in the teachings of Jesus. The books that it accepted as Scripture proved the point, for Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all tell the story as the proto-orthodox had grown accustomed to hearing it.”

But is politics the real explanation for why those four Gospels were canonized? Or is there a deeper reason?

That’s what I’m discussing with Prof. Simon Gathercole in this episode of the Influence Podcast. I’m George P. Wood, executive editor of Influence magazine and your host.

Simon Gathercole is professor of New Testament and early Christianity at the University of Cambridge, editor of New Testament Studies, and coeditor of Early Christianity. His new book is The Gospel and the Gospels: Christian Proclamation and Early Jesus Books, recently published by Eerdmans.

This episode of the Influence Podcast is brought to you by My Healthy Church, distributors of Bible Engagement Project.

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