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Lost Gospels That Are Still Lost 1

QUESTION:

Are there any lost gospels mentioned by early Christian authors that have not been discovered yet?

RESPONSE:

Ah, this is a great question. The answer is definitely yes. But I don’t think I know all of them, and it would be worth while compiling a list. Maybe someone has compiled one already. In fact, someone probably has! I just don’t recall ever seeing one.

But there are indeed Gospels mentioned by Christian authors that we no longer have. I think I’ll spend a few posts talking about some of them, starting in this post with the best known instance – one that no longer applies since it has now been found. This of course is (not the Gospel of Jesus’ wife – which is never mentioned by any ancient source – but) the Gospel of Judas, mentioned by the church father Ireanaeus as used by the Gnostic sect known as the Cainites, but until just a few years ago, completely unknown.

I was involved with the publication of the Gospel of Judas – National Geographic wanted me to help them authenticate it and to explain why it mattered – and so I have some stake in the matter. I discuss the whole business in my book The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot, one of the funnest books to write that I’ve ever produced.

I won’t go into all the ins and outs of the discovery, delays in recognizing the Gospel’s very existence (many years!), eventual “coming to light”, authentication, and publication – unless lots of people want me to post on this (it’s all in my book). But I will say something about how we knew about the Gospel before it turned up, because there are certainly other Gospels like this that we know of only from a reference to it in an ancient writing, that we, however, unfortunately no longer have.

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Lost Gospels That Are Still Lost 2: The Gospel of Basilides
The Apocryphal Gospels: Texts and Translations

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Comments

  1. Avatar
    nazam44  November 12, 2012

    Dr Ehrman, what are your views concerning ‘Q’, do you believe that there was ever such a document which is now lost? If so why does Q lack any direct reference to Christ’s death and resurrection and to his divinity? Kindest Regards.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  November 12, 2012

      Yup, I think it existed; and I think we can know what was in it (agreements of Matthew and Luke that are not in Mark) but NOT what was *not* in it; so I’m not sure if it had a passion narrative. I may post on this question soon.

  2. Avatar
    Adam  November 12, 2012

    Why do you think the lost gospels were lost? Was it by accident or intention (suppressed by a group?). If suppressed by the “orthodox” form of Christianity , how did this group exert its power and influence?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  November 12, 2012

      My guess is that in most instances they became “lost” simply because no one was interested in reading them any more and so no one copied them; I don’t think there were massive book burnings among the Christians.

  3. Avatar
    toddfrederick  November 12, 2012

    Related to the “lost Gospels” is what happened to the oldest of the oldest of the oldest Canonical Gospels and the Epistles and Acts. I’ve often thought that those high up in the very early churches, those to whom Paul wrote, and those who had the original documents from the Gospel writers, and Q and other original sources would have taken *great care* to keep them safe. I once saw a tiny fragment from the Gospel of John dating in the second century. Any others or are we only looking of copies of copies of copies ad infinitum?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  November 12, 2012

      Yes, regrettably the early Christians didn’t see any reason to hold on to the originals or the early copies. Too bad! To this point, the earliest fragment to be published still dates to the early second century (it’s only the size of a credit card).

      • Avatar
        toddfrederick  November 13, 2012

        Ah yes…the apocalyptic expectation. I think that’s the fragment I saw. It was very tiny.

    • Avatar
      jimvj  January 3, 2013

      It is curious that the early converts in places far from Galilee did not hunger for more details about the earthly life of Jesus. At least, any hunger is absent in the epistles of Paul. You would think Paul would tell them something like “I’m going to meet with Peter, James and others who walked with Jesus; I shall find out more about his life from them, and pass those details on to you in my next letter.” In fact, the lack of curiosity on Paul’s part is astonishing. One would think he would ask the original apostles to write (or dictate) details of Jesus’ life.

      • Bart Ehrman
        Bart Ehrman  January 3, 2013

        Yes, it’s one of the real mysteries of earliest Christianity. Of course it’s *possible* that Paul knew a lot about the historical Jesus and told his converts and put them in touch with Peter and James. But, well, there’s no evidence for that, and some things (Paul’s hard to explain silences) seem to tell against it….

  4. Avatar
    SJB  November 12, 2012

    Sorry if I’m jumping the gun here and you’re going to post about it but would you consider “Q” to be a lost gospel? If so do you think there may have been other gospels written in the first century more or less contemporary with Luke and Mathew, perhaps not based on Mark, that didn’t survive because L & M became to be considered authoritative?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  November 12, 2012

      Yup, I’ll talk about Q on the blog soon.

      • Avatar
        toddfrederick  November 13, 2012

        Good…I also have questions about Q and how Jesus presented his teachings.

  5. Avatar
    gonzalogandia  November 12, 2012

    A little off topic but In keeping with the topic of variety of books written in antiquity, is there proof that the city of Nazareth existed? People say that a city named Nazareth most likely did not exist during the supposed lifetime of Christ. And apparently, no historian or geographer of the time period ever mentions Nazareth. Furthermore, the first mentions come in the 4th century. Nazareth is absent from all early rabbinic literature. In your opinion, did it exist? What is the evidence either way?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  November 12, 2012

      Yup, there’s lots of proof. In fact, archaeologiest have located it and dug parts of it up! My friends the mythicists often claim that it didn’t exist in the time of Jesus, but that’s completely bogus. I give the evidence in my book, Did Jesus Exist.

  6. Avatar
    samchahal  November 12, 2012

    Hi

    This is a little irrelevant to the above post , howver I wanted to ask You.

    What do You think about he 2008 discovery of the “Gabriel revelation” stone as that seems to imply a “messianic resurrection after 3 days ” ideology within Judaism whereas You have said in the past that there was no such idea in Judaim in the past.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  November 12, 2012

      Experts have discounted it, but I haven’t kept up with the discussion. My sense is that there hasn’t *been* much discussion since it was decisively discredited.

      • Avatar
        samchahal  November 14, 2012

        ok thats interesting you say that as I cannot find any article or view that this stone was discounted as being a fake , quite the contrary , even wiki seems to place it as being authentice from the “dead sea scroll” period and seems to indicate one , Simon son of Joseph as a Messiah figure who was beheaded by the Romans and this stone implies who would be resurrected in 3 days. very interesting , what do you think?

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  November 14, 2012

          I’ll have to look into it!

          • Avatar
            samchahal  November 14, 2012

            Great thankyou look forward to hearing your view on it!

          • Avatar
            johnbutleruk  February 21, 2017

            Hi Bart,
            apologies if you do address this in a later blog. Did you find time to look into the “Gabriel revelation” stone and, if so, what do you think?
            Many thanks!
            John

          • Bart
            Bart  February 24, 2017

            The key words on the stone that might intimate a suffering messiah who rises in fact are not on the stone; they have to be “supplied” by the interpreter. That’s obvoiusly a rather key problem….

  7. Avatar
    nichael  November 12, 2012

    An additional point and a question:

    First, concerning the Cainites –as well as the Gnostics in general– “revering” unexpected characters, another notable example occurs in The Hypostasis of the Archons (from Nag Hammadi) in which the serpent in Eden is explicitly identified as Christ[!]

    A Coptic question about the title of “The Gospel of Judas”. It is common practice in English translations, of course, to render the titles of gospels as “The Gospel of X” (e.g. Mark), although the Greek preposition [kata] would be more properly translated as “according to”.

    However, my understanding is that the title of this gospel really does mean “_of_ Judas” (i.e. “about Judas”); in short, this is not Jesus’ story as told by Judas, but rather _Judas’_story (that is, the tale of Judas “doing Jesus a favor” by betraying him and thereby allowing Jesus to escape this lower, “false” world).

    So, in short, does this make sense?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  November 12, 2012

      Yes, you’re right, that is what the Gospel title is (it is actually a subscription rather than superscription — i.e. it comes at the *end* of the book, as titles normally did), and some scholars have indeed argued what you are suggesting. The grammar is a bit ambiguous, though; it could be the Gospel “about” Judas; it could be the Gospel “belonging to” Judas; it could be the Gospel “by” Judas; etc. But when you look at the content of the Gospel itself, it seems that it is not “by” Judas as he is a figure in the Gospel talked about in the third person. On the other hand, the same is true about Matthew in the Gospel “according to” Matthew!

      • Avatar
        judaswasjames  November 20, 2013

        Bart,

        Scholars do not understand Mystic teaching. If you did, you would know that this is “The Gospel of Judas”, not The Gospel of Jesus from a new point of view. Read what it says, not what your orthodox bias tells you it says. “You will exceed them all [the disciples] for you will sacrifice the man that bears me.” Remember what Jesus tells Judas in 36:1:? “For someone else *will replace you, in order that* the Twelve [disciples] may again come to completion in their God.” Jesus says here that HE will replace Judas spiritually, and save the Twelve — and that is INCLUDING JUDAS! The “man” sacrificed is JUDAS, not Jesus. Paul never knew Judas. He is fiction. Spong pointed that up.

        And at 46:23: “You will become the Thirteenth, and you will be cursed by the other generations, and you will come to rule over them.” Ever read Marsanes? “But as for the Thirteenth seal [heavenly level], I have established it, together with the summit of Gnosis and the certainty of rest.” (2:15) and “The Thirteenth speaks concerning the Silent One who was not known, and the primacy of the One who was not distinguished.” (4:20). And Pistis Sophia, which also extols the exalted Thirteenth? DeConick did get it right that there is a ‘bad’ Judas, but none of you saw that the Gospel of Judas is the story of his TRANSFORMATION into Master.

        Scholars did a huge disservice by trying amongst yourselves — and I mean the Nat. Geo. advisory committee, with eight of your nine members either Christian, affiliated with Christian institutions, or coming from orthodox backgrounds (you) — to decipher this tractate without expert, unbiased help. Had you come to any Mystic, like myself for example, you would not have dropped the ball and given everyone the impression that the Gospel of Judas has nothing new to say about the “Betrayer”, besides the silly notion that he was simply acting to turn in Jesus at his own behest. Why would Jesus NEED “handing over” anyway? Your logic is that the reason he needed handing over was his release from his corporeal body. But he was going to die anyway! He was a human after all, wasn’t he? This is the gnostic Gospel of JUDAS, not Jesus! *Judas* is the “good news”. HE is become Master and savior. THAT is the rock-the-world sensation of this find. And ‘Judas’ is James. He dreams he is stoned to death. All other sources, including the Bible, give James preeminence after Jesus’ death. You guys blew it. Now I have to try to fix the mistake. Wish me luck, OK? I’m going to need it. Only Eisenman has offered any help, with his disclosure that Acts 1’s death of Judas and the “election of Matthias” is about James. He inspired me to examine “the Betrayal” where I found abundant mystic evidence in all four canonicals for James as successor.

        http://www.judaswasjames.com/

        Why won’t you talk to me? I have posted the gist of this more than once here before these few weeks. This is a monumentally important revelation. If I don’t instigate further investigation into this, *someone* someday will, for sure. I assure you Judas is the inverted character hiding James. All it takes is a familiarity with Mystic teaching. The lack of it in your ranks is why we are so far getting nowhere with the new discoveries. (See http://www.RSSB.org) I’m not the only one to reveal ‘Judas’ as James the Just. Dr. Eisenman made that discovery. The Mysticism of the Scrolls, Nag Hammadi, and Gospel of Judas are the Way forward now. Why not get on board sooner, rather than LATER? The case is made in the details, like Eisenman says of his “New Testament Code”. My chapter on James in ‘the Betrayal’ is solid. It’s a coverup of James. This will be the new paradigm one day.

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  November 20, 2013

          I tend to deal only with questions directed to me that are asked succinctly and that I can answer directly. (I have an ungodly amount of email to deal with, plus all these comments every day, plus my blog posts, plus my students, plus my research, plus my life: I simply can’t interact with everyone who has an opinion different from mine. I don’t have the hours or minutes. We need to invent more of these. But I’m happy to post your views as you set them forth so others can see them.)

          • Avatar
            Maurices5000  November 1, 2015

            I and I’m sure others greatly appreciate the insight you provide.

  8. Avatar
    samchahal  November 17, 2012

    any thoughts on the Gabriel stone? thanks

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