Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Nerd History: Apocryphal Gospels

I'm not a religious person, and American culture tends to be the exact opposite, to the point of many people believing in a literal interpretation of the Bible. I'm not here for a theological debate, however, but more for a note that the gospels that we do know (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) are not the only gospels that humanity is aware of.

The gospels that aren't part of the "official" bible are commonly known as the Apocryphal Gospels. These gospels are not accepted as official theology for a number of reasons, whether it be authorship, lack of completeness, or even what's believed to be outright blasphemy. That doesn't mean, however, they're not fun to look at.

For example: my favorite one is the Infancy Gospel of Thomas. This gospel looks at the life of Jesus Christ as a child, and, to be blunt, he was a bit of a jerk. He killed a few people and animals and was more or less just a bad kid. Reading it, you could make the case that you, as an 8 year old with the powers of a god, might have done the same thing. The vision of a prepubescent hellion that went on to become one of the most important religious figures in human history is more fun to me.

There's plenty of other books like it, albeit not as exciting. The Gospel of Thomas, for example, purports to be the unvarnished words of Jesus. The Gospel of Judas is presented by an apologist as an opposing view of the man who eventually betrayed Jesus. My favorite book on the topic is Bart Ehrman's Lost Scriptures, which cover the books in more detail and offer some excerpts. More fragments continue to be found to give a clearer picture of the era in which the books were produced, so who knows what else we'll find, but until then, this is a pretty cool little piece of history.

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