A primary criticism of the New Testament is that critics say that Christians intentionally left out and/or suppressed certain writings, primarily what we call the Gnostic Gospels and that they should be part of our New Testament and aren’t.
We need to take their challenges seriously because our New Testament contains both how to be saved by faith in Jesus AND how to live our lives after we accept Him as Savior in ways that are pleasing to Him.
But there are always alternative voices, ways to be saved, and live a “spiritual” life.
The Gnostic Gospels are an ancient alternative that we are going to look at because it isn’t just scholars who are influenced by them. Here is a typical quote that could be said by many,
“It seems to me that the only true Christians were the Gnostics, who believed in self-knowledge, i.e. becoming Christ themselves, reaching the Christ within, the light is the truth. Turn on the light.”
John Lennon is the person who said it and you don’t have to listen to those famous, past or present, to hear the idea of God within you (without Jesus. This claim is very popular today in some of the philosophical heirs of it in various cults such as Scientology, modern church “progressive” movements, and the challenges of “deconstruction.”
In this lesson, we’ll start with what the Bible warned us about false teachers and then we’ll go into detail showing how these views are false. To do that we’ll read some of the source documents. People are sometimes afraid to read them but they shouldn’t be—don’t simply listen to what critics say about the Bible, check it out and you’ll see for yourself the truth of Biblical teaching.
Below is a free download of the PDF of notes that also contains copies of Gnostic gospels, then the podcast, and two versions of the video. One is the PowerPoint version and one is the live Podcast version.
For files you can use to TEACH this lesson, go to the Bible805 Academy at this link: https://bible805academy.com/b/kxj3u
What isn’t in the New Testament, the Gnostic Gospels then, false gospels and deconstruction today
Teacher, Yvon Prehn
A primary criticism of the New Testament
- Is that critics say that Christians intentionally left out and/or suppressed certain writings, primarily what we call the Gnostic Gospels and that
they should be part of our New Testament and aren’t.
- We need to take their challenges seriously because our New Testament contains both how to be saved by faith in Jesus AND how to live our lives after we accept Him as Savior in ways that are pleasing to Him.
- But there are always alternative voices, ways to be saved, and live a
- The Gnostic Gospels are an ancient alternative what we are going to
look at because…
It isn’t just scholars who are influenced by them
- “It seems to me that the only true Christians were the Gnostics, who believed in self-knowledge, e. becoming Christ themselves, reaching the Christ within, the light is the truth. Turn on the light.”
- John Lennon
- The idea of God within you (without Jesus) is very popular today in some of the philosophical heirs of it in various cults such as Scientology, modern church “progressive” movements and the challenges of
- We’ll get practical on all of these, but first let’s look at what the Bible warned us about them.
Jesus warned us—
there will always be false prophets
- “Watch out for false They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from
thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
- 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never
knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ Matt. 7:15-24
- 24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.
What we see from this passage
- There are false prophets, and we should be able to identify them by
- And Jesus goes on to state what fruit from a false prophet is—thinking that big, bragging actions, miracles even, are what makes you a
- And Jesus clearly says that isn’t It is KNOWING Him that makes an
eternal, saving relationship.
- And how to we do that? Answer is right here and is very simple: “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”
- We must know what are HIS WORDS—the true words of the Bible and what are not because it is in the Bible we get to know the REAL Jesus.
My plan for this lesson to help you do that, here’s how
- Review the foundation for it of why we have the documents we have in our New Testament.
- Brief summary of Gnosticism—basically the idea that special knowledge is required for Scientology is a contemporary example of this as well as spiritual influences of Progressive Christianity and the current trend of deconstructing one’s faith.
- How the Gnostic Gospels were found and an evaluation of them in the same way we evaluated the previous texts.
• We will look at excerpts of the Gnostic gospels, and current
similar thoughts, you’ll have copies in your notes.
- We’ll then circle back to how similar ideas have entered in to current beliefs today and end with challenges on what to do about
In our last lesson
- We established the historical reliability of the New Testament documents—that they can be relied on to give us the true history of who Jesus was and what He did.
- We established the New Testament reliability from manuscript dating, eye-witness accounts, the accounts of those who were not Christians, historians, politicians, and critics who wrote at the same time and shortly after Jesus’ life on earth verifying the New Testament events.
- And we learned that the manuscript evidence was not only in a few fragments, but in thousands of them.
- Please go back to the previous lesson for a review if you haven’t.
- This chart is available at Bible805.com and with the notes for this lesson.
Instead of simply accepting, or being fearful— check out competing claims
- Many things will appear credible if they are simply stated with authority— we will look at two examples in a minute.
- Don’t accept what doesn’t agree with what you have been
- Ask questions—where is the evidence, the hard, factual evidence for claims?
- READ (which you will do) the competing documents—all available
online for free. DON’T just read about them, read THEM.
- They are invariably inferior, fanciful, without anchors to truth, and not what they claim to be.
- This includes not only the gnostic gospels we will be looking at but source documents of other religions including the Bhagavat Gita, the Book of Mormon, and the Koran (see lessons on them).
- Because many people are not familiar with the orginals, they fall for …..
Liberal Scholars & Popular Culture
- Most people never heard of the Gnostic Gospels or writings until:
- Elaine Pagel’s Gnostic Gospels
- Dan Brown’s DaVinci Code
- Brought these manuscripts & beliefs into mainstream
- Basic idea in both is that these discoveries and particularly 3 manuscripts: the Gospel of Mary, the Gospel of Judas, and the Gospel of Thomas are Gnostic Gospels that tell the true story of the early church but were suppressed.
- Let’s evaluate these
The Gnostic Gospels, what they are
- Scholars have long known about them, and they were not
- Primarily two groups of mostly poorly preserved fragments of manuscripts discovered during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by archaeologists at Oxyrhynchus and Nag Hammadi in The manuscripts date from the 1st to the 6th century AD.
- These are the only places these are found—not copied and shared extensively as the NT documents were.
- Only 1-4 (Gospel of Thomas has 4) copies of each separate work
- Various topics, some of the manuscripts tell a very different story about a different Jesus.
- Let’s look at first where they were discovered and a little more about them, then at the documents themselves
Textual Comparisons Summary What is their content?
- Not at all like the 4 Gospels we have in our
- Did not have the name “Gospel” attached to them early on; were NEVER listed with the traditional
4 Gospels, never grouped with them, never included and then suppressed.
- To call them “Gospels” are simply current (somewhat sensational)
names given to them.
- They do not tell the story of Jesus as our 4 Gospels do; DO NOT cover his crucifixion, death, and resurrection.
- Instead, primarily Gnostic stories and Which we will look at before the documents themselves.
- Prepare for a headache……
What is Gnosticism?
- Gnosticism was a kind of Christian mysticism in the early centuries of
- Gnostics got their name from “gnosis” or knowledge, that they believed could be gained of spiritual realities beyond material existence.
- They believed because the material world was subject to decay and death—therefore material flesh was They did not worship the same God as Jews and Christians but taught that He (the God of the Old Testament) was simply a lesser being, a corrupt and ignorant being trying to imitate higher, perfect beings who had created a higher, more perfect spiritual realm.
- Humans were conflicted and disordered because they had both spiritual and material realities conflicting inside them. Through gnosis, sacred understanding, human beings could transcend the flawed material universe and ascend to a spiritual realm. (my note: no divine redeemer or savior needed) https://levelskip.com/rpgs/Gnosticism-in-Pokemon
• It then followed that a person needs a teacher or writings or a group that will give them the special secret knowledge they need to be enlightened and find the “god” within themselves.
That “secret” special knowledge
- Is what makes up the core belief of Gnosticism—that there is some
special secret, and the secret is that that you don’t need an outside Savior, that all you need is to discover the “god within you” and that you need to be taught that .
- However, certain enlightened individuals can know these secrets and pass them on and that is what Jesus did.
- “These are the hidden words that the living Jesus spoke and Didymos
Judas Thomas wrote them down” from the Gospel of Thomas
- We’ll look at it in more detail in a few
- THIS is the same claim of cults, new movements in the faith, that the Bible is not our sole source for faith and practice.
- Some look to a leader or guru—others just council people to “look ”
Judge for yourself
- Let’s look at quotes from these books included in your SEE HANDOUTS of them—don’t be afraid to read things like this.
- And corresponding handouts of some contemporary quotes from Progressive Christianity and a deconstructing church.
- Yes, they are confusing and don’t make logical
- Even a casual reading shows an entirely different voice, underlying teaching, point of view.
- Jesus said (speaking of himself as the Shepherd),
“the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” John 10:4b,5
- Jesus doesn’t play games or try to confuse
Gospel of Thomas
- After the Coptic version of the complete text was discovered in 1945 at Nag Hammadi, scholars soon realized that three different Greek text fragments previously found at Oxyrhynchus, (between 1897-1904) also in Egypt, were part of the Gospel of Thomas.
- 3 Greek and one Coptic Manuscript
- Manuscripts from 200s to 340
- Unknown author
Gospel of Mary
- Evaluated and dated in the same way that we did other New Testament
- The Gospel of Mary
discovered in 1896 in a 5th century papyrus codex.
- 3 fragments
- Written 120-180 AD
- Unknown author
Gospel of Judas—only 1 copy, recent, Big PR on it
Been around so long, Charles Spurgeon
- EVENING Devotions “Who of God is made unto us 1 Corinthians 1:30
- Man’s intellect seeks after rest, and by nature seeks it apart from the Lord Jesus Christ. Men of education are apt, even when converted, to look upon the simplicities of the cross of Christ with an eye too little reverent and loving. They are snared in the old net in which the Grecians were taken, and have a hankering to mix philosophy with revelation. The temptation with a man of refined thought and high education is to depart from the simple truth of Christ crucified, and to invent, as the term is, a more intellectual doctrine. This led the early Christian churches into Gnosticism, and bewitched them with all sorts of heresies. This is the root of Neology, and the other fine things which in days gone by were so fashionable in Germany, and are now so ensnaring to certain classes of divines. Whoever you are, good reader, and whatever your education may be, if you be the Lord’s, be assured you will find no rest in philosophizing divinity. You may receive this dogma of one great thinker, or that dream of another profound reasoner, but what the chaff is to the wheat, that will these be to the pure word of All that reason, when best guided, can find out is but the A B C of truth, and even that lacks certainty, while in Christ Jesus there is treasured up all the fulness of wisdom and knowledge. All attempts on the part of Christians to be content with systems such as Unitarian and Broad-church thinkers would approve of, must fail; true heirs of heaven must come back to the grandly simple reality which makes the ploughboy’s eye flash with joy, and gladens the pious pauper’s heart–“Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.” Jesus satisfies the most elevated intellect when he is believingly received, but apart from him the mind of the regenerate discovers no rest. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” “A good understanding have all they that do his commandments.”
An insightful comment not only of this books, but many of the same school of thought
- In one sense, I think the author’s critique of conservatives who proclaim Christ’s death but ignore the implications of Jesus’ life as it relates to social justice issues is fair. But I think a focus on Jesus’ life (as it relates to social justice) without an appropriate understanding of the eternal significance of Jesus’ death leaves you with a lot of good works and nice feelings in this life, but, in my opinion, an eternity in Hell.
- From a critique of Rachel Held Evans book, Inspired
- Identified as a “homeschooling mom, who also has an engineering ”
- Postscript note from Yvon: those who ignore social justice, do so with an incomplete grasp of scripture as from the earliest laws in the Old
Testament to Jesus’s description of the final judgment in Matthew 25, the true biblical attitude towards the poor and those less fortunate ought to be mercy, giving, and care. A critique of the lack of caring by “conservatives” is also often a straw man as the church of Jesus is the originator of many forms of social welfare, charities, hospitals and other forms of social services even today.
Summary Comparison NT and Gnostic writings
- Based on OT Prophecy, Theology
- Consistent message
- Verified authors
- Eyewitness accounts
- Written soon after events
- Hundreds of manuscripts for each book
- Accepted by the church universally
- Reliable source for salvation and growth as a disciple
- Based on Gnostic belief system
- Inconsistent, scattered teachings
- False authors
- No eyewitness accounts
- Written 100 or more years after events
- 1-4 manuscripts per book
- Condemned by the church fathers
- Deceptive source of salvation and spiritual growth
Why so important to understand Gnostic thought & writing?
- The Gnostics preach and teach
an entirely different Jesus and Gospel.
- Obvious why not included in the canon, accepted books—not even around when the inspired books were accepted by the majority of the Christian church.
- Teaching more in common with other religions, cults, aberrant forms of Christianity today (Progressive, deconstructed).
- The idea that you don’t need a Savior outside you—that “god” is within you and YOU have the power to tap into it has always been appealing since Satan told Eve she could “become like God” if she ate the forbidden fruit and it is still tempting today.
People think they are doing something new in “deconstructing”
- But it is primarily recycling old
- 2 books I highly recommend:
- Before You Lose Your Faith: Deconstructing Doubt in the Church
- Another Gospel?: A Lifelong Christian Seeks Truth in Response to Progressive Christianity
- Tried but true example—get to know the original so well, so you can spot counterfeit—Childers uses example of Brie cheese—that’s a good
In contrast to the fanciful sayings of the Gnostic Gospels
- A correct New Testament teaches us how to be saved and how to live
- Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. John 20:30,31
- All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17
- We won’t believe, how to be sure of our eternal salvation, or know how to live if we don’t have a correct text.
- But as I trust you can see from this lesson and the previous lesson, we DO have a historically verifiable, trustworthy text—our primary application is to READ IT and LIVE IT!