Sensing a Hollow Canon: The Judas Gospels

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I’ve been trying to avoid all the hype about this lately, but I found a brilliantly readable analysis (in an unexpected place) by Donald Sensing, who finds the “Judas Gospel” A Yawner. In particular, he does a fantastic job of placing this within the historical context of canonization. [Read more] for some excerpts (emphasis mine).

…What happened is that by the middle of the second century Christians increasingly made a distinction was made between the apostolic time and their own. Also, there were so many writings claiming Christian authenticity that documents of genuine apostolic origin were being squeezed out. Through a complex series of episcopal meetings, by the fourth century the Church decided that only Gospels of actual apostolic origin should be considered canonical. That meant that writings well known to the Church, such as the Didache (Teaching of the Twelve Apostles), Gospel of Peter, First Letter of Clement, Letter of Barnabas, Apocalypse of Peter and Shepherd of Hermas, and now the so-called Judas gospel were excluded. They simply dated far too late to have apostolic authority. In the case of the Judas document (but not only it), they were works of imaginative fiction, novels basically, which could not form the basis of preserving the teachings of the apostles who had known Christ personally.

…The main three criteria were apostolic origin, true doctrine and widespread geographical usage. Satisfying all three of these criteria resulted in rejection of many writings from the Christian canon because they were not apostolic or were unconnected to the apostolic age, or they were local writings without support in many areas. The question of divine inspiration was not thought very important by many church leaders because they held that the Spirit’s inspiration was continuous. So a writing might be thought divinely inspired but still not make the cut as canonical.

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