The archaeological efforts of the 19th and early 20th century resulted in the discovery of many ancient texts discussing the life of Jesus and the first century church. These texts have been called the “lost gospels.” Some of them were truly lost for hundreds of years and have only recently been rediscovered. Another set of books are mentioned in ancient writings but no copies of them exist today. These writings are truly lost. The big question is not if ancient writings about Jesus have been lost or recently rediscovered. The big question is if these writings are gospels.
What is meant by gospels are authoritative, Scriptural records of the life of Jesus. For something to be truly Scriptural it must be inspired by God. Those writings which are truly God’s Word bear certain marks. The Word of God is true, accurate and does not contradict any other portion of God’s Word. Do the lost gospels bear the evidences of being God’s Word?
Some of the rediscovered writings were written within one hundred years of the life of Jesus. Some possibly earlier. Their closeness to the life of Jesus makes them worth considering as credible witnesses of Him. Over a dozen known, early works claim to give additional information about the life of Jesus. Certainly the Bible does not tell everything about the life of Jesus. Scripture tells us it left things out. “And there also many other things that Jesus did.” (John 21:25) Most of Jesus’ life is not recorded in the Bible. Aside from His birth and a short episode when He was twelve, the Bible says nothing about the first 30 years of Jesus’ life. The other writings claim to fill in those gaps.
These “lost” writings may present new information about the life of Jesus, but they are not gospels. They were not treasured by the church or accepted as Scripture. They were rejected by the early church. These lost writings were rejected because they were not written by an apostle. In many cases the author is not known. One key standard for determining if a book is truly from God is if it was written under the direction of a prophet or an apostle. (Ephesians 2:20; 2 Peter 1:21)
The lost gospels were rejected because they contain information that contradicts the known Scriptures. Most of them teach a theology called gnosticism. Gnosticism was a heresy that crept into the church soon after the resurrection of Jesus. Gnosticism taught that the Christian makes spiritual progress by receiving sudden revelation of new truths directly into the person’s spirit. According to gnosticism salvation is gained as the person escapes the physical realm by the increase of knowledge. The gnostic gospels teach a view of the world and salvation that is directly opposed to the teachings of the Bible. In gnosticism, Jesus is not sufficient to save the person from sin. In gnosticism, Jesus is not the eternal God who created all things. The “lost” gospels were rejected because they teach false doctrine. As a result, they were never accepted by the church as truly the Word of God.
The gospels in the Bible are included because they are God’s Word. No other Scriptural gospels exist. God promised to protect and preserve His Word. (Psalm 119:89-91) The church rightly expects God’s Word to always be available to the church. No portion of it will be lost for a significant period of time. Four gospels are included in the New Testament. These same gospels have been recognized as Biblical since the earliest days of the church. The books in the Bible have been preserved by God as His true Word written by holy men of God who wrote as they were directed by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:21) No lost gospels exist. Only rejected gospels.