Are there any lost gospels?

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.

Is There Any Evidence for Noah’s Flood?

Beginning in the sixth chapter of Genesis, the first book of the Bible, Scripture tells about a great flood which destroyed the whole world and about a man who built a ship in which he and all kinds of animals were saved from destruction. The claim of an globe covering flood is incredible. Nothing remotely close to it has been recorded at any other time in human history. The most destructive floods in recent history have covered 100,000 square miles of land. The flood of Noah’s day covered the earth, nearly 197 million square miles. Is there any proof today to support the Biblical claim of a global flood?

The first challenge regarding proofs of the flood is one of interpretation. The facts of certain things are undeniable, but the explanation of those facts is subject to debate. For example, the rocks on the top of Mt. Everest are filled with fossils of animals found in the ocean. How did those dead animals travel over 30,000 feet to the top of Mt. Everest? The answer of many scientists is that the top of Mt. Everest was at one time on the bottom of the ocean, but when the continents bonked into each other the floor of the ocean was pushed u. The scientists who believe in Noah’s flood say those fossils were deposited on top of Mt. Everest by flood waters. This is not meant to say, nor do most flood geologists believe, the earth was covered with enough water to cover Mt. Everest as it stands today. Before the flood the mountains were much smaller than they are now. As the flood came to its end the movement of the earth’s crust formed the mountains by the collision of continents and the uplifting of mountains.

This article will discuss two pieces of evidence for the flood evident in the world today. First, the presence of global sedimentary layers. Sediment is the dirt and debris carried in water. Anyone who does much boating on a river is familiar with how water carries sand and then deposits it when the current slows down to form sandbars. Fossil layers are rock strata formed in definable layers by water depositing smaller grains of material. Look at the wall of a limestone quarry and the rock will be marked by clearly visible horizontal lines made by the deposition of those rocks. The same thing happened on a much larger scale which formed the rock layers that are the basis of the geologic ages. The geologic column is made up almost entirely of sedimentary rocks. That means most of the fossil layers were were laid down by water. The geologic column is made up of layers that cover huge portions of the world. The same layers of rock found in America are also found in the Middle East. For those layers to cover such large portions of the earth there had to be a massive body of water that laid down the sediment on an international scale.

A second evidence for the flood is bent rocks. Rock is too brittle to bend. However, there are two circumstances where rock can bend. Superheated rock on the verge of melting will bend, kind of like lava. Rock will also bend while it is being formed in water. When rock is like wet clay it will bend. When it dries out it becomes rock hard. Bent rocks can be found all over the world. Drive through a mountainous section of America and bent strata will be evident where the roads were cut through the hillsides.

Can it be determined if the rocks were bent when hot or wet? Yes, it can. Rocks heated enough to bend will show changes in their structure that makes it apparent they were superheated. Geologists have determined most of the bent rocks seen today show no signs of being heated. Therefore, they were bent while still wet and soft. The widespread nature of soft, wet rocks speaks to a widespread event which formed these rocks and which kept them saturated while the mountains were forming. Such an event could only be a flood which covered major portions of the earth.

These and other evidences show Noah’s flood to be a plausible explanation for the world we see around us. The Biblical description of the flood provides a reasonable explanation for many of the features found on the earth today. The only eyewitness testimony of Noah’s flood is recorded in the Bible. The wise will believe it.

Why did God command Israel to destroy the Canaanites?

Some of the more troubling passages in the Old Testament are God’s commands to Israel to completely destroy the Canaanite nations. In Deuteronomy 7:2 God commands, “And when the LORD thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them.” God gave no exceptions. The Israelites were not to allow the Canaanites to stay in the land. They were not to make treaties with them or make them their servants. They were to drive them completely out of the region. If a nation waged this kind of war today their actions would be called war crimes and genocide. A previous article discussed the justice of God in condemning the Canaanties and why the Israelite’s actions were not criminal or immoral. Why did God condemn the Canaanites? What did they do that was so bad?

The Bible points to several reasons for God’s command to destroy the Canaanites. In Genesis 15 God told Abraham his descendants would not be given the land of Canaan for four hundred years because “the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.” God’s command to annihilate the Canaanites is directly related to their sins. The destruction of the Canaanites was the just judgment of God on them for their wickedness.

What sins did the Canaanites commit? The Bible’s describes the Canaanites as irrepresible idolaters. The idolatry of the Canaanites was of the grossest kind and involved frequent child sacrifices. (Leviticus 18:21) For example, the Canaanites offered their children to Molech. The idols of Molech were often formed in the shape of a bull with a hollow interior. The statue was heated with fire. Parents would place their child inside the idol, burning the child to death. Child sacrifice appears to have been a regular feature of Canaanite idolatry. The idolatry of the Canaanites also involved ritual fornication and prostitution. Baal was a fertility god who the Canaanites believed needed to be awakened by the sexual activity of his worshipers. These vile practices attempted to make fornication and prostitution sacred. The Canaanite religion was immoral and violent. God judged them through Israel for their depraved worship of false gods.

God’s displacement of Canaan for Israel was also merciful. He drove out the Canaanites so the worship of His name would be at the center of the world and all the world would know He is God. God chose Israel so the entire world would know Him. God brought Israel out of Egypt and into Canaan so the entire world would know His power. (Joshua 4:24) In 2 Kings 8 King Solomon declared that the whole world would hear of God’s great name. In His wisdom, justice and mercy, God judged Canaan for their sin and placed His people in a central location so the world would know that He is God.

Does the Bible Command Absolute Obedience to the Government?

In times of national or international crisis strong feelings increase against governments. The last one-hundred years in America have seen many protests and riots against the federal, state and local governments. The last several years have endured the shameful chaos of the Black Lives Matter riots and the appalling spectacle of the Capitol riots. Some Americans seem to feel it is their duty to engage in less than peaceful protests.

Does the Bible permit Christian’s to disobey their government? Scripture gives repeated, strong commands to obey the government. “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers.” (Romans 13:1) “Be subject to principalities and powers, obey magistrates.” (Titus 3:1) First Peter says, “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.” When questioned about submitting to the taxes of the Roman government, Jesus taught obedience. “Render unto Caesar that things which are Caesar’s.”

The Bible clearly teaches that Christian’s must obey the government in all things. However, one exception to this rule can be found in the New Testament. The Christian must disobey their government when the governing body demands disobedience to God’s commands. The Christian must obey the government when it says to wear a seat belt or pay taxes. The Christian must not obey the government if it forbids preaching the gospel (or proselytizing, as it is often called) or if it requires Christian churches to solemnize homosexual weddings. The Bible is clear, the Christian must always obey the Bible first and their governors second.

A caution is in order. Disobedience to the government must only take place when a clear command of God is at stake. The mask mandates during the pandemic did not violate God’s Word, therefore, where those mandates were legally enacted the Christian had the duty to obey them. Christian’s may disagree with a law and they have the freedom in America to voice their disagreement and to use all legal means to change the law. Christian’s cannot disobey a law just because they disagree with it or because it violates a strongly held belief. Christian’s are only permitted to disobey when the law of man clearly contradicts the commands of God.

Christians live in obedience to the government but place obedience to God over submission to the government because God is Supreme. God sets up and overthrows governments. God appoints governments and establishes each government official to be a minister of God for the promotion of good, the protection of the innocent and the punishment of evil. (Romans 13:1-6) All governments are under the control of God, even those governments which Him and His authority. The Christian obeys God because God rules over all nation, all kings and all men. The Christian obeys kings, presidents, judges and officers because God rules over all nations and has appointed those officials for good. We must obey earthly authorities because God gave them that authority. To disobey them is to disobey God, but above all else we must obey God in all things.

What does it mean to be “unequally yoked together?”

“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers.” This command from 2 Corinthians 6:14 is the basis of much teaching about what kind of relationships Christians can enter into with unbelievers. This passage is applied to business partnerships, close friendships and marriage. Is this verse intended to limit relationships between Christians and non-Christians?

2 Corinthians 6:14 comes in the middle of a call to the Corinthian church to live in holiness. The passage asks about what opposites have in common. What does Jesus have in common with Satan? What does light have in common with darkness? Because the righteousness of God has nothing in common with the wickedness of idolatry the Corinthians must come out of the practices of paganism. They must separate themselves from idol worship. They must not even touch the things polluted by idol worship. Instead, the Christian must be a new creature in Christ who puts away the sins of the flesh and grows in holiness.

To illustrate this point Paul brings up being yoked together. A yoke is farming equipment, a collar that connected two animals to one another so they could pull a plow or wagon together. Animals of different sizes that are yoked together cannot work. They are unequally yoked and will end up going in circles or getting in each other’s way. Just like two a full grown ox and a yearling calf cannot work together, so Christians and non-Christians cannot work together.

Does this mean then that Christians should not marry non-Christians. This passage is not a direct prohibition against inter-faith marriages or business partnerships, but such a prohibition would be a wise application of the principles in 2 Corinthians 6. How can two enter into a lifelong commitment with one another if they disagree on the most fundamental, and eternal, issues?

The application of this command extends far beyond committed relationships. The point is to correct the Christian’s life and worship. According to 2 Corinthians 6 the child of God has no business participating in the worship of the unsaved and must have no part in the wickedness of this world. A Christian must not participate in the five Muslim prayers. He has no business giving offerings at a Hindu temple or making a sacrifice at a household shrine to one’s ancestors.

The not so obvious application of this passage relates to the gods of America. Americans worship many things that they do not call gods. Americans worship without obvious temples, hymns or liturgies. Americans may not light candles or set out offerings to their gods, but this does not make their worship any less worshipful. The idols of America are “idols in their heart” (Ezekiel 14:4). They are idols of wealth, ease, entertainment, importance and power. A Christian has no more business being a part of the worship of these gods than he does participating in a feast to Odin.

Being unequally yoked together is primarily a joining together with the unsaved in sinful worship or habits. Whether it be in a temple or a backyard, in a church or a stadium, the Christian must separate from all sinful behavior and all idol worship. “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers” insists upon holiness in life that does not love the things of this world (1 John 2:15) and has no part in the works of darkness (Ephesians 5:11).

What is the Apocrypha

Older copies of the Bible include a section that may be unfamiliar to many Bible readers. This section includes books with names like Maccabees, Ecclesiasticus, Tobit, Esdras, and Susanna. These just a few of the fourteen books of the Apocrypha, a collection of books written after the book of Malachi and before the birth of Jesus.

Some of these books, like Maccabees, are historical. They help fill in the gaps of what happened to Israel between the conclusion of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New. Some of these books present further stories about Biblical characters, such as Daniel and Esther. Some of them may be aids in worship, like the Prayer of Azariah. Most Protestants do not believe the Apocrypha ought to be considered part of the Bible, while Catholic doctrine teaches that it should.

The Apocrypha was included as part of the Septuagint, a very early Greek translation of the Old Testament. This has lead many to conclude the translators of the Septuagint considered the Apocrypha to be Scripture. The Council of Carthage, a church council held in 397 A.D., declared the Apocrypha to be part of the Bible. This led to the Catholic church viewing the Apocrypha as Scripture. During the Council of Trent in 1547 they officially declared the Apocrypha to be Scripture.

The New Testament may contain some allusions to Apocryphal books, but this is not certain. Even if the Apostles did reference the Apocrypha this does does not mean they considered the Apocryphal books to be Scripture. The Apostles quoted other books they did not consider to be Scripture. For example, Jude quotes the book of Enoch and seems to treat is as an accurate history. Though he quotes Enoch, Jude does not refer to it as Scripture. In the book of Titus Paul quoted a Greek poet and said the poet’s words were true. His use of the poet is hardly an affirmation that those words are Scripture. The New Testament never directly quotes the Apocrypha and it most certainly does not claim that any portion of the Apocrypha is Scripture.

The Apocrypha cannot be Scripture because it teaches several significant errors. Portions of 2 Maccabees seem to present the ideas of praying for the dead to be forgiven of their sins. This passage is a part of the Roman Catholic basis for their doctrine of purgatory. Another example of false doctrine in the Apocrypha is found in the book of Tobit. “Alms do deliver from death and keeps you from going into the darkness.” (Tobit 4:10) Tobit also says, “Alms … shall purge away every sin.” (Tobit 12:9) This Apocryphal book clearly teaches that salvation can be earned by giving to the poor. The Bible plainly teaches that salvation can never be accomplished by any works we do. (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-6) These apocryphal books cannot be considered the Word of God because they contradict the plain teaching of Scripture.

The Apocrypha is not Scripture, but it does have historical value. The histories presented help us better understand the silent years between the Old and New Testaments. However, this information must be treated like any other ancient historical work. The Apocrypha is helpful and interesting but its teachings must be verified before accepting them as true. Most importantly, no doctrine should ever be developed based upon the Apocryphal writings for they are not the words of holy men of God who spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. (2 Peter 1:21)

Is Galatians about Cultural Elitism?

Some modern Bible teachers have been teaching that certain passages of the New Testament are rebukes of racism or classism. The text in question is not the instruction of James 2, which is a direct rebuke of showing favoritism to the rich. Nor are they referring to the statements in Paul’s letters like Colossians 3:11, “Where there is neither Jew, nor Gree, circumcision, uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bond, nor free: but Christ is all and in all.” These words are a clear statement that racial, national and social differences are eliminated in Christ. All believers are united together a one in Jesus. These truths are clear and are powerful opponents of racism and favoritism in the church.

However, some teachers have turned to other texts to decry elitism. Some have pointed to Galatians and Paul’s rebuke of Peter as a rebuke of promoting Jewish culture to the exclusion of Gentile culture. Paul is confronting Peter’s gospel error, not Peter’s cultural errors. Paul told Peter he was not acting according to the gospel. The climax of Paul’s argument comes when he says, “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ.” Peter’s actions compromised the clarity of salvation by faith alone. Peter’s refusal to eat with Gentiles was not just a cultural thing, it was a gospel issue. Peter was forgetting that they Gentiles were saved by faith in Christ, just like the Jews. He was forgetting the Gentiles had received the Holy Spirit, just like the Jews. Paul rebuked Peter because his actions in refusing to eat with the Gentiles indicated that the Gentiles were not full members of Christianity, that Christ was not sufficient to save them, that they had to keep the law and become Jews to really be Christians. Paul’s rebuke of Peter is a gospel rebuke. It has cultural issues as the background, but Paul is not fighting for cultural differences to be set aside. Paul is fighting for the clarity of the gospel.

In a March 2021 Christianity Today article, Michael Rhodes taught that Paul’s rebuke of the Corinthian church was a rebuke of elitism and classism. He said, “The way they came to the Lord’s Supper reinforced socioeconomic divisions among them.” In 1 Corinthians 11 Paul confronted misuse of the meal associated with the Lord’s Supper. Apparently, the church in Corinth shared a meal together before taking the Lord’s supper. The Bible doesn’t tell us why they had the meal, only that some were going hungry because others were eating before them. Some had too much and others did not have enough. Rhodes said that the rich were being promoted and were establishing their elite status by going first in line, but Paul says nothing about social class in 1 Corinthians 11. Paul rebuked the Corinthians for their selfishness, not their elitism. He tells the believers to eat at home if they are hungry and to let others eat before them. He speaks of of their selfishness and callousness to the needy, not their promotion of the wealthy. Paul’s words have a direct application to how the church handles social and financial status, but Paul’s focus is teaching about class warfare. He is confronting the selfish, greedy, gluttony that will fill its belly at the expense of others.

The Bible clearly teaches that Christians must reject all forms of status oriented, external driven favoritism. Classism, elitism, racism and nationalism have no place in the church. Since the Bible condemns favoritism, what is the harm in teaching a Biblical truth from a wrong passage? The danger is in thinking we can use any passage of the Bible to prove a point. Every passage of the Bible has a meaning that was intended by the original authors. Any meaning drawn out of that passage today must be in accord with the original meaning. To misuse the Bible for a good purpose is still a misuse of Scripture. We have no need to misapply Galatians or Corinthians to make a good point today. God’s Word speaks clearly against racism, let’s pay attention to those passages.