Tuesday, October 13, 2020





The word "gospel"  is derived from the Anglo-Saxon term god-spell, meaning “good story,” etymologically from Latin evangelium and the Greek euangelion, meaning “good news” or “good telling.” 

Though it is taught to us that gospels are words of god, evidently, for over a century there has been a broad consensus among scholars that many of the books of the New Testament were not written by the people whose names are attached to them. There is no “original” version of the Bible simply because the Bible is a collection of (certain) books written by different authors, in different ages, sometimes in different languages, from different oral traditions, copied many times, translated in many languages, adapted, edited, … The oldest extant copy of a complete Bible is an early 4th-century parchment book preserved in the Vatican Library, and it is known as the Codex Vaticanus

The  Gospels are filled with discrepancies large and small. There are so many differences among the four Gospels. For instance, in the book of John, Jesus talks about himself and proclaims who he is, saying "I am the bread of life." Whereas in Mark, Jesus teaches principally about the coming kingdom and hardly ever mentions himself directly. If the historical Jesus actually went around saying that he was God, it's very hard to believe that Matthew, Mark and Luke left out that part . These gospels are known to us with the names of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John because they were traditionally thought to have been written by Matthew, a disciple who was a tax collector; John, the "Beloved Disciple" mentioned in the Fourth Gospel; Mark, the secretary of the disciple Peter; and Luke, the traveling companion of Paul. But truly they are not the original authors of the books. All four authors were anonymous (the modern names were added in the 2nd century), almost certainly none was an eyewitness to the life of Jesus, and all are the end-products of long oral and written transmission The original manuscripts of the New Testament books are not known to have survived. What we get  are just copies made centuries after the originals from other copies rather than from the autograph. So we have only copies of copies of copies….

Gospels are a genre of Early Christian literature claiming to recount the life of Jesus. The four canonical gospels were probably written between CE 66 and 110. Mark was the first to be written, using a variety of sources; the authors of Matthew and Luke, acting independently, used Mark for their narrative of Jesus's career.  Prior to the New Testament which tells the story of the life of Jesus and the early days of Christianity, came the letters or Epistles of Paul.  They were 27 books, all originally written in Greek, with Paul's efforts to spread teaching of Jesus. Each gospel has its own distinctive understanding of Jesus.  Mark never calls him "God", Luke follows Mark's plot more faithfully than does Matthew but expands on him while eliminating some passages entirely, and John, the most overtly theological, is the first to make Christological judgements outside the context of the narrative of Jesus's life.Their differences of detail are irreconcilable. The contradictions and discrepancies between the first three and John make it impossible to accept both traditions as equally reliable.

The New Testament has been preserved in more manuscripts than any other ancient work of literature, with over 5,800 complete or fragmented Greek manuscripts catalogued, 10,000 Latin manuscripts and 9,300 manuscripts in various other ancient languages including SyriacSlavicGothicEthiopicCoptic and Armenian. Though the New Testament has four canonical gospels, which are accepted as the only authentic ones by the great majority of Christians, but many others exist, or used to exist, and are called either New Testament apocrypha or pseudepigrapha. Some of these have left considerable traces on Christian traditions, including iconography.


One of the great elders of early period Irenaeus of Lyons stated that there must be four gospels and only four because there were four corners of the Earth and thus the Church should have four pillars. But number of gospels is so huge.

Classification of gospels:

1. Canonical gospels - the 4 gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John

2. Gnostic gospels

3.Jewish-Christian gospels

4. Infancy gospels

5.Other gospels

6. Partially preserved gospels

7. Fragmentary preserved gospels

8. Reconstructed gospels

9. Lost gospels

10. ragments of possibly unknown or lost (or existing) gospels[

11. Medieval gospels

12. Modern gospels


Of the above gospels, the Gnostic gospels get a significant role in a historical perspective. It was one of the scrolls found in dead sea, called the Dead Sea Scrolls or  Qumran Caves Scrolls.  They  are ancient Jewish religious manuscripts found in the Qumran Caves in the Judaean Desert, near Ein Feshkha on the northern shore of the Dead Sea.    Dead Sea Scrolls, ancient, mostly Hebrew, manuscripts (of leather, papyrus, and copper) were first found in 1947.  Thirteen leather-bound papyrus codices buried in a sealed jar were found by a local farmer named Muhammed al-Samman.  The writings in these codices comprise 52 mostly Gnostic treatises, but they also include three works belonging to the Corpus Hermeticum and a partial translation/alteration of Plato's Republic. The Dead Sea Scrolls contain nothing about Jesus or the early Christians, but indirectly they help to understand the Jewish world in which Jesus lived and why his message drew followers and opponents

The contents of the codices were written in the Coptic language. The best-known of these works is probably the Gospel of Thomas. It is dated to the second century by most interpreters, but based on much earlier sources. The buried manuscripts date from the 3rd and 4th centuries. The biblical or canonical Gospels, in presenting the story of Jesus, proclaimed that in Jesus, God had manifested and launched his kingdom on Earth (as it was in heaven). In a contrary way, the Gnostic Gospels rejected this idea of the kingdom of God at work on Earth in Jesus. Some important Gnostic gospels are the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Peter, the Gospel of Judas, the Gospel of Maryinfancy gospels such as the Gospel of James (the first to introduce the perpetual virginity of Mary.

Almost all of the Dead Sea Scrolls collection is currently under the ownership of the copies of copies of Government of the state of Israel, and housed in the Shrine of the Bookon the grounds of the Israel Museum.



















1 comment:

Dr B Jambulingam, Assistant Registrar (Retd), Tamil University said...

This is the first time that I knew about the meaning of gospel. Also came to know many things about the older versions of Bible.

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