Below is a conversation I had with a friend who asked me about the missing books of the Bible. I have changed the names of those mentioned (except my own) to protect and respect their privacy.
Marcos here. I wanted to take the time to answer your question from Tuesday’s Bible study and also to give you some resources. Everything I mention here comes from my own studies of Church history, Old and New Testament history, Biblical Languages, and Theology. Although I am not an expert at any of these what I share with you is what I have learned from the experts. Before you read on though I will warn you this is kinda long :/
You mentioned that you believe there is some truth in the Bible but not all because the Catholic Church has books that they have hidden and don’t want people to see. This is actually a really common question and I’m glad you asked it. I think ever since Dan BrownsThe Da Vinci Code more and more people have been asking that question. Let me start by telling you some things you may already know, then some things you may not know, and finally some resources so you can research it for yourself.
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Some Things You May Already Know
The Bible is split into two parts. The Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament is the history of Israel and the New Testament is the history of the life of Jesus and the church. Both the Old and New Testaments are interlocked with each other and you can’t have one without the other. The Old Testament was written in ancient Hebrew and the New Testament was written in ancient Greek (both languages are dead today). Although the original writings are gone we have thousands of copies of both the New and Old Testaments in the original Greek and Hebrew. The Bible study that I did with Tom shares some good proof on the reliability of the Bible we have today.
The Old Testament (OT)
We get the OT from the Jews. As far as the OT is concerned there really isn’t much controversy. Not many people argue about missing books in the OT because the Catholic church had nothing to do with the OT. The OT was actually already completed by the time Jesus was alive. The Catholic church didn’t show up till like 3-400 years later so they had nothing to do with it.
As a matter of fact, when it comes to the OT the Catholic church has books that regular Christians don’t accept as part of the Bible. So rather than hiding books they actually add books. These books are actually available for anyone to read. The reason why Christians don’t use them as part of the Bible is because they are not part of the original OT and because they don’t really add anything to the rest of the OT (and sometimes contradict it). As a matter of fact, according to historians, some of them aren’t even historically reliable.
Here’s a list of a few of them:
- Wisdom of Solomon
- I and II Maccabees
- II Esdras
- And there’s a bunch more.
The New Testament (NT)
The NT was written shortly after the death of Jesus. It is a compilation of eye witness accounts of the life of Jesus, (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) the early church, (Acts) and personal letters written by the apostles themselves (Romans was a letter Paul wrote to the church in Rome, Philippians was a letter Paul wrote to the church in Philippi, Philemon was a letter Paul wrote to a guy named Philemon, Revelation was a letter John wrote to all the churches in Asia-minor etc.). All of the books in the NT were written in the first century A.D.
Some Things You May Not Know
Like I said, nobody argues much about the OT. If it really bothers someone that those books aren’t included in the Bible you can go ahead and read them in a library, buy them in a books store, read them online, or just get a Catholic bible. They are known as the Apocryphal books.
The real question that you asked though is based on the NT. Like I said, all of the NT books were completed in the first century A.D. which was the century Jesus lived in. Jesus died around 31 -33 A.D. (can’t remember the exact date). However, after the first century there are a bunch of other books that were written which weren’t included in the Bible. The ones that are usually in question are known as the Gnostic Gospels. These include:
- The Gospel of Thomas
- The Gospel of Mary
- The Gospel of Truth
- The Gospel of Judas
- And there are a few others.
Now the question is, why didn’t these books make it into the Bible? Is the church trying to hide something? The answer is no. Now let me explain.
The Council of Nicaea took place in around 450 A.D. Books like The Da Vinci Code suggest that at that time a group of church leaders got together and decided what books to include in the Bible and what books to reject. However, Dan Brown got his history wrong. There isn’t a single reputable, serious historian who would agree with that. The Council of Nicaea didn’t decide what books to include in the Bible, it simply confirmed the books that the people had already accepted for the last 300 years and rejected the books that the people had already rejected. The Catholic Church doesn’t have a vault with hidden books they don’t want anyone to see. All of those gospels not included in the NT can be found in books stores, libraries, and even online.
Now the question is, why didn’t the people accept these books? It’s actually pretty simple. Because they were Gnostic. What does Gnostic mean? Gnosticism was a Greek philosophy that taught that the natural world was evil. That included material things and physical things. Even sex was evil. In order to be saved you had to escape the physical world by escaping the desires of the body including sex and food. They also believed heaven was gained by knowledge, so the more you knew the better your chances. They taught that the God of the OT (the creator) was evil, and that Jesus was good. But since Jesus was good then he couldn’t have come in a real body because real bodies were evil, therefore Jesus wasn’t a real person, he just looked like he was. And on and on. The Gnostic gospels have a lot of this philosophy in them which is actually totally contradictory to what the Bible teaches. When people want to know why these books were left out of the Bible my answer is this: “Just go read them and you’ll find out why”
In the Gospel of Thomas, for example, Jesus is quoted saying, “I myself shall lead her, in order to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit, resembling you males. For every woman who will make herself male will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” In other words Maria, according to the Gospel of Thomas, you won’t be allowed to go to heaven unless you become a man. However, the Bible teaches that God created man and woman and that one is not better than the other but that they both reflect Him and will both be saved not by gender but by His grace.
But with that said, some may insist that there are indeed hidden books. So what then? Honestly, the argument of hidden books is a difficult one to deal with because it is non-falsifiable. As you know, a non-falsifiable argument is often impossible to get around, not because it is air tight, but because it places itself outside of the realm of being proven wrong. Be careful with non-falsifiable arguments. They present a logical fallacy in the sense that they can never be investigated and proven to be either false or true. So that leaves you in a bit of a quandary. I cant prove to you its false, but neither can you prove to me its true. We end up in a logical stalemate because the argument is non-falsifiable.
In addition, allow me to repeat that according to the church historian Dennis Pettibone, there is not a single reputable historian that he knows of that believes the Vatican has hidden books locked away in a vault. This view is shared by many reputable historians, including historians who are as opposed to the papacy as you can get. There are different kinds of history and historians so we need to be careful which ones we are reading. There is reputable history, propaganda history, pseudo history, and also history that is reinterpreted to fit an authors bias (among others). So I can find a history book about the holocaust that is reputable. Another that claims the Jews brought it on themselves which would be propaganda. Another that claims it never happened which would be pseudo. And another that claims it was the catholic church that caused it which would be biased. Propaganda, pseudo, and biased history are not peer reviewed for accuracy so anyone can write whatever they want and publish it. We need to stick to the reputable sources because they are reviewed by many other historians of different persuasions before publication and given an approval. If there is not a single reputable history book that claims the theory of hidden books we need to hold it in suspicion.
But what if there were one? Would it matter? I dont think so. If anything, the Catholic church has extra books in their Bible not less. In addition, there is nothing in the whole Bible that can’t already be found in the first five books of the Bible known as the Torah which are Jewish books. So if the Catholic church wanted to make people live a certain way they would have to add books that taught things not already taught in the Torah. This they did do and you can see it in the Catholic bible which adds books that are not accepted by protestants because they contradict the Torah and the rest of the bible also. So in short, did the Catholic church manipulate the Bible books to control people? Yes. But they did it by adding books not hiding books. When the protestant reformation began they got rid of those extra books and went back to the Bible as it was intended to be and that is the Bible we use in protestant churches today.
As far as Bibles being destroyed it is nothing to worry about. For example, the Old Testament was perfectly preserved so none of those books are missing. This can be proved by the discovery of the dead sea scrolls several decades ago. The scrolls were found in a cave by a shepherd and were a copy of the OT and contain every single OT book except for Esther. And as far as the NT is concerned we have thousands of copies of ancient manuscripts that predate Constantine and the other emperors. So whatever they destroyed is inconsequential because all we have to do is go back to the greek manuscripts and translate them again. As far as history being destroyed it has certainly happened but we cant do anything about that. So why worry about it? There is enough in what we do know to know what God requires of us.
As far as your last point you are one hundred percent correct. For every source I give you, you can give me counter sources and we can play that game for the next 40 years. The reality is this Maria, there will always (and allow me to stress always) be a hook to hang your doubt on. God never has nor will he ever remove every possibility of doubt. But he will give you enough evidence for your faith to be intelligent. Every worldview has to be accepted by faith. Whether you are an atheist, an agnostic, a Budhist, or a nothingist the reality is that any evidence you cite will only get you so far. In the end it is a leap of faith that glues your evidence to your belief.
Now how do you know that all I have told you is true? Like I said, there isn’t a single reputable historian that would tell you the Catholic Church chose what books go in the Bible. It simply isn’t true. Here are some reliable historical books that confirm this:
- History of Christian Thought. by Justo L. Gozalez
- Breaking The Da Vinci Code. by Darrel L. Bock
- The Missing Gospels. by Darrel L. Bock
- Truth and Fiction in The Da Vinci Code: A Historian Reveals What We Really Know about Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and Constantine. by Bart Ehrman
You can get any of these on Amazon.
Also, here is a good video that goes over what I just explained by scholar Bart Ehrman (He is the guy that wrote book number four above. This video basically covers what’s in the book):
None of this proves that the Bible is Gods book but it does prove that there is nothing missing from the Bible. Everything that’s there is exactly what needs to be there.[/box_holder]