The Bible contains four Gospels which tell the story of Jesus of Nazareth. And yet, many more Gospels once existed. Who, then, determined which Gospels would, for the next two thousand years, serve as the main gateways to Jesus and his teaching?
Recent books and films have traced the decision to a series of fourth-century councils and powerful bishops. After achieving victory over their rivals for the Christian name, these key players, we are now told, conspired to 'rewrite history' to make it look like their version of Christianity was the original one preached by Jesus and his apostles: the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John became the prime tools for their re-sculpting of the Christian story, leading to the destruction of previously treasured writings like the Gospels of Judas, Mary, and Thomas. Are the four canonical Gospels, then, in the Bible as the result of a great, ecclesiastical conspiracy? Or does this explanation itself represent another 'rewriting of history', this time by a group of modern academics?
Who Chose the Gospels? takes us to the scholarship behind the headlines, examining the great (and ongoing) controversy about how to look at ancient books about Jesus. How the four Biblical Gospels emerged into prominence among their competitors is a crucial question for everyone interested in understanding the historical Jesus and the development of the Christian church.
Introduction: Drowning in a Sea of Gospels
1. The Proof is in the Papyri: Gospel Bestsellers from Egyptian Garbage Dumps
2. Silencing the Bishop, Part I: The Lonely Irenaeus
3. Silencing the Bishop, Part II: The Ugly Irenaeus
4. Irenaeus' 'Co-conspirators': Clement, Serapion, and a Canon-list-maker
5. 'Packaging' the Gospels: of Harmonies, Synopses, and Codices
6. Preaching and Teaching the Gospels: Justin Martyr and the Apostles' Memoirs
7. Justin's 'Co-conspirators': The Gospels as Public Documents
8. Some 'Proto-conspirators': Two Forgers and an Apologist
9. Some 'Co-proto-conspirators': The Apostolic Fathers
10. The Search for an 'Arch-conspirator': A Bishop, an Elder, and an Elderly Apostle
11. Who Chose the Gospels?
Appendix: Dates of the earliest manuscripts of the canonical Gospels