In 1945, a large clay vase filled with ancient manuscripts was discovered in Northern Egypt. These manuscripts are now known as the Gnostic gospels, or alternatively as the lost books of the Bible. When Christianity was first becoming an official and standardized religion, the Romans omitted some books from the standard version of the Bible that were already in circulation. Around 52 of those books were found in the clay vase.
The reason most of these books were not included in the official biblical text was because they, in some cases, directly contradicted other books of the Bible. The Gnostic Christians viewed their religion differently than most modern-day Christians do, and their perspective was often much more colorful – and more intense – in ways that the Romans didn't appreciate.
Some of these Gnostic books, such as the Gospel of Philip, contain alarming subtitles such as "God is a Man-Eater," and "The World Eats Bodies." There are stories about Jesus's youth that paint him as slightly demonic, and that not-so-subtly suggest that Mary was not actually a virgin.
Most churches today will vehemently deny that these books contain any merit. For the people who originally wrote and read them, however, they were God's word and the truth.
The Testimony Of Truth Retells The Fall Of Man From The Serpent's Perspective
One of the first stories in the orthodox Bible is the tale of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. In the Bible, this story is that of the couple's fall from grace, occurring after Eve disregarded God's warning not to eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.
In the Testimony of Truth, however, the story is told from the perspective of the conniving serpent who convinces Eve to eat the fruit:
"[In the Testimony of Truth,] the serpent, long known to appear in Gnostic literature as the principle of divine wisdom, convinces Adam and Eve to partake of knowledge while 'the Lord' threatens them with death, trying jealously to prevent them from attaining knowledge, and expelling them from Paradise when they achieve it."
The First Apocalypse Of James Was Refuse Found At An Egyptian DumpPhoto: WolfgangRieger / Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain
In the Summer of 2017, two scholars working in the Oxford archives pieced together a groundbreaking piece of papyrus – the oldest-known copy of "The First Apocalypse of James," an apocryphal story not included in the official Christian Bible. The remnants of ancient Greek text the scholars could reconstitute were part of a 19th-century find at an Egyptian trash dump, and they were likely penned in the 5th or 6th century.
The Gnostic Gospels were omitted from the Bible because of their controversial portrayal of Jesus, and "The First Apocalypse of James" is no exception. In the story, Jesus describes the world as the prison of an angry God – to his brother. According to one of the scholars who pieced the papyrus together, Jesus also "reveals that the world is guarded by demonic figures called archons, who are blocking the path between the material world and the afterlife."
Given all of the accepted conventions this statement – and the book as a whole – contradicts, it's little wonder the Church didn't include The First Apocalypse of James in the official story of Jesus, only child and Son of God.
The Gnostic Gospels Are Filled With Powerful Poetry
One of the Gnostic Gospel texts is called Thunder, Perfect Mind and contains one of the many poems in these non-canonical gospels, and one of the many penned in the voice of a woman:
"For I am the first and the last. I am the honored one and the scorned one.
I am the whore and the holy one.
I am the wife and the virgin....
I am the barren one, and many are her sons....
I am the silence that is incomprehensible....
I am the utterance of my name."
Jesus Didn't Like To Be Insulted
There are plenty of stories in the Infancy Gospel of Thomas about how young Jesus saved babies and healed people. Also in this gospel, however, are just as many stories about Jesus' more tyrannical tendencies, such as when he purposefully injured or killed his fellow villagers.
When Joseph tried to correct his behavior, Jesus replies: "'I know that these are not your words, still, I'll keep quiet for your sake. But those people must take their punishment.' There and then his accusers became blind."