Gospel Thrillers: Conspiracy, Fiction, and the Vulnerable Bible

"Lost gospels" and the academy

Scholarly interest in the Christian Bible has, since the 18th century, focused in multiple ways on "lost" texts that are not included in the canonical Bible. Some of these "lost" texts were "discovered" in the non-European lands to the South and East; along with ancient biblical "discoveries," these "lost" texts were brought back to Europe (and, eventually, North America) where they became part of the repertoire of modern biblical studies (you can read about some major "discoveries" of these Bible Hunters here).

Aside from "new discoveries," modern scholarship also looked to other sorts of evidence for how the Bible came to take its present shape, using materials and methods that had been at hand for centuries: "lost gospels" that had been under their noses the entire time. These gospels were "lost" in these sense that they had been marginalized, minimized, or forgotten, but had never gone away.

In this section I provide brief introductions to two kinds of "lost gospels" that enjoy resurgences in modern biblical studies, but which also exemplify the various hopes and fears that become amplified and explored in Gospel Thrillers: "apocrypha," that is, noncanonical texts dating from antiquity; and "Q," a hypothetical source for the canonical gospels whose reconstruction in modernity both elucidates but also challenges the primacy of those canonical gospels.

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