Hidden Gospels: What Books Were Removed from the Bible (and Why)?

While we might think of the Bible today as a complete, historical replica, there were certain books of Christian scripture that were removed by scholars during the 3rd century.

Apr 26, 2024By Ryan Watson, MA History, BA History

books removed from the bible


The 27 books of the New Testament have long been considered the canon of Christian scripture. They are the officially recognized and agreed upon books that form the basis of the Christian faith. These ones in particular were selected due to fitting certain specific criteria. Meanwhile, there were other books related to Biblical scripture which scholars chose to omit. We take a look at some of the books which didn’t make their way into the Christian scripture of today, and some of the reasons why.


Criteria for Being Considered in the Biblical Canon

Eusebius of Caesaria. Source: Connect – Australian Methodist News
Eusebius of Caesaria. Source: Connect – Australian Methodist News


To be considered as appropriate for Biblical canon, churches almost since the founding of Christianity have given heavy consideration to specific criteria. They are:


  • An apostle – a direct follower of Jesus Christ who knew and physically saw Him – is either the direct (like Matthew or John) or indirect source (such as Mark or Luke) of the material.  Most, if not all, extra-canonical books fail to meet this criterion.



  • Consistent with orthodox (standard) Christian theology.


  • Considered inspired by the Holy Spirit.

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One of the first Christians to consider what belonged in the canon was the scholar and bishop Eusebius.  Tasked by Constantine I in 331 CE to produce 50 Bibles, which had to be handwritten, Eusebius went to study precisely which books should be included and left out. He eventually settled on the 27 books using similar criteria to the above list. He researched other Church Fathers such as Ignatius, Clement, and Origen, and came to similar conclusions.


The Gospel of Thomas

1st and 2nd page Gospel of Thomas from Nag Hammadi Codex II
1st and 2nd page Gospel of Thomas from Nag Hammadi Codex II


The Gospel of Thomas is an early church writing that lists out supposed sayings of Jesus. It has no narrative, unlike the four recognized Gospels, and was found with other gnostic writings in 1945 near Nag Hammadi, Egypt. While some early Christians do seem to refer to the Gospel of Thomas, such as Origen, it did not find wide acceptance in the early church. It was also likely written about a generation after the Apostles, and is neither a direct nor indirect source. Even though it is non-canonical, its early date, possibly within a generation after the Apostles, gives us insight into early Christian thought.


The Gospel of Peter

Early Biblical papyrus. Source: Barabbas
Early Biblical papyrus. Source: Barabbas


The Gospel of Peter was known to exist only through the writings of other early Christians, such as Origen and Eusebius.  In 1886 it was discovered (like many other older manuscripts over the years) in Egypt, where the dry air and good climate tend to preserve manuscripts.  Once read, it was found to have a description of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection that differed in some ways from the other Gospels, such as Herod sending Jesus Christ to the Cross rather than Pontius Pilate. The Gospel of Peter Is generally considered to have been written after the time of the Apostles, and has what appears to be heavy influence from Docetic heretics who believed Jesus did not have a physical form. Its significant difference from other gospel narratives, possible heretical origins, later date, and low usage in the early church places it outside of the Biblical canon.


The Gospel of Judas

1st page of Gospel of Judas
1st page of Gospel of Judas


The Gospel of Judas is a purported retelling of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ from an apologetic standpoint of Judas Iscariot.  In the four Gospels, Judas identifies Jesus to the Roman authorities by betraying Him with a kiss, and is given the blame and cursed for his betrayal.  In the Gospel of Judas puts Judas in a more favorable light, stating that he understood Jesus’ purpose better than the other disciples, and also contradicts other standard theological viewpoints.


The Church Father Iranaeus spoke against the Gospel of Judas as being a fictional story; it also did not have wide acceptance and was likely written closer to the end of the 100s AD to have valid consideration as canonical.


Other Texts

what are the oldest copies of the bible


Most other non-canonical “New Testament” era books fall into similar descriptions as the above three.  The earliest most are written is the end of the 1st century CE, if not well into the 200s. Few of these texts harmonize enough with the other gospels, and as such they have little attested usage within the early church.

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By Ryan WatsonMA History, BA HistoryRyan Watson is a husband, father, underwriter, writer, and reseller. He graduated with a Bachelor's and Master's in History from Louisiana Tech University in the early 2000s. He focuses on Biblical, post-Biblical, and medieval history with occasional dabblings in other arenas.