John Didn’t Compose the Gospel of John, Thomas Didn’t Write Thomas, by James Bean

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John Didn’t Compose the Gospel of John, Thomas Didn’t Write Thomas

“In the ancient world, the concept of literary property was radically different from what it is now. An author who wrote under the name of an apostle was considered to be performing an act of homage, not an act of forgery. Pseudepigrapha, the technical term now used to describe this process, was commonly practiced. The Gospel of Philip is pseudepigraphic in this sense, like most of the other Gospels.” (Jean-Yves Leloup, The Gospel of Philip)

My commentary: The paragraph concludes with “…like most of the other Gospels.” This includes not only non-canonical gospels such as Philip and Mary Magdalene, but Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, within the Euro-Roman Orthodox canon of scripture, are also on this list of pseudepigraphical literature. So an apostle by the name of John did not compose the Gospel of John, Luke didn’t necessarily create the Gospel of Luke, even as Philip didn’t write the Gospel of Philip. Most likely these texts do represent the beliefs of various spiritual communities in antiquity: followers of Paul, wisdom Christians associated with Thomas, fans of the apostle John, devotees of Mary Magdalene, disciples or those claiming succession from James the Just, in the case of the Gospel of the Hebrews (and perhaps the Gospel of Mathew in its original form), and so on.

Many scholars see these writings as being the product of group efforts made over time during the early decades or centuries of Christianity, with smaller books, sections or chapters being combined together to eventually create larger gospels, with some other changes or redactions along the way, until the process is no longer fluid, and these writings settle into the more recognizable form we’re familiar with today.

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