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Non-canonical Gospels Under Scrutiny

The existence of ‘gospels’ other than Matthew, Mark, Luke and John can be exciting or even scandalous to someone hearing about them for the first time.

Dr Elijah Hixson, Junior Research Associate at Tyndale House

Figure Image
Fragment of the ‘Egerton Gospel’ | photo: Wikimedia

Manuscripts of these documents are often worth a second look. What looks scandalous could turn out to be, upon closer inspection, a mountain made out of a molehill. The ‘Gospel of Philip’ (found in Egypt in 1945) provides a good example of this phenomenon. Some editors report that it claims that Jesus ‘used to kiss her [i.e. Mary Magdalene] often on her mouth’. When we check the manuscript itself, we see that ‘mouth’ is not there. There is a hole in the papyrus at that point, and ‘mouth’ was simply a guess about what was once there. More than that, the word translated ‘kiss’ can simply mean ‘greet’. What might have appeared to imply a scandalous romantic relationship looks to be as innocent as Jesus saying hello to a friend.