Michael Kruger addresses the common claim that the church omitted whole books from the canon. What do we do with books like “The Gospel of Thomas”?
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One of the questions I get a lot from people and that I think is on people’s minds is, “How do I know that the Bible I’m reading is not missing books. How do I know we have the right books in our Bibles.” And a lot of my life’s work has been to answer that question particularly as it relates to the New Testament. People ask all the time about books like The Gospel of Thomas and these other “lost books” in the Bible that we hear about from time-to-time in the media and in archeological discoveries.
Those are really important questions, and Christians want to be reassured that the books in their Bibles are the ones they can trust and really rely on. The good news is we have great reasons to trust that we have the right books in our Bibles.
One of the things I remind people is that when it comes to the compilation of our Bibles, particularly the New Testament, it happened quite early. We didn’t have to wait until the fourth or fifth century to have a New Testament. Even as early as the second century Christians already had coalesced around a core collection of books that were very clearly the ones they viewed as coming from God. People will frequently claim that there was no Bible until the fourth or fifth century and that Christians didn’t have a New Testament until then either, and that’s simply not the case. In the early church, we know that they had a Bible very early because they had an Old Testament from the start, and they had a New Testament even by the second century.
The other thing I tell people to assure them about the books they have in the New Testament is that we can trace those books back to the first century, and therefore we can trace those books back to the time of the Apostles. In fact, it’s only the New Testament books that allow us to trace this far back. When we talk about books and early Christianity and compare them to apocryphal books that come from the first century, we have a few books like First Clement that barely make it into the first century; however, all the New Testament books are first century books. That should give us great assurance that the books in our Bibles were written during the apostolic time period and those are the books that we can trust.
You can have great confidence that when you open up that table of contents that these are the books that God laid down as a deposit for his church. And for generations that church, the universal church, has recognized that these are the books in which we hear the voice of Christ.