Banned Books of Early Christianity, The Infamous List!By James Bean
No-stick (Gnostic) Gospels defined: sacred texts that for some reason did?t ?stick? around for very long, were lost, or eventually banned and made illegal with a little help from Emperor Constantine and the Roman military.
Tis a very long list indeed of hidden, banned, forbidden, censored, condemned, cursed, and even burned books. These writings of the banned, holy scriptures were once used by other versions or branches of Christianity that existed in antiquity before it became illegal for them to assemble in public, copy and, heaven forbid! circulate their alternative gospels within the boundaries of the Roman Empire.
Though much has been forever lost, some of these books of the Other Bible have been rescued from destruction. We owe a great deal of gratitude to those freedom-loving and open-minded Jews, Pacomian monks, Christians and Gnostics in Eastern Europe, Egypt, Ethiopia, Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Armenia who risked much to translate and thus preserve many of these Other Books for future generations, for all time to come. In the case of the fifty books of the Nag Hammadi library, there were Coptic parchments removed from a near-by monastery library in Upper Egypt and buried in a large clay storage jar not far from some caves near the Nile. This clay jar ended up being a kind of time capsule that was unearthed one thousand seven hundred years later.
One definition of the word ?apocryphal? is a holy book used in someone else?s version of Christianity ? somebody else?s religion ? somebody who went to a different church on Sunday?. or Saturday, or not at all, and yet are rejected by the big church. In a land where everyone is not free to follow the religion of their choice, one person?s treasure of inspiration is another?s kindling.
If it?s banned, it must be good! or at least informative and of historic value.
Banned Sayings of Jesus ? He Made the List Too
It may interest you to know that, on the list of forbidden scriptures is included, believe it or not, an impressive early collection of the sayings of Jesus known as the Gospel of Thomas, also the Books of Enoch the Prophet.
First Enoch, included amongst the Dead Sea Scrolls ? the Essene Bible, and later the Ethiopian Bible, was quoted by Jude in his short New Testament letter. Actually, the Epistle of Barnabas and several major and well-known early church fathers also quoted Enoch, referring to it as ?scripture?, once upon a time in what was apparently a somewhat different Christianity back then. Having Enoch included as one?s ?scripture? would have made for a radically different religion, much more in touch with it?s Essene Jewish roots. Jude also quoted, back in those free-wheeling grass roots days before the age of book-banning, another scripture eventually forbidden called, The Assumption of Moses.
John the Revelator
It?s interesting to see that the Book of Revelation was banned for awhile. Fascinating to witness! The Book of Revelation by ?John? eventually, after years of haggling amongst various factions, ended up as the last book of the ?Constintinian? or Orthodox New Testament of the Empire. It has been the focus of so many prophecy speculators, prophecy mongers and cult-abusers over the centuries.
Several other books that are now in Catholic Bibles were once banned ? books of ?The Apocrypha?. Those were and are part of the Greek Septuagint of Alexandria, literally the Old Testament of the early church (including the book of Judith, other women, also Tobit books of Maccabees, and some very important books of Wisdom). The original King James Version of the Bible in English published in 1611 contained those other books, but now they have largely disappeared in the Protestant world.
Of course! as you might have guessed, the writings attributed to Mary Magdalene made the list, as well as that of another women apostle/leader in early Christianity: Thecla.
The Odes of Love
And the Odes of Solomon was condemned as well. That?s one of my personal favorites. It?s a very beautiful, devotional (bhakti), Sufi-like, eloquent, soul-stirring and very deeply spiritual collection of new testament age psalms. Imagine if you will psalms that sound like they were composed by Rumi. That may give you some idea of what the Book of the Odes is like. I?m glad I am able to own a copy ? I have six translations of the Odes.
Even the Sentences of Sextus made the banned list. I really like that one a lot. It?s a wonderful collection of proverbs, very valuable. Parts of it were unearthed amongst the Nag Hammadi library discovery in Upper Egypt a few decades back.
I have many of the books on this list, especially the Gnostic ones, and some of them represent great literature, the ?sutras? and ?upanishads? of the Western world, banned by the ?Tali-ban? of their day, hardline rulers (archons) devoid of any notion of religious freedom for anyone other than themselves.
Note the official-but-not-so-spiritual-sounding shunning ceremony or ?hex-curse? at the beginning of the first banned list: ??convened by the emperor Constantius, the son of Constantine, through the prefect Taurus is damned from then and now and for ever??, then comes a VERY long list of books to be excommunicated.
Meet the Banned ? The So-called Decretum Gelasianum
Here is the official list of all the banned scriptures of Christianity according to the Synod at Ariminum, which was convened by the Emperor Constantius, the son of Constantine, along with other long lists of banned books.
The following lists of banned scripture is from the book, New Testament Apocrypha, Volume one, Edgar Hennecke, Wilhelm Schneemelcher, and R. McL. Wilson, The Westminster Press.
?In the so-called Decretum Gelasianum de libris recipiendis et non recipiendis, which upon the whole is probably of South Gallic origin (6th century) but which in several parts can be traced back to Pope Damasus and reflects Roman tradition, we have in the second part a canon catalogue, in the fourth part an enumeration of recognized and ecclesiastical writers, and in the fifth part a catalogue of the ?apocrypha? and other writings which are to be rejected?.
?The remaining writings which have been compiled or been recognized by heretics or schismatics the catholic and apostolic Roman church does not in any way receive; of these we have thought it right to cite below some which have been handed down and which are to be avoided by catholics [christians universally or orthodox].?
?Further Enumeration of Apocryphal Books?. In the first place we confess that the Synod at Ariminum which was convened by the Emperor Constantius, the son of Constantine, through the prefect Taurus is damned from then and now and for ever:
?Itinerary (book of travels) under the name of the apostle Peter,which is called The Nine Books of the holy Clement apocryphalActs under the name of the apostle Andrew apocryphalActs under the name of the apostle Thomas apocryphalActs under the name of the apostle Peter apocryphalActs under the name of the apostle Philip apocryphalGospel under the name of Matthias apocryphalGospel under the name of Barnabas apocryphalGospel under the name of James the younger apocryphalGospel under the name of the apostle Peter apocryphalGospel under the name of Thomas, which the Manichaeans useapocryphalGospels under the name of Bartholomaeus apocryphalGospels under the name of Andrew apocryphalGospels which Lucian has forged apocryphalGospels which Hesychius has forged apocryphalBook about the childhood of the Redeemer apocryphalBook about the birth of the Redeemer and about Mary or the midwifeapocryphalBook which is called by the name of the Shepherd apocryphalAll books which Leucius, the Book which is called The FoundationapocryphalBook which is called The Treasure apocryphalBook about the daughters of Adam: Leptogenesis(?) apocryphalCento about Christ, put together in Virgilian lines apocryphalBook which is called The Acts of Thecla and of Paul apocryphalBook which is ascribed to Nepos apocryphalBooks of the Sayings, compiled by heretics and denoted by the nameof Sextus apocryphalRevelation which is ascribed to Paul apocryphalRevelation which is ascribed to Thomas apocryphalRevelation which is ascribed to Stephen apocryphalBook which is called The Home-going of the holy Mary apocryphalBook which is called The Penitence of Adam apocryphalBook about the giant Ogias, of whom the heretics assert that afterthe flood he fought with the dragon apocryphalBook which is called The Testament of Job apocryphalBook which is called The Penitence of Origen apocryphalBook which is called The Penitence of the holy Cyprian apocryphalBook which is called The Penitence of Jamnes and Mambres apocryphalBook which is called The Portion of the Apostles apocryphalBook which is called The Grave-plate(?) of the Apostles apocryphalBook which is called The Canones of the Apostles apocryphalThe book Physiologus, compiled by heretics and called by the name ofthe blessed Ambrose apocryphalThe History of Eusebius Pamphili apocryphalWorks of Tertullian apocryphalWorks of Lactantius apocryphal (later addition: or of Firmianus orof the Mrican)Works of Postumianus and of Gallus apocryphalWorks of Montanus, of Priscilla and of Maximilla apocryphalWorks of Faustus the Manichaean apocryphalWorks of Commodianus apocryphalWorks of the other Clement, of Alexandria apocryphalWorks of Thascius Cyprian apocryphalWorks of Arnobius apocryphalWorks of Tichonius apocryphalWorks of Cassian, a presbyter in Gaul apocryphalWorks of Victorinus of Pettau apocryphalWorks of Faustus of Riez in Gaul apocryphalWorks of Frumentius Caecus apocryphalEpistle of Jesus to Abgar apocryphalEpistle of Abgar to Jesus apocryphalPassion (Martyr Acts) of Cyricus and of Iulitta apocryphalPassion of Georgius apocryphalWriting which is called Interdiction (Exorcism?) of SolomonapocryphalAll amulets which have been compiled not, as those persons feign, inthe name of the angels, but rather in that of the demons apocryphal
?These and the like, what Simon Magus, Nicolaus, Cerinthus, Marcion, Basilides, Ebion, Paul of Samosata, Photinus and Bonosus, who suffered from similar error, also Montanus with his detestable followers, Apollinaris, Valentinus the Manichaean, Faustus the Mrican, Sabellius, Arius, Macedonius, Eunomius, Novatus, Sabbatius, Calistus, Donatus, Eustatius, Iovianus, Pelagius, Iulianus of Eclanum, Caelestius, Maximian, Priscillian from Spain, Nestorius of Constantinople, Maximus the Cynic, Lampetius, Dioscorus, Eutyches, Peter and the other Peter, of whom the one besmirched Alexandria and the other Antioch, Acacius of Constantinople with his associates, and what also all disciples of heresy and of the heretics or schismatics, whose names we have scarcely preserved, have taught or compiled, we acknowledge is to be not merely rejected but excluded from the whole Roman catholic and apostolic Church and with its authors and the adherents of its authors to be damned in the inextricable shackles of anathema for ever.?
Other Lists of Banned Holy Books Used By Other Indigenous Expressions of Judaism and Early or Apostolic Christianity
?The Stichometry of Nicephorus In the prolix version of the Chronography of Nicephorus (patriarch of Constantinople 806?818; cf. Krumbacher, Gesch. d. Byz. Literatur, 2nd ed. (1897), pp. 349ff.) there is a canon catalogue, the origin of which indeed has not been clearly settled, but which ought perhaps to be located in Jerusalem. Whether it is older than c. 850 (so Jtilicher) remains? open to question. It is striking that in the enumeration of the NT books the Revelation of John is wanting. Here then a canon of twenty-six books still presents itself. The catalogue of the books of the Old and New Testaments is followed by that of the ?antilegomena? and of the ?apocrypha?:
?And the (writings) of the Old Testament which are gainsaid and are not recognized in the Church (canonized) are the following:
I. 3 Books of the Maccabes 7300 lines2. The Wisdom of Solomon 1100 lines3. The Wisdom of Jesus Sirach 2800 lines4. The Psalms and Odes of Solomon 2100 lines5. Esther 350 lines6. Judith 1700 lines7. Susanna 500 lines8. Tobith, also (called) Tobias 700 lines
?And of the New Testament (writings) the following are gainsaid:
1. The Revelation of John 1400 lines2. The Revelation of Peter 300 lines3. The Epistle of Barnabas 1360 lines4. The Gospel of the Hebrews 2200 lines
?Apocrypha of the Old Testament are the following:
1. Enoch 4800 lines2. (Testaments of the) Patriarchs 5100 lines3. The Prayer of Joseph 1100 lines4. The Testament of Moses 1100 lines5. The Assumption of Moses 1400 lines6. Abraham 300 lines7. Eldad and Modad 400 lines8. (Book of the) prophet Elias 3 I 6 lines9. (Book of the) prophet Zephaniah 600 lines10. (Book of) Zacharias, the father of John 500 lines11 Pseudepigrapha of Baruch, Habakkuk, Ezekiel and Daniel ~
?Apocrypha of the New Testament are the following:
1. The Circuit of Paul 3600 lines2. The Circuit of Peter 2750 lines3. The Circuit of John 2500 lines4. The Circuit of Thomas 1600 lines5. The Gospel of Thomas 1300 lines6. The Teaching (Didache) of the Apostles 200 lines7. The 32 (books) of Clement 2600 lines8. (Writings) of Ignatius, of Polycarp and of Hermas?
Catalogue of the 60 Canonical Books
?This list transmitted in several manuscripts (for information about these see Zahn, Gesch. d. ntl. Kanons II 1, pp. 28g) reflects the view, widely held in the Greek Church at a later time, of the canon of sixty books (34 OT and 26 NT, therefore without the Revelation of John). After the enumeration of the canonical books, in which the complete silence observed regarding the Apocalypse of John is the most serious matter, there follows that of the writings ?outside the 60′ and the ?apocrypha?.
?Text: Zahn; op. cit., pp. 290?292; Preuschen, Analecta II, p. 68f. And the following (writings) outside the 60:
1. The Wisdom of Solomon2. The Wisdom of Sirach3. Maccabees (I)4. Maccabees (II)5. Maccabees (III) 6. Maccabees (IV)7. Esther8. Judith g. Tobit
?And the following apocryphal (writings):
1. Adam2. Enoch3. Lamech4. The Patriarchs5. The Prayer of Joseph6. Eldad and Modad7. The Testament of Moses8. The Assumption of Moses9. The Psalms of Solomon10. The Revelation of Elias11. The Vision of Isaiah