The Development of the Canon of the New Testament

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Apocryphal New Testament Writings

Gospel of Thomas
Gospel of Truth
Gospel of the Twelve
Gospel of Peter
Gospel of Basilides
Gospel of the Egyptians
Gospel of the Hebrews
Gospel of Matthias
Traditions of Matthias
Preaching of Peter
Acts of Andrew
Acts of Paul
Acts of John
Epistle to the Laodiceans
I Clement
Epistle of Barnabas
Shepherd of Hermas
Apocalypse of Peter

Gospel of Truth (140-180 CE)

Irenaeus reports that the Valentineans used of the Gospel of Truth as scripture. Unfortunately, he reveals little about the content of the work, except that it differed significantly from the canonical Gospels. Scholars are divided as to whether the Nag Hammadi Gospel of Truth (for text see [Robinson]) derives from Valentinus. More like a meditation on the Christian life and salvation than a traditional gospel, the treatise shows little trace of the elaborate speculations that are associated with the Valentinian system. Some scholars, however, believe that these speculations are not emphasized in order to conciliate orthodox opinion. If so, a date of composition in the middle of the 2nd century would be established.

On the basis of literary and conceptual affinities between the Nag Hammadi text and the exiguous fragments of Valentinus, some scholars have suggested that Valentinus himself was the author. Whatever the precise date and authorship, the work was certainly composed in Greek in an elaborate rhetorical style, by a consummate literary artist.

Despite its title, this work is not a gospel of the sort found in the New Testament, since it does not offer a continuous narration of the deeds, teachings, passion, and resurrection of Jesus. The term "gospel" in the first line preserves its early sense of "good news". It defines the text's subject, not its genre, which is best understood as a homily. Like other early Christian homilies, such as the Epistle to the Hebrews, The Gospel of Truth alternates doctrinal exposition with paraenesis and like that canonical work, it reflects on the significance of the salvific work of Jesus from a special theological perspective.

The Gospel of Truth's combination of literary and conceptual sophistication with genuine religious feeling suggests much better than the rather dry accounts of Gnostic systems in the heresiologists why the teaching of Valentinus and his school had such an appeal for many Christians of the 2nd century.

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