Published by Worldview Publications
March 15, 2007 


The Gospel According to Whom?

The word gospel is derived from the Old English godspell, which means “good news.”1 However, the biblical gospel originates in the Greek term euangelion and occurs 101 times in the New Testament.2 Yet in the Septuagint (LXX) — the Greek translation of the Old Testament — the term euangelion does not simply mean “good news” but rather the “reward given for good tidings.”3 For example, shortly after Abram rescued Lot and his family from captivity, “the word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward” (Genesis 15:1, emphasis supplied). In this context, Jesus Christ, as the human manifestation of God, constitutes the Euangelion — the Gospel. Jesus Christ himself is the Ultimate Reward, for he is the one who brought/brings the “good news” to all humanity.

When the New Testament was being assembled in the time of Irenaeus (ca. 185 CE), Bishop of Lyons (France), he was asked why he insisted on limiting the canon to just four Gospels. He replied somewhat in jest, “There actually are only four authentic gospels. And this is obviously true because there are four corners of the universe and there are four principal winds, and therefore there can be only four gospels that are authentic. These, besides, are written by Jesus’ true followers.”4 Meanwhile, numerous noncanonical Gospels have been discovered or referenced over the centuries, but almost without exception these so-called Gospels are heretical, fictional or hypothetical (see appendix).

For centuries the nature of both the canonical and noncanonical Gospels has been the subject of research, discussion and disputation. Scholars have debated whether the gospels are fundamentally mythical, legendary or historical in nature. Did Jesus actually say, do and experience what is recorded in the Gospels, or do the Gospels have another origin, purpose or destiny?

The present effort is designed to show that, while the Gospels use various narrative styles — historical, mythical, parabolic, etc. — to portray the Christ event, their fundamental purpose is to define the ultimate identity of Jesus Christ as the relational, corporate Person — the Ultimate Reward — for all humanity. This effort also will explore how the Gospel of Mark focuses on Jesus Christ as the new Davidic ruler, the Gospel of Matthew on Jesus Christ as the new Abrahamic/Mosaic Patriarch, the Gospel of Luke on Jesus Christ as the new Adamic Man, and the Gospel of John on Jesus Christ as the new, human God. Long ago St. Ignatius (ca. 110 CE), Bishop of Antioch, struggled with this same concept when he declared that the gospel is “the flesh of Jesus.”5


  1. See The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (1976), s.v. “gospel.” (go back)
  2. See “Dictionary and Word Search for ‘Gospel,’” Blue Letter Bible (1996-2002), at (go back)
  3. “Gospel, Godspel, Godspell, Evangelion,” at (go back)
  4. “Emergence of the Canon,” at (go back)
  5. Quoted in James A. Kleist, The Epistles of St. Clement of Rome and St. Ignatius of Antioch (New York: Paulist Press, 1946), pp. 137, 138. (go back)
  6. See “Were the Miracles of Jesus Invented by the Disciples/Evangelists?” at (go back)
  7. See “Gnostics, Gnostic Gospels, & Gnosticism,” at (go back)
  8. See “New Testament Apocrypha,” at (go back)
  9. See Charles W. Hedrick, “The 34 Gospels,” Bible Review 18, no. 3 (June 2002): 20-31, 46, 47. (go back)
  10. See Joseph Wheless, “Forgery in Christianity,” at (go back)

Appendix: The Noncanonical Gospels6-10

Editorial Note: The number of noncanonical Gospels that have survived as titles, fragments, and incomplete and/or complete manuscripts has not yet been verified.


  1. Arabic Infancy Gospel
  2. Apelles, The Gospel of
  3. Armenian Infancy Gospel


  1. Bardesanes, The Gospel of
  2. Barnabas, The Gospel of
  3. Bartholomew, The Gospel of
  4. Basilides, The Gospel of


  1. Cerinthus, The Gospel of


  1. Ebionites, The Gospel of the
  2. Egyptians, The Gospel of the
  3. Epistula Apostolorum
  4. Eve, The Gospel of


  1. Fayyum Fragment
  2. Four Heavenly Regions, The Gospel of
  3. Freer Logion


  1. Gamaliel, The Gospel of
  2. Genna Marias


  1. Hebrews, The Gospel of


  1. James, The Apocryphon of (Apocryphon Jacobi)
  2. James, The First Apocalypse of
  3. James, The Second Apocalypse of
  4. James, The Protoevangelium of (a.k.a. The Infancy Story of James)
  5. James, The Secret Book of
  6. Jeu, The Two Books of
  7. John, The Apocryphon of
  8. John, Life of, According to Serapion
  9. John and Jesus, Fragments of a Dialogue between
  10. John the Baptist, The Gospel of
  11. Judas, The Gospel of


  1. Latin Infancy Gospel in the Arundel Manuscript


  1. Mani, The Gospel of
  2. Marcion, The Gospel of
  3. Mark, The Secret Gospel of
  4. Mary, The Questions of
  5. Mary, The Gospel of
  6. Matthias, The Gospel According to (The Traditions of Matthias)
  7. Memoria Apostolorum


  1. Naassene Fragment
  2. Nazareans, The Gospel of
  3. Nicodemus, The Gospel of (Acts of Pilate and Christ’s Descent into Hell)


  1. Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 840
  2. Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 1224


  1. Papyrus Berolinensis 11710
  2. Papyrus Egerton 2
  3. Papyrus Cairensis 10 73
  4. Perfection, The Gospel of
  5. Peter, The Gospel of
  6. Peter to Philip, The Letter of
  7. Philip, The Gospel of
  8. Pistis Sophia, The
  9. Pseudo-Matthew, The Gospel of


  1. Q (Quelle Gospel)


  1. Saint Andrew, The Gospel of
  2. Savior, Dialogue of the
  3. Savior, The Gospel of the
  4. Seventy, The Gospel of the
  5. Signs Gospel
  6. Sophia Jesu Christi, The
  7. Strasbourg Coptic Papyrus


  1. Thaddeus, The Gospel of
  2. Thomas, The Book of
  3. Thomas, The Coptic Gospel of
  4. Thomas, The Infancy Story of
  5. Truth, The Gospel of
  6. Twelve, The Gospel of the
  7. Twelve, The (Kukean) Gospel of the
  8. Twelve Apostles, The (Manichean) Gospel of the
  9. Twelve Apostles, Other Gospels of the

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Copyright © 2007 Worldview Publications