In my article Can New Books be Added to the New Testament Canon?, I listed four categories a book could be in if someone proposes adding a book to the New Testament Canon:
- A Missing Book is Found
- A Book Written by a Student or Co-Worker of an Apostle
- A Book Not in Every Canon
- New Revelation
For each of the categories, I picked a book and showed why it doesn’t meet the criteria (What are the Criteria for a Book to be Canonical?) to be added to the canon:
- Authority of the Apostles
- Christian Teachings
- Jesus Christ Died for Our Sins
- Inspired by God
- Testimony of the Holy Spirit to the Individual Christian
- Authority Of The Church
- Nearly Unanimous Acceptance by the Church
Even Apostolic authority didn’t guarantee a book would be included in the canon. These three books are mentioned in the New Testament, but they no longer exist:
- Epistle from the Apostle Paul to the church in Corinth1
- Epistle from the Apostle Paul to Laodicea2
- Epistle from the Apostle John to Gaius3
It’s no surprise there are many books which were proposed for the New Testament, but didn’t meet the criteria. The books in the list below failed to meet at least one of the criteria for canonicity. The most common reasons are:
- Most of these books were written after the Apostles died, so it was impossible to have Apostolic authority, even though a few of them meet the other criteria.
- Some of the books are forged using an Apostle’s name in an attempt to give it authority.
- Some of the books teach heresy, not Christianity.
This is a partial list of the books I came across in my research aren’t in the New Testament.
- 1 Clement
- 2 Clement
- Acts of Andrew
- Acts of John
- Acts of Paul
- Acts of Peter
- Apocalypse of Peter
- Epistle of Barnabas
- Epistle to the Laodiceans
- Gospel of Judas
- Gospel of Mary
- Gospel of Peter
- Gospel of the Egyptians
- Gospel of the Hebrews
- Gospel of Thomas
- Gospel of Truth
- Infancy Gospel of James
- Infancy Gospel of Thomas
- Secret Mark
- Shepherd of Hermas
In my article What are the Stages of Revelation of the Canon?, I described three stages all of the books in the New Testament had to pass to be included in the canon:
- Ontological stage – Books inspired and selected by God.
- Functional stage – Books used by the early churches “for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness”4.
- Exclusive stage – Churches confirmed the books had been passed to them as scripture.
The books in the list above didn’t pass all three stages. All of them failed the Ontological stage, while some of them would have passed the Functional stage and the Exclusive stage. The books in our New Testament pass every test for being the Word of God.
- Davis, Glenn. Cross Reference Table: Writings and Authorities (NTCanon.org, 2010)
- Early Christian Writings (EarlyChristianWritings.com)
- Kirby, Peter. Early Christian Writings (2019)
- I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people…. (1 Corinthians 5:9 ESV)
- And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea. (Colossians 4:16 ESV)
- I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. (3 John 1:9 ESV)
- All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV)