Jimmy Akin answers What books did the Church Fathers exclude from the Bible and why?
There have been a lot of discussions in recent years about books that did not make it into the Bible. You very frequently find these in a kind of Christian conspiracy literature---things like The Da Vinci Code, and so forth. There have been lots of reports that the Church "suppressed" certain books and wouldn't include them in Scripture for nefarious reasons.
It's true that there are books that Christians didn't put in the Bible. I mean, there are a lot of writings from the early centuries that don't even pretend to be Scripture. But then there are some that do, and those are problematic. The Church didn't include them in Scripture for very good reasons though.
If you look at the different gnostic gospels and other writings---works like the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Mary, the Gospel of Judas---you find that these really are all fakes: they all date from much later than the canonical Gospels. The canonical Gospels---Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John---were all written in the first century, and in my opinion, before the year A.D. 70. But the gnostic gospels and other apocryphal writings from the early centuries date to the second century, the third century, and the forth century, and they just showed up out of nowhere claiming to have been written by people in the first century.
Well, to the early Christians, that was a dead giveaway that they were fakes. If something really had been written by, say, the Apostle Thomas and had been handed down as a legitimate Gospel, it would have been read in the churches for all these years since the beginning of Christianity. But no one had ever heard of this thing, or Where did it come from? It was a sure sign that it was a fake.
Then there was the fact that these later writings contained doctrine that conflicted with what's found in the canonical Gospels---the known early writings of the Apostles and their associates. And it also disagreed with the teachings that had been passed down through the successors of the Apostles (the bishops) that the Apostles themselves had appointed.
As a result, it was clear to the early Christians that these gospels did not contain authentic Christian teaching (or they would have agreed with the canonical ones), and that they had just come out of nowhere and been given fictitious authors' names as a way of boosting their credibility---or trying to give them credibility. As a result, the early Church was wise to not include these because, had it included them, it would have injected false elements into the history of Christian belief, and it would have obscured our knowledge of Jesus Christ.▣
These resources are not linked to. Please patronize your local library, parish library, or book store.
The Fathers Know Best: Your Essential Guide to the Teachings of the Early Church
Jimmy Akin, Ignatius Press, 2010
• Designed to be user-friendly
• 900+ quotes from early Church Fathers and rare and important documents from the earliest days of Christianity
• Mini-biographies of almost 100 Church Fathers
• Several key early councils and writings are described
• A synopsis of the dramatic spread of Christianity
• Maps, including many of the "long-vanished locations" where the early Church Fathers lived
• "A guide to nearly 30 ancient heresies"
• The early Church Fathers' teachings on a plethora of topics, including abortion, and divorce
Henry G. Graham, Catholic Answers Press: San Diego, 1997 (original edition B. Herder Book Company: St. Louis, 1911)
• Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur
• "Explains how the Catholic Church compiled the sacred text, how medieval monks preserved it, and how Catholic scholars first gave Christians the Bible in their own language", and more.
• Graham's conversion story is included, sharing how, after being raised in Scotland as a Calvinist, he became a Protestant minister, and what led him home to the Catholic Church.