The Acts Of John
60 Now on the first day we arrived at a deserted inn, and when we were at a loss for a bed for John, we saw a droll matter. There was one bedstead lying somewhere there without coverings, whereon we spread the cloaks which we were wearing, and we prayed him to lie down upon it and rest, while the rest of us all slept upon the floor. But he when he lay down was troubled by the bugs, and as they continued to become yet more troublesome to him, when it was now about the middle of the night, in the hearing of us all he said to them: I say unto you, O bugs, behave yourselves, one and all, and leave your abode for this night and remain quiet in one place, and keep your distance from the servants of God. And as we laughed, and went on talking for some time, John addressed himself to sleep; and we, talking low, gave him no disturbance (or, thanks to him we were not disturbed).
61 But when the day was now dawning I arose first, and with me Verus and Andronicus, and we saw at the door of the house which we had taken a great number of bugs standing, and while we wondered at the great sight of them, and all the brethren were roused up because of them, John continued sleeping. And when he was awaked we declared to him what we had seen. And he sat up on the bed and looked at them and said: Since ye have well behaved yourselves in hearkening to my rebuke, come unto your place. And when he had said this, and risen from the bed, the bugs running from the door hasted to the bed and climbed up by the legs thereof and disappeared into the joints. And John said again: This creature hearkened unto the voice of a man, and abode by itself and was quiet and trespassed not; but we which hear the voice and commandments of God disobey and are light-minded: and for how long?
I admit that the above passage is not in any modern bible. But passages such as this one were considered sacred by many Christians for centuries. This passage is a part of The Acts Of John. Although some might deem this story too silly to be in the bible, it is no more silly than a talking snake (Genesis) , a talking donkey (Numbers 22), dead people coming out of their graves and roaming Jerusalem (Matthew 27), or Paul shaking a poisonous snake into a fire (Acts 28).
During a recent discussion with a Christian apologist on this blog, it was claimed that Christians knew early on what texts were legitimate and which texts were apocryphal. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The first New Testament Canon was written in 144 CE by Marcion, who was considered a heretic by the groups that would become orthodox. His canon included 10 letters of Paul and the gospel of Luke (allegedly written by Paul’s assistant), and it explicitly rejected the Old Testament, Matthew and John. Marcionites rejected the Old Testament, believed in 2 gods (1 Jewish and 1 Christian), Jesus was completely divine (not human at all), and that Paul was the one true apostle to whom Jesus appeared after his death because the 12 apostles were not leading properly (due to their being Jews). Marcion’s canon spurred the proto-orthodox Christians to start creating their own lists.
Around 180 CE, Christian Bishop Iranaeus wrote Against Heresies to debunk the theology of the Gnostics. It is in this book that we get the first selection of four and only four gospels. His logic is ridiculous.
“It is not possible that the Gospels can be either more or fewer in number than they are. For, since there are four zones of the world in which we live, and four principal winds, while the Church is scattered throughout all the world, and the pillar and ground of the Church is the Gospel and the spirit of life; it is fitting that she should have four pillars, breathing out immortality on every side, and vivifying men afresh. From which fact, it is evident that the Word, the Artificer of all, He that sits upon the cherubim, and contains all things, He who was manifested to men,has given us the Gospel under four aspects, but bound together by one Spirit.” (Against Heresies, 3:11:8)
The first complete listing of the 27 books of the New Testament did not occur until 367 CE in a letter from Athanasius. The oldest collection of these 27 books, the Codex Sinaiticus, also includes The Shepherd Of Hermas and The Epistle Of Barnabas. These two books are not noted to be of lesser consideration than the other 27 books.
Many gospels, letters, acts, apocalypses and other apocryphal Christian books flourished before and after the New Testament canon was finally established. The paintings above from 1320 and around 1487, show that some of these stories were popular thousands of years later.
In addition, there is the issue of Deuterocanonical books. At the time the New Testament was written, the Sepuagint (Greek translation of Hebrew Tanakh, or Old Testament) was considered authoritative. The authors of the New Testament quote from the Septuagint. Jewish leaders started abandoning the Septuagint around 100 CE for multiple reasons, including the desire to rely only on Hebrew texts and the desire to distance Judaism from a rival religion (Christianity) that used the Septuagint. The Masoretic text became the Jewish authoritative text in the middle ages.
To keep this short, Martin Luther did not like some Catholic doctrines that were in Maccabees, among other books. He placed all the books in the Septuagint but not in the Masoretic texts in an apocryphal (doubtful) section (he also doubted NT books Hebrews, James, Jude and Revelation). He published his NT in 1522 and his OT in 1534. The Catholic church responded with the Council of Trent in 1546. They created the Deuterocacnon to declare that the books in Luther’s apocrypha were of equal status to the other canonized books. This vote was passed with 24 yes, 15 no, and 16 abstaining. Only 44% of those attending voted to accept these books as equal, but that has been their status in the Catholic Church ever since. The Eastern Orthodox church also accepts these books (and a few more) as authoritative.
Catholics and Eastern Orthodox claim the Septuagint (LXX) is authoritative (it was used by the apostles; it is older; Jews did not have authority over holy texts after 33 CE, etc.). Protestants claim the Masoretic Text (MT) is authoritative (it is the official text of the Jews). Both sides claim the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) support their scriptures, but the truth is that the DSS shows a very fluid Old Testament up until about 100 CE. Some DSS texts match with MT, some match with LXX, some match with the Samaritan Pentateuch, and some show completely different origins.
Future versions of the protestant bible, including the 1611 King James, followed the pattern established by Luther. Official protestant bibles included the apocryphal books until they were officially removed in the 1895 version of the King James Version. In summary, the protestant bible is more recent than The Origin Of Species, but most protestant Christians have no idea about any of the things I have written about today.