The Egerton Gospel
One of the blank spots for many Christians are writings
about Jesus which have been excluded from the New Testament by the Church.
The Egerton Gospel is one such.
The Canon (or "measuring rod") of the New Testament is
the list of those writings which are regarded by the Church as having been
inspired by God. By about 150 years after the death of Jesus most of what
we now know as the New Testament had been put together with the books of
the Old Testament as the "Holy Scriptures". Some writings such as the
letter to the Hebrews and the Revelation of John were accepted more
slowly. Athanasius in 367 was the first official guide to the present
Canon. It was again given by a Church Council in 382 in Rome and finally
confirmed by the Council of Trent (1545-63).
Other writings such as the Gospel of Thomas have been
used for study by scholars for a long time. It's only recently that
non-canonical writings have come more to the fore and regarded as useful
guides to "what Jesus really said and did."
Strictly speaking, the Egerton Gospel isn't a gospel in
the sense that the four main gospels are. It would be more accurately
called a fragment - or "papyrus", after the material on which it is
written. The two imperfect leaves and one fragment were discovered in 1935
and another small piece was discovered and published in1987. They were
part of a book (a codex) not a papyrus roll. They contain some
miracle stories, dialogues, and accounts of violence towards Jesus. None
of the texts is complete. Letters, words and sometimes phrases are
missing. Some of the material echoes the four Gospels; some is found
The material on which the Egerton Gospel is written has
been dated between 150 and 200. It probably came from Egypt. Some think is
was copied from an earlier source in Palestine or Syria. It may have first
circulated among Jewish Christians who were being given a hard time by
their fellow Jews.
The language of the Egerton Gospel doesn't seem to be of
the same type as the language of the canonical gospels, although there are
similarities in the material. The greatest similarity is with John's
Gospel. But the Egerton version seems to be considerably less developed
than John's and is therefore possibly the earlier of the two.
Scholars think that Egerton's author used the same traditional sources as
the authors of the Gospels - by using fixed units of material modified to
meet a theological need, and then freely arranged into literary
The Egerton Gospel's version of the coin used for taxes
focuses on the argument preceding the historical piece. It misses out the
verbal exchange over the coin.
They came to him and questioned him as a way of
testing him. They asked, "Jesus the teacher, we know you have come from
God because your actions place you above all the prophets.
"So tell us this: Are we allowed to pay the rulers
what they demand? Should we pay them, or shouldn't we?"
Jesus guessed what they were up to and got annoyed. He
said to them, "Why do you pretend to respect me as a teacher, but don't
carry out what I say? Isaiah's prophecy about you was accurate when he
said, 'This nation honours me with their lips, but in their hearts they
are disconnected from me. Their worship is meaningless because they go
by teachings which are human rules ...
The rest of the Gospel has been lost.