I have always found the Gospels that did not survive the canonization process to be much more interesting than those that did. Elaine Pagels' The Gnostic Gospels was my introduction to this body of literature, but this documentary is also quite interesting.
Father Owen (are Anglican priests called Father?) argues at one point that the inclusion of some of these texts, particularly the Gospel of Mary, may have doomed Christianity as we know it to the archives of history, as little more than a footnote. And I am forced to wonder if that would be a bad thing or not.
There is much to be said for the force of religion in shaping our distinctly Western culture - but how might it have better if it gone differently?
Documentary presented by Anglican priest Pete Owen Jones which explores the huge number of ancient Christian texts that didn’t make it into the New Testament. Shocking and challenging, these were works in which Jesus didn’t die, took revenge on his enemies and kissed Mary Magdalene on the mouth – a Jesus unrecognizable from that found in the traditional books of the New Testament.
Pete travels through Egypt and the former Roman Empire looking at the emerging evidence of a Christian world that’s very different to the one we know, and discovers that aside from the gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke and John, there were over seventy gospels, acts, letters and apocalypses, all circulating in the early Church.
Through these lost Gospels, Pete reconstructs the intense intellectual and political struggles for orthodoxy that was fought in the early centuries of Christianity, a battle involving different Christian sects, each convinced that their gospels were true and sacred.
The worldwide success of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code sparked new interest, as well as wild and misguided speculation about the origins of the Christian faith. Owen Jones sets out the context in which heretical texts like the Gospel of Mary emerged. He also strikes a cautionary note – if these lost gospels had been allowed to flourish, Christianity may well have faced an uncertain future, or perhaps not survived at all.
Watch the full documentary now