[T]he fact that a text circulated among the “early Christians” (anywhere from the first through fourth centuries) is irrelevant to what it can tell us about Jesus or his world. Contrary to the Telegraph account – and good grief, this is a conservative paper – the reason early church leaders privileged those particular four gospels was that they were so evidently the earliest and most authoritative texts, without serious competition. No body of cranky patriarchs sat around and said, “Well, we have to vote out Marybecause it’s, um, a tad sexual. John can stay because it spiritualizes everything, and that’ll be useful in a century or so when we get political power.” If you read the actualchurch debates over which texts should be canonized or excluded, you will be deeply impressed by the historical logic and good sense they demonstrate, and their powerful sense of history and chronology. Forgive me for the obvious remark, but they never seriously contemplated adding most of the Nag Hammadi texts because they had not even been written in the mid-second century, and in any case, these relied on the Big Four for any historical descriptions. I can point confidently to chains of historical evidence and authority linking the apostles to Mark, and on to the other synoptics, and John has its distinctive foundations. Literally no other gospel – including Thomas – has anything vaguely comparable.