One of the main objections to the so-called “Gnostic Gospels” is that they claim to contain the secret teachings of Jesus that were not recorded in the Gospels of the New Testament. Many Christian theologians and apologists strongly deny the existence of any sort of hidden insight to be found outside of the red letters of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John.
But, curiously enough, those same Gospels all affirm the notion that Jesus really did have secret teachings that he revealed only to his disciples in private.
For example, in the earliest Gospel of Mark, we read:
“But without a parable He did not speak to them [the people]. And when they were alone, He explained all things to His disciples.” [Mark 4:34]
Wow. That sort of outright confirms the idea that Jesus conveyed one set of general teachings to the crowd through unexplained stories and parables, and still another deeper set of teachings reserved only for his closest students.
In the Gospel of Matthew we read a similar passage that also affirms this notion that Jesus only communicated his deepest teachings to the disciples in private:
“And the disciples came, and said to him, Why do you speak to the people in parables? He answered and said unto them, “Because it has been granted to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heavens, but it has not been granted to them.” [Matt. 13:10-11]
“Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable. So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet: ‘I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.’” [Matt. 13:34-35]
So, once again, Jesus affirms the notion that his disciples received the hidden message of the Kingdom while everyone else was left to wrestle with the unexplained mystery of his parables.
And most of those parables were unexplained, even within the Gospels themselves. Only one of the parables of Jesus is ever fully explained – the Parable of the Seed and the Sower – in Matthew 13:36-51. All the others are left unexplained and wide open to a variety of interpretations.
What’s more, the majority of the teachings of Jesus we read in the New Testament Gospels are from the public teachings, not from those private conversations between Jesus and the disciples.
Not only this, but the Gospel of John also affirms that everything Jesus wants to communicate to his disciples is NOT to be found in the Gospels:
“I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them at the present time. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.” -[John 16:12-13]
So, like it or not, the Gospels all seem to affirm the notion that Jesus DID teach one thing to the crowd and yet another hidden Gospel to his disciples, and that the entire story is NOT to be found in the New Testament, but will be revealed to those who continually seek the Spirit of Truth for themselves.
Of course, this makes a lot of Christians nervous. Especially for those who really want to hold on to the notion that everything we need to know is in the Bible and the only way anyone can ever know anything about Jesus is to be found in the Scriptures.
When the Scriptures themselves contradict that notion, it can be especially troubling and discomforting.
For those who reject this explicitly Biblical idea that Jesus didn’t reveal everything to us through the Gospels, this next section of my blog post won’t be of much interest to you. But, for those who are intrigued by the notion that Jesus may have really had an even deeper, more subversive message to communicate to us, I would like to invite you to join me for a brand-new blog series called THE INNER CIRCLE which will begin right here on Patheos starting next week.
These INNER CIRCLE blog posts will run once or twice per week and center on the sayings of Jesus found in the Gospel of Thomas. These posts will be available only to those who subscribe to them. Everyone else will continue to receive access to my regular Patheos blog posts without paying a dime.
So, if you’re up for this little adventure, I invite you to subscribe to this exclusive blog series starting April 4, 2022.
This is going to be a lot of fun. I promise.
Keith Giles is the author of the 7-part best-selling “Jesus Un” book series from Quoir Publishing. His latest -and final book – in this series, Jesus Unarmed: How The Prince Of Peace Disarms Our Violence is available now. Keith is also the host of Second Cup with Keith [a new solo podcast available now on the Ethos Radio App, for Apple and Android and on Spotify; and the Heretic Happy Hour Podcast [along with co-hosts Matthew Distefano, Dr. Katy Valentine, and Derrick Day], and the new Apostate’s Anonymous podcast with Matthew Distefano. He and his wife, Wendy, currently live in El Paso, TX.