Teabing paused to sip his tea and then placed the cup back on the mantel. “More than eighty gospels were considered for the New Testament, and yet only a relative few were chosen for inclusion – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John among them.” Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code
Was Jesus’ life really “recorded by thousands of followers across the land” as Teabing suggests? Were there really eighty gospels considered?
The answer is no. While there were other writings about Jesus, these other “gospels” were written much later than the four traditional gospels, and most were never given even a hint of consideration by early Christians.
Mark, the earliest of the four biblical gospels, is usually dated to around 60 AD (60 years after the birth of Christ, 27 years after his death). By contrast, even the most liberal scholars date the two non-biblical gospels Teabing quotes from, the Gospel of Mary and the Gospel of Philip to, at the earliest, at 120 AD and 180 AD respectively. Unlike the biblical gospels, of which we have literally thousands of early copies, most non-biblical gospels exist in only a few manuscripts. The Gospel of Philip, for example, exists in only one manuscript which is incomplete.
Why should we seriously consider writings that were not only written much later than the biblical gospels, but were also passed by as inaccurate by the people who lived closest to the time Jesus lived?