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Joe Paprocki Answers:
Since Dan Brown published The Da Vinci Code, there has been a lot of attention focused on the apocryphal gospels – texts written around the same time as the 4 canonical Gospels that have not been included in the Bible. While Dan Brown created an entertainment phenomenon that has him laughing all the way to the bank, his facts are not straight. Unfortunately, because many people believe everything they see in a movie, a number of folks have concluded that the Church has been suppressing the apocryphal gospels for centuries, trying to keep them out of the hands of the faithful in order to hide some earth-shattering secret. The truth is, people like you and me “decided” that these accounts were not of the same caliber as Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. It was the early Christian communities that embraced those 4 accounts while distancing themselves from the many other accounts that came to be known as apocryphal. Eventually, the bishops of the Church confirmed what the faithful already knew…that the 4 Gospels we have today are inspired accounts of the story of salvation in Jesus Christ.
The Church has not been hiding the apocryphals…they are readily accessible in libraries and on the Internet. I studied some of them when I was an undergraduate over 30 years ago and they were right there for the taking on the shelves of the library at Loyola University of Chicago.
The Gospel of Mary, discovered in 1896, tells of a revelation that Jesus supposedly gave to Mary Magdalene instead of to Peter or the other Apostles. The main reason this text was rejected by early Christians was because it was heavily Gnostic, meaning that it draws from the heretical Gnostic belief that emphasized a dualism between the body and the soul, the physical world and the spiritual world. It was for this reason, not the fact that the text exalts Mary over the other disciples, that the faithful rejected the Gospel of Mary.