After a first pass through my previous list of “first person Gospels” — those written or dictated by those who directly knew Jesus, see HERE — my gut told me some of these were somewhat less than direct. For example, the three numbered John books (I John, II John and III John) have a significantly different focus than the Gospel According to John.
So, I did some research into current thinking on the authorship of these books and I found that many scholars agree. The three numbered John books were not written or dictated by someone who knew Jesus. They are, therefore, not “direct” books.
In my list of “first person Gospels”, I’ve therefore removed the numbered John books.
Also in that research, however, I found that The Gospel According to John (as in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) was mostly likely recorded by a disciple of John. That is, it was dictated or transcribed from John’s personal (first person) knowledge of Jesus.
And, by that same token, so was The Gospel According to Mark, the name sake of which was a disciple of Simon “also known as Peter”, someone who knew Jesus. To my list of direct books — by virtue of authorship whether by pen or mouth to someone holding the pen — I am adding Mark to my list of direct books.
Here is my revised list of New Testament books and why I’ve included them.
- James, brother of Jesus
- Jude, brother of Jesus
- 1st Peter, “Simon also known as Peter”, disciple of Jesus
- Mark, disciple of “Simon also known as Peter”, the latter a disciple of Jesus
- John, recorded by unnamed disciple of John, the latter a disciple of Jesus
- Gospel of Mary, possibly written by Mary Magdalene
- Gospel of Thomas, possibly written by Phillip, the latter a disciple of Jesus
The first three, James, Jude and 1st Peter are, I must report, not particularly thought provoking.
Mark, with its many stories, is a pleasure to read and John, with its viewpoint strictly limited to Jesus’ adulthood and containing some stories not found in Mark, is very stimulating.
Mary’s Gospel, what exists, is so badly fragmented that there are very few places in which one can grab hold of an idea. Indeed, one fragment ends with the beginning of a vision of Jesus but cuts off mid-sentence. And then after six lost pages, the book continues mid-discussion with Jesus, but without the context to know if this is what Jesus said in reality or in that first or another vision.
Regardless, however, Mary’s focus is dramatically different than that of any of the other books. It has much more of a “gnostic” (knowing within oneself) approach rather than that of simply hearing and following the dictates of others. In The Gospel According to Mary, the emphasis is strongly on the internal journey, the internal ruminations and eventual revelation of the ultimate truths.
And what of Thomas? He awaits me on the shelf.