THE SUPPRESSED GOSPELS AND EPISTLES OF THE ORIGINAL NEW TESTAMENT OF JESUS THE CHRIST AND OTHER PORTIONS OF THE ANCIENT HOLY SCRIPTURES. NOW EXTANT, ATTRIBUTED TO HIS APOSTLES, AND THEIR DISCIPLES, AND VENERATED BY THE PRIMITIVE CHRISTIAN CHURCHES DURING THE FIRST FOUR CENTURIES, BUT SINCE, AFTER VIOLENT DISPUTATIONS FORBIDDEN BY THE BISHOPS OF THE NICENE COUNCIL, IN THE REIGN OF THE EMPEROR CONSTANTINE AND OMITTED FROM THE CATHOLICS AND PROTESTANT EDITIONS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT, BY ITS COMPILERS
TRANSLATED FROM THE ORIGINAL TONGUES, WITH HISTORICAL REFERENCES TO THEIR
AUTHENTICITY, BY ARCHBISHOP WAKE AND OTHER LEARNED DIVINES
THE ORDER OF ALL THE FORBIDDEN BOOKS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT WITH THEIR PROPER NAMES, AND NUMBER OF CHAPTERS
The Gospel of the Birth of Mary
The Gospel called the Protevangelion
I. Infancy of Jesus Christ
II. Infancy of Jesus Christ (St. Thomas's Gospel)
Christ and Abgarus
Paul and Seneca
Acts of Paul and Thecla
II. Clement to the Corinthians
Epistle of Barnabas
Ignatius to the Ephesians
Ignatius to the Magnesians
Ignatius to the Trallians
Ignatius to the Romans
Ignatius to the Philadelphians
Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans
Ignatius to Polycarp
Polycarp to the Philippians
To uphold the "right of private judgment," and our "Christian liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free;" to add fuel to the fire of investigation, and in the crucible of deep inquiry, melt from the gold of pure religion, the dross of man's invention; to appeal from the erring tribunals of a fallible Priesthood, and restore to its original state the mutilated Testament of the Saviour; also to induce all earnest thinkers to search not a part, but the whole of the Scriptures, if therein they think they will find eternal life; I, as an advocate of free thought and untrammelled opinion, dispute the authority of those uncharitable, bickering, and ignorant Ecclesiastics who first suppressed these gospels and epistles; and I join issue with their Catholic and Protestant successors who have since excluded them from the New Testament, of which they formed a part; and were venerated by the Primitive Churches, during the first four hundred years of the Christian Era.
My opposition is based on two grounds; first, the right of every rational being to become a "Priest unto himself," and by the test of enlightened reason, to form his own unbiased judgment of all things natural and spiritual: second, that the reputation of the Bishops who extracted these books from the original New Testament, under the pretence of being Apocryphal, and forbade them to be read by the people, is proved by authentic impartial history too odious to entitle them to any deference.
Since the Nicene Council, by a pious fraud, which I shall further allude to, suppressed these books, several of them have been reissued from time to time by various translators, who differed considerably in their versions, as the historical references attached to them in the following pages will demonstrate. But to the late Mr. William Hone we are indebted for their complete publication for the first time in one volume, about the year 1820; which edition, diligently revised, and purified of many errors both in the text and the notes attached thereto, I have re-published in numbers to enable all classes of the nation to purchase and peruse them. As, however, instead of being called by their own designation "Apocryphal," (which yet remains to be proved), they were re-entitled THE FORBIDDEN BOOKS, and, from communications received, appear to have agitated a portion of the great mass of ignorant bigotry which mars the fair form of Religion in these sect-ridden dominions, I have modified the title to its present shape with the hope that in spite of illiberal clerical influence, my fellow Christians will read and inwardly digest the sublime precepts they inculcate;--as pure, as holy, and as charitable as those principles of Christianity taught in the Scriptures they; now read by permission; although their minds may, after mature reflection, doubt the truth of the miraculous records therein given.
To ensure these Gospels and Epistles an unprejudiced and serious attention, which they are entitled to, equally with those now patronised by Church authority, I will briefly refer to that disgraceful epoch in Roman Ecclesiastical Annals, when the New Testament was mutilated, and priestly craft was employed for excluding these books from its pages.
HONE, in the preface to his first edition of the Apocryphal New Testament, so called, without satisfactory grounds, by the Council of Nice, in the reign of the Emperor Constantine, thus opens the subject:--
"After the writings contained in the New Testament were selected from the numerous Gospels and Epistles then in existence, what became of the Books that were rejected by the compilers?"
This question naturally occurs on every investigation as to the period when and the persons by whom the New Testament was formed. It has been supposed by many that the volume was compiled by the first Council of Nice, which, according to Jortin (Rem. on Eccl. vol. ii. p. 177), originated thus: Alexander, Bishop of Alexandria, and Arius, who was a presbyter in his diocese, disputed together about the nature of Christ; and the bishop being displeased at the notions of Arius, and finding that they were adopted by other persons, "was very angry." He commanded Arius to come over to his sentiments, and to quit his own; as if a man could change his opinions as easily as he can change his coat! He then called a Council of War, consisting of nearly, a hundred bishops, and deposed, excommunicated, and anathematized Arius, and with him several ecclesiastics, two of whom were bishops. Constantine sent a letter, in which he reprimanded the bishops for disturbing the church with their insignificant disputes. But the affair was gone too far to be thus composed. To settle this and other points, the Nicene Council was summoned, consisting of about 318 bishops. The first thing they did was to quarrel, and to express their resentments, and to present accusations to the Emperor against one another. "The Emperor burnt all their libels, and exhorted them to peace and unity." (See Mosheim's Eccle. Hist.) These were the kind of spiritual shepherds of whom Sabinus, the Bishop Heraclea affirms, that excepting Constantine himself, and Eusebius Pamphilus, they "were a set of illiterate creatures, that understood nothing." And now intelligent Catholics, especially Protestants who are content to read only the books of the Testament authorized by the Council of Nice, and agreed to ever since by your own bishops, although they and you profess to dissent from the Papacy, hear what Pappus in his Synodican to that Council says of their crafty contrivance when they separated the books of the original New Testament:--He tells us, that having "promiscuously put all the books that were referred to the Council for deliberation under the communion-table in a church, they besought the Lord that the inspired writings might get on the table, while the spurious ones remained underneath; and that it happened accordingly!" (See Com. Mace's N. T. p. 875.) Therefore, good reader, every Christian sect from the fourth century to the present period, have been blessed with the books that climbed upon the communion-table, and in consequence were deemed inspired and canonical; at the same time have been forbidden to read the Gospels and Epistles herein published, because they could not perform the same feat, but remained under the table, and were condemned accordingly, as uninspired and apocryphal writings. If you believe this popish legend, you will not read the good books I lay before you, but still continue to possess only HALF THE TESTAMENT, instead of the PERFECT ONE, which will enable you to burst the trammels of priestcraft, and by the light of God's whole truth become free. In conclusion, I implore you to examine for yourselves, and observe the testimony of Archbishop Wake and other learned divines and historians appended thereto; and subscribe myself,
Your well-wisher, EDWARD HANCOCK.