The answer is yes, there is. I've begun t look at three specific attributes that all biblical texts share that are not true of any so-called "lost books" of the Bible. Yesterday, I discussed how all of the biblical books shared a specific authority, both in their claim to speak on God's behalf and in their recognition as authoritative voices given their proximity to the apostles. Today, I'd like to look at the second common attribute of scripture: its acceptance throughout the early Christian Church.
Christianity has always been a faith that claims a certain kind of unity. When the disciples tried to stop a man who wasn't part of their group from casting out a demon using his name, Jesus rebuked them, saying "He who is not against you is for you" (Luke 9:50). The Christian church is one church, one body of Christ with many members (1 Cor. 12:12-13). The early church held this concept of unity highly, even incorporating it into their statement of faith, the Nicene Creed, which states "We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church." Protestants today may be thrown by the world "catholic;" it doesn't refer to the Roman Catholic Church (Capital "C"), but it simply means "universal."
The Universal Acceptance of the Biblical BooksBecause Christianity is both apostolic and catholic, it shouldn't surprise many that the writings we recognize as scripture are also apostolic and catholic. The Hebrew Old Testament was seen as authoritative and called scripture by both Jesus and the apostles. The early church fathers would also cite OT books as authoritative. When a man born just one generation after the Apostles named Marcion sought to throw out the Old Testament, he was condemned as a heretic. The Old Testament was accepted and understood as being the word of God and proclaiming the coming of Jesus as Messiah.
The twenty-seven books of the New Testament were also universal in their acceptance, but not quite as neatly. While the Old Testament had been established as a single corpus, the New Testament was still being formed as the Church was being formed. Also, because early Christianity was spread across parts of Africa, Asia, and Europe, distributing the apostles' writings became more challenging. Still, most of the texts were accepted by a wide majority of the church very, very quickly, normally within the 20 to 40 years of their actual writing.
The sharing of authoritative texts began very early within the church. Paul sets this model in his letter to the Colossians, where he writes, "And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea" (Col, 4:16). It is because letters were shared and copies were made so other churches could refer back to them that we have as many New Testament manuscripts as we do. While Paul's letters might be addressed to a certain church or person, other apostles would write to the church as a whole. Peter begins his first epistle addressing it to "those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion" (1 Pet. 1:1). James uses the same language. Jude addressed his to "those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ" while John writings make the distinction between those in the faith ("us") and those not of the faith ("them) in 1 John 2:19. Clearly, he was offering instruction to the church as a whole.
Disputed Books of the New TestamentBecause of the time it could take for books to be copied and passed along to other areas of the world, not every church had recognized every book immediately. Others would be wary of books that they saw as suspect, such as 2 Peter or Jude. Eusebius named five books as being controversial (James, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, and Jude.) Yet these books were quoted by various church fathers prior to this and some were included in lists of scripture such as the Muratorian Canon.1 By 367, Athanasius lists all the books of the New Testament as authoritative and it reflects the exact twenty-seven books we have today.
The contrast between the accepted New Testament books and those claiming to be "lost books" is staggering. Various church fathers like Origen, Irenaeus, Cyril of Jerusalem, Clement of Alexandria and others would write of them and condemn them. No gospel other than Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, were ever supported by anyone for inclusion in the canon.2 A couple of epistles were, such as the Shepherd of Hermas or the Epistle of Barnabas. These were ultimately rejected as not being connected to the apostles and not being universally recognized within the church as scripture.