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Come Reason's Apologetics Notes blog will highlight various news stories or current events and seek to explore them from a thoughtful Christian perspective. Less formal and shorter than the Web site articles, we hope to give readers points to reflect on concerning topics of the day.

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Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Missing Gospels Make Me More Confident in the Bible

Howard Hughes was an icon both of American aviation and eccentricity. Hughes (later portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in the 2004 biographic film The Aviator) was a groundbreaking inventor and pilot, setting multiple records for aviation1 and his business savvy made him one of the richest men in America. However, Hughes also suffered from a form of obsessive compulsive disorder2, especially a fear of germs which eventually drove him to be a recluse before he died in 1976.

Because Hughes had no children, and his aide testified that Hughes had mentioned a will, a search was conducted by Hughes' Summa Corp, which managed all of his businesses.3 Needless to say, Summa found a lot of potential benefactors who claimed to hold wills written by the eccentric billionaire. 4 It took come twenty years to sort those out and 34 years to finalize the estate he left behind.5

One such will was dubbed "The Mormon Will," which was delivered days after Hughes' death. reports it as:
A tattered yellow envelope, bearing a partly illegible Las Vegas postmark, was addressed to Spencer W. Kimball, president of the Mormon Church. Inside the first envelope was a smaller one that bore instructions written in a large scrawl. Kimball was directed to deliver the enclosed will to legal authorities in Clark County, Nevada. It was signed Howard R. Hughes.6
Although forensic science didn't have the technology we do today to examine the will, the will was deemed a forgery. The World of Forensic Science article explains why:
The will immediately became suspect because of the numerous spelling errors that filled its pages as well as suspect references. Hughes paid painstaking attention to detail throughout his life and never made vague statements. Dummar was suspected of forging the Mormon will, because no one could understand why Hughes would leave him one hundred and fifty million dollars or why the reclusive and germ-phobic billionaire would hitchhike. Dummar later admitted that his story was false. Lastly, lawyers who worked for Hughes found it inconceivable that he would have relied on a handwritten last testament. He had a deep fear that his handwriting could be forged and even tried to keep his signature secret.7

The Problem of Too Many Gospels

I bring up Hughes' will because it is remarkably unremarkable for human beings to create forgeries of items they feel will give them value, power, or prestige. Yet, when the topic of the New Testament comes up, there are those who feel that the Bible's restriction of official Gospel accounts to four is somehow a bad thing. They seem to take the position of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, where he puts the objection in the mouth of historian professor Teabing, who says "More than 80 gospels were considered for the New Testament."8 Such a claim is not simply wrong, but incredibly wrong. There were never any gospels other than Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John ever considered for inclusion in the Bible. Ever. New Testament Scholar Craig Blomberg points to the book The Canon Debate, which holds every known list of proposed books for inclusion in the New Testament as evidence that such ideas are made up out of whole cloth.

However, one way I answer the objection that gospels were supposedly left out of the Bible is by responding, "Isn't that a relief!" It just seems to me that if the church fathers took the concept of the Word of God seriously, they simply wouldn't let in just any old written document claiming to be an account of Jesus' life, just hat the courts wouldn't let any old document claiming to be Howard Hughes' will stand as legitimate. And just as those examining the fake Hughes wills threw them out because of inconsistencies with the language used, questionable connections between Hughes and the benefactor, and actions that were out of character with Hughes, so too do these other Gnostic writings show inconsistencies in their theology, questionable associations with the eyewitnesses of Jesus' ministry (these were forgeries written much later), and presented a Jesus that was completely unlike the one we see in the older, more reliable Gospel accounts.

So, is there a problem when we look at the Gospel of Peter, the Gospel of Truth, or others? No. If the Gospels are the word of God, then we should expect to see forgeries pop up after a certain amount of time. It's human nature. And because the forgeries and fakes were screened out of the Bible, we should have more assurance that those passing on the Biblical accounts of Christ took their jobs at least as seriously as the judges passing on a billionaire's fortune.


1. Lerner, Preston. "Howard Hughes' Top Ten." Air & Space Magazine. Smithsonian. Nov. 2004. Web. 04 Nov. 2014.
2. Dittman, M. "Hughes's Germ Phobia Revealed in Psychological Autopsy." The American Psychological Association. The American Psychological Association, July-Aug. 2005. Web. 04 Nov. 2014.
3. "Howard Hughes' Will." World of Forensic Science. 2005. As reproduced in HighBeam Research, 01 Jan. 2005. Web. 04 Nov. 2014.
4. "Howard Hughes Estate Settled... After 34 Years." Living Trust Law Firm. The Law Offices of Jeffery G. Marsocci, PLLC, 21 Oct. 2010. Web. 04 Nov. 2014.
5. Hudson, Kris. "GGP, Howard Hughes Heirs Settle Las Vegas Payment." The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company, 20 Sept. 2010. Web. 04 Nov. 2014.
6. World of Forensic Science, 2005.
7. Ibid.
8. Brown, Dan. The Da Vinci Code: A Novel. New York: Doubleday, 2003. 231.Print

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