The actual bible stories that we know of today were chosen by a group of people from hundreds, perhaps thousands, of different stories. This group of people decided which stories were true and which ones were false. Some early versions of the bible contained chapters that are no longer viewed as valid. The list of books considered holy among the early Christians differed between churches....
In addition to the Jewish scriptures, each Christian community developed its own "New Testament" scriptures, creating more than a dozen different gospels and an uncertain number of epistles and apocalypses. ...no "Church Father" is known, who drew the line of canonicity in the same way as does [a Fundamentalist Christian] of today.
- The illustrious Irenaeus (b. ca. A.D. 130), for example, considered the Shepherd of Hennas to be inspired, but rejected Hebrews, Jude, James, 2 Peter, and 3 John.
- Clement of Alexandria (ca. A.D. 150-213) included the Apocalypse of Peter, the Epistle of Barnabas, and the Shepherd of Hermas in his Bible.
- Tertullian (b. ca. A.D. 160) ...threw out all the New Testament books except the four gospels, Acts, thirteen "Pauline" epistles, Revelation, and 1 John.
There were many Gospels in circulation in the early centuries, and a large number of them were forgeries. Among these were the "Gospel of Paul," the Gospel of Bartholomew," the "Gospel of Judas Iscariot," the "Gospel of the Egyptians," the "Gospel or Recollections of Peter," the "Oracles or Sayings of Christ," and scores of other pious productions, a collection of which may still be read in "The Apocryphal New Testament." Obscure men wrote Gospels and attached the names of prominent Christian characters to them, to give them the appearance of importance. Works were forged in the names of the apostles, and even in the name of Christ. The greatest Christian teachers taught that it was a virtue to deceive and lie for the glory of the faith. Dean Milman, the standard Christian historian, says: "Pious fraud was admitted and avowed." The Rev. Dr. Giles writes: "There can be no doubt that great numbers of books were then written with no other view than to deceive." Professor Robertson Smith says: "There was an enormous floating mass of spurious literature created to suit party views." The early church was flooded with spurious religious writings. From this mass of literature, our Gospels were selected by priests and called the inspired word of God. Were these Gospels also forged? There is no certainty that they were not. But let me ask: If Christ was an historical character, why was it necessary to forge documents to prove his existence? Did anybody ever think of forging documents to prove the existence of any person who was really known to have lived? The early Christian forgeries are a tremendous testimony to the weakness of the Christian cause.