Who Chose the Gospels?


Professor  C. E. Hill


(The Da Vinci Code and other fantasies)


All Christian churches hold that four, and only four, gospels were inspired by the Holy Spirit and handed-down by the early Christians.  These were considered to faithfully express the truth about Jesus and His teachings. They were called: ‘canonical’.


But in recent times, religious fantasy books and films have propagated another story. They assert that: “there was a great diversity in the Christian movement”. There was a “sea of multiple gospels”; and “gospels bread like rabbits”. It is asserted that in the 4th century a conspiracy by a group of bishops and politicians, chose four gospels and destroyed all others. An example of how this idea has been promoted is to be seen in The Da Vinci Code,


“Who chose which gospels to include? Sophie asked. “Aha!” Teabing burst in with enthusiasm. The fundamental irony of Christianity! The bible, as we now know it today, was collated by the pagan Roman emperor Constantine the Great”.


Charles Hill has truly answered Sophie’s question by looking at the writings of leading Christians in the first 250 years. He examined the writings the early Christians were using and accepting as reliable. Here is an example of Hill’s approach.


Clement of Alexandria (150 - 215) wrote extensively. Modern anti-Christian authors have claimed that Clement liberally used non-canonical gospels and frequently referred to them. These modern authors aim to convey the impression that even a bishop, like Clement, didn’t restrict himself to the four canonical gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. [Note: Clement was a teacher, not a bishop].


Hill shows that Clement used Matthew 757 times, Luke 402, John 331 and Mark 182 - a total of 1672 times. Non-canonical writings were used 14 times (The Gospel of the Egyptians: 8, The Gospel of the Hebrews: 3, The Tradition of Matthias: 3). Other non-canonical writings do not appear at all.  It should also be noted that Clement was quoting from some of the 14 in order to challenge their false teachings.


As an academic study his book does not provoke the excitement and drama of a fantasy film. But for those seriously interested in Da Vinci and similar phenomena, this book is a book worth reading.


The author is: C. E. Hill, a Professor at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida, USA.


Who Chose the Gospels was published in 2001 by: Oxford University Press.


[150]  2nd June 2014


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