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When is a Gospel not a Gospel?

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Sermon for the eleventh Sunday after Trinity

Which Gospel does St Paul hand to you?

Matthew? Mark? Luke? John?

Perhaps it isn't one of those Gospels he hands to you. Perhaps it's the Gospel of St Peter? Never heard of it? Surely you have, it's the Gospel in which at the Resurrection,

"... three men come forth from the tomb, and two of them supporting one, and a cross following them. And the heads of the two reached to heaven, but the head of him who was led by them overpassed the heavens. And they heard a voice from the heavens, saying, You have preached to them that sleep. And a response was heard from the cross, Yes."

You don't remember that one?

Perhaps it's the Gospel of St Philip? That's the Gospel mentioned in the Da Vinci Code which supposedly proves that Our Lord was married to St Mary Magdalene.

You don't recognize these Gospels, do you?

Why not?


Simply speaking, these are not the Gospel which St Paul received. There area whole group of Gospels none of which are The Gospel: they are either fake, corrupted, or at best unreliable.

Very early on, the Church recognises that the only reliable Gospels are the ones we know today.

Of course, that doesn't stop people from saying that they are fake or false. Many modern scholars like to tear the Gospels to shreds to show that they are historically unreliable. If that were true, the debate would be settled by now with conclusive proof. The only real reason that they have to be suspicious are the Miracles of Christ. If miracles don't happen, then the Gospels must be wrong. But then, if a miracle were to happen how is it to be reported if all reports of miracles are automatically false?


St Paul receives the Gospel from eyewitnesses and from his own experience on the Damascus road, and he preserves it as best he can. It's clear that if he were to change that Gospel then no-one would ever recognise it. It is because Matthew, Mark, Luke and John preserve the truth that the Church knows that the Gospels of Peter and Philip aren't the results of the saints, nor are they true.

We may say that there are four Gospels, but really there is only one to which these four books bear witness to us over the centuries.


We, too, are charged with passing on the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, and it has to be the same Gospel that has always been preached so that human beings can be saved from their sins and find Eternal Life with God. To change that Gospel in any way would be to distort the message that God has for us.

Sadly, many do. Many try to make Our Lord say things He has never said. Others try to make out that what was once described as sin has never been sinful. Others try to adapt the meaning of the Gospel to be politically correct.


We accept the true Gospel from the hands of St Paul and every single orthodox Christian who has lived and it is our job to pass it to those who come after. How can we do this if we do not read it? How can we do this if we do not understand it? Well, we just have to listen to those who have passed the Gospel onto us and be faithful.

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