The canonical Gospels stand very differently, as respects origin, character and reception, with the Gospels, Acts and Apocalpyses known as ‘Apocryphal.’ These apocryphal writings began to be produced (so far as known) in the second century, mostly in Ebionitic and Gnostic circles, and, with few exceptions, were repudiated and condemned by the Church. Only later, and in modified and expurgated forms, did their stories pass into the general Catholic tradition. The second century seems to have been a perfect hot-bed for the production of this class of writings. The heretical Gospel of the Egyptians is already quoted in 2 Clement (circa a.d. 140). Irenæus speaks of the sect of the Marcosians as adducing ‘an unspeakable number of apocryphal and spurious writings, which they themselves had forged, to bewilder the minds of the foolish,’ and instances the story, found in the Gospel of Thomas, of Jesus confounding the schoolmaster who sought to teach Him His letters (Adv. Haer. i. 20). Later tradition attributed the composition of many of the apocryphal writings (Pseudo-Matthew, Acts of Apostles) to a mythical Leucius, a disciple of the Apostles (cp. art. ‘Leucius,’ Dict. of Christ. Biog.). Eusebius gives a list of spurious and disputed books: ‘That we may have it in our power to know both these books (the canonical) and those that are adduced by the heretics under the name of the Apostles, such, viz., as compose the Gospels of Peter, of Thomas, and of Matthew, and certain others beside these, or such as contain the Acts of Andrew and John, and of the other Apostles, of which no one of those writers in the ecclesiastical succession has condescended to make any mention in his works; and, indeed, the character of the style itself is very different from that of the Apostles, and the sentiments, and the purport of those things that are advanced in them, deviating as far as possible from sound orthodoxy, evidently proves they are the fictions of heretical men; whence they are not only to be ranked among the spurious writings, but are to be rejected as altogether absurd and impious’ (H. E. iii. 25). Only a small part of this extensive literature remains to us, and in no case in its original form, but solely in later, and often much-altered recensions.
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About the Author
Orr was a vocal critic of theological liberalism (of Albrecht Ritschl especially) and helped establish Christian fundamentalism. His lectures and writings upheld the doctrines of the virgin birth and resurrection of Jesus, and the infallibility of the Bible. In contrast to modern fundamentalists and his friend B.B. Warfield, he did not agree with the stronger position of Biblical inerrancy. Like Warfield, but also unlike modern Christian fundamentalists, he advocated a position which he called "theistic evolution", but which would today be called progressive creationism.