Monday, May 25, 2009

Heretical Christian Writings

The following list is part of an attempt on my part to distinguish worthy, substantial Church writings throughout the ages from those that are unworthy (at best heterodox, at worst heretical). These lists are meant to guide Christians who want to broaden their theological horizons and strengthen their understanding of Christian thought. The "Heretical" list contains, to the best of my knowledge, the writings of those sects who have distorted the historically orthodox understanding of Christian teaching to suit their own needs.

I use three primary criteria in deciding what is worthy and what is unworthy. In descending order of precedence, they are as follows: first, the writing must conform to the plain words of Scripture. As scripture is not always plain (and as our God is by nature mysterious), where a debate may come up about the scriptural conformity of a writing, we look to the second and third criteria for guidance. The second criterion that I use is conformity to the Ecumenical Councils (in order of rank or precedence: 1 & 2, then 3 & 4, and finally 5 through 7). But as even these are debated from one group of Christians to the next, I primarily use the First Council of Nicaea (325 AD), the First Council of Constantinople (381 AD) and the Apostolic Council of Jerusalem (c. 50 AD). The final criterion I use is Church tradition. Those teachings generally held to be influential through the ages, written by the apostles or those who knew them (i.e. the Apostolic Fathers) or those attested by accepted orthodox historians are included in the Worthy Church Writings list (assuming they meet the first two criteria, of course).

Those teachings which meet none of the above criteria are generally considered worthless and should not be used in Christian discipleship. It is the Heretical List that I enumerate below.


I. Nag Hammadi Library – Gnostic (51 Readings)

A. Codex I (Jung Foundation Codex)

1. Prayer of the Apostle Paul

2. Apocryphon of James/Secret Book of James

3. Gospel of Truth

4. Treatise on the Resurrection

5. Tripartite Tractate

B. Codex II

1. Apocryphon of John

2. Gospel of Philip

3. Hypostasis of the Archons

4. On the Origin of the World

5. Exegesis on the Soul

6. Book of Thomas the Contender

C. Codex III

1. Apocryphon of John

2. Gospel of the Egyptians

3. Eugnostos the Blessed

4. Sophia of Jesus Christ

5. Dialogue of the Saviour

D. Codex IV

1. Apocryphon of John

2. Gospel of the Egyptians

E. Codex V

1. Eugnostos the Blessed

2. (Coptic) Apocalypse of Paul

3. First Apocalypse of James

4. Second Apocalypse of James

5. Apocalypse of Adam

F. Codex VI

1. Acts of Peter and the Twelve Apostles

2. The Thunder, Perfect Mind

3. Authoritative Teaching

4. The Concept of Our Great Power

5. Republic by Plato (Gnostic Edition)

6. Discourse on the Eighth and Ninth

7. Prayer of Thanksgiving

8. Asclepius 21 – 29

G. Codex VII

1. Paraphrase of Shem

2. Second Treatise of the Great Seth

3. Gnostic Apocalypse of Peter

4. Teachings of Silvanus

5. Three Steles of Seth

H. Codex VIII

1. Zostrianos

2. Letter of Peter to Philip

I. Codex IX

1. Melchizedek

2. Thought of Norea

3. Testimony of Truth

J. Codex X

1. Marsanes

K. Codex XI

1. Interpretation of Knowledge

2. A Valentinian Exposition, On the Anointing, On Baptism (A and B), and On the Eucharist (A and B)

3. Allogenes

4. Hypsiphrone

L. Codex XII

1. Sentences of Sextus

2. Gospel of Truth

3. Fragments

M. Codex XIII

1. Trimorphic Protennoia

2. On the Origin of the World

II. Other Gnostic Writings (22 Readings)

A. Valentinian

1. Ptolemy’s Letter to Flora

2. Liturgical Readings

3. Round Dance of the Cross

B. Sethian

1. Reality of the Rulers

2. Vision of the Foreigner

C. Syrian

1. Songs of Solomon

2. Hymn of the Pearl

3. Book of Thomas

D. Hermetic

1. Poimandres

2. Prayer of Thanksgiving

E. Mandaean

1. The Ginza

2. Hibil’s Lament From the Book of John

3. Liturgical Songs

F. Manichaean

1. On the Origin of His Body

2. Story of the Death of Mani

3. Kephalaia

4. Coptic Songbook

5. Parthian Songs

6. The Great Song to Mani

G. Cathar

1. Gospel of the Secret Supper

2. Book of the Two Principles

3. A Nun’s Sermon

III. Apocryphal (28 Readings)

A. Gospels

1. Gospel of the Nazareans Fragment

2. Gospel of Judas Read

3. Infancy Gospel of Thomas

4. Gospel of Peter Fragment, Orthodox

5. Gospel of Nicodemus

6. Gospel According to the Hebrews (c. 150) Fragment, Orthodox

7. Gospel of the Egyptians Fragment

8. The Unknown Gospel – Papyrus Egerton 2 Fragment

9. Gospel of Mary

10. Gospel of the Savior

11. Secret Gospel of Mark

12. Coptic Gospel of Thomas (c. 40 – 200) Read

B. Dialogues

1. Dialogue of the Redeemer

C. Leucian Acts

1. Acts of Peter

2. Acts of John

3. Acts of Andrew

4. Acts of Thomas

D. Epistles

1. St. Paul to the Laodiceans

2. Epistle of the Apostles

3. Correspondence Between Paul and Seneca

4. Letter of Peter to James & Its Reception

5. Pseudo-Titus

E. Apocalypses

1. Apocalypse of Paul

2. Apocalypse of Peter (c. 100 – 200) Orthodox *

F. Homilies

1. Homilies of Clement

G. Other Works

1. Protoevangelium of James (c. 150) Orthodox *

2. History of Joseph the Carpenter

3. Testament of Our Lord in Galilee (c. 150) Fragment, Orthodox

4. Preaching of Peter Fragment, Orthodox

IV. Neo-Platonism (1 Reading)

A. The Six Enneads by Porphyry (c. 270)

V. Mormonism (8 Readings)

A. The Book of Mormon

B. Pearl of Great Price

1. Selections From the Book of Moses

2. Book of Abraham

3. Joseph Smith – Matthew

4. Joseph Smith – History

5. Articles of Faith

C. Doctrine and Covenants

D. Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible

VI. Cerdonianism and Marcionism (2 Readings)

A. Gospel of Marcion

B. Apostolicon

VII. Modern Pseudepigrapha (23 Readings)

A. Acts Chapter 29

B. Aquarian Gospel of Jesus Christ or Aquarian Age Gospel of Jesus, the Christ of the Piscean Age by Levi H. Dowling (1908)

C. Archko Volume “transcribed” by Rev. W. D. Mahan (1887)

D. Gospel of Barnabas (c. 1550)

E. Letter of Benan

F. Description of Christ

G. Life of Issa “discovered” by Nicolas Notovitch

H. Book of Jasher (Pseudo-Jasher)

I. Gospel of Josephus

J. Letter From Heaven

K. Confessions of Pontius Pilate

L. Nazarene Gospel

M. Kolbrin

1. Book of Creation (from Great Book of the Sons of Fire)

2. Book of Gleanings

3. Book of Scrolls

4. Book of the Sons of Fire

5. Book of Manuscripts

6. Book of Morals and Precepts

7. Book of Origins/Ferilbook

8. Book of the Silver Bough

9. Book of Lucius

10. Book of Wisdom

11. Britain Book

VIII. Ebionite Writings (6 Readings)

A. Recognitions of Clement

B. Clementine Homilies

C. Gospel of the Ebionites Fragment

D. Circuits of Peter

E. Ascents of James

F. Works of Symmachus the Ebionite

1. Hypomnemata/De Distinctione Præceptorum (Lost)

IX. Protestant Heresies (2 Readings)

A. Thomas M√ľntzer Priest, M.A.

1. Prague Manifesto (1521) Read

2. Sermon to the Princes (1524)

X. Jehovah’s Witnesses (1 Reading)

A. The Watchtower Magazine

XI. Christian Science (2 Readings)

A. Mary Baker Eddy

1. Science and Health

2. Key to the Scriptures

147 Readings Total

3 Readings Read


See (Docetism, Apollinarianism, Nestorianism, Monophytism, Monothelitism – Christological Heresies), (Monarchianism, Tritheism, Subordinationism – Trinitarian Heresy) & Arianism – encompassing both, also Pneumatomachi. Also Arsinous, Miltiades, and the Cataphrygians.

Middle Ages: Bogomils, Cathari, Waldensians, Henry the Lausanne, Peter de Bruys.


* These writings teeter on the edge between worthy and spurious. Though it is doubtful that either was written by Peter or James, their use is attested (and disputed) in the earliest orthodox canon lists.

This list only deals with Christian heresies, and even at that, doesn’t include Islam. While Islam might be considered a ‘Christian heresy’ as it twists and denies essential aspects of Christian faith, it is a type of faith that needs to be addressed separately, due both to its scope and age.



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