But the reality is that these gnostic writings were written about a century or two later than the New Testament--long after the apostles and other eyewitnesses to Jesus had died. Furthermore, they are not gospels: there is no good news. In the gnostic writings, Jesus is not Messiah and he does not save us from our sins. In fact, they tell us nothing about Jesus. They merely write down pagan gnostic ideas and pretend that Jesus said them (and at times pretend that his disciples asked questions about them).
One of the most telling things about the gnostic writings is who they are attributed to: Thomas, Judas, Mary, Peter, Phillip, John and James. Why? Because these are the prominent characters/eyewitnesses in the canonical Gospels. In fact, they are all apostles except Mary, who the canonical Gospels present as the first eyewitness to the resurrection. In other words, the gnostics used the apostles and Mary as "talking heads" to give authority to their gnostic teaching, but they tell us nothing about the apostles and Mary. We have to find out who they are from the canonical Gospels. That is because they are assumed. They are the authoritative witnesses of the Christian faith long before gnosticism comes along.
Furthermore, there is not a gnostic "gospel" of Matthew (or Mark or Luke) because the canon already contained those. And there is not a gnostic "Gospel of John" but rather "The Secret Book of John." This is all clear evidence that the canonical Gospels preceded them and were already well established.
Below are some excellent resources that deal with the issue of the gnostic writings:
ARTICLES (& BOOK CHAPTERS)
*"The Real Jesus: The New Tesament Vs. The Gnostic Writings" by Brad Cooper. I examine 9 criteria that show why the New Testament's picture of Jesus is to be trusted but the "Gnostic" picture of Jesus cannot be.
*"Neognosticism" by Brad Cooper. A response to claims that Christianity was originally gnostic until the time of Irenaeus (late 2nd Century).
*"The Gnostics & Jesus" by Tim Keller. A brief pastoral article.
*"Why the 'Lost Gospels' Lost Out" by Ben Witherington III
*Dethroning Jesus by Darrell Bock and Daniel Wallace, Claims 2 & 3, pages 77-130.
*"Apocryphal New Testament" (an article at Biblical Training that includes a section on the gnostic writings).
*Last Seminary hosts 12 articles on the non-canonical gospels that can be downloaded for FREE--with brief abstracts for each.
*The Truth About Jesus and the "Lost Gospels" by David Marshall. Highly recommended.
*The Missing Gospels by Darrell Bock. Highly recommended.
*Christian History Magazine has an entire issue devoted to "gnosticism" (which is FREE in PDF).
*"The Missing Gospels" by Darrell Bock, W. Hall Harris & Daniel Wallace. A 3-part series of dialogue.
*"Apocryphal and Apocalyptic Literature": the first half hour of this lecture by Ben Witherington deals with the gnostic literature.
*"Did We Get Jesus Right? Jesus in the Canonical and Apocryphal Gospels": Lecture by Dr. Simon Gathercole. "A brief sketch of the message of Jesus in the four canonical Gospels will show that the key focus is on Jesus dying for sins as foretold in Old Testament Scripture. This lecture will compare that message with four well-known rival Gospels: the Gospels of Thomas, Mary, Judas, and Philip, which present an alternative route to salvation. These rival gospels and other writings contending as “true records” of Jesus cannot compete with the accounts in the New Testament. The four New Testament Gospels are the only ones sufficiently close enough in time to the events to be reliable. Comparing the particular cultural features in the New Testament Gospels with the gospels outside the BIble shows that the Gospels of Thomas, Mary, Judas and Philip come from a cultural environment quite alien from that of Jesus of history." (description from the Lanier Theological Library)
*Noncanonical Writings and New Testament Interpretation by Craig Evans, pages 162-168.
PRIMARY SOURCES FOR READING THE GNOSTIC WRITINGS
**Early Christian Writings: This website hosts translations and introductions for a nearly comprehensive collection of the writings of the early church and competing heretical sects from the time of the New Testament until 380AD.
*The Nag Hammadi Library. The website of the Gnostic society.
*The Complete Gospels by Robert Miller
*The Gnostic Gospels of Jesus by Marvin Meyer
*The Nag Hammadi Scriptures by Marvin Meyer and James Robinson
(SCROLL DOWN BELOW VIDEO FOR MORE)
"Shock! Horror! Jesus' Wife!" (3-minute video)
by Lutheran Satire
*Extensive bibliographies on Gnosticism and the different gnostic sects (and other heresies of the early church) at EarlyChurch.org.uk.
*Lots of resources for studying Apocrypha & Pseudepigrapha.
*Check out the lists of General Resources, resources on the Gospel of Thomas, and Audio and Video at New Testament Gateway (part of a large directory of academic internet resources, though sadly lacking in some of the best evangelical scholarship).
Painting by Pieter Lastman (1616) Image Source