Basically, these books, and maybe most of the official bible, amount to what we call “Fan Fiction” these days. Compare it to the universe of Star Wars fiction. There are the movies and some stories that Lucas was directly involved in. Then there are loads of books written by other people who may or may not have licensed the characters, and which may or may not be “canonical”. A lot of these contradict others or re-tell established stories. Han shot first!!!
What bothers me most is that the Bible is a dead book. Nothing has been added to it in 1700 years. How can a narrative written ove a period of a thousand years just stop like that?
I can only speak of the Christian position, together with those aspects of the Jewish position that directly influenced it.
First we have to divide into the Old Testament and the New Testament. For the OT, the Eastern churches and the Roman Catholic churches generally go by the Greek bible that was standard in Jesus’ time; the Eastern Church has a few extra books, but none of them are particularly important. Sometime after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, the Jews went with a more conservative canon, including only material originally written in Hebrew, and which they could find copies of in the original Hebrew (except for some bits of Daniel that are in the related Aramaic language). Come the Reformation, Protestants decided to adopt the reduced Jewish canon. Christians have never added to the OT because, by definition, it’s none of their business.
As to the NT, all serious Christian churches have the same canon, and have had for a long time, though there were some books early on that were, for a time, accepted here and there. Most of them are as weird as Cecil’s samples indicate. Some are far worse, and remind me of nothing else so much as the “Tootsy-frootsy” scene in A Day at the Races. A few works of undoubted quality, though, such as I Clement, were dropped for the simple reason that it was decided that no books should be included unless they were (at least reputedly) by one of the Apostles or by one of the Evangelists.
And that is why nothing has been added to the NT since. The first generation Christians ain’t producin’ any more books. Of course, there’s always the possibility that something might turn up, such as the original ending of the Book of Mark, but it probably won’t happen, and at this date, it would be very hard to authenticate.
Moslems and Mormons generally leave the (Protestant) OT and the NT alone, but add their own additional books. Depending on what you believe about conditions of the Second Coming, maybe there will be a Final Testament written then, if the timeline allows for it.
John W. Kennedy has answered for the Christian Bible. The Jewish bible was determined to be fixed around the year 90 AD; the problem was that there were so many religious books floating around, there was felt to be a need for definitive ruling on what was in (and thus Correct) and what was out (and thus Incorrect.)
The problem with “adding books” in later centuries is that, unlike George Lucas and his continual revivals of his works, the original Author[s] were not around to authenticate later books. Hence, both Judaism and Christianity decided that the bible was “closed.”
Religions are well known for their resistance to updating. And since “updates” like the Koran and the Mormon books can’t really be authenticated as a work of a deity, they aren’t likely to be accepted by established religion and incorporated, but generate a new sect.
Of course, neither can the Christian Bible be authenticated as a work of a deity either, but it has had an established place for so long that it isn’t likely to be challenged by the established religions.
Not only is the Bible a dead book, but it’s a frozen-in-time book. This is often taken as a virtue – God’s word never changes. Even reformers like Luther and Calvin didn’t call for revision of the text, just for changes in interpretations and worship practices.
When people talk about “lost books of the Bible,” they’re making a basic mistake: they’re assuming there was once a single, big book called The Bible that contained a bunch of stuff that was “lost” or removed (undoubtedly for sinister reasons; what was removed that SOMEONE doesn’t want you to know about??? BWAHAHAHAHAHA!).
In reality, “the Bible” consists of a host of books, poems, letters, essays and histories that the early Church assembled and judged to be inspired, Sacred Scripture. The early church didn’t “lose” any books of “The Bible” or remove anything from “The Bible.” Rather, it was the early Church that decided exactly what “The BiIble” was going to be.
Were there loads of texts about Jesus that COULD have been included, and that some people who considered themselves Christians regarded as sacred or authoritative? Sure! The gnostic gospel of THomas, for instance. Were there ancient Jewish texts by various authors that COULD have been included in the Bible, and which some of Jesus’ contemporaries regarded as sacred? Sure- the Book of Enoch comes to mind.
But that does NOT mean that the Gospel of Thomas or the Book of Enoch was somehow purged from “The Bible.” Rather, early Church leaders went though a host of ostensibly sacred texts and made conscious choices as to which texts were legitimate and inspired.
So, it’s NOT as if sneaky, duplicitous Church fathers removed things from The Bible- just the opposite. Church fathers COMPILED The Bible. It was THEIR doing, and THEIR decision.