Which Writings Tell Us About the Life of Jesus?

When it comes to the life of Jesus, there are several writings that provide insight into his teachings and actions. From the canonical gospels to the apocryphal texts, each writing offers a unique perspective on the life of Jesus and his impact on history.

The Canonical Gospels

The four canonical gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – are perhaps the most well-known and widely-read writings about Jesus. These texts were written by early Christian authors and recount the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

Each gospel has its own distinctive style and focus. For example, Matthew emphasizes Jesus’ role as a teacher and interpreter of Jewish law.

Mark presents Jesus as a powerful miracle worker who is constantly on the move. Luke highlights Jesus’ compassion for marginalized individuals like women and the poor. And John portrays Jesus as both divine and human, with a particular emphasis on his relationship with God.

While these texts provide important insights into Jesus’ life and teachings, it’s worth noting that they were written decades after his death. As such, they may reflect the beliefs and concerns of their authors as much as they do historical events.

The Gnostic Gospels

In addition to the canonical gospels, there are also several “gnostic” gospels that offer alternative perspectives on Jesus’ life. These texts were discovered in Egypt in 1945, but likely date back to the second century CE.

The gnostic gospels include writings like The Gospel of Thomas, The Gospel of Mary Magdalene, and The Gospel of Judas. These texts often present a more mystical or esoteric understanding of Jesus’ teachings than do the canonical gospels.

For example, The Gospel of Thomas contains sayings attributed to Jesus that are not found in any other gospel. Some scholars view this text as evidence of an early Christian tradition that emphasized spiritual knowledge (or “gnosis”) over orthodox belief.

The Apocryphal Acts

Finally, there are several apocryphal acts that describe the activities of Jesus’ disciples after his death. These texts include The Acts of Peter, The Acts of Paul, and The Acts of John, among others.

Like the gnostic gospels, these texts often reflect a non-orthodox or heretical perspective on Christianity. For example, The Acts of Peter portrays Peter as a powerful miracle worker who is able to resurrect the dead. And The Acts of John describes an encounter between Jesus and a group of Gnostic believers.

While these writings may not provide direct insight into the life of Jesus himself, they do offer important glimpses into early Christian beliefs and practices.


In conclusion, there are many writings that tell us about the life of Jesus – from the canonical gospels to the apocryphal acts. Each text offers a unique perspective on Jesus’ teachings and actions, and helps us to better understand his impact on history.

Whether we approach these texts from a faith-based or historical perspective, they remind us that the story of Jesus is one that continues to captivate and inspire people around the world.