Published online by Cambridge University Press: 24 October 2005
This article introduces extra-canonical traditions into the debate about the purpose of the gospels and the risks of sociological mirror-reading. Often seen as reflecting sectarian communities, some of these texts are actually no more ‘heterodox’ than their canonical counterparts, and might just as well have been written ‘for all Christians’. However, applying similar criteria, we find that canonical as well as extra-canonical gospels are best understood as intended for a group of churches with similar outlook. Why certain gospels came to be widely distributed had more to do with power structures; intention and reception should not be confused.