Ap·o·cry·phal /əˈpäkrəfəl/ – Adj: Of dubious authenticity or questionable authorship.
Apocryphal texts are considered entirely outside the scope of the canon. That is, they are not accepted as a part of the divine scripture. These apocryphal writings should not be confused with deuterocanonical (secondary) writings, which are found in some versions of the Bible, or biblical Apocrypha, which in some Bible editions can be found printed as an insert between the Old and New Testaments.
Jesus lived until 30 AD. His Apostles of Jesus lived through the end of the century, in the Apostolic Age (30-100 AD), during which time the Gospels were written (between AD 5 and 95). Three of the four Gospel writers had access to the same source information, but all four are included as canon just as one might include four paintings of one person by four great paintings. Each artist's eye brings a perspective that sheds light on Jesus, the light of the world. Other works of dubious authorship or authenticity were not included. Some of these were penned much later than the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The Gnostic Gospels fall into this category.
Gnostic Gospels – Apocryphal
The writings sometimes referred to as Gnostic Gospels fall into the category of writing known as apocryphal.
Written from the second to the fourth century AD, the Gnostic Gospels are much more recent than the four gospels of the Bible, and have a point of view that is decidedly distinct from early Christianity, perhaps having arisen in reaction against it. Their belief system included rejection of this flawed material world, a world they believed was created by a 'bad' creator god. Their fatal flaw may have been pride: they believed only a select few held the divine spark.
Interest in Gnostics was fueled when a large collection of Gnostic writings, known as the Nag Hamadi Library, was discovered in 1945. Of course, they're a fun read, if you take an informed perspective. It's a bit like watching a bad movie: a guilty pleasure, as long as you remember it's not high art, it's junk food. An exclusive diet isn't healthy.
See also our Webdefs for related subjects such as: Scripture, Canonical
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WebDefs – simple definitions of key terms relating to ministry and healing arts – are a regular feature of NHM Ministrants. Offered (where applicable) in conjunction with select key scriptural passages and analysis, WebDefs can be a useful starting place for exploring a topic of interest.