Victoria & Albert Museum, London/Art Resource, NY

An angel watches as the evangelist Mark (right) takes dictation from the apostle Peter, in this late-11th-century ivory plaque in London’s Victoria & Albert Museum. According to the church historian Eusebius of Caesarea, a second-century church leader named Papias claimed that “Mark, having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately, though not in order, whatsoever [Peter] remembered of the things said or done by Christ. For [Mark] neither heard the Lord nor followed him.”

This early tradition suggests that the Four Gospels did not make it into the New Testament because they were considered the earliest, eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ life, but for other reasons. Indeed, there are dozens of other gospels that date to roughly the same time but that never made it into the canon. As author Charles Hedrick points out, any one of these gospels could preserve reliable historical information about Jesus and his earliest followers.