Have there ever been historically, or now, Christians who have only accepted either the Gospels, just one of them, or a synthesis/redaction of the four Gospels as being truly inspired or in some other way most basic to being a Christian?

If so, what were their most salient arguments?

  • You may also want to check out the heretic Marcion. – Affable Geek Sep 28 '14 at 22:46

Perhaps there are/were others, but the 'Jesus Christians' are the closest sect I'm aware of that matched your description (they are of relatively recent history - beginning in the early 1980s until officially disbanding in 2010: although their website is still being maintained and updated, so perhaps reports of their demise are premature). While not completely denying the inspiration of other scriptures, they placed much lesser value on them than the words of Jesus.

One of the striking consequences of their distinctive beliefs was the emphasis they place on 'living by faith' by not taking on salaried employment, and believing this is the normative pattern for all true followers of Christ and additionally the positive promotion of celibacy (marriage not forbidden, but classed as an inferior option).

Overall, I would describe them as a bit like Protestant Franciscan friars except for not recognising any authority beyond the words of Jesus and their groups interpretation of them and being highly sectarian (at least the two Jesus missionaries I encountered in 2005 gave me that impression).

Like bruised reed said, there was/is the Jesus Christians. An individual who is probably a former member/associate of the group mentioned once during a live stream (or a video) that there is a group in South America that practices similar ideas, but differs with them on the indifference belief in the Trinity has. Whether or not this is just a portion of Jesus Christians we can't be sure.

The Jesus Christians were started by Dave and Cherry McKay in the early '80s. They adhered to the idea that every church across the globe had abandoned the truth of Jesus' message in favor of a comfortable and stable relationship with a non-Christian world. Jesus' message of radical love for all people, especially the oppressed and downcast of society, was thrown out for (in their view) an apostate albeit well-intentioned gospel of wealth. They held firmly to the idea of Jesus as not just the Son of God, but as the world's last and greatest teacher.

The Jesus Christians anticipated that the end of days and final judgement in the book of Revelation would soon come to pass, with humanity's reliance on credit cards and obsession with financial gain being precursors to the Mark of the Beast, which they saw would come as a technology similar to RFID chips today. As a result of an apocalyptic worldview, they believed that preaching or studying any other book of the Bible besides the four gospels was overall pointless and a waste of time spent preparing.

Despite their unusually devout views, the Jesus Christians were surprisingly universalist and had no strict theology or canon of books to derive inspiration from. They held the view of non-sexual masturbation (as opposed to looking at porn) being almost necessary for most men, as well as highly suggesting celibacy, and while holding the Bible in high esteem, they did not regard it as infallible in nature (not even the four gospels), but as simply inspired by God.

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