The "lost Gospels" are real. "Lost Gospels" abound, including ones identified with Phillip, Thomas, Mary Magdalene and, most famously, Judas. The four Gospels selected for the New Testament were by no means the only ones in existence. But it's easy to be misled about the nature of some of the others; the Gospel of Phillip, for example, is essentially a collection of statements about the meaning of the sacraments.
The Gnostic Gospels have cast new light on the early days of Christianity. Much of the texts contradicts what we thought we knew through the writings of St. Paul. It's clear, for example, that early Christianity was remarkably diverse.
The Gnostic Gospels are more sympathetic to women than church tradition. James M. Robinson, general editor of The Nag Hammadi Library, says the Gnostics were more "liberated." He says, "Their view of women in the church was based more on the perceived quality of their religious experience than on the relationship between bishop and supplicant."
Some of the Nag Hammadi texts were burned immediately after they were discovered. One of the discoverers took them home and dumped them next to the oven. His mother used them to light the fire.
Some of the sayings duplicate sayings known from the New Testament. On the other hand, many present cryptic utterances that strike a more mystical note.
The Gospel texts found at Nag Hammadi in Upper Egypt are scrolls. Despite what The Da Vinci Code says, they are codicesbooks with individual pages. "They're actually the oldest examples we have of leather bound books," says Robinson.
The Gnostic Gospels are in the language they were originally written in. In fact, they appear to be Coptic translations of Greek originals.
The word companion in the Gospel of Phillip implies Jesus and Mary were married. That's reading too much into it. The word that's being translated doesn't have all the connotations of the English word, despite Sir Leigh Teabing's confidence in his command of Aramaic.
Those who wrote the texts regarded themselves as heretics. The "true faith" was by no means settled when the Gospels were written. It's interesting to speculate what Dan Brown might have made of the somewhat extreme Judas Gospel, which had not been translated when he wrote The Da Vinci Code.
The New Testament Gospels are a contemporary record of Jesus's life. In fact, scholars estimate that there's a gap of at least 40 years between the death of Jesus and the first of the four Gospels.