Prior to the 20th century, the main source of information about gnostic writings were the church fathers (Irenaeus, Tertullian, and others), who referred to gnostic beliefs in the process of refuting them. In 1945, however, at Nag Hammadi, Egypt, a peasant discovered a large earthenware jar that contained a large number of ancient documents in the Coptic language. Among these were Christian gnostic documents that may have been among those mentioned by the church fathers.
Some of these documents are called “gospels” because they contain a few stories about Jesus and some of His (purported) sayings. However, they lack the detailed chronology and description of events in the canonical gospels, and while they borrow heavily from the canonical gospels, there is no corroborating evidence showing that they date earlier than the second century.