Wright, David F. "Chapter Eight: Apocryphal Gospels: The 'Unknown Gospel' (Pap. Egerton 2) and the Gospel of Peter." in Wenham, David (editor), The Jesus Tradition Outside the Gospels. Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1984, 207-232.
Wright, observing that the apocryphal gospels have normally been seen as dependent on the Synoptics and as intent on drawing apologetic conlsuion, sees the Gospel of Thomas as strikingly different. Some of the content strikes many scholars as older than the Synoptic gospels, suggesting that Thomas may be of great importance in determining ocntent of old Jesus traditions (Wenham [editor] 1984, 207). Along with the "unkown gospel" found in the Egerton Papyrus, the Gospel of Peter, and a few other works, Wright thinks we may have helpful sources for evaluation of very early Chrsitian faith (Wenham [editor] 1984, 208). Writht further considers that we find little specific evidence from Christian writers in the first two centuries elevating canonical materials above those we would now consider non-canonical. He therefore suggests the writings were rightly consider as of similar value.
A challenge in studies of early documents is centered in the simple fact that we have relatively little information. A catalog of texts and fragments from the second and third centuries shows that the canonical gospels, particularly the Fourth Gospel, appear more than the apocryphal owrks (Wenham [editor] 1984, 208). When we consider use or apparent knowledge of other works, the picture is not so clear. Authors may well have known, or known of, documents which they would not consider authoritative (Wenham [editor] 1984, 209).
The "Unknown Gospel" is known to us in "three papyrus fragments first published in 1935" (Wenham [editor] 1984, 210). The material is possibly part of a compilation of ideas used in the canonical Gospels but not clearly related in a literary manner. Wright presents the first pericope and makes comments on it (Wenham [editor] 1984, 211ff). The ideas seem more similar to John, while the vocabulary and style seem more like the Synoptics. The second pericope, with a stronger similarity to ideas in John, follows (Wenham [editor] 1984, 215ff) with Wright's notes. The third pericope tells of a healing of a leper, bearing similarity to Matthew 8, Mark 1, and Luke 5 (Wenham [editor] 1984, 216).
Though the ideas are fairly similar the details diverge enough from any synoptic account of a healing that Wright doesn't consider the material to be derived from the Synoptics. The fourth pericope, which has some slight resemblance to John 3:2, follows (Wenham [editor] 1984, 217). The passage, which is quite scattered in its contents, also contains several ideas from the symoptics.
Wright takes the text to be likely from the early second century, possibly as a compilation of some Christian ideas, but not likely intended as an alternative to a canonical Gospel (Wenham [editor] 1984, 220-221).
The Gospel of Peter, much longer than our fragments of the Unknown Gospel, appears to be a secondary composition, drawing on material from the canonical gospels (Wenham [editor] 1984, 221). Wright observes that papyrological discoveries in the 1970s have indicated the presence of significant variations in the text. This makes assessment of its relationship to canonical material much more difficult (Wenham [editor] 1984, 223).
Wright's analysis suggests that it is difficult, if not impossible, to identify material which leads to Jesus traditions and which would antedate the canonical Gospels. The evidence is scanty, and what we have tends to contain significant problems in terms of coherence or consistency of manuscripts.