Not really. By all appearances even the Gnostics knew the difference between Thomas and, say, John. It's just modern academics who don't. The only ones who ever disputed the place of the four Gospels were Marcionites, and they took away, not added.
It wasn't accepted in the "surviving history" of the Church. "The surviving history of the Church which was handed down to us" is, in fact, the definition of Tradition.
Please read more carefully. That phrase has nothing to do with "Tradition". It has to do with history in the ordinary sense, i.e., the same way we know about Caesar conquering Gaul.
Let me try to understand your question correctly: are you asking whether something, anything, could become canonical simply by being used in the Liturgy?
No. It's the same question I asked you already: do texts start as Canonical? Asking the same question from the other direction, was John a part of the Canon as soon as it was put down on papyrus, or did it need to be added later?
In the words of an ecclesiastical writer in Southern Gaul in the fifth century, St. Vincent of Lerins, here's a practical rule for distinguishing heresy from true doctrine: "quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est." What has been believed everyone, always, and by everyone. How do you detemine that? In your words, "the surviving history." Tradition.
I've heard of that before, and I've always been mystified why anyone would take it seriously. If that's how you define orthodoxy, then by the surviving history (in the sense I intended that phrase in the first place) there's no orthodoxy at all.
I don't think it's that simple: they're not called the Gnostic Gospels, for nothing; the Epistle of Barnabas, at least, was accepted by many Christians as part of Scripture in the 2nd century, and the Church's struggle against all sorts of heretical movements started from the very beginning. Even Paul had to warn about those who "come and preach another Jesus whom we have not preached, ... or a different gospel which you have not accepted."(2 Corinthians 11:4)
Please read more carefully. That phrase [the surviving history] has nothing to do with "Tradition". It has to do with history in the ordinary sense...
I reiterate: that is Tradition. We know it the same way we know about Caesar conquering Gaul. It is the part of our history by which we know the Apostolic teachings accepted and handed on (the word 'tradition' is taken from the Latin 'trado, tradere' meaning to hand over) by their converts and their successors in the early Church.
Do texts start as Canonical? ... was John a part of the Canon as soon as it was put down on papyrus, or did it need to be added later?
In its more general sense, "canon" (like "the literary canon") means a body of writings generally accepted as having time-tested value. In the ecclesiastical sense, "canon" means an ecclesiastical law or code of laws established by a church council. In any sense, "canon" always indicates something that has been ruled on and accepted. (Excuse me if this seems nit-picky, but we have to agree, one way or another, on what we mean by the word.)
The idea of a complete and clear-cut canon of the New Testament existing from the beginning, that is from Apostolic times, has no foundation in history. The Canon of the New Testament, like that of the Old, is the result of a process stimulated by disputes, both within and without the Church, and which did not reach its final term until the dogmatic definitions of the Ecumenical Councils.
So the Gospel of John was authentic, God-inspired Truth as soon as it was being conceptualized in the mind of John; it was authentic, God-inspired Tradition as soon as it came out of his mouth (e.g. handed on --- spoken to a group of disciples, or dictated to a scribe), and authentic, God-inspired Scripture as soon as it was written. But it wasn't Canon until it was "canonized" --- that is, it was acknowledged to be authentic, accepted by the Church.
I've always been mystified why anyone would take [the Lerins quote] seriously. If that's how you define orthodoxy, then by the surviving history (in the sense I intended that phrase in the first place) there's no orthodoxy at all.
I'm at a loss to understand what you mean by that. Orthodoxy is the truth that has been handed down to us. It is still being handed on: by word of mouth, in writing, in the example and lives of the Saints.
Then how do you learn the truths of the Faith?
(P.S. Kolokotronis? I'm inviting you testimony here, my Orthodox brother!)