AN INTRODUCTION TO THE STUDY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT by A H McNeile. Copyright A H McNeile - first published at the University Press, Oxford 1927. 2nd Edition revised by C S C Williams 1953. - This Edition prepared for Katapi in Arial Unicode MS by Paul Ingram 2003.

Chapter X - Part 2


HOME | contents | 170‑300AD | The Fourth Century | Bibliography | (pages 343-372)

4. AD I70-300

In this period the intercommunication between the Churches increased, one result being the growth of a closer agreement as regards the canonicity of some books and the rejection of others.
This process was helped by the mere lapse of time.
The 'ancients' became regarded as more honourable the farther they receded into the past.
No new letter or book had now the slightest chance of being treated as sacred, though it might still be read in Church as an important and interesting communication.
Both facts are well illustrated in the letter of Dionysius of Corinth (c. 167-70) to the Romans under their bishop Soter, parts of which are quoted by Eusebius (H.E.iv.23):

Today, then, we passed the Lord's Day, a holy day, in which we read your epistle,
which we shall ever hold by, reading it for admonition, as also the one written to us formerly by Clement.'
'When the brethren asked me to write letters
[or a letter] I wrote.
And these the apostles of the devil have mingled with tares, taking some things out and adding some things; for whom the Woe is appointed.
It is not be wondered at, then, if some have put their hand to deal deceitfully with the Dominical writings
(τῶν κυριακῶν - ton kuriakon graphon), when they have taken counsel against those that are not such.

Turner summed up the position as regards the Canon [J.T.S. x, 1908-9, p. 25.]:

As a bulb germinates beneath the ground, striking root slowly and deeply into the earth, and only then emerges above the surface to shoot up suddenly into foliage and flower, so the real and effectual canonization of the Apostolic writings had been silently wrought in the inner chambers of the life of the Christian society before history can lay her finger upon any open proofs.
But when once the evidence comes, it comes, in the last quarter of the second century, abundantly and with a rush.

(a) The Gospels

It is unnecessary to adduce further quotations from the Gospels.
They were not only known, but by the end of the century had received the titles which they hold today:
'The Gospel - according to Matthew', &c., i.e. the one Gospel of Jesus Christ in so far as it is related by Matthew, &c.
Thus the Muratorian fragment (see below) speaks of 'the third book of the Gospel - according to Luke', and, with a conjecturally emended text, 'the fourth book of the Gospel - according to John'.
All four, together with their discrepancies, were needed to present the Gospel.
But there were some besides heretics who chiefly valued one or another.
John had held the first place, as was natural, in Asia Minor, where Papias, perhaps, implied its superiority to Matt. and Mk. (see p.79), Matt. in Antioch, Mk. in Rome, and Lk., perhaps, in Greece.
But there may have been, as Harnack [The Origin of the N.T. (trans. Wilkinson), p. 73.] thinks, a compromise between the preferences arrived at, not by a harmony, but by including all four as authoritative.
It might be thought that this fourfold arrangement would not be likely to continue, because, if the history was to be authoritative, differences between the accounts would detract from its value.
The differences were too obvious to escape notice, and called for harmonizing expedients.
Matthew and Luke had each been a harmonizing compilation, as we now know, made out of Mark, Q, and other sources; why should not the four Gospels be similarly harmonized?
All difficulty would thus be removed by the production of one work.
And attempts were, in fact, made in this direction.
Some have thought that Justin shows indications of having used a harmony.
This is uncertain; but Jerome (Ep. ad Algasiam) uses language which may imply that Theophilus, Bishop of Antioch (c. 180), compiled one and commented on it, and refers to a commentary 'on the Gospel' which went under his name (De vir. ill. 25).
And some ten years earlier appeared the famous Diatessaron of Tatian, which, in its Syriac form (it is almost certain that Syriac was not its original language), he introduced into Mesopotamia.
The four separate Gospels were afterwards translated into Syriac; but this harmony was probably the first Gospel writing that was there known.
And yet no harmony permanently succeeded. In spite of the difficulties involved in divergences the Four retained their supremacy, partly because they had already been established as 'classics' each in its own region or district, and partly because the authors were understood to be 'apostolic' men, and apostolic authority was the surest shield against heresy.
The secret traditions claimed by the Gnostics were opposed by the open and public traditions claimed by the Church.
To combine the Four, therefore, into one was to lose the guarantee of authenticity.
That which preserved the Four was the same principle that underlay the preservation and selection of the epistles.
But it was not brought about by the authoritative action or definite decision of any one Church or locality, because in that case we should not find the Four arranged, as we do, in different orders; e.g. the order commonly found in the West was Matt., Jn., Lk., Mk.; but that in the Curetonian Syriac is, curiously, Matt., Mk., Jn., Lk., while our present order is found in the Sinaitic.
The Gospels were four and canonical according to the oldest witnesses that we possess of the Old Syriac and the Old Latin, to Clement in Alexandria, and to Irenaeus representing Rome and Gaul.
For the latter (III.xi.8) the number Four lay in the divinely ordered nature of things, as the four regions of the earth, the four winds, and the four faces of the Cherubim with which he fancifully illustrates the characteristics of each Gospel.

(b) The Acts

It might seem surprising that the epistles, with their widely different styles and subjects, and spiritual and moral values, should ever have come to be placed on a par with the words and deeds of our Lord, so that their inspiration and authority were thought of as on the same plane as those of the Gospels.
But this was due to the conception of the Church which was afterwards represented in the Nicene Creed by the term 'Apostolic', and which finds expression as early as Clement of Rome (ch.xlii): 'The Apostles received the Gospel for us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus the Christ was sent forth from God.
The Christ, then, [is] from God, and the Apostles from Christ.'
In other words the Apostles are Christ as manifested in the succession from Him; the Church is the extension of the Incarnation, and the Apostles are the first stage in the extension.
It was a working-out of the thought in such a passage as Matt. x. 40, 'He that receiveth you receiveth Me'.
The foundation stones of the new Jerusalem are the twelve apostles of the Lamb (Rev.xxi.14), although 'other foundation can no man lay than that which hath been laid, which is Jesus Christ' (1 Cor.iii.11).
The epistles of the apostle, St. Paul, had already established themselves, and others were beginning to emerge into recognition.
But there was one writing, hitherto almost unnoticed, though written by an 'apostolic' man, which related the first stages of the Church's growth, the first manifestation of Christ in the apostolic body.
Though it relates little of anyone except St. Peter and St. Paul, yet it is πράξεις τῶν
ποστόλων - praxeis ton apostolon, or 'the Acts of all the Apostles' as the Murat. Fragment has it.
It thus legitimized the placing of epistles on the same canonical level as the Gospels, a place already won by St. Paul's epistles because of the weight of their own intrinsic authority; and at the same time it constituted an independent authority for placing St. Paul and the other apostles on an equal footing.
So that when once the idea of a sacred Canon began to include the Pauline corpus, the book of the Acts, which helped to justify this, leapt suddenly into prominence, and was placed in such a position that it formed an introduction to the apostolic part of the Canon.
The arrangement was not, indeed, universal or immovably fixed.
Two centuries later, when the need for any justification was no longer felt, we meet with some lists in which the Acts holds a less central position.
But, so far as the evidence goes, it was very widely adopted.
The importance now accorded to the book is illustrated by the extent to which Irenaeus quotes it (in Bk.Ill); and he says, 'Thus Paul's annuntiatio is consonant with, and so to speak the same as, what Luke testifies of all the apostles' (III. i.3).
And it stands in the Murat. Canon after the Gospels; and the writer states that Luke related to Theophilus, things that took place when he was himself present.
In Africa Tertullian vigorously defended its canonicity against Marcion (Adv. Marc. v.i,2; and cf. DePraescr. x.1).
In Alexandria Clement not infrequently cites 'The Acts of the Apostles' by name, sometimes quoting extended passages.
And in the East an Old Syriac translation, argued by Bishop Chase [The Old Syriac Element in Codex Bezae, 1893; The Syro-Latin Text of the Gospels, 1895.] was further deduced by J. Rendel Harris [Four Lectures on the Western Text, 1894.]

 from the quotations of Ephraem Syrus from the Acts in his Commentary on the Pauline epistles, preserved in an Armenian translation, which was made generally accessible by the Mechitarists in Latin, Venice, 1893.
A translation of the Armenian (into Latin) and of the sections drawn from it in an ancient Armenian catena (into English) by F. C. Conybeare appears on pp.373-453 of the Beginnings of Christianity, Part I, The Acts of the Apostles, iii, 1926.

(c) The Pauline Epistles

It is as unnecessary as in the case of the Gospels to quote instances of the use of passages.
Irenaeus quotes from every one of the thirteen epistles except Philemon, which, however, had already been accepted by Marcion, saved, according to Tertullian, by its brevity.
And the language of Tertullian himself, and of Clement of Alexandria, is similarly steeped in them.
[Melito of Sardis, according to the recently discovered Homily on the Passion, seems to have known Gal., Col., and 1 Cor. at least, despite C. Bonner's cautious verdict. (Texts and Studies, , 1940, pp. 41 f.)]

The collection of the Pauline corpus, as has been said, had probably been going on independently in various places during the sub-apostolic period, since the epistles now appear in different orders.
Marcion's order, according to Tert., was Gal., 1, 2 Cor., Rom., 1, 2 Thess., Laodiceans (=Eph.), Col., Phil., Philem. Epiph. gives the same, except that he transposes the last two.
But the Murat. fragment has 1, 2 Cor., Gal., Phil., Col., 1, 2 Thess., Eph., Rom. And Tert. {De Resurr. Cam. 33 ff.) and Cyp., (Testim., esp.iii.11) agree with it in placing Corinthians first and Romans last. 'Ambrosiaster', in the fourth century, and Pelagius, early in the fifth, have the order Rom., 1, 2 Cor., Gal., Eph., Phil., 1, 2 Thess., Col., Tit., 1, 2 Tim., Philem.
At the end of the century, then, the Gospels, Acts, and Pauline epistles were universally established as the Church's Canon, while other books were beginning to make their way towards being included in it.

(d) The Epistle to the Hebrews

During the last decades of the second century this epistle made no advance towards canonicity, since it was not ascribed to St. Paul.
The MURAT.FRAGMENT states that he wrote to 'seven Churches', 'following the plan (ordinem) of his predecessor John', and hence Hebrews is omitted; and the rejection of its Pauline authorship remained the continuous tradition of the Roman Church till the fourth century.
'The custom of the Latins received it not' (Jerome).
IRENAEUS, in one of his works known to Eusebius (H.E.v.26), is said to have quoted from it, and from 'the so-called Wisdom of Solomon'.
And (in II. xxx.9) he uses the phrase 'by the word of His power' (Heb. i. 3), referring, however, not to Christ but to God the Father.
But though Irenaeus knew the epistle, Stephen Gobar, a sixth-century writer, states, according to Photius, that Irenaeus and HIPPOLYTUS (215-35) rejected the Pauline authorship.
The latter, indeed, is held by some to have been the writer of the Murat. fragment (see below).

The attitude of Carthage, which learnt its Christianity from Rome, as Tert. says, was the same as that of Rome.
TERTULLIAN was a lawyer of Carthage, who, after wielding his mordant pen in behalf of the Church, went over to the sect of the Montanists less than twenty years after he became a Christian.
Converted c. 195 at the age of thirty-five, and living to extreme old age, he represents the opinion on the Canon of African Christianity during the first half of the third century.
It is still disputed whether his Scriptural quotations were taken by him from the Greek, and turned into his own Latin, or whether he used a Latin translation already existent.
[Cf. M. J. Lagrange, Critique textuelle, II. La Critique rationelle, 1935, pp.259-62.]

He may, of course, have done both at different times.
But that there was a Latin translation of at least the Gospels and the Pauline epistles seems clear from the account of the Scillitan martyrs, in 180 (see p. 335).
But while the Acts and the Pauline epistles were for him the Instrumentum Apostolicum, Hebrews was not.
After speaking of 'the discipline of the apostles' he adds, ex abundantia, a quotation from 'a certain companion of the apostles', i.e. Hebrews, which he assigns to Barnabas, 'a person of sufficient authority, as being one whom Paul placed with himself in the matter of continence: and certainly the Epistle of Barnabas is more widely received by the Churches than that apocryphal Shepherd of the adulterers'.
Written by a companion of the apostles it had some authority, but not that of the apostles themselves, and therefore was not strictly canonical.

This comparatively favourable verdict does not seem to have influenced CYPRIAN, a younger contemporary (baptized 246, martyred 258), who revered Tertullian as 'the Master'.
He makes no allusion to the epistle, and does not consider it St. Paul's, since he states, as the Murat. fragment had done, that the apostle 'writes to seven Churches', the symbolism of the mystical number being repeated in the epistles to the seven Churches in the Apocalypse.

The Church of Alexandria has not hitherto been mentioned, except in connexion with the Ep. Barnabas, in which the allegorical treatment of the Old Testament was in the Alexandrian style.
Its spiritual and intellectual development went on quietly and apart from the Church as a whole.
But a product of it was the Catechetical School, which became famous under such leaders as Pantaenus, Clement, Origen, and Dionysius.
We know of no written work of the first of these, but Clement, who succeeded him, and deeply revered him, sometimes quotes sayings of his.
CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA, probably born at Athens, having journeyed widely in south Italy, Syria, and Palestine, joined the School at Alexandria, and became head of it just before 200.
He frequently quotes Hebrews, and speaks of the writer as 'the Apostle' (Strom.vii.1).
According to Eusebius { he explicitly assigns it to St. Paul, but says that he wrote it to 'the Hebrews in the Hebrew language', and that St. Luke translated it for Greeks, which accounts for the similarity of 'colour' between it and the Acts.
He refers to 'the blessed presbyter' (probably Pantaenus) as teaching to the effect that St. Paul, being the apostle of the Gentiles - the Lord having been sent to the Hebrews as the Apostle of the Almighty - in modesty, and doing honour to the Lord, would not describe himself as the 'apostle' of the Hebrews, since he need not have written to them at all.
This is the first appearance of the acceptance of the epistle as the work of St. Paul, and therefore in the fullest sense canonical.
ORIGEN, a pupil of Clement, who followed him as head of the School in 203, and died, after living for some time at Caesarea, as a confessor in the Decian persecution in 254/5, accepted the books recognized by his teacher.
He did not, however, follow him in attributing Hebrews to St. Paul.
His opinion has been given on p. 236.
After stating it he adds, 'if any Church, then, holds this epistle as St. Paul's it may be approved for doing so; for it was not without reason that the men of old time have handed it down as Paul's.
But who it was that wrote the epistle God knoweth the truth.'
But he had heard both Clement of Rome and St. Luke spoken of as the author.
On the other hand DIONYSIUS, a pupil of Origen, who succeeded Heraclas as head of the School c. 231, and then as Bishop of Alexandria c. 247, agreed with Clement that the epistle was the work of St. Paul, referring to x. 34, 'They received with joy, like those to whom Paul bore witness, the spoiling of their goods'.
The third-century Chester Beatty papyrus codex of St. Paul's Epistles, P46, places Hebrews directly after Romans, whereas Athanasius and most Alexandrian uncial manuscripts put it after the other epistles addressed to Churches, i.e. after 2 Thessalonians, and not, like D, E, K, L, and Erasmus, after Philemon at the end of the Pauline Canon.
It is probable that Hieracas, the heretical ascetic of Egypt, followed the same order as P46 about AD300.
[H. F. D. Sparks, J.T.S. xlii, 1941, pp.l80 f.]

In Asia Minor GREGORY, Bishop of Neo-Caesarea in Pontus, was a convert of Origen, and was probably taught by him which books were to be held sacred, and Origen in a letter to him uses the words of Heb.iii.14. And METHODIUS, bishop of an obscure place called Olympus in Lycia (Socr., who opposed the doctrine of Origen, frequently used the epistle, though he nowhere ascribed it to St. Paul.
In Caesarea PAMPHILUS, one of Origen's most devoted disciples, must have accepted the epistle either as St. Paul's or, as Origen thought, Pauline though written by someone else.
There is evidence of this, if a colophon is to be trusted which is attached to the Pauline epistles in cod. H (Paul), where Hebrews is placed before the Pastoral epistles, stating that the manuscript (i.e., no doubt, an ancestor of the manuscript) was 'collated with the copy in the library of St. Pamphilus at Caesarea, written with his own hand'.

Farther east, in the Syriac-speaking Church, it was accepted as the work of St. Paul.
Ephraem the Syrian (died 373) included it in his commentary on the Pauline epistles.
His younger contemporary, Aphraat, frequently quotes Hebrews in his Demonstrations, calling the author 'the Apostle'.

(e) The Catholic Epistles

Rome was very slow in accepting these.

The MURAT.FRAGMENT includes only two Epistles of John, and the Epistle of Jude; and even these are mentioned rather as an afterthought, as though the writer admitted them chiefly because other churches had already done so.
This can be seen from the context.
After enumerating the epistles of St. Paul, he writes:

There is current also an epistle to the Laodiceans,
and another to the Alexandrians, forged under the name of Paul for the heresy of Marcion,
and many others which cannot be received into the Catholic Church,
for gall does not suit to be mixed with honey.
The epistle, indeed,
(sane), of Jude, and two superscribed as John's are held in the Catholic [? Church], and Wisdom written by the friends of Solomon in his honour.

Possibly 'in Catholica' in the last sentence should be emended to 'in Catholicis', i.e. among the Catholic epistles; but since the writer recognizes no others in the group known as the Catholic epistles, he can mean no more than the epistles received in the Catholic Church.
'The two superscribed as John's' is the rendering of an emended text, that of the fragment being corrupt; but it is clear that the two epistles are ascribed to John.
The First Epistle is mentioned also earlier.
After relating the legend of the origin of the Fourth Gospel the writer says,

What wonder is it, then,
that John brings forward each detail with so much emphasis even in his epistle
saying of himself,
What we have seen with our eyes,
and heard with our ears,
and our hands have handled,
these things we have written.

By the 'two' epistles he must have meant the First and Second, not the Second and the Third, for the only place elsewhere in which a vestige of knowledge of the Third is shown is Alexandria, where there was always an inclination towards a wider and looser Canon than in Rome, which generally tended to be strict.
IRENAEUS quotes from both the First and the Second (see I.xvi.3, III.xvi.7), naming the writer.
A knowledge of 1 Peter seems to have reached Gaul from the East before there is any sign of it at Rome.
The letter from Vienne and Lyons alludes to v. 6: 'They humbled themselves under the mighty hand by which they are now greatly exalted' (Eus.H.E. v.2); and possibly v.8: 'The devil thinking that he had already devoured (καταπεπωκέναι- katapepokenai) Biblias' (ibid.1).
Irenaeus quotes 1 Pet.i.8 with the words 'And Peter says in his epistle' (iv.ix.2); and Eus. (H.E.v.8) says that he quoted many passages from 'the former epistle of Peter'.
But with the possible exception of Clement (see above) there is no sign that i Peter was known at Rome till the fourth century.
Hippolytus twice has words from it, but in one case it is from the heretical work The Great Announcement, and in the other prob?ably from Irenaeus.

Of James, 2 Peter, and 3 John there is no trace in Rome in this period.
After Hippolytus no great writer appears there till Jerome, towards the end of the fourth century.
The Roman Church was mainly occupied in matters of discipline, and teachers in other lands taught her her biblical knowledge.

In Carthage 1 Peter was known, and soon accepted as canonical.
Tertullian uses it sparingly.
C. H. Turner [Ch. Quart., Apr. 1890, p. 157, and J.T.S. x, 1908-9, p. 356.] shows that the internal evidence of the Latin version suggests a different translator, and a later incorporation into the Canon.
Tertullian may have known only the Greek of the epistle.
Cyprian speaks of 'Peter in his epistle' (Ad Martyres ix), and evidently accepts it as canonical, 1 John was assigned by Tertullian to the same author as the Apocalypse, i.e. John the Apostle', these two, with the Fourth Gospel, comprising the 'Instrumentum Johannis'.
They were thus included in his Canon, while 2, 3 John were definitely excluded.
He included also Jude, as being written by Jude the Apostle', and cites it in order to prove the authority of Enoch which is quoted in it.
Cyprian does not refer to it, but it is quoted in the contemporary tract (pseudo-Cypr.) Ad Νovatianum (Hartel, Cypr.iii.67).
He speaks of John in his epistle', as though he did not recognize any other epistle as his.
This, however, does not necessarily follow, since at a Council of Carthage (256) at which he was present, one bishop having quoted 1 John as 'the epistle of John', another quoted 2 John (vv.10 f.) as 'by John the Apostle in his epistle'  (Cypr. Sent. Episc. Ixxxi.] (cf. Origen and Dionysius Alex. below).
In Carthage, then, 1 John and Jude were established, and 1 Peter and 2 John soon came to be established, as canonical.
As in Rome, James, 2 Peter, and 3 John are at present outside the sacred pale.

In Alexandria, as would be expected, there was greater freedom in accepting books.
CLEMENT, who accepted Hebrews as St. Paul's, is stated by Eusebius ( to have made comments in his Hypotyposes (Outlines) on 'every canonical writing, not omitting the disputed ones, I mean Jude and the rest of the Catholic Epistles, also the Epistle of Barnabas and the Apocalypse that is called Peter's'.
Cassiodorus (sixth century) mentions comments only on 1 Peter, 2 John, and James (a mistake for Jude).
But Photius (ninth century) described the Outlines as consisting of 'interpretations of Genesis, Exodus, the Psalms, the Epistles of St. Paul, the Catholic Epistles, and Ecclesiasticus'.
[Cf. the curious mention in the Murat. fragment of Wisdom between the Epistles of John and the Apocalypses of John and Peter.]

But while James, 2 Peter, and 3 John were not in Clement's Canon, other books besides Ep. Barnabas and Apoc. Peter still hung on the borders of the Alexandrian Bible, viz. the Epistle of Clement and the Shepherd of Hermas.
He calls the former 'the Apostle' (Strom.iv.17), identifying him, as has been said, with his namesake of Phil.iv.3; and the latter also 'the Apostle' (ii.6), and 'the apostolic Barnabas, who was of the Seventy and a fellow-worker of Paul' (ii. 20).
These identifications gave to these writings in Alexandria an apostolic prestige without which it had become impossible for any books in this period to be considered sacred.

ORIGEN shows an advance in that James, 2 Peter, and 3 John definitely come into sight.
He once uses language (in Matt., tom.xvii.30) that seems to imply that Jude had only a secondary authority, but he quotes it frequently and ascribes it to the Lord's brother (ibid. x.17). In the same passage he says much of St. James, but does not say that he wrote an epistle; elsewhere, however (in Joan., torn. xix. 6), he quotes Jas. ii. 20 with the words, 'as we read in the epistle current as James's', which hardly suggests that it had a high value for him.
In the portions extant only in Latin he quotes it, speaking of the author as 'the Apostle', and once as 'the Lord's brother' (in Rom., tom.iv.8), but that may be due to the translator.
He mentions 'the Catholic Epistle by Peter' (Selecta in Ps., Lomm., xi. 420) and 'the Epistle by John' (in Matt., torn. xv. 31), as though he recognized no others ascribed to them.
(See, however, the same usage in Cyprian and Dionysius.)
But he knew them, for he says, 'Peter has left behind one epistle generally acknowledged; perhaps also a second, for it is a disputed question' (ap. Eus. H.E. vi. 25).
In the Latin version, again, 2 Peter is quoted more than once with the formula 'Peter said' (e.g. in Lev. iv. 4), and 'As Scripture says in a certain place' (in Num. i. 8).
And after speaking of St. John as the author of the Gospel and Apocalypse he writes, 'He has left also one Epistle of very few lines; it may be also a second and a third, for all do not hold these to be genuine; but both together do not extend to more than a hundred lines' (ap. Eus. H.E. vi. 25).
Origen, therefore, was inclined to extend his Canon to all our present books, but with doubts about James, 2 Peter, and 2, 3 John.

Too little of DIONYSIUS has reached us to give clear evidence as to the Alexandrian Canon. Beside 1 John, which he quotes, he appears to have accepted 2, 3 John as the work of the apostle, the author of the Fourth Gospel and the First Epistle.
He points out, in contrast with the Apocalypse, that in neither of the latter, 'nor in the current Second and Third of John, although short epistles, does John appear by name, but "the Presbyter" is written anonymously' (ap. Eus. H.E.vii.25).
In the same context, indeed, he speaks of the First Epistle more than once as 'the Epistle', 'the Catholic Epistle', as though there were only one by that author.
But that usage has already been noted in Origen and Cyprian.
He makes one quotation from James, but does not mention i, 2 Peter or Jude in the fragments that we possess.

From the East there is practically no direct evidence.
THEOPHILUS OF ANTIOCH perhaps echoes 1 Pet.i.18 and iv.3 in using the expressions plane πλ άνη πατροπαραδότης - patroparadotes and ἀθέμιτος είδωλολατρία - athemitos eidololatria (Ad Autol.ii.34); and possibly 2 Pet.i.21, when he speaks of 'the men of God being πνευματόφοροι - pneumatophoroi of the Holy Spirit, and Prophets' (ibid. ii.9). ii.13 is also cited: 'His word, appearing like a lamp in a confined place'; but this is not very similar either to 2 Pet.i.19 or to 4 Esdr..42, from which the latter is borrowed.
In Asia Minor APOLLONIUS accuses a Montanist named Themison of venturing 'in imitation of the Apostle to compose a Catholic Epistle' (ap.Eus.H.E.v.8), a reference apparently to 1 John.
GREGORY THAUMATURGUS, Bishop of Neo-Caesarea in Pontus, was a convert of Origen, and had probably, therefore, been instructed by him as to the books to be held sacred.
Origen, in writing to him, quotes from Heb.iii.14, and he himself, according to a catena, [Ap. Ghisler, Comm. in Jerem. i.181. This reference is taken from Westcott.] is credited with words which recall Jas.i.17 : 'For it is clear that every perfect good comes from God.'

And PAMPHILUS of Caesarea, an ardent admirer of Origen, must have known, and probably accepted, his Canon.
Two cursive manuscripts of the Acts and Catholic epistles (see p.396) have a colophon stating in each case that it was collated (which means that an ancestor was collated) with the copies of Pamphilus at Caesarea, which implies that, if Pamphilus did not copy them himself, he at least knew the Catholic Epistles as a definite collection.
On the other hand, in the Syriac-speaking district of which Edessa was the centre, the Catholic Epistles were not for a long time included in the Canon (see the Doc?trine of Addai, quoted on p.335).

(f) The Apocalypse of John

We have seen that as early as Justin this book was established at Rome as the work of an apostle.
And this opinion of it did not vary in the West.

The letter from VIENNEand LYONS quotes it three times, once with the formula 'that the Scripture might be fulfilled'.

IRENAEUS uses it frequently as the work of John who was 'a disciple of the Lord', and whom he identifies with the disciple whom Jesus loved.
He refers to its date 'not long ago, but almost in our own time, at the end of Domitian's reign' (, Eus.H.E.iii.18). Possibly he owed this and other traditions to Papias.
In the MURAT. FRAGMENT it is said, 'The apocalypses of John and Peter alone we receive, which latter some of our number will not have read in the Church' (see p.347).
And HIPPOLYTUS is said to have written a commentary on it, which he ascribed to the apostle John.

In Carthage TERTULLIAN recognized it as the work of 'John the apostle', and, as has been said, the Fourth Gospel and i John, with the Apocalypse, comprised for him the Instrumentum Johannis.
CYPRIAN constantly used it as Scripture, though he nowhere ascribes it to the apostle John.
And LACTANTIUS, at the end of the century, refers to it by name.

In Alexandria it was no less strongly established as canonical.
CLEMENT frequently quotes it, assigning it to the apostle John.
ORIGEN states ( that John, who lay on the breast of Jesus, and who left a Gospel, 'wrote also the Apocalypse, having been commanded to keep silence and not to write the voices of the seven thunders'.

But criticism began to make itself heard.
DIONYSIUS broke away from the opinion of Clement and Origen, though his view found no endorsement, so far as we know, from subsequent Alexandrian writers.
Portions of his words, as given by Eusebius (H.E.vii.25) are here translated.
Their significance for our present purpose lies not so much in the nature of the criticisms as in the fact that a learned teacher of the third century was open-minded enough to accept the book as canonical, as Origen had accepted Hebrews, while denying its apostolic authorship.
John of Ephesus, who was not the son of Zebedee, was for Dionysius only one who had lived in touch with the apostolic age.
He points out that neither in the Gospel nor in any of the three epistles is John named, while the writer of the Apocalypse names himself four times.
On the other hand, he never says of himself, as is frequently said in the Gospel, 'the disciple loved by the Lord', nor 'he that lay on his breast', nor 'the brother of James', nor that he was an eye-witness and hearer of the Lord.
There were many Christians called after the apostle (as there were after Paul and Peter)? John Mark, for instance.
He thinks, however, that the author was some other John in Asia, and mentions the report that there were two tombs of Johns at Ephesus.
This is followed by a discussion first of the subject-matter, and then of the style and vocabulary:

And from the thoughts, too, and from the words and their arrangement, this writer may reasonably be supposed to be different from the other.
For the Gospel and Epistle agree with one another, and begin in a similar manner.
The one says, 'In the beginning was the Word', the other 'That which was from the beginning'.
The one says, 'And the Word became Flesh... &c.',
the other the same a little varied, 'That which we have heard... &c.'
These things he puts as a preface, in strenuous opposition (as he shows in what follows) to those who say that the Lord has not come in the flesh;
wherefore also he carefully adds, 'And that which we have seen we witness, and declare unto you the eternal Life, &c.'
He is consistent with himself, and does not depart from his purposes, but goes through everything with the same headings and names, some of which we will mention briefly.

After enumerating them, Dionysius proceeds:

In short, when we note all their characteristics it is obvious that the complexion of the Gospel and Epistle is the same.
But the Apocalypse is quite different from these, neither touching nor bordering on any of them, scarcely having even a syllable, so to speak, in common with them.
Nay more, neither has the Epistle (for I let alone the Gospel) any remembrance or thought of the Apocalypse, nor the Apocalypse of the Epistle, while Paul by his Epistles gave some hint of his revelations which he did not severally insert. Further, by the diction one can judge the difference of the Gospel and the Epistle from the Apocalypse.
For the former are written not only correctly as regards the Greek, but very elegantly in their wording, their reasonings, and the arrangements of their explanations; one is far from finding in them a barbarous word or solecism, or any vulgarism at all.
For he had, it seems [the power of delivering] the message in either form, the Lord having given him both?that of knowledge and that of expression.
That the other saw a revelation, and received knowledge and prophecy, I will not gainsay.
I see, however, that his dialect and language are not accurately Greek, but that he uses barbarous vulgarisms, and in some places actual solecisms.
It is not necessary to pick these out now, for it is not in mockery that I have made these remarks - let none think it - but only to draw out the dissimilarity of the writings.

Scholarship and tradition are here complementary influences; the latter made him think of the author as 'a holy and in?spired man', but it was not the apostle.

In the East there is not much evidence in this period.
In Syria, THEOPHILUS of Antioch quoted it (Eus.H.E.iv.24), and PAMPHILUS of Caesarea, if his Apology for Origen is to be trusted, referred to it as the work of St. John.
This, however, may be due to Eusebius, who was responsible for the completion of the work.
In Asia Minor APOLLONIUS (according to Eus.H.E.v.18) 'used passages from the Apocalypse of John'.
It was natural that he should oppose the claims of the Montanists, against whom he wrote, by the 'apostolic' book of revelation.
And METHODIUS, Bishop of Olympus in Lycia at the end of the century, quoted from it, naming the author 'the blessed John'; and Andreas mentions him, with Papias, Irenaeus, and Hippolytus, as a witness to its divine inspiration.
But a reaction was beginning in the East.
'The rise of Greek scholarship during the "long peace" after Severus (AD 211-49) made men more conscious of the critical difficulties of common authorship of Apocalypse and Gospel.
The slackening of persecution set free the natural recoil of the Hellenic spirit against the apparent materialism with which the rewards of the blessed and the glories of the heavenly Jerusalem are portrayed.'
[Turner, op. cit. x. 372.]

The effects of this reaction are seen in the next period.

Note on the Muratorian Fragment on the Canon

[Cf. M. J. Lagrange, Introduction a I'etude du Nouveau Testament, I, 1933, pp.78-84.]

The Latin fragment first published by Muratori in 1740 is an important piece of evidence with regard to the Western Canon.
It seems to be part of a longer treatise which contained more than the writer's judgment on the Canon, since he says that he must deal separately with the epistles to the Corinthians, Galatians, and Romans, i.e. no doubt in the portion lost to us.
It was probably written at Rome, and many think that it was originally written in Greek.
Whether Latin-speaking Christians at Rome were numerous enough at that time to need a Latin translation, or whether it was translated for, or in, some other place, is not known.
The manuscript in which it has been preserved, together with several other pieces of patristic writing, was written by a careless and illiterate scribe of the seventh or eighth century, and some of its sentences, which are corrupt, have received a variety of interpretations.
The writer evidently made some statement about Matthew and Mark, the fragment beginning with six words, which presumably refer to the latter.
He goes on to speak about Luke as the third book of the Gospel, and then relates a story about how St. John came to write his Gospel.
His views on the other books of his Canon have already been noted.
On the Shepherd, he writes, 'Hermas wrote the Shepherd quite recently in our own times, while Bishop Pius his brother occupied the Chair of the Church of the city of Rome'; and, therefore, he is of opinion that, while it ought to be read, it ought not to be published, either among the prophets or the apostles for ever (which seems to mean either among the Apocalypses, two of which he has just named, or among the apostolic epistles).
In the concluding clauses of the fragment, which are corrupt, he repudiates certain Gnostic writings.

[The Origin of the NT", (trans. Wilkinson), pp. 106-8.
In the Zeitschr.f. d. nutest.
Wiss., he gives the reasons offered by Lightfoot and others for a Greek original, and controverts them.]
holds that the tone of the writing is that of an authoritative utterance, independent of the views of others, delivered by one who felt himself in a position to state the use of his own Church (or the majority of its members) as a norm for other Churches: There are two forged letters of Paul, 'and many others which cannot be received into the Catholic Church',
'The Apocalypses of John and Peter only we receive'.
(But if we accept Zahn's emendation and suppose that a line has dropped out, the reference will be not to the Apocalypse but to the Epistle 'of Peter [one Epistle which] alone we receive'.)
The work of Hermas ''ought to be read, but cannot be published'.
The writings of the Gnostics, Arsinous, &c., 'we do not receive at all'.
'We' and 'the Church' and 'the Catholic Church' are treated as synonymous, implying that 'the whole Catholic Church ought to follow our example'.

Salmon [Introd. to the NT., p.122.] and Lightfoot [Clement, ii.411 ff., cf. Lagrange, op. cit.] argue for Hippolytus as the author. Harnack suggests Victor (Bishop of Rome 189-99), or less probably Zephyrinus (199-217), or someone under his authorization.
If it was the work of a bishop of Rome, it must have had a wide effect in the West.
And the principle on which it is constructed is evidently that of confining the Canon to books that could claim 'apostolic' authority.
But it was not by any means a final judgment on the Canon.



The Gospels had long formed, in every part of the Church, an immutable quartet, and St. Paul's epistles were a definite corpus, consisting of either thirteen or fourteen according as Hebrews was excluded or not.

At the opening of the fourth century a new impetus was given to the demarcation of sacred books by the persecution of Diocletian.
These books were now so closely bound up with the life" of the Church that he hoped to ruin her by destroying them.
His first edict was to the effect that the churches should be razed to the ground and the writings destroyed by fire (Eus. H.E. viii. 2).
The phrase officially used to describe the latter seems to have been 'the Writings of the Law' (scripturae legis), which implies a fairly definite collection.
But the fact that some writings which were read here and there in Church did not occupy the same status as the bulk of the collection made it possible for some Christians to surrender certain books to the Roman officials which satisfied their demands.
Others, however, viewed this as a traitorous subterfuge, and the violent opposition of the strict party to those whom they considered 'traditores' developed into the long-drawn-out Donatist controversy.
An effect of the persecution is seen in the fact that we now begin to meet more frequently with lists of sacred books.
Marcion, indeed, had made his own list, by which he expressed his conception of the impassable chasm between Christianity and Judaism.
The author of the Muratorian list had delivered the judgement of his Church.
But the judgement of particular Churches can now be seen with increasing clearness.

For any development of the Roman Canon we have no evidence for three-quarters of a century, but no doubt the ecclesia principalis continued to learn from her visitors, as she had in earlier years.
In 382 a Council was held at Rome, which issued a list of canonical books.
[The text is given by C. H. Turner, J.T.S. i, 1900, pp. 554 ff.]
It was held under the presidency of Damasus the bishop, and Jerome, to whom the compilation of the list was probably due, attended it, having just come to Rome.
In the light, however, of the work of von Dobschiitz (Texte und Untersuchungen, xxxviii, 4, 1-362 (1913)), which proved the decrees of the 'Damasine Council' to be of the sixth century, this evidence and the date 382 must be set aside.

This list expressed the mind of the great scholar who revised the Latin New Testament. Sophronius Eusebius Hieronymus (JEROME), a native of Stridon on the border between Dalmatia and Pannonia, had travelled far and read widely.
While accepting all the books of our English Bible, he knew of others which were to be 'placed among the apocryphal writings', which included the Shepherd with Wisdom, Sirach, Judith, Tobit, and 1, 2 Maccabees, and was well acquainted with the doubts entertained in regard to Hebrews, the Catholic epistles, and the Apocalypse.

On these he writes as follows:
On Hebrews and the Apocalypse.

Paul the apostle writes to seven Churches,
for an eighth to the Hebrews is put by many outside the number

(Ep. ad Paulinum).

This shows a leaning against the Pauline authorship.
But twenty years later, in Ep. Ad Dardanum (No.129) he speaks of it as

received not only by the Churches of the East,
but by all Church writers of the Greek language in previous times as [the work] of Paul the Apostle, though many judge it to be [the work] of Barnabas or Clement.
And it does not matter whose it is since it is [the work] of a Churchman,
and is daily employed in the reading of the Churches.

He recognizes that 'the custom of the Latins received it not', but neither for that matter (as he points out) do the Greek Churches receive the Apocalypse.

Nevertheless we receive both, by no means following a custom of the present time only, but the authority of ancient writers, who for the most part quote passages from each of them, not as they are accustomed to do sometimes from the apocryphal writings, and even very occasionally use passages from pagan literature, but as canonical and churchly.

On James.

James who is called the Lord's brother ... wrote only one Epistle... which is asserted to have been published by someone else under his name, though it gradually in process of time acquired authority
(De vir. ill. 2).

On 2 Peter.

[Peter] wrote two Epistles, which are named Catholic, the second of which is denied by many to be his because of its difference from the former in style (ibid.1].
He himself explains the difference by supposing that St. Peter had two interpreters

(Ep. ad Hedibiam', No. 120).

On Epp. John.

[John] wrote one Epistle... which is approved by all Churchmen and learned men;
the other two are asserted to be
[the work] of John the presbyter
(De vir. ill. 9).

On Jude.

Jude the brother of James left a small Epistle which is one of the seven Catholic Epistles.
And because he inserts in it a passage from the book of Enoch, which is apocryphal, it is rejected by many.
Yet by age and use it has now deserved authority, and is reckoned among the sacred Scriptures

(ibid. 4).

These passages excellently illustrate the method by which the disputed books found their way into the Canon.
No authority of a General Council ever pronounced them Scripture; but they were written by Churchmen, and used by Churchmen, and gradually acquired, and deserved, authority, whoever their authors may have been.

Jerome's Latin Bible, the 'Vulgate', played a large part in molding the Canon in the West;
and it is due to him that our New Testament contains what it does.
As regards the New Testament Augustine, who contributed still further to the establishment of our Canon, supported him.

[In the Old Testament Augustine included without reservation Tobit, Judith, Esth. (including the Greek additions), 1, 2 Macc., Wisd., Ecclus. Jerome, on the other hand, followed Hebrew tradition, excluding from the Canon the Greek works which we know as the Apocrypha.
The Anglican and the Free Churches have followed him, while the Roman and Eastern Churches retain the Canon of Augustine, following the early Christian tradition.]

In Africa there are signs that appear to indicate a conflict of opinion, some moving towards a wider Canon than in the last century, while more conservative minds refused.
A Latin manuscript that goes by the name of Mommsen, who found it, or of the 'Cheltenham list', contains a list of the books of the Old and New Testaments dated about AD360.
[Cf. A. Souter, Text and Canon of the New Testament, 1912, p. 212.]

 In the latter the following words occur:

epiae Johannis III ur cccl     una sola

'Three epistles of John [containing] 350 verses one only

epiae Petri II uer ccc una sola

Two epistles of Peter [containing] 300 verses one only'.

The writer appears to have been of reactionary opinions, for he omits Hebrews and Jude as well as James.
As to 2, 3 John and 2 Peter the explanation is probably this: he copied the first and third lines from some earlier list, and in doing so could not separate 2, 3 John from 1 John, and 2 Peter from 1 Peter, because they were bound to them by the enumeration of verses; but he expressed his own opinion that they were un-canonical by adding, with unshaken conviction, that there was 'one only' by John and Peter.
Harnack's suggestion is very improbable?that the second line refers to James, and the fourth to Jude.
The word 'sola' would be quite superfluous, and the names could not have been omitted.

But the reactionary spirit could not win the day against the general trend of opinion. Jerome, by influencing Augustine, influenced the African Church.

In 397 was held the third COUNCIL OF CARTHAGE, at which Augustine was present.
The 39th canon names the books of Scripture, stating that 'It was resolved that beyond the canonical Scriptures nothing be read in the Church under the name of Divine Scriptures', an exception, however, being made for the reading of the Passions of the Martyrs on their anniversaries.
The New Testament Canon is the same as our own, the order being: Gospels, Acts, thirteen epistles of St. Paul, 'one to the Hebrews by the same name, 1, 2 Peter, 1, 2, 3 John, James, Jude, Apocalypse.
A note was added later, probably when the canons of the several Carthaginian councils were codified:

Let this also be notified to our brother and fellow priest Boniface [Bishop of Rome, 418], or to other Bishops of those parts, for the confirming of this Canon, because we have received from the Fathers that these are to be read in the Church.

AUGUSTINE, Bishop of Hippo in Africa (395-430), supported Jerome, as has been said, in respect of the New Testament.
He gives our present list of books (De Doctr. Christ, ii. 12) in the order: Gospels, fourteen epistles of St. Paul (Hebrews last), 1, 2 Peter, 1, 2, 3 John, Jude, James, Acts, Apocalypse.
But though he includes Hebrews among St. Paul's epistles, he elsewhere pointedly refrains from quoting it as his.
And he exercises a critical judgment, recognizing that some books are received on weightier authority than others:

Among the canonical Scriptures let him [the Christian reader] follow the authority of the majority of Catholic Churches, among which, of course, are those which have been worthy of having apostolic sees and receiving Epistles.
He will hold, therefore, this measure in the canonical Scriptures, that he will prefer those which have been received by all Catholic Churches to those which some of them do not receive; and among those, moreover, which are not received by all, that he prefer those which the more numerous and the weightier Churches receive to those which the fewer and less authoritative hold.
But if he find some held by the more numerous, and some held by the more weighty, though he will not find this easily, I think that they ought to be held of equal authority.

In Alexandria, fifteen years before the Council at Rome under Damasus, the great Bishop ATHANASIUS shows us that the Canon in Egypt had arrived at the same condition of completeness as at Rome.
He returned to his see after his fifth banishment, and in the next year (367) wrote as usual a Festal Epistle, his 39th, of which fragments remain.
In it he gives a list of canonical books, identical with our New Testament, but in the following order: Gospels, Acts, seven Catholic epistles (of James, Peter, John, Jude), fourteen Epistles of St. Paul, and the Apocalypse.
This follows a list of the Hebrew Old Testament Canon, with the addition of 1 Esdras, Baruch, and the Epistle of Jeremiah, and the omission of Esther.
These are 'fountains of salvation'.
No one must add to them or take away from them.
Other books, which he appends merely 'for the sake of greater accuracy', he rates lower than Eusebius was prepared to do (see below).
One class contains the Wisdom of Solomon, Wisdom of Sirach, Esther, Judith, and Tobit, and among Christian writings the Teaching of the Apostles and the Shepherd.
These are 'not canonized, but authorized by the Fathers as of a kind fit to be read to catechumens'.
Another class consists of 'apocryphal books', which he leaves unnamed, written by heretics and falsely represented as ancient to deceive the simple.
He gives no hint of any official action of synods.
The Canon of the New Testament had made itself, and for Athanasius was complete and sharply defined; and this in spite of the greater latitude characteristic of Alexandria in earlier days.

His opinion, however, did not prevent DIDYMUS, the blind head of the catechetical School, who died some twenty years later than Athanasius, from expressing the doubts that were still felt about 2 Peter.
He wrote, indeed, a commentary on the seven Catholic Epistles, but said (according to the Latin translation), 'It should be known, therefore, that this Epistle esse falsatam, which, though publicly read, is not in the Canon'.
The Latin words probably represent νοθεύεται - notheuetai, (as Eusebius said of James), i.e. 'held by some to be spurious'.

In the East the progress of the Canon went on more slowly in some parts than in others.
Palestine and Asia Minor were in advance of Antioch and the Syriac-speaking Edessa.
The fullest and most interesting treatment of the books is that by EUSEBIUS, Bishop of Caesarea (c. 313-30), who, with Pamphilus, was an ardent admirer of Origen, and shows the in?fluence of his open-mindedness.
The following passages should be studied:
(a) H.E.ii.23 (martyrdom of James, ad. fin.);
(b) iii.3 (concerning the epistles of the apostles);
(c) iii.24 (con?cerning the order of the Gospels);
(d) iii.25 (concerning the acknowledged Divine Scriptures and those that are not such).
It is unnecessary to give them here in full.

They will be found translated in Lawlor and Oulton's edition of the H.E.
[And see Westcott, The Canon of the N.T., pp. 415-20, or Gregory, The Canon and Text of the N.T., pp.257-62.]
(a) The first passage speaks of 'the seven Epistles called Catholic', implying that they were widely recognized as forming a distinct group; but some, it is said, regard James as spurious (νοθεύεται - notheuetai); neither it nor Jude was often mentioned by the ancients, but both are publicly read with the others in many Churches,
(b) In iii.3 it is said, 'Of Paul the fourteen Epistles are clear and manifest', though some rejected Hebrews because the Roman Church counted it disputed.
This gives another definite group.
Eusebius says that the Acts of Paul had not reached him in the Christian tradition as indisputable.
Of the numerous Petrine writings he speaks of 1 Peter only with a certain voice; it was frequently used by the presbyters (or ancients) of old as indisputable.
2 Peter ('that which was current as his second') had not reached him as part of the Testament (ἐνδιάθηκον - endiathekon, canonical), but many found it useful and read it diligently with the other Scriptures.
On the other hand, neither in his own time nor earlier had Church writers made use of passages from the work entitled Acts of Peter, the Gospel named after him, that which is called his Preaching (κήρυγμα - kerygma), and his so-called Apocalypse; they had not been handed down in the collection of Catholic books,
(c) In iii.24 he deals at some length with the four Gospels.
Of writings other than the Fourth Gospel, 1 John had been acknowledged, in his own time and in the past, as indisputable, but 2, 3 John were disputed, and regarding the Apocalypse opinions still differed,
(d) In iii.25 is his actual catalogue in which he proceeds 'to sum up the writings of the New Testament already mentioned'. These he distinguishes, as he says, into
(1) the writings which, according to ecclesiastical tradition, are true and genuine and thoroughly acknowledged: the Four Gospels, Acts, Epistles of Paul, 1 John, i Peter, and ('if it should possibly appear right') the Apocalypse; and
(2) others which are 'not part of the Testament but disputed, but nevertheless acknowledged by most of the Church writers'. This second division is subdivided. In his words just given the whole division consists of 'disputed' books, but in the actual sub-divisions they are
(i) disputed, are James ('current under the name of James'), Jude, 2 Peter, and those named 2, 3 John ('whether belonging to the Evan?gelist or perhaps to another of the same name').
(ii) spurious ( - nothoi], are the Acts of Paul (which he distinguishes from other Acts of the several apostles by naming it and leaving the others unmentioned till the end), the book named the Shepherd, and the Apocalypse of Peter; further, the epistle current as that of Barna?bas, and the Teaching of the Apostles.
'And, moreover, as I said, the Apocalypse of John, if that appears right, which some, as I said, reject; while others reckon it among the acknowledged books.'
Finally, some include among 'these' (i.e. prob?ably the spurious books) the Gospel according to the Hebrews.

Thus he shows that he had himself no doubt about Hebrews.
It was in the fullest sense canonical because its author was St. Paul; those who denied that belittled its value.
But as to the authorship, and therefore the value, of the Apocalypse he was far from certain.
If it was by the evangelist St. John (εἴ γε φανείη - ei ge phaneie), it must stand in the first class; if not (to which, influenced by the Eastern opinion of his day, he seems slightly to incline - εἴ φανείη) it must take a low place.
To these two classes he appends a third, i.e. heretical, pseudonymous works which no one in the succession of Church writers has ever deigned to quote, at variance with the apostolic ethos, unorthodox, and forgeries, not to be classed even as spurious, but avoided as monstrous and impious.
These are the writings purporting to contain a Gospel of Peter, Thomas, or Matthew, and also the Acts of Andrew, John, and the other apostles.

Eusebius thus recognized, as many scholars have done since, different degrees of canonicity:

Class I.


Gospels, Acts, epistles of St. Paul (including Hebrews), 1 Peter, 1 John, ?Apocalypse.

Class II.


James, Jude, 2 Peter, 2, 3 John.



Acts of Paul, Shepherd, Apocalypse of Peter, Barnabas, the Teaching, ?Apocalypse.

Near Caesarea was Jerusalem, of which CYRIL was bishop.
Soon after his consecration, just before 350, he delivered catechetical lectures, in one of which he gave a list of the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments.
He excluded the Apocalypse, but otherwise his list is identical with ours (with the addition of Baruch and Ep. Jeremiah). After mentioning the Four Gospels he says, 'but the rest are pseudepigrapha and harmful'; the Manichaeans also wrote a Gospel 'according to Thomas'.
At the end of the list he writes, 'And let all the rest lie (outside) in the second rank'.
But Epiphanius, Bishop of Constantia (Salamis) in Cyprus, a countryman of Cyril, received at the end of the century the whole of our Canon including the Apocalypse.

In Asia Minor exactly the same New Testament Canon as Cyril's is found in some metrical lines of GREGORY, Bishop of NAZIANZUS in Cappadocia (372-89), ending with the words, 'Thou hast all.
If any is outside these, it is not among the genuine ones.'
The Apocalypse, therefore, was uncanonical; but this did not prevent him from alluding to it with the remark 'as John teaches me by the Apocalypse'.
On the other hand BASIL, Bishop of CAESAREA in Cappadocia, his contemporary, and GREGORY, Bishop of NYSSA, Basil's brother, both refer to the Apocalypse as the work of the evangelist St. John, but the use of it by all three is very sparing.
Another contemporary, AMPHILOCHIUS, Bishop of ICONIUM, wrote iambic lines.
Iambi ad Seleucum,
warning the reader against spurious books and giving a list of the 'inspired books' of the Old and New Testaments.
After enumerating the Four Gos?pels, Acts, and fourteen epistles of St. Paul he writes:

Some say that that to the Hebrews is spurious, not speaking well, for its grace is genuine.
Let be.
What remains?
Of the Catholic Epistles some say that seven, others that only three, ought to be received, one of James, one of Peter, and one of John.
And some receive the three [of John] and the two of Peter besides them, and that of Jude the seventh.
And the Apocalypse of John, again, some include, but still the majority say that it is spurious.

Here is our full Canon, but with the recognition tliat there is difference of opinion on all the disputed books, especially the Apocalypse.
At about the same time all our books except the Apocalypse are named by an unknown writer or scribe, as an addition to the last canon of the Council of Laodicea, a small gathering of clergy from parts of Lydia and Phrygia, held in 363.
[See Westcott, The Canon of the N.T., pp.432-9.]
It was not till the close of the next century that the Apocalypse was fully recognized in Asia Minor.
ANDREAS, Bishop of Basil's see of Caesarea in Cappadocia, wrote a commentary on it, and even he felt obliged to adduce previous testimonies to its inspiration, those of Papias, Irenaeus, Methodius, and Gregory of Nazianzus.
And ARETHAS after him also wrote a commentary on it, with a similar defence.

Further East, however, the history of the Canon was very different.
In the Syriac-speaking churches, till early in the fifth century, no advance was made on the primitive Canon - Gospels, Acts, and Pauline epistles (see Doctrine of Addai, quoted on p. 335).
But the Syriac version known as the PESHITTA omitted from our New Testament books only 2 Peter, 2, 3 John, Jude, and the Apocalypse.
This was the work of Rabbula, who was Bishop of Edessa from 411 till his death in 435 and organized and regulated the Syriac-speaking churches.
The great probability of this origin of the Peshitta, as against the much earlier date which used to be assigned to it, is demonstrated by Burkitt (Evangelion da-Mepharreshe, vol. ii, ch. 3.], who shows that before Rabbula there is no trace of the Peshitta in Syriac writings, and hardly a trace of any other writings after him.
[This verdict should be questioned in view of the researches of Voobus (Contributions of the Baltic University, lix, 1947) and M. Black (Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, xxi, 1950/1, pp.203-10).
Rabbula used an old Syriac text sometimes.]

His Canon was that of Antioch at that date, as his text reflected the current text of Antioch - Constantinople.
The Canon of Antioch is indicated by the writings of CHRYSOSTOM, its bishop at the close of the fourth century, and THEODORET, Bishop of Cyrrhus in Syria (423-57), who nowhere quote the books which the Peshitta omitted.
And Constantinople inherited the same tradition, the Synopsis scripturae sacrae, found among the works of Chrysostom, omitting the same books.
They were still omitted from the catalogue of EBED-JESU, a Nestorian bishop at the beginning of the fourteenth century; and to this day they have formed no part of the Peshitta, which has always been the 'Authorized Version' or 'Vulgate' of Syriac Christians.
In the sixth century JUNILIUS, an African bishop, learnt from a Persian the views on the Canon that were taught in Nisibis. These were that the primitive Canon described in the Doctrine of Addai, with the addition of 1 Peter, 1 John, contained the New Testament books which were of 'perfect authority', while all the four minor Catholic epistles and also James were of 'secondary (mediae) authority'. But Junilius is very vague about the Apocalypse; apud Orientates admodum dubitatur.
The Nestorians have always held to the Canon of the Peshitta; but among the Jacobites (i.e. the Monophysite Syrians) two subsequent attempts were made to translate the full. Greek Canon.
In 508 a revision of the Peshitta was made for Philoxenus, Bishop of Mabbog (hence called the PHILOXENIAN SYRIAC), the four Catholic Epistles and the Apocalypse, which were lacking to it, being added.
The text of the former is probably that which is usually bound up with modern editions of the Peshitta.
In 616 another bishop of Mabbog, Thomas of Heraclea (Harkel), made at Alexandria an elaborate revision of the Philoxenian, the Apocalypse of which is probably that commonly printed with the Peshitta.
This revision is called the HARKLEAN SYRIAC.

[This view, adopted by G. Zuntz ('The Ancestry of the Harklean New Testament', The British Academy Supplemental Papers, vii. 76) and others, is opposed to that ofW. D. McHardy (J.T.S. xliii, 1942, p. 168) and others, that Thomas did no more than add marginal notes from a few Greek manuscripts to a copy of the Philoxenian text. See also Zuntz, Revue Biblique, Ivii, 1950, pp.550-82.]

At the beginning of the fifth, or the end of the fourth, century, Syria made an advance upon the Canon of Chrysostom and Theodoret.
In the writing known as the Apostolic Constitutions, [A composite work, probably by the author of the pseudo-Ignatian epistles, based upon the Didascalia, the Didache, and other material.] traditionally ascribed to Clement of Rome, the con?cluding section is known as the APOSTOLIC CANONS, the last of which consists of the Canon of the Old and New Testaments.
The latter includes all our books except the Apocalypse, with the addition of 1, 2 Clement, and was afterwards ratified by the Quinisextine Council at Constantinople in 692.
For this reason JOHN OF DAMASCUS, in the eighth century, recognized all our present books, but included also the Apostolic Canons in his New Testament.

Constantinople and the Greek Church generally continued to waver with regard to the Apocalypse.
LEONTIUS, early in the seventh century, admitted it, but NICEPHORUS and PHOTIUS in the ninth did not.
In the Orthodox Church it has never, in fact, attained to the secure position, canonical and authoritative, that it holds in the West.

With Eusebius, Augustine, and many later writers the modern student feels compelled to prefer some books to others, realizing that some books stand on a higher level than others.
Gradations of value, which are subjectively determined, are not, indeed, identical with gradations of canonicity but, in fact, they correspond fairly well.
The books made their own place by a process, which can be called, on the whole, the survival of the fittest, so that they were gradually set apart from all others as containing the sacred message of God.


F. C. Burkitt,

Esangelion da-Mepharreshe, 1904, vol. ii, ch. 3.

E. J. Goodspeed,

The Formation of the New Testament, 1926.

A. von Harnack,

The Origin of the New Testament (tr. J. R. Wilkinson,



E. Jacquier,

Le Nouveau Testament dans Veglise chretienne, i, 1911.

M. J. Lagrange,

Introduction a I'etude du Nouveau Testament, i, 1933.

J. Leipoldt,

Geschichte des neutestamentlichen Kanons, 1908.

A. Souter,

The Text and. Canon of the New Testament, 1912.

B. F. Westcott,

A General Survey of the History of the Canon of the New Testa?ment, 7th ed., 1896.

T. Zahn,

Geschichte des neutestamentlichen Kanons, 1888


?92. The New Testament in the Apostolic Fathers (Oxford Society of Historical Theology, 1905).