See chap.6. What is evident is that this, the first historical thinking about Christian literary traditions, shows a possible corruption of reliability by oral transmission and a readiness to engage in apologetic distortions. So in a book where Eusebius is proving that the pagans got all their good ideas from the Jews, he lists as one of those good ideas Plato's argument that lying, indeed telling completely false tales, for the benefit of the state is good and even necessary. M 156-7). This controversy also led to a long-standing hesitancy to canonize the Revelation, which was associated with a Montanist emphasis on personal apocalyptic visions, and was perhaps a little too anti-Roman to be safely approved (M 105-6). Bruce, "New Light on the Origin of the New Testament," Faith and Thought 101.2 (1974): 158-162. pdf This is a brief summary of the above article. Certainly, since the Bible is generally taken today as a whole, how the books of the OT were chosen is a relevant topic. What is significant is that it is shortly after Tatian and Justin's contributions that we discover the first instance of organized action against authors of new Christian source-texts. These include the Acts of Paul, book of Hermas, Apocalypse of Peter, Epistle of Barnabas, Gospel of the Hebrews, and a certain "Teachings of the Apostles," but also, confusingly, the Apocalypse of John again. As another example, we have already discussed above the "lost synoptic Gospel" recovered in a 2nd century papyrus fragment. 14-15)--yet the book of Enoch was rejected because it was not so widely respected. A Curious Clue About the Origins of the New Testament Canon. In such a state of affairs, it is no wonder that Gnostic and other heresies could grow in a century of transmission where NT writings were of little account in contrast with oral authority. The loss of this text, and thus our inability to assess its merit, is another fact that greatly obscures any attempt to get at the historical truth behind the origins of Christianity. The reaction upon the churches was immediate and effectual. His prefaces to the letters of Paul that he thought authentic were even retained in several versions of the Latin Vulgate Bible, and many of his proposed emendations of these letters and the Gospel of Luke have turned up in numerous surviving manuscripts, showing that his legacy was intimately integrated at various levels throughout the surviving Church, affecting the transmission as well as the selection of the final canonical texts (M 94-9). But it would be intriguing if it were actually written by Clement of Alexandria--the reference to secret books would fit Morton Smith's discovery of a Clementine reference to a secret Gospel of Mark (see XII). Thanks to them, no early copies of the Diatessaron survive--although a very early fragment suggests it would have been crucial evidence for the true state of the early Gospels (see IX). Pantaenus is also the first to defend the Epistle to the Hebrews as authentic (this had long been in dispute even by his time), on the argument that Paul wanted to compose it anonymously for that particular audience (M 130), and this opinion is generally carried as authoritative (M 134). The earliest known Christian writings are the epistles of Paul, composed between 48 and 58 A.D. Chap.2, No.12. This despite the fact that this Gospel may have been written as early as 100-130 A.D. (M 172, n. 18), again if not earlier, although a later date is still possible, especially if the four canonical Gospels are likewise given later dates than usual, since Peter may have drawn on them.[8]. It must also be noted that our evidence for church reactions to texts is incredibly scarce. There is no reference to standards of historical research or textual criticism, for example. Tertullian generally accepts the traditional canon, including Hermas, until his conversion to Montanism, at which point he declares it false (another example of doctrine driving decisions regarding canonicity, as opposed to objective historical investigation; M 159-60), and tells a story, somehow never mentioned before, that its author was kicked out of the church for composing a lie. But he then addresses the possibility that the truth will not suffice, or that justice is not in fact the only real road to happiness, by arguing that lying is acceptable, and even more effective in bringing about what is desired, that the people will be good, and thus the government's teachers should employ lies for the benefit of the state. In this same period we know these books were being doctored and battles were being fought over authenticity along ideological lines. The debate … Thus, pro-Roman elements, and the absence of anti-Roman features, were a precondition for the canonic texts of any church with a chance of success, and this also affected the formation of the surviving canon--and, incidentally, given the tense relations between Rome and the Jews, antisemitic features would also win Roman favor and release the Christians from Roman hostility toward Jews, although one could not take this pandering too far in a church largely comprised of Jews or their descendants. Consequently, we find the first reference to the term "New Testament" (kainê diathêkê) in an anti-Montanist treatise (written by an unknown author in 192, quoted by Eusebius, History of the Church 5.16.2ff.). Alberto Soggin, Introduction to the Old Testament, from its Origins to the Closing of the Alexandrian Canon (1999). Thus it is possible, if not likely, that by 144 the Gospel of Luke had not yet received its name. It is believed that Jesus died c. 30 A.D. It is hard to tell what he means, but scholars see in his account a growing apologetic in defense of Mark: Mark was regarded as unreliable because he did not know Jesus, and he was attacked for being incomplete and disorderly, and so on, so Papias defends him by putting him in the entourage of Peter and asserting that he faithfully recorded what Peter said, and so on. It was probably written between 125 and 150 A.D. and remained in various church lists as a canonical text for centuries (M 184-6). Whether the letter is authentic or not, this betrays a problem for current scholars: secret traditions. Then there are the African canons. There really is no way to resolve this question. Thus, this is a purely circular argument: those books are to be accepted by the Church that are accepted by the Church. [then by Clinias:] 'Truth is beautiful, stranger, and steadfast. the Apocalypse of John), are of even more uncertain authorship and date. [8] Another extant Docetic text that was known by Clement to be circulating c. 200 A.D. is the Acts of John, supposedly recorded by a certain "Leucius, a real or fictitious companion of the apostle John" (M 177). Darek Barefoot, "The Riddle of the Four Faces: Solving an Ancient Mystery"). The interest in written documents is thus rising among Christian congregations in this period (unfortunately, this could also be a source of interpolated Gospel quotations in Ignatius). He also refers to the Revelation to John, but never mentions or quotes any Epistles. [2] cf. The coincidences with the gospels on the other hand are numerous and interesting, but such as cannot be referred to the exclusive use of our present written gospels." Connected with this process was the canonization of the Talmud, which began in 200 A.D. (M 110) with the first "authoritative" written edition of the Mishnah being established by Rabbi Judah ha-Nasi, presumably from oral traditions. XVI). Since secret traditions are the easiest to lose or corrupt, there may be a lot to the Christian creed in the 1st century that is lost to us today and that would, if found, radically change what we think about Jesus or the first evangelists and their beliefs. That of the New Testament wants the Apocalypse. [1] Whatever the date, Paul's conversion follows one to three years later. Thus, as we will see more than once, doctrine, not objective concern for history, loomed large behind the charge of falsification--so we are faced with uncertainties all over again. Yet this manner of thinking has resulted in a certain contradiction in thinking about Biblical canonicity that remains to this day: Jude was accepted as canonical simply because it was long held in respect. This is not an objective methodology by any stretch, and is entirely driven by blind tradition and the demands of authoritarian dogma. It cannot be adequately dated, and arguments have ranged from late 2nd century to the 4th century. It appears that, thanks to Origen's exhaustive scholarship (perhaps tinted slightly by the pressure to remain orthodox and exclude perceived heretics), and received tradition beginning with Tatian, the NT was almost entirely accepted in its present form by 250 A.D., and not much changed from its apparent form in 180, though nothing as yet was 'official'. It is most curious that there was never any pronouncement by any central authority such as the Pope in all of Christian history as to which books belonged in the Bible, until 1443 A.D. at the conclusion of the Council of Florence--yet this only carried weight in the West. This text was not only popular and often treated as the genuine work of Peter (even by the very scholarly Clement), but its influence on the Christian religion as a whole is profound: this is the first text to introduce detailed pagan ideas of heaven and hell into Christian belief (drawing on Homer, Virgil, and Plato, as well as Orphic and Pythagorean traditions), and the popular view of these destinations, adopted and embellished by Dante centuries later, as in all Medieval art, is a direct outcome of this early Christian book and its widespread influence in the church for many centuries. ), including 1 Timothy because it allowed the taking of wine, meat, and marriage. Canon. [for more recent books on the OT see the Secular Web Bookstore]. But he also recorded certain additional oral traditions that he thought were authentic as well, including three sayings of Jesus that did not make it into any known written text (M 134, cf. This is all too likely, since there are indications that Tertullian was not an honest man (see XV). Revelation, however, was not accepted into the Armenian Bible until c. 1200 A.D. when Archbishop Nerses arranged an Armenian Synod at Constantinople to introduce the text. Around 135 the Gnostic Basilides composed a mighty treatise called the Exigetica which, judging from quotes by critics, contained lengthy exegesis on Gospel stories like the Sermon on the Mount and the Rich Man and Lazarus (M 78-9). This is a question that the Church never addressed, and still has not, in any official capacity whatsoever. It seems to accept the Laodicean canon, while adding the letters of Clement and eight unnamed "secret" books, for no clear reason. Bruce, "Some Thoughts on the Beginning of the New Testament Canon," Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester 65.2 (Spring 1983): 37-60. pdf : Reliability of the New Testament (Donald Burdick) [Right-Click on link and select "save as"] … Sometimes simpler redactions follow, rather than precede, the originals. by Craig Allert. The Gospels cannot really be dated, nor are the real authors known. Even Eusebius (below) shows no awareness of it. The surest decision was made in the 2nd century B.C.E. And so far, as of about 130, we have no clear evidence of any complete, much less named, written Gospel, although it seems some of the Epistles were widely circulated. Moreover, the word for "translated" may mean "interpreted," in which case what Papias is describing is perhaps a proto-Matthew containing a bare collection of OT prophecies, from which were drawn a few by the later author of the Gospel of Matthew, who had done his own "interpreting" of how they applied to Jesus. Nevertheless, the canon of Florence was still not enforced by threat of excommunication until the canon was made an absolute article of faith at the Council of Trent in 1546 A.D. Once again, the very nature of the situation meant that doctrine decided the case more than any objective historical criteria, but our evidence from the 3rd century, a century of near-perpetual civil war and economic and political chaos throughout the Roman world, is too scanty to draw out any stories about what finally happened to the Bible as a result. Besides the abundant use of these he mentions the Apocalypse by name, and ascribes it expressly to the apostle John -- "a certain man among us named John, one of the apostles of Christ, prophesied, in the revelation given him, that those who have believed in our Christ will spend a thousand years in Jerusalem," etc. Evidence points to the completion of the OT canon by a Synod at Jabneh (or Jamnia) between 90 and 100 A.D., where an assembly of rabbis decided which books of the Ketuvim were to be regarded as genuine (M 109-10, esp. In giving priority to the Four Gospels, Eusebius calls them the "Holy Quaternion," thus showing signs of the belief that there could only be four Gospels for mystical or numerological reasons, a belief we have seen before (in the cases of Irenaeus and Cyprian). I suspect you’ve heard something similar. The quotes or paraphrases that he uses happen to come from a few Epistles of Paul, and from all the Gospels in a mishmash (M 125), suggesting a harmonic source like the Diatessaron. In direct contrast, though he declared that no one really knew who wrote Hebrews, he still accepted it as an authority. We may never know what effect this had on his final revision of his history--but any view he may have taken about the canon that was pro-Arian was certainly expunged. Here, indeed, the lawgiver has a notable example of how one can, if he tries, persuade the souls of the young of anything, so that the only question he has to consider in his inventing is what would do most good to the State, if it were believed; and then he must devise all possible means to ensure that the whole of the community constantly, so long as they live, use exactly the same language, so far as possible, about these matters, alike in their songs, their tales, and their discourses. The Canon of the New Testament, like that of the Old, is the result of a development, of a process at once stimulated by disputes with doubters, both within and without the Church, and retarded by certain obscurities and natural hesitations, and which did not reach its final term until the dogmatic definition of the Tridentine Council. On a few occasions he quotes Jesus, without referring to any written source. There is one outstanding problem for these references to Mark and Matthew in Papias: they appear only in Eusebius, who is notorious for reporting (if not creating) forgeries. In addition, thanks to Clement, we know of a Gospel written some time in the first half of the 2nd century (if not earlier) that did not make it into the final canon despite having been held as canonical by Clement, and many others (including Jerome): the Gospel of the Hebrews (M 169-170). It may have preserved the tradition that Mark was Peter's secretary (the second line implies parallels with remarks about this by Papias). In the same period, Polycarp wrote a letter which cites "Jesus" for certain sayings a hundred times, and the sayings match closely those appearing in the Gospels (and even things written in numerous Epistles, which were not originally attributed to Jesus), but he does not name any sources (M 59-61). footnote 81 for sources). On the other hand, it has been argued with some merit that Luke borrowed material from Josephus, and if so that would date his Gospel (and Acts) after 94 A.D.[3] Finally, there are good arguments for the existence of a lost source-text called Q which was used by Matthew and Luke to supplement their borrowing from Mark, and this has been speculatively dated as early as the 50's A.D.[3a]. The date of this letter is unknown and could be anywhere from 70 to 130 A.D. (Barnabas was supposedly a companion of Paul), and it was for a long time actually a part of the NT canon itself, appearing at the end of the oldest surviving complete Bible, the Codex Sinaiticus (transcribed in the 4th century A.D., possibly based on a text produced by imperial commission, cf. In no case does he name or precisely quote any NT ("New Testament") book, but again this may be due to the unusual circumstances in which he was writing. 179-209. I heard something like this as a young seminarian. The reason of this, as the writer goes on to show, was that "the details of the life of Christ were still too fresh to be sought for only in written records." New Testament Writings as Scripture 3. Christians see in the New Testament the fulfillment of the promise of the Old Testament. The "Muratorian Canon," is a strange, badly written Latin list with brief comments on the books read in the church (cf. In 203 A.D. Origen became head of the Christian seminary at the age of 18, a true prodigy. But of the original Diatessaron we only have one fragment and a few quotations, although the fragment is very close to the original--within eighty years (M 115). This text has been plausibly dated to c. 180 A.D. (it does fit the mystical orthodoxy of Irenaeus), and even earlier than 120 A.D. by some scholars. The letter asserts that there are three versions of Mark: a shorter one written in Rome based on Peter's teaching, a longer "more spiritual" (more Johanine?) Eccl., 3.25, give each a review of the New Testament canon with a statement of the differing judgments as to the disputed books. Justin also tells us that services were conducted by reading from these books, followed by a sermon, then communal prayer (1st Apology 67.3-5), demonstrating the rising interest in and use of written texts in the churches. Unfortunately, Eusebius is often our only source for much of the early history of Christian texts, and so I am forced to cite him frequently. Second, he is not describing a Gospel at all, but a collection of sayings. The Authority of the Bible and the Formation of the New Testament Canon. Origen in the third century (as quoted by Eusebius, Hist. It is notable that the author ascribes all he says about Luke to anonymous "received opinion" (ex opinione). The Synodical Council of Loadicea, which was probably held between A.D.343-381, gives in its 60th canon (the genuineness of which, however, has been called in question by some) a list of the books of the Old and New Testaments. The Acts of the Apostles were not composed till about A.D.61-63. Thus, the group that decided which texts would be heretical was that which had the most vested interest in such a project: the most powerful leaders of the various churches whose authority was being challenged. OT) prophecies about Jesus," which curiously fits the fact that the Gospel of Matthew is the one to include many of these prophetic claims and allusions. Plato had already had the Athenian argue that justice is the only real road to happiness, and therefore by this argument people can be persuaded to be good. Worse, he says Paul and John each wrote to seven churches according to "the seven sons in the song of Hannah" (M 162). Other references allow us to guess at some of those he thought authentic. Curiously, the first "orthodox" Christian move toward canonization begins outside the Roman Empire, in the Syrian church. Particularly vexing, and seriously problematic for Bible advocates, are the undecidable questions about when, how, and why the ending of Mark became garbled with corruptions--the traditional 16:9-20 is one of two endings, both even being combined in some manuscripts, and both omitted altogether in the oldest examples; similar problems exist for Luke 12:43-4, John 7:53-8:11, and Acts 8:37, among others. Eusebius then notes quite casually how the Hebrews did this, telling lies about their God, and he even compares such lies with medicine, a healthy and even necessary thing. Col. 4:16), and have recently discovered the very ancient fragments of others that we never knew existed, because no one had even mentioned them. This latter process had already been begun by the Emperor Hadrian when he asked the jurist Julian to write a final, authoritative Praetorian Edict which defined many basic laws and legal procedures of Rome, and made them unchangeable by future praetors, and this was enacted by the Senate on 131 A.D. Other related trends in literature date back to the great beginnings of the library at Alexandria, where "canons" of authoritative texts were established for various Classical authors, including especially Homer, from 285 B.C. The great scholar Jerome was influenced by this, and by his Eastern education, and when he decided to replace the numerous conflicting Latin translations of the New Testament texts his choices would be decisive for the rest of Western Christendom, for his translation would become a monumental masterpiece in its own right, winning respect for its literary competence and unity. At any rate, the official 7th century declaration was thoroughly contradictory regarding the canon, and the members of the Trullan Synod obviously, in Metzger's words, "had not even read the texts thus sanctioned." There is, however, one remarkable passage in the epistle of Barnabas, the Greek text of which has been recently discovered appended to the Sinaitic manuscript, in which he says (ch.4): "Let us take care that we be not found as it is written, many are called, but few are chosen." (2.) Origen declared the Tatian four in 244 A.D. as the only trustworthy, inspired Gospels (M 136-7), simply because they are the only Gospels that no one "disputes" (M 191; cf. M 191-201, 305-7). Origen writes at length on the brother of Jesus but he never mentions the Epistles of James as being by him (Commentary on Matthew 2.17). Two nearly-complete Bibles survive from the 4th century which some believe may be copies of this imperial standard text: the Codex Sinaiticus, which has the four Gospels, Acts, fourteen Pauline Epistles (including Hebrews), seven Catholic Epistles, the Revelation of John, the Epistle of Barnabas, and the book of Hermas, and the Vaticanus Codex, which appears to contain the same material in the same order, although both texts are incomplete (Sinaiticus breaks off in the middle of Hermas, Vaticanus in the middle of Hebrews). They could also have been added to the text later. "The Sheppherd," an unusual (to us) collection of "visions, mandates, and similitudes" (the names of the three books that comprise it). So if you’ll forgive me, I did mention that we were going … M 184), perhaps because its descriptions were so disturbing. Looking at these lists, we can group the New Testament books and other early Christian writings into four basic categories. Metzger suggests likely scribal errors here (230), but clearly, before the late 4th century, the contents of the Bible were neither entirely settled, nor quite like what they are today. Expelled, Marcion started his own church and was the first to clearly establish a canon, consisting of ten of the Epistles and one Gospel, which Tertullian decades later identified as the Gospel of Luke, though stripped of "unacceptable features" such as the nativity, OT references, etc. Even when I appear to cite him confidently, readers must keep in mind that he is not exceptionally trustworthy. [7] More importantly, the context seems to be one where there were perhaps no set written Gospels in his day, but an array of variously-worked texts. February 20, 2017. This may reveal once again how doctrine more than objective scholarship affected Christian choices concerning canonical texts. This movement persisted long enough to win over Tertullian in 206, even though the congregations were cut off from the church as demon-inspired. The Gospels were not likely to have been written down so soon, and we have clear evidence, in numerous variations, that they were altered at various points in their transmission, and scholarly work in the last two centuries has gone far to get us to the earliest versions possible. To make matters worse, we know of some very early books that simply did not survive at all (the most astonishing example is Paul's earlier Epistle to the Colossians, cf. [5] This does not create much confidence in later reports, and raises the real possibility that other claims to authority are rhetorical rather than genuine (such as that made in the closing paragraphs of the Gospel of John). • Probably a response to Marcion And to this day, Revelation is not included in the Syrian Bible. Yet thus came the Bible. The next category of texts includes those that are recognized by some but disputed at least by someone (someone, that is, who was regarded by him as orthodox--hence, the opinions of early church leaders like Marcion did not count). Howard Clark Kee, Jesus in History: An Approach to the Study of the Gospels, 2nd ed., Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1970, 76ff. Nevertheless, Hebrews continued to be excluded from many Bibles in the West, while the bogus Epistle to the Laodiceans (see XV) continued to be found in hundreds of Bibles in various languages until relatively recent times. We do not know which Epistles he accepted as authentic, yet we know he rejected some (cf. Of these some, as Marcion, rejected on dogmatical grounds a portion of the apostolic writings, and mutilated those which they retained; others, as Valentinus, sought by fanciful principles of interpretation to explain away their true meaning. -- to a place in it remained for a considerable time an open question, which, in its application to particular books was answered differently in the East and the West. The Councils of Hippo (AD 393) and Carthage (AD 397) reaffirmed the … For if Enoch is false, so must be Jude, at least in part--it makes no sense to call Jude an authority, and yet reject his sources. Church history, from its beginnings till the end of the fourth century, is characterized by an increasing awareness of the canonicity of its sacred New Testament writings. The other letters, and the Revelation (a.k.a. It may date even from the 1st century (cf. Overview. Thus, the very need to assert authority is perhaps compelling church leaders to give names to the Gospel authors sometime between 110 and 150, in order that the authority of certain Gospels can be established. You would find many things of this sort being used even in the Hebrew scriptures, such as concerning God being jealous or falling asleep or getting angry or being subject to some other human passions, for the benefit of those who need such an approach. Chap.2, No.7. But even the book of Hermas never names or quotes exactly any NT text. By the fifth century the Syrian Bible, called the Peshitta, became formalized somehow into its present form: Philemon was accepted, along with James, 1 Peter and 1 John, but the remaining books are still expelled (2 and 3 John, 2 Peter, Revelation, and Jude). The Biblical student should carefully remember the two following important considerations: (1.) But what is significant for us is that this implies a recognition of "texts" as being authoritative (M 90-4). Specifically, if he died under Pontius Pilate, the date must have at least been between 26 and 36, the ten years we know Pilate to have served in Judaea. This is the first time anything like this had been done: an official pronouncement from a high-ranking church official on what the Bible was to consist of, enforced on a major diocese by an imperial Church authority. Papias's account of Mark is stranger still. Every church had its favored books, and since there was nothing like a clearly-defined orthodoxy until the 4th century, there were in fact many simultaneous literary traditions. Historical aspects of the formation of the New Testament Canon Metzger reasons this as proof that Latin translations of the letters and Gospels existed by then, though this is a shaky argument at best (cf. Be the first to rate this. (PDF) The Formation of the New Testament Canon | Richard Carrier - Academia.edu Summarizes the work of Bruce Metzger on how the New Testament canon developed and came to be selected. How many other Christian writings are we completely ignorant of? Its detailed account of a church hierarchy and rituals and the text's unusual organization into "The Way of Life" and "The Way of Death," among other details, likely suggest a 2nd century date (M 49). His canon consists of the four Gospels, Acts, and the now-standard 21 Epistles, in short the present Bible, minus the Revelation. M 263). If they had been written by then, they must have not made it to Rome before 95. The question, therefore, is not concerning the truth of revelation, but simply concerning the claims of certain books to be a part of the record of revelation. 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Marcionite forgery think otherwise, I think, could possibly argue Against your view and never any particular....