The Liturgical Roots of the Bible
Michael Barber, Ph.D. / John Paul the Great Catholic University © 2013
Debates in the Early Church About the Canon
“We receive also the Apocalypse of John and that of Peter,
though some among us will not have this latter read in thechurch.
. 170 [?])“[Concerning Peter’s letters]. . .
only one of which I know to be genuine and acknowledged by the ancient elders
. . . [I]nthe salutations at the end of the Epistle to the Romans, has made mention among others of Hermas, to whom thebook called
is ascribed, it should be observed that
this too has been disputed by some
, and on theiraccount cannot be placed among the acknowledged books;
while by others it is considered quite indispensable
,especially to those who need instruction in the elements of the faith. Hence, as we know,
it has been publicly read inchurches
, and I have found that some of the most ancient writers used it.”—Eusebius,
The Councils That Put the Bible Together
Carthage III (397)“
Let this be sent to our brother and fellow bishop, Boniface
, and to the other bishops of those parts, that they may confirmthis canon, for these are the things which we have received from our fathers to be read in church.”
The New Covenant and the New Testament
“For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread,
and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembranceof me.’
In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the
] in my blood.Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”1.
“New Covenant”: The Eucharist
a collection of books2.
Books of the “New Covenant”: Those read when “New Covenant” celebrated—Eucharistic liturgy!3.
“Canonical books”: Those read “in the church”
, i.e., in the liturgy
The Gospel and Liturgy
The four written Gospels take the form of ancient Greco-Roman biographies (
Biographies often written to be read
The Gospels were written for the Eucharistic celebration!
“Evangelization”—proclaiming the “Good News”—at its core involves:a.
The life of Christ—The Word has truly become flesh!
Proclaimed in the Liturgy
“We receive also the Apocalypse of John and that of Peter, though some among us will not have this latter
read in the church
See, e.g., Richard Burridge,
What Are the Gospels?: A Comparison with Graeco-Roman Biography
(2d ed.; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995). Burridge shows that the Gospels match numerous features of Greco-Roman biographies: “Opening Features” (e.g., “Title”,“Opening Formulae / Prologue / Preface”), Subject (e.g., Verbal Usage; “Allocation of Space”), “External Features” (“Meter,” “Size andLength,” “Structure or Sequence,” “Literary Units”), “Internal Features” (e.g., “Style,” “Tone/ Mood / Attitude / Values”).
See, e.g., Burridge,
What are the Gospels?,