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Introduction: The Modern “Debate” Are there “Lost Scriptures” of “Lost Christianities”? Are these texts and varieties of Christianity to be reclaimed and given a place alongside the forms that had historically survived/thrived? Was the process of the formation of a canon a matter of the suppression of texts and the early Christian voices they represented, which can now be rescued from oppression? Witness the attention given to “The Gospel of Judas,” “The Gospel of Thomas,” “The Gospel of Mary of Magdala.” Or could the process be seen more as a matter of “natural selection” at work? I. Canon, Inspiration, Authority, Use A. All canonical texts are held to be inspired, but not all inspired texts are held to be canonical. Canonicity is not an exclusive claim to inspiration. B. All canonical texts are held (in principle) to be authoritative, but not all authoritative texts are canonical. Canonicity is not an exclusive claim to authority. C. All canonical texts are (in principle) to be read in public worship as “Scripture.” Non-canonical texts are distinguished from canonical texts in the manner and nature of their use. (Increasingly, church fathers cautioned against reading particular texts, notably the pseudo-apostolic works associated with the Gnostic movement and other breakaway groups.) D. “Canon” is the “measuring stick” for evaluation of all other texts, proclamations, and practices. (Shepherd of Hermas was widely regarded as an inspired text, and Hermas regarded as an inspired prophet, but he was a prophet subject to being tested against the rule of faith, as it were, not a part of the measure of that rule of faith himself.) Canon, as a list of books, is an answer to the question, “Where do we go to discover who we are?” “Where do we go to rediscover the foundations of our identity, our core convictions, our purpose as a body and as individuals, our distinguishing practices?” Other texts may also help answer these questions, but only insofar as they themselves are reflections upon, and reflect, the foundational texts. (The strongest reason, in my opinion, for
split off from the Great Church. etc. that of Luke. Clement. Catholicity (=universality). Some Early Canonical Lists (NT focus) 0. both in the sense of coming from an apostle or at least being authorized by an apostle. Canon is the result of decisions made by particular communities of faith (and vice versa – particular communities of faith are formed as a result of decisions about what texts are inspired. Gnostic groups) as well as throughout church history (Protestants and Catholic communions are distinguished. Romans. The Old Testament Canon B. Apostolicity.” as foundational texts.) C. Marcionites. different trajectory. i.” i. 3. or Polycarp... and to be used in public worship). The New Testament Canon Some important criteria that appear to have played a significant part in conversations about canon: 1. The Formation of the Canon A. 1 & 2 . 2. the Mormons are set off by their acceptance of a “Third Testament of Jesus Christ. Ten Pauline epistles: Galatians. This is true in regard to early heretical groups (e.). either those churches would eventually cease to read it as a primary source or those churches would develop their own. III.. Marcion’s Canon [No Old Testament at all] One heavily edited gospel. in part.e. or the visions of Hermas. though “apostolic” in terms of their content. (If a text was only read as Scripture by a small number of churches.) II. both in the sense of being useful and “applicable” to situations beyond their first expression and in the sense of being read widely throughout the Christian churches as “Scripture. and in the sense of reflecting the apostolic faith.separating the Old Testament Apocrypha from the Old Testament Canon is that they fall more into this second category.g. do not establish themselves as canonical. the “Book of Mormon”.e. authoritative. by decisions about OT canon. Antiquity: has the text been with us as a Church from the beginning? Thus the letters of Ignatius. 1 & 2 Corinthians.
to the Galatians fifth. it may be. and several others (66) which cannot be received into the catholic church. 265 . Vl. and First Epistle of Peter. Philippians. “There is current also [an epistle] to the Laodiceans. and. the apocalypses of John and Peter. was occupying the [episcopal] chair of the church of the city of Rome. The Canon Of Eusebius Of Caesarea (A. in the city of Rome. 3. the Asian founder of the Cataphrygians.” Origen believes the thought to be Paul’s but the expression to belong to a disciple/co-worker of Paul. The Canon At The Time Of Origen (A. John. for it is after [their] time.” Also: the Epistle of Jude.” The Epistle “’To the Hebrews’ has not the apostle's rudeness in speech….254) From Eusebius. his brother. who also composed a new book of psalms for Marcion. but it cannot be read publicly to the people in church either among the prophets. 1-7. one to Titus.” 2. or among the apostles. and two to Timothy).. in our times. Acts of the Apostles. 3-14.340) From Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History. xxv. and not inferior to the acknowledged writings of the apostle. III. once more to the Corinthians and to the Thessalonians for the sake of admonition. First Epistle of John. to the Romans seventh. two epistles of John. Mark].Thessalonians.D.. one to Philemon. “Peter … has left one acknowledged Epistle.. possibly also a second. “though some of us are not willing that the latter be read in church. Undisputed: Four Gospels. Laodiceans. Epistles of Paul (to the Corinthians first. whose number is complete. to the Ephesians second. Colossians. but this is disputed. to the Colossians fourth. and Philemon. . And therefore it ought indeed to be read. Ecclesiastical History. That the Epistle is better Greek in the framing of its diction will be admitted by everyone who is able to discern differences of style. But … the thoughts of the Epistle are admirable.” “But Hermas wrote the Shepherd very recently. 185 .” John “wrote also the Apocalypse” and “has left also an Epistle of a very few lines. Acts of all the apostles.D. [and] another to the Alexandrians. to the Thessalonians sixth. The Muratorian Canon (Fragmentary) [Matthew. 1.” “We accept nothing whatever of Arsinous or Valentinus or Miltiades. for not all say that these are genuine but the two of them are not a hundred lines long. to the Philippians third. together with Basilides. XXV. Epistles of Paul. a second and a third. c. the book of Wisdom. Luke. while bishop Pius. [both] forged in Paul's name to advance the heresy of Marcion.
or even of some others besides these. For this reason they ought not even to be reckoned among the spurious books.” and the Apocalypse of John. The Manichaeans also wrote a Gospel according to Thomas. James. perhaps as disputed: . & 3 John. the Shepherd of Hermas. 1 Corinthians. for instance. 1 & 2 Timothy. Mark. 350) From Cyril's Catechetical Lectures.The Apocalypse of Peter 5. Barnabas Revelation of John Acts of the Apostles Added with dashes to mark them off. Receive also the Acts of the Twelve Apostles and in addition to these the seven Catholic Epistles of James. Colossians. such books as the Gospels of Peter. and the Second and Third of John. the Epistle of Barnabas. NT Canonical List (unknown date) Inserted in Codex Claromontanus (6th c. which being smeared with the fragrance of the name 'Gospel' destroys the souls of those who are rather simple-minded. Titus. Spurious: the Acts of Paul. John Epistles of Paul: Romans. of Thomas. Philemon Other Epistles: 1 & 2 Peter.D. the Apocalypse of Peter.) Four Gospels: Matthew. the Didache (Teachings of the Apostles). Peter. 36. are distinguished from “those which the heretics put forward under the name of the apostles. But let all the rest be put aside in a secondary rank.The Acts of Paul . the Gospel of the Hebrews. Ephesians. the second Epistle of Peter. the fourteen Epistles of Paul. iv. Then of the New Testament there are four Gospels only. Jude. of Matthias. . and Jude. John. Galatians. 1. All of the above. and the latest work of disciples.Disputed but familiar books: the Epistle of James. The Canon Of Cyril Of Jerusalem (c. for the rest have false titles and are harmful. “whether they belong to the evangelist or to another person of the same name. but are to be cast aside as altogether absurd and impious. and the Acts of Andrew and John and the other apostles. of Jude. And whatever books are not read in the churches. as you have already heard [me say concerning the Old Testament apocryphal]. Luke. A. including.The Shepherd of Hermans . however. 2 Corinthians.” Criteria for rejection: “The character of the style also is far removed from apostolic usage. and as a seal upon them all.” 4. 2. and the thought and purport of their contents are completely out of harmony with true orthodoxy and clearly show themselves that they are the forgeries of heretics. do not read these even by yourself.
seven Catholic Epistles. then.) Can.” . Mark. to the Galatians. clarifying Canon 59.D. 3 Epistles of John.D. and Syriac manuscripts makes it probable that it was a somewhat later appendage. one to Titus. Acts of the Apostles. the four Gospels. to the Ephesians. written in this order: the first. Mark. Canon Approved By The Synod Of Laodicea (c. one to the Romans. Can. that to Philemon. Let no one add to these. “ 8. A remark (“one only”) following the mention of the three Johannine epistles and again following the mention of the two Petrine epistle suggests some disagreement re: 2 & 3 John and 2 Peter (as above in Eusebius’s snapshot of consensus forming around the canon). namely. let nothing be taken away from them. three. 367) From Athanasius' Thirty-Ninth Festal Epistle (A. one to the Ephesians. 7. after these. to the Philippians. next. two of the Thessalonians. after these. In addition. two to the Corinthians. but only the canonical ones of the New and Old Testament. The Cheltenham Canon (c. according to Matthew. one to the Hebrews. the Apocalypse. 360) New Testament: The Four Gospels. two to the Thessalonians. 367) on the New Testament canon. one to Titus. In these alone the teaching of godliness is proclaimed. after these. of John. two. according to Matthew. that he who thirsts may be satisfied with the living words they contain.. 363) (The absence of Canon 60 in a variety of Greek. and that to the Hebrews.. the Revelation of John. 59. three of John.6. to the Romans. the 13 Epistles of Paul. to the Colossians. two to Timothy. two to the Corinthians. and John. A. the Acts of the Apostles. one of Jude. and John. After these. Let no private psalms nor any uncanonical books be read in church. the Acts of the Apostles and Epistles called Catholic: of James. then.D. one to the Philippians.. and again. one to the Galatians. “These are fountains of salvation. one of James. and one to Philemon. then. James. Luke. two to Timothy. of Peter. Luke. [Old Testament canon listed] New Testament: “four Gospels.D. one of Jude. two of Peter. and Jude are omitted. A. And besides. fourteen Epistles of Paul. and lastly. The Canon Of Athanasius (A. Latin. 2 Epistles of Peter Note: Hebrews. 60. one to the Colossians. one. “These are. there are fourteen Epistles of Paul the apostle.
which it is not appropriate to make public before all. John. 389) would still omit Revelation from his list of canonical texts. And Jude's is the seventh. both clergy and laity…. three of John again. Add next the chosen vessel. having added Luke as third. having written wisely to the churches twice seven Epistles: to the Romans one. to whom. Two of Peter. the fourteen Epistles of Paul. the Apostles. New Testament: “Matthew indeed wrote for the Hebrews the wonderful works of Christ. and the Acts of us. 394) “Receive only four evangelists: Matthew. Clement. Our sacred books. by me. in eight books. the bishops. Note: This is the first time a list corresponds to what would eventually become the New Testament as we know it. And fourteen Epistles of Paul. And Mark for Italy. two Epistles of Clement. A. to which one must add two to the Corinthians. for I call this one rightly a son of thunder. not all of Athanasius’s contemporaries were in agreement. of Matthew. You have all. that of the catholic Acts of the Apostles. that to the Galatians. John. sounding out most greatly with the word of God. two Epistles of Peter. Luke for Greece.D. three of John. one of Jude. are the four Gospels. the great preacher. two to the Thessalonians. of the New Testament. The Canon Of Gregory Of Nazianzus (A. the herald of the Gentiles.Old Testament: Athanasius excludes the deuterocanonical books.D. 85. Mark. after which that in Philippi. The Canon Of Amphilochius Of Iconium (d. two to Timothy. The Canon Approved By The 'Apostolic Canons' (c. of which James is one. 9. 329-89) Ratified by the Trullan Synod in 692. Even Gregory of Nazianzus (d. Then the Acts of the wise apostles. permitting them only as devotional reading. then the one written to the Colossians. it is not among the genuine [books]. and . the apostle Paul.” 11. 10. Luke. because of the mysteries contained in them . walking in heaven. one of James. count John as fourth in time. for all. and the Constitutions dedicated to you. that is. If there is any besides these. Let the following books be esteemed venerable and holy by all of you. Nevertheless. but first in height of teachings. And receive also the second book of Luke. and that to the Ephesians. 380) From the “Apostolic Constitutions”: Can. And seven Catholic [Epistles]. then Mark.
one Epistle. The [books of the] New Testament: the Gospels. of John. their acts shall also be read. one. one each. 1 Esdras. and besides these. Numbers. 4 books of Kings. but the most say it is spurious. apostle. the Epistles of Paul. Ruth. plus 1 & 2 Clement Indications of an appendix containing Psalms of Solomon 15. of the same to the Hebrews. of Jude. This is perhaps the most reliable (lit. Judith. probably represents a 6th c. nothing shall be read in church under the name of divine Scriptures. and one to the Hebrews. of James. And some receive three [of John]. and “The Shepherd of Hermas.” It is not entirely clear. Leviticus. one book. AD list. thirteen. 397) Confirming the earlier decision of the Synod of Hippo Regius in North Africa (A. 2 books of Chronicles. “Decretum Gelasianum” Pseudonymous. Old Testament: “Genesis. Concerning the confirmation of this canon.D. Odes NT: All 27 books. Judges. Psalm 151. most unfalsified) canon of the divinely inspired Scriptures. what remains? Of the Catholic Epistles some say we must receive seven. one.to Titus and Philemon. four books. Codex Alexandrinus OT: Includes 3 & 4 Maccabees. three. and that of Jude a seventh. Exodus. the transmarine Church shall be consulted.D. the canonical Scriptures are these: [then follows a list of Old Testament books]. one. Esther). Besides the canonical Scriptures. And again the Revelation of John. Moreover. Can.” 12. Tobit. one. two. 13. for the grace is genuine. On the anniversaries of martyrs. the Revelation of John. 1 & 4 Maccabees. some approve. and those of John. two of Peter.. of Peter. Wisdom and Sirach. The Canon Approved By The Third Synod Of Carthage (A. Job. Jesus Nave. Codex Sinaiticus OT: Hebrew Canon (longer forms of Daniel. 393). Deuteronomy. and one of Peter. Psalter of . but also includes Epistle of Barnabas. “Well. But some say the one to the Hebrews is spurious. 14. but others say only three should be received--that of James. the Acts of the Apostles. NT: The 27 books (with some variation in order among Acts & Epistles). but these might have been meant to be regarded as an appendix. not saying well. 24.
The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin. Jeremiah. Philadelphia: Fortress. Arthur G. Judith. Text and Canon.: InterVarsity Press. 7th ed. Oxford: Clarendon. F. Esther. Bruce M. and the Apocalypse of John. 2 books of Maccabees. 1981. 1 of him to the Hebrews. Y. Isaiah. . Patzia. Westcott. 1995. Ezekiel. and Significance.: InterVarsity Press. Development. Ill. The Formation of the New Testament. Daniel. Downers Grove. Eduard. 1 of James. Collection. London: Macmillan. A General Survey of the History of the Canon of the New Testament. H. 12 books of Prophets. 13 letters of the Apostle Paul. 1 of Jude. 5 books of Solomon. Nashville: Abingdon. 1988. Gamble. Tobit. 1985. Ill. 3 of John. 2 books of Esdras. The Canon of Scripture.” Bibliography: Bruce. 1987.David. F. 2 of Peter.” New Testament: “4 books of Gospels. 1896. 1 book of Acts of the Apostles. The New Testament Canon: Its Making and Meaning. The Making of the New Testament: Origin. Brooke F. Lohse. Downers Grove. *Metzger.
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