The Canon of the New Testament by bsN2jI5X



Development of the New Testament
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For the Jewish canon, see Development of the Jewish Bible canon.
For the Old Testament canon, see Development of the Old Testament canon.
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The Biblical canon is the set of books Christians regard as divinely inspired
and thus constituting the Christian Bible. Although the Early Church primarily
used the Greek Old Testament, the Septuagint or LXX, or the Targums
among Aramaic speakers, the apostles did not otherwise leave a defined set
of new scriptures; instead the New Testament developed over time.
The development of the New Testament canon was, like that of the Old
Testament, a gradual process. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia article
on the Canon of the New Testament:

       The idea of a complete and clear-cut canon of the New Testament existing from
       the beginning, that is from Apostolic times, has no foundation in history. The
       Canon of the New Testament, like that of the Old, is the result of a 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

A folio from P46, an early 3rd century collection of Pauline epistles.

The writings attributed to the apostles circulated amongst the earliest
Christian communities. The Pauline epistles were circulating in collected form
by the end of the first century AD.[2] Justin Martyr, in the early second century,
mentions the "memoirs of the apostles," which Christians called "gospels" and
which were regarded as on par with the Old Testament.[3][4] A four gospel
canon (the Tetramorph) was asserted by Irenaeus, c. 160, who refers to it

By the early 200's, Origen may have been using the same 27 books as in the
Catholic NT canon, though there were still disputes over the canonicity of
Hebrews, James, II Peter, II and III John, and Revelation[7], see also
Antilegomena. Likewise the Muratorian fragment is evidence that perhaps as
early as 200 there existed a set of Christian writings somewhat similar to the
27-book NT canon, which included four gospels and argued against
objections to them.[8] Thus, while there was a good measure of debate in the
Early Church over the New Testament canon, the major writings are claimed
to have been accepted by almost all Christians by the middle of the second
In his Easter letter of 367, Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, gave a list of
exactly the same books as what would become the 27-book NT canon,[10] and
he used the word "canonized" (kanonizomena) in regards to them.[11] The
North African Synod of Hippo, in 393, approved the 27-book NT canon[12]
together with the Septuagint books, a decision that was confirmed by
Councils of Carthage in 397 and 419. These councils were under the authority
of St. Augustine, who regarded the canon as already closed.[13][14] Pope
Damasus I's Council of Rome in 382, if the Decretum Gelasianum is correctly
associated with it, issued a biblical canon identical to that mentioned above,[15]
or if not the list is at least a sixth century compilation.[16] Likewise, Damasus's
commissioning of the Latin Vulgate edition of the Bible, circa 383, was
instrumental in the fixation of the canon in the West.[17] In circa 405, Pope
Innocent I sent a list of the sacred books to a Gallic bishop, Exsuperius of
Toulouse. Christian scholars assert that when these bishops and councils
spoke on the matter, however, they were not defining something new, but
instead "were ratifying what had already become the mind of the

Thus some claim, that from the fourth century, there existed unanimity in the
West concerning the New Testament canon (as it is today),[21] and that by the
fifth century the Eastern Church, with a few exceptions, had come to accept
the Book of Revelation and thus had come into harmony on the matter of the
canon.[22][23] Nonetheless, a full dogmatic articulation of the canon was not
made until the Council of Trent of 1546 for Roman Catholicism,[23] the Thirty-
Nine Articles of 1563 for the Church of England, the Westminster Confession
of Faith of 1647 for Calvinism, and the Synod of Jerusalem of 1672 for the
Greek Orthodox.

McDonald and Sanders's The Canon Debate, 2002, Appendix B, lists the
following most important primary sources for the NT Canon.[24]


      1 Early Christianity

      2 The Apostolic Fathers

               2.1 Clement of Rome

               2.2 Justin Martyr

      3 Early Christian diversity

               3.1 Marcion of Sinope

      4 The Proto-orthodox response to early Christian

                   4.1 Muratorian Canon

                   4.2 Diatessaron

                   4.3 Irenaeus

                   4.4 Clement of Alexandria

                   4.5 The Alogi

                   4.6 Eusebius

                   4.7 Claromontanus Canon

                   4.8 Constantine the Great

                   4.9 Cyril of Jerusalem

                   4.10 Athanasius

                   4.11 Cheltenham/Mommsen Canon

                   4.12 Synod of Laodicea?

                   4.13 Epiphanius

                   4.14 Apostolic Canon #85

                   4.15 Gregory of Nazianzus

                   4.16 Amphilochius of Iconium

           5 The Vulgate Bible

                   5.1 Jerome

                   5.2 Augustine and the North African canons

                   5.3 Pope Damasus I

                   5.4 Pope Innocent I

                   5.5 A consensus emerges?

                   5.6 Cassiodorus

           6 Eastern canons

                   6.1 Peshitta

                   6.2 Armenian canon

                   6.3 East African canons

           7 Reformation era

                   7.1 Martin Luther

                   7.2 Council of Trent

                   7.3 Protestant confessions
                 7.4 Synod of Jerusalem

         8 Jefferson Bible

         9 Further Catholic Developments

         10 Jesus Seminar

         11 Apocrypha

         12 Evangelical canons

         13 References

         14 External links

[edit]   Early Christianity

The Septuagint: A page from the Codex Vaticanus, the basis of Sir Lancelot
Brenton's English translation.

Early Christianity relied on the Sacred Oral Tradition of what Jesus had said
and done, as reported by his apostles and disciples. These oral traditions
were later written down as gospels.[25]

In the one-hundred-year period extending roughly from A.D. 50 to 150 a
number of documents began to circulate among the churches. These included
epistles, gospels, acts, apocalypses, homilies, and collections of teachings.
While some of these documents were apostolic in origin, others drew upon
the tradition the apostles and ministers of the word had utilized in their
individual missions. Still others represented a summation of the teaching
entrusted to a particular church center. Several of these writings sought to
extend, interpret, and apply apostolic teaching to meet the needs of Christians
in a given locality.

[edit]   The Apostolic Fathers
The period immediately following the passing of the Apostles is known as the
period of the Apostolic Fathers. Many of these men walked with the Apostles
and were taught directly by them. Polycarp and Papias, for instance, are
considered to have been disciples of John the Apostle. Doctrinal authority
during this period rested on two sources, the Old Testament and the notion of
Apostolic Succession, being able to trace a direct association to one of the
Apostles and thus to Christ. Although the New Testament canon was written,
it was not yet seen as a separate body of books equivalent to the Old
Testament. Six Apostolic Fathers are commonly referred to: Barnabas,
Hermas, Clement of Rome, Polycarp, Papias, and Ignatius. [26]

Their concerns were more with practical and moral issues than with
theological reflection. The works of these early Christian writers contain no
formulated doctrine of Scripture or canon, and yet there is much that is
suggestive of later development.

[edit]   Clement of Rome
By the end of the 1st century, some letters of Paul were collected and
circulated, and were known to Clement of Rome (c. 96), Ignatius of Antioch,
and Polycarp of Smyrna but they were not usually called scripture/graphe as
the Septuagint was [27] and they weren't without critics. In the late 4th century
Epiphanius of Salamis (died 402) Panarion 29 says the Nazarenes had
rejected the Pauline epistles and Irenaeus Against Heresies 26.2 says the
Ebionites rejected him. Acts 21:21 records a rumor that Paul aimed to subvert
the Old Testament (against this rumor see Romans 3:8, 3:31). 2 Peter 3:16
says his letters have been abused by heretics who twist them around "as they
do with the other scriptures." In the 2nd and 3rd centuries Eusebius's
Ecclesiastical History 6.38 says the Elchasai "made use of texts from every
part of the Old Testament and the Gospels; it rejects the Apostle (Paul)
entirely"; 4.29.5 says Tatian the Assyrian rejected Paul's Letters and Acts of
the Apostles; 6.25 says Origen accepted 22 canonical books of the Hebrews
plus Maccabees plus the four Gospels but Paul "did not so much as write to
all the churches that he taught; and even to those to which he wrote he sent
but a few lines."[28]

Bruce Metzger in his Canon of the New Testament, 1987, draws the following
conclusion about Clement:
         Clement's Bible is the Old Testament, to which he refers repeatedly as Scripture
         (graphe), quoting it with more or less exactness. Clement also makes occasional
         reference to certain words of Jesus; though they are authoritative for him, he
         does not appear to enquire how their authenticity is ensured. In two of the three
         instances that he speaks of remembering 'the words' of Christ or of the Lord
         Jesus, it seems that he has a written record in mind, but he does not call it a
         'gospel'. He knows several of Paul's epistles, and values them highly for their

         content; the same can be said of the Epistle to the Hebrews, with which he is well
         acquainted. Although these writings obviously possess for Clement considerable
         significance, he never refers to them as authoritative 'Scripture'.
                                                                                        —page 43

[edit]   Justin Martyr
Justin Martyr, in the early second century, mentions the "memoirs of the
apostles", which Christians called "gospels" and which were regarded as on
par with the Old Testament.[29][30]

[edit]   Early Christian diversity
         See also: Christian heresy

     Between 140 and 220, both internal and external forces caused Proto-
     orthodox Christianity to begin to systematize both its doctrines and its
     view of revelation. Much of the systemization came about as a defense
     against the diverse Christian viewpoints that competed with emerging
     Proto-Orthodoxy. The early years of this period witnessed the rise of
     several strong movements of faith deemed heretical by the church in
     Rome: Marcionism, Gnosticism and Montanism.

     [edit]   Marcion of Sinope
         Main article: Marcion of Sinope

           Marcion of Sinope, a bishop of Asia Minor, was the first of record to
           propose a definitive, exclusive, unique canon of Christian scriptures.
           (Though Ignatius did address Christian scripture[31], before Marcion,
           against the perceived heresies of the Judaizers and Docetists, he did
           not publish a canon.) In his book Origin of the New Testament[32]
           Adolf von Harnack argued that Marcion viewed the church at this
           time as largely an Old Testament church (one that "follows the
           Testament of the Creator-God") without a firmly established New
           Testament canon, and that the church gradually formulated its New
           Testament canon in response to the challenge posed by Marcion.
Marcion rejected the theology of the Old Testament entirely and
regarded the God depicted there as an inferior Being. He claimed
that the theology of the Old Testament was incompatible with the
teaching of Jesus regarding God and morality. Marcion believed that
Jesus had come to liberate mankind from the authority of the God of
the Old Testament and to reveal the superior God of goodness and
mercy whom he called the Father. But this message had been
obscured in the Gospel by Judaizing corruptions. Paul and Luke
were the only ones to find favour with Marcion and even then only to
a limited extent.

Marcion created a canon, a definite group of books which he
regarded as fully authoritative, displacing all others. These comprised
ten of the Pauline epistles (without the Pastorals and Hebrews) and
Luke's Gospel. He seems to have edited these books, purging them
of what did not accord with his views, or alternately his versions were
the originals that were later modified by Proto-Orthodoxy against

The Gospel of Luke, which Marcion called simply the Gospel of the
Lord, he edited to remove any passages that connected Jesus with
the Old Testament, or as stated above, these passages were later
added to the Gospel of Luke. This was because he believed that the
god of the Jews, Yahweh, who gave them the Jewish Scriptures, was
an entirely different god than the Supreme God who sent Jesus and
inspired the New Testament. He used ten letters of Paul as well
(excluding Hebrews and the Pastoral epistles) assuming his Epistle
to the Laodiceans referred to canonical Ephesians and not the
apocryphal Epistle to the Laodiceans or another text no longer
extant. He also edited these in a similar way, or at least they differ
from the current received text. To these, which he called the Gospel
and the Apostolicon, he added his Antithesis which contrasted the
New Testament view of God and morality with the Old Testament
view of God and morality, see also Expounding of the Law#Antithesis
of the Law.

Marcion asserted that these changes removed judaizing corruptions
and recovered the original inspired words of Jesus and Paul. He
edited the ten epistles by Paul as well as the Gospel of Luke.
Marcion's canon and theology were rejected as heretical by the early
church; however, he forced other Christians to consider which texts
were canonical and why. He spread his beliefs widely; they became
known as Marcionism. In the introduction to his book "Early Christian
Writings", Henry Wace stated: "A modern divine… c u            fu
discuss the question raised by Marcion, whether there is such
opposition between different parts of what he regards as the word of
God, that all cannot come from the same author."[34] The Catholic
Encyclopedia of 1913 characterized Marcion as "perhaps the most
dangerous foe Christianity has ever known."

Everett Ferguson in chapter 18 of The Canon Debate quotes
Tertullian's De praescriptione haereticorum 30:

       Since Marcion separated the New Testament from the Old, he is
       necessarily subsequent to that which he separated, inasmuch as it
       was only in his power to separate what was previously united. Having

       been united previous to its separation, the fact of its subsequent
       separation proves the subsequence also of the man who effected the

Note 61 of page 308 adds:

“                                                                             ”
       [Wolfram] Kinzig suggests that it was Marcion who usually called his
       Bible testamentum [Latin for testament].

Robert M. Price, a New Testament scholar at Drew University,
considers the Pauline canon problem[35]: how, when, and who
collected Paul's epistles to the various churches as a single collection
of epistles. The evidence that the early church fathers, such as
Clement, knew of the Pauline epistles is unclear. Price investigates
several historical scenarios and comes to the conclusion and
identifies Marcion as the first person known in recorded history to
collect Paul's writings to various churches together as a canon, the
Pauline epistles. Robert Price summarizes, "But the first collector of
the Pauline Epistles had been Marcion. No one else we know of
would be a good candidate, certainly not the essentially fictive Luke,
Timothy, and Onesimus. And Marcion, as Burkitt and Bauer show,
fills the bill perfectly."[36] If this is correct, then Marcion's role in the
formation and development of Christianity is pivotal.

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