Canonical lists.

A series of posts from the Thoughts on Antiquity weblog.

Chris Weimer, who runs the Thoughts on Antiquity weblog, has invited me to participate as a team blogger, and I have gratefully accepted. This page is a running compilation of my posts on that weblog concerning the topic of canonical lists.

Canonical lists (introduction).

Posted 08-16-2006.

I am on record as saying that the study of the canon of scripture is not really my thing. However, I am very interested in tracing the attestation for the earliest Christian texts, and I have found that the canonical lists that patristic writers occasionally compile can provide useful clues and information to that end.

I might informally define attestation as answering the question of which later authors knew which earlier texts. Canonical lists can be useful in that they generally name each text explicitly; we do not have to rely on faint allusions or unclear paraphrases. They are also useful in that they are designed to be exhaustive; if a particular text does not make the list, then the list compiler probably did not regard it as authoritative. In many such cases we can even tell why the text in question was not regarded as authoritative; frequently it comes down to considering the text pseudonymous, or written by someone other than the alleged author.

What I propose to do in upcoming posts is to present a number of canonical lists, both in the original language and in English translation, and then comment on the points of interest in each list. Several of these lists have not yet, to my knowledge, been published on the internet in their original language. I may take the time as this series goes on to include a digression or two on related topics as they pop up.

While I will not refrain from drawing certain conclusions as the series progresses, my main intent is to present these lists (and certain related passages from other texts) in their original languages, conveniently, in a series of easily consulted weblog posts. I hope you enjoy it.

Nor am I entirely certain how long the series will last; suffice it to say that I have at least ten different canonical lists in mind so far, and I plan to present about one list per post.

My sincere thanks to Chris Weimer for the invitation to join Thoughts on Antiquity as a team blogger.

Canonical lists (part 1, the Marcionite canon).

Posted 08-25-2006.

I probably should have mentioned in the introduction to this series that the canonical lists I intend to post are New Testament only. That said, let us dive right in with the canon of scripture as Marcion would have it.

The limitation of my discussion to New Testament scripture would not have displeased Marcion, who rejected the Old Testament in its entirety. But he did have a short list of New Testament books of which he approved in a particular recension which left out positive references to the Hebrew scriptures or to the Jewish commonwealth. We can reconstruct his list from Irenaeus, Against Heresies, and from books 4 and 5 of Tertullian, Against Marcion.

Irenaeus notes in Against Heresies 1.27.2b:

Et super haec id quod est secundum Lucam evangelium circumcidens, et omnia quae sunt de generatione domini conscripta auferens, et de doctrina sermonum domini multa auferens, in quibus manifestissime conditorem huius universitatis suum patrem confitens dominus conscriptus est. semetipsum esse veraciorem quam sunt hi qui evangelium tradiderunt apostoli, suasit discipulis suis, non evangelium sed particulam evangelii tradens eis. similiter autem et apostoli Pauli epistolas abscidit, auferans quaecunque manifeste dicta sunt ab apostolo de eo deo qui mundum fecit, quoniam hic pater domini nostri Iesu Christi, et quaecunque ex propheticis memorans apostolus docuit praenunciantibus adventum domini.

And, beyond these things, mutilating that gospel which is according to Luke, removing all things that are written concerning the generation of the Lord, and removing many things from the doctrine of the words of the Lord, in which the Lord is written down as most manifestly confessing that the maker of this universe is his own father. He likewise persuaded his disciples that he himself was more truthful than are those apostles who delivered the gospel, delivering to them not the gospel but only a fragment of the gospel. Similarly, moreover, he also cut away from the epistles of the apostle Paul, removing anything that is manifestly said by the apostle concerning that God who made the world, that he is the father of our Lord Jesus Christ, as well as anything from the prophetical books which the apostle mentioned and taught as having announced beforehand the advent of the Lord.

From Irenaeus, then, we learn that Marcion used a mutilated version of the gospel of Luke alongside mutilated versions of the epistles of Paul. These are, respectively, the gospel (Evangelion) and apostle (Apostolikon) of Marcion.

In book 4 of Against Marcion Tertullian discusses the Evangelion. In 4.2.3 he affirms that Marcion failed to attribute it to any named author (all texts of Tertullian I have drawn from the ever useful Tertullian Project by fellow blogger Roger Pearse):

Contra Marcion evangelio, scilicet suo, nullum adscribit auctorem, quasi non licuerit illi titulum quoque affingere cui nefas non fuit ipsum corpus evertere.

Marcion, however, as you may know, ascribes no author to his gospel, as if it were not allowed for him to affix a title to that of which it was not a crime to overturn the body itself.

Tertullian may have missed one possible rationale for omitting an authorial ascription: A movement that uses only one gospel would not need to distinguish it from any other gospels. Tertullian goes on to agree with Irenaeus in 4.2.4 as to which gospel Marcion redacted:

Nam ex iis commentatoribus quos habemus Lucam videtur Marcion elegisse quem caederet.

For, out of those commentators whom we have, Marcion seems to have chosen Luke [as the one] whom he would cut apart.

Tertullian also agrees with Irenaeus in book 5 that Marcion edited the epistles of Paul, but he adds in 5.21.1 a crucial note on the very number of Pauline epistles in the Marcionite collection. Here he is discussing the epistle to Philemon:

Soli huic epistulae brevitas sua profuit ut falsarias manus Marcionis evaderet. miror tamen, cum ad unum hominem litteras factas receperit, quod ad Timotheum duas et unam ad Titum de ecclesiastico statu compositas recusaverit. affectavit, opinor, etiam numerum epistularum interpolare.

To this epistle alone has its brevity profited it so as to evade the falsifying hands of Marcion. I wonder, however, since he accepted this letter made out to one man, why he rejected two composed to Timothy and one to Titus concerning the ecclesiastical system. I suppose it pleased him to tamper even with the number of the epistles.

Modern commentators, of course, ponder the possibility that Marcion rejected the pastoral epistles to Timothy and Titus, not because he liked to fiddle with numbers, but rather because he either did not know of their existence or knew that they were pseudonymous.

Since Tertullian discusses in detail the modifications made to the gospel of Luke in book 4 and to the epistles of Paul in book 5, we are in a position based on those books to list the texts that Marcion accepted as canonical, as it were. It is a short list:

  • One gospel, the Evangelion.
  • Ten Pauline epistles, the Apostolikon.
    • One to the Galatians.
    • Two to the Corinthians.
    • One to the Romans.
    • Two to the Thessalonians.
    • One to the Laodiceans.
    • One to the Colossians.
    • One to the Philippians.
    • One to Philemon.

The order of the Pauline epistles requires comment. This is the order in which Tertullian discusses them, and it presumably reflects the Marcionite order. Tertullian discusses Galatians in 5.2-4, 1 Corinthians in 5.5-10, 2 Corinthians in 5.11-12, Romans in 5.13-14, 1 Thessalonians in 5.15, 2 Thessalonians in 5.16, Laodiceans in 5.17-18, Colossians in 5.19, Philippians in 5.20, and Philemon in 5.21.

There is also the matter of the epistle to the Laodiceans, which takes the place of that to the Ephesians. Tertullian explains in Against Marcion 5.17.1a:

Ecclesiae quidem veritate epistulam istam ad Ephesios habemus emissam, non ad Laodicenos; sed Marcion ei titulum aliquando interpolare gestiit quasi et in isto diligentissimus explorator. nihil autem de titulis interest. cum ad omnes apostolus scripserit dum ad quosdam.

We have it by the truth of the church that this epistle was sent to the Ephesians, not to the Laodiceans. But Marcion indeed wished to interpolate the title into it as if he were a most diligent investigator even in this matter. Nevertheless, concerning the titles there is nothing of interest, since when the apostle wrote to some he wrote to all.

It is of course interesting to note in this connection that several manuscripts, including Ƿ46 and the original hands of א and B, omit the words εν Εφεσω in Ephesians 1.1.

Finally, we should note that the epistle to the Hebrews is absent. Tertullian, who according to On Modesty 20.1-5 regarded this epistle as written not by Paul but by Barnabas, cannot rightly comment on this issue, but we do have the following from Jerome, preface to the Pauline epistle to Titus (Latin text from B. F. Westcott, The Epistle to the Hebrews, page lxiii, lacuna his):

Licet non sint digni fide qui fidem primam irritam fecerunt, Marcionem loquor et Basilidem et omnes haereticos qui vetus laniant testamentum, tamen eos aliqua ex parte ferremus si saltem in novo continerant manus suas. ....

Though they should be unworthy of faith who have made their first faith void, I speak of Marcion and Basilides and all the heretics who mangle the Old Testament, nevertheless let us bear with them to some extent if they at least continue [to play] their hands in the New Testament. ....

Ut enim de ceteris epistolis taceam, de quibus quidquid contrarium suo dogmati viderant eraserunt, nonnullas integras repudiandas crediderunt, ad Timotheum videlicet utramque, ad Hebraeos, et ad Titum.

To pass over the rest of the epistles in silence, from which they erased whatever they saw that was contrary to their own dogma, they indeed believed that some were to be repudiated in the whole, clearly both of the two to Timothy, [the one] to the Hebrews, and [the one] to Titus.

Whereas Tertullian with his usual sarcasm accuses Marcion of mutilating even the number of the epistles, Jerome regards the exclusion of the pastoral epistles and the epistle to the Hebrews as a dogmatic decision. I suspect, however, that Marcion, if he did know the epistle to the Hebrews, simply did not regard it as Pauline. Marcion belonged to the Roman church before his excommunication, and Roman Christians before century IV or V almost universally thought the epistle did not belong to Paul. I admit, on the other hand, that even if Marcion thought it was Pauline it would have been quite a task to cut all the Jewish elements out of it! What would remain? That seems to be the direction in which Jerome is leading us, though it is not clear to me that the same considerations would hit the pastoral epistles nearly as hard.

I have one more item to present on the Marcionite canon. There is extant in some Latin manuscripts a set of prologues to the Pauline epistles, a close inspection of which leads one to judge that they are Marcionite in origin (text from Daniel J. Theron, Evidence of Tradition, pages 79-83):

Romani sunt in partibus Italiae. hi praeventi sunt a falsis apostolis et sub nomine domini nostri Iesu Christi in legem et prophetas erant inducti. hos revocat apostolus ad veram evangelicam fidem scribens eis a Corintho.

The Romans are in the regions of Italy. They had been reached by false apostles and under the name of our Lord Jesus Christ they were led away into the law and the prophets. The apostle calls them back to the true evangelical faith, writing to them from Corinth.

Corinthii sunt Achaei. et hi similiter ab apostolis audierunt verbum veritatis et subversi multifarie a falsis apostolis, quidam a philosophiae verbosa eloquentia, alii a secta legis Iudiciae* inducti. hos revocat ad veram et evangelicam sapientiam scribens eis ab Epheso per Timotheum.

* Justin Kerk has pointed out to me in a blog comment that the term Iudiciae appears to be a typological error for Iudaicae. The text that Theron offers has the former; whether it is an error on his part for the latter or simply a textual variant I do not know. Other hardcopy sources, including the book on the canon by Alexander Souter, have Iudaicae.

The Corinthians are Achaeans. And they similarly heard from the apostles the word of truth and then were subverted in many ways by false apostles, some led away by the verbose eloquence of philosophy, others by a sect of the Jewish law. He calls them back to the true and evangelical wisdom, writing to them from Ephesus through Timothy.

Post actam paenitentiam consolatorias scribit eis a Troade et conlaudans eos hortatur ad meliora.

After penitence was made, he writes a consolatory letter to them from Troas, and in praising them he exhorts them on to better things.

Galatae sunt Graeci. hi verbum veritatis primum ab apostolo acceperunt, sed post discessum eius temptati sunt a falsis apostolis, ut in legem et circumcisionem verterentur. hos apostolus revocat ad fidem veritatis scribens eis ab Epheso.

The Galatians are Greeks. They at first accepted the word of truth from the apostle, but after his departure they were tempted by false apostles to be converted to the law and circumcision. The apostle calls them back to the faith of truth, writing to them from Ephesus.

Ephesii sunt Asiani. hi accepto verbo veritatis persteterunt in fide. hos conlaudat apostolus scribens eis ab urbe Roma de carcere per Tychicum diaconum.

The Ephesians are Asians. They persisted in the faith after the word of truth was accepted. The apostle praises them, writing to them from the city of Rome, from prison, through Tychicus the deacon.

Philippenses sunt Machedones. hi accepto verbo veritatis persteterunt in fide, nec receperunt falsos apostolos. hos apostolus conlaudat scribens eis a Roma de carcere per Epaphroditum.

The Philippians are Macedonians. They persisted in the faith after the word of truth was accepted, nor did they receive false apostles. The apostle praises them, writing to them from Rome, from prison, through Epaphroditus.

Colossenses et hi sicut Laudicenses sunt Asiani. et ipsi praeventi erat a pseudoapostolis, nec ad hos accessit ipse apostolus, sed et hos per epistulam recorrigit. audierant enim verbum ab Archippo qui et ministerium in eos accepit. ergo apostolus iam ligatus scribit eis ab Epheso.

The Colossians, they too are Asians, just as the Laodiceans. And they themselves1 had been reached by pseudo-apostles, nor did the apostle himself approach them, but even them2 he corrects through an epistle. For they had heard the word from Archippus, who also accepted the ministry to them. The apostle therefore, already arrested, writes to them from Ephesus.

1 Or they themselves also.
2 Or them too.

Thessalonicenses sunt Machedones in Christo Iesu qui accepto verbo veritatis persteterunt in fide etiam in persecutione civium suorum; praeterea nec receperunt ea quae a falsis apostolis dicebantur. hos conlaudat apostolus scribens eis ab Athenis.

The Thessalonians are Macedonians in Christ Jesus who, after the word was accepted, still persisted in the faith in the persecution by their fellow citizens; furthermore, they did not receive those things which were said by the false apostles. The apostle praises them, writing to them from Athens.

Ad Thessalonicenses scribit et notum facit eis de temporibus novissimis et de adversarii detectione. scribit ab Athenis.

To the Thessalonians he writes and makes note to them concerning the last times and of the detection of the adversary. He writes from Athens.

Timotheum instruit et docet de ordinatione episcopatus et diaconii et omnis ecclesiasticae disciplinae.

He instructs Timothy and teaches him concerning the ordination to the episcopate and to the diaconate and concerning all aspects of ecclesiastical discipline.

Item Timotheo scribit de exhortatione martyrii et omnis regulae veritatis et quid futurum sit temporibus novissimis et de sua passione.

Likewise he writes to Timothy concerning the exhortation of martyrdom and all aspects of the rule of truth, and what will be in the last times, and concerning his own passion.

Titum commonefacit et instruit de constitutione presbyterii et de spiritali conversatione et hereticis vitandis qui in scripturis Iudaicis credunt.

He warns and intructs Titus concerning the constitution of the presbytery and concerning spiritual conversation and heretics to be avoided who believe in the Jewish scriptures.

Philemoni familiares litteras facit pro Onesimo servo eius. scribit autem ei a Roma de carcere.

He composes a familiar letter to Philemon on behalf of Onesimus his servant. He writes to him, however, from Rome, from prison.

(I have had these posted on my website for a few weeks now.)

It will be noticed that these prologues include the pastoral epistles; however, as Harnack notes, writing of De Bruyne:

He has absolutely proved that these Prologues belong together (those to the Pastoral Epistles are of a different character); that they are to be ascribed to the Marcionites; and from them came into the Church.

Among the nonpastoral prologues, the epistle to Philemon is set apart as a personal letter (familiares litteras); all the churches (except that in Ephesus, discussed below) are noted for their relationship to false apostles. The pastoral epistles, however, are neither singled out as personal letters nor filled with the usual ruminations on false apostles.

Granted, the Ephesian prologue lacks any mention of false apostles, but there is an explanation at hand for this oversight. An inspection of the Colossian prologue reveals that there was almost certainly a Laodicean prologue at one point in this collection:

Colossenses et hi sicut Laudicenses sunt Asiani. et ipsi praeventi erat a pseudoapostolis, nec ad hos accessit ipse apostolus, sed et hos per epistulam recorrigit. audierant enim verbum ab Archippo qui et ministerium in eos accepit. ergo apostolus iam ligatus scribit eis ab Epheso.

The Colossians, they too are Asians, just as the Laodiceans. They themselves also had been reached by pseudo-apostles, nor did the apostle himself approach them, but them too he corrects through an epistle. For they had heard the word from Archippus, who also accepted the ministry to them. The apostle therefore, already arrested, writes to them from Ephesus.

Why are the Laodiceans, otherwise unmentioned in these prologues, mentioned here?

Note that the words et hi (they too) imply the previous discussion of another church of Asians, and that et ipsi may well mean they themselves also, implying another church that was reached by pseudo-apostles, and that the word nec (nor) may well imply another church that the apostle did not approach, and that the words et hos may well mean them too, implying another church corrected by letter. Since there seems to be no other reason for mentioning the Laodiceans in this prologue, this other church virtually has to be that of the Laodiceans. It appears that the Ephesian prologue was designed to replace an original Laodicean prologue, and that the pastoral prologues were added by orthodox scribes so that all of the Pauline epistles would have prologues.

Note also, of course, that there is no prologue for the epistle to the Hebrews.

Implications for attestation.

How does the Marcionite canon affect modern investigations of attestation?

First, and most obviously, Marcion is an early witness, not only to ten individual Pauline letters, but indeed to a collection of Pauline letters. He is proof that some rudimentary grouping of authoritative texts was going on early in century II.

Second, Marcion is an early witness to the gospel of Luke. He may even be, in a roundabout fashion, a witness to the penning of that gospel by a companion of Paul; though he does not name the author, the traditional link between Luke and Paul would nicely explain why Marcion chose Luke as his base text. (The gospel of Matthew, with its many Jewish emphases, may have posed its own set of editing problems, but that of Mark, it seems, would have made a fine choice.)

Third, I think Marcion has to be considered a strike against the authenticity of the pastorals. Jerome may hint that Marcion removed them because of their reliance on the Jewish scriptures, but their removal mystifies Tertullian, and frankly, on the presumption that Marcion knew them and knew they were Pauline, it would mystify me, too; it seems to me that for every statement such as the law is good in 1 Timothy 1.8 there is another such as not paying attention to Jewish myths and commands in Titus 1.14. I guess I do not see why, if Marcion knew the pastorals and knew they were Pauline, he could not have taken the scissors to them as he had to do to the other Pauline epistles. (I hasten to add that this single datum, the absence of the pastorals from the Marcionite list, does not by itself prove them spurious; there are many other data to consider.)

Fourth, Marcion offers no support for the Paulinicity of the epistle to the Hebrews. I might go one step further than this neutral statement and claim that he is actually a strike against its Paulinicity, just as he is a strike against that of the pastorals, except that I imagine taking the scissors to this very scriptural epistle would have been an operation unlike no other. However, given the prevalent Roman belief that the epistle was not of Paul, I think it even more likely that Marcion simply followed suit; hence its absence from his list.

Fifth, and finally, I would be remiss to neglect the possible Marcionite impact on the canon of scripture. However, I think it is very important to specify exactly what his impact may have been; it is easy in my judgment to exaggerate the effects of his decisions. Did Marcion affect which Old or New Testament books were canonized? Without Marcion, would the church have accepted, say, the gospel of Peter but rejected, say, that of Matthew? Was it the Marcionite canon that legitimized the Pauline epistles?

My own answer to each of those questions is probably not. I do not think the actual canonicity or noncanonicity of certain books is where the Marcionite influence lies. I do not even think that the very notion of compiling a list necessarily owes itself to Marcion. Lists are natural wherever there are questions of authenticity and inauthenticity. Even modern scholars with no interest whatsoever in the canon of scripture compile lists. Take, for instance, the quite common modern listing of authentic versus inauthentic Pauline epistles. I suspect that lists of approved texts would have arisen one way or another, with or without Marcion, especially as the living memory of the age of the apostles faded.

Rather, if anything, the lasting impact of Marcion may lie with how the proto-orthodox ended up describing their authoritative texts after his demurral from proto-orthodoxy. Bernard Orchard writes on pages 126-127 of The Order of the Synoptics:

The swing-over during the second half of the second century to the individual naming of the Gospels as specifically the work of the Evangelists is to be seen as the public spelling out of the content of the ancient tradition in response to the attack of Marcion; that is to say, the public affirmation that they really were the memoirs of the Apostles themselves and their immediate disciples....

The period of the global reference to the Gospels as the "Memoirs of the Apostles" was over, and the church entered upon the age when she set about recalling and specifying the traditions that she had received about them.

Papias, of course, is a notable and early exception to this principle; it is Justin Martyr, a contemporary of Marcion, who refers to the gospels as the memoirs of the apostles (numerous times), or as the memoirs written by the apostles and their followers (Dialogue with Trypho 103.8). When he lets slip that one of the gospels (certainly that of Mark) was written up as the memoirs of Peter (Dialogue 106.3), he does so innocently, not as trying to prove a point about authorship. Other writers either contemporary with or earlier than Marcion, when they quote the gospel materials, are just as vague as Justin, referring to the gospel (Didache 8.2; 11.3; 15.3) or gospel of the Lord (Didache 15.4), using the generic scriptural formulation as it is written (Barnabas 4.14), or talking of remembering what the Lord said (Acts 11.16; 20.35; 1 Clement 13.2; Polycarp to the Philippians 2.3).

Marcion, then, may well have pressed the issue of how best to refer to the authoritative writings of the church. For after his time we find nearly all ecclesiastical writers referring to these texts by the name of their author.

In my next installment of this series I will discuss the Muratorian canon.

Canonical lists (part 2, the Muratorian canon).

Posted 09-10-2006.

This is part 2 (not counting the introduction) in a series on ancient Christian canonical lists. Part 1 was on the Marcionite canon. My humble thanks to Stephen Carlson for including that post in Biblical Studies Carnival IX, hosted on his weblog.

The Muratorian canon has been online both in Latin and in English for some time. Peter Kirby has links to the text, and I have it on my own site as well. So I do not intend to reproduce it in its entirety here, as it is fairly lengthy. Rather, I intend to explore some of its (many) quirks and mysteries.

In what follows it is important to be aware that the Latin orthography in this text is a disaster. My quotations of the text are corrected to reflect standard Latin spelling and grammar; but sometimes the corrections are mere conjectures.

The first issue at hand is a matter of scholarly frustration; both the opening and the closing of the canon are missing. The text begins as follows in line 1:

...quibus tamen interfuit et ita posuit.

...among which however he was and so he put them down.

We are not completely in the dark. The very next line names the third book of the gospel (tertium evangelii librum) as that according to Luke (secundum Lucam), and line 9 names the fourth of the gospels (quartum evangeliorum) as that of John from among the disciples (Iohannis ex discipulis). It hardly seems controversial, then, to assume that what has been cut off is a discussion of the gospels of Matthew and Mark. I am aware of no canonical list which names Matthew after Mark, so it seems virtually certain that the first line of the Muratorian canon is the end of the discussion of Mark, that of Matthew being lost in its entirety.

What then could the first line mean? It is possible that the topic is the Christians at Rome, and that the sense is that Mark was present among them and so wrote certain things down (in his gospel). The basis for this conjecture would be what certain other church fathers say about the origins of our second canonical gospel. Consider Clement of Alexandria, for example, according to Eusebius, History of the Church 6.14.6:

Του Πετρου δημοσια εν Ρωμη κηρυξαντος τον λογον και πνευματι το ευαγγελιον εξειποντος, τους παροντας, πολλους οντας, παρακαλεσαι τον Μαρκον, ως αν ακολουθησαντα αυτω πορρωθεν και μεμνημενον των λεχθεντων, αναγραψαι τα ειρημενα, ποιησαντα δε το ευαγγελιον μεταδουναι τοις δεομενοις αυτου.

While Peter was preaching the word publicly in Rome and speaking out the gospel by the spirit, those who were present, who were many, called upon Mark, as having followed him from far back and remembering what was said, to write up the things that were said, and having made the gospel he gave it out to those who had requested it.

But this hypothesis can of course be no more than a conjecture until such time as the opening of the document is discovered.

The text ends abruptly after lines 81-85:

Arsinoe autem seu Valentini vel Mitiadis nihil in totum recipimus, qui etiam novum psalmorum librum Marcioni conscripserunt una cum Basilide Assianum Cataphrygum constitutorem....

We receive nothing at all, however, of Arsinoes or of Valentinus or of Mitiades, those also who composed a new book of psalms for Marcion together with Basilides and the Cataphrygians of Asia....

These losses at both ends of the text mean that precious information on its authorship and date may well be lost to us forever. In the case of the Marcionite canon we at least know who approved (and indeed who disapproved) of the selection of authoritative books; in the case of the Muratorian canon we cannot be sure.

Which naturally is not to say that scholars have not tried to ascertain such information from the text as it stands! Let us begin with the date. All attempts to date the Muratorian canon must at some point pass through lines 73-80:

Pastorem vero nuperrime temporibus nostris in urbe Roma Hermas conscripsit, sedente cathedra urbis Romae ecclesiae Pio ep{i}s{copo} frater eius. et ideo legi eum quidem oportet, se publicare vero in ecclesia populo, neque inter prophetas, completum numero, neque inter apostolos, in finem temporum potest.

However, Hermas composed the Shepherd recently, in our own times, in the city of Rome, while his brother Pius the bishop was sitting in the chair of the city of Rome. And therefore it is fitting that it be read, but it cannot be published for the people in the church, neither among the prophets, since their number is complete, nor among the apostles, since it is the end of their times.

There are three separate dates at stake here:

  • The date of the Shepherd of Hermas.
  • The date of the Muratorian canon.
  • The date of the episcopate of Pius.

Of these dates, the episcopate of Pius seems to be the most secure. Irenaeus, who lived in Rome for a time late in century II, writes in Against Heresies 3.3.3 (Greek courtesy of Eusebius, History of the Church 5.6.4-5):

Τον δε Κλημεντα τουτον διαδεχεται Ευαρεστος και τον Ευαρεστον Αλεξανδρος. Ειθ ουτως εκτος απο των αποστολων καθισταται Ξυστος· μετα δε τουτον Τελεσφορος, οφ και ενδοξως εμαρτυρησεν· επειτα Υγινος, ειτα Πιος, μεθ ον Ανικητος· διαδεξαμενου τον Ανικητον Σωτηρος, νυν δωδεκατω τοπω τον της επισκοπης απο των αποστολων κατεχει κληρον Ελευθερος. τη αυτη ταξει και τη αυτη διδαχη* η τε απο των αποστολων εν τη εκκλησια παραδοσις και το της αληθειας κηρυγμα κατηντηκεν εις ημας.

* Perhaps a mistake for διαδοχη.

Huic autem Clementi succedit Evaristus, et Evaristo Alexander, ac deinceps sextus ab apostolis constitutus est Sixtus, et ab hoc Telesphorus, qui etiam gloriosissime martyrium fecit; ac deinceps Hyginus, post Pius, post quem Anicetus. cum autem successisset Aniceto Soter, nunc duodecimo loco episcopatum ab apostolis habet Eleutherius. hac ordinatione et successione ea quae est ab apostolis in ecclesia traditio et veritatis praeconatio pervenit usque ad nos. et est plenissima haec ostensio, unam et eandem vivificatricem fidem esse, quae en ecclesia ab apostolis usque nunc sit conservata, et tradita in veritate.

Evarestus succeeded Clement, and Alexander succeeded Evarestus. Then Xystus, the sixth from the apostles, was appointed. After him Telesphorus, who suffered martyrdom gloriously, then Hyginus, then Pius, and after him Anicetus; Soter succeeded Anicetus, and now, in the twelfth place from the apostles, Eleutherus holds the office of bishop. In the same order and succession the tradition in the church and the preaching of the truth has descended from the apostles unto us.

Irenaeus, writing circa 180, thus places Pius in the ninth place from the apostles, only three episcopates before his contemporary Eleutherus. Hegesippus agrees with Irenaeus regarding those later stages of the Roman succession according to Eusebius, History of the Church 4.22.3:

Γενομενος δε εν Ρωμη, διαδοχην εποιησαμην μεχρις Ανικητου, ου διακονος ην Ελευθερος. και παρα Ανικητου διαδεχεται Σωτηρ, μεθ ον Ελευθερος. εν εκαστη δε διαδοχη και εν εκαστη πολει ουτως εχει, ως ο νομος κηρυττει και οι προφηται και ο κυριος.

And when I had come to Rome I remained there until Anicetus, whose deacon was Eleutherus. And Anicetus was succeeded by Soter, and he by Eleutherus. In every succession, and in every city that is held which is preached by the law and the prophets and the Lord.

It may be that Irenaeus indeed has derived his succession from Hegesippus, in which case he has derived it from a contemporary, and the information is probably good.

The Liberian catalogue, century IV, has the following to say about Pius:

Sub huius episcopatu frater eius Ermes librum scripsit in quo mandatum continetur quod ei praecepit angelus, cum venit ad illum in habitu pastoris.

Under his episcopate his brother Hermes wrote a book in which is contained a mandate which an angel commanded him, when he had come to him in the garb of a shepherd.

The Book of Popes (Latin liber pontificalis), Felician catalogue, century VI, dates Pius absolutely to the rule of the Roman emperor Antonius Pius (138-161), and even more particularly to the consulship of Clarus and Severus (146):

Pius, natione Italus ex patre Rufino, frater Pastoris, de civitate Aquileia, sedit ann{os} XVIII, mens{es} IIII, dies III. fuit temporibus Antonii Pii a consulatu Clari et Severi. sub huius episcopatu frater ipsius* Hermis librum scripsit in quo mandatum continetur quod praecepit angelus domini, cum venit ad eum in habitu pastoris et praecipit ei ut sanctum paschae die dominica celebraretur.

* The Cononian catalogue of this work, century VII, lacks the words frater ipsius.

Pius, an Italian from his father Rufinus by birth, the brother of Pastor, from the city of Aquileia, sat [as pope] for eighteen years, four months, and three days. This was in the times of Antonius Pius from the consulship of Clarus and Severus. Under his episcopate his brother Hermes wrote a book in which is contained a mandate which an angel of the Lord commanded, when he had come to him in the garb of a shepherd and commanded him that the holy Passover be celebrated on the day of the Lord.

(Our extant text of the Shepherd actually has nothing to say about the Quartodeciman controversy over the celebration of Easter.)

Thus Pius can be fairly securely dated to the middle of century II. Dating the Shepherd of Hermas and the Muratorian canon, however, does not prove to be quite so straightforward. Both the Muratorian canon itself and the papal catalogues date the Shepherd to the episcopate of Pius and attribute it to his brother Hermas. Now, the Shepherd was certainly written by someone named Hermas; the author names himself several times throughout the work. But there is at least cause for suspicion when it comes to the datum that Hermas and Pius were brothers. In lecture VIII of his 1913 Bampton Lectures, published as The Church of Rome in the First Century, George Edmundson pointed out that the Latin title for the Shepherd was liber pastoris (book of the shepherd). The significance of this fact is that Pius, as the Felician catalogue above acknowledges, was known to have a brother named Pastor. It is but one short step from discussing the book of the shepherd to discussing the book of Pastor, for the Latin would be the same in both cases.

An alternate possibility, it seems to me, is that the Shepherd was known to have been penned by the brother of Pius, and the Latin title liber pastoris was mistakenly thought to name the author as Pastor, thus artificially giving the name Pastor to the brother of Pius.

Hermas and Pastor, or the shepherd, appear to be conflated in a poem attributed to Tertullian against Marcion (listed among the spurious works at the Tertullian Project) as follows:

Post hunc deinde Pius, Hermas cui germine frater angelicus pastor, quia tradita verba locutus.

Then after him Pius, whose biological brother was Hermas, the angelic shepherd, because he spoke the words delivered to him.

It ought to be noticed that Hermas is not the shepherd, or pastor, in the Shepherd of Hermas; rather, the shepherd is an angel who appears to Hermas. Nevertheless, confusion may also have arisen from the long speech by the angelic shepherd in the ninth parable of the work. In this speech the angel identifies himself in the first person as the shepherd. In Parable 9.31.5, for example, he says: Et ego sum pastor (and I am the shepherd, also translatable as and I am Pastor); refer also to Parable 9.33.1. An inattentive reader may have confused this embedded speech with the actual words of the author Hermas, thus conflating Hermas with Pastor.

All this to say that we cannot necessarily trust the seemingly straightforward datum that Hermas, brother of Pius, wrote his book during the episcopate of the same. There is too much opportunity for confusion between Pastor, Hermas, and the shepherd.

But what now of dating the Muratorian canon itself? Fortunately, dating the Shepherd and dating the canon are two independent operations, since, even if the canon is mistaken about the date of the Shepherd, it does not follow that it has to be mistaken about the date of the episcopate of Pius. The canon regards the Shepherd as having been written recently (nuperrime), but, since it also dates the Shepherd to the episcopate of Pius, it must regard that episcopate as recent. Indeed, its very wording suggests that the episcopate of Pius is the fixed point by which the Shepherd is to be dated. Unfortunately, however, it is not clear exactly how long an interval the word nuperrime (recently) should imply, nor even how broad a span of time the phrase temporibus nostris (in our own times) is supposed to mean.

The phrase temporibus nostris (in our own times) could be easily taken as meaning that the author of the canon regards the author of the Shepherd as a contemporary; but it could just as easily be taken as merely contrasting the times of the apostles with the times after their era, since lines 79-80 forbid grouping the Shepherd of Hermas among the apostles, [since we are] at the end of their times (inter apostolos, in finem temporum). The word nuperrime (recently) is likewise too vague to pinpoint a date even to within a decade or two. Any date from the middle of century II to early century III seems possible.

So who authored the Muratorian canon? Ludovico Muratori, who published the canon in 1740, suggested Gaius of Rome. The suggestion is at first glance quite attractive. Eusebius writes of Gaius in History of the Church 6.20.3:

Ηλθεν δε εις ημας και Γαιου, λογιωτατου ανδρος, διαλογος, επι Ρωμης κατα Ζεφυρινον, προς Προκλον της κατα Φρυγας αιρεσεως υπερμαχουντα κεκινημενος, εν ω των δι εναντιας την περι το συνταττειν καινας γραφας προπετειαν τε και τολμαν επιστομεζων, των του ιερου αποστολου δεκατριων μονων επιστολων μνημονευει, την προς Εβραιους μη συναριθμησας ταις λοιπαις, επει και εις δευρο παρα Ρωμαιων τισιν ου νομιζεται του αποστολου τυγχανειν.

And there has reached us also a dialogue of Gaius, a very learned man who was at Rome in the time of Zephyrinus, with Proclus the champion of the heresy of the Phrygians, in which, while curbing the recklessness and audacity of his opponents in composing new scriptures, he mentions only thirteen epistles of the holy apostle, not numbering the epistle to the Hebrews with the rest, seeing that even to this day among the Romans there are some who do not consider it to be of the apostle.

From this summary it follows that Gaius compiled a list of authentic scriptural writings in response to what he perceived as a deplorable Phrygian (Montanist) tendency to compose inauthentic scriptures, and this list was detailed enough to tell which Pauline epistles were genuine and which were not. The Muratorian canon, in fact, does not list the epistle to the Hebrews amongst the Pauline epistles.

Discoveries subsequent to the publication of the Muratorian canon, however, have rendered this hypothesis untenable. John Gwynn and T. H. Robinson pointed out more than a century ago certain passages from the Syrian father Dionysius bar Salibi which indicate that Gaius of Rome rejected the apocalypse of John. The Muratorian canon, on the other hand, accepts the apocalypses... of John and of Peter (apocalypses... Iohannis et Petri) in lines 71-72. So Gaius is ruled out.

An intriguing suggestion is that the author was Hippolytus, who wrote, according to bar Salibi, a work against Gaius, which work is to be identified with the head[ing]s against Gaius catalogued by Ebed-Jesu as a Hippolytan work and possibly with the book called On Behalf of the Gospel of John and the Apocalypse ([τ]α υπερ του κατα Ιωανην ευαγγελιου και αποκαλυψεως), of which only the title is preserved; it is found on the statue of Hippolytus kept at the Lateran Museum.

Robinson points out in his 1906 article the following passage from Dionysius bar Salibi, in the introduction to his commentary on the apocalypse of John:

Hippolytus of Rome states that a man named Gaius had appeared who said that neither the gospel nor yet the revelation was of John, but that they were the work of [A] Cerinthus the heretic. And the blessed Hippolytus opposed this Gaius and showed that the teaching of John in the gospel and revelation was different from that of Cerinthus.

This Cerinthus [B] was one who taught circumcision and was angry with Paul when he did not circumcise Titus, and [C] the apostle calls him and his disciples, in one of his letters, sham apostles and crafty workers. Again, [D] he teaches that the world was created by angels, and [E] that our Lord was not born of a virgin. He also teaches carnal eating and drinking, and many other blasphemies. The gospel and revelation of John, however, are like the teaching which the scriptures contain; and so they are liars who say that the revelation is not by the apostle John.

And we agree with Hippolytus that the revelation is of John the evangelist.

Robinson takes the central portion of this extract as a paraphrase of Hippolytus. In the first portion bar Salibi introduces Hippolytus as contrasting Cerinthus and the Johannine texts (against Gaius, who compared them so far as to identify Cerinthus as the author of these texts); in the second, or central, portion he gives the content of this contrast; and in the last portion he agrees with what he has just offered.

That Hippolytus was the source of this information on Cerinthus is also suggested by the parallels in Epiphanius, Panarion 28.1, 4, since Epiphanius has long been suspected of plagiarizing Hippolytus in this section of his heresiology:

Τα ισα γαρ τω προειρημενω εις τον Χριστον συκοφαντησας εξηγειται και ουτος εκ Μαριας και εκ σπερματος Ιωσηφ τον Χριστον γεγεννησθαι και τον κοσμον ομοιως υπο αγγελων γεγενησθαι. ....

For [Cerinthus] too [A] slanders the same things as the aforementioned [Carpocrates] against Christ and [E] provides the exegesis that Christ was born from Mary and from the seed of Joseph and [D] that the the world likewise was made by angels. ....

Αλλα ταυτα μεν τοτε επραγματευθη κινηθεντα υπο του προειρημενου ψευδαποστολου Κηρινθου, ως και αλλοτε στασιν αυτος τε και οι μετ αυτου ειργασαντο εν αυτη τη Ιερουσαλημ, οπηνικα Παυλος ανηλθε μετα Τιτου και ως ουτος εφη οτι, Ανδρας ακροβυστους εισηνεγκε μεθ εαυτου, ηδη περι Τιτου λεγων· Και κεκοινωκε τον αγιον τοπον. ....

But these things were instigated, set into motion by the aforementioned false apostle Cerinthus, as also at another time he himself and those with him worked out a tumult in Jerusalem itself when [B] Paul came up with Titus and Cerinthus said: He has brought uncircumcised men in with him, now saying concerning Titus: And he has made the holy place common. ....

Και ουτοι εισιν οι παρα τω αποστολω Παυλω ειρημενοι· Ψευδαποστολοι, εργαται δολιοι, μετασχηματιζομενοι εις αποστολους Χριστου.

And [C] these are those about whom it has been said by the apostle Paul: False apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ.

If both Dionysius bar Salibi and Epiphanius are paraphrasing Hippolytus, what are we to make of lines 42-46 of the Muratorian canon?

Primum omnium Corinthiis schisma haeresis in terdicens, deinceps Galatis circumcisionem, Romanis autem ordine scripturarum, sed et principium earum esse Xr{istu}m intimans prolixius scripsit.

First of all to the Corinthians against the schism of heresy, then to the Galatians against circumcision; to the Romans, however, he wrote rather at length, but also intimating by an order of scriptures that Christ was their beginning.

These Pauline epistles are singled out in particular, and the main themes to be expounded upon seem to be heretical schisms, circumcision, and, despite the obscurity of the comment on Romans, something to do with the relation of Christ to the scriptures; perhaps the preexistence of Christ is in view. These themes look like a bullet list, as it were, of topics to be discussed later on in the text. The Muratorian canon, it would seem, was not meant as a stand-alone list, but rather as the introduction to a polemical work of some kind. These themes also seem quite well suited to contrast, against Gaius, the teachings of the heretic Cerinthus, who approved of circumcision and questioned proto-orthodox christology, with those of the genuine scriptures.

There is more. Dionysius bar Salibi remarks further in his commentary on the apocalypse:

Hippolytus says that, in writing to seven churches, John writes just as Paul wrote thirteen letters, but wrote them to seven churches. That to the Hebrews he does not judge to be of Paul, but perhaps of Clement.

Likewise, lines 47-50 of the Muratorian canon also compare the seven churches in the apocalypse to the seven churches addressed by Paul:

...beatus apostolus Paulus sequens prodecessoris sui Iohannis ordinem non nisi nominatim septem ecclesiis scribat....

...the blessed apostle Paul, following the order of his predecessor John, wrote only to seven churches....

Victorinus of Pettau makes the same connection between Paul and John in his own Commentary on the Apocalypse 1.7 (English translation slightly modified from that of Kevin Edgecomb):

Denique, sive in Asia sive in toto orbe, septem ecclesias omnes; et septenatim nominatas unam esse catholicam Paulus docuit. Primum quidem, ut servaret et ipsum, septem ecclesiarum non excessit numerum, sed scripsit ad Romanos, ad Corinthios, ad Ephesios, ad Tessalonicenses, ad Galatas, ad Philippenses, ad Colossenses; postea singularibus personis scripsit, ne excederet numerum septem ecclesiarum.

Finally, as in Asia, so in the whole world; seven churches as all; and Paul taught that the seven named are the one catholic church. Indeed, at first, so he might keep this [rule], he did not exceed the number of seven churches, but rather wrote to the Romans, to the Corinthians, to the Ephesians, to the Thessalonians, to the Galatians, to the Philippians, and to the Colossians; afterward he wrote to individual people, lest he exceed the number of seven churches.

Perhaps Victorinus knew the work of his fellow chiliast Hippolytus. At any rate, the Muratorian canon appears to bear a Hippolytan connection of some kind; Robinson may well be correct that Hippolytus was its author. He judges that it derives from the Head[ing]s Against Gaius. There are difficulties with this view; for example, I notice that the canon admits in lines 72-73 that some in the church do not wish the apocalypses of Peter and of John to be read in the church. Unless this is a subdued anticipation of the opinion of Gaius, it does not look like the kind of nonchalant admission one should make in a text written against a man who rejects at least one of those apocalypses. Nevertheless, the view has its merits, too, and I admit that, if Hippolytus did not pen the Muratorian canon, then we not only have no idea who did but also have to explain its parallels to material that was probably derived from Hippolytus.

If we are even marginally correct in our above discussion, it would appear that the Muratorian canon should be dated to early century III, or possibly late century II, and located in or near Rome. Which books, then, did this Roman who lived nearly two centuries after Christ accept into his canon? His list of accepted books runs as follows:

  • Four gospels:
    • [Matthew?]
    • [Mark?]
    • Luke.
    • John.
  • Acts of the Apostles.
  • Epistles of Paul:
    • To the seven churches:
      1. Corinthians, two.
      2. Ephesians.
      3. Philippians.
      4. Colossians.
      5. Galatians.
      6. Thessalonians, two.
      7. Romans.
    • To individuals:
      1. Philemon.
      2. Titus.
      3. Timothy, two.
  • Epistle of Jude.
  • Epistles of John, two.
  • Wisdom of Solomon.
  • Apocalypse of John.
  • Apocalypse of Peter.

The canon also mentions books that are to be rejected:

  • Epistles of Paul:
    • Laodiceans.
    • Alexandrians.
  • Shepherd of Hermas.
  • Anything by Arsinoes.
  • Anything by Valentinus.
  • Anything by Mitiades.
  • Psalms for Marcion.
  • Anything by Basilides.
  • Anything by the Cataphrygians of Asia.

There is nothing surprising about the fourfold gospel. Irenaeus in about 180 gives a rather contrived but obviously after-the-fact argument for the four gospels in Against Heresies 3.8.11, and before him Justin Martyr appears to have known all four gospels in the middle of century II. There is even evidence that Papias, early century II, knew all four gospels.

That the Acts of the Apostles make the list is not a shock. Late in century II Irenaeus names Luke as the author and uses this Lucan text as the very basis for chapters 12-15 of book 3 of Against Heresies. Clement of Alexandria quotes from it as authoritative in Miscellanies 5.11 and also names Luke as the author in 5.12. Tertullian calls the book the memoir of Luke in On Fasting 10.3 and strongly defends its position as scripture in Prescription 22.10-11; 23.3-5.

Nor do the epistles of Paul occasion much surprise. All thirteen epistles attributed to Paul in our present canon make the list; the unattributed epistle to the Hebrews is missing. Given the Hippolytan connections that we have already investigated, it is worth pointing out what Photius has to say about Hippolytus in Bibliotheca 121:

Λεγει δε αλλα τε τινα της ακριβειας λειπομενα, και οτι η προς Εβραιους επιστολη ουκ εστι του αποστολου Παυλου.

But he says other things somewhat lacking in accuracy, even that the epistle to the Hebrews is not of the apostle Paul.

The reference to the epistle of Jude may be the first to that epistle by name, though some earlier writers appear to allude to it. On the other hand, Clement of Alexandria may have beaten our canon to the punch in The Instructor 3.8, where he quotes from Jude by name. Tertullian argues on behalf of 1 Enoch in On Female Fashion 1.3, using the apostle Jude (refer to Jude [1.]14-15) as an authority in its favor.

The reference to the epistles of John is puzzling, inasmuch as only two are mentioned. Since 1 John is quoted in the discussion of the gospel of John in lines 29-31, it has been conjectured that our author regarded 1 John as a sort of appendix to the gospel, and thus meant 2 and 3 John by the reference to two Johannine epistles. But this seems quite unlikely to me, given that in line 28 the author explicitly says that the quote in lines 29-31 is to be found in (one of) his epistles (in epistulis suis).

Perhaps even more puzzling is the inclusion of the Wisdom of Solomon in a list that otherwise includes and explicitly excludes only New Testament works.

Most puzzling of all, in my judgment, is the omission of the (first) epistle of Peter entirely (though omission of the second epistle of Peter is par for the course). By this time in Christian history authorities both from the east and from the west were quoting from this epistle approvingly and by name. In the west Irenaeus cites it under the name of Peter in Against Heresies 4.9.2; 4.16.5; 5.7.2. Likewise Tertullian in On Prayer 20; Antidote for the Scorpion 14. In the east Clement of Alexandria cites it under the name of Peter in The Instructor 1.6; 3.11; 4.12; Miscellanies 3.11; 3.18; 4.7. That the Muratorian canon should pass over the epistle of Peter in silence is at least a bit perplexing. Perhaps there is a lacuna in the text somewhere in the vicinity of lines 68-71. Or perhaps, since this list seems to be part of a longer polemical work and not a list compiled for its own sake, the omission of 1 Peter is simply an oversight.

Two apocalypses, not just one, make the list. I presume the Greek apocalypse of Peter is intended, not the gnostic one extant in Coptic from codex VII of the Nag Hammadi library. (Mark Goodacre has made this text available in Greek on his weblog in MS Word format, and of course the English translation is available from Early Christian Writings.)

It is worth noting that the (accepted) epistle to the Ephesians and the (rejected) epistle to the Laodiceans are now, unlike in the time of Marcion, two different texts. There is an epistle to the Laodiceans extant in some Latin manuscripts from century VI and later; the James translation is available from Comparative Religion. The mystery is why the Muratorian canon would attribute this innocuous little pastiche of Pauline phrases to Marcion, but the bare fact that Marcion was known to have approved a Laodicean epistle might have led to this (mis)identification.

Finally, the last few canonical rejects in our list are a list of heretics such as Basilides, Valentinus, and Marcion. I do not know who Mitiades or Arsinoes are. The Cataphrygians would be the Montanists; the name Cataphrygians derives from the Greek label attached to that movement (by Epiphanius in Panarion 49.1, for example), namely οι κατα Φρυγας (those from among the Phrygians), since the movement reportedly began in Phrygia.

Implications for attestation.

How does the Muratorian canon affect modern investigations of attestation?

First, this canon attests to the fourfold collection of gospels. The four gospels will remain, in fact, the most stable element in the canonical lists that we have yet to investigate.

Second, we have official canonical attestation for the Acts.

Third, all thirteen canonical epistles attributed to Paul are deemed authoritative, but the epistle to the Hebrews is absent. This again must be considered a strike against its Paulinicity.

Fourth, the epistle of Jude is considered authoritative, but that of James is absent. It is my sense that modern readers of the Bible know James quite a bit better than Jude, but I think primitive Christians knew Jude better than James.

Fifth, what are we to make of the two epistles to John? Since the Muratorian canon quotes from the first epistle, that one at least must be considered authoritative (and written by John, naturally). But which of the other two is accepted? Which is rejected? It seems very odd to have to choose between 2 and 3 John, since they certainly appear to share the same author; indeed, the presumption of common authorship between these two epistles is greater than that between either of the two and 1 John, in my humble opinion.

Sixth, what are we to make of the absence of 1 Peter? I myself would count this as a strike against the authenticity of that epistle, but not a very big one, since surely by this time 1 Peter would have merited a mention, even if to reject it, since contemporaries of the canon clearly regarded it as authoritative all over the Roman world. This may be a case of accidental oversight. 2 Peter is a very different story. With very little patristic support at this point in time, it is not surprising that the Muratorian canon would fail to list it.

Seventh, the apocalypses of John and Peter are both accepted as authorities, though it is frankly admitted that not all Christians at the time were enthusiastic about either of them. The inclusion of the apocalypse of John is compatible with the author of our canon being a chiliast (like, say, Hippolytus, to use an example off the top of my head), but does not necessarily prove it.

Eighth, the ongoing battles of the proto-orthodox and the groups that they labelled as heretics have left their mark on this canonical list. The author feels the need to pointedly exclude the writings of various named heretics. Perhaps he goes out of his way to exclude them because somebody had at some point first suggested including them. Even so, however, the tone taken with these writings seems very different than that taken with the two (accepted) apocalypses and the (rejected) Shepherd of Hermas. In the latter cases, the dispute sounds like an internal affair, a debate between insiders; in the former, the dispute sounds external, like an argument with outsiders whose opinions are to be rejected in their totality (in totum, line 82). We will find a similar gradation of canonical status in other canonical lists that I will present in upcoming installments.

In my next installment of this series I will (hopefully more briefly) discuss the canon of Origen.

Canonical lists (part 3a, the Origenic canon).

Posted 09-24-2006.

Well, I tried to keep this post brief, but to no avail. I have therefore decided to divide this third installment into two sections. This will be part 3a (not counting the introduction) in my series on ancient Christian canonical lists. Part 1 was on the Marcionite canon. Part 2 was on the Muratorian canon.

I am cheating a little bit to smuggle the Origenic canon into this series, since we do not actually have a complete list of texts from the illustrious Alexandrian father. What we have instead is a list compiled by Eusebius of Caesarea about a century later. This artificial list runs as follows in History of the Church 6.25.3-14:

Ταυτα μεν ουν εν τω προειρημενω τιθησι συγγραμματι, εν δε τω πρωτω των εις το κατα Ματθαιον, τον εκκλησιαστικον φυλαττων κανονα, μονα τεσσαρα ειδεναι ευαγγελια μαρτυρεται, ωδε πως γραφων·

So these things he places in the aforementioned writing, but in the first of the [interpretations] on Matthew, protecting the ecclesiastical canon, he testifies that he knows only four gospels, writing something like this:

Ως εν παραδοσει μαθων περι των τεσσαρων ευαγγελιων, α και μονα αναντιρρητα εστιν εν τη υπο τον ουρανον εκκλησια του θεου, οτι πρωτον μεν γεγραπται το κατα τον ποτε τελωνην, υστερον δε αποστολον Ιησου Χριστου Ματθαιον, εκδεδωκοτα αυτο τοις απο Ιουδαισμου πιστευσασιν, γραμμασιν Εβραικοις συντεταγμενον.

As learned in tradition concerning the four gospels, which even alone are not spoken against in the church of God under heaven, that the first written that according to the one who was once a publican, but later an apostle of Jesus Christ, Matthew, who published it for those from Judaism who had believed, ordered together in Hebrew letters.

Δευτερον δε το κατα Μαρκον, ως Πετρος υφηγησατο αυτω ποιησαντα ον και υιον εν τη καθολικη επιστολη δια τουτων ωμολογησεν φασκων· Ασπαζεται υμας Βαβυλωνι συνελεκτη και Μαρκος ο υιος μου.

And second that according to Mark, who made it as Peter led him, whom he confessed also as son in the catholic epistle, through these words: She who is in Babylon, elect with you, greets you, as well as Mark my son.

Και τριτον το κατα Λουκαν, το υπο Παυλου επαινουμενον ευαγγελιον τοις απο των εθνων πεποιηκοτα· επι πασιν το κατα Ιωαννην.

And third that according to Luke, the gospel praised by Paul, made for those from among the gentiles. After all of them, that according to John.

Και εν τω πεμπτω δε των εις το κατα Ιωαννην εξηγητικων ο αυτος ταυτα περι των επιστολων των αποστολων φησιν· Ο δε ικανωθεις διακονος γενεσθαι της καινης διαθηκης, ου γραμματος αλλα πνευματος, Παυλος, ο πεπληρωκως το ευαγγελιον απο Ιερουσαλημ και κυκλω μεχρι του Ιλλυρικου, ουδε πασαις εγραψεν αις εδιδαξεν εκκλησιαις, αλλα και αις εγραψεν ολιγους στιχους επιστειλεν.

And, in the fifth of his expositions on the one according to John, the same one says these things concerning the epistles of the apostles: But he who was made ready as a minister of the new covenant, not of the letter but rather of the spirit, Paul, who fulfilled the gospel from Jerusalem and in a circle until Illyricum, did not write to all the churches that he taught, but even sent few lines to those to which he did write.

Πετρος δε, εφ ω οικοδομειται η Χριστου εκκλησια, ης πυλαι Αιδου ου κατισχυσουσιν, μιαν επιστολην ομολογουμενην καταλελοιπεν, εστω δε και δευτεραν, αμφιβαλλεται γαρ.

And Peter, upon whom the church of Christ is built, against which the gates of Hades shall not prevail, has left behind one confessed epistle, and it may be also a second, for it is doubted.

Τι δει περι του αναπεσοντος επι το στηθος λεγειν του Ιησου, Ιωαννου, ος ευαγγελιον εν καταλελοιπεν;

Why must one speak concerning the one who reclined upon the breast of Jesus, John, who has left behind one gospel?

Ομολογων δυνασθαι τοσαυτα ποιησειν α ουδ ο κοσμος χωρησαι εδυνατο; εγραφεν δε και την αποκαλυψιν, κελευσθεις σιωπησαι και μη γραψαι τας των επτα βροντων φωνας. καταλελοιπεν και επιστολην πανυ ολιγων στιχων, εστω δε και δευτεραν και τριτην, επει ου παντες φασιν γνησιους ειναι ταυτας· πλην ουκ εισιν στιχων αμφοτεραι εκατον.

He confesses that he could have made so many [gospels] that the world could not make room for them. And he also wrote the apocalypse, having been commanded to be silent and not to write [what] the voices of the seven thunders [said]. He has also left behind an epistle of very few lines, and it may be also a second and a third, since not all say that these are genuine; but both of these [combined] are not even a hundred lines.

Ετι προς τουτοις περι της προς Εβραιους επιστολης εν ταις εις αυτην ομιλιαις ταυτα διαλαμβανει· Οτι ο χαρακτηρ της λεξεως της προς Εβραιους επιγεγραμμενης επιστολης ουκ εχει το εν λογω ιδιωτικον του αποστολου, ομολογησαντος εαυτον ιδιωτην ειναι τω λογω, τουτ εστιν τη φρασει, αλλ εστιν η επιστολη συνθεσει της λεξεως Ελληνικωτερα, πας ο επισταμενος κρινειν φρασεων διαφορας ομολογησαι αν.

In addition he makes the following statements in regard to the epistle to the Hebrews in his homilies upon it: That the character of the epistle entitled to the Hebrews is not rude like the language of the apostle, who acknowledged himself rude in speech, that is, in expression, but rather its diction is purer Greek, everyone who has the power to discern differences of phraseology will acknowledge.

Παλιν τε αυ οτι τα νοηματα της επιστολης θαυμασια εστιν και ου δευτερα των αποστολικων ομολογουμενων γραμματων, και τουτο αν συμφησαι ειναι αληθες πας ο προσεχων τη αναγνωσει τη αποστολικη.

Again, that the thoughts of the epistle are marvellous, not even inferior to the confessed apostolic writings, everyone who carefully examines the apostolic text will admit.

Τουτοις μεθ ετερα επιφερει λεγων· Εγω δε αοφαινομενος ειποιμ αν οτι τα μεν νοηματα του αποστολου εστιν, η δε φρασις και η συνθεσις απομνημονευσαντος τινος τα αποστολικα και ωσπερ σχολιογραφησαντος τινος τα ειρημενα υπο του διδασκαλου. ει τις ουν εκκλησια εχει ταυτην την επιστολην ως Παυλου, αυτη ευδοκιμειτω και επι τουτω· ου γαρ εικη οι αρχαιοι ανδρες ως Παυλου αυτην παραδεδωκασιν.

After other things he adds these, saying: If I gave my opinion, I should say that the thoughts are those of the apostle, but the diction and phraseology are those of someone who remembered the apostolic teachings and wrote down at his leisure what had been said by his teacher. Therefore, if any church holds that this epistle is by Paul, let it be commended for this. For not without reason have the ancients handed it down as of Paul.

Τις δε ο γραψας την επιστολην, το μεν αληθες θεος οιδεν, η δε εις ημας φθασασα ιστορια υπο τινων μεν λεγοντων οτι Κλημης, ο γενομενος επισκοπος Ρωμαιων, εγραψεν την επιστολην, υπο τινων δε οτι Λουκας, ο γραψας το ευαγγελιον και τας πραξεις.

But who wrote the epistle, in truth, God knows. The statement of some who have gone before us is that Clement, who became bishop of the Romans, wrote the epistle, and of others that Luke, the author of the gospel and the Acts, wrote it.

The immediate context of this list is the canonical list of Old Testament books in History of the Church 6.25.1-2. Origen listed twenty-two canonical books in his commentary on the Psalms, and Eusebius simply reproduced that list for us.

But it will be noticed that Eusebius has culled the elements of this New Testament list from three different Origenic works, to wit, the commentary on Matthew, the commentary on John, and the homilies on Hebrews. We cannot, therefore, read anything into the order of books presented, since Origen was not attempting to draw up an official canon, and we will likewise have to take care with those books that do not appear on this list.

In the spirit of what Eusebius has done in collecting Origenic comments on the New Testament canon, I venture to offer yet another Origenic comment from the prologue to his Homilies on Luke:

Ecclesia quator habet evangelia, haeresis plurima, e quibus quoddam scribitur secundum Aegyptios, aliud iuxta duodecim apostolos. ausus fuit et Basilides scribere evangelium et suo illud nomine titulare. multi conati sunt scribere, sed quatuor tantum evangelia sunt probata, e quibus super persona domini et salvatoris nostri proferenda sunt dogmata. scio quoddam evangelium quod apellatur secundum Thomam et iuxta Matthiam: et alia plurima legimus, ne quid ignorares videremur propter eos qui se putant aliquid scire si ista cognoverint.

The church has four gospels, heresies very many, of which one is written according to the Egyptians, another according to the twelve apostles. Even Basilides dared to write a gospel and to entitle it by his own name. Many have taken in hand to write, but four gospels only are approved, from which the dogmas about the person of our Lord and savior are to be derived. I know a certain gospel which is called according to Thomas, and one according to Matthias, and many others we read, lest we should be seen as ignorant on account of those who suppose they know something if they have knowledge of those.

(I should mention that a Greek fragment of this more complete Latin translation by Jerome exists; it differs in wording considerably, but both the Greek and the Latin list the same rejected books, which is what matters for our purposes here.)

This brief list is the flip side of a canonical catalogue; it names several works which, as opposed to the four gospels, are by no means to be accepted with the approved books of the catholic church. Attentive readers will recall that we found an earlier example of this kind of negative list in the last few lines of the Muratorian canon.

I mentioned that this installment of my series will be divided into two sections; in the present one, 3a, I will examine the passage that Eusebius gives us, the positive list of canonical works; in the second one, 3b, I will examine the passage from the homilies on Luke, the negative list of works to be rejected as heretical.

That the four gospels make the positive list should surprise absolutely no one, but I wish to examine some of the details that Origen provides as to their composition.

The gospel of Matthew he says was composed in Hebrew letters (γραμμασιν Εβραικοις συντεταγμενον). This tradition is at least as old as Papias, according to Eusebius, History of the Church 3.39.116, citing the (unfortunately lost) Papian Exegesis of the Oracles of the Lord; Papias is probably in turn citing the elder John:

Ταυτα μεν ουν ιστορηται τω Παπια περι του Μαρκου· περι δε του Ματθαιου ταυτ ειρηται· Ματθαιος μεν ουν Εβραιδι διαλεκτω τα λογια συνεταξατο, ηρμηνευσεν δ αυτα ως ην δυνατος εκαστος.

These things therefore are recorded by Papias about Mark. But about Matthew he says these: Matthew therefore in the Hebrew dialect composed the oracles, and each one interpreted them as he was able.

Modern scholars have debated whether Papias (or John) means that Matthew actually wrote his gospel in Hebrew or whether he means that Matthew merely wrote in a Jewish manner. But the church fathers seem generally to side with the former option. Irenaeus, for instance, writes the following in Against Heresies 3.1.1 (Greek from Eusebius, History of the Church 5.8.2):

Ο μεν δη Ματθαιος εν τοις Εβραιοις τη ιδια αυτων διαλεκτω και γραφην εξηνεγκεν ευαγγελιου του Πετρου και του Παυλου εν Ρωμη ευαγγελιζομενων και θεμελιουντων την εκκλησιαν.

Ita Mattheus in Hebraeis ipsorum lingua scripturam edidit evangelii cum Petrus et Paulus Romae evangelizarent et fundarent ecclesiam.

Indeed Matthew, among the Hebrews in their own dialect, also published a writing of the gospel while Peter and Paul were evangelizing in Rome and founding the church.

Pantaenus, according to Eusebius in History of the Church 5.10.3, found Christians in India the predecessors of whom had received the gospel of Matthew, still written in Hebrew letters, from Bartholomew. Eusebius is writing here of Christian missionaries:

...ων εις γενομενος και ο Πανταινος, και εις Ινδους ελθειν λεγεται, ενθα λογος ευρειν αυτον προφθασαν την αυτου παρουσιαν το κατα Ματθαιον ευαγγελιον παρα τισιν αυτοθι τον Χριστον επεγνωκοσιν, οις Βαρθολομαιον των αποστολων ενα κηρυξαι αυτοις τε Εβραιων γραμμασι την του Ματθαιου καταλειψαι γραφην, ην και σωζεσθαι εις τον δηλουμενον χρονον.

...of whom one also was Pantaenus, and it is said that he went to the Indians, where word has it he found that the gospel according to Matthew had preceded him among some there who had known Christ, to whom Bartholomew, one of the apostles, had preached and left them the writing of Matthew in letters of the Hebrews, which was even saved unto the time mentioned.

Ephraem the Syrian will later go so far as to say that Matthew wrote in Hebrew, Mark in Latin, and Luke in Greek (text fortunately available online).

What Origen says about the gospel of Mark is likewise somewhat predictable, at least as part of a patristic process of bringing the second canonical gospel closer and closer to the apostle Peter himself. He writes that Mark wrote the gospel as Peter led him (ως Πετρος υφηγησατο αυτω). Papias, on the authority of the elder John, had written that Mark wrote the things that Peter had preached as he remembered them (ως απεμνημοσευσεν), according to Eusebius, History of the Church 3.39.15. Such a statement certainly does not make it sound as if Peter were standing over his shoulder while he wrote. Irenaeus even states in Against Heresies 3.1.1 that Mark transmitted his gospel after the exodus (μετα εξοδεν; post excessum) of Peter and Paul; the word exodus is usually taken as a euphemism for death (and the Latin word excessum here used to translate the original Greek was a rather frequent term for death in the Latin of the day). Irenaeus, like Papias, does not make it sound as if Peter was directly involved in the production of this gospel.

Clement of Alexandria, however, placed the penning of the gospel during the lifetime of Peter, according to Eusebius, History of the Church 6.14.5-7. Even so, he admits that Peter did not actually approve the gospel: Επιγνοντα τον Πετρον προτρεπτικως μητε κωλυσαι μητε προτρεψασθαι (when Peter came to know, he neither directly prevented nor encouraged it). By the time we reach Origen, then, Mark is writing not only during the lifetime of Peter but also, apparently, by his leading. The relationship is now more direct than before, and it will eventually get even more direct than that in patristic lore. Eusebius himself, for example, writes in History of the Church 2.15.1 that Peter approved the gospel for reading in the churches. He gives both Clement of Alexandria and Papias of Hierapolis as his sources for this datum, but his more verbatim quotations elsewhere of these two fathers bely the force of his claim. Rather, the tradition has moved yet again in a more Petrine direction.

Origen also uses 1 Peter 5.13 to tie Peter and Mark together in Rome. According to Eusebius in History of the Church 2.15.2 both Clement and Papias (assuming that these two are the subject of the verb say, φασιν, in that Eusebian passage; it may rather be that the subject is, as frequently elsewhere, a generic they) did the same thing, referring to 1 Peter 5.13 in conjunction with the composition of the gospel of Mark. Perhaps this is at least partly what Eusebius means in 3.39.17 when he writes that Papias used testimonies from the epistle of Peter (κεχρηται... μαρτυριαις... απο της Πετρου).

Origen calls the gospel of Luke the gospel praised by Paul (το υπο Παυλου επαινουμενον ευαγγελιον), surely identifying the anonymous brother in 2 Corinthians 8.18 with Luke:

Συνεπεμψαμεν δε μετ αυτου τον αδελφον ου ο επαινος εν τω ευαγγελιω δια πασων των εκκλησιων.

And we have sent along with him the brother whose praise in the gospel is [spread] throughout all the churches.

Not many modern scholars, I suspect, would agree with this identification, at least not for the reason given, namely, that this brother was famous among the churches for having penned the third gospel. For one thing, the gospel of Luke is usually dated to after the death of Paul. For another, Paul never demonstrably uses the word gospel to mean a written biography of Jesus. But this identification was not uncommon amongst the later fathers. For example, chapter 15 of the longer recension of the Ignatian epistle to the Ephesians makes the link, as does Jerome in chapter 7 of On Famous Men. But Origen may well be the origin (pardon the pun) of this connection.

When Origen writes of John, the author of the fourth canonical gospel, as the one who reclined upon the breast (αναπεσοντος επι το στηθος) of Jesus, he is of course making a quite common identification between the apostle John and the beloved but nameless disciple of John 13.23. Irenaeus does the same in Against Heresies 3.1.1, as does Polycrates of Ephesus in the fragment of his writings preserved by Eusebius, History of the Church 3.31.1-3, and Jerome in his prologue to the four gospels. Other writers make the same identification using different beloved disciple passages in the gospel of John. The Monarchian prologue to John, for example, uses John 19.26-27.

Origen does not list the epistles of Paul individually in the snippets that Eusebius has assembled, but he does allude to 2 Corinthians 3.6 when he writes of Paul being made ready as a minister of the new covenant, not of the letter but rather of the spirit (ικανωθεις διακονος γενεσθαι της καινης διαθηκης, ου γραμματος αλλα πνευματος) and to Romans 15.19 when he writes of him who fulfilled the gospel from Jerusalem and in a circle until Illyricum (ο πεπληρωκως το ευαγγελιον απο Ιερουσαλημ και κυκλω μεχρι του Ιλλυρικου). Origen affirms that the set of churches to which Paul wrote epistles is not perfectly identical with the set of churches in which Paul had ministered (for example, Paul had not yet visited the Roman church when he wrote the epistle to the Romans; refer to Romans 15.22-24). He also affirms that Paul wrote few lines (εγραψεν ολιγους στιχους) to each church, not a surprising sentiment given the incredible mass of work that Origen himself published during his lifetime, very much of which has perished.

Origen, unlike the surprising Muratorian canon, openly admits that Peter left an epistle to posterity, then adds that there may be also a second, for it is doubted (εστω δε και δευτεραν, αμφιβαλλεται γαρ). I briefly reviewed the attestation for 1 Peter (in Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Clement of Alexandria) in my piece on the Muratorian canon, but Origen appears to be the first to mention 2 Peter by name, though of course there are possible allusions to be found amongst earlier writers. (There is also a clear reference in the tenth of the dubious fragments of Hippolytus found in volume V of the Ante-Nicene Fathers series.) And Origen mentions it only to question its authenticity. The wording, of course, implies that both classes of people, those who accept the epistle and those who reject it, already exist as Origen puts plume to parchment. We are left in the dark as to who exactly may belong to either class.

I wrote in my post on the Muratorian canon that its listing of the apocalypse of John was consonant with, but not probative of, its author having been a chiliast (a believer in the future earthly millennial reign of Jesus Christ). Origen is my ace in the hole against the notion that only a chiliast could have approved of the apocalypse of John, since Origen himself approved of the apocalypse, even considering it to have been written by the same John as penned the fourth canonical gospel, yet was by no means a chiliast. Rather, his interpretation of this mysterious book was allegorical and symbolic rather than literal.

He adds that one epistle of John is unquestioned, but two others, which combine to make no more than a hundred lines, are questioned. Since the two that together add up to so few lines must be what we call 2 and 3 John, the approved epistle must be 1 John. This division of potential authenticity at least makes more sense to me than the awkward arrangement that we find in the Muratorian canon, in which only two epistles are (mentioned and) approved.

Eusebius adds at this point several comments by Origen concerning the epistle to the Hebrews. Origen himself appears to side with those who doubt that Paul wrote it, but he also quite ecumenically embraces those who attribute it to Paul. His final verdict, that (only) God knows (θεος οιδεν) who wrote this epistle, is one of the most famous statements ever uttered on the matter, and possibly one of the most accurate.

Origen goes on to affirm that some think Clement of Rome wrote it, others that it was Luke, whom he pointedly identifies as the author both of the gospel and of the book of the acts of the apostles (a handy remark at this point for Eusebius, since he has cited nothing from Origen so far regarding the second volume of Luke). I cannot find any earlier patristic statement on the latter alternative, that Luke also penned Hebrews, but we have already encountered a father who probably at least suggested the former, that it was Clement. Recall that Dionysius bar Salibi wrote of the Roman Hippolytus:

Hippolytus says that, in writing to seven churches, John writes just as Paul wrote thirteen letters, but wrote them to seven churches. That to the Hebrews he does not judge to be of Paul, but perhaps of Clement.

I say that Hippolytus probably made this suggestion because, if indeed Hippolytus was known for attributing this epistle to Clement, it may be thought a little odd that Photius, patriarch of Constantinople, would write under codex 232 of his Bibliotheca:

Οτι Ιππολυτος και Ειρηναιος την προς Εβραιους επιστολην Παυλου ουκ εκεινου ειναι φασιν, Κλημης μεντοι και Ευσεβιος και πολυς αλλος των θεοφορων πατερων ομιλος ταις αλλαις συναριθμουσι ταυτην επιστολαις, και φασιν αυτην εκ της Εβραιδος μεταφρασαι τον ειρημενον Κλημεντα.

Hippolytus and Irenaeus say that the epistle of Paul to the Hebrews is not his, but Clement and Eusebius and many of the other theophoric fathers count this one together with the other epistles and say that the aforementioned Clement translated it from the Hebrew.

Why does Photius group Hippolytus with those who simply denied Pauline authorship? Why does he not place Hippolytus among those who put forward Clement? The answer may be that Photius intends to distinguish between actual authors, not between translators. What Hippolytus probably suggested is, not that Clement translated the epistle from Hebrew, but rather that he actually composed it. What stuck out for Photius, then, was that this hypothesis severed the Pauline connection, whereas those who said that Clement translated the epistle could still regard Paul as the author of the postulated Hebrew original.

Implications for attestation.

How does the positive Origenic canon affect modern investigations of attestation?

First, we notice that the fourfold gospel is still with us; it is in fact here to stay. No known orthodox writer after Gaius of Rome denies any of the canonical four: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Origen is quite conscious of this universal approval, noting that these four alone are not doubted under heaven.

Second, the epistles of Paul are approved as a corpus.

Third, 1 Peter is approved, but it is Origen who mentions 2 Peter for the first time in history by name, only to note that it is doubted.

Fourth, we now have a nonchiliast approving of the apocalypse of John. Furthermore, Origen cleanly identifies the author of the gospel of John with the author of the apocalypse and the author of at least one of the epistles (1 John) that go by that name, and very possibly that of the other two (2 and 3 John), as well.

Fifth, the authorship of the epistle to the Hebrews is a live issue, and is apparently being vigorously debated at this time.

Sixth, I ought to point out that the urge to define a canon is shared between east and west at this juncture. Marcion and the Muratorian canon are western representatives of the canonical process, while Origen, hailing from Alexandria, later a resident of Caesarea, is decidedly eastern (as is the man to whom we owe this Origenic canonical catena, Eusebius).

Next time I will turn to consider our second Origenic passage, the one from his homilies on Luke which lists gospels that are to be absolutely rejected.

Canonical lists (part 3b, the Origenic canon).

Posted 10-17-2006.

This post is the second part of my treatment of the Origenic canon. In 3a I discussed a catena of Origenic comments put together by Eusebius. In this post I will discuss another Origenic passage, one that lists apocryphal gospels. My sincere thanks to Phil Harland for listing this series of mine in Biblical Studies Carnival X.

It is now time to discuss the following passage from the prologue to his Homilies on Luke:

Το μεντοι επιγεγραμμενον κατα Αιγυπτιους ευαγγελιον και το επιγεγραμμενον των δωδεκα ευαγγελιον οι συγγραψαντες επεχειρησαν. ηδη δε ετολμησε και Βασιλειδης γραψαι κατα Βασιλειδην ευαγγελιον. πολλοι μεν ουν επεχειρησαν. φερεται γαρ και το κατα Θωμαν ευαγγελιον και το κατα Ματθιαν και αλλα πλειονα.

Those who wrote the gospel entitled according to the Egyptians and the gospel entitled of the twelve took it in hand. But even Basilides dared to write the gospel according to Basilides. Many, therefore, took it in hand. For also a gospel according to Thomas is extant, as well as one according to Matthias, and many others.

Ecclesia quator habet evangelia, haeresis plurima, e quibus quoddam scribitur secundum Aegyptios, aliud iuxta duodecim apostolos. ausus fuit et Basilides scribere evangelium et suo illud nomine titulare. multi conati sunt scribere, sed quatuor tantum evangelia sunt probata, e quibus super persona domini et salvatoris nostri proferenda sunt dogmata. scio quoddam evangelium quod apellatur secundum Thomam et iuxta Matthiam: et alia plurima legimus, ne quid ignorares videremur propter eos qui se putant aliquid scire si ista cognoverint.

The church has four gospels, heresies very many, of which one is written according to the Egyptians, another according to the twelve apostles. Even Basilides dared to write a gospel and to entitle it by his own name. Many have taken in hand to write, but four gospels only are approved, from which the dogmas about the person of our Lord and savior are to be derived. I know a certain gospel which is called according to Thomas, and one according to Matthias, and many others we read, lest we should be seen as ignorant on account of those who suppose they know something if they have knowledge of those.

Origen is playing off the wording of Luke 1.1, which claims that many have taken in hand to arrange a narrative (πολλοι επεχειρησαν αναταξασθαι διηγησιν) of the founding events of the Christian faith. The Alexandrian father takes these words in a pejorative sense, as meaning that some took matters into their own hands when compiling a gospel while others, namely the four canonical evangelists, were inspired by the holy spirit.

In taking these Lucan words in this manner, and then actually listing some of the gospels whose authors he classifies among those who took matters in hand, Origen ends up implying that these heretical gospels preceded the gospel of Luke. I am not certain that Origen was aware of this implication of his argument. Elsewhere in Christendom one of the staple arguments against the noncanonical gospels was that their authors wrote too late. We have already seen that the Muratorian canon denies the Shepherd of Hermas canonical status for its having been written recently, in our own times (nuperrime temporibus nostris). And Clement of Alexandria, in the generation immediately preceding that of Origen, writes in Miscellanies 7.17 (English translation slightly modified from that from the Ante-Nicene Fathers series):

Οτι γαρ μεταγενεστερας της καθολικης εκκλησιας τας ανθρωπινας συνηλυσεις πεποιηκασιν ου πολλων δει λογων. Η μεν γαρ του κυριου κατα την παρουσιαν διδασκαλια απο Αυγουστου και Τιβεριου Καισαρος αρξαμενη μεσουντων των Τεβεριου χρονων τελειουται, η δε των αποστολων αυτου μεχρι γε της Παυλου λειτουργιας επι Νερωνος τελειουται, κατω δε περι τους Αδριανου του βασιλεως χρονους οι τας αιρεσεις επινοησαντες γεγονασι, και μεχρι γε της Αντωνινου του πρεσβυτερου διετειναν ηλικιας, καθαπερ ο Βεσιλειδης, καν Γλαυκιαν επιγραφηται διδασκαλον, ως αυχουσιν αυτοι, τον Πετρον ερμηνεα. ωσαυτως δε και Ουαλεντινον Θεοδα διακηκοεναι φερουσιν· γνωριμος δ ουτος γεγονει Παυλου. Μαρκιων γαρ κατα την αυτην αυτοις ηλικιαν γενομενος ως πρεσβυτης νεωτεροις συνεγενετο. μεθ ον Σιμων επ ολιγον κηρυσσοντος του Πετρου υπηκουσεν. ων ουτως εχοντων συμφανες εκ της προγενεστατης και αληθεστατης εκκλησιας τας μεταγενεστερας ταυτας και τας ετι τουτων υποβεβηκυιας τω χρονω κεκαινοτομησθαι παραχαραχθεισας αιρεσεις.

For it does not require many words to show that the human assemblies which [the heretics] held were posterior to the catholic church. For the teaching of our Lord at his advent, beginning with Augustus and Tiberius, was completed in the middle of the times of Tiberius. And that of the apostles, embracing the ministry of Paul, ends with Nero. It was later, in the times of Hadrian the king, that those who invented the heresies arose; and they extended to the age of Antoninus the elder, as, for instance, Basilides, though he claims, as they boast, Glaucias the interpreter of Peter for his master. Likewise they allege that Valentinus was a hearer of Theudas. And he was the pupil of Paul. For Marcion, who arose in the same age with them, lived as an old man with the younger [heretics]. And after him Simon heard for a little the preaching of Peter. Such being the case, it is evident from the high antiquity and perfect truth of the church that these later heresies, and those yet subsequent to them in time, were new inventions, and falsified.

This entire line of argumentation, with its charming image of Marcion as already a grand old don in the underworld of heretics, depends on the canonical texts preceding the heretical texts in time.

Thus I doubt that Origen really intended to imply that, say, Basilides preceded Luke. In (over)interpreting Luke 1.1, he has in his zeal, I think, unintentionally led to heretical priority as an undesirable byproduct to which he would probably object if pressed on the matter. (Or perhaps he would argue that the evangelist Luke was writing prophetically of those who would eventually pen these gospels; but this is mere speculation on my part.)

The actual list of heretical gospels seems ad hoc, given merely for the sake of example. It does not appear to be exhaustive in any sense, nor does it appear to be tied together thematically. Origen is simply listing gospel writings off the top of his head.

With one barely possible exception, Origen is not alone in condemning any of the subcanonical texts on the list, and all but one of them may be found condemned by his contemporary Hippolytus in his Refutation of All Heresies. Indeed Origen appears to have known the work of Hippolytus. In On Famous Men 61 Jerome counts on his list of Hippolytan works a certain exhortation on the praise of our Lord and savior, in which text Hippolytus signals that he is speaking in the church in the presence of Origen (praesente Origene se loqui in ecclesia significat). Jerome adds that Ambrosius urged Origen to write scriptural commentaries in emulation of him (in huius aemulationem), that is, in emulation of Hippolytus. As we run through this Origenic list, then, we shall keep our eyes on what Hippolytus has to say about each heretical text.

The first text on the list is the gospel according to the Egyptians. Perhaps fittingly, Clement of Alexandria in Egypt is our first and principal source for this apocryphal gospel, mentioning and quoting from it several times. In Miscellanies 3.13, for instance, he writes:

Δια τουτο τοι ο Κασσιανος φησι· Πυνθανομενης της Σαλωμης ποτε γνωσθησεται τα περι ων ηρετο, εφη ο κυριος· Οταν το της αισχυνης ενδυμα πατησητε, και οταν γενηται τα δυο εν, και το αρρεν μετα της θηλειας, ουτε αρρεν ουτε θηλυ. πρωτον μεν ουν εν τοις παραδιδομενοις ημιν τετταρσιν ευαγγελιοις ουκ εχομεν το ρητον, αλλ εν τω κατ Αιγυπτιους.

On account of this Cassianus says: When Salome inquired when the things about which she had asked would be known, the Lord said: When you have trampled the garment of shame, and when the two become one, and the male with the female, neither male nor female. First, then, we do not have this word in the four gospels delivered to us, but in that according to the Egyptians.

This quotation bears a striking resemblance to 2 Clement 12.2:

Επερωτηθεις γαρ αυτος ο κυριος υπο τινος ποτε ηξει αυτου η βασιλεια, ειπεν· Οταν εσται τα δυο εν, και το εξω ως το εσω, και το αρσεν μετα της θηλειας, ουτε αρσεν ουτε θηλυ.

For, when the Lord was asked by someone when his kingdom would come, he said: When the two shall be one, and the outside as the inside, and the male with the female, neither male nor female.

It also recalls Thomas 37; here I give it as rendered in papyrus Oxyrhynchus 655, column 1:

Λεγουσιν αυτω οι μαθηται αυτου· Ποτε ημειν εμφανης εσει, και ποτε σε οψομεθα; λεγει· Οταν εκδυσησθε κα[ι] μη αισχυνθητε.

His disciples: When to us will you be apparent, and when will we see you? He says: When you unclothe an[d] are not ashamed.

Refer also to Thomas 22. No such saying, however, appears in the gospel of the Egyptians found by that title in codex III of the Nag Hammadi library. Were there two texts that went by that title? Or is there some confusion going on between various texts and traditions?

A certain David Ross has argued online that Clement is in fact giving the gospel of Thomas a new nickname when he refers to the Egyptian gospel:

According to Stromateis 3.13 by Clement of Alexandria, the heretic Cassianus related a saying with parallels in Thomas and 2 Clement. In this saying, Salome asked when she would get an answer to some earlier questions. Jesus replied (agreeing with 2 Clement 12:2-6 and Thomas 22) that the Answer would come when "the two become one" and "when the male with the female is neither male nor female"; he also added "when you tread upon the garment of shame", which reflects Thomas 37. Clement went on to say that this saying was to be found in the "Gospel according to the Egyptians", but it is not in Nag Hammadi's Gospel of the Egyptians.

We needn't bust our chops looking for yet another "lost gospel", though. We already have this one. The "garment of shame" may not be out of place thematically, but it is far out stylistically; the rest of Egyptians (and 2 Clement 12, and Thomas 22) is constructed in a very chiastic pattern: every verse is "when A becomes B" or "neither A nor B". I conclude that Cassianus was juxtaposing and interpreting verses from his copy of Thomas, and that Clement caught him at it. Clement nicknamed Thomas "the Gospel of the Egyptians" so as to deny that it had apostolic authority; he assumed any readers who were familiar enough with the text could draw their own conclusions.

Salome appears once in the extant Coptic copy of Thomas. In Thomas 61:1-5 she is one who has received Jesus as a guest. The two talk about Jesus's origins and about being whole or divided.

Such hypotheses are always worth making and investigating, for they aim at reducing our total number of lost texts in the name of parsimony. In this case, the lost gospel of the Egyptians would not actually be lost at all; it would be none other than our extant gospel of Thomas.

I do not think that this particular piece of parsimony will work, however. Clement himself appears to attribute several other sayings to his Egyptian gospel that are not found in Thomas. He writes in Miscellanies 3.9, for instance:

Οι δε αντιτασσομενοι τη κτισει του θεου δια της ευφημου εγκρατειας κακεινα λεγουσι τα προς Σαλωμην ειρημενα, ων προτερον εμνησθημεν· φερεται δε, οιμαι, εν τω κατ Αιγυπτιους ευαγγελιω. φασι γαρ οτι αυτος ειπεν ο σωτηρ· Ηλθον καταλυσαι τα εργα της θηλειας. θηλειας μεν της επιθυμιας, εργα δε γεννησιν και φθοραν.

But those who order themselves against the creation of God on account of the euphemism of Encratism also say those things that were said to Salome, of which we first made mention. And it is extant, I suppose, in the gospel according to the Egyptians. For they say that the savior himself said: I came to abolish the works of the female. What are of the female are desires, but the works are birth and corruption.

Clement says that he supposes (οιμαι) that this saying is extant in the Egyptian gospel. It is worth thinking about the possibility that Clement knows this gospel only through the Cassianus that he cites in Miscellanies 3.13. But a bit further on in the same passage he adds:

Οθεν εικοτως, περι συντελειας μηνυσατος του λογου, η Σαλωμη φησι· Μεχρι τινος οι ανθρωποι αποθανουνται; ανθρωπον δε καλει η γραφη διχως, τον τι φαινομενον και την ψυχην· παλιν τε αυ τον σωζομενον και τον μη. και θανατος ψυχης η αμαρτια λεγεται. διο και παρατετηρημενως αποκρινεται ο κυριος· Μεχρις αν τικτωσιν αι γυναικες, τουτεστι μεχρις αν αι επιθυμιαι ενεργωσι.

Whence reasonably, after the word had told about the consummation, Salome says: Until when will men die? But the scripture calls him man in two ways, the one that is apparent and the soul, and again that being saved and that not being saved. And sin is said to be the death of the soul. And in keeping with this the Lord answers: As long as women give birth, that is, as long as desires are at work.

Then, a little later again, he writes:

Τι δε ουχι και τα εξης των προς Σαλωμην ειρημενων επιφερουσιν οι παντα μαλλον η τω κατα την αληθιαν ευαγγελικω στοιχησαντες κανονι; φαμενης γαρ αυτης· Καλως ουν εποιησα μη τεκουσα, ως ου δεοντως της γενεσεως παραλαμβανομενης, αμειβεται λεγων ο κυριος· Πασαν φαγε βοτανην, την δε πικριαν εχουσαν μη φαγης.

But those who [prefer] all things rather than to conform to the evangelical rule according to the truth, why do they not quote the things that follow those said to Salome? For when she says: I did well, then, in not giving birth, as if not accepting childbirth as fitting, the Lord responds saying: Eat every plant, but do not eat the one that has bitterness.

These dominical statements to Salome all look like patches from the same quilt. If they also hail from the gospel according to the Egyptians, then that gospel can hardly be the gospel of Thomas. Nor is Clement is our only witness to the Egyptian gospel. When Hippolytus refers to the gospel according to the Egyptians, he may be referring to the text from Nag Hammadi, though the fit is far from perfect. Refutation 5.7.8b-9a:

Ειναι δε φασι την ψυχην δυσευρετον πανυ και δυσκατανοητον· ου γαρ μενει επι σχηματος ουδε μορφης της αυτης παντοτε, ουδε παθους ενος, ινα τις αυτην η τυπω ειπη η ουσια καταληψεται.

And they say that the soul is unfindable and unknowable; for it remains neither upon the same scheme or form always nor in one passive [state], that one might speak of it by a type or comprehend it in being.

Τας δε εξαλλαγας ταυτας τας ποικιλας εν τω επιγραφομενω κατ Αιγυπτιους ευαγγελιω κειμενας εχουσιν. απορουσιν ουν, καθαπερ οι αλλοι παντες των εθνων ανθρωποι, ποτερον ποτε εκ του προοντος εστιν, εκ του αυτογενους, η εκ του εκκεχυμενου χαους.

But they have these various changes set down in the gospel inscribed according to the Egyptians. They are therefore in doubt, just as all the other men of the gentiles, whether it is at all from the pre-being, from the self-born, or from the poured-out chaos.

The Nag Hammadi gospel of the Egyptians does refer to the chaos a few times; but I cannot find that it refers to the changes of the soul as such, though there are lacunae in the text, and perhaps Hippolytus is reading these changes out of the various aeons discussed therein. With a bit of imagination, then, it may be possible to claim that Clement and Hippolytus are referring to two completely different texts, Clement to the gospel of Thomas, as mediated through Cassianus, and Hippolytus to our Nag Hammadi gospel.

But I think that the testimony from Epiphanius stands against such a view. The Egyptian gospel from Nag Hammadi begins by equating the great invisible spirit with the father, then proceeds to enumerate the three powers that came from it, to wit, the father, the mother, and the son. Epiphanius mentions the trinity of father, son, and spirit when he refers to what he calls the Egyptian gospel in Panarion 62:

Την δε πασαν αυτων πλανην, και την πλανης αυτων δυναμιν, εχουσιν εξ αποκρυφων τινων, μαλιστα απο του καλουμενου Αιγυπτιου ευαγγιλιου, ω τινες το ονομα επεθεντο τουτο. εν αυτω γαρ πολλα τοιαυτα ως εν παραβυστω μυστηριωδως εκ προσωπου του σωτηρος αναφερεται, ως αυτου δηλουτος τοις μαθηταις τον αυτον ειναι πατερα, τον αυτον ειναι υιον, τον αυτον ειναι αγιον πνευμα.

But their whole deception, and the whole power of their deception, they have from certain apocryphal [writings], especially from the gospel called Egyptian, upon which some place this name. For in it many such things are quoted mysteriously, as if in a corner, as if from the person of the savior, such as when he makes clear to the disciples that he himself is the father, that he himself is the son, and that he himself is the holy spirit.

These words, however, are said to have been spoken in the Egyptian gospel by the savior to his disciples, yet the Nag Hammadi text lacks such dialogue; indeed, it lacks any mention of disciples at all. It seems to me, then, that it is better to suppose that there once was indeed a gospel of the Egyptians that is now lost to us; it would have contained dialogue between Jesus and his disciples (so Epiphanius) and Salome (so Clement), much as we find in the gospel of Thomas, but also would have contained gnostic speculations, placed onto the lips of Jesus, similar to those found in our Nag Hammadi text (so Hippolytus and Epiphanius). For I do not think that any extant text really satisfies the references from any one of our commenting fathers, let alone from all three of them.

(But I insist on the caveat, which I shall revisit later in this post, that not every patristic quotation is necessarily to be taken at face value. Sometimes the fathers did confuse various texts, attributing statements to one from memory that were actually in another, or conflating two or more texts from free association of word or theme. In this particular case I find the combination of Clement and Epiphanius in favor of the dialogue format and the combination of Hippolytus and Epiphanius in favor of the gnostic speculations strong enough to posit a lost text. But I would not go so far as to say that the case is absolutely a lock.)

Given that the Egyptian gospel probably existed in its own right, then, I would say that Origen is probably referring to it here, even if his only information about it might have come from his predecessor Clement and his contemporary Hippolytus.

The second text on the list is the gospel according to the twelve. This exact title is original to Origen, as far as I know, but we are not left bereft of guidance as to the identification of this text. In Against the Pelagians 3.2 Jerome refers to the gospel according to the Hebrews as according to the apostles, or, as most would term it, according to Matthew (secundum apostolos, sive ut plerique autumant iuxta Matthaeum). It does not seem farfetched to suggest that a gospel known as that according to the apostles might also be known as that according to the twelve. Indeed, the Latin version of Origen at this point has iuxta duodecim apostolos instead of the shorter Greek title. Is this then, as Jerome would have it, the same text as the famed gospel according to the Hebrews? Not necessarily. The titles of the various Jewish-Christian gospels were apparently confused in the patristic period, and Jerome is chief among those fathers who wrote confusingly about these gospels.

I think that the gospel according to the twelve, or the gospel according to the apostles, is the gospel of the Ebionites. Epiphanius provides the main clue in Panarion 30.3, writing of the Ebionites:

Και δεχονται μεν και αυτοι το κατα Ματθαιον ευαγγελιον. τουτω γαρ και αυτοι, ως και οι κατα Κηρινθον και Μηρινθον, χρωνται μονω. καλουσι δε αυτο κατα Εβραιους....

And they themselves also accept the gospel according to Matthew. For this they use alone, as also those from Cerinthus and Merinthus. But they call it according to the Hebrews....

The Ebionite gospel, then, was called both according to Matthew and according to the Hebrews. According to another passage from Epiphanius, Panarion 30.13, the Ebionite gospel boasted the following line:

Εγενετο τις ανηρ ονοματι Ιησους, και αυτος ως ετων τριακοντα, ος εξελεξατο ημας.

There was a certain man, Jesus by name, and he himself was about thirty years old, who elected us.

In context it is indeed the apostles who are speaking here in the first person plural. This snippet makes sense of calling the Ebionite gospel the gospel according to the twelve (Origen) or according to the apostles (Jerome), and the fact that all the Jewish-Christian gospels were called the gospel according to the Hebrews would account for any confusion on the part of Jerome, who seems rather to be referring to a Nazoraean gospel, not the Ebionite. Finally, Origen regards this gospel as heretical, a judgment which makes more sense with respect to the Ebionite gospel than with respect to the gospel of the Hebrews, which was widely respected among the fathers.

For further information, I recommend Aurelio de Santos Otero, Los evangélios apócrifos, pages 47-49; I also highly recommend A. F. J. Klijn, Jewish-Christian Gospel Tradition, in its entirety.

The third text on the list is the gospel of Basilides. Not a few commentators, however, are of the opinion that this title may be misleading, for what Basilides is better attested to have written is actually a commentary in twenty-four books. Clement of Alexandria, for example, quotes from the twenty-third book of this commentary in Miscellanies 4.12. Thus some scholars ascribe our Origenic statement on a gospel of Basilides to this commentary. Others feel that Basilides wrote a work apart from this commentary to which Origen assigned the genre of gospel, but that even this (presumably much shorter) work was not what we would tend to call a gospel. Aurelio de Santos Otero, for example, writes as follows on page 74 of Los evangélios apócrifos:

[El evangelio de Basílides n]o se trata de un evangelio apócrifo propiamente dicho, sino de una compilación, hecha a base de los sinópticos, in que Basílides fue intercalando sus ideas gnósticas.

I would translate: [The gospel of Basilides d]oes not apply to an apocryphal gospel properly speaking, but rather to a compilation, made on the basis of the synoptics, into which Basilides inserted his own gnostic ideas.

The extant quotations that we have from Basilides would seem to support this assessment, for none of which I am aware come off sounding like a gospel per se; rather, they each sound like an interpretation of gospel materials.

Regardless of the exact nature of this text, Basilides himself provides us with important attestation for several other primitive Christian texts, particularly the gospels of Luke and Matthew.

As for Luke, Hippolytus writes of Basilides in Refutation 7.14:

Τουτο εστι, φησι, το ειρημενον· Πνευμα αγιον επελευσεται επι σε, το απο της υιοτητος δια του μεθοριου πνευματος επι την ογδοαδακαι την εβδομαδα διελθον μεχρι της Μαριας, και δυναμις υψιστου επισκιασει σοι, η δυναμις της κρισεως απο της ακρωρειας ανωθεν του δημιουργου μεχρι της κτισεως, ο εστι του υιου.

This is, he says, that which is spoken: The holy spirit shall come upon you, that which came away from the sonship through the coterminous spirit upon the ogdoad and the hebdomad, unto Mary, and the power of the most high shall overshadow you, the power of judgment from the height from above, the demiurge, unto the creation, that is, the son.

The very wording here, if we can trust Hippolytus, suggests a comment(ary) on an already extant text, for Basilides is apparently referring to that which is spoken (το ειρημενον). The quotation which follows is from Luke 1.35, in which the angel Gabriel is announcing the virgin birth to Mary. The remarks about the ogdoad and hebdomad and about the demiurge both interrupt the Hebraistic parallelism of the Lucan passage and seem intended to define or fill out what has gone before. In other words, Basilides is interpreting Luke.

As for Matthew, Epiphanius writes in Panarion 24.5.2:

Αλλα φησιν ο αγυρτης· Ημεις, φησιν, εσμεν οι ανθρωποι, οι δε αλλοι παντες υες και κυνες. και δια τουτο ειπεν· Μη βαλητε τους μαργαριτας εμπροσθεν των χοιρων, μηδε δωτε το αγιον τοις κυσιν.

But the collector [Basilides] says: We, he says, are the men, but the others are all hogs and dogs. And on account of this he said: Do not cast the pearls before the swine, nor give what is holy to the dogs.

We can probably not read very much into Epiphanius calling Basilides a collector, since even if Basilides and Matthew were both tapping into a third text or tradition Epiphanius would probably interpret the overlap as a Basilidean theft from Matthew. Nevertheless, again, the words attributed to Basilides here make it look very much as if Basilides is quoting from an already extant text, now defining or filling out who are the men and who are the animals. The reference is to Matthew 7.6, and if Basilides is indeed referring to this passage then he is interpreting Matthew.

Unless we are to imagine a very lively oral tradition surviving deep into century II, Basilides also attests to the synoptic gospels in general in that he offers a rather unique interpretation, according to Irenaeus in Against Heresies 1.24.4, of the incident involving Simon of Cyrene (refer to Matthew 27.31b-32 = Mark 15.20b-21 = Luke 23.26). According to Hippolytus, Refutation 7.15, Basilides also appears to cite John 2.4. In chapter 12 of his Miscellanies Clement of Alexandria also offers a quotation from Basilides which seems to be interpreting 1 Peter 4.12-19, thus providing attestation for this epistle, as well.

Thus, on the face of it, Basilides himself attests to the existence and circulation of quite a number of primitive Christian texts no later than the middle of century II in Alexandria. Had his work survived the centuries in a more complete state, I might have had occasion to insert a post in this series dealing with the Basilidean canon!

The fourth text on the list is the gospel of Thomas. This text is the easiest to identify, precisely because it (unlike every other text on our Origenic list) is extant today, both in Greek fragments and in Coptic translation from the Nag Hammadi cache. Refer to my own page on this gospel for general information and even more informative links to online resources.

But I would like to take this opportunity to touch again upon a useful caveat about ancient quotations of lost works (which I mentioned above in connection with the Egyptian gospel). Since we possess the gospel of Thomas, it might be instructive to compare patristic quotations of it to the text itself. I have in mind in particular the following quotation from Hippolytus, Refutation 5.7.20-21, writing of the Naassenes:

...ηνπερ [φυσιν] φασιν εντος ανθρωπου βασιλειαν ουρανων ζητουμενην, περι ης διαρρηδην εν τω κατα Θωμαν επιγραφομενω ευαγγελιω παραδιδοασι, λεγοντες ουτως· Εμε ο ζητων ευρησει εν παιδιοις απο ετων επτα· εκει γαρ εν τω τεσσαρεσκαιδεκατω αιωνι κρυβομενος φανερουμαι. τουτο δε ουκ εστιν Χριστου, αλλα Ιπποκρατους, λεγοντος· Επτα ετων παις πατρος ημισυ. οθεν ουτοι, την αρχεγονον φυσιν των ολων εν αρχεγονω τιθεμενοι σπερματι, το Ιπποκρατειον ακηκοοτες οτι εστιν ημισυ πατρος παιδιον επτα ετων, εν τοις τεσσαρσι {και δεκα} φασιν ετεσι, κατα τον Θωμαν, ειναι φανερουμενον.

...which [nature] they say is the kingdom of the heavens which is sought within a man, concerning which they deliver an explicit saying in the gospel inscribed according to Thomas, saying thus: He who seeks me will find me in children from seven years. For there, hidden in the fourteenth age, I shall appear. But this is not of Christ, but of Hippocrates, saying: A child of seven years is half a father. Whence these men, placing the arch-begotten nature of the whole of things in an arch-begetting seed, having heard the Hippocratean [saying] that a child of seven years is half a father, say that in fourteen years, according to Thomas, it is made apparent.

The saying about the kingdom of the heavens being within a man has a parallel in Thomas 3 (both Greek and Coptic), and our extant text of Thomas 4 (both Greek and Coptic) has a saying about seeking out a child of seven days (not years), but the saying about the fourteenth year does not appear in our extant gospel of Thomas. Either Hippolytus has attributed this one of his three statements to this gospel in error or the version of Thomas in his hands was not quite like ours. Admittedly, a comparison and contrast of the Greek fragments with the Coptic translation of this text will point to divergent editions of the gospel; but it also seems possible that Hippolytus was conflating the gospel of Thomas with some other text or tradition known to and used by the Naassenes. I have no firm answer to this question, but merely wish to point out that not every patristic quotation of a lost work is necessarily the end of the story of attestation.

The fifth and final text on the list is the gospel of Matthias. But there may have been more than one text circulating under the name of Matthias. Clement of Alexandria refers to a text that he calls the traditions of Matthias in Miscellanies 2.9 and 7.13. Is this gospel of Matthias the same text?

We have multiple attestation for the importance of Matthias (refer to Acts 1.23-26) among some gnostic groups. Clement of Alexandria writes in Miscellanies 3.4 of certain gnostics:

Λεγουσι γουν και τον Ματθιαν ουτω διδαξαι· Σαρκι μεν μαχεσθαι και παραχρησθαι, μηθεν αυτη προς ηδονην ακολαστον ενδιδοντα· ψυχην δε αυξειν δια πιστεως και γνωσεως.

They say that Matthias also taught thus: To fight against the flesh and misuse it, in no way giving in to it for unchastised pleasure, and to increase the soul through faith and knowledge.

And Hippolytus writes in Refutation 7.8:

Βασιλειδης τοινυν και Ισιδωρος ο Βασιλειδου παις γνησιος και μαθητης φασιν ειρηκεναι Ματθιαν αυτοις λογους αποκρυφους ους ηκουσε παρα του σωτηρος κατ ιδιαν διδαχθεις. ιδωμεν ουν πως καταφανως Βασιλειδης ομου και Ισιδωρος και πας ο τουτων χορος ουχ απλως καταψευδεται μονου Ματθιου, αλλα γαρ και του σωτηρος αυτου.

Basilides, then, and Isidore the legitimate child and disciple of Basilides say that Matthias spoke to them apocryphal words which he had heard from the savior, having been taught in private. We see, therefore, how said Basilides together with Isidore and their entire chorus make a liar, not simply of Matthias alone, but even also of his savior.

It is therefore quite conceivable that different gnostics or gnostic groups produced different gnostic texts and independently named them after Matthias. We may never know for certain unless we were to find an actual text or two capable of explaining all the patristic references.

Echoing the title used by Origen, the Gelasian decree (available online in Latin) lists a gospel of Matthias (evangelium nomine Mathiae) as an apocryphon (apocryphum), as does the list of sixty books (available online in English translation).

Implications for attestation.

We have seen several examples of indirect attestation in this endeavor. I have already pointed out that the gospel of Basilides, if Hippolytus and Epiphanius are quoting it correctly, attests to several New Testament books. But each of our other apocryphal texts from this Origenic list also bears potential witness to other primitive Christian works.

There seems to be little doubt that the Ebionite gospel depended on the gospels of Matthew and Luke, at least. And Origen is, with the possible exception of some vaguer comments by Irenaeus, our earliest father to attest to the Ebionite gospel... provided our interpretation of his title is accurate.

The gospel of the Egyptians would attest at least to the figure of Salome, familiar to us from Mark 15.40; 16.1. It is more difficult to determine whether this attestation would also extend to the gospel of Mark itself, since it is at least possible that Salome gained some fame in her own right apart from Mark (though her absence from the other canonical gospels may stand against that option).

Whether the gospel of Thomas attests the gospels is, of course, hotly debated. Some scholars suppose that it is completely independent of any of the canonical four, while others prefer to think that it presumes all four together; and there are positions staked out all along the spectrum between these two poles (Stevan Davies even suggests that Mark depended upon Thomas, and not vice versa).

Finally, the gospel or traditions of Matthias may attest to the Lucan volumes, since it is in Acts 1.23-26 that Matthias appears as a replacement for Judas, and Clement of Alexandria even mentions in Miscellanies 4.6 the opinion of some in his day that the Zaccheus who appears in Luke 19.1-10 was actually Matthias. But it is also possible (as with Salome) that Matthias may have gained some fame in his own right apart from Acts 1.23-26, and Clement does not explicitly attribute the equation of Zaccheus and Matthias to any text.

It ought to be noticed that these indirect attestations are much more tenuous than the direct attestations in which an author quotes from an extant book by name.

In my next installment I will discuss the Eusebian canon.

Canonical lists (part 4a, the Eusebian canon).

Posted 11-14-2006.

This post is part 4a of my series on ancient canonical lists, and was longer in the making than I had anticipated. Job and family matters have unfortunately been pressing on my blogging time.

The canon of scripture is one of the most pervasive themes in the great history of the church that Eusebius of Caesarea assembled. It closely parallels another of his dearest themes, that of the apostolic succession. As Eusebius runs through the various churchmen whom he regards as standing in the tradition of the apostles, he frequently collects passages and snippets from those churchmen that give some idea of the personal canon of each. Indeed, we have already seen such a catalogue compiled by Eusebius on behalf of the great Alexandrian father Origen.

Eusebius neatly and helpfully summarizes his own personal canon in History of the Church 3.25.1-7. In this list he divides the books into four categories. This present post will deal mainly with the first two of those categories; the next post, part 4b, will deal mainly with the last two.

Eusebius writes:

Ευλογον δ ενταυθα γενομενους ανακεφαλαιωσασθαι τας δηλωθεισας της καινης διαθηκης γραφας.

At this point it seems reasonable to summarize the writings of the New Testament which have been cited.

Και δη τακτεον εν πρωτοις την αγιαν των ευαγγελιων τετρακτυν, οις επεται η των πραξεων των αποστολων γραφη. μετα δε ταυτην τας Παυλου καταλεκτεον επιστολας, αις εξης την φερομενην Ιωαννου προτεραν, και ομοιως την Πετρου κυρωτεον επιστολην. επι τουτοις τακτεον, ειγε φανειη, την αποκαλυψιν Ιωαννου, περι ης τα δοξαντα κατα καιρον εκθησομεθα. και ταυτα μεν εν ομολογουμενοις.

And indeed in the first places should the holy tetrad of the gospels be ordered, after which follows the writing of the Acts of the Apostles. And after this should be catalogued the epistles of Paul, to which follows the extant epistle of John, the former one, and likewise should be effected the epistle of Peter. After these should be ordered, if indeed it appears right, the apocalypse of John, about which the arguments shall be set out in time. And these are among the confessed [books].

Των δ αντιλεγομενων, γνωριμων δ ουν ομως τοις πολλοις, η λεγομενη Ιακωβου φερεται, και η Ιουδα, η τε Πετρου δευτερα επιστολη, και η ονομαζομενη δευτερα και τριτη Ιωαννου, ειτε του ευαγγελιστου τυγχανουσαι, ειτε και ετερου ομωνυμου εκεινω.

Of the disputed [books], and those nevertheless known to the many, the epistle called of James is extant, and that of Jude, and the second of Peter, and that named the second and third of John, whether these happen to be of the evangelist or even of another with the same name as his.

Εν τοις νοθοις κατατεταχθω και των Παυλου πραξεων η γραφη, ο τε λεγομενος ποιμην, και η αποκαλυψις Πετρου, και προς τουτοις η φερομενη Βαρναβα επιστολη, και των αποστολων αι λεγομεναι διδαχαι· ετι τε, ως εφην, η Ιωαννου αποκαλυψις, ει φανειη, ην τινες ως εφην αθετουσιν, ετεροι δε εγκρινουσι τοις ομολογουμενοις. ηδη δ εν τουτοις τινες και το καθ Εβραιους ευαγγελιον κατελεξαν, ω μαλιστα Εβραιων οι τον Χριστον παραδεξαμενοι χαιρουσι. ταυτα μεν παντα των αντιλεγομενων αν ειη.

Among the illegitimate [books] must be ordered the writing of the Acts of Paul, that called the Shepherd, and the apocalypse of Peter, and on top of these the extant epistle of Barnabas, and those called the teachings of the apostles, and yet, as I said, the apocalypse of John, if it appears right, which some, as I said, set aside, but others adjudge it among the confessed [books]. And some indeed catalogue also the gospel according to the Hebrews among these, in which those of the Hebrews who have accepted Christ especially rejoice. All these might be of the disputed [books].

Αναγκαιως δε και τουτων ομως τον καταλογον πεποιημεθα, διακριναντες τας τε κατα την εκκλησιαστικην παραδοσιν αληθεις και απλαστους και ανωμολογημενας γραφας, και τας αλλας παρα ταυτας, ουκ ενδιαθηκους μεν αλλα και αντιλεγομενας, ομως δε παρα πλειστοις των εκκλησιαστικων προφερομενας, ητοι ως Πετρου και Θωμα και Ματθια, η και τινων παρα τουτους αλλων ευαγγελια περιεχουσας, η ως Ανδρεου και Ιωαννου και των αλλων αποστολων πραξεις, ων ουδεν ουδαμως εν συγγραμματι των κατα διαδοχας εκκλησιαστικων τις ανηρ εις μνημην αγαγειν ηξιωσεν. πορρω δε που και ο της φρασεως παρα το ηθος το αποστολικον εναλλαττει χαρακτηρ, η τε γνωμη και η των εν αυτοις φερομενων προαιρεσις πλειστον οσον της αληθους ορθοδοξιας απαδουσα οτι δη αιρετικων ανδρων αναπλασματα τυγχανει, σαφως παριστησιν· οθεν ουδ εν νοθοις αυτα κατατακτεον, αλλ ως ατοπα παντη και δυσσεβη παραιτητεον.

But we have also necessarily made a catalogue of these likewise, judging between those writings which are, according to the ecclesiastical tradition, true and genuine and confessed and the others with these, not testamental but indeed disputed, but likewise available to most of the ecclesiastical men, either gospels held forth as of Peter or of Thomas or of Matthias, or also of certain others besides these, or the acts as of Andrew or of John and the other apostles, of which none of the ecclesiastical men in the succession has in any way seen fit to make mention in his writing. And moreover, somehow even the character of the phrasing differs from the apostolic style, and the opinion and tendency of those things extant in them is so very far from the true orthodoxy that it is indeed clear that they happen to be the forgeries of heretical men. They ought therefore not even to be ordered among the illegitimate [books], but shunned as altogether improper and irreligious.

It will be most convenient to break this catalogue down into its four parts and simply list the books in each.

Undisputed books (ομολογουμενοι):

Epistles of Paul.
Epistle 1 of John.
Epistle 1 of Peter.
Apocalypse of John.

Disputed books (αντιλεγομενοι):

Epistle of James.
Epistle of Jude.
Epistle 2 of Peter.
Epistle 2 of John.
Epistle 3 of John.

Illegitimate books (νοθοι):

Acts of Paul.
Shepherd of Hermas.
Apocalypse of Peter.
Epistle of Barnabas.
Teachings of the Apostles.
Apocalypse of John.
Gospel of the Hebrews.

Spurious books:

Gospel of Peter.
Gospel of Thomas.
Gospel of Matthias.
Acts of Andrew.
Acts of John.

What a superbly textured glimpse into the state of canonical affairs early in century IV! This unique fourfold breakdown along a spectrum from more to less authoritative and accepted gives us a very clear picture of how the church at large treated these various texts. That Eusebius had his finger on the pulse of his time is clear. It is customary to say that Athanasius (whose list I will present as part of a future installment) was the first to compile a list that matches our own modern New Testament canon, but I think that Eusebius deserves at least an asterisk here; it turns out that the sum total of his first two categories (undisputed and disputed) is also cleanly identical to our own modern canon.*

* This statement is true only if Eusebius counted the epistle to the Hebrews among the Pauline epistles. But that this was indeed the case seems quite clear from the facts that (A) this epistle does not appear elsewhere on the list, (B) in History of the Church 3.3.4 Eusebius writes in his own words of the fourteen (not thirteen) Pauline epistles, and (C) in History of the Church 3.38.1-5 he seems to side with those fathers who opined that Paul wrote the epistle in Hebrew and Clement of Rome translated it into Greek.

The one little wrinkle, of course, is the famous double placement of the apocalypse of John; it makes the list twice, once among the undisputed books and again among the illegitimate books. Why would Eusebius have done this?

There can never be an absolute answer to this question, since of course nothing up front was cruelly forcing Eusebius into this course of action. In retrospect, however, it ought hypothetically to be possible to explain why he decided to list the apocalypse of John twice.

I note that Eusebius seems to have reserved the list of disputed books for those texts for which the earliest attestation was fairly late, usually late century II. The epistle of Jude is not cited by name earlier than either the Muratorian canon or Clement of Alexandria; that of James is not named until Origen. The second epistle of Peter, likewise, is not named until Origen, and then only to be recognized as a disputed work. As for the second and third epistles of John, the Muratorian canon mentions two Johannine epistles only (a mystery, to be sure), and Irenaeus is just as mysterious; in Against Heresies 3.16.5 he paraphrases 1 John 2.18-22 as from what he calls the epistle of John, but then in 3.16.8 he quotes 2 John [1.]7-8 as from the same epistle already mentioned (praedicta epistola) before quoting from 1 John 4.1-2, without dropping any hint that he has quoted from two different epistles of John.* Origen later lists both 2 John and 3 John as disputed books.

* Given that the Muratorian canon mentions only two Johannine epistles and Irenaeus refers to 1 and 2 John as if they were from the same epistle, it is worth thinking about the possibility that 1 and 2 John were combined in some circles and considered to be a single Johannine epistle while 3 John was considered a second Johannine epistle. This is not my preferred reconstruction, but the merging of these peculiar data from Irenaeus and the Muratorian fragment does carry a certain appeal.

The apocalypse of John would seem out of place in this group of disputed books, for, as we shall see, it enjoys rather early attestation. It would thus fit in more properly with the books in the first category, the undisputed books, and indeed that is where Eusebius initially places it. The books in this esteemed category, while perhaps a mixed bag with respect to attestation if listed one by one, are more evenly attested in earliest church history when considered within the groups that Eusebius has given us.

For example, while it is true that, say, the gospel of Luke is not actually named very early (it is first named by Irenaeus), this text is nevertheless part of the fourfold gospel, of which Matthew and Mark are attested by name as early as Papias. Furthermore, Eusebius knew that Marcion had edited a version of Luke for his own purposes, and Eusebius would almost certainly have interpreted a reference such as the one found in Justin Martyr, Dialogue 103.8, as a direct quotation of Luke (Justin writes that according to the [apostolic] memoirs Jesus sweat great drops of blood, an incident found only in the most commonly received text of Luke 22.42-44). Given that Eusebius, like the rest of the fathers and nearly every modern commentator, knew that the same person who penned the third canonical gospel also composed the Acts of the Apostles, this text too would be an easy candidate for the undisputed category, despite its comparably late attestation by name (Irenaeus, I believe, is the first to quote from it by name; refer, for instance, to Against Heresies 3.13.3; 3.14.1). Not to mention that Papias refers to Justus called Barsabbas, whom Eusebius explicitly links to Acts 1.23 in History of the Church 3.39.9-10.

Likewise, not all of the epistles of Paul are attested very early, but, once we grant that some of them are attested as early as Ignatius (refer to Ephesians 12.2; Romans 4.3) and Clement of Rome (refer to 1 Clement 47.1), we have to admit that to consider all fourteen as genuinely Pauline, as Eusebius did, entails placing them all in the same category.

The gospel of John is not necessarily attested very early by name, but Eusebius would surely have interpreted a reference such as the one found in Justin Martyr, Apology 1.61.4-5, as a direct quotation of John (Justin affirms that Christ said that, unless one is born again, one will not enter the kingdom of heaven, a saying found only in John 3.3). As for 1 Peter and 1 John, Eusebius writes in History of the Church 3.39.17 that Papias used testimonies from these two epistles, giving the pair of them an extremely early attestation.

In short, each book in this first group is attested by the middle of century II if we consider each book with the broader group, if any, to which it belongs and if we look at things from the Eusebian point of view. I doubt that Eusebius exactly intended to draw a line of attestation somewhere after Justin Martyr and before Irenaeus, but that he was indeed concerned with early attestation is clear, for example, from History of the Church 3.3.5-7, in which he admits that some of the most ancient writers used (των παλαιτατων... συγγραφεων κεχρημενους τιμας) the Shepherd of Hermas.

The apocalypse of John is attested just as early as most of the texts in this first category. Justin Martyr writes in Dialogue with Trypho 81.4:

Και επειδη και παρ ημιν ανηρ τις ω ονομα Ιωαννης, εις των αποστολων του Χριστου, εν αποκαλυψει γενομενη αυτω χιλια ετη ποιησειν εν Ιερουσαλημ τους τω ημετερω Χριστω πιστευσαντας προεφητευσε, και μετα ταυτα την καθολικην και, συνελοντι φαναι, αιωνιαν ομοθυμαδον αμα παντων αναστασιν γενησεσθαι και κρισιν, οπερ και ο κυριος ημων ειπεν, οτι, Ουτε γαμησουσιν ουτε γαμηθησονται, αλλα ισαγγελοι εσονται, τεκνα του θεου της αναστασεως οντες.

And further, a certain man among us whose name was John, one of the apostles of Christ, also prophesied in a revelation that came to him that those who have put faith in our Christ will do a thousand years in Jerusalem, and after these things the general and, to speak collectively, eternal resurrection and judgment of all will come about all together at once, which our Lord also said: They shall neither marry nor be given in marriage, but shall be like the angels, being children of God, of the resurrection.

And Eusebius himself intimates in History of the Church 3.39.5-6 that Papias was intimately acquainted with the John who wrote the apocalypse and not with the John who wrote the gospel. Given the close association of both Papias and the apocalypse of John with chiliasm, it seems reasonable to suppose that Eusebius thought Papias knew the apocalypse. It also appears quite likely that Papias did cite the book explicitly, and Eusebius simply did not mention it in his works, since Andrew of Caesarea writes in the preface to his work On the Apocalypse:

Περι μεντοι του θεοπνευστου της βιβλου, περιττον μηκυνειν τον λογον ηγουμεθα, των μακαριων Γρηγοριου, φημι του θεολογου, και Κυριλλου, προσετι δε και των αρχαιοτερων Παπιου, Ειρηναιου, Μεθοδιου, και Ιππολυτου ταυτη προσμαρτυρουντων το αξιοπιστον.

Concerning, however, the divine inspiration of the book we consider it superfluous to lengthen the discussion, since the blessed Gregory, I speak of the theologian, and Cyril, and even yet the ancients, such as Papias, Methodius, and Hippolytus, all bear testimony as to its worthiness.

After both Papias and Justin, of course, Irenaeus and a whole line of chiliasts (Hippolytus, Methodius, Victorinus, and others) would embrace this mysterious book wholeheartedly. Moreover, and perhaps most importantly, we have noted that even the illustrious Origen, according to History of the Church 6.25.8, accepted the apocalypse of John. It is easy to see why Eusebius, an Origenist at heart, would have placed this book in his first category.

Eusebius, however, also knew that mighty patristic voices had contended against the book. He himself mentions Gaius of Rome in History of the Church 3.28.1-2:

Κατα τους δηλουμενους χρονους ετερας αιρεσεως αρχηγον γενεσθαι Κηρινθον παρειληφαμεν· Γαιος, ου φωνας ηδη προτερον παρατεθειμαι, εν τη φερομενη αυτου ζητησει ταυτα περι αυτου γραφει· Αλλα και Κηρινθος ο δι αποκαλυψεων ως υπο αποστολου μεγαλου γεγραμμενων τερατολογιας ημιν ως δι αγγελων αυτω δεδειγμενας ψευδομενος επεισαγει, λεγων μετα την αναστασιν επιγειον ειναι το βασιλειον του Χριστου και παλιν επιθυμιαις και ηδοναις εν Ιερουσαλημ την σαρκα πολιτευομενην δουλευειν. και εχθρος υπαρχων ταις γραφαις του θεου, αριθμον χιλιονταετιας εν γαμω εορτης, θελων πλαναν, λεγει γινεσθαι.

We have received the tradition that at the time under discussion Cerinthus founded another heresy. Gaius, whose words I have quoted before, in the inquiry attributed to him writes as follows about Cerinthus: Moreover, Cerinthus, who through revelations attributed to the writing of a great apostle lyingly introduces portents to us as though shown him by angels, and says that after the resurrection the kingdom of Christ will be on earth and that humanity living in Jerusalem will again be the slave of desire and pleasure. He is the enemy of the scriptures of God, and in his desire to deceive he says that the marriage feast will last a thousand years.

In History of the Church 7.25.1-27 he quotes the antichiliast Dionysius of Alexandria at length to the effect that the John who wrote the apocalypse was not the apostle John who wrote the gospel. In a study that in many ways anticipates modern literary criticism, Dionysius mounted a formidable argument for two authors named John based on differences in vocabulary and style, differences in authorial self-expression, the wide availability of the name John, the barbarisms in the apocalypse not shared by the gospel, and the tradition of two distinct tombs in Ephesus bearing the name of John. The argument is well worth reading in its entirety, and I have recently made it available on my page on the apocalypse.

So Eusebius had a problem. On the one hand, the apocalypse enjoyed remarkably early attestation, like the books in his first category (and unlike the books in his second), but on the other hand quite a few ecclesiastical writers rejected it completely, like the books in his third category. His solution was to enlist the book in both relevant categories, each time with the qualifying phrase if it appears right (ει[γε] φανειη). Eusebius, always ecumenical in his approach, thus attempted to appease both sides of the raging debate.

In studying this unusual double entry of the apocalypse of John we have now had occasion to touch upon the attestation for all the books in the first two categories. There remain the last two categories, the illegitimate and the spurious, which I will handle in my next installment.

Canonical lists (part 4b, the Eusebian canon).

Posted 01-12-2007.

This post is part 4b of my series on ancient canonical lists.

Eusebius writes in History of the Church 3.25.1-7:

Ευλογον δ ενταυθα γενομενους ανακεφαλαιωσασθαι τας δηλωθεισας της καινης διαθηκης γραφας.

At this point it seems reasonable to summarize the writings of the New Testament which have been cited.

Και δη τακτεον εν πρωτοις την αγιαν των ευαγγελιων τετρακτυν, οις επεται η των πραξεων των αποστολων γραφη. μετα δε ταυτην τας Παυλου καταλεκτεον επιστολας, αις εξης την φερομενην Ιωαννου προτεραν, και ομοιως την Πετρου κυρωτεον επιστολην. επι τουτοις τακτεον, ειγε φανειη, την αποκαλυψιν Ιωαννου, περι ης τα δοξαντα κατα καιρον εκθησομεθα. και ταυτα μεν εν ομολογουμενοις.

And indeed in the first places should the holy tetrad of the gospels be ordered, after which follows the writing of the Acts of the Apostles. And after this should be catalogued the epistles of Paul, to which follows the extant epistle of John, the former one, and likewise should be effected the epistle of Peter. After these should be ordered, if indeed it appears right, the apocalypse of John, about which the arguments shall be set out in time. And these are among the confessed [books].

Των δ αντιλεγομενων, γνωριμων δ ουν ομως τοις πολλοις, η λεγομενη Ιακωβου φερεται, και η Ιουδα, η τε Πετρου δευτερα επιστολη, και η ονομαζομενη δευτερα και τριτη Ιωαννου, ειτε του ευαγγελιστου τυγχανουσαι, ειτε και ετερου ομωνυμου εκεινω.

Of the disputed [books], and those nevertheless known to the many, the epistle called of James is extant, and that of Jude, and the second of Peter, and that named the second and third of John, whether these happen to be of the evangelist or even of another with the same name as his.

Εν τοις νοθοις κατατεταχθω και των Παυλου πραξεων η γραφη, ο τε λεγομενος ποιμην, και η αποκαλυψις Πετρου, και προς τουτοις η φερομενη Βαρναβα επιστολη, και των αποστολων αι λεγομεναι διδαχαι· ετι τε, ως εφην, η Ιωαννου αποκαλυψις, ει φανειη, ην τινες ως εφην αθετουσιν, ετεροι δε εγκρινουσι τοις ομολογουμενοις. ηδη δ εν τουτοις τινες και το καθ Εβραιους ευαγγελιον κατελεξαν, ω μαλιστα Εβραιων οι τον Χριστον παραδεξαμενοι χαιρουσι. ταυτα μεν παντα των αντιλεγομενων αν ειη.

Among the illegitimate [books] must be ordered the writing of the Acts of Paul, that called the Shepherd, and the apocalypse of Peter, and on top of these the extant epistle of Barnabas, and those called the teachings of the apostles, and yet, as I said, the apocalypse of John, if it appears right, which some, as I said, set aside, but others adjudge it among the confessed [books]. And some indeed catalogue also the gospel according to the Hebrews among these, in which those of the Hebrews who have accepted Christ especially rejoice. All these might be of the disputed [books].

Αναγκαιως δε και τουτων ομως τον καταλογον πεποιημεθα, διακριναντες τας τε κατα την εκκλησιαστικην παραδοσιν αληθεις και απλαστους και ανωμολογημενας γραφας, και τας αλλας παρα ταυτας, ουκ ενδιαθηκους μεν αλλα και αντιλεγομενας, ομως δε παρα πλειστοις των εκκλησιαστικων προφερομενας, ητοι ως Πετρου και Θωμα και Ματθια, η και τινων παρα τουτους αλλων ευαγγελια περιεχουσας, η ως Ανδρεου και Ιωαννου και των αλλων αποστολων πραξεις, ων ουδεν ουδαμως εν συγγραμματι των κατα διαδοχας εκκλησιαστικων τις ανηρ εις μνημην αγαγειν ηξιωσεν. πορρω δε που και ο της φρασεως παρα το ηθος το αποστολικον εναλλαττει χαρακτηρ, η τε γνωμη και η των εν αυτοις φερομενων προαιρεσις πλειστον οσον της αληθους ορθοδοξιας απαδουσα οτι δη αιρετικων ανδρων αναπλασματα τυγχανει, σαφως παριστησιν· οθεν ουδ εν νοθοις αυτα κατατακτεον, αλλ ως ατοπα παντη και δυσσεβη παραιτητεον.

But we have also necessarily made a catalogue of these likewise, judging between those writings which are, according to the ecclesiastical tradition, true and genuine and confessed and the others with these, not testamental but indeed disputed, but likewise available to most of the ecclesiastical men, either gospels held forth as of Peter or of Thomas or of Matthias, or also of certain others besides these, or the acts as of Andrew or of John and the other apostles, of which none of the ecclesiastical men in the succession has in any way seen fit to make mention in his writing. And moreover, somehow even the character of the phrasing differs from the apostolic style, and the opinion and tendency of those things extant in them is so very far from the true orthodoxy that it is indeed clear that they happen to be the forgeries of heretical men. They ought therefore not even to be ordered among the illegitimate [books], but shunned as altogether improper and irreligious.

I again break this catalogue down into its four parts and list the books in each.

Undisputed books (ομολογουμενοι):

Epistles of Paul.
Epistle 1 of John.
Epistle 1 of Peter.
Apocalypse of John.

Disputed books (αντιλεγομενοι):

Epistle of James.
Epistle of Jude.
Epistle 2 of Peter.
Epistle 2 of John.
Epistle 3 of John.

Illegitimate books (νοθοι):

Acts of Paul.
Shepherd of Hermas.
Apocalypse of Peter.
Epistle of Barnabas.
Teachings of the Apostles.
Apocalypse of John.
Gospel of the Hebrews.

Spurious books:

Gospel of Peter.
Gospel of Thomas.
Gospel of Matthias.
Acts of Andrew.
Acts of John.

In post 4a of this series I dealt with the first two categories, the undisputed and disputed books. In this present post I will deal with the last two categories, the illegitimate books and another category which Eusebius does not actually name (unless we count the descriptors improper and irreligious as a category name), but which I am calling spurious just for convenience.

On the surface of things, it might seem like going overboard to list a category beyond illegitimate, and certainly any work placed in this last category should qualify as an illegitimate text in some way, but Eusebius avoids any actual overlap between these last two categories by relegating orthodox texts to the former and unorthodox texts to the latter. Both of these categories will give us a chance to look at some texts that we have not yet discussed.

The Acts of Paul are, to the best of my knowledge, first attested by Tertullian, who writes in On Baptism 17.5a:

Quod si quae acta Pauli, quae perperam scripta sunt, exemplum Theclae ad licentiam mulierum docendi tinguendique defendant, sciant in Asia presbyterum qui eam scripturam construxit, quasi titulo Pauli de suo cumulans, convictum atque confessum id se amore Pauli fecisse loco decessisse.

But if certain acts of Paul, which are falsely so named, claim the example of Thecla for allowing women to teach and to baptize, let men know that in Asia the presbyter who compiled that document, thinking to add of his own to the reputation of Paul, was found out, and, though he professed he had done it for love of Paul, he was deposed from his position.

Tertullian thus affords us a precious glimpse into part of the process of forming the canon of scripture. Here a text, apparently considered orthodox, is explicitly rejected on the grounds that it was composed falsely. This basis requires comment, since the extant text known as the Acts of Paul is not pseudonymous; it makes no authorial claim to be falsified. The falsity of the text, then, must rest with its contents; it claims to be the acts of Paul, but Paul performed no such acts. This is indeed the reason for which Tertullian takes the text to task; he disputes that the role of women in the days of Paul is accurately related in this document. Tertullian, then, rejected this text because it was known to be fictional.

Jerome writes amusingly of the Acts of Paul in On Famous Men 3, the chapter about Luke:

Igitur περιοδους Pauli et Theclae et totam baptizati leonis fabulam inter apocryphas scripturas computemus. quale enim est ut individuus comes apostoli inter ceteras eius res hoc solum ignoravit?

Therefore, the journeys of Paul and Thecla and the entire fable of the baptized lion we reckon among the apocryphal scriptures. For how is it that [Luke] the inseparable companion of the apostle would be among his other things ignorant of this matter alone?

You can learn more than you ever wanted to know about this baptized lion in chapter 4 of The Apocryphal Acts of Paul and Thecla: Studies on the Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles 2, by Tamás Adamik, available online in .pdf.

The next illegitimate work on the list is the Shepherd of Hermas. We have already had the opportunity to look at this text in conjunction with our discussion of the Muratorian canon. But I wish to add that this book was, next to (some of) the books of the New Testament, probably the most popular Christian work in antiquity before the time of Eusebius. It is attested generously amongst the church fathers and also amongst the Oxyrhynchus papyri.

Irenaeus quotes from Mandate 1.1 of the Shepherd as scripture in Against Heresies 4.20.2. It is indeed in this sense alone, I think, that Eusebius calls the book illegitimate; I think he is saying that it is not really scripture, not that it is not really written by Hermas at an early date. Clement of Alexandria quotes from the book frequently, and Tertullian famously calls it the Shepherd of the adulterers (pastore moechorum) because of its laxness with regard to repentance.

Oxyrhynchus papyri 5, 404, 1172, 1599, 1823, 1873, 3526, and 3527 are fragments of the Shepherd, as are Berlin papyri 5104, 5513, 6789, and 13272. Attestation is just not much of a problem for this book by Hermas; it outstrips the attestation for a number of New Testament texts.

The next three texts on this list (the apocalypse of Peter, the epistle of Barnabas, and the teaching of the twelve) share a common feature: In the early period all three are attested primarily by Clement of Alexandria.

Eusebius writes as follows of Clement in History of the Church 6.14.1:

Εν δε ταις υποτυπωσεσιν ξυνελοντα ειπειν πασης της ενδιαθηκου γραφης επιτετμημενας πεποιηται διηγησεις, μηδε τας αντιλεγομενας παρελθων, την Ιουδα λεγω και τας λοιπας καθολικας επιστολας, την τε Βαρναβα και την Πετρου λεγομενην αποκαλυψιν.

And in the Hypotyposeis, to speak briefly, he has made concise accounts of every testamental scripture, not even leaving out the disputed* ones, that of Jude, I say, and the rest of the catholic epistles, and that of Barnabas as well as that called the apocalypse of Peter.

* It is interesting to note that here Eusebius lumps the catholic epistles, the epistle of Barnabas, and the apocalypse of Peter under the same umbrella, calling them each and all disputed (αντιλεγομενας), thus pointing up the artificiality of the categories in his canonical list, in which (most of) the catholic epistles appear in the disputed group but the other two named works appear in the illegitimate group. I think his four categories make perfect sense on their own merits, but the sense that they make is not bound up with the title he gives to each category, nor does he commit himself to those titles in other parts of his history.

Recall that the Muratorian canon accepts two apocalypses, namely those of John and of Peter. But it appears from what Eusebius says about Clement that the illustrious Alexandrian father actually wrote some sort of brief commentary on this apocalypse, right along with the catholic epistles and the epistle of Barnabas. Of all the ancient Christian texts lost to us, surely there are few whose loss is more keenly felt than that of the Outlines, or Hypotyposeis, of Clement. Only the discovery of the five lost books of Papias would be of possibly more value.

Proof that Clement appreciated the epistle of Barnabas is abundant in another of his major works, the Miscellanies, or Stromata. Clement quotes explicitly from Barnabas at least seven times in books 2 and 5. One of these quotations comes at 2.6:

Εικοτως ουν ο αποστολος Βαρναβας· Αφ ου, φησιν, ελαβον μερους, εσπουδασα κατα μικρον υμιν πεμψαι, ινα μετα της πιστεως υμων τελειαν εχητε και την γνωσιν. της μεν ουν πιστεως ημων εισιν οι συλληπτορες φοβος και υπομονη, τα δε συμμαχουντα ημιν μακροθυμια και εγκρατεια. τουτων ουν, φησι, τα προς τον κυριον μενοντων αγνως, συνευφραινονται αυτοις σοφια, συνεσις, επιστημη, γνωσις.

Reasonably therefore does the apostle Barnabas say: From the portion which I have received I have hastened to send little by little to you, so that with your faith you might also have perfect knowledge.1 So fear and endurance are the accomplices of our faith, and longsuffering and temperance are our allies. Since these, therefore, he says, remain in purity in things toward the Lord, wisdom, intelligence, understanding, [and] knowledge rejoice with them.2

1 Refer to Barnabas 1.5.
2 Refer to Barnabas 2.3.

For the precedent in calling Barnabas an apostle, see Acts 14.4, 14. In Miscellanies 2.20 Clement calls Barnabas an apostolic man, one of the seventy (see Luke 10.1, 17), and a fellow worker with Paul.

I mentioned that Tertullian famously calls the Shepherd of Hermas the Shepherd of the adulterers; in context, he does so comparing it (unfavorably) with a text he calls the epistle of Barnabas. However, the epistle he has in mind is apparently the epistle to the Hebrews. His words, in On Modesty 20.2, are:

Extat enim et Barnabae titulus ad Hebraeos, a deo satis auctorati viri, ut quem Paulus iuxta se constituerit in abstinentiae tenore: Aut ego solus et Barnabas non habemus operandi potestatem? et utique receptior apud ecclesias epistola Barnabae illo apocrypho pastore moechorum.

For there is extant an epistle to the Hebrews under the name of Barnabas, a man sufficiently accredited by God, as being one whom Paul has stationed next to himself in the uninterrupted observance of abstinence: Or else, I alone and Barnabas, have not we the power of working? And of course the epistle of Barnabas is more generally received among the churches than that apocryphal Shepherd of the adulterers.

I doubt it can be clearly decided whether Barnabas really wrote the epistle to the Hebrews but was mistakenly given the epistle of Barnabas in church tradition or whether Tertullian has confused the two epistles, naming the epistle to the Hebrews after the epistle of Barnabas. That both epistles draw heavily on Old Testament typology probably would have contributed to any confusion between them.

We move on to what are called the teachings of the apostles (των αποστολων αι λεγομεναι διδαχαι). Eusebius uses the plural teachings here, but there is little doubt that he means the teaching of the Lord through the twelve apostles to the gentiles or nations (διδαχη κυριου δια των δωδεκα αποστολων τοις εθνεσιν), commonly called the Didache.

This text was known only through patristic references like this one until 1873, when the metropolitan Bryennios discovered a Greek manuscript containing it, along with the epistle of Barnabas, the long form of the Ignatian letters, and both epistles of Clement. It is now apparent that the Didache was absorbed almost whole into the Apostolic Constitutions (century IV) and used in the Didascalia (century II or III).

Clement of Alexandria again provides our earliest solid attestation. He writes in Salvation of the Rich Man 29:

Ουτος {ο} τον οινον, το αιμα της αμπελου της Δαβιδ, εκχεας ημων επι τας τετρωμενας ψυχας.

This is the one who has poured out the wine, the blood of the vine of David, upon our wounded souls.

Didache 9.2 refers to the holy vine of David (της αγιας αμπελου Δαυιδ) in conjunction with the eucharistic cup. But this overlap between Clement and the Didache could be chalked up to a common tradition. Miscellanies 7.12 also refers to concepts that overlap Didache 8.1 (fasting on Wednesday and Friday) and 14.1 (gathering on the day of the Lord), but again the explanation could be a common tradition.

Far more conclusive is what Clement has to say in Miscellanies 1.20:

Εμπαλιν ουν αδικει ο σφετερισαμενος τα βαρβαρων και ως ιδιαν αυχων την εαυτου δοξαν αυξων, και ψευδομενος την αληθιαν· ουτος κλεπτης υπο της γραφης ειρεται. φησι γουν· Υιε, μη γινου ψευστης· οδηγει γαρ το ψευσμα προς την κλοπην.

Again, therefore, the one who has adopted the things of the barbarians, and vaunts them as his own, does unjustly, and has falsified the truth. This man is said to be a thief by the scripture. It says therefore: Son, do not become false; for falsehood is the road to thievery.

Clement says that the saying about falsehood and thievery derives from scripture, and Didache 3.5 is the only candidate of which I am aware.

Oxyrhynchus papyrus 1782, dated to century IV, contains Didache 1.3c-1.4a; 2.7b-3.2a.

The next book on the list of illegitimate works is the apocalypse of John, which we have already examined in some detail in part 4a, since Eusebius included it twice on his list.

This brings us to the ever interesting gospel according to the Hebrews, the last illegitimate work on the list. Clement of Alexandria yet again provides us with our earliest explicit attestation for this lost Jewish-Christian gospel. He writes in Miscellanies 2.9:

Η καν τω καθ Εβραιους ευαγγελιω, Ο θαυμασας βασιλευσει, γεγραπται, και ο βασιλευσας αναπαυθησεται.

Which also is written in the gospel according to the Hebrews: He who marveled shall reign, and he who reigned shall rest.

He repeats the substance of this line in Miscellanies 5.14:

Ισον γαρ τουτοις εκεινα δυναται· Ου παυσεται ο ζητων, εως αν ευρη· ευρων δε, θαμβηθησεται· θαμβηθεις δε, βασιλευσει· βασιλευσας δε, επαναπαυσεται.

For those things can be the same as these: He who seeks shall not cease until he finds, and finding he shall marvel, and having marveled he shall reign, and having reigned he shall rest.

This saying finds a parallel in the apocryphal oracle that Eusebius attributes to the cult of Simon Magus. Eusebius writes in History of the Church 2.13.7 of the followers of Simon:

Τα δε τουτων αυτοις απορρητοτερα, ων φασι τον πρωτον επακουσαντα εκπλαγησεσθαι, και κατα τι παρ αυτοις λογιον εγγραφον θαμβωθησεσθαι, θαμβους ως αληθως και φρενων εκστασεως και μανιας εμπλεα τυγχανει....

And the most unspoken of these [rites] of theirs, of which they say that the one hearing them for the first time will be astonished, and according to a certain written oracle among them will be made to marvel, happen of a truth to be full of marvel and ecstatic thoughts and mania....

Similar sayings may also be found in Thomas 2 and amongst the fragments of the lost traditions of Matthias.

But overall the attestation for the gospel of the Hebrews is notoriously complex; refer to my page on the Jewish-Christian gospels for more information.

The next sublist that Eusebius offers is the catalogue of works of which none of the ecclesiastical men in the [apostolic] succession has in any way seen fit to make mention in his writing (ων ουδεν ουδαμως εν συγγραμματι των κατα διαδοχας εκκλησιαστικων τις ανηρ εις μνημην αγαγειν ηξιωσεν). These are not works that were rejected from the canon; they were never close enough to the canon to be rejected. Eusebius gives a list of three apocryphal gospels and two apocryphal acts.

The first gospel is that of Peter. Eusebius himself provides us with the text of our earliest patristic attestation to this gospel in History of the Church 6.12.2-6; 6.13.1a. The text is that of Serapion, bishop of Antioch late in century II, and its title is, appropriately enough, About the Gospel Called According to Peter. This book, like so many others from antiquity, has been lost; but Eusebius preserves a fragment in which Serapion admits to having originally allowed the gospel to be read. Then he learned that the community, at Rhossus, that had been reading this gospel was inclining toward docetism; immediately he forbade its further use. Even so, Serapion goes on to affirm that most of the things in the gospel were correct, but then he announces that he will list the incorrect things. And then Eusebius breaks off the quotation.

Origen is our next patristic source. He writes in On Matthew 10.17:

Τους δε αδελφους Ιησου φασι τινες ειναι, εκ παραδοσεως ορμωμενοι του επιγεγραμμενου κατα Πετρον ευαγγελιου η της βιβλου Ιακωβου, υιους Ιωσηφ εκ προτερας γυναικος συνωκηκυιας αυτω προ της Μαριας.

But some, depending on a tradition of the gospel inscribed according to Peter, or of the book of James, say that the brothers of Jesus were sons of Joseph from a former wife, married to him before Mary.

We have to take Origen at his word here, since the text as we have it is fragmented and covers only the passion of Jesus, with nothing about the dominical family. Our main textual source is the Akhmîm fragment from the codex known as Panopolitanus, or Cairensis 10759, discovered in 1892. However, a much briefer fragment is also preserved in papyrus Oxyrhynchus 2949, dated to century II or III. Further information may be found on my gospel of Peter page.

Eusebius next lists the gospel of Thomas. Like the gospel of Peter, this text was known only from patristic quotations for a very long time. Then, in 1945, the Nag Hammadi cache was discovered, and the gospel of Thomas was one of the texts preserved, in Coptic, in codex II. It was then discovered that three Greek fragments of the gospel had been extant since the twenties in the form of papyri Oxyrhynchus 1, 654, and 655. We have already found the opportunity to discuss the gospel of Thomas and its earliest patristic attestation in Hippolytus in post 3b on the Origenic canon.

The third gospel on the list is that of Matthias, and again we have already discussed its attestation briefly in post 3b.

The two acts on the list are those of Andrew and of John. Eusebius himself in this catalogue provides our earliest explicit attestation to both of these texts, though it is possible that Origen knew at least the acts of John, this possibility arising from the Origenic tradition that Eusebius quotes in History of the Church 3.1.1 to the effect that John was alloted Asia, where he lived for some time and died; but it seems just as likely to me that this was standard ecclesiastical tradition as that Origen got it straight from the acts of John.

It is at this stage in church history that my own knowledge of affairs begins to sharply decline. I am not singularly qualified to comment very much about the state of the canon after century IV or V. But this series is not over. I still have a handful of canonical lists both in the original Greek or Latin and in my own English translation that I intend to post on this weblog. The main difference between this second leg of the series and the first leg, which this post concludes, is that now each post will consist mainly of the text and translation, with fewer comments on my part (for better or for worse).

In my next entry, then, I will post the Cheltenham canonical list discovered by the great Theodor Mommsen.

Canonical lists (part 5, the Cheltenham canon).

Posted 03-10-2007.

This post is part 5 of my series on ancient canonical lists.

Theodor Mommsen discovered the Cheltenham canon, which is usually dated to century IV, in a manuscript of century X in a private library in Cheltenham, England. He published it in 1886. The New Testament part of the list runs as follows:

Sed ut in apocalypsi Iohannis dictum est: Vidi XXIIII seniores mittentes coronas suas ante thronum, maiores nostri probant hos libros esse canonicos et hoc dixisse seniores.

Item indiculum novi testamenti:

  • Evangelia IIII:
    • Mattheum, v{e}r{sus} IIDCC.
    • Marcum, ver{sus} MDCC.
    • Iohannem, v{e}r{sus} MDCCC.
    • Lucam, v{e}r{sus} IIICCC.
    Fiunt omnes versus X.
  • Ep{istu}lae Pauli, n{umero} XIII.
  • Actus ap{osto}lorum, ver{sus} IIIDC.
  • Apocalipsis, ver{sus} MDCCC.
  • Ep{istu}lae Iohannis III, v{e}r{sus} CCCL, una sola.
  • Ep{istu}lae Petri II, ver{sus} CCC, una sola.

But as it is said in the apocalypse of John: I saw twenty-four elders offering their crowns before the throne, our forebears approved that these books are canonical and that the elders said this. The index, then, of the New Testament [runs as follows]: The four gospels, [being] Matthew, 2700 verses; Mark, 1700 verses; John, 1800 verses; Luke, 3300 verses; all [of these together] are 10000 verses; the epistles of Paul, thirteen in number; the acts of the apostles, 3600 lines; the apocalypse, 1800 lines; the three epistles of John, 350 lines, one only; the two epistles of Peter, 300 lines, one only.

Let me lay out the canon in list format:

  • Four gospels.
    1. Gospel of Matthew.
    2. Gospel of Mark.
    3. Gospel of John.
    4. Gospel of Luke.
  • Thirteen Pauline epistles.
  • Acts.
  • Apocalypse.
  • Three epistles of John, one only (?).
  • Two epistles of Peter, one only (?).

As I noted in my last post, I will keep my comments very brief.

First, this is our first encounter in this series with the concept of stichometry, the measurement of ancient texts by στιχοι (stichoi). In this case, of course, the measurement is by versus, which Latin term I have rather mechanically translated as verses. Certainly our modern versification system is not in view here.

I think what is being counted is either lines on a manuscript or sense units (phrases or sentences divided according to sense). But of course the number of lines would vary from scribe to scribe and from codex to codex (or scroll to scroll). And the number of sense units would surely be a rather subjective matter.

Second, whichever system is being employed, the stichometry of this list might well explain its most mysterious feature. The last two items call for an explanation. What does it mean to count three epistles of John, but only one, and two epistles of Peter, but only one?

I agree with what Glenn Davis writes on his Cheltenham canon page. We have already seen that Origen knew of three Johannine epistles, but completely approved only the first, and also knew of two Petrine epistles, but likewise completely approved only the first. It appears that the compiler of the Cheltenham list agreed with Origen. But he apparently had a problem. He had inherited his stichometric counts from someone who accepted all the Johannine and Petrine epistles. He knew that to mention only one epistle from each of these apostles would sour the count, so he compromised: The three epistles of John together have 350 lines, but I accept only one of them; the two epistles of Peter together have 300 lines, but I again accept only one of them. This appears to me to be the best explanation of the last two lines of the canon.

The compiler of this list was quite conservative in other ways, too. He apparently rejected the epistles of James and Jude, and he counts only 13 Pauline epistles, undoubtedly leaving out that to the Hebrews.

In my next installment I will offer the (rather less conservative) canonical list found in the Apostolic Constitutions.

Canonical lists (part 6, the Apostolic Constitutions canon).

Posted 05-09-2007.

This post is part 6 of my series on ancient canonical lists.

The pseudo-Clementine Apostolic Constitutions are a fascinating Christian document from century IV. Their genre is that of church order, similar in style to the Didache, the Didascalia, or the so-called Apostolic Church Ordinance, all of which are discussed in the Catholic Encyclopedia entry hosted by New Advent.

Book 8 contains the 85 Apostolic Canons in its last chapter, and the last of these canons contains a list of the canonical books of both Testaments of the Bible.

Apostolic Constitutions 8.47.85b:

Ημετερα δε, τουτ εστι της καινης διαθηκης, ευαγγελια μεν τεσσαρα, ως και εν τοις προλαβουσιν ειπομεν, Ματθαιου, Μαρκου, Λουκα, Ιωαννου, Παυλου επιστολαι δεκατεσσαρες, Ιακωβου μια, Ιωαννου τρεις, Ιουδα μια, Πετρου δυο, Κλημεντος δυο, και αι διαταγαι υμιν τοις επισκοποις δι εμου Κλημεντος εν οκτω βιβλιοις προσπεφωνημεναι, ας ου χρη δημοσιευειν επι παντων δια τα εν αυταις μυστικα, και αι πραξεις ημων των αποστολων.

But our [books], that is, those of the New Testament, are the four gospels, as we have also said in the foregoing, of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the fourteen epistles of Paul, one of James, three of John, one of Jude, two of Peter, two of Clement, and the constitutions dedicated to you the bishops by me, Clement, in eight books, which it is not necessary to publicize before all on account of the mysteries in them, and the Acts of us, the Apostles.

Doubtless it will help to see these works in list format:

  • Four gospels.
    1. Gospel of Matthew.
    2. Gospel of Mark.
    3. Gospel of Luke.
    4. Gospel of John.
  • Fourteen Pauline epistles.
  • One epistle of James.
  • Three epistles of John.
  • One epistle of Jude.
  • Two epistles of Peter.
  • Two epistles of Clement.
  • The constitutions of Clement in eight books, containing mysteries.
  • Acts.

Several oddities stand out in this list.

First, both epistles of Clement make the list. Counting the first epistle as canonical is rare; counting the second is practically unique, at least to date. Eusebius does imply in History of the Church 3.38.4 that some churchmen in his day regarded it as genuine:

Ιστεον δ ως και δευτερα τις ειναι λεγεται του Κλημεντος επιστολη· ου μην εθ ομοιως τη προτερα και ταυτην γνωριμον επισταμεθα, οτι μηδε τους αρχαιους αυτη κεχρημενους ισμεν.

But it must be observed also that there is said to be a second epistle of Clement. But we know that this is not recognized like the former, since we do not find that the ancients have made any use of it.

Second, the author of our list counts his own eight-volume work amongst the canonical books! I am not aware of any other list that does this, though the warning in Revelation 22.18-19 perhaps bears a somewhat similar character. Of course, the author is passing himself off as Clement of Rome, so he is not actually claiming that a contemporary text (contemporary to someone living in century IV) is canonical in so many words; he is claiming that the historical Clement wrote mysteries and did not publicize them. I suspect that this is a way of explaining why nobody would have heard of these eight volumes during the centuries intervening between I and IV.

Third, the position of the book of Acts is interesting. It is listed at the very end, even after the 8 books of Clement.

It also bears mentioning that this list includes the fullest complement of catholic epistles that we have seen. We have noted that Eusebius of Caesarea named all seven of the catholic epistles that are now deemed canonical (1 and 2 Peter, 1, 2, and 3 John, Jude, James), but placed all but 1 Peter and 1 John into his disputed category. Our present list makes no such distinction; all are equally canonical, it would appear.

The epistle to the Hebrews is apparently counted amongst the Pauline epistles, since the number is given as 14. That the apocalypse of John, then, should be excluded from this otherwise very inclusive list surprises me a bit, but it ought to be remembered that the apocalypse was one of the very last books to enjoy catholic status as a canonical book.

In my next post of this series I will consider the canon of the Jerusalem father Cyril.

Canonical lists (part 7, the canon of Cyril).

Posted 06-23-2007.

This post is part 7 of my series on ancient canonical lists.

Cyril was bishop of Jerusalem and at the center of several Christian controversies in the middle of century IV (refer to his Catholic Encyclopedia entry for a brief overview). But our interest is in the canonical list that he drew up in 4.36 of his Catecheses, or Catechetical Lectures (text from Daniel J. Theron, Evidence of Tradition, page 116; English translation my own):

Της δε καινης διαθηκης τα τεσσαρα μονα ευαγγελια, τα δε λοιπα ψευδεπιγραφα και βλαβερα τυγχανει. εγραψαν και Μανιχαιοι κατα Θωμαν ευαγγελιον, οπερ ευωδια της ευαγγελικης επωνυμιας επικεχρωσμενον διαφθερει τας ψυχας των απλουστερων. δεχου δε και τας πραξεις των δωδεκα αποστολων· προς τουτοις τας επτα, Ιακωβου, και Πετρου, και Ιωνναου, και Ιουδα, καθολικας επιστολας·* επισφαγισμα δε των παντων και μαθητων το τελευταιον τας Παυλου δεκατεσσαρας επιστολας. τα δε λοιπα παντα εν δευτερω κεισθω. και οσα εν εκκλησια μη αναγινωσκεται, ταυτα μηδε κατα σεαυτον αναγινωσκε, καθως ηκουσας. και τα μεν περι τουτων ταυτα.

* Theron has τας επτα, [την] Ιακωβου, και [τας δυο] Πετρου, και [τας τρεις] Ιωνναου, και [την] Ιουδα, καθολικας επιστολας.

But of the New Testament there are four gospels alone, and the rest happen to be pseudepigraphal and harmful. The Manichaeans even wrote a gospel of Thomas, which has been anointed by the sweetness of its evangelical title and corrupts the souls of the simpler folk. But receive also the Acts of the Twelve Apostles; on top of those, the seven catholic epistles, to wit, of James, and of Peter, and of John, and of Jude; and as the seal of all of them, even the consummation of the disciples, the fourteen epistles of Paul. But let all the rest sit in second place. And, as many as are not read in the church, do not read these even by yourself, just as you heard. And these are the things about those matters.

As usual, I offer this canonical catalogue in a more contemporary list format:

  • Four gospels.
  • Acts.
  • Seven catholic epistles (of James, of Peter, of John, and of Jude).
  • Fourteen Pauline epistles.

This list of 26 books is exceptional in only a couple of ways.

First, of course, it omits the apocalypse of John; however, the term exceptional is probably not the most appropriate one to use of this eventuality, since (as we have seen time and time again) the apocalypse was ever one of the most controversial of texts to dance around the ragged edges of the canon.

Second, the Pauline epistles are here listed (climactically) after the seven catholic epistles. Note that the former are numbered as fourteen, thus counting the epistles to the Hebrews as Pauline, while the latter are numbered as seven, thus apparently counting the same epistles to which we are by now accustomed: James; 1 and 2 Peter; 1, 2, and 3 John; Jude.

A brief negative digression of great interest for the study of church heresiology intrudes into this otherwise positive list; I refer, naturally, to the mention of the gospel of Thomas in connection with the Manichaeans. Cyril had encountered the Manichaeans, and he mentions them often (and not favorably) in his writings.

The Manichaeans were founded by Mani, a Persian, late in century III. Until early in century XX, all that we knew of the Manichaeans came from secondary sources, to wit, Christian patristic texts usually meant to attack Manichaeism. Primary sources, that is, actual Manichaean texts, were finally discovered in Turfan, in the Xinjiang province of China. A translation of at least some of these texts is available online in .pdf, courtesy of Harvard.

Cyril is one of our earliest patristic sources for Manichaeism. A bit after his canonical list, in Catechetical Lectures 6.21, Cyril affirms that Mani had three disciples and that their names were Thomas, Baddas, and Hermas. This tradition is one of many among the church fathers pertaining to the disciples of Mani. In the Acta Archelai the three are Thomas, Addas, and Hermas, and each is given his own mission field. Sometimes a certain Mari replaces Hermas on the list, and other variants abound as well. For those with access to JSTOR, I recommend the summary of the evidence, including a very helpful tabulation of the three disciples and the various patristic sources, in Mani's Disciple Thomas and the Psalms of Thomas, Vigiliae Christianae, volume 34, number 1 (March 1980), pages 47-55, by F. Forrester Church and Gedaliahu G. Stroumsa.

The purpose of the article is to dispute the ascription, made by C. R. C. Allberry, of the Psalms of Thomas to the disciple of Mani by that name; Church and Stroumsa prefer to identify the Thomas in the title with Judas Thomas, the disciple of Jesus, along the same lines as the gospel of Thomas, the acts of Thomas, and the other Thomasine literature.

One problem with ascribing these psalms, even pseudonymously, to a disciple of Mani is that Thomas, while appearing in so many Christian texts written to attack Manichaeism, never appears, according to Church and Strousma, in the actual Manichaean literature that we now have. Church and Strousma do not doubt that there existed a disciple of Mani named Thomas (though others have indeed raised such doubts), but it is possible that Christians have attributed to him more than his fair share out of confusion.

Church and Strousma add that Addas (or, as Cyril would have it, Baddas) seems secure as an historical follower of Mani, though even here there seems to have been much confusion between this Manichaean disciple and the legendary founder of Syrian Christianity, Addai. They also add, with regard to the third disciple, Hermas:

Of Hermas, there is nothing. It is possible that the name was fashioned as suitable to Egypt.

However, one of the Manichaean texts, listed as M 788r2-8 in the Harvard .pdf link I gave above, has the following:

The holy spirit also took as his mounts Simon..., James, Cephas, Mariam, Martha, Paul, Peter, Thecla, BHYR, ...and Hermas the shepherd, and they became apostles in the various lands and kept the religion in a state of purity.

This Hermas must be the author of the Shepherd.* It seems, then, that all three of the principal disciples of Mani may have suffered from confusion with much earlier Christian figures, namely Judas Thomas, Addai (Thaddeus), and the Hermas who penned the Shepherd. This confusion would be all the more natural given that the Christian discussions of the first Manichaean disciples seem to be noticing, and sometimes perhaps inventing, parallels with the first Christian disciples. Indeed, Mani is often given an extended group of 12 disciples; whether he himself chose 12 disciples or the 12 are merely a Christian patristic device, the connection with the 12 apostles is obvious.

* In my post on the Muratorian canon I noted that pseudo-Tertullian had incorrectly confused Hermas, the author, with the shepherd in the text, who is actually an angel who appears to Hermas. This Manichaean text would seem to be another confusion of the two.

Which brings us back to Cyril and the gospel of Thomas. Church and Strousma state in note 30 of their article:

Cyril of Jerusalem seems to be the first to credit Mani's disciple [Thomas] with writing the Gospel of Thomas....

We have seen that the potential for confusion* certainly exists; has Cyril, then, confused Judas Thomas with the Manichaean Thomas? On the one hand, Cyril is specifically writing of pseudepigraphical texts in 4.36 (ψευδεπιγραφα), and he states that the gospel of Thomas has been anointed with the sweetness of its evangelical title (ευωδια της ευαγγελικης επωνυμιας επικεχρωσμενον). We have found Eusebius making the same accusation, to wit, that the heretics were passing off certain texts as if (ως) they were of Peter or of Thomas or of Matthias. On the other hand, however, Cyril certainly states in 6.31 that the gospel of Thomas was written by one of the disciples of Manes (Mani). Perhaps what he means to say overall is that the Manichaean Thomas, having written the gospel, took advantage of his identity of name with the earlier Thomas, disciple of Jesus. In such a case the name Thomas, as part of the title of this gospel, would be both true and false as an attribution.

* That the gospel of Thomas is clearly attributed internally to Judas Thomas, both in the Coptic and in papyrus Oxyrhynchus 654 (in which the name Judas has to be reconstructed on the basis of the Coptic, but Thomas, because of the και at the beginning of line 3, is clearly a nickname for the missing praenomen), is no objection to later writers having confused the two Thomases; sometimes the fathers had not even read the texts they discussed, and in this particular case Cyril seems to be trying to have his cake (the gospel of Thomas is attributed falsely to the apostle by that name) and eat it too (the gospel was written by another Thomas, disciple of Mani).

Regardless of the exact nuance with which we ought to read Cyril on this matter, it is clear that he is mistaken in his attribution of the gospel of Thomas to the Manichaeans, unless he is writing of another and completely unattested gospel by that name. For the gospel of Thomas, as we have seen in our discussion of the Origenic canon, is attested by Hippolytus and by Clement of Alexandria long before the advent of Manichaeism. There seems to be little reason to doubt, however, that the Manichaeans appreciated the gospel of Thomas in a way that Cyril of Jerusalem clearly did not.

In my next installment of this series I will look at the canon of Athanasius.

Canonical lists (part 8, the canon of Athanasius).

Posted 07-18-2007.

This post is part 8 of my series on ancient canonical lists.

Athanasius was the highly influential bishop of Alexandria and a key figure in the christological debates of century IV. His interest to us here lies in his thirty-ninth festal letter, dated to year 367, in which he gives a list of canonical books whose New Testament portion completely matches in number and contents (but not in sequence) the 27 books printed in most modern Bibles. (I noted, however, in part 4 of this series that Eusebius of Caesarea deserves at least an asterisk in this regard.)

An English translation of the complete letter is available from Dr. Claude Mariottini (most of the other instances of this letter on the web consist only of excerpts). I here give the portions of this festal epistle that are most relevant to the New Testament canon:

Τα δε της καινης παλιν ουκ οκνητεον ειπειν. εστι γαρ ταυτα· ευαγγελια τεσσαρα, κατα Ματθαιον, κατα Μαρκον, κατα Λουκαν, και κατα Ιωαννην. ειτα μετα ταυτα πραξεις αποστολων και επιστολαι καθολικαι καλουμεναι των αποστολων επτα ουτως· Ιακωβου μεν μια, Πετρου δε δυο, ειτα Ιωαννου τρεις και μετα ταυτας Ιουδα μια. προς τουτοις Παυλου αποστολου εισιν επιστολαι δεκατεσσαρες, τη ταξει γραφομεναι ουτως· Πρωτη προς Ρωμαιους, ειτα προς Κορινθιους δυο, και μετα ταυτας προς Γαλατας και εξης προς Εφεσιους, ειτα προς Φιλιππησιους και προς Κολοσσαεις και προς Θεσσαλονικεις δυο και η προς Εβραιους, και εξης προς μεν Τιμοθεον δυο, προς δε Τιτον μια και τελευταια η προς Φιλημονα μια. και παλιν Ιωαννου αποκαλυψις. ....

And there should be no hesitation to say again the [books] of the New [Testament]; for they are these: Four gospels, namely according to Matthew, according to Mark, according to Luke, and according to John. Then after these the Acts of the Apostles and the seven epistles, called catholic, of the apostles, thus: One of James, two of Peter, then three of John and after these one of Jude. In addition to these there are fourteen epistles of Paul the apostle, written in order thus: First to the Romans, then two to the Corinthians, and after these to the Galatians and after that to the Ephesians, then to the Philippians and to the Colossians and two to the Thessalonians and that to the Hebrews, and after that two to Timothy, and one to Titus, and finally the one to Philemon. And again the apocalypse of John. ....

Αλλ ενεκα γε πλειονος ακριβειας προστιθημι και τουτο, γραφων αναγκαιως, ως εστι και ετερα βιβλια τουτων εξωθεν, ου κανονιζομενα μεν, τετυπωμενα δε παρα των πατερων αναγινωσκεσθαι τοις αρτι προσερχομενοις και βουλομενοις κατηχεισθαι τον της ευσεβειας λογον· Σοφια Σολομωντος και σοφια Σιραχ και Εσθηρ και Ιουδιθ και Τωβιας και διδαχη καλουμενη των αποστολων και ο ποιμην. και ομως, αγαπητοι, κακεινων κανονιζομενων και τουτων αναγινωσκομενων, ουδαμου των αποκρυφων μνημη, αλλα αιρετικων εστιν επινοια, γραφοντων μεν οτε θελουσιν αυτα, χαριζομενων δε και προστιθεντων αυτοις χρονους, ινα ως παλαια προφεροντες προφασιν εχωσιν απαταν εκ τουτων τους ακεραιους.

But I add this also, writing of necessity for the sake of complete accuracy, that there are other also other books outside these, not canonized, but molded by the fathers to be read to those now coming in and wishing to be catechized in the word of religion: The wisdom of Solomon and the wisdom of Sirach and Esther and Judith and Tobias and what is called the teaching of the apostles and the Shepherd. However, beloved, even with the former being canonized and the latter being read, there is not in any way any mention of the apocryphal [books], but they are rather the intent of heretics, who write them whenever they wish, granting and assigning them [spurious] times [of composition], so that they might present them as old and have a pretense to deceive the innocent from them.

It seems to me that Athanasius might have confused the canonical order of the Pauline epistles with the order in which Paul wrote them, for he says that they are written in order thus (τη ταξει γραφομεναι ουτως). But the order of these epistles in our modern Bibles appears to be based primarily upon the length of each letter, secondarily upon the distinction between letters to churches and letters to individuals, and in a tertiary sense possibly also upon the perceived need to keep letters to the same church or individual side by side. The letter lengths, by word counts according to the twenty-seventh edition of Nestle-Aland, are as follows (thanks are due to Julian Jensen for these statistics):

Romans, 7111.
1 Corinthians, 6830.
2 Corinthians, 4477.
Ephesians, 2422.
Galatians, 2230.
Philippians, 1629.
Colossians, 1582.
1 Thessalonians, 1481.
2 Thessalonians, 823.

Hebrews, 4953.

1 Timothy, 1591.
2 Timothy, 1238.
Titus, 659.
Philemon, 335.

The only anomalies, on the above principles, are the epistle to the Ephesians (which both Athanasius and most modern Bibles list after that to the Galatians, a situation for which I have no ready explanation) and that to the Hebrews. The explanation for the position of Hebrews is probably historical, since this epistle was not at all universally accepted as Pauline; its current position in the canon situates it ambiguously, and therefore perfectly, between the Pauline and the catholic epistles; Athanasius, on the other hand, has it listed between the ecclesiastical and the personal letters, which perhaps indicates an ambiguity of a different kind, since it is not addressed directly to any given church.

I would like to point out a possible connection between this festal letter and the cache of texts discovered in 1945 at Nag Hammadi, Egypt. I think it was James M. Robinson who first suggested that these texts, which often bear a distinctly gnostic flavor, may have come from the nearby monastery of Pachomius, and had been buried as a protection against those who would destroy them because of what Athanasius had written in his festal letter about the use of unauthorized church texts.

I regard this as a plausible conjecture, but do not see how it might rise to anything more than a plausible conjecture at this time. I find nothing in the festal letter itself about destroying heretical texts, though of course there is nothing to say that diligent churchmen might not take their own action against certain texts based on the disapproval expressed in the letter. On the other hand, we do know that monks did not always limit themselves to officially sanctioned texts. The extant Greek portion of the gospel of Peter was discovered in the tomb of a Christian monk, and Cyril of Jerusalem records an exchange between himself and a monk who appears to accept (a version of) the gospel according to the Hebrews, which Cyril obviously regards as heretical.

In my next installment I will consider the canon of Epiphanius.

Canonical lists (part 9, the canon of Epiphanius).

Posted 08-10-2007.

This post is part 9 of my series on ancient canonical lists.

Epiphanius, bishop of Salamis in Cyprus, writes in his magnum opus, the Panarion, at 76.22:

Ει γαρ ης εξ αγιου πνευματος γεγεννημενος, και προφηταις και αποστολοις μεμαθητευμενος, εδει σε διελθοντα απ αρχης γενεσεως κοσμου αχρι των της Αισθηρ χρονων, εν εικοσι και επτα βιβλοις παλαιας διαθηκης, εικοσι δυο αριθμουμενοις, τετταρσι δε αγιους ευαγγελιοις, και εν τεσσαρσικαιδεκα επιστολαις του αγιου αποστολου Παυλου, και εν ταις προ τουτων και συν ταις εν τοις αυτων χρονοις πραξεσι των αποστολων καθολικαις επιστολαις Ιακωβου και Πετρου και Ιωαννου και Ιουδα, και εν τη του Ιωαννου αποκαλυψει, εν τε ταις σοφιας, Σολομωντος τε φημι και υιου Σειραχ, και πασαις απλως γραφαις θειαις, και εαυτου καταγνωναι οτι ονομα οπερ ουδαμου εντετακται [ηλθες ημιν φερων] ουκ απρεπες μεν θεω, αλλ ευσεβες εις θεον, το του αγεννητου ονομα, μηδαμου δε εν θεια γραφη ρηθεν.

For had you been begotten from the holy spirit, and learned from the prophets and apostles, you would have been bound, having gone from the beginning of the genesis of the world through until the times of Esther, in twenty and seven books of the Old Testament, numbered as twenty-two, and [in] the four holy gospels, and in the fourteen epistles of the holy apostle Paul, and, before these and along with the Acts of the Apostles, in their times, in the catholic epistles of James and of Peter and of John and of Jude, and in the apocalypse of John, and in the wisdom, I mean of Solomon and of the son of Sirach, and simply [in] all the divine scriptures, to know even for yourself that [you come to us bearing] a name which has nowhere been ordered, not unfitting to God, but rather religious toward God, but the name of the unbegotten book is nowhere spoken of in the holy scripture.

Epiphanius runs his Old Testament and New Testament lists together, and of course the Old Testament list is not what concerns us in this series, but I should mention that Epiphanius is certainly not alone in numbering the books of the Hebrew Bible as 22; already in Against Apion 1.8 (38) the Jewish historian Josephus gives the same number.

Let me also add that Epiphanius elsewhere gives a more exact list of the Hebrew books. I can do little better than to refer the reader to Kevin Edgecomb, who has an interesting blog entry on the list of Old Testament books given elsewhere both by Epiphanius and in codex Hierosolymitanus (otherwise famous for containing the Didache).

Now, then, let me arrange the New Testament books in basic list format as usual:

  • Four gospels.
  • Fourteen Pauline epistles.
  • Acts.
  • Catholic epistles.
    • James.
    • Peter.
    • John.
    • Jude.
  • Apocalypse of John.
  • Wisdom of Solomon.
  • Wisdom of the son of Sirach.

Very little stands out as exceptional except perhaps for the mention of the two apocryphal wisdom books at the end. I noted in a previous post in this series that the Muratorian canon lists the wisdom of Solomon, seemingly as a New Testament book. At first glance, Epiphanius perhaps appears to do the same thing, since the New Testament separates the two wisdom books from the Old Testament notice where we might expect them. However, our treatment of these two books ought to be tempered by how Epiphanius treats them in other parts of his work. He has already written, for example, the following in Panarion 8.6:

Εισι δε και αλλαι δυο βιβλοι παρ αυτοις εν αμφιλεκτω, η σοφια του Σιραχ και η του Σολομωντος, χωρις αλλων τινων βιβλιων εναποκρυφων. πασαι δε αυται αι ιεραι βιβλοι τον Ιουδαισμον εδιδασκον και τα του νομου φυλαγματα εως της του κυριου ημων Ιησου Χριστου παρουσιας.

But there are also two other books next to them [that is, the Jewish scriptures], in doubt, the wisdom of Sirach and that of Solomon, apart from certain other apocrypha. And all these holy books were teaching Judaism also the things guarded by the law until the advent of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Here Epiphanius appears to classify the wisdom of (the son of) Sirach and the wisdom of Solomon with the other apocryphal books, implying that these two, while special or representative enough to be singled out, are also apocryphal books. Returning to our list, then, we can see that Epiphanius has named these two books at the end of what already appears to be a pretty complete list, ending with the apocalypse of John (not always a guaranteed entry to any canonical list, as we have seen). On the other hand, we should not be too quick to dismiss these works from the Epiphanian canonical list, since he still seems by his wording to number them among the divine scriptures (γραφαις θειαις), and the very fact that he seems compelled to mention them at nearly every canonical opportunity points, in my judgment, to his esteem for these books, even if he knows they belong, at best, to the periphery of the canon.

While the rest of this Epiphanian list poses few if any problems regarding the actual canon of scripture, it is not free of other difficulties. The section of text stretching from the fourteen epistles of Paul to the catholic epistles (και εν τεσσαρσικαιδεκα επιστολαις του αγιου αποστολου Παυλου, και εν ταις προ τουτων και συν ταις εν τοις αυτων χρονοις πραξεσι των αποστολων καθολικαις επιστολαις Ιακωβου και Πετρου και Ιωαννου και Ιουδα) is not at all easy to translate. Daniel Theron, on pages 119-121 of Evidence of Tradition, renders it as follows:

...and in the fourteen Epistles of the holy Apostle Paul, and in the Catholic Epistles of James and Peter and John and Jude, before these [Epistles of Paul] and with the Acts of the Apostles, which is simultaneously with [the Epistles of Paul]....

Theron also gives the Latin translation of Migne, Patrologia Graeca 42, columns 559 and 562, at this point; I have consulted Migne and have transcribed a tiny bit more than Theron did: S. Pauli XIV Epistolis, necnon et Apostolorum Actis, quae vel superiora illis tempora, vel posteriora continent; catholicis item Epistolis, Jacobi, Petri, Joannis et Judae....

I would translate: ...and the fourteen epistles of saint Paul, and indeed also the Acts of the Apostles, which contain the times either anterior or posterior to them; likewise the catholic epistles of James, of Peter, of John, and of Jude....

Obviously the sense is a trifle obscure. But I would hazard a guess that Epiphanius is reconciling two different canonical orders. We have seen that in some canonical lists the Pauline epistles precede the catholic epistles, while in others the catholic precede the Pauline. Also, the book of Acts can be somewhat movable. Epiphanius lists the Pauline epistles first, right after the gospels, but then backtracks to place both the Acts and the catholic epistles before the Pauline letters in some (possibly chronological) way. He winds up mentioning the various book groupings in the following order...:

  1. Four gospels.
  2. Fourteen Pauline epistles.
  3. Acts and catholic epistles.
  4. Apocalypse.

...but describing them in a different sequence:

  1. Four gospels.
  2. Acts and catholic epistles.
  3. Fourteen Pauline epistles.
  4. Apocalypse.

The former order is a little odd. It is very much like the order found in most modern Bibles, but the placement of the Acts is quite different. Nevertheless, the Apostolic Constitutions canonical list comes close, the principal difference being that in the Constitutions the book of the Acts is postponed to the very end of the list. Likewise, the canon discovered by Mommsen differs from our Epiphanian list only in its placement of the catholic epistles after the apocalypse of John.

The latter order, however, ought to look familiar; it is the order given by Athanasius, whom I discussed in my last post in this series, and before him by Cyril, with the exception that Cyril omitted the apocalypse of John.

I submit the possibility, therefore, that Epiphanius knew one canonical order that looked very much like the one given in the Cheltenham canon discovered by Mommsen and the one given in the Apostolic Constitutions, and another that looked very much like the one given by Cyril and Athanasius, and that he creatively combined the two orders, listing the various sections in the former order but describing them as falling in the latter order.

In the next installment of this series I will present the canon approved by the synod of Laodicea.

Canonical lists (part 10, the Laodicean synod canon).

Posted 10-02-2007.

This post is part 10 of my series on ancient canonical lists.

Canons 59-60 of the Laodicean synod (year 360):

Οτι ου δει ιδιωτικους ψαλμους λεγεσθαι εν τη εκκλησια, ουδε ακανονιστα βιβλια, αλλα μονα τα κανονικα της καινης και παλαιας διαθηκης. οσα δει βιβλια αναγινωσκεσθαι. ....

[It is resolved] that private psalms must not be read in the church, nor noncanonical books, but rather only the canonical books of the New and the Old Testament. The books which must be read [are the following]. ....

Καινης διαθηκης·

Of the New Testament:

  • Ευαγγελια δʹ·
    • Κατα Ματθαιον.
    • Κατα Μαρκον.
    • Κατα Λουκαν.
    • Κατα Ιωαννην.
  • Πραξεις αποστολων.
  • Επιστολαι καθολικαι επτα, ουτως·
    • Ιακωβου αʹ.
    • Πετρου αʹ, βʹ.
    • Ιωαννου αʹ, βʹ, γʹ.
    • Ιουδα αʹ.
  • Επιστολαι Παυλου ͵ιδʹ·
    • Προς Ρωμαιους αʹ.
    • Προς Κορινθιους αʹ, βʹ.
    • Προς Γαλατας αʹ.
    • Προς Εφεσιους αʹ.
    • Προς Φιιλιππησιους αʹ.
    • Προς Κολοσσαεις αʹ.
    • Προς Θεσσαλονικεις αʹ, βʹ.
    • Προς Εβραιους αʹ.
    • Προς Τιμοθεον αʹ, βʹ.
    • Προς Τιτον αʹ.
    • Προς Φιλημονα αʹ.

Four gospels: According to Matthew, according to Mark, according to Luke, according to John. The acts of the apostles. Seven catholic epistles, thus: One of James, two of Peter, three of John, one of Jude. Fourteen epistles of Paul: One to the Romans, two to the Corinthians, one to the Galatians, one to the Ephesians, one to the Philippians, one to the Colossians, two to the Thessalonians, one to the Hebrews, two to Timothy, one to Titus, one to Philemon.

The Laodicean synod took place in circa 363 and resulted in the publication of 59 or 60 canons or decrees to be accepted by the churches of Anatolia. The exact number (59 or 60) is uncertain because several important manuscripts and witnesses to the canons lack the last decree, the very one most relevant to our present inquiry. For canon 59 decrees that only canonical books ought to be read in church; it is canon 60 that goes on to provide the actual lists of canonical books for both testaments, and the easiest explanation for the fact that number 60 is missing in several key witnesses (summary available on the CCEL page that renders the last decree) is that the original Laodicean canons did not include the actual list of canonical books, a lack that later churchmen must have felt, since one can hardly limit oneself to canonical books if one does not know the official list of them. Somebody then did what had to be done; he added a canonical list so that the instruction of canon 59 might be carried out.

The decrees of this synod are available in English translation at Reluctant Messenger and in Greek at a native Greek site that I have recently found. (My list above skips the Old Testament books, but you can find them on these two web pages.)

So what kind of list was added to the Laodicean canons to form canon number 60? In terms both of contents and (so far as we can tell) of order, the Laodicean list replicates that of Cyril of Jerusalem, whose canonical list we have already looked at. Both canons place the four gospels first in order, then mention the Acts of the Apostles, then the catholic epistles (and both give the order James, Peter, John, Jude), then the fourteen Pauline epistles. Since Cyril does not name either the gospels or the Pauline epistles, we cannot very well compare the canonical order within those sections, but the overall order is identical; and both lists omit the Revelation of John, yet another testament to the ongoing controversy that hounded that book throughout antiquity. (It has occurred to me how fitting it is that a purportedly Laodicean canon list should omit the very book that gives the Laodicean church a black eye, as it were, in Revelation 3.14-22, but I feel quite certain that this connection is sheer coincidence.)

My next entry in this series will present the Carthaginian synod canon.

Canonical lists (part 11, the Carthaginian synod canon).

Posted 06-16-2008.

This post is part 11 of my series on ancient canonical lists.

At long last I continue this survey of canonical lists with that of the third council of Carthage, held in the year 397. Fortunately, this post will be brief, since this council presented exactly the 27 books of the New Testament found in most modern Bibles; the only twists, as it were, are the order of the catholic epistles and the status of the epistle to the Hebrews:

Novi autem testamenti:

  • Evangeliorum libri quattuor.
  • Actuum apostolorum liber unus.
  • Epistulae Pauli apostoli tredecim, eiusdem ad Hebraeos una.
  • Petri apostoli duae.
  • Iohannis tres.
  • Iacobi una.
  • Iudae una.
  • Apocalypsis Iohannis, liber unus.

.... Liceat autem legi passiones martyrum cum anniversarii eorum dies celebrantur.

Likewise it was pleasing that nothing should be read in the church under the name of the divine scriptures except the canonical scriptures. The canonical scriptures, then, are these: .... Of the New Testament: Four books of the gospels, one book of the acts of the apostles, thirteen epistles of the apostle Paul, and one of his to the Hebrews, two of the apostle Peter, three of John, one of James, one of Jude, and the apocalypse of John, one book. .... But let it be allowed that the passions of the martyrs be read when the days of their anniversaries are celebrated.

Note that the gospels, the acts, the Pauline epistles, the catholic epistles, and the apocalypse all appear, as sections, in the order familiar to us today; note also, however, that the catholic epistles appear in a slightly different order than we are used to. Our modern Bibles list them in the order James, Peter, John, and Jude; the Carthaginian list, however, lists them in the order Peter, John, James, and Jude. This order seems rather intuitive to me; the key disciples Peter and John appear together, and then the brothers of Jesus, James and Jude, appear together.

The epistle to the Hebrews makes the list, but its wording of inclusion is suspicious; thirteen epistles of Paul are reckoned, and only then is the epistle of his (of Paul, that is) to the Hebrews counted. I suspect this separate wording reflects the ongoing debate, already witnessed at several junctures throughout these posts, about the authorship of this majestic epistle. It was attributed to Paul rather early, but it was also doubted as his just as early, if not earlier.

It is important to keep in mind that, even after Constantine, church matters, including canonical issues, were not altogether settled in all quarters of the catholic church.

My next entry in this series will present the Claramontanus catalogue.

Canonical lists (part 12, the Claromontanus catalogue).

Posted 10-23-2008.

This post is part 12 of my series on ancient canonical lists.

Codex Claromontanus, whose siglon in the standard critical texts of the New Testament is the letter D (or the number 06), is an uncial manuscript, containing only the Pauline epistles, dating to century VI. (Knowledgeable readers may recall that codex Bezae Cantabrigiensis, which contains only the gospels and acts, along with a bit of 3 John, is also assigned the letter D, but the number 05. This is merely a convenience on the part of textual scholars, so as to provide a codex D both for the gospels and for the Pauline epistles, since the two codices sharing this letter do not overlap in contents.)

Inserted immediately after the letter to Philemon, however, is a catalogue, not only of the Pauline epistles, but indeed of the entire Bible, both the Old and the New Testament. Claromontanus is a Greek codex, yet this catalogue appears in Latin:

Versus scribturarum sanctarum ita: ....

  • Evangelia IIII:
    • Mattheum ver{sus} IIDC.
    • Iohannes ver{sus} II.
    • Marcus ver{sus} IDC.
    • Lucam ver{sus} IIDCCCC.
  • Epistulas Pauli:
    • Ad Romanos, ver{sus} IXL.
    • Ad Chorintios I, ver{sus} ILX.
    • Ad Chorintios II, ver{sus} LXX.
    • Ad Galatas, ver{sus} CCCL.
    • Ad Efesios, ver{sus} CCCLXXV.
    • Ad Timotheum I, ver{sus} CCVIII.
    • Ad Timotheum II, ver{sus} CCLXXXVIIII.
    • Ad Titum, ver{sus} CXL.
    • Ad Colosenses, ver{sus} CCLI.
    • Ad Filimonem, ver{sus} L.
    • Ad Petrum prima, ver{sus} CC.
    • Ad Petrum II, ver{sus} CXL.
  • Iacobi, ver{sus} CCXX.
  • Pr{ima} Iohanni epist{ula}, CCXX.
  • Iohanni epistula II, XX.
  • Iohanni epistula III, XX.
  • Iudae epistula, ver{sus} LX.
  • Barnabae epist{ula}, ver{sus} DCCCL.
  • Iohannis revelatio, ICC.
  • Actus apostolorum, IIDC.
  • Pastoris, versi IIII.
  • Actus Pauli, ver{sus} IIIDLX.
  • Revelatio Petri, CCLXX.

The verses of the holy scriptures are thus: The four gospels, [being] Matthew, 2600 verses; John, 2000 verses; Mark, 1600 verses; Luke, 2900 verses; the epistles of Paul, to the Romans, 1040 verses; the first to the Corinthians, 1060 verses; the second to the Corinthians, 70 verses; to the Galatians, 350 verses; to the Ephesians, 375 verses; the first to Timothy, 208 verses; the second to Timothy, 289 verses; to Titus, 140 verses; to the Colossians, 251 verses; to Philemon, 50 verses; the first to Peter, 200 verses; the second to Peter, 140 verses; of James, 220 verses; the first epistle of John, 220; the second epistle of John, 20; the third epistle of John, 20; the epistle of Jude, 60 verses; the epistle of Barnabas, 850 verses; the revelation of John, 1200; the acts of the apostles, 2600; of the Shepherd, 4000 verses; the acts of Paul, 3560 verses; the revelation of Peter, 270.

What a strange list! I will briefly run through the anomalies and any other salient points.

First, this is our first example in this series of a stichometry, that is, a tally of the line counts (each line being called a versus in Latin, which gives us our English word verse; we ought not to think of our modern chapter and verse divisions while reading this list).

Second, the gospels are listed in their so-called western order: Matthew, John, Luke, and Mark. This is, for example, the order in which the gospels are presented in codex Bezae (whose individually scanned pages can be accessed from the index helpfully put together by Jan Krans on the Amsterdam NT Weblog.

Third, the epistle to the Hebrews is missing. By itself this fact is not such a great surprise; we have seen how other lists omit it, evidently from doubt as to its Pauline authenticity. Interestingly, the epistle to the Hebrews is not missing amongst the contents of codex Claromontanus itself. In fact, it appears immediately after this canonical catalogue! Nevertheless, the fact that this epistle fails to appear in this list may mean absolutely nothing, given the next anomaly.

Fourth, the epistle to the Philippians and both epistles to the Thessalonians are missing. These absences are canonically unprecedented, so far as I am aware, and it therefore seems quite likely that the scribe copied this catalogue poorly from its exemplar and skipped a few lines; it is also quite possible that the epistle to the Hebrews occupied one of those skipped lines.

Fifth, the position of the epistle to the Colossians is odd; it comes after the pastoral epistles (1 and 2 Timothy and Titus) and before Philemon. I admit I have no handy explanation for this positioning. (For it seems unlikely to me that the compiler would have correlated contents of these two epistles in order to link them in the list, however appropriate such a link might seem to modern scholars; compare the names in Colossians 4.9-10, 14 with those in Philemon [1.]10, 24.)

Sixth, two Petrine epistles make the cut, but they are listed as epistles to Peter instead of from Peter! I have noted this in my indentation of the list. The original catalogue is not actually indented in any way, but I have taken the liberty of doing so for the sake of clarity. And the addressing of these epistles to Peter makes it seem, in the context of the catalogue, as though they are actually Pauline epistles, from one apostle to another. Doubtless this is merely a clumsy error.

Seventh, the order of books near the end of the list is strange; it is a bit strange that the epistle to Barnabas (not deemed canonical in most lists) should come before the apocalypse of John, and it is rare to find the book of the Acts of the Apostles coming after both of these texts, although we have seen that the Apostolic Constitutions list does much the same thing (but without naming the apocalypse).

Eighth, and finally, this list contains quite a few apocryphal texts; enjoying their infrequently proferred canonical status are the epistle of Barnabas, the Shepherd (of Hermas), the acts of Paul, and the apocalypse of Peter. Recall that the Muratorian canon list accepted the apocalypse of Peter (while allowing that some rejected it), but rejected the Shepherd of Hermas.

I have placed this list in its current position in this series based on the chronological dating of its manuscript, codex Claromontanus, to century VI. But I think I agree with those scholars (a majority, if I am not mistaken) who suppose that the list itself dates to considerably earlier, to century III or IV. It is hard for me to imagine such a freewheeling list popping up so late in the game; I think it had to have been either copied from or at least based on a much earlier list, one composed at a time when the contents of the canon were not quite so settled.

My next entry in this series will present the stichometry of Nicephorus.

Canonical lists (part 13, the stichometry of Nicephorus).

Posted 01-20-2009.

This post is part 13 of my series on ancient canonical lists. It is also the last part that I intend to post, with the exception of a brief conclusion to the entire series.

Nicephorus was the patriarch of Constantinople very early in century IX. To the end of his Chronography of world history from Adam to his own day is appended a stichometry (a list of text lengths similar to the one found in the Claromontanus catalogue) of both Old and New Testament books, along with disputed and apocryphal books from both testaments. This is by far the longest list we have seen in this series.

I do not think it is altogether certain that Nicephorus is the author of this appendix. The author is sometimes designated as pseudo-Nicephorus. I am, quite frankly, unacquainted with the arguments either pro or con, but the actual authorship does not very much impact the contents of the list itself for our purposes.

I know I have been concentrating only on the New Testament books in this series, but it seems only fair, given the comprehensive nature of this catalogue, to include the Old Testament books as well, especially since the two testaments are intertwined with one another in the list itself. But I shall, as usual, confine my (very brief) comments to the New Testament books.

Nicephorus (pseudo-Nicephorus?), appendix to the Chronography:

Και οσαι θειαι γραφαι εκκλησιαζομεναι και κεκανονισμεναι, και η τουτων στιχομετρια, ουτως·

And as many are the divine scriptures accepted by the church and canonized, and their stichometry, thus:

αʹ. Γενεσις, στιχοι ͵δτʹ.
βʹ. Εξοδος, στιχοι ͵βωʹ.
γʹ. Λευιτικον, στιχοι ͵βψʹ.
δʹ. Αριθμοι, στιχοι ͵γχλʹ.
εʹ. Δευτερονομιον, στιχοι ͵γρʹ.
ςʹ. Ιησους, στιχοι ͵βρʹ.
ζʹ. Κριται και Ρουθ, στιχοι ͵βνʹ.
ηʹ. Βασιλειων αʹ και βʹ, στιχοι ͵δσμʹ.
θʹ. Βασιλειων γʹ και δʹ, στιχοι ͵βσγʹ.
ιʹ. Παραλειπομενα αʹ και βʹ, στιχοι ͵εφʹ.
ιαʹ. Εσδρας αʹ και βʹ, στιχοι ͵εφʹ.
ιβʹ. Βιβλος ψαλμων, στιχοι ͵ερʹ.
ιγʹ. Παροιμιαι Σαλομωντος, στιχοι ͵αψʹ.
ιδʹ. Εκκλησιαστης, στιχοι ͵ζφʹ.
ιεʹ. Ασμα ασματων, στιχοι σπʹ.
ιςʹ. Ιωβ, στιχοι ͵αωʹ.
ιζʹ. Ησαιας προφητης, στιχοι ͵γωʹ.
ιηʹ. Ιερεμιας προφητης, στιχοι ͵δʹ.
ιθʹ. Βαρουχ, στιχοι ψʹ.
κʹ. Ιεζεκιηλ, στιχοι ͵δʹ.
καʹ. Δανιηλ, στιχοι ͵βʹ.
κβʹ. Οι δωδεκα προφηται, στιχοι ͵γʹ.

Ομου της παλαιας διαθηκης βιβλια εικοσι δυο.

Genesis, 4300 verses. Exodus, 2800 verses. Leviticus, 2700 verses. Numbers, 3530 verses. Deuteronomy, 3100 verses. Joshua, 2100 verses. Judges and Ruth, 2050 verses. Kings, first and second, 4210 verses. Kings, third and fourth, 2203 [or ͵βσʹ, 2200] verses. Chronicles, first and second, 5500 verses. Esdras, first and second, 5500 verses.* Book of the psalms, 5100 verses. Proverbs of Solomon, 1700 verses. Ecclesiastes, 7500 verses (?). Song of songs, 280 verses. Job, 1800 verses. Isaiah the prophet, 3800 verses. Jeremiah the prophet, 4000 verses. Baruch, 700 verses. Ezekiel, 4000 verses. Daniel, 2000 verses. Twelve prophets, 3000 verses. The books of the Old Testament together are twenty-two.

* Thanks to White Man for using the comments feature on the blog to point out two adjacent errors on my part, which I have corrected. One was my misconstrual of paraleipomena as one of the apocryphal books of Jeremiah (pure clumsiness on my part), when in fact, of course, it is the usual Greek name for Chronicles; the other was my omission of the books of Esdras in my translation, undoubtedly due to homeoteleuton.

Της νεας διαθηκης·

αʹ. Ευαγγελιον κατα Ματθαιον, στιχοι ͵βφʹ.
βʹ. Ευαγγελιον κατα Μαρκον, στιχοι ͵βʹ.
γʹ. Ευαγγελιον κατα Λουκαν, στιχοι ͵βχʹ.
δʹ. Ευαγγελιον κατα Ιωαννην, στιχοι ͵βτʹ.
εʹ. Πραξεις των αποστολων, στιχοι ͵βωʹ.
ςʹ. Παυλου επιστολαι, ιδʹ, στιχοι ͵ετʹ.
ζʹ. Καθολικαι, ζʹ, Ιακωβου αʹ, Πετρου βʹ, Ιωαννου γʹ, Ιουδα αʹ.

Ομου της νεας διαθηκης βιβλια κςʹ.

Of the New Testament [the books are as follows]: Gospel according to Matthew, 2500 verses. Gospel according to Mark, 2000 verses. Gospel according to Luke, 2600 verses. Gospel according to John, 2300 verses. Acts of the apostles, 2800 verses. Epistles of Paul, fourteen, 5300 verses. Catholic [epistles], seven, [namely] one of James, two of Peter, three of John, [and] one of Jude. The books of the New Testament together are twenty-six.

Και οσαι αντιλεγονται της παλαιας αυται εισιν·

αʹ. Μακκαβαικα, γʹ, στιχοι ͵ζτʹ.
βʹ. Σοφια Σολομωντος, στιχοι ͵αρʹ.
γʹ. Σοφια υιου του Σιραχ, στιχοι ͵βωʹ.
δʹ. Ψαλμοι και ωδαι Σολομωντος, στιχοι ͵βρʹ.
εʹ. Εσθηρ, στιχοι τνʹ.
ςʹ. Και Ιουδηθ, στιχοι ͵αψʹ.
ζʹ. Σωσαννα, στιχοι φʹ.
ηʹ. Τωβητ ο και Τοβιας, στιχοι ψʹ.

And as many as are disputed of the Old Testament are these: Three [books] of the Maccabees, 7300 verses. Wisdom of Solomon, 1100 verses. Wisdom of the son of Sirach, 2800 verses. Psalms and odes of Solomon, 2100 verses. Esther, 350 verses. And Judith, 1700 verses. Susanna, 500 verses. Tobit, who is also [called] Tobias, 700 verses.

Και οσαι της νεας αντιλεγονται·

αʹ. Αποξαλυψις Ιωαννου, στιχοι ͵αυʹ.
βʹ. Αποκαλυψις Πετρου, στιχοι τʹ.
γʹ. Βαρναβα επιστολη, στιχοι ͵ατξʹ.
δʹ. Ευαγγελιον κατα Εβραιους, στιχοι ͵βσʹ.

And as many as are disputed of the New Testament [are these]: Apocalypse of John, 1400 verses. Apocalypse of Peter, 300 verses. Epistle of Barnabas, 1360 verses. Gospel according to the Hebrews, 2200 verses.

Και οσα αποκρυφα της παλαιας·

αʹ. Ενωχ, στιχοι ͵δωʹ.
βʹ. Πατριαρχαι, στιχοι ͵ερʹ.
γʹ. Προσευχη Ιωσηφ, στιχοι ͵αρʹ.
δʹ. Διαθηκη Μωυσεως, στιχοι ͵αρʹ.
εʹ. Αναληψις Μωυσεως, στιχοι ͵αυʹ.
ςʹ. Αβρααμ, στιχοι τʹ.
ζʹ. Ηλαδ και Μωδαδ, στιχοι υʹ.
ηʹ. Ελια προφητου, στιχοι ͵γιςʹ.
θʹ. Σοφονιου προφητου, στιχοι χʹ.
ιʹ. Ζαχαριου πατρος Ιωαννου, στιχοι φʹ.
ιαʹ. Βαρουχ, Αββακουμ, Εζεκιηλ, και Δανιηλ ψευδεπιγραφα.

And as many as are apocryphal of the Old Testament [are these]: Enoch, 4800 verses. Patriarchs, 5100 verses. Prayer of Joseph, 1100 verses. Testament of Moses, 1100 verses. Assumption of Moses, 1400 verses. Abraham, 300 verses. El[d]ad and Modad, 400 verses. Of Elijah the prophet, 3016 verses. Of Zephaniah the prophet, 600 verses. Of Zechariah the father of John, 500 verses. Pseudepigrapha of Baruch, Habakkuk, Ezekiel, and Daniel.

Και οσα της νεας αποκρυφα·

αʹ. Περιοδοι Πετρου, στιχοι ͵βψνʹ.
βʹ. Περιοδος Ιωαννου, στιχοι ͵βχʹ.
γʹ. Περιοδος Θωμα, στιχοι #αψʹ.
δʹ. Ευαγγελιον κατα Θωμαν, στιχοι ͵απʹ.
εʹ. Διδαχη αποστολων, στιχοι σʹ.
ςʹ. Κλημεντος αʹ, βʹ, στιχοι ͵βχʹ.
ζʹ. Ιγνατιου, Πολυκαρπου, Ποιμενος [και] Ερμα.

And as many as are apocryphal of the New Testament [are these]: Journeys of Peter, 2750 verses. Journey of John, 2600 verses. Journey of Thomas, 1700 verses. Gospel according to Thomas, 1300 verses. Teaching of the apostles, 200 verses. Of Clement, first [and] second, 2600 verses. Of Ignatius, of Polycarp, of the Shepherd [and] of Hermas.

Keep in mind that the στιχοι, corresponding to the Latin term versus in the Claromontanus catalogue and translated here in cognate fashion as verses, are not our modern verses. They are lines in columns of text.

Several features of this list deserve notice. First, the Pauline epistles include, as has become customary by now, the epistle to the Hebrews. Second, the stichometry omits the apocalypse of John from its main list, placing it instead among the disputed books. This apocalypse simply did not get much respect in many quarters for a very long time in church history. Third, the rest of the New Testament list is complete by modern standards.

The division between disputed and apocryphal books is interesting, to say the least. The disputed books are the apocalypses of John and of Peter (linked also on lines 71-73 of the Muratorian canon), the epistle of Barnabas, and the gospel according to the Hebrews. The apocryphal books, however, include both the usual suspects (the gospel of Thomas, for instance) and other texts that not everyone would think of as tiptoeing on the edges of the canon (such as the epistles of Ignatius and of Polycarp). Our modern distinction between the canonical New Testament and the apostolic fathers was not in place. The inclusion of Ignatius and Polycarp on this list seems to be evidence that somebody somewhere tended to or wanted to count these fathers as scripture.

My next post in this series will be a brief conclusion consisting principally of links to online information on the canonical lists.

Canonical lists (conclusion).

Posted 03-17-2009.

This post will serve as a conclusion to my series on ancient canonical lists. This series has been a long time in the making; my introductory post and this concluding post are separated by nearly two and a half years.

In this post I intend to do only two things. First, here is an index to all the posts in this series:

Marcionite canon.
Muratorian canon.
Origenic canon, part 1.
Origenic canon, part 2.
Eusebian canon, part 1.
Eusebian canon, part 2.
Cheltenham canon.
Apostolic Constitutions canon.
Canon of Cyril.
Canon of Athanasius.
Canon of Epiphanius.
Laodicean Synod canon.
Carthaginian Synod canon.
Claromontanus catalogue.
Stichometry of Nicephorus.

Second, here are several links that I have found useful for studying matters of canonicity:

Lists and Catalogues of New Testament Collections (Lee Martin McDonald, James A. Sanders).
The Development of the Canon of the New Testament (Glenn Davis).
The Canon of Scripture (Bible Research).
New Testament Canon Lists.
Loose Canons (Kevin Edgecomb).
A General Survey of the History of the Canon of the New Testament (B. F. Westcott; highly recommended; you can download the entire book to your hard drive for convenience).

I sincerely hope that this series has proven or will prove useful for anyone trying to trace the attestation and canonicity of the various New Testament (and related) texts.