An Introduction to the New Testament

By Adolf Jülicher


Chapter 2 - Section 37



§ 37. The Facts of the Case

1. The writings of the best-known Apologist, Justin Martyr, can be dated with tolerable certainty. He died at Rome in 165; about 150 he wrote his two ʽApologies,ʼ and somewhat later the ʽDialogueʼ with the Jew Tryphon, both in defence of Christianity, the former in opposition to Gentile mistrust, the latter against Jewish blindness. He makes great use of the Old Testament, and lays special stress on the harmony between Prophecy and Fulfilment: the Holy Ghost spoke by-the mouths of the Prophets. But when in the Apology1 he refers his Gentile readers to ʽour Scripturesʼ (τὰ ἡμέτερα, συγγράμματα) he would have them understand thereby neither the Old Testament only (Apol. i. 67, τὰ συγγράαματα τῶν προφητῷν) nor all the productions of Christian authorship, including his own dissertations: he meant a fairly definite body of writings, the books in which Christian doctrine was authentically laid down. In Justinʼs view, the gift of the Spirit was what guaranteed the truth and divinity of the Word: and since in his Dialogue2 he exclaims with pride ʽTo this day the prophetic gifts are still at work among us,ʼ he could of course rank the prophet John with the prophets of the Old Testament, and claim unconditional belief in his prophecy of the millennium (Rev. xx.). Nevertheless, the ordinary Christian prophet would not receive so much honour at his hands, and it is not without design that to the words ʽa man by name Johnʼ Justin adds ʽone of Christʼs Apostles. For him the twelve Apostles are the teachers of the truth, ʽeven for us of a later generation,ʼ he implies, through the writings they have left. In the Apology, i. 66, he tells us that the Apostles guaranteed the correctness of the Christian celebration of the Supper, a record of which they had handed down in the Memoirs (ἀπομνημονεύματα) arranged by them, and called Gospels. Thus Justin regards the authors of the Gospels as Apostles (he uses the term ʽMemoirsʼ merely to be better understood by those of his readers who possessed Greek culture: the ecclesiastical name, it need hardly be said, is εὐαγγέλια); and the fact that they were eye-witnesses and endowed with the Spirit of the Lord places the authenticity of their Gospels beyond question for him. Then we find from i. 67 that the first act in the worship of God on Sundays was to read aloud before the whole congregation a portion of Scripture, either from the ʽMemoirsʼ of the Apostles or the writings of the Prophets. It seems to me that there is more here than a mere ʽgerm of the New Testament Canonʼ; according to Justin (and he is a witness as to the state of things in the Roman community at least), the Gospels and the writings of the Prophets are placed on an equal footing; they may be used interchangeably as required, and certainly the ʽMemoirsʼ belonged to the most precious of ʽour Scriptures.ʼ3 It is true that what he quotes from these new books are almost always Sayings of the Lord4; it is from the Lord Christ that Justin believes he has learnt what he teaches, as well as from the Prophets who went before him. But the important point is that the Lord was to be found in written records from the hands of ʽthe most trustworthy personsʼ5; it was in books that this incontrovertible Canon was contained in incontrovertible form; therefore in worth and dignity such books could not stand lower, in the estimation of a Christian, than those of the Old Testament.

With this the decisive step is taken; the Gospel, the glad tidings of salvation through Jesus Christ, has condensed into a number of written Gospels, authentic records of the same, which share his Divinity. Henceforth quotations from them6 are introduced with the formula ʽit is writtenʼ (γέγραπται), and even with ἐν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ, in the Gospel. The impression which Justin leaves upon us, of accepting the accounts of the Evangelists as true only because of the Old Testament, only because their testimony coincided with the predictions of the Prophets, arises from the necessities of his apologetic reasoning; the appeal which he makes to the great antiquity of the truth—a point which he considers of much importance—could not of course be made in the case of books which had only lately come into existence. Another question is, what books Justin included in his ʽMemoirs.ʼ Matthew was certainly one of them; the claims of Mark and Luke are favoured, amongst other passages, by ch. 103 of the Dialogue, where, besides the Apostles of Jesus, their companions are also named as authors, though with more hesitation. He is unacquainted with the contents of John, though aware of its existence.7 But many of his quotations from the words of Jesus depart so far from the form in which we have them in our Gospels that it is difficult to deny him the knowledge of at least one Gospel unknown tous. He accepted as a Gospel, without criticism, whatever he met with under that name; scarcely, however, on his own private judgment, but rather following the custom in his community.

Justin is also acquainted with other New Testament writings: some Epistles of Paul,8 the Epistle to the Hebrews, and certainly the Acts as well as Luke, but he does not quote them as standard authorities. There is nothing remarkable in the fact that he does not mention Paul by name, since he does not name the other Apostles; and the fact that he does not actually speak of an Anagnosis of the letters of the Apostles does not prove that there was no such thing in his time. It must not be forgotten that he stands in the annals of Rome between Clement and Tatian, both of whom set great store by Paulʼs Epistles; it merely did not occur to him to rank these letters with the Gospels. Their authority was a derivative, transmitted one; the only occasion on which the word of the Apostles comes into comparison with the divine word of the Old Testament is where it treats of Christ and represents the transmission of his word and his power of salvation to later generations. This, then, is the primitive form of the New Testament Canon, which can be traced in the most advanced communities about the year 150: in place of ʽthe Lord,ʼ several books of Gospels revealing the Lord. Thus even in the ʽTeaching of the Apostlesʼ ʽthe Gospelʼ is quoted as an existing written tradition concerning Jesus: and in the Second Epistle of Clement the case stands exactly as with Justin, the Gospel being treated as Scripture; at least one Gospel writing which is now lost is used in that Epistle, but probably not the same as that quoted by Justin.

It follows that the oldest Canon of the New Testament was single in form. As we found that ʽthe Lordʼ was its ideal primitive form, extended later by the addition of ʽthe Apostles,ʼ so the tangible actual Canon at first contained only ʽthe Scriptures which relate everything concerning our Lord Jesus Christ.ʼ To be able to bring them into relation to the Apostles, as their writers or inspirers, enhanced their value, but they attained the same rank as the Old Testament, not for being Apostolic, but as Gospels, and it was not till later that the canonising of Apostolic Gospels led further to the canonising of Apostolic Epistles and prophecies.

2. The Canon of Justin, however, must not immediately be regarded as the Canon of the Catholic Church, which was itself in embryo at that time (about 150). Elsewhere there appears to have been less inclination to exchange ʽthe Lordʼ for definite written accounts of him. Papias of Hierapolis in Phrygia is a contemporary of Justin; Eusebius and some later writers knew of a work of his in five books, consisting of interpretations of the Sayings of the Lord (λογίων κνριακῶν ἐξηγήσεις) . We do not get a clear idea of the character of this work: if is uncertain, in particular, whether the author rather aimed at being a translator (from the Aramaic original into Greek) or an expositor, a commentator; in any case he had prepared himself for this work by a long-continued, careful collection of the Lordʼs sayings. He had at least Matthew and Mark9 before him, and, Eusebius thinks, the Gospel of the Hebrews as well. But these sources were not canonical authorities in his eyes; he preferred to draw his material from the ʽEldersʼ (παρὰ τῶν πρεσβυτέρων καλῶς ἔμαθον): ʽAnd if I met with a disciple of the Elders, I questioned him fully as to the words of those Elders, what was said by Andrew, Peter or Philip, what by Thomas, James, John or Matthew, or any other of the disciples of the Lord, and what is said by Aristion and the presbyter John, the disciples of the Lord. For I was of opinion that what I could derive from books would not serve me so well as what I could obtain from the living and enduring voice (ζῶσα φωνὴ καὶ μένουσα).’ We could not have a more definite rejection of any canonical valuation of the Gospel writings, in favour of the old unwritten traditions (παράδοσις ἄγραφος); oral tradition guaranteed by known and trustworthy intermediaries seemed to Papias to be better secured from falsification and error than was the case with written memoirs. But to a man like Eusebius he must have appeared exceedingly limited on account of this antiquated point of view, even if the tradition had not brought many very doubtful sayings of the Lord into his collection; but he is still a high authority to the great Catholic Irenaeus (about 180), although the latter was as zealous for the Scriptures as Eusebius himself. Thus the conservative attitude of Papias with regard to this new canonical structure was not at once felt to be ecclesiastically incorrect; his point of view was that of many at the time. It is probable, on the face of it, that such an active collector as Papias was also acquainted with other early Christian literature; we have no reason to doubt the statement that he recognised the contents of the Apocalypse as genuine Revelation: the book must have been welcome to his strong belief in the Millennium. As to the quotations10 from 1. John and 1. Peter which Eusebius found in his writings, they need not have consisted in a solemn appeal as though to Holy Scripture; in such ʽstatistics with a purposeʼ Eusebius does not distinguish between the mere employment of passages and actual citation.

Much of what is now the New Testament must, then, have been read aloud for edification in the church of Hierapolis and elsewhere about 150, and must have had a religious influence on the community, just as in Rome; but the feeling that the regular Scriptures of the Christians must include some of Christian origin, serving to keep alive the memory of Christ, does not arise everywhere equally early. The new material for public reading increases; the Epistles of the martyr Ignatius are sent from the Church of Smyrna to that of Philippi at the latterʼs request. A missive of the Roman Bishop Soter is read aloud in the Sunday service at Corinth (about 180) beside 1. Clement. But nothing is to be learnt about the esteem in which the Gospels were held from such facts as these. When Hegesippus wrote his reminiscences, about 180, he could report that in his travels he had found all the communities at one as to their doctrine, which was regulated upon the Law, the Prophets and ʽthe Lord.ʼ In his mouth ʽthe Lordʼ is here probably an archaism for the ʽGospels,ʼ as when elsewhere he places together ʽthe Divine Scriptures and the Lordʼ; if not, Hegesippus belongs to the same category as Papias, but this admission would not interfere with his respect for the holy Choir of the Apostles, and his close acquaintance with the Canonical Gospels.11

3. But beside Justin, who consciously extended the idea of the ʽScripturesʼ to the Gospels, and Papias, who, in old age as in youth, only held as Divine Scriptures what the Lord himself had so held, there stands another Christian, who extended the new Canon farther, and conferred Canonical dignity upon the second principal part of the New Testament, the Epistles of Paul. This was the Gnostic Marcion. Gnosticism, in its original form older than Christianity, had very early pressed in upon the Church, and had practised upon it its peculiar art of transforming everything, even the most chaste simplicity, into chaotic disorder by passing it through its own witchesʼ cauldron. Naturally, it had little inclination to form a Canon: the prejudice of the ʽman of the spirit,ʼ for whom a double truth was the natural condition, and who looked upon a universally valid rule of thought and life as an abomination, was particularly concerned to remove the limits imposed by a sacred letter upon the speculations or the desires of the individual. Nevertheless, the most prominent representatives of this tendency, such as Basilides and Valentine, were very anxious to prove the Christian character of their views by written documents. They appealed indeed to special traditions about Jesus12 and the Apostles, but were not inclined to reject what the Church used for her edification; rather they proved their acumen by the art of interpreting the sacred writings of the Church in a sense favourable to their own imaginings; they believed that they and their scholars alone understood rightly the ʽwords of the Saviour,ʼ and the first Commentary on John was written by a Valentinian (see p401). But the man through whom Gnosticism became a Church, existing for centuries living and self-dependent, and who was certainly in many respects very different from his above-mentioned associates, particularly in the manifest preponderance he gave to the religious and moral needs over the intellectual, anticipated the great church from which he separated himself by drawing up a new Christian Canon.

Marcion, from his home in Pontus, made his way to Rome through Asia Minor, and was active there between c. 140 and 170; he rejected the Old Testament as incompatible with the New, asserting that it contained but the revelation of the Creator of the world, the friend of blood and war, the God of Jewish righteousness. The true, good God had sent Jesus to redeem men from the tyranny of the righteous God; but the Jews, even including the Twelve, did not understand him; Paul alone understood the Gospel and successfully combated the falsification it had suffered through Jewish additions; the truth, the freedom-giving truth, was only to be found with the real Jesus and his real Apostle. Marcion himself had no wish to be the founder of a religion: he only tried to be a true interpreter of an existing revelation, the comprehension of which he had won by a study, unprejudiced as he believed, of all the reputed records of revelation. And, at all events, he shunned the allegorical interpretations which enabled the Church to conceal from herself the discrepancies between the Jewish and the Christian religions, although he rivalled every Catholic in arbitrary violence to the text in the interest of his dogma. Marcion was too conscientious not to deduce the full consequences from what he knew; he was not a man of compromise or of ingenious half-measures; in his Canon there was no room for Jewish Scriptures; nothing was sacred in his eyes that did not originate with the Lord or with Paul, and so his ʽScriptureʼ is composed of two sections: the Gospel and the Apostle (also τὸἀποστολικόν). Among the Gospel writings current in the Church he approved most cordially of Luke, probably because he believed its author to have been a disciple of Paul. But he could not make use of the actual Luke of the Church, for many passages in that Gospel recognised the Old Testament and favoured Jewish conceptions; accordingly he subjected it to a most searching revision, discarding everything that contradicted his anti-Jewish, hyper-spiritualistic point of view (e.g., the whole of the Birth-story and the Old Testament quotations). He was firmly convinced that in doing this he was not wresting the word of God to suit his own theology, but only restoring what had been corrupted by pseudo-Christian ʽProtectores Judaismi.ʼ His ʽApostolicumʼ contains ten Pauline Epistles—the nine to the churches, and Philemon—but he appears not to have known the Pastoral Epistles.13 He could not have had much in common with the Epistle to the Hebrews, because of the continual references it contains to the Old Testament, but apart from that it probably did not occur to him to include it, because no one in his surroundings ascribed it to Paul. Naturally, he had to clear the text of the Epistles from Judaising interpolations as thoroughly as that of the Gospel, and for this the Church bitterly called him the ʽfalsifier of the truthʼ; but he never realised that in these arbitrary proceedings he had permitted his own likings (τὰ ἀρέσκοντα αὐτῷ) to decide as to what was Canonical and what was spurious; what his own faith did not admit could not belong to Godʼs Word, and therefore he felt obliged to strike it out. How far he employed the old-established Church formule in referring to or in making use of this Bible of his we do not know; but certain it is that he looked upon it as a Canonical authority, every word of which was sacred. He wrote a great work, the ʽAntitheses,ʼ in order to point out the contradictions between the false Jewish ʽScriptureʼ and the genuine new ʽScripture,ʼ and to offer with the utmost completeness the true explanation of all parts of the latter; here he is but the commentator of a Divine text, and although his sect afterwards included these ʽAntithesesʼ in their Canon beside the ʽGospelʼ and the ʽApostle,ʼ this was done quite against the intention of their master. In spite of the fierce hatred which the Church bestowed from the very first upon this most dangerous of all the Gnostics, she did but follow his lead in drawing up the new Canon, by adding to the Gospels of the Lord the Letters of his Apostles.

4. In the decades following the time of Justinʼs activity, we may observe a double tendency in ecclesiastical literature, that of a further consolidation, a narrower circumscription of the new Gospel Canon, and that of a closer approximation of the completed collection of Pauline Epistles to the Gospels. In the Epistle of Polycarp, the date of which is unfortunately quite uncertain, the Gospels of Matthew and Luke are made use of, but the Epistle is so short that this is no complete evidence for the exclusion of all ʽApocryphalʼ Gospels; so much the more marked, however, is the enthusiasm with which the author refers to the blessed and glorious Paul: he also alludes expressly to his Epistles, passages from which so often find an echo in his writings that we may be quite sure he was thoroughly familiar with the whole body of them, including the Pastorals, and lived, as it were, in an atmosphere of them. The same holds good of the Acts, 1. Peter, 1. John, and 1. Clement. Indeed, in xii. 1 we might even say that he applied the term ʽSeripturesʼ to the letters of the Apostles, if the Latin translation (which is here our only authority), with its ʽhis scripturis dictum estʼ as applied both to Psalm iv. 5 and Eph. iv. 26, were a literal rendering. That is, however, not certain. Tatian, who wrote his ʽOratio ad Graecosʼ about the year 155, a few years after the appearance of Justinʼs ʽApology,ʼ took up almost the same position with regard to the literature of the New Testament. He introduces14 a sentence out of the prologue of John15 most impressively as τὸ εἰρημένον. Athenagoras, who lived about twenty years later, appeals with the same formula (φησίν) to a sentence in the Gospels16 as he does to Proverbs viii. 22; and the way in which he appeals to 1. Cor. xv. 58, and 2. Cor. v. 10 as authoritative evidence (κατὰ τὸν ἀπόστολον), shows that he recognised very little difference between a sentence in a letter of the Apostle and one in a book of Prophecy. His contemporary Melito, Bishop of Sardis, occupied himself with an accurate enumeration of the ʽBooks of the Old Covenant,ʼ the ʽOld Books,ʼ and he would hardly have expressed himself thus if the books of the New Covenant, consequently a new Canon, had not been a familiar idea to him. Most of the ecclesiastical literature of those decades has disappeared, and of some which might perhaps belong to that time the date is too uncertain; but the advance from the position of Justin is sufficiently indicated, apart from the works of the writers mentioned above, by the books of Theophilus of Antioch, addressed to Autolycus and written about 190. The Gospels are here distinctly ranked with the Prophets; their writers are spoken of as equally inspired (πνένματοφόροι) with those of the Old Testament Scriptures. That he ever used an ʽApocryphalʼ Gospel cannot be proved; we may well believe that to him the sacred number of four was an established idea. He regards the Apocalypse in the same light as Justin. But he lays far more stress than his predecessors upon the Pauline Epistles, again including the Pastorals; they have indeed not yet reached the high position of the Gospels, but Theophilus does not shrink from presenting a conglomerate of Pauline sayings as a ʽCommandment of the Divine Word.ʼ From this it is but a step to the placing of the Apostolic writings on a perfect equality with the Gospel. That this step however was not yet absolutely taken is clearly shown by the ʽActa Martyrum Scilitanorum.ʼ Here we read that in July 180 the question of a Proconsul, ʽWhat manner of things lie in your cupboards?ʼ was answered by a North African Christian with the words, ʽOur books, and also the Epistles of Paul, the holy manʼ (αἱ ἑαθ’ ἡμᾶς βίβλοι καὶ αἱ πρὸς ἐπὶ τούτοις ἐπιστολαὶ Παύλου τοῦ ὁσίου ἀνδρός). Since the Gospels cannot have been wanting if the Epistles of Paul were there, we must imagine that the ʽbooksʼ referred either to them alone or to a number of books including them. The original Latin text of the Protocol may have run, according to the best recently discovered manuscript, ʽLibri venerandi libri legis divinae et epistulae Pauli viri iustiʼ (a later recension says, ʽLibri evangeliorum et epistolae Pauli viri sanctissimi apostoliʼ); but in any case the passage shows that the Epistles of Paul were not yet reckoned as part of the Divine Law, as among the books κατ̓ ἐξοχήν, from which no one will here venture to exclude the Gospels; but that they were treasured as books for public reading by the churches, and could be submitted to the authorities with a good conscience. I wish neither to maintain nor to contradict the theory that the Scilitan Martyrs had exactly four Gospels in their cupboard, as a third recension would have us believe. This recension, moreover, has the addition which is so characteristic of the needs of a later time, ʽet omnem divinitus inspiratam seripturam.ʼ We may conclude, then, that the Gospel had probably penetrated everywhere in the Church by about 180 as a component part of the Holy Scripture, i.e. of the Law; but what this Gospel consisted of was not regularly defined in all churches alike.

The best evidence of this is given by the above-mentioned apologist Tatian, in a work which at first sight would seem to upset our last conclusion altogether. According to Eusebius,17 Tatian, when in later years he had become the head of a separate Encratite church, prepared a ʽHarmony of the Gospelsʼ under the name Διὰ τεσσάρων. He arranged a continuous account of Jesus (whether only in his native Syriac tongue or in both Greek and Syriac is here without importance) out of the Gospel writings at his command, omitting all parallel accounts, and reconciling apparent contradictions; he probably made use of this opportunity to exalt the Encratite elements in these traditions, and to give a different colour to any inconvenient sections. He composed this Gospel for practical use, not with any scientific aims; almost the whole Syrian Church accepted it; the Syrian doctor Aphraates (c. 340) drew his knowledge of the Gospel material chiefly from this Diatessaron. Ephraim (about 360) wrote a Syriac commentary on it, and Theodoretus of Cyrus,18 in the district of the Kuphrates, though he burnt several hundred copies, had great difficulty in eliminating this work from the services of the churches in his diocese, and in substituting for it the ʽseparateʼ Gospels—that is to say, the four Gospels in their natural limits.

If the Church might and could suffer such a condition of things as one Gospel in place of four, until far into the fifth century, she would certainly not have objected to such a substitution about the year 175. Tatian did not write the Diatessaron as a heretic or asa sectary, nor even for the benefit of his own sect, but did the work in all good faith; for him, as for all his Christian contemporaries, what was divine in the Gospel was the tradition about Jesus: it did not seem at all essential to have this tradition in twofold or in fourfold form. It was the contents which were of inestimable value; the apotheosis of the letter had not yet taken place. Perhaps even the conclusion drawn from the name Διὰ τεσσάρων, that Tatian only made use of the four known Gospels, is a mistake; this word is a technical musical term for ʽaccord,ʼ ʽharmony,ʼ the ostensible foundation of all music,19 and he might have made use of the name to indicate that his work was an harmonious abridgment of the different Gospel writings, whether drawn from three or from five. In any case, it was a Gospel harmony or symphony. Certainly, however, what we know of the Diatessaron would incline us to the belief that it is founded on our four Gospels alone, and consequently that Tatian was more careful in dealing with the Gospel legends than his teacher Justin.;

About the same time there existed a party, dispersed through Asia Minor, called the Alogi by their opponents; they refused to accept John, because his theology offended them; they certainly did not feel themselves to be heretics and revolutionists, but defenders of the old Church tradition against the new learning; nor were they at first reproached with refusing to accept four divine Gospels, but simply with attacking a doctrine which was that of the Church, and ratified by the highest authorities.

It is a remarkable coincidence (or is it due to later confusion?) that the same Tatian who established, like Marcion, one Gospel instead of many as the Gospel, is also said to have issued, like Marcion, a new recension of the Pauline Epistles, ostensibly freeing them only from faults of style. In any case, this showed how anxious he was that these Epistles should have an unimpeded influence on the community, how highly he valued them, and at the same time how little the externals, the form, appeared to him sacred and unalterable. The Church could not long deal so freely with the fundamental sources of her faith; the ʽholy thingsʼ which she possessed in written form must find a place of safety against the encroachments of human caprice; soon, then, we shall expect to find the conceptions of the New Testament more narrowly circumscribed, more clearly defined.

5. Towards the close of the second century, the new Canon had already acquired quite a different appearancein thestandard literature of the Church from that which it bore in Justinʼs day. It is enough, first of all, to refer to the writings of Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons,20 of Tertullian, a Presbyter of Carthage,21 and of Clement, a theologian of Alexandria.22 The principal work of the first-named, the five books against all heresies, is unfortunately only partially preserved in the original Greek, but the old Latin translation is trustworthy, and there is no doubt as to the time of its composition—between 178 and 195. Still more important is the fact—of which we may be quite certain—that Irenĉus, although by birth an Asiatic and at the end of his life a Gallican bishop, represents, on account of his Roman training, the Roman standpoint in ecclesiastical questions. Tertullian represents that of the African Church; and he began to write about the time that Irenaeus ceased. The countless tracts and controversial writings of this inimitable man fall between the years 195 and 220; he wrote them in part as a member of the Church Universal, in part as a Montanistic sectary. Clement, who surpassed both in breadth, reading and intellectual freedom, shows us the views concerning the Canonical books held in Alexandria, which had by now become the centre—practically owing to his influence—of the theological culture of the Greek world. Where these three agree, it certainly does not follow that the whole of Christendom was at one with them—many 4 community had not moved so fast as these leaders—but through them the path was marked out which the whole Church must follow sooner or later; by them the decision was made. If on certain points they do not agree, this clearly shows that the Canon was not the result of consultation and decrees in council; the very way in which it came into being ought to prepare us for local and provincial differences; it was the task of a still later generation to remove these differences, and to realise here also the ideal of Catholicity.

Now, these three agree on two principal points: first, that the new Gospel Canon was strictly limited, and consisted of the four Gospels of Matthew, John (themselves Apostles) and Mark and Luke (Apostlesʼ disciples); this was the only, but also the absolutely authentic, tradition about the Lord, or, rather, it was a substitute for the Lord; and secondly, that beside these four Gospels there had arisen a series of Apostolic writings, which held equal authority as the second half of the new Holy Scripture; they were in like manner the sole but authentic source of Apostolic teaching and rules; in short, they represented the Apostles. The Pauline Epistles formed the kernel of this section. Consequently, the primitive form of the New Testament of to-day was created about 200; after this there was nothing needed but its recognition in all the churches, and the establishment of the same definite boundaries between canonical and uncanonical for the Apostolic writings as that which had been achieved for the Gospels between 140 and 200.

To Irenaeus the fourfold form of the Gospel23 is so much a matter of course that he finds it prefigured in all kinds of theosophic fancies, such as the four winds and the four quarters of the world; he was the first, indeed, to make the famous identification of the four Beasts of Revelation24 with the four Evangelists (Matthew with the man, Luke with the calf, John with the eagle, Mark with the lion—but Irenaeus reverses the last two symbols, while others again arranged them differently); every attack on the number four, whether to introduce more or fewer embodiments of the Gospel, seems to him heretical presumption. And in authoritative value these Gospels were in no way behind the old sacred books; in II. xxviii. 2 fol., for instance, he asserts that all ʽScripturesʼ were of the Holy Spirit, perfect, and the gift of God; in his employment of citations he makes no difference between Evangelistic and Old Testament materials. The same may be said of Tertullian from his earliest to his latest writings.25 He speaks of the ʽEvangelicum instrumentumʼ—that is to say, the ʽauthoritative recordʼ existing in the four Gospels. Clement quotes words from all four Gospels as words of ʽScripture,ʼ26 and distinguishes27 between ʽthe four Gospels handed down to usʼ and the Gospel according to the Egyptians, whose ʽwords of the Lordʼ were not sufficiently trustworthy.

But when Tertullian appeals to the ʽDivinum instrumentum, or even to the ʽtotum instrumentum utriusque testamenti,ʼ he has, besides the Old Testament, not only the books of the Gospel, but a number vf Apostolic writings in view. ʽEvangelicae et Apostolicae literaeʼ stand, for him, beside ʽlex et prophetae.ʼ The Apostolic writings (ʽapostoli literaeʼ), just as much as the Gospel of the Lord, certify that the Church has one baptism, and in the De Baptismo, 2, a sentence of Paulʼs is introduced before a logion of Jesus taken from Matthew, as a Divine utterance. The equality of 1. Corinthians with the Old Testament cannot be more clearly expressed than in the De Oratione, 22 (ʽapostolus eodem utique spiritu actus, quo cum omnis Scriptura divina tum et illa Genesis digesta estʼ). Even Irenaeus28 distinctly reckons the Pauline Epistles, like the Gospel of Luke, with the ʽScriptures,ʼ i.e. with the record of revelation contained in the two Testaments, and incapable of self-contradiction; and although none of his quotations from Paul (which amount to over 200) are made with the solemn introductory formula—i.e. directly designated as Scripture—yet he treats the Gospels in ʽalmost the same manner. Here, on New Testament ground, Irenĉus is perfectly at home, and even makes a point of identifying the sources whence he draws with some precision; while with the Old Testament quotations he often does not know to which book he is referring. But even if Irenaeus consciously distinguished Scriptures (i.e. the Old Testament), Gospels and Apostles, that would only show that he was under the influence of an older habit of speech, in which the three degrees still existed. I cannot discover in Irenaeus the slightest trace of the idea that he looked upon the Pauline Epistles merely as the secondary authorities for his Scriptural proof, for in that case it would indeed be extraordinary that he should almost have preferred the secondary to the primary! Clement of Alexandria, too, seldom quotes sentences of Paul as ʽScripture,ʼ29 but neither does he apply this term very frequently to the Gospels.30 The Apostleʼs words are made use of in argument quite promiscuously, along with words of the Lord and of Scripture; the Prophets, the Gospel and the Apostle make together a ʽScripture of the Lordʼ rich in unerring wisdom.31 Finally, the difference in the manner of quotation which may still be observed centuries later, is explained by the necessity of making the new sources of Revelation known as such; but there was no common name for these which would at the same time indicate their close connection with the Old Testament. It is true that ʽboth Testamentsʼ were already spoken of, but in doing so Clement of Alexandria, as well as Tertullian, thinks more of the contents of the books concerned than of the books themselves.32 Men accustomed to give two names to the Old Scriptures, the Law and the Prophets, would probably find it easy to express the dual nature of the New Canon in the words ʽthe Gospel and the Apostlesʼ (or   εὐαγγελικὰ καὶ ὰποστολικά).

But the second and younger part of it was not nearly so well defined as the first. Everyone included the thirteen letters of the Apostle κατ’ ἐξοχήν—for that Irenaeus does not mention Philemon is a mere chance. But Paul had not been the only Apostle; it would be impossible to imagine any reason why the Church should reject the epistles, discourses, etc. of the Twelve, and we are therefore not surprised to find that 1. Peter, 1. and 2. John (the absence of 3. John may be due to chance), as well as the Acts of the Apostles as treated of by Luke, were valued by Irenaeus as highly as Paulʼs own words.33 In my opinion, Irenaeus knew the Epistle of James and the Epistle to the Hebrews, but not as component parts of Holy Scripture; he treats them in the same manner as the Pauline Epistles had been treated forty years before. On the other hand, he has the highest possible esteem for the Apocalypse, the book of the Apostle-Prophet. Tertullian proceeds in much the same way: besides the thirteen Pauline Epistles, he includes in the Apostolic ʽinstruments,ʼ the Apocalypse, the Acts, 1. Peter, 1. John and Jude. The addition of the last named is worthy of note, and the absence of 2. and 8. John in Tertullianʼs writings is not absolutely certain evidence of their absence from his Canon. The Epistle of James is uncertain; the Epistle to the Hebrews he once quotes expressly as an Epistle of Barnabas.34 All trace of 2. Peter is wanting. Clement of Alexandria includes in his ʽApostolicum,ʼ the Acts, fourteen Epistles of Paul (indeed he is particularly fond of quoting ʽthe Apostleʼ in passages from Hebrews), the Apocalypse, and, of the Catholic Epistles, undoubtedly 1. Peter, 1. and 2. John, and Jude. According to Eusebius (Historia Ecclesiastica, VI. xiv. 1) he had given a short summary of all the Catholic Epistles—including, therefore, 3. John, James and 2. Peter—-in his ʽOutlinesʼ (ὑποτυπώσεις); as We cannot however, verify the correctness of this report, the question must remain undecided. But the fact that the extensive writings of Clement which have come down to us nowhere betray any acquaintance with these three Epistles, seems to me very remarkable in the case of James and 2. Peter, though in that of 3. John it is of small importance.

Thus we see that the three great men of the Greco-Latin Church, about 200 A. D., agree to include in the second part of the New Testament, thirteen Epistles of Paul, 1. Peter and 1. John, the Acts and the Apocalypse. The opinion as to the Epistle to the Hebrews and the five other Catholic Epistles— so far as they were known at all—remained undecided even in the principal communities. But, on the other hand, the decision as to the rejection of books which were cast out later on as Apocryphal was also extremely variable. Irenaeus35 is certainly very fond of mentioning the Scripture (ἱκανωτάτη γραφή) of Clement of Rome36; Hermas is introduced37 by the words καλῶς εἶπεν ἡ γραφὴ ἡ λέγουσα, in the midst of —quotations from Genesis, Malachi, Ephesians and Matthew; and this is not the only evidence of the high esteem in which the Roman Apocalypse was held; Tertullian, too,38 recognises the Scriptural authority of ʽthat Hermas whose work bears the title of “The Shepherd.”ʼ The value of this older testimony is not lessened by the fact that when he afterwards became a Montanist, he mocked at the ʽShepherd who only loved adulterersʼ; his change of opinion only shows that dogmatic considerations were more effective than historical in the settlement of the Canon. Clement of Alexandria refers still more frequently to Hermas, and also to the Epistle of Barnabas, 1. Clement and the ʽTeaching of the Apostles.ʼ Moreover, certain ʽApocryphalʼ sayings of the Lord and of the Apostles are to be found in his writings. But considering his wide range and his unexacting standard, we must not conclude too hastily, from his own individual inclination towards the most comprehensive use possible of everything valuable in the tradition, that such was also the custom of his church, whether that of Alexandria or of Palestine. Be that as it may, several of the above-mentioned works, besides Hermas, were read aloud in the services of the Church about 200 A.D., without any clear line of distinction being drawn between them and the writings of the Apostles.

6. We have still one more witness (although an anonymous one) as to the position of the new Canon about 200, the only one to treat of this subject ex officio. This is the Muratorianum (or Canon of Muratori39). In 1740 the Milanese librarian L. A. Muratori40 published a fragment, eighty-five lines long (each line consisting of about thirteen or fourteen syllables) and written in barbarous Latin, of a Codex embracing a number of documents, with hermeneutic glosses, dating from about the year 700, and formerly in the possession of the Monastery of Bobbio. The conclusion was illegible; it began in the middle of a sentence relating to Mark; most probably this was preceded by a discussion of the Old Testament Books, and what has come down to us is perhaps scarcely a third of the whole list of Holy Scriptures which it contained. Many still deny that what we have is a translation from a Greek original; but so much is certain: the treatise was written about 200, rather a decade earlier than later; and the author (about whose name it is useless to trouble ourselves) stood, in some connection at least, with the Roman church. For instance, he says of the ʽShepherdʼ of Hermas41 that it was ʽwritten by Hermas quite a short time ago, in our days, in the city of Rome, when his brother, Bishop Pius, sat in the Chair of the church at Rome.ʼ At a distance men would scarcely have reckoned by the dates of Roman bishops—and even if we consider that the words ʽnuperrime nostris temporibus,ʼ were intended to mark the contrast with the Apostolic times, we cannot allow too great an interval between the Pontificate of Pius (c. 140-155) and the date of our fragment. Now this Roman included in his Canon Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, though the section referring to Matthew is now wanting. The Gospels form one group for discussion by themselves; then follow ʽActa omnium Apostolorum sub uno libro scripta,ʼ the PaulineEpistles (nine to the churches, and four to individuals), Jude, 1. and 2. John, the Apocalypse of John and the Apocalypse of Peter, to which indeed is added the remark that ʽsome of our brethren will not haveitread in their churches.ʼ 1. Peter can scarcely be absent from the list except by an oversight, perhaps that of a copyist; the fact that only two Epistles of John are mentioned, to some extent lends additional importance to the absence of quotations from 8. John in other authors, such as Irenaeus; but what constitutes the chief value of the Muratorian Fragment is that it places the following statement beyond controversy: the great churches of the West, about the year 200, possessed, beside the Old, a New Testament, the first part of which consisted of the Four Gospels, and the second of the Apostolic writings; and among these last neither the Epistle to the Hebrews, 2. Peter nor James are to be found. Other writings were still matter for controversy, as, for instance, the Apocalypse of Peter; evidently the case is exactly the same with the ʽShepherdʼ of Hermas, only that our fragmentist belongs to the party who rejected it; and when he protests so energetically against the forged compositions of heretics, such as the pretended Epistles of Paul to the Laodiceans and to the Alexandrians, he was no doubt driven to do so by the partial success of these fictions within the orthodox churches. The Muratorianum no longer had need to combat false Gospels in its own district; the only uncertainty is with regard to the limits of the ʽApostolicumʼ and of the Old Testament, for it defends (and in a truly remarkable passage) the admission of the ʽWisdom of Solomon.ʼ

If, then, the result which we had already obtained concerning the compass of the New Testament Canon is most happily confirmed by the Muratorianum, that result may still prove useful to us as a guide when we attempt to answer the next question: From what motives, and on what principles, did the Church create a mew Canon and arrange it in this particular form?



1) i. 28.

2) § 81.

3) i, 28.

4) λόγια κυρίου.

5) Apol. i. 33

6) Dial. 49, 100.

7) See Apol. i. 61.

8) E.g. Romans.

9) See pp. 302-305, 317-319.

10) μαμτύριαι

11) As well as with Jewish unwritten tradition.

12) Such as the Gospel of Matthias.

13) See pp. 180 fol.

14) Ch. 13.

15) John i. 5.

16) Matthew v. 28.

17) Hist. Eccles. IV. xxix. 6.

18) †457.

19) Cf. Dion Cassius, xxxvii. 18.

20)c. 200.

21)c. 230.

22)c. 220.

23) III. xi. 8, ὁ λύγος ἔδωκεν ἡμῖν τετράμορφον τὸ εὐαγγέλιον, ἑνὶ δὲ πνεύματι συνεχόμεναν.

24) Rev. iv. 7; Ezek. i. 10, x. 14.

25) Principally the Contra Marcionem, iv. 2.

26) E.g., Strom. VI. xviii. 164.

27) III. xiii. 93.

28) E.g., III. xii. 12.

29) Strom. I. xvii. 87-xviii. 88.

30) E.g., Strom. VI. xviii. 164.

31) Strom. VII. xvi. 94-97, μἱ κυριακαὶ γραφαί, or else in the singular.

32) Strom. VI. v. 42.

33) E.g., III.. xiv. xv.

34) De Pudic. 20.

35) III. in. 3.

36) 1. Clem.

37) IV. xx. 2.

38) De Orat. xvi.

39) See the text in Preuschen, p. 459 above.

40) †1750.

41) Lines 73-80.