An Introduction to the New Testament

By Adolf Jülicher


Chapter 3 - Section 39



§ 39. The New Testament of the Greek Church from c. 200 to c. 330

1. It has already been shown that Clement, the representative of the Eastern Church of about 200, had less hesitation than his Roman and African contemporaries in granting admission within the limits of the new Holy Scriptures: this lack of definite rule in the matter of the Canon is typical of the Greek Church down to the time of Athanasius. The Alogi of Asia Minor, with their determined criticism of all the writings of John, were afterwards naturally considered heretics; but the majority of contemporary Christians did not look upon them as enemies of the Church because of their dissent in questions of the Canon. Indeed, a Roman theologian of repute named Caius, who wrote in Greek and flourished early in the third century,1 ventured on a similar criticism, in his wrath at the Montanistsʼ assiduous preparation of ʽnew Scriptures,ʼ by simply declaring the favourite book of those enthusiasts, the Apocalypse, to be an impudent forgery of the arch-heretic Cerinthus.2 The name of John indeed is not mentioned in the observations of Caius which Eusebius has preserved3: he only speaks of a great Apostle who was falsely asserted to be the recipient of this angelic revelation, but as the description of the contents corresponds exactly with our Apocalypse, and as Eusebius, who had the context before him, refers it to this, we cannot doubt that it was this which Caius attacked as a non-Apostolic book, with no claim to Divinity, and therefore uncanonical. This supposition is confirmed by the fragments of a controversial writing of Hippolytus against Caius (preserved in Syriac), in which the latterʼs objections to portions of the Apocalypse, such as viii. 8, 12, ix. 15 etc., are brought forward and refuted. There were thus some within the Church who were already beginning to object to the chiliasm and the sensuous expectations of the Apocalypse, and as they considered their own convictions necessarily identical with the revelation of God, they drew the conclusion that a work which contradicted these convictions could only have been surreptitiously conveyed into a collection of sacred books. |

Their protest is no proof that a Canon containing the Apocalypse was not in existence at that time, but only that it had not been in existence long enough, nor in a sufficiently settled form, to make any correction of it appear monstrous. The Canon was still visibly growing in one direction: then it must also be permissible, on the ground of better information, to cut it down in another. Books with heterodox contents were, of course, excluded everywhere. Thus about the year 200, Bishop Serapion of Antioch prohibited the use of the Gospel of Peter in the community of Rhossus, as soon as he heard that dangerous doctrines were there encouraged by it. His conduct4 in the matter is most characteristic. On a former visit of his to Rhossus he had conferred the favour on its church (which he found standing firm in the true faith) of permitting it to read the Gospel of Peter, till then unknown to him, in its services: whether as well as the four Canonical Gospels, or instead of one of them, he does not say. Soon afterwards heresy broke out in Rhossus; the Gospel of Peter was appealed to on behalf of Docetism; Serapion examined it, found some parts of it to be false and rejected it peremptorily as a forgery (ψευδεπψραφόν)—as though he could have thought it genuine before without at once procuring so great a treasure for his own use and introducing it to his other churches! But a clear distinction between historical judgment as to the spuriousness of a book professing to be Apostolic, and dogmatic judgment as to heretical elements in its contents, was quite beyond the powers of the early Church. The name ʽPseudepigraphʼ always indicates both—a rejection from historic as well as dogmatic motives. This amalgamation of the two points of view will soon take place more definitely and with more serious consequences. What was accidentally set aside in Rhossus had probably been read with reverence for some time in other communities, and naturally the Gospel of Peter had not taken a lower place than that of Matthew or Mark. But not only the Gospel of Peter had enjoyed such distinction. The ʽShepherdʼ of Hermas was treated by practically all the Greek theologians of the third century who had occasion to use it as a canonical document. Methodius of Olympus,5 the greatest ecclesiastical teacher of the opposite school to Origen, included in his Canon the Apocalypse of Peter, and perhaps also the Epistle of Barnabas and the ʽTeaching of the Apostlesʼ; and we may conclude from the remarkably keen interest shown, for instance, by Eusebius, in the definite exclusion of certain books from, the canonical sphere, that in his neighbourhood the Church had not yet attained complete success in its efforts to eject troublesome appendages from the Canon.

2. And yet the Greek Church possessed, between 200 and 330, a teacher κατ’ ἐξοχήν; both in quality and quantity her greatest writer is Origen († 254), the head of the Alexandrian school. His position with regard to the new Canon must be examined on account of his extraordimary influence.6 Unfortunately, an element of difficulty attends such an examination, owing to the fact that a considerable part of his work is altogether lost, and another part is only preserved in Latin translations,7 which cannot by any means be called literal. For this indefatigable writer, who represented the Eastern Church of about 250, was condemned as a heretic in the sixth century by that very Church, and it is only in few and scattered fragments that she has preserved his works for herself and after times. Nevertheless, there is no doubt as to the principal points. (a) Origen knows no distinction of value within the limits of the Holy Scriptures between the old and the new; he comments on the new—on Matthew, John and Romans—in the same manner as on Exodus and Leviticus, with the same presumption in either case, that he has before him inspired books, full of unerring truth, and with the same methods of treatment. In argument he is quite indifferent as to whether his citations come from the Old or the New Testament. One sentence from his Commentary on Matt. xiii. 528 may serve as a proof of this: ʽWe must study the law of the Lord day and night, and not only the new decrees of the Gospels, and the Apostles, and their revelation, but also the old decrees to be found in the Law, which foreshadowed the good things to come, and the Prophets who prophesied of these things.ʼ A passage from his Commentary on John (tom. v.) received in the ʽPhilocaliaʼ the apposite heading, ʽThat all inspired Scripture forms a single book.ʼ Further, he finds support for the unity of the divine book (τὸ ἑνικὸν τῆς θείας βίρλου) in passages such as Rev. v. 1 fol. and x. 10; for him it is from beginning to end the Book of Life. Yet he does not deny the difference between Old and New: he admits that the one offers shadow and prophecy, the other fulfilment and revelation—though such a proposition agrees but ill with his method of interpretation, which regards everything in the Bible as possessing a double meaning, a plain and a secret text. But even the name ʽNew Testamentʼ for the sum of the new books as opposed to the Old (ἡ καινή and ἠ παλαία διαθήκη) is already a familiar phrase with Origen, and in the course of the next century becomes established in the whole Church, with the name of ʽNovum Testamentumʼ in the Latin branch. In the New Testament, again, he makes a clear division between Gospels and Apostolic writings, as in the Old Testament between the Law and the Prophets, for to him ʽthe Revelation of the Apostlesʼ is not the title of a single book, but an honourable appellation for everything, excepting the Gospels, left by the Apostles.

(b) But which books did Origen include in his New Testament? The sacred number of the Four Gospels was considered much more incontestable by the disciple of Clement than it had once been by the master9; he mentions them times without number simply by the names of their authors, and we find that he made use of Gospel material from other sources less frequently than Clement. In the second part of the New Testament—ʽThe Apostlesʼ—he certainly includes the Acts as well as the Epistles. There were fourteen Epistles of Paul. Although he had critical doubts with regard to the Epistle to the Hebrews, especially on account of the difference in style, yet the ideas were those of Paul, and so he quoted it constantly (almost preferring it to the rest) expressly as Scripture, as the word of the Apostle, or of Paul. In his churches this Epistle must have formed part of the Corpus Paulinarum. But we find him setting the Epistles of other Apostles on the same level; and among these some expansion has taken place; 2. and 8. John, Jude, James, and 2. Peter are used beside 1. Peter and 1. John, and are quite familiar to the writer, who appears to presume a similar acquaintance on the part of his readers. It is true that everyone must notice a certain hesitation when the master makes use of quotations from these minor Epistles: they are not a final tribunal; he saves himself by such phrases as ʽIn case anyone should appeal to,ʼ etc. The Epistle of Jude has the qualification φερομένη, by which the responsiblity for the title is shifted on to other shoulders. Origen was not accustomed to speak of the first Epistle of John or Peter, as he so often did of Corinthians and Thessalonians. Evidently while 1. Peter and 1. John were as firmly established as the Pauline Epistles, he did not wish to give a final judgment in the case of the five minor Epistles; he would not contest the fact that they were Apostolic writings, and saw that in this case they belonged to the New Testament (hence he could only understand their rejection as due to a doubt of their genuineness, whereas in reality it was mostly due to the Churchʼs former ignorance of them); but he was supported too little by the custom of the Church to be able to treat them simply as equal in value with those which had long been received into the Church. And what was there besides the custom of the Church, the judgment of the Fathers (οἱ ἀρχαῖοι ἄνδρες), that was capable of deciding on the genuineness of the Apostolic title borne by a given document, provided indeed that it did not betray itself as a forgery by heretical contents? Historical criticism surely could not influence the definition of the formative principles of the Christian religion!

With regard to the Apocalypses, again, the position of Origen is no clearer.. He often quotes that of John, quotes it, moreover, as part of Holy Scripture, e.g. In Joh. tom. i. 22: ἐν τῇ Ἰωάννου ἀποκαλύψει λέγει. Nor does he doubt that it was composed by the Evangelist and Beloved Disciple, but he is not in sympathy with it, and betrays peculiar animosity in the sentence preserved by Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. VI. xxv. 9: ʽJohn moreover wrote the Apocalypse, although [?] he had received the command to be silent and not to write the utterance of the seven thunders.ʼ

The ʽShepherdʼ of Hermas he quotes repeatedly as an authority to be revered; but as this was neither a Gospel nor the work of an Apostle, he cannot have included it in his New Testament. Touching the authenticity of the ʽPreaching of Peter,ʼ he refuses to be drawn into controversy with Heracleon (see below, p. 528). When he discusses a saying of Jesus from the Acts of Paul (In. Joh. tom. xx. 12) this apocryphal book of Acts is not thereby assigned any higher rank than is the Gospel of the Hebrews when employed in the same Commentary (tom. ii. 12); the reader is sufficiently prepared by expressions such as ʽshould oneappeal to it,ʼ ʽshould we wish to accept a word recorded in the Acts of Paul as having been spoken by the Saviourʼ; in this case the question is obviously not of canonicity, but of the mere credibility of a writer. But could a Non liquet be tolerated by the Church in regard to a portion of the Gospel or the words of an Apostle?

(c) Origen knew no way out of these perplexities. Even if as many as seven non-Pauline Epistles were perhaps being read in the Alexandrian church, he was too well informed not to know of the divergences in other churches, and his scientific conscience did not permit him to conceal the state of the case. The importance, too, of a decision on this question was clear to him, clearer than to most other men, since his immense literary knowledge made him aware how much useless stuff was current under the Apostolic ęgis. But, unfortunately, he was too modest to dictate the decision; in the end he was satisfied with recording the facts in statistical form. The idea of making out different classes of ʽEvangelico-Apostolicʼ books originated with him, not that he wished to keep them permanently in these classes, but only to give the results of his researches into the state of the question. In the case of all writings which came under his consideration, whether as to their titles or their contents, the reader, or the community, might learn from him whether they were definitely accepted, formally rejected, or still debateable —that is to say, whether the churches took up a varying position with regard to them. The first class includes those which are universally recognised (ἀναντίρρητα, ὁμολογούμενα)—the four Gospels, the Acts, the Apocalypse (!), 1. Peter, 1. John, the Pauline Epistles-—and of these, by strict right, only thirteen. Origen knew that the Epistle to the Hebrews was not universally recognised as Pauline, or as Apostolic, but his own inclination made him advocate the unreserved addition of this Epistle to the others; he never called it expressly one of the Homologumena, but treated it practically as such. (2) As false (ψευδῆ) are reckoned the Gospel according to the Egyptians, that of the Twelve, above all that Κατὰ Βασιλείδην, and all that the heretics had forged under the names of Gospels or Apostles. Between these two stands Class 8, the doubtful writings (ἁμφιβαλλόμενα): 2. Peter, 2. and 3. John—probably also James and Jude (and Hermas?)-those whose genuineness, whose Apostolic authorship, was doubtful (οὐ πάντες φασὶ γνησίους εἶναι ταύτας).

3. This classification met with the entire approbation of Eusebius, the famous ecclesiastical historian and true follower of Origen, who stood at the turning-point between two epochs, and studied the history of the New Testament Canon with peculiar interest, as far as a learned Christian of that time could study it. In § III. xxv. of his principal work he summed up the total results of his researches—probably not without a secret desire in some degree to influence public opinion upon the question of the Canon [Text in Preuschen, see p. 459]. Here he aims at giving a catalogue of the ʽScriptures of the New Testament.ʼ In the first place there were the four Gospels, then the Acts, the Pauline Epistles (whether thirteen or fourteen was left doubtful, as with Origen—but according to ILL. iii. 5 Eusebius thought fourteen), lastly 1. John and 1. Peter, and ʽif it seems goodʼ (εἴ γε φαιζείη) the Apocalypse also. These books are universally recognised, and recognised moreover as Divine Scriptures.10 On the other hand, the Epistles of James and Jude, 2. Peter, and 2. and 3. John are disputed (ἀντιλεγόμενα), it being uncertain whether these last were written by the Evangelist or by another John. Also to be numbered among the not genuine (νόθα)11 are the Acts of Paul, Hermas, the Apocalypse of Peter, Barnabas, the ʽTeaching of the Apostlesʼ; lastly, if desired, the Apocalypse of John and the Gospel according to the Hebrews. The extraordinary fact that Eusebius could count the same Apocalypse among the universally recognised and the contested books is only comprehensible when we remember his dependence on Origen, who counted it among the Homologumena. But Eusebius knew that some rejected it, or denied that it was written by the Apostle, and therefore, for his part, he felt obliged to count it among the Antilegomena, where the Gospel according to the Hebrews might at best find a place. The New Testament in the strictest sense was composed of those Scriptures which, according to the tradition of the Church, were true, uncorrupted and universally recognised (twenty-one documents, or according to Origen, who included the Apocalpyse, twenty-two). The Antilegomena no longer formed part of the New Testament—that is to say, of the absolutely certain norm of Christian faith12—but were, nevertheless, well known to very many ecclesiastical writers, and had, at any rate, nothing at all in common with the Gospels produced by heretics, such as those of Peter, Thomas, and Matthias, or with Acts of the Apostles such as those of Andrew, John, &c., which had never been thought worthy of mention by one of the authorities of the Church, and which alike in style and contents were far removed from the Apostolic standard. They were to be avoided as ʽquite perverted and godlessʼ (ὡς ἄτοπαπάντη καὶ δυσσεβῆ παριαιτητέον).

As Eusebius makes isolated remarks on this subject in other parts of his ʽEcclesiastical History,ʼ and in doing so changes his class-titles, his classification has given rise to much controversy. But we may regard it as settled that after careful proof he considered that the collective body of documents which had any claim whatever to be called sacred fell into three classes: the undoubtedly Apostolic (21), the Antilegomena, and the Anti-Apostolic, which in III. xxxi.6 he calls entirely spurious (παντελῶς νόθα). There was no doubt as to the books belonging to the third class; the distinction between Classes I. and II. he drew, not according to the results of historical criticism, but by counting the authorities for or against. What was unanimously accepted by all belonged to the first class; what only a part admitted belonged to the second. The statistician is here surrounded by obscurity and confusion. He says of the Epistle to the Hebrews13 that it was not recognised as an Epistle of Paul by the Roman churches, but yet it does not occur to him to include it among the Antilegomena. Again, the Apocalypse of Peter stands in one place14¯ among the Antilegomena (that is, among the much used and quoted writings), even before the Apocalypse of John; in another15 it is said to be unknown in Catholic communities and not quoted by any ecclesiastical writer. Further, the authorities of Eusebius were sometimes the churches,16 sometimes the ecclesiastical writers (especially those of old time), and once he expressly assures us17 that he intends to state in a later page which of the ecclesiastical writers of different times made use of Antilegomena, and of how many of these, as well as what they said about the universally recognised Scriptures and about those which were not so recognised. The opinions of churches he knew only from his own experience; those of individual writers he gathered from widely differing periods, and a combination of the two was bound to give a perverted image. If the churches of his day were unanimous in accepting what certain writers 150 years before had contested, must the book in question nevertheless be counted among the Antilegomena to all eternity? Was it possible, on the other hand, to maintain a class of books which by some authorities were counted among the Divine, but not by others? For the one party did not merely reckon as * usefulʼ what the other ignored, but treated it exactly as they did the other Scriptures (μετὰ τῶν ἄλλων ἐσπουδάσθη γραφῶν); for instance, they ʽpublishedʼ the Epistles of James and Jude together with the other Epistles (καὶ ταύτας μετὰ τῶν λοιπῶν ἐν πλείσταις δεδημοσιευμένας ἐκκλησίαις); and was the fact of not being mentioned to be taken as a denial of the book? Must a thing be known everywhere and always if it was to be considered trustworthy?

But Eusebius is most unfortunate of all in his terminology. He asserts18 that of all the writings bearing the name of Peter, he knows but one single Epistle which is genuine and recognised by the Fathers; thus Class I. actually receives the title of ʽgenuineʼ; but if Class III. bears the designation ʽabsolutely spurious,ʼ Class II. must lie between the perfectly genuine and the absolutely spurious; and as a matter of fact, Eusebius uses for it the term ʽspuriousʼ (νόθῃ). For the context of the principal passage, III. xxv. 3-6, forbids us to accept a division of the second class into two sections—one containing such books as merely took the title of the whole class (Antilegomena), and the other those which might also be called ʽspuriousʼ; and if Peter left only one genuine document behind him, what could the other writings of Peter be but spurious? And is it of ʽspurious writingsʼ that we are again and again assured that they belonged to the public possession of most of the communities? Here again Eusebius can only be understood through Origen, who, in making an incidental use of the ʽKerygma Petri,ʼ says that he would not at the moment argue whether the book were genuine, spurious or mixed (γνήσιον ἢ νόθον ἢ μικτόν). In my opinion, we have no right to identify these three words unreservedly with the headings used in Origenʼs classification; it by no means follows from this that Origen had drawn up a class of ʽmixedʼ writings identical with his Amphiballomena, while Eusebius, by an oversight, included ʽspuriousʼ with ʽmixed.ʼ Origen is there considering—very reasonably too, and only in the case of the ʽPreaching of Peterʼ—that there exist three possibilities: (1) that the document was really derived wholly and entirely from the Apostle Peter, in which case it would be ʽgenuineʼ; (2) that it had only been falsely attributed to him, in which case it would be ʽspuriousʼ; and (8) that it contained much that was really Peterʼs, but interspersed with the thoughts of a later writer, in which case it must be called ʽmixed.ʼ Origen knew perfectly well that it did not belong to the Homologumena: if, nevertheless, he leaves open the possibility of its genuineness, this shows that he does not consider! ʽgenuineʼ and ʽuniversally recognisedʼ to be identical ideas. It was a serious mistake on the part of Eusebius if he identified ʽgenuineʼ with ʽrecognisedʼ through an imperfect remembrance of Origen; for the former involves a personal judgment: the latter is the result of a statistical inquiry. When (in this case logically) he describes the writings of his second class—no longer genuine, though much esteemed as reading-books for the churches—as spurious, he weakens the sense of the word in his own mind to mean not undisputedly genuine (νόθα=books of an ἀντιλεγομένη γνησιότης).

The fact is that in the case of many of these books it was not their genuineness in a literary and historical sense which was called in question (e.g. in the case of 1. Clement,19 Hermas and Barnabas); still less was it their genuineness in a dogmatic sense, for those writings which were false and deceitful in that sense of course composed the third class. It was only their right of belonging to the Canon that was objected to, and chiefly on the ground of established custom. Certainly as regards writings with an Apostolic title, it was only possible to contest them—when once the whole Church had become thoroughly imbued with the idea that the only condition of Canonicity was that of Apostolic origin—by demonstrating their spuriousness in a literary sense. On this point the Church must be clear; the question could not remain undecided as to whether a certain work were of Apostolic origin or only falsely attributed to an Apostle, and thus the Apostolic writings termed ʽspuriousʼ by Eusebius —perhaps this unendurable epithet helped to hasten the decision—were obliged to range themselves either with the first or the third class. Hither it was found possible to believe in their Apostolic origin, in which case every protest must cease, and the documents be received into the Canon of the ʽmost genuineʼ (this is the result in the case of the five later Catholic Epistles and the Apocalypse); or the decision was given against them, and then the partial esteem which they had formerly enjoyed tended precisely to destroy their reputation, and they were called godless and lying: this was the fate of the Gospels of the Hebrews and of Peter, the Acts of Paul, the Apocalypse of Peter, and so on. That this process had already begun in the time of Eusebius is shown by the fact that he never expressly uses the term ʽspuriousʼ for the five Catholic Epistles; they stand high up in the second class, and he takes a breath, as it were, before going on to the other books of the same class; it is not without intention, moreover, that he places the Apocalypse of John rather low down in the second list.

4. If Eusebius had not yielded very decidedly to his own learned proclivities in his labours and writings upon the history of the Canon, a very different picture of the position of the New Testament in the Greek Church of his time would probably have resulted. He himself scarcely knew several of the Antilegomena about which he discourses so eagerly. The Greek Church of his time acknowledged (besides the four Gospels) the Acts, fourteen Pauline Epistles — the number fourteen was only contested among the Latins—and seven Catholic Epistles. Theologians were still aware that the majority of these seven Epistles had only recently won their ʽway to general esteem; but as far as the Church was concerned, the distinction between them was already smoothed away; she possessed a collection of seven Epistles for which she had even invented a special name, that of the Catholic Epistles.20 Eusebius bears witness to this (in II. xxiii. 2521), and as he had shortly before mentioned the Epistle of James as the first of the so-called Catholic Epistles, there appears already to exist a settled order of precedence within this second Canon of Epistles. But when once James stands before 1. Peter in the manuscripts, it is at most a learned archaism to designate James as οὐκ ἐνδιάθηκος, while 1. Peter is included in the New Testament.

Thus the second part of the New Testament, which Origen called ʽThe Apostle,ʼ is now for the Greek Christians just as complete as was the first part, ʽThe Gospels,ʼ in the time of Trenzus. It is known which Epistles are to be honoured as Apostolic. Edifying Epistles of other authors, such as the Epistle of Barnabas and the Epistles of Clement, were certainly still read aloud in public worship in many places, but as their authors did not speak as Apostles, and only the word of the Apostles was admitted into the Canon, there was no danger of their entering the New Testament; they had never stood among the newly arranged ʽCatholicʼ Epistles, nor even beside the Pauline and the Catholic Epistles as a third division; they were treasured, but were not considered as a standard authority—not as ʽThe Lord.ʼ

On the other hand, the situation is proportionately worse in the apocalyptic division of the ʽApostolicon.ʼ Instead of the one Apocalypse of John which Origen accepted as a matter of course, some used several, and others would not tolerate any at all within the limits of the New Testament. Even if we had not the testimony of Methodius in favour of the Apocalypse of Peter, we might conclude from Eusebius that this book had enthusiastic partisans; even the non-Apostolic Apocalypse of Hermas was not yet rejected from the list of church books; and there is no doubt that where an affection existed for these two books, the Apocalypse of John must have been held in still higher esteem. But the anti-Apocalyptic movement, which first met us with the Alogi and Caius about the year 200, had meanwhile greatly increased. Origen was not aware that the Apocalypse of John had ever been contested: he appears to have read none of the attacks of Caius; but, considering the nature of his speculations, it is no matter for surprise that we soon find his school leading the opposition against this Apocalypse. Bishop Dionysius of Alexandria (a follower of Origen), who died about the year 265, expressed himself, according to the Ecclesiastica Historia of Eusebius,22 in the following terms on the Apocalypse:—Some of the early Christians utterly repudiated the book, and declared its title to be false [he can only have been thinking of learned criticism such as that of Caius], and its real author to be the heretic Cerinthus. He personally would not venture to repudiate a book so dear to many of the brethren, but he did not understand it. He did not measure it by his understanding, but accepted the fact that its contents were above his comprehension as a matter of faith.

However, his critical doubts led him still further. He made a very thorough comparison between the ideas, literary style and language of the Apocalypse and those of the Gospel and First Epistle of John (the Second and Third Epistles are once introduced too as letters of the Apostle, although separated noticeably from the two principal writings), and found it impossible to believe that one man was the author of them all. But, he continues, we need not believe that the author spoke falsely when he called himself John; there were many who bore the name of John—in Ephesus alone the monuments of two were shown—and so perhaps the Apocalypse might have been written, not by a heretic under a false name, but by some real John, some holy and inspired man. This compromise between critical suspicion and consideration for those who reverenced the book might satisfy Dionysius, but the Church could not be content with it. If the writer of the Apocalypse was no Apostle—and among the Apostles there was but one John—if it was impossible to prove at least a connection between him and the Apostles, as in the case of Mark and Luke, his work could not remain within the Canon. The motive power in the history of the Canon here comes out very clearly. The Apocalypse had a brilliant record as Holy Scripture on its side; even if its non-Apostolic authorship had been proved—which was not the case—a way would still have been discovered to retain it within the New Testament if only the right interest had been felt for it. But this was precisely lacking in many leaders of the Greek Church; because the contents of the book were extremely inconvenient to them, their eyes were opened to the discrepancies of form between it and the Gospel and Epistle. They did not wish to maintain its Apostolic origin, and therefore thought they were unable to do so, or rather found out that the thing was impossible. Thus the denial of the fact that it was Apostolic was the first step towards its exclusion from the New Testament. Eusebius himself belonged to those who did not consider the Apocalypse as ἐνδιάθηκος; at first it was not read in public worship only because it was too difficult of comprehension, but it was kept among the collections of church books. Once the congregations had grown unaccustomed to it, its critics applied more drastic measures, and either made a logical attack on its right to belong to the Canon or else ignored it altogether. About the year 325 there were certainly many Greek churches which believed themselves to possess complete New Testaments with only twenty-six Books—the same as those we recognise to-day, with the exception of the Apocalypse. Here and there it was probably quite unknown, although all kinds of appendages to the New Testament were affectionately cherished.

Thus in the Greek world, the advance to be noted in the history of the Canon between the period of Origen and that of Athanasius is, on the one hand, a securer welding together of the seven Catholic Epistles, and their attachment through tradition to the Pauline; on the other, an almost complete abandonment of the Apocalyptic literature of the New Testament.



1) Euseb. Hist. Eccles. VI. xx. 3; λογιώτατος ἀνὴρ.

2) See p. 277.

3) Hist. Eccles. III. xxviii. 2.

4) Described according to his own account of it in Euseb. Hist. Eccl. VI. xii. 2-6.

5) c. 300.

6) Some material in Preuschen; see above, p. 459.

7) Of Jerome and Rufinus.

8) Tom. x. 15.

9)  τὸ ἀληθῶς διὰ τεσσάρων ἕν ἐστιν εὐαγγέλιον: Comm. in Joh. tom. v. 3.

10) III. iii. 7.

11) Hence νοθεύειν, to set aside in this category.

12) οὐκ ἐνδιάθηκοι.

13) III. iii. 5.

14) III. xxv. 4 (cf. VI. xiv. 1).

15) III. iii. 2.

16) II. xxiii. 25; III. iii. 6; XVI. xxxi. 6.

17) III. iii. 3.

18) III. iii, 4.

19) VI. xiii. 6.

20) See p. 201

21) Cf. VI. xiv. 1.

22) VII. xxv.