An Introduction to the New Testament

By Adolf Jülicher


Chapter 3 - Section 40


§40. The New Testament in the Latin Church from c. 200 to c. 375

1. In this section our limits may be extended a little farther, because the Latin Church did not reach a turning-point about the year 330, as did the Greek. The elevation of Christianity by Constantine to the position of a State-religion was not felt so much as in the East; the Church had at this time no scholar like Eusebius, with his interest in the history of the Canon; nor did any remarkable general development take place before the last quarter of the fourth century; Jerome and Augustine, who died in 420 and 430 respectively, are, in the West, the first to indicate the beginning of the last epoch of our history.

2. The indefatigable Hippolytus, Bishop of a schismatical community in Rome (died about 220), represents scarcely any advance upon his teacher, Irenaeus, in his view of the question of the Canon. The four Gospels, the Acts, and thirteen Epistles of Paul are included in his New Testament; and he wrote an impassioned defence of the Apocalypse against Caius. He was acquainted, moreover, with 1. Peter and 1. and 2. John, and also with Hebrews, while, since the discovery of his Commentary on Daniel,1 2. Peter is likewise placed beyond question; his acquaintance with James remains uncertain. But he never quotes Hebrews as an Epistle of Paul, nor 2. Peter as ʽScriptureʼ; he alludes to them in the same way as. to Hermas, the Acts and the Apocalypse of Peter and the Acts. of Paul. The fragments of his writings which have come down to us do not, in fact, leave the impression that all this. literature from which he occasionally borrows, possessed in his eyes the same authority as the Gospels or Revelation.

All else that has come down to us from Roman Christians of the third century gives the same result: the Gospels, Paul with thirteen Epistles, Revelation in very high esteem, Acts, 1. John, and 1. Peter enjoying equal consideration, but less. often quoted; the rest felt only below the surface. The fact, however, deserves emphasising, that about 255 the Roman schismatic Novatian,2 after quoting Rom. xii. with the words beatus apostolus Paulus, introduces Heb. xiii. 15 as follows:. sed et sanctissimus Barnabas . . . inquit. Hence Hebrews is included in Holy Scripture, but under the name of Barnabas, not of Paul.

3. The African Church maintained the same conservative attitude. Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, who died in 285, was. exceedingly fond of quoting the Bible in his writings, and his collection of ʽMaximsʼ3 supplies very full information as to the compass of his New Testament. The earlier appendages to the New Testament existed no longer; he held the Apocalypse in honour, but did not know the Epistle to the Hebrews, and of the Catholic Epistles quoted only 1. Peter and 1. John. It is true that another African bishop introduced 2. John as a sacred authority at the Synod of the year 256, and his introductory formula, ʽThe Apostle John in his Epistle,ʼ shows that we may not conclude that when Cyprian makes a similar use of the singular in reference to 1. John and 1. Peter, he knew only of one Epistle by each of these Apostles. But Cyprian cannot have included the Second Epistle of John, nor, consequently, the Third, in his New Testament, otherwise he would not have let the best reference (2. John x. 11) in support of the precept that ʽmen should not converse with hereticsʼ escape him4¯: the argumentume silentio may be considered incontestable in such a case. The numerous pseudo-Cyprianic writings, which almost all belong to the third century, at first sight display a considerable family likeness; but in reality the sermon ʽAdversus Aleatoresʼ shows marked divergencies. Side by side with words of Paul it has recourse to Hermas and the ʽTeaching of the Apostlesʼ; while a number of other citations it makes from Christien authorities are even yet unidentified. This tract, which appears to make use of Cyprianʼs ʽTestimoniaʼ (as did Lactantius and Firmicus Maternus in later times) probably proceeded from the Bishop of an African trading city, and shows that in the West, about the year 260, it was agreed that the Four Gospels, the Pauline Epistles, the Apocalypse, some of the Catholic Epistles5 and the Acts were Canonical, but that the circumscription of the new Canon against further edifying literature was far from being complete in all churches alike. If this is once granted, and. since the affection of the Spaniard Priscillian (executed at Treves about 385) for all kinds of Apocryphal writings must surely have sprung from an acquaintance with them obtained through the Church, we may unhesitatingly consider the interesting stichometrical ʽCatalogus Claromontanusʼ6 to be a witness belonging to the Latin Church. Here are named among the ʽScripturae,ʼ and after the Four Gospels, first the Pauline Epistles (those to Philemon and the Thessalonians are omitted by an oversight) with the numbers of their verses, then 1. and 9. Peter, James, 1. 2. and 3. John, Jude, Barnabas, the Apocalypse, the Acts, the ʽShepherdʼ (Hermas), the Acts of Paul, and the Apocalypse of Peter. According to its position in the list, the Epistle of Barnabas appears to mean the Epistle to the Hebrews, a name which has been met with before only among the Latins; Hermas was equally dear both to Eastern and Western communities. The Muratorianum considered the Apocalypse of Peter as Canonical. There remain the Acts of Paul; but even these were occasionally retained in the Bibles of the Latin churches of the fourth and fifth centuries.7 Thus any of the Latins might well have drawn up such a list about the year 330: it would, for instance, have suited the taste of a Priscillian excellently.

We cannot here examine all the Fathers of the Latin Church in turn as to the limits of their New Testament; in many cases, too, the answers would prove altogether too uncertain. Briefly, the following statement may be made as to its development between the years 200 and 375.

(a) There is no attempt to shake the Four Gospels, the Acts, the thirteen Pauline Epistles and the Apocalypse. The hyper-orthodox Lucifer of Cagliari8 is the only man who omits the Apocalypse (and this scarcely by accident): banished to the Hast for many years, he learnt to reject the book from orthodox brethren there. But even Hilary of Poitiers,9 who was very much under Greek influence, used the Apocalypse without hesitation: it was indeed obvious by about the year 375 that the Westerns would never give up this document, in spite of the opposition of most of the Eastern churches. (b) The number of the Epistles in the second class has very slowly increased; the minor Epistles offered to the Latins by their Eastern neighbours were not directly refused, since their contents were orthodox and they bore the names of Apostles, but it was only in exceptional cases that they were really welcomed; 1. Peter and 1. John are quoted far more frequently than the other five put together; only the rarest traces of 2. Peter are to be found before the fourth century. (c) One section of the Western Church was altogether unacquainted with the Epistle to the Hebrews, to which the Alexandrian school had given so secure a position within the body of Pauline writings that it was even treated by some as one of the Homologumena. Others, like Commodianus —as to whose date, unfortunately, we know nothing for certain (perhaps about300?)—knew it and made use of it; they had probably read it in a Latin translation, but they left the question of authorship undecided, or named Barnabas as the author. Even about the year 370, when the unknown Roman whom we are accustomed to call ʽAmbrosiaster,ʼ or the Briton Pelagius, soon after 400, wrote commentaries in Rome on the Pauline Epistles, they never thought of commenting on more than thirteen; once only Ambrosiaster quotes, evidently from memory, a passage from the Epistle to the Hebrews, ʽSimilarly itis written in the Epistle to the Hebrewsʼ; and in the extensive compilation, also of Roman origin, published under the name of Augustine—the ʽQuaestiones Veteris et Novi Testamentiʼ— but a single sentence from the Epistle to the Hebrews is quoted, though this time it is introduced—in our texts—by the words ʽThe Apostle says in the Epistle to the Hebrews.ʼ In isolated instances indeed, as with Hilary, Lucifer, and, in Spain, Priscillian, mention is made of the Epistle of Paul to the Hebrews; but here the connection with Greek theology is notorious.

(d) On the whole, the West showed a much stronger impulse than the East towards the better circumscription of the Canon against other kindred literature. In the search for the highest authority it showed a far more lively feeling for an uncompromising Yea or Nay: a classification such as that of Origen, or still more that of Eusebius, was here quite unheard of. Philastrius of Brescia (chap. lxxxviii., see also 1x.) stands almost alone in his opinion, that Apocrypha like the Acts of Andrew, John, Peter or Paul should not indeed be read in the communities—though only because the heretics had deformed them—but might well be accepted by the ʽperfect,ʼ morum causā. A more typical representative of the spirit of his church is Hilary, with his characteristic remark, ʽWhat is not contained in the Book of the Law must not even be noticedʼ; and Priscillianʼs preference for Apocrypha cost him his head. But a uniform practice among all the Latins was so far from being established that it was possible to compile lists with thirty-one ʽHoly Scripturesʼ of the New Testament, and to preserve them down to the present time. Those books which, about the year 360, were recognised in general throughout the Western Church as belonging to the New Testament, were probably the group of twenty-six given by the ʽCanon Mommsenianusʼ10 in its ʽIndiculum Novi Testamenti,ʼ viz. the four Gospels, thirteen Pauline Epistles, the Acts, the Apocalypse, 1. 2. and 8. John, James, 1. and 2. Peter and Jude. (For surely we ought in all probability to supply the words ʽJamesʼ and ʽJudeʼ after the ʽuna solaʼ of the last line but two and the last line; James and Jude could not be wanting in a New Testament which already possessed 2. Peter. Otherwise the only explanation would be that the writer used the words una sola as a protest against the three Epistles of John and the two of Peter, and therefore proposed to recognise only two of the Catholic Epistles. But then he can no longer be used as a witness for the fourth century.) The seven non-Pauline Epistles, however, do not yet bear one common name as they do with the Greeks.



1) See especially III. xxii. 4, IV. xxvi. 7.

2) See p. 108 of Batiffolʼs editio princeps of the Traciatus Origenis (1900), which in reality contains material peculiar to Novatian.

3) Testimonia, lib. iii.: De Exhortatione Martyrii.

4) Testim. iii. 78; cf. De Unitate, 17, Epist. lix. 20.

5) 1. John iii. 8 is quoted.

6) On a few blank pages in Codex D of the Pauline Epistles. See § 52, 2.

7) See Harnack, Texte w. Unters., Neue Folge, iv. 3b, esp. pp. 20, 33 fol.

8) † 371.

9)c. 366.

10) First published in 1886 by Th. Mommsen, from a MS. of the tenth century ; also in Preuschen: see above p. 459.