An Introduction to the New Testament

By Adolf Jülicher


Chapter 3 - Section 43


§ 43. The Final Settlement of the New Testament in the Greek Church

1. The Greek Church appears to have overcome the unsatisfactory condition of her New Testament, as set forth by Eusebius, with surprising rapidity. We possess several lists of the sacred books dating from the fourth century: one by Cyril of Jerusalem1 in his ʽCatechesesʼ2; one by Athanasius3 in his thirty-ninth Easter Epistle (A.D. 367); one by Epiphanius4 in the ʽPanarionʼ (§ 76); and two metrical lists by Gregory of Nazianzus5 and his contemporary Amphilochius of Iconium. To these we may add, possibly, the so-called eighty-fifth Apostolic Canon, and more probably the so-called sixtieth Laodicean Canon, although this may not have been attached until later to the fifty-ninth Canon of a Laodicean Synod, held about 860, which only issued a general condemnation of the practice of reading the uncanonical books in the churches. Among these catalogists Amphilochius alone considers himself bound to follow Origen and Eusebius as a detailed statistician; here, however, he is peculiar in admitting James as well as 1. Peter and 1. John among the quite undoubted Catholic Epistles. He regards the Epistle to the Hebrews as genuine; and therefore, in spite of occasional self-contradictions, he enumerates from the first fourteen Epistles of Paul; the Apocalypse, he says, is declared by the majority to be spurious. Cyril, Gregory of Nazianzus and the sixtieth Canon of Laodicea give twenty-six books of the New Testament—those of to-day without the Apocalypse —and the term ʽthe seven Catholic Epistlesʼ is already fully established. A short notice is added as to the genuineness of these books and these books alone, and a warning given against the reading of false and harmful works, but not a hint appears of the existence of several classes of Canonical books.

Epiphanius is only distinguished from those already mentioned by the fact that he concludes by naming the Apocalypse also as a component part of the Holy Scriptures, in this agreeing with Athanasius. His list has this advantage over the rest, that it contains an appendix ʽfor the sake of greater accuracy,ʼ stating that besides these books there were some others which were not Canonical, but were appointed by the Fathers to be read aloud to the Catechumens: viz. the ʽWisdom of Solomonʼ and other Old Testament Apocrypha, the ʽTeaching of the Apostlesʼ and the ʽShepherdʼ of Hermas. To this sorry condition has Eusebiusʼs second class fallen, and that at best in a few Greek communities. Its contents are relegated to the position of reading-books (ἀναγιγνωσκόμενα) as opposed to the Canonical Scriptures, though they are sharply distinguished from Class III.—the Apocryphal forgeries of heretics.

We can now understand that an Alexandrian of the time of Athanasius might include the ʽTeaching of the Apostlesʼ and Hermas, side by side with Sirach and Judith, in a Bible manuscript intended for church purposes, but we can also understand that the position of books for public reading beside the Canonical books could not long have been maintained in face of the chilly silence of so many other Churchmen. The only question of importance for the Greek Church in the matter of the New Testament now is, whether the New Testament of Athanasius with the Apocalypse, or that of the Palestinians without it, shall prevail. In the fourth century the majority are opposed to the Apocalypse. Really great theologians are among these opponents (for instance, Chrysostom and Theodoretus), and the mutual jealousy of the ʽgreatʼ bishops prevented an agreement in the Synods. The Apocalypse was opposed in Antioch for the reason that it was favoured in Alexandria; the heads of the School of Antioch ignored it altogether, if they did not incidentally declare it to be Apocryphal. The authority of Athanasius and the wish for uniformity with the Western Church at last carried the day. Perhaps during his long exile in the orthodox West Athanasius had learned to place a higher value on the Apocalypse, which, indeed, had never been entirely expelled from Egypt; it was a recommendation of the book in his eyes, and in the eyes of those who revered in him the only destroyer of the diabolical Arian heresy, that the Eastern Arians and Semi-Arians would have none of it. From 500 onwards the supporters of the Apocalypse slowly increased in Syria, Asia Minor, and Constantinople. Andrew of Caesarea, the first Greek to devote a commentary to it, may have lived as early as 500. The fundamental opposition to the Apocalypse had probably disappeared in the seventh century, when the Synod of 6926 canonised one list of the Canon with, and one without it. The leaders of the Greek renaissance of the eighth to the tenth centuries, John of Damascus, Photius, Arethas of Caesarea, treated the Apocalypse as a Canonical book. But not much was gained withal for the practical influence of the book, and I do not think it accidental that Photius in his polemic against the ʽmodernʼ Manicheans, while reproaching them with the fact that they did not accept the Pauline Epistles, says not a word as to their rejecting the Apocalypse, which they certainly did.

Again, a list of Scriptures7 attributed to the patriarch Nicephorus of Constantinople (about 810), but which was really drawn up in Jerusalem about 850, names the Apocalypse of John among the Antilegomena of the New Testament, and previously reckons the Books of the New Testament quite unconcernedly at twenty-six. And even if this list is much older, and was only included in the ʽChronographyʼ about 850, it is still evidence of the fact that Greek scholars, even in the ninth century, found no difficulty in speaking of the twenty-six Books of the New Testament. The phrases with which the very late pseudo-Athanasian Synopsis includes the Apocalypse of John among the New Testament Books8 are characteristic. Even in the tenth century complete manuscripts of the New Testament were occasionally prepared without the Apocalypse. Consequently, as we see that the Greek Church remained from the first behind the Latin in defining her Canonical material—although every impulse to enrich the Canon proceeded from her—so we find that with her the final settlement is far more difficult to accomplish. The same twenty-seven books which were firmly established in the West, from about the year 400, as the component parts of the New Testament, only received similar official sanction in the East two or three centuries later, and even then with an almost grotesque uncertainty.

2. The difference between the Greek and Latin Churches in their treatment of the question of the Canon appears in yet another instance. The catalogue of Eusebius had its aftereffect on the School of Antioch, whose teachers felt little interest for the Catholic Epistles, either receiving 1. Peter and 1. John only, or adding James, but quite ignoring the rest. It is even said that Theodore of Mopsuestia rejected all the Catholic Epistles. This would not be quite incredible, since about the year 545 Cosmas Indicopleustes, in Book vii. of his ʽChristian Topography,ʼ advises that no recourse be had to the Catholic Epistles, calling them ʽAmphiballomenaʼ; and definitely asserts that even 1. John and 1. Peter were considered by many as writings of ʽPresbyters,ʼ not of Apostles. Since the holders of such theories included influential bishops, their position in the matter cannot have been without influence on the custom of their churches; in the Greek part of Syria the Catholic Epistles were considered by the majority at any rate as only authorities of the second order.

It is an exaggeration to infer an absolute deadening of interest in the strict delimitation of the Bible, from the cool tone in which the Greek Canonists from the twelfth century of Paul onwards (e.g. John Zonaras) treated the various opinions as to the compass of the New Testament. Even in the West the (50) ʽApostolic Canonsʼ are occasionally included in the New Testament; the Canon of Mabillon, from a Codex Bobbiensis,9 deliberately reckons twenty-eight books of the New Testament, placing after the four Gospels a liber sacramentorum—a Mass-book of some sort. (Harnackʼs emendation, ʽsecretorum unoā€¯ [=Actus Pauli], cannot be accepted, owing to the position after the four Gospels.) Again, in Gaul in the fifth century the Actus Pauli were still retained in the New Testament; while up to the thirteenth century Church historians of repute were among those who recognised fifteen Epistles of Paul— that is, who admitted the Epistle to the Laodiceans as genuine. Express rejection of the apocryphon as a forgery is rarer than its grateful acceptance. In this instance the East is only a few degrees more careless than was the West down to the sixteenth century. Thus the table of contents of Codex A10¯ added to the New Testament 1.and 2.Clement. John of Damascus11 reckoned the ʽCanons of the Holy Apostlesʼ (he appends διὰ Κλήμεντος) among the New Testament Books. The last (85th) of these Canons names before the Acts, as belonging to the New Testament, two Epistles of Clement, and the ʽordinances which I, Clement, have issued to you, the bishops, in eight booksʼ (ʽConstitutiones Apostolorumʼ), although the following qualification is added, ʽthese must not be made public to all on account of the secret things (τὰ ἐν αὐταῖς μυστικά) which they contain.ʼ Antilegomena of the New Testament reappear in the Stichometry of Nicephorus,12 viz. side by side with the Apocalypse of John, the Apocalypse of Peter, Barnabas, and the Gospel of the Hebrews. Here, too, the ʽTeaching of the Apostles,ʼ 1. and 2. Clement, and Hermas figure among the apocrypha of the New Testament, while the pseudo-Athanasian Synopsis names the ʽTeaching of the Apostlesʼ and the ʽClementiaʼ as New Testament Antilegomena (or books for public reading!) beside certain extremely questionable documents—though with the qualification ʽfrom which only the truest and the inspired parts have been written out after careful selection.ʼ We have here the unmistakable attempt to clothe the books of ecclesiastical law with Canonical authority; and thus we can well understand that the Copts and Ethiopians (including the Abyssinians), who drew all their ideas from Alexandria, included their legal codes directly in their New Testament, so that the Ethiopian New Testament contained thirty-five books. If the identity between Apostolic and Canonical were strictly insisted on, and if Apostolic rank were claimed for the greatest existingʼ sources of the law, it was only logical to canonise the Apostolic ʽConstitutionsʼ and the like; to be consistent, the West should have done the same with its ʽApostolicʼ Symbolum. But when this idea arose there was no room left in the New Testament; and the Greek Church, instead of the ʽApostolicum,ʼ had the ʽNicaenum,ʼ the origin of which did not permit of such treatment.



1) c. 348.

2) iv. 33, 36.

3) The text in Preuschen: vide supra, references at head of Part II. ad init.

4) † 403.

5) † 390.

6) Quinisexta.

7) In Preuschen: vide supra, p. 459.

8) ἐπὶ τούτοις ἐστὶ καί etc.; just as the Scilitanian Acts speak of the Epistles

9) Of c. 600.

10) See § 52;

11) c. 730

12) See p. 546.