By George Salmon
RECEPTION OF THE GOSPELS IN THE EARLY CHURCH.
MURATORIAN FRAGMENT. CAIUS HIPPOLYTUS.
It would take more time than I can ask you to give, if I were to bring before you all the second century testimonies to the Gospels; and I had intended to go back at once from the three witnesses whose testimony is admitted by Strauss to Justin Martyr, who lived about the middle of the second century; but I see that to do this would oblige me to omit some things of which I think you ought to be told, and with which I mean to occupy the present Lecture. I call your attention, in the first place, to a very interesting document, commonly known as the Muratorian Fragment on the Canon. It is a list of the books accepted at its date as authoritative, and it is called Muratorian, because first published, in the year 1740, by the Italian scholar Muratori, from a manuscript now, as then, in the Ambrosian Library at Milan, but which had originally belonged to the great Irish monastery of Bobbio. This manuscript is a collection of extracts from various authors, made about the eighth century, and the particular extract with which we have now to deal must have been made from what was then a mutilated manuscript, which the transcriber was desirous to preserve; for the existing manuscript is quite perfect no leaves are lost; but the extract begins in the middle of a sentence, and ends quite as abruptly. It bears marks of having been a rude translation from the Greek; and the transcriber was clearly a very indifferent Latin scholar, for his work is full of misspellings and other blunders, such as in some places quite to obscure the meaning. In fact, it was as a specimen of such blundering that Muratori first published it.
So much interest attaches to this extract, as containing the earliest extant attempt to give anything like a formal list of New Testament books, that I must not grudge the time necessary for laying before you the internal evidence which approximately fixes the date of the composition of the work from which the extract was taken.1 In reading Paley's Evidences last year you must have become familiar at least with the name of the Shepherd of Hermas. This work is quoted as inspired by Irenaeus and Clement of Alexandria; and in the third century Origen hazarded the conjecture that it might have been written by Hermas, who is mentioned in the Epistle to the Romans; and this, though, as I say, a comparatively late conjecture, has been accepted by some as if it were tradition. The Muratorian Fragment gives a different account of the authorship, and one which has all the air of being tradition, and not conjecture. It would appear that, at the time this fragment was written, there was some disposition to accept the Shepherd as canonical; for, in a passage where, notwithstanding corruption of text, the writer's general mean ing can be clearly made out, he lays down that this book may be read, but not be publicly used, with the Apostles and Prophets, whose number is complete, seeing that it was written very recently in our own time by Hermas, while his brother Pius sat in the chair of the See of Rome. Now, the date when Pius was Bishop of Rome is variously given; those who place him latest make him bishop between 142-157; so the question as to the date of the fragment is, How long after could a writer fairly describe this period as nuperrime tem- poribus nostris? It is urged that we cannot well make this interval much more than twenty years. I have been accustomed to speak of the definition of the dogma of Papal In fallibility at the Vatican Council of 1870 as very recent, and as an event of our own time, though I begin to doubt whether I can go on much longer with propriety in using such language; but though the definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1852 is also an event of my own time, you would think it strange if I called it very recent, seeing that it occurred before most of you were born. It is concluded, therefore, that the date of this fragment cannot be much later than 170.
There is, however, great difficulty in finding any writer of that date to whom it can be plausibly assigned, especially as internal evidence limits us to Rome or Italy as the place of composition. This consideration sets aside a very improbable guess of the late Baron Bunsen Hegesippus, commonly called, but probably incorrectly, the earliest ecclesiastical historian. The extracts from his work which have been pre served by Eusebius, and by which alone he is now known, though historical in their character, are thought by the best recent critics more likely to have been taken from a doctrinal or controversial book than from a regular history. Hegesippus lived about the right time, but he had no connexion with Italy: and besides, since Eusebius tells us that in the passages he cites from earlier writers he had particularly in view to illustrate the testimony borne by them to the New Testament Scriptures (H. E., iii. 3), I count it improbable that, if Eusebius had found in Hegesippus so remarkable an enumeration of books owned as canonical, he would not have made some mention of it. Muratori himself, when he published the fragment, conjectured as its author Caius, the Roman presbyter; and there is vastly more to be said for that guess than for Bunsen's. Caius was the author of a dialogue against the Montanists. The dialogue has been lost, but, Eusebius (H. E., vi. 20) tells us that, in rebuking the rashness and impudence of the Montanists in composing new Scriptures, he counts only thirteen Epistles of St. Paul, omitting that to the Hebrews. Thus it seems certain that this lost dialogue contained a list of canonical books, which Caius set down, intending by this closed Canon to exclude Montanist additions. It is natural to ask, then, May not this Muratorian list be the very list of Caius? Like that, it was drawn up at Rome; and like that also, it only counts thirteen Epistles of St. Paul, leaving out the Epistle to the Hebrews. But the date has been thought a fatal objection. Caius wrote in the episcopate of Zephyrinus we may say about the year 210; how, then, could he speak of the year 140 or 150 as very recent? The objection is a serious, but I do not count it a fatal one. When a writer is only known to us by a single fragment, we have no means of judging of his habitual carefulness in the use of language, and so we are not safe in considering ourselves bound to put the strictest interpretation on his words. Instances have been produced where similar expressions have been used about events which happened a century or two ago. Everything is comparative. We should call Luther and Calvin quite modern writers if anyone imagined them to be contemporary with St. Augustine. Although, as I said just now, I should not dream, in ordinary conversation, of describing an event of the year 1852 as quite recent; yet, if I were writing controversially, and contrasting the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception with the articles of the Apostles Creed, it would not be in the least unnatural if I described the former as a dogma formulated quite recently and in our own time. And I might say this even if the promulgation of the doctrine had been fifty years earlier than it was. Why, even Pope Pius's Creed, which was made some three hundred years ago, is often spoken of as quite new when it is put in comparison with the Nicene Creed. Now, the object of Caius (as described by Eusebius) and of the author of the fragment clearly was controversial; it was to draw a broad line of separation between the inspired writings of the Apostolic age and modern additions; and, therefore, we need not press too closely the energetic language with which the author of the fragment protests against placing on a level in Church reading with the Sacred Scriptures a writing that he believed to be no older than Pope Pius I.
Now a careful examination of the 'Shepherd of Hermas' has quite convinced me that, instead of being a work of the middle of the second century, it dates from its very beginning. If the Muratorian writer has made a mistake about the date of Hermas, it is likely he was not so near a contemporary of Pius as people have thought. I have also found reason, on investigating the history of Montanism, which clearly is com bated in the Muratorian fragment, to think that it did not make its appearance in the West until a little after the year 200. On these and other grounds2 I came to the conclusion that the fragment is of the same age as the dialogue of Caius; and, then, I did not think I could fairly refuse to accept Muratori's hypothesis, although I had myself proposed to ascribe the fragment to Caius's contemporary Hippolytus, being led to that idea by finding the same note about the authorship of the Shepherd in an early list of Roman bishops which I believe to be derived from Hippolytus.3 Further, the whole tone of the fragment is rather didactic than controversial rather the lesson of a master to disciples than of a disputant with opponents, so that it scarcely seemed likely to have come from the dialogue against the Montanists. But though I accepted the Caius hypothesis for a time, a new difficulty has since arisen. Very little had been known of Caius, but Dr. Gwynn has lately (Hermathena, 1888), recovered some fragments of his writings which leave no doubt that Caius rejected the Apocalypse of St. John, a work accepted in the Muratorian fragment. I return, therefore, to my former opinion that Hippolytus was probably the author of the work of which this fragment formed a part.
I have frankly told you my own opinion, but you must remember this is only my individual notion, and that the received doctrine of scholars (orthodox and sceptical alike) is that the document is not later than 170 or 180. It is a pity that the impossibility of laying before you any view but that which, however mistakenly, I believe to be true, obliges me both to be guilty of the immodesty of setting myself in opposition to the received opinion of scholars, and also to forego the controversial advantage that arises from accepting the date commonly ascribed to the fragment. According to that date we gain a witness to our Canon, who, if not many years earlier than Irenaeus, would be at least an elder contemporary: according to my view, he is but a younger contemporary (for both Caius and Hippolytus4 are said to have been disciples of Irenaeus), and the main value of the fragment is the testimony it gives to the wide line of distinction that at that early date was drawn between canonical books and the most valued of uninspired writings. I shall frequently have occasion to refer to this document in the course of these Lectures. At present I will merely report the account it gives of the Gospels.
The fragment begins with a few words which evidently are the end of a description of St. Mark's Gospel, for it proceeds to describe what it calls the third book of the Gospels, that by Luke, whom it states to have been a companion of Paul, but not to have himself seen our Lord in the flesh, mention being made that he commenced his history from the nativity of John the Baptist. The fourth Gospel it states to have been written by St. John on the suggestion of his fellow-disciples and bishops (by which, I suppose, is meant the other Apostles), whereupon John proposed that they should all fast three days, and tell each other whatever might be revealed to any, and it was the same night revealed to Andrew that, under the revision of all, John should in his own name write an account of everything. Wherefore, it adds, although the teaching of the separate books be diversified, it makes no difference to the faith of believers, since in all, by one guiding Spirit, are declared all things concerning our Lord's Nativity, Passion, Resurrection, conversation with His disciples, and concerning His double Advent the first in humility, which is past; the second in royal majesty,, which is still to come.5 Thus full and clear is the testimony of the latter half of the second century, not only to the genuineness of the four Gospels, but to their inspiration. If nothing more could be adduced, it is better evidence than that which satisfies us in the case of most classical writers.
As I have had occasion to mention these two disciples of Irenaeus Caius and Hippolytus I have a few words more to say about each. In point of antiquity they may be regarded as on a level with Clement and Tertullian, though but younger contemporaries of Irenaeus. And I may say in passing, that the long continuance of a large Greek element in the Roman Church is testified by the fact, that although Caius and Hippolytus both held office in that Church in the first quarter of the third century, all that remains of either is in Greek; and Hippolytus published so many Greek books, including some sermons, that I am not without doubts whether he could use Latin at all for literary purposes.
In speaking of Irenaeus, I mentioned that he builds an argument on the words of a text in St. Matthew's Gospel, in such a way as to show that he was a believer in the verbal inspiration of the Evangelist: that is to say, that he looked on the choice by the Evangelist of one word rather than another as a matter to be regarded not as due to the accidental caprice of the human writer, but as directed and over ruled by the Holy Spirit. It is plain that anyone who holds such an opinion about any book must feel himself bound to see that special care shall be used in the transcription of it, in order that no copyist may carelessly or wilfully substitute words of his own for the words dictated by the Holy Ghost. It is notorious with what care the Massoretic text of the Old Testament has been preserved by men who thought that a mystery might lie in every word, every letter of the sacred text. What kind of care was used in the time of Irenaeus we may gather from an interesting adjuration which he prefixed to a work of his own Whosoever thou art who shalt transcribe this book, I charge thee with an oath by our Lord Jesus Christ and by His glorious appearing, in which He cometh to judge the quick and dead, that thou carefully compare what thou hast transcribed, and correct it according to this copy whence thou hast transcribed it; and that thou transcribe this oath in like manner, and place it in thy copy (Euseb., H. E., v. 20) We may safely assume that Irenaeus would be solicitous that fully as much care and reverence should be used in perpetuating the text of the Gospels, which he venerated so highly; and we may, therefore, regard the end of the second -century as a time when a check was being put on the licentiousness of scribes in introducing variations into the text of the New Testament writings. It is in reference to this point that I think it worth while to make a quotation from Caius. Eusebius (H. E., v. 28) has preserved some extracts from a work directed against the followers of Artemon, who, of those calling themselves Christians, was amongst the earliest to hold our Blessed Lord to have been mere man. Internal evidence shows the work to belong to the beginning of the third century, and it has been ascribed both to Caius and Hippolytus; but the greater weight of critical authority, and, in my opinion, also far the greater weight of evidence, is in favour of the ascription to Caius. The writer pronounces the doctrine of our Lord's simple humanity to be in contradiction to the Holy Scriptures; and it is plain, from the nature of the case, that the writings which he thus describes as Holy Scriptures, and as teaching the doctrine of our Lord's Divinity, must have been Scriptures of the New Testament. But from a later part of the same writing, it appears that the subject of various readings had, at that early date, given rise to controversy. Caius accuses his opponents of having tampered with the Holy Scriptures, of having published what they called corrected copies, but which, in his judgment, were simply ruined. He appeals to the fact that different * correctors did not agree among themselves, and that the same man was not always consistent with himself, his later text being often at variance with his earlier; and he adds: * I think they can hardly be ignorant themselves what impudent audacity their offence involves. For either they do not be lieve the Divine Scriptures to have been spoken by the Holy Spirit, and then they are nothing but infidels; or else they think that they are wiser than the Holy Spirit, and who could entertain such an idea but a demoniac? We have not the means of judging whether the anger of Caius was justly roused by perversions of the sacred text, wilfully made in order to remove its testimony to our Lord's Divinity, or whether he was but the blind champion of a Textus Receptus against more learned critical revisers. The important point for us to observe is how strongly the doctrine of Scripture Inspiration was held at the beginning of the third century; and you will see how well justified I am in thinking it need less, in our investigation about the Gospels, to go below the age of Irenaeus, the tradition which he handed on to his disciples being identical with that which the Church has held ever since.
It might seem, then, needless to say anything about Hippolytus, whose literary activity mainly belonged to the first quarter of the third century; and so it would be needless, if the question were merely about his own opinions; but the chief value of Hippolytus consists in the information he has preserved to us about the sentiments of earlier writers, and these, men whose testimony is of high value to us in the present investigation, namely, the heretics of the second century.
We are never so secure that a tradition has been transmitted to us correctly as when it comes through different in dependent channels. For example, to touch by anticipation on subjects on which I shall have to speak at more length in other courses of Lectures, the value of a version as a witness in any controversy respecting the true text of the sacred writings depends on the facts that the version is, for all essential purposes, a duplicate of the manuscript from which the translation was made, and that the corruptions which the two will suffer in the process of transcription are likely to be different, since words resembling each other in one language will probably not correspond to words easily interchanged in the other. Hence things in which the version and copies of the original agree may safely be counted to be as old as the time when the translation was made. In like manner, if, in any investigation as to the liturgical usages of the Eastern Church, we find details of Eucharistic celebration common to the Catholics, the Nestorian, and the Eutychian sects, we may safely reckon these details to be at least as ancient as the time when the splitting off of these sects took place; for the simple reason, that it is very unlikely that anything subsequently introduced in one of mutually hostile communities would be adopted by the other. Similarly, if we find books enjoying the prerogatives of Scripture in orthodox Churches and heretical sects alike, we may safely conclude that these books had gained their position before the separation of the heretical sects in question. A forgery of later date would not be likely to be accepted by both alike, and to be treated as common ground on which both could argue.
The work of Hippolytus, which has thrown a great deal of light on the Gnostic speculations of the second century, has only become known in my own time, having been preserved in only a single manuscript, which was brought from Mount Athos to Paris, and published for the first time in 1851. The title is the Refutation of all Heresies. The method of refutation which Hippolytus principally employed is one which is very convenient to us, and probably was quite enough for his orthodox readers. It consisted in simply repeating the heretics doctrine in their own words, the object being to exhibit its identity with heathen speculations. In this way we obtain a knowledge of several heretical writings, of which, except through this book of Hippolytus, we should not have heard. Now common to all these writings is the copious use as authoritative of our four Gospels, and in particular of that Gospel whose date has been brought down lowest, the Gospel according to St. John. We do not gain much by these citations when the heretics quoted are only known to us by the extracts given by Hippolytus; for then it is open to any objector to say, Oh! perhaps these writers were contemporary with Hippolytus himself, or very little older. Who can assure us that the heretical documents dragged to light by Hippolytus had been in circulation for a dozen years before he ex posed them? But the heretics from whose works Hippolytus gives extracts are not all of them unknown persons. I name in particular Basilides and Valentinus, who hold a prominent place in the lists of everyone who has written about the heretics of the second century. Basilides taught in the reign of Hadrian let us say about the year 130 and Valentinus taught in Rome between the years 140 and 150. In fact, both these schools of heretics are mentioned by Justin Martyr, so that they clearly belong to the first half of the second century, and chronologically come before Justin Martyr, of whom I had proposed next to speak. Now in the extracts given by Hippolytus purporting to be from Basilides and Valentinus, each of these writers not only quotes from Paul's Epistles (including that to the Ephesians, one doubted by Renan, who accepts all the rest, except the Pastoral Epistles), but each also makes use of the Gospels, in particular of the Gospel according to St. John. I may say in passing, that though the fourth Gospel is that which is most assailed by sceptical writers, yet as far as external evidence is concerned, if there be any difference between this Gospel and the others, the difference is in its favour that is to say, I think there is even greater weight of external attestation to this than to the rest. And the use made of St. John's Gospel by all the heretics of the second century is no small argument in favour of its early date. The answer made by sceptical writers to these quotations in Hippolytus is, Can you be sure that the Valentinian and Basilidian works from which Hippolytus quotes were really written by the heresiarchs themselves? Is it not possible that, when he professes to describe the opinions of Valentinus or Basilides, he is drawing his information from the work of some disciple of each of these sects who lived nearer his own time, the φησί with which Hippolytus introduces the quotations being merely intended to have the effect of inverted commas in an English book, and not to be pressed to mean that Valentinus himself is the speaker? If I were to deal with this answer in a controversial spirit I might describe it as a quite gratuitous assumption, and a mere evasion to escape a difficulty, to imagine that Hippolytus can mean anything but what he says, or to suppose that words which he distinctly states are those of Valentinus are to be understood as spoken by some body else. But I should be sorry to press any argument the least degree further than in my own heart I considered it would justly bear; and when I ask myself whether I can say that I regard Hippolytus as incapable of the laxity here imputed to him, I cannot say that I do. I do not think highly of his critical acumen, and I cannot pronounce it impossible that he may have erroneously accepted or described a Valentinian book as the work of Valentinus himself. I therefore do not insist on the admission that the heretical works cited are as old as the words of Hippolytus, literally understood, would make them out to be; and for my purpose I can be quite satisfied with the incontrovertible fact that, in the time of Hippolytus, there was no controversy between the Valentinians and the orthodox as to their New Testament Canon, and in particular that the Gospel of John was alike venerated by both parties.
This is a fact which we can abundantly establish by other evidence. The whole vocabulary of the system of Valentinus is founded on the prologue to St. John's Gospel. The system of Yalentinus uses as technical words, μονογενής, ζωή, ἀληθεία, χάρις, πλήρωμα, λόγος, φῶς. It is quite impossible to invert the order, and to suppose these words first to have been the key-words of a heretical system, and then to have been borrowed by someone desirous to pass himself off as St. John, or to suppose that in such a case the Gospel could ever have found acceptance in the Church. You might as well conceive someone who wanted a document to be accepted as authoritative by us Protestants, stuffing it with Roman Catholic technical words Transubstantiation, Purgatory, and such like. Putting in such words would clearly show any Protestant that the document emanated from a hostile body; and so, in like manner, if the theory of Valentinus had been promulgated before the publication of the fourth Gospel, the vocabulary of the prologue to that Gospel would have excluded it from Catholic use. There is abundance of other evidence that Catholics and Valentinians were agreed as to the reverence paid to this Gospel. Tertullian contrasts the methods of dealing with the New Testament pursued by Marcion, of whom I shall speak a little later, and by Valentinus. Marcion mutilated his New Testament, rejecting all parts of it which he could not reconcile with his theories; but Valentinus, as Tertullian says, integro instrumento uti videtur (De Praescrip. 38); that is to say, he did not reject the Gospels accepted by the Catholic Church, but he strove by artificial interpretation to make them teach his peculiar doc trine. How true this statement is we have extant evidence., The earliest commentary on a New Testament book of which we have any knowledge is by a heretic that by the Valentinian Heracleon on St. John. It is known to us through the! use made of it by Origen, who, when commenting on the same book, quotes Heracleon some fifty times, sometimes agreeing with him, but more usually controverting him. We have thus a very minute knowledge of Heracleon's commentary on at least four or five chapters of St. John. And this characteristic prevails throughout, that the strongest believer in verbal inspiration at the present day could not dwell with more minuteness on the language of St. John, or draw more mysteries from what might seem the accidental use of one expression rather than another.
There is controversy as to the date of Heracleon. All we know with certainty is, that he must have been earlier than Clement of Alexandria, who quotes him twice (Strom, iv. 9; Eclog. ex Scrip. Proph. 25). Sceptical writers make Heracleon as little earlier than Clement as they can help, and say his commentary may have been as late as 180. Orthodox writers would give it thirty or forty years greater antiquity. For my, part, I think it makes little difference as far as the question of the antiquity of St. John's Gospel is concerned. Heracleon was a Valentinian, and it appears that in his time the authority, and I think we may say the inspiration, of John's Gospel was common ground to the Valentinians and the Catholics, How could that be possible, if it had not been acknowledged before the Valentinians separated from the orthodox? If the book had been written, subsequently to the separation, by a Valentinian, the orthodox would not have received it; if by a Catholic the Valentinians would not have received it. If it had been of unknown parentage, it is in credible that both communities should have accepted it as Apostolic.
What has been said about Valentinus may be repeated about Basilides. Hippolytus produces an extract in which the words of St. John's Gospel are twice quoted (vii. 22, 27), and which he says, as plain as words can do it, is taken from a writing of Basilides.6 Admit that Hippolytus was either misinformed on this point, or through inaccuracy said what he did not mean to say, it still remains that the extract was written by at least a disciple of Basilides. It follows that Basilidians and orthodox agreed in their reverence for St. John's Gospel; and it follows, then, by the same argument which I have used already, that St. John's Gospel must have gained its authority before Basilides separated from the Church that is to say, at least before 130. This evidence for the antiquity of St. John is an argument a fortiori for the antiquity of the other Gospels, which all admit to be earlier.
I may here mention the only point of any consequence on which a difference is attempted to be made between the testimony to the fourth Gospel and to the others, viz. that though Papias, of whom I will speak presently, names Matthew and Mark as the authors of Gospels, and though there are early anonymous quotations of John's Gospel, the first to mention John by name as its author is Theophilus, who was bishop of Antioch about 170 (ad Autol., ii. 22). But this point is of very small worth; for not to say that the argument might be used equally against Luke's Gospel, the authorship of which is not seriously contested, there cannot be a doubt that any evidence which proves the antiquity of John's Gospel proves also its authorship. In other words, it is plain from the work itself that whoever composed it intended it to be received as emanating from the beloved disciple; and we cannot doubt that it was as such it was received by those who did accept it. Let me call your attention to the singular fact, that the name of the Apostle John is never mentioned in St. John's Gospel. If you had only that Gospel, you would never know that there was an Apostle of the name. The other Gospels, when they speak of the forerunner of our Lord, always give him the title of the Baptist, so as to prevent confusion between the two Johns. This Gospel speaks of him simply as John, so that a reader not otherwise informed would never have it suggested to him that there was another of the name. This fact is worth attention in connexion with what I shall have here after to say on the omissions of the Gospel, and on the question whether John is to be supposed ignorant of everything he does not record in his Gospel. I shall contend, on the contrary, that the things which John omits are things so very well known that he could safely assume his readers to be acquainted with them. It certainly is so in this instance; for no one disputes that, if the writer were not the Apostle John, he was someone who wished to pass for him. But a forger would be likely to have made some more distinct mention of the person who played the principal part in his scheme; and he certainly could scarcely have hit on such a note of genuine ness as that, whereas almost everyone in the Church had felt the necessity of distinguishing by some special name John the forerunner from John the Apostle, there was one person who would feel no such necessity, and who would not form this habit namely, the Apostle himself.
1) A monograph on the Muratorian Fragment was published by Tregelles in 1867. Considerable additional light was thrown on it by Dr. Westcott, the results of whose study of it are given in the appendix to his New Testament Canon, p. 514. As I have frequently occasion to refer to this Fragment, it is convenient to print it here entire, as restored by Westcott; but it will be observed that some passages are too corrupt to be restored with certainty. For a transcript of the actual text I refer to Westcott's New Testament Canon, and for other sources of information to my article, MURATORIAN FRAGMENT, in Smith's Dictionary of Christian Biography.
. . . quibus tamen interfuit, et ita posuit. Tertium Evangelii librum secundum Lucan, Lucas iste medicus post ascensum Christi, cum eum Paulus quasi ut juris studiosum secundum adsumsisset, nomine suo ex opinione conscripsit. Dominum tamen nee ipse vidit in carne, et idem prout assequi potuit, ita et a nativitate Johannis incepit dicere. Quarti evangeliorum Johannes ex discipulis. Cohortantibus condiscipulis et episcopis suis dixit, conjejunate mihi hodie triduum et quid cuique fuerit revelatum alterutrum nobis enarremus. Eadem nocte revelatum Andrese ex apostolis, ut recognoscentibus cunctis Johannes suo nomine cuncta describeret. Et ideo licet varia singulis Evangeliorum libris principia doceantur, nihil tamen differt credentium fidei, cum uno ac principal! Spiritu declarata sint in omnibus omnia de nativitate, de passione, de resurrectione, de conversatione cum discipulis suis ac de gemino ejus ad- vento, primum in humilitate despectus, quod fuit, secundum potestate regali prseclarum, quod futurum est. Quid ergo minim si Johannes tarn constanter singula etiam in epistulis suis proferat dicens in semetipsum, Quae vidimus oculis nostris et auribus audivimus et manus nostrae pal- paverunt, hsec scripsimus. Sic enim non solum visorem, sed et auditorem, sed et scriptorem omnium mirabilium domini per ordinem profitetur.
Acta autem omnium apostolorum sub uno libro scripta sunt. Lucas optime Theophilo comprendit, quia sub prsesentia ejus singula gerebantur, sicuti et semote passionem Petri evidenter declarat, sed et profectionem Pauli ab urbe ad Spaniam proficiscentis.
Epistulae autem Pauli, quia, a quo loco, vel qua ex causa directs sint, volentibus intellegere ipsse declarant. Primum omnium Corinthiis schisma hseresis interdicens, deinceps Galatis circumcisionem, Romanis autem ordine scripturarum, sed et principium earum esse Christum intimans, prolixius scripsit; de quibus singulis necesse est a nobis disputari, cum ipse beatus Apostolus Paulus, sequens prodecessoris sui Johannis ordinem nonnisi nominatim septem ecclesiis scribat ordine tali; ad Corinthios (prima), ad Ephesios (secunda), ad Philippenses (tertia), ad Colossenses (quarta), ad Galatas (quinta), ad Thessalonicenses (sexta), ad Romanos (septima). Verum Corinthiis et Thessalonicensibus licet pro correptione iteretur, una tamen per omnem orbem terrae ecclesia diffusa esse dinoscitur; et Johannes enim in Apocalypsi, licet septem ecclesiis scribat, tamen omnibus dicit. Verum ad Philemonem unam, et ad Titum unam, et ad Timotheum duas, pro affectu et dilectione; in honore tamen ecclesise catholicae in ordinatione ecclesiasticae disciplinae sanctificatae sunt. Fertur etiam ad Laodicenses, alia ad Alexandrinos, Pauli nomine finctse ad haeresim Marcionis, et alia plura, quas in catholicam ecclesiam recipi non potest: fel enim cum melle misceri non congruit.
Epistula sane Judae et superscript Johannis duas in Catholica habentur; et Sapientia ab amicis Salomonis in honorem ipsius scripta.
Apocalypses etiam Johannis et Petri tantum recipimus, quam quidam ex nostris legi in ecclesia nolunt. Pastorem vero nuperrime temporibus nostris in urbe Roma Hermas conscripsit, sedente cathedra urbis Romae Ecclesiae Pio Episcopo fratre ejus; et ideo legi eum quidem oportet, se publicare vero in Ecclesia populo, neque inter prophetas, completum numero, neque inter apostolos in finem temporum potest.
Arsinoi autem seu Valentini vel Metiad [ ] nihil in totum recipimus. Qui etiam novum psalmorum librum Marcioni conscripserunt, una cum Basilide, Assiano Cataphrygum constitutorem. . .
2) See Smith's Dictionary of Christian Biography, ARTS, MURATORIAN FRAGMENT and MONTANISM.
3) Hermathena, I. 125 (1874).
4) These writers were both leading members of the Church of Rome in the first quarter of the third century. It is likely that each may have commenced his literary activity before the end of the second.
5) It would be interesting if there were clear evidence that the work from which our fragment was taken was read by any ancient author. I think it, therefore, worth while to copy the account which St. Jerome, in the preface to his Commentary on St. Matthew, gives of the four Gospels, because the coincidences with our fragment, which I have marked in Italics, seem to me more than accidental. Primus omnium Matthaeus est publicanus, cognomento Levi, qui Evangelium in Judaea Hebraeo sermone edidit: ob eorum vel maxime caussam, qui in Jesum crediderant ex Judaeis, et nequaquam legis umbram, succedente Evangeli veritate servabant. Secundus Marcus, interpres Apostoli Petri, et Alexandrinae Ecclesiae primus epis- copus; qui Dominum Salvatorem ipse non vidtt, sed ea quae magistrum audierat praedicantem, juxta fidem magis gestorum narravit quam ordinem. Tertius Lucas medicus, natione Syrus Antiochensis, cujus laus in Evan- gelio, qui et ipse discipulus Apostoli Pauli, in Achaiae Bceotiseque partibus volumen condidit, quaedam altius repetens: et ut ipse in procemio confitetur audita magis quam visa describens. Ultimus Johannes Apostolus et Evan- gelista, quern Jesus amavit plurimum; qui supra pectus Domini recumbens, purissima doctrinarum fluenta potavit, et qui solus de cruce meruit audire, Ecce mater tua. Is quum esset in Asia, et jam tune haereticorum semina pullularent, Cerinthi, Ebionis, et caeterorum qui negant Christum in carne venisse (quos et ipse in Epistola sua Antichristos vocat, et Apostolus Paulus frequenter percutit), coactus est ab omnibus pene tune Asiez episcopis et multarum ecclesiarum legationibus de divinitate salvatoris altius scribere; et ad ipsum (ut ita dicam) Dei Verbum, non tarn audaci, quam felici teme- ritate prorumpere. Et ecclesiastica narrat historia, quum a fratribus cogeretur ut scriberet, ita facturum se respondisse si indicto jejunio omnes Deum precarentur, quo expleto, revelatione saturatus, in illud procemium ccelo veniens eructavit: In principio erat Verbum, et Verbum erat apud Deum, et Deus erat Verbum; Hoc erat in principio apud Deum.
6) Wesrcott New Testament Canon, p. 288) gives strong reasons for believing the extract to be from a work of Basilides himself. So also Hort, Dictionary of Christian Biography, I. 271. The same view is taken by Matthew Arnold, God and the Bible, p. 268, quoted by Dr. Ezra Abbot (Authorship of Fourth Gospel, p. 86). But since there is room for doubt, I use an argument which does not assume the Basilidian authorship.