Page:Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition, v. 5.djvu/18

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8
CANON



Justin s disciple, Tatian (160-180), who wrote an address to

the Greeks, quotes the beginning of John s gospel ; and his Diatcssaron or Harmony probably included selections from the four canonical ones : but too little is known of it to enable us to speak with certainty. Doubtless he was acquainted with Paul s writings, as he quotes statements contained in them. He seems, however,

to have rejected several of his epistles, probably 1 and 2 Timothy.[4]
In Poly carp s epistle (150-1(56) there are reminiscences of the

synoptic gospels ; and most of Paul s epistles as well as 1 Peter were used by the writer. But the idea of canonical authority, or a

peculiar inspiration belonging to these writings, is absent.
Athenagoras of Athens wrote an apology addressed to Marcus

Aurelius (176). In it he uses written and unwritten tradition, testing all by the Old Testament, which was his only authorita tive canon. He makes no reference to the Christian documents, but adduces words of Jesus with the verb "he says." His treatise

on the resurrection appeals to a passage in one of Paul s epistles.[5]
The author of the epistle to Diognetus (about 200) shows his

acquaintance with the gospels and Paul s epistles ; but he never cites the New Testament by way of proof. Words are introduced

into his discourse in passing, and from memory.
Dionysius of Corinth (170) complains of the falsification of

his writings, but consoles himself with the fact that the same is done to tlie "Scriptures of the Lord," i.e., the gospels containing the Lord s words ; or rather the two parts of the early collection, " the gospel " and "the apostle " together ; which agrees best with the age and tenor of his letters.[6] If such be the meaning, the col lection is put on a par with the Old Testament, and regarded as inspired. But Hegesippus still made a distinction between "the divine writings" (the Old Testament) and "the words of the Lord;"[7] showing that Holy Scripture was nothing else, in his opinion, than the Jewish books. He also used the gospel of the

Hebrews and Jewish tradition.[8]
The letter of the churches at Vienne and Lyons (177) has

quotations from the epistles to the Romans, Philippians, 1 Timothy, 1 Peter, Acts, the gospels of Luke and John, the Apocalypse. The last is expressly called " Scripture."[9] This shows a fusion of the two original tendencies the Petrine and Pauline, and the formation of a catholic church with a common canon of authority. Accord

ingly, the two apostles, Peter and Paul, are mentioned together.
Theophilus of Antioch (180) was familiar with the gospels

end most of Paul s epistles, as also the Apocalypse. He puts the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures on the same level, because they proceeded from men who had the same spirit. Passages are cited

from Paul as "the divine word."[10]


The conception of a catholic canon was realized about the same time as that of a catholic church. One hundred and seventy years from the coming of Christ elapsed before the collection assumed a form that carried with it the idea of holy and inspired.[11] The way in which it was done was by raising the apostolic writings higher and higher till they were of equal authority with the Old Testament, so that the church might have a rule of appeal. The Old Testa ment was not brought down to the New ; the New was raised to the Old. It is clear that the earliest church fathers did not use the books of the New Testament as sacred documents clothed with divine authority, but fol lowed for the most part, afc least till the middle of the second century, apostolic tradition orally transmitted. They were not solicitous about a canon circumscribed within certain limits.

In the second half, then, of the second century there was a canon of the New Testament consisting of two parts called the gospel (TO euayye Atov) and the apostle (6 aTrocr- roXos). The first was complete, containing the four gospels alone; the second, which was incomplete, contained the Acts of the Apostles and epistles, i.e., thirteen letters of Paul, one of Peter, one of John, and the Revelation. How and where this canon originated is uncertain. Its birth place may have been Asia Minor, like Marcion s ; but it may have grown about the same time in Asia Minor, Alex andria, and Western Africa. At all events, Irenaeus, Cle ment of Alexandria, and Tertullian speak ,of its two parts ; and the three agree in recognizing its existence.


Irenneus had a canon which he adopted as apostolic. In his view

it was of binding force and authoritative. This contained the four gospels, the Acts, thirteen epistles of Paul, the first epistle of John, and the Revelation. He had also a sort of appendix or deutero- canon (which he highly esteemed, without putting it on a par with the received collection), consisting of John s second epistle, the first of Peter, and the Shepherd of Hennas. The last he calls a "Scrip ture " because it was prophetic.[12] The epistle to the Hebrews, that

of Jude, James s, 2 Peter, and 3 John he ignored.
Clement s collection was more extended than Irenreus s. His

appendix or deutero-canon included the epistle to the Hebrews, 2 John, Jude, the Apocalypse of Peter, the Shepherd of Hermas, the epistles of Clement and Barnabas. He recognizes no distinc tion between the New Testament writings except by the more fre quent use of those generally received, and the degree of importance attached to them. Yet Barnabas is cited as an apostle.[13] So is the Roman Clement.[14] The Shepherd of Hermas is spoken of as divine.[15] Thus the line of the Homologoumena is not marked oil even to the.

same extent as in Irenneus, and is seen but obscurely.
Tertullian s canon consisted of the gospels, Acts, thirteen epistles

of Paul, the Apocalypse, and 1 John. As an appendix he had the epistle to the Hebrews, that of Jude, the Shepherd of Hermas, 2 John probably, and 1 Peter. This deutero-canon was not regarded as authoritative. No trace occurs in his works of James s epistle, 2 Peter, and 3 John. He used the Shepherd, but thought little of

it, with the Montanists in general.[16]
These three fathers did not fix the cauon absolutely. Its limits

were still unsettled. But they sanctioned most of the books now accepted as divine, putting some extra-canonical productions almost

on the same level with the rest, at least in practice.
The canon of Muratori is a fragmentary list which was made

towards the end of the 2d century (170). Its birthplace is un certain, though there are traces of Roman origin. Its translation from the Greek is assumed; but that is uncertain. It begins with the four gospels in the usual order, and proceeds to the Acts, thirteen epistles of Paul, the epistles of John, that of Jude, and the Apocalypse. The epistle to the Hebrews, 1 and 2 Peter, and James are not named. The epistle "to the Laodiceans" is probably that to the Ephesians, which had this superscription in Murcion s canon ; and that "to the Alexandrians" seems to be the epistle to the Hebrews. According to the usual punctuation, both are said to have been forged in Paul s name, an opinion which may have been entertained among Roman Christians about 170 A.r>. The epistle to the Hebrews was rejected in the "West, and may have been thought a supposititious work in the interests of Paulism with some reason, because of its internal character. The story about the origin of the fourth gospel, with its apostolic and episcopal attestation, evinces a desire to establish the authenticity of a work

which had not obtained universal acceptance at the time. It is




  1. See Zeitschrift filr wissenschaftliche. Theologie, 1875, p. 490, et seq.
  2. Dialogus, part ii. p. 315, ed. Tbirlby. Comp. on Justin, Tjeenk-Willink s Justinus Martyr in zijne Verhoudiny lot Pauhis
  3. Apolog. i. p. 97, ed. Thirl by.
  4. Hieronymi Procem. in Epist. ad Titum.
  5. Chapter xviii
  6. Euseb. II. E., iv. 23.
  7. Ibid., iv. 22.
  8. Photii BMiotheca, cod. 232.
  9. Euseb. H.E., v. ], p. 144, ed. Briglu.
  10. Ottos &y(j?. Ad Autolycum, iii. 14, p. 1141, ed. Migne.
  11. See Davidson s Introduction to the Study of the New Testament, vol. ii. p. 508, &c.
  12. Advers. I/ceres., iv. 20, 2.
  13. Stromata, ii. 6, p. 965, ed. Migne.
  14. Ibid., iv. 17, p. 1312.
  15. Ibid., i. 29, p. 928.
  16. De Pudidtia, cap. 10.