The "Canon" Debate

[23:10] <James White> Shall I ask THE question?
[23:11] <James White> Not that it will get a meaningful answer, but......
[23:11] <James White> Aquinas: How did the believing Jew know that Isaiah and 2 Chronicles were Scripture 50 years before the coming of Christ?"
[23:11] DarkKnight passes js a Snickers bar...its going to be a long wait.
[23:12] <Aquinas> James... From my study the Canon was not a matter of definition but of usage... as it remained until Trent
[23:12] <Aquinas> The Canon was open

[23:12] Gobbler is now known as gobbler
[23:12] <James White> Ah, so, does anyone have infallible knowledge when the canon is "open"?
[23:12] <Aquinas> Therefore, the leadership decided what was read
[23:12] <DarkKnight> Was that an answer to the question?
[23:12] <Aquinas> and because of the seat of Moses, that decision was folloed
[23:12] <DarkKnight> Was that leadership infallible?
[23:13] <Aquinas> That leadership was Godgiven
[23:13] <Aquinas> I would say no to infallibility... but that doesn't matter... They were ordained to make such calls
[23:13] <DarkKnight> so one does not have to have infallible knowledge to have sufficient knowledge of the canon.
[23:13] <spinster> waiting for the answer to the question
[23:13] <James White> So, no one knew infallibly what Scripture was until April of 1546?
[23:13] <DarkKnight> :-)
[23:13] <skyman`> Then why didn't they make it before Trent?
[23:14] spinster played jea.wav. (F4) - Request Pirch Style. (F3) Request mIRC Style.
[23:14] Stoker is now known as StokerAway
[23:14] <Aquinas> Canonically speaking James, you are correct
[23:14] DarkKnight passes spinster a Snickers bar...its going to be a long wait.
[23:14] <Scott Windsor> "infallibly speaking" he is correct...
[23:14] <James White> Amazing. So, when Jesus upbraided the Pharisees for ignoring the Scriptures for the sake of their traditions, the proper answer would have been, "Scripture? That's Scripture?"
[23:14] <Aquinas> But James... please notice the ruler Trent used... "usage"
[23:15] <Aquinas> That predates trent and goes to history
[23:15] <Aquinas> James... Even Jesus was careful to appreciate the different canons
[23:15] <skyman`> Then why did members in the Roman communion disagree about usage?
Ah! Mr. King admits there is disagreement on the canon - I missed that in the original live discussion.
[23:15] <skyman`> Aquinas, prove it.
[23:15] <Aquinas> He only used the Torah with those who only considered that Scripture
[23:15] <James White> Excuse me?
[23:15] <DarkKnight> different canons???
[23:15] James White sighs.
[23:16] <Aquinas> sigh all you want
[23:16] <Aquinas> it doesn;t change things
Technically, Aquinas can be "correct" here, but "Torah" is a rather vague term:

"Torah" is sometimes the name given to the Five Books of Moses (also called "Chumash", or "Pentateuch"). In traditional Judaism, these five books are considered a faithful and exact record of the word of G-d to His prophet, Moses. These books describe the creation of the world, the main events of the first 2000 years of history, the origins of the family which was to become the Jewish people, our exile and slavery in Egypt, redemption, the giving of the "Torah" at Mt. Sinai and some very limited details of the 613 mitzvos which the Jews were commanded to observe.

"Torah" sometimes also refers to the whole Bible (Old Testament; "Tanach"). This collection includes the five books of Moses, eight books of the prophets, and eleven books of the "writings." These 24 books make up the written law.

However, that does not tell the whole story. There are times when the word "Torah" will be used to cover the whole, huge body of Jewish teaching - both written and oral. That includes the Tanach, the Mishna, the Talmud and many other works - all studied without stop throughout the generations until this very day.

And finally, there's "Torah" used without reference to any specific book, but to the sum of all the knowledge that's to be found in all of these works together. How to apply the principles of the Torah to a world forever changing has been the work of every generation's greatest scholars. The sum total of the untiring labor of these thousands of dedicated leaders is the "Torah" in its largest meaning - one of the greatest libraries in the world.

[23:16] <Scott Windsor> they knew that 2 Chronicles was part of scripture 50 years prior to Christ - because their traditions (guided by the Spirit) dictated so
[23:16] <DarkKnight> so one does not have to have infallible knowledge to have sufficient knowledge of the canon.
[23:16] <skyman`> There's no substance to that claim.
There's no substance to skyman's claim of no substance!
[23:16] <spinster> wrong
[23:16] spinster played nosoup.wav. (F4) - Request Pirch Style. (F3) Request mIRC Style.
New color here, James White is proven wrong:
[23:17] <James White> BigScott: Those same traditions contained the Corban Rule, which Jesus refuted.
[23:17] <Aquinas> Dark... if someone doesn;t have infallible knowledge then they don;t have infallible knowledge
[23:17] gobbler is now known as Gobbler
[23:17] <DarkKnight> uh, ok?
[23:17] <DarkKnight> ??
[23:17] <Aquinas> brb
[23:18] <Scott Windsor> and the Jews themselves didn't decide on their "canon" till sometime after Christ as well... probably spurred on by the Christians establishing their canon.
[23:18] <DarkKnight> did anyone understand that last statement??????
[23:18] <DarkKnight> so one does not have to have infallible knowledge to have sufficient knowledge of the canon.
[23:18] <James White> Scott: That error of yours has been corrected so many times I've lost count.
[23:18] <Scott Windsor> oh? the Jews had established their canon prior to Christ?
[23:18] <DarkKnight> Scott: Are *you* going to be evasive as well???
[23:19] <DarkKnight> How?
[23:19] <Scott Windsor> certain books were known to be "scripture"
[23:19] <DarkKnight> did they have infallible knowledge.
[23:19] <James White> Yes, Scott, long before. Try to catch up with modern scholarship sometime. :-)
[23:19] <Scott Windsor> certain "scrolls" had long been kept with the Torah...
[23:20] <DarkKnight> "Certain scrolls?" Hmmmm.
[23:21] <skyman`> DK, appeal to the mysterious
[23:21] <DarkKnight> I guess that is the insigtful response he mentioned earlier.
[23:21] <buzzWEB> I guess I'm supposed to go "Ooooooooooooo....aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah" now. heh
Scott Windsor provides a source:
[23:21] <Scott Windsor>
[23:21] <DarkKnight> shy: indeed.
[23:21] <DarkKnight> lol
Scott Windsor provides another source:
[23:22] <Scott Windsor>
[23:22] That looked like apostate at first.
[23:22] <DarkKnight> I guess neither Scott of Aquinas have those "tough" *answers* they presumptively thought they had, sky.
[23:22] <James White> Scott: That's one of the main reasons you will always struggle at this kind of don't know your facts first hand.
What has THAT got to do with THIS discussion? Essentially White has attempted to change the focus of his argument from the FACTS to a personal attack.
Scott Windsor sticks to the topic and presents FACTS:
[23:23] <Scott Windsor> the Jewish canon was started between 450-400BC - but not really "closed" until sometime after Christ - perhaps about 90ad.
skyman then confirms the fact that there was "debate" regarding "the Hebrew scriptures:"
[23:24] <skyman`> F. F. Bruce: About the same time as Josephus wrote his work Against Apion, the Hebrew scriptures were among various subjects debated by the rabbis who set up their headquarters at Jabneh or Jamnia in western Judea, under the leadership of Yohanan ben Zakkai, to discuss the reconstruction of Jewish religious life after the collapse of the Jewish commonwealth in AD 70. Jewish life had to be adapted to a new situation in which the temple and its services were no more. So far as the scriptures were concerned, the rabbis at Jamnia introduced no innovations; they reviewed the tradition they had received and left it more or less as it was. It is probably unwise to talk as if there was a Council of Synod or Jamnia which laid down the limits of the Old Testament canon. F.F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1988), p. 34.
[23:25] <Scott Windsor> I don't mind struggling, so long as the truth is reached
[23:26] <Gobbler> We hope you reach the truth someday, too, BigScott. :-)
[23:26] spinster [] has quit IRC (night. :)
[23:27] <DarkKnight> Scott: How do you *know* the truth? How do you *know* that Rome is that truth?
Scott Windsor recognizes that skyman has supported Scott's argument and even used the wording from skyman's source:
[23:28] <Scott Windsor> sky - the fact that they were "debating" is evidence that it wasn't "closed" yet... similarly - the Catholic Canon was pretty much decided and agreed upon after Carthage and Hippo - Trent (and Florence) didn't really "change anything" so "it is probably unwise to talk as if the Council of Trent or Florence which laid down limits on the Canon (of Scripture) (for it was already done)."
[23:28] bishop3 [] has joined #apologetics
skyman then denies what he just quoted:
[23:28] <skyman`> BigScott, they weren't debating it - it was closed long before.
[23:28] bishop3 is on IRC
[23:28] <buzzWEB> bish!
[23:28] <DarkKnight> lol
[23:29] <skyman`> No one decided the canon at Jamnia...That is a Roman apologistic myth.
F.F. Bruce didn't seem to think it was merely "Roman apologistic myth." Scott quotes Bruce to drive the point home:
[23:29] <Scott Windsor> <skyman`> F. F. Bruce: About the same time as Josephus wrote his work Against Apion, the Hebrew scriptures were among various subjects debated by the rabbis
[23:29] <Scott Windsor> the word "debated" came from your source sky.
[23:29] <skyman`> You keep repeating it because you refuse to learn the truth Mr. Windsor, even though you've been refuted betimes.
[23:29] <Scott Windsor> the word "debated" came from your source sky.

[23:30] hey buzzz
[23:30] <skyman`> So the problem for you is that you're not really interested in the truth, only fascination with Rome.
[23:30] <js4jc> Sola Ecclesia....
skyman doesn't seem to get it, that his source stated the Hebrew scriptures were still being debated at that time, so Scott repeats again:
[23:30] <Scott Windsor> change the subject if you want sky - the word "debated" came from your source
[23:30] <skyman`> BigScott, the canon was settled - men debate still as we do - But men do not make Scripture Scripture.
[23:31] <skyman`> That's another Roman apologetic myth that you've imbibed.
[23:31] <skyman`> I'm not changing the subject Mr. Windsor.
[23:31] <skyman`> There was no settling of the canon at Jamnia as my source indicated.
[23:31] <skyman`> You're wrong.

No skyman, your source stated the Hebrew scriptures were being debated at that time, that doesn't sound like it was closed to me.
[23:31] <buzzWEB> ~~~~~keep feeling fascination, passions burning, love so strong~~~~~~~~
[23:31] <Aquinas> back.... sorry
Scott repeats his original point:
[23:32] <Scott Windsor> so, the Canon of Scripture - Old and New Testament - was pretty much "decided" by the time of Carthage and Hippo - Florence and Trent really didn't "limit" anything, other than further debate on the canon.
Slightly different subject here, let's go to a different color:
[23:32] <skyman`> They were Scripture the moment they were written - they don't need our definition
[23:32] <skyman`> They don't need Rome's help to be made Scripture.

[23:32] <Scott Windsor> that's a bit silly
[23:33] <skyman`> Silly, that God commanded His own word?
Scott incorrectly uses the Gospel of Thomas as an example here, later corrects himself and uses the two epistles of Clement.
[23:33] <Scott Windsor> the Gospel of Thomas was thought to be "Scripture" for quite some time - was it not?
Aquinas comes up with a good example:
[23:33] <Aquinas> Is the Didache Scripture?
[23:33] <skyman`> You're the one introducing the silliness.
James is right in saying "No, it was not," referring to my use of the Gospel of Thomas:
[23:33] <James White> Scott: No, it was not.
[23:33] <skyman`> Only by Gnostic heretics
[23:33] <James White> Where do you get this stuff?
Aquinas was ignored, so he asks again:
[23:33] <Aquinas> Is the Didcahe Scripture?
[23:33] <Scott Windsor> and who decided the Gnostics were heretics?
Scott asks a valid follow-up question to skyman's assertion regarding the Gnostics, and James just laughs (lol = lots of laughs):
[23:34] <James White> lol
Still no one has answered Aquinas:
[23:34] <Aquinas> hmm
skyman turns to personal attack instead of answering the follow-up question:
[23:35] <skyman`> BigScott, the answer to that question is why you don't know.
[23:35] js4jc looks at DK.. they're serious, aren't they?
Aquinas points out there has been no valid response:
[23:35] Aquinas knows an argument besides "lol" must be coming
[23:35] DarkKnight responds to js, I guess so:-)"
[23:36] <buzzWEB> Oh good grief
[23:36] DarkKnight gives js two Snicker bars for double the errors.
[23:37] <js4jc> You're determined to make me gain 20 lbs tonight? ;-)
[23:37] <DarkKnight> lol
[23:37] <DarkKnight> no...
[23:37] <DarkKnight> Scott and Aquinas are:-)
[23:37] js4jc is just goofin'
[23:37] <Balthazar> lol
[23:38] <buzzWEB> I will never understand RC apologetics. I find the arguments for trusting an infallible Magisterium if they haven't made infallible pronouncements on 99.9% of the Bible to be rather silly.
Aquinas, sticking to the point, reminds them there has really been no answer:
[23:38] <Aquinas> unanswered question then?
[23:39] <Aquinas> Dr... are you still laughing?

James finally responds, but still doesn't answer:
[23:39] <James White> I'm doing worthwhile things elsewhere, Aquinas.
[23:39] <Aquinas> ic
[23:39] <James White> As to unanswered questions, well, the log speaks the truth.
Yes James, the log does indeed speak the truth - and you have not answered!
Aquinas presses on - but still doesn't get an answer:

[23:40] <Aquinas> such as
[23:40] <James White> I know it. You know it. Most importantly, God knows it.
[23:40] <DarkKnight> incredible.
[23:40] <DarkKnight> lol
[23:40] <buzzWEB> Yeah, Lexie's gotta be fed. =)
Aquinas does not let go of the fact that there has been nothing of substance in answer to the question about the Gnostics:
[23:40] <Aquinas> theres the "lol" argument again
[23:40] <Aquinas> and the "God knows the log" argument

[23:40] skyman` remembers Aquinas' argument--> <Aquinas> lol
[23:40] <Aquinas> "asked and answered" is another favorite
[23:40] DarkKnight notes that Aquinas is a glutton for punishment and embarrassment.
[23:41] <Gobbler> Well, this has been a most enlightening discussion. Very telling.
[23:41] <DarkKnight> "enlightening"/
[23:41] <DarkKnight> "enlightening"?
[23:41] <DarkKnight> that is Aquinas' word gobbler:-)
[23:41] bishop3 played gobbler.wav. (F4) - Request Pirch Style. (F3) Request mIRC Style.
[23:42] <Gobbler> lol
White still doesn't answer, and levies another attack on the person (of Aquinas this time):
[23:42] <James White> Aquinas: Facts are facts. Your grasp on them seems....shakey.
Yes, facts are facts - the log still shows that there was no substantive answer from James or skyman, just a few "lol's" and personal attacks. The subject ended there.
[23:42] <Aquinas> James... are you taking live callers on the Dividing line this weekend?
[23:42] Gobbler remembers the "please argument...<Aquinas> please
[23:42] <DarkKnight> wow.
[23:42] <James White> Normally do, Aquinas. Did last weekend.
[23:42] <Balthazar> lol
[23:42] <Aquinas> cool
[23:43] js4jc is now known as js-snooze
[23:43] <Aquinas> I'm sorry I missed last weekends... I was looking forward to the music
[23:43] <Aquinas> Baby was sic
[23:43] <Aquinas> sick
[23:44] <Gobbler> Must make my leave, night all.
[23:44] <James White> Night Gobb.
[23:44] <DarkKnight> gn
[23:44] Gobbler [] has left #apologetics
[23:44] <James White> Why do you ask about this coming weekend?
[23:44] <Aquinas> I was thinking of calling in
[23:44] skyman` is now known as skyaway
[23:44] <James White> Regarding?
[23:44] <Aquinas> would you mind?
[23:44] <DarkKnight> :-)
[23:44] <James White> Not at all.
[23:44] <Aquinas> cool
[23:45] <Aquinas> you have too much control over the conversation here
[23:45] <Aquinas> too hard to discuss things
[23:45] <DarkKnight> lol
[23:45] <skyman`> lol
[23:45] <James White> lol
[23:45] <Aquinas> lol
[23:45] DarkKnight notes that Aquinas IS a glutton for punishment and embarrassment.
[23:45] Balthazar shakes his head.
[23:45] Aquinas felt left out
[23:45] <Aquinas> I have been booted from this channel 7 times
[23:46] <Aquinas> I am SHOCKED I haven;t been tonight
[23:46] <Balthazar> "Grace".
Another personal attack from skyman, just for good measure, it seems:
[23:46] <skyman`> The nonsense meter was turned off
[23:46] <DarkKnight> Manifold grace:-)
[23:46] <DarkKnight> sky:lol
[23:46] <Aquinas> nice
[23:46] <Aquinas> You certainly are a Christian witness sky
[23:46] <DarkKnight> Oh please.
Scott came back and retracts the statement about the Gospel of Thomas, and uses the two epistles from St. Clement instead:
[23:47] BigScott retracts the comment about the Gospel of Thomas... but how about I and II Clement?
[23:47] <DarkKnight> lol
Aquinas reasserts two other valid examples:
[23:47] <Aquinas> or the Didache or Hermas
[23:47] <skyman`> Thx for the compliment Aquinas - your arrogance wrapped up in ignorance stinks.
Nice, Aquinas' comment was meant in sarcasm as a reproof based on skyman's repeated personal attacks - and skyman just levies an even more personal attack - <sigh>
[23:47] James White is now known as JWafk
[23:47] bishop3 knocks down a Labett Blue and a cookie and watches
[23:47] <JWafk> Night folks.
[23:47] <Aquinas> or Baruch (athanasius)
[23:47] nite
[23:48] <buzzWEB> I'm outta here too. Good night and God bless. =)
[23:48] <DarkKnight> Aquinas: Re-read the log. I am sure you will find your comments "enlightening.":-)
[23:48] <Aquinas> thx dark
[23:48] <DarkKnight> np
[23:48] buzzWEB [] has quit IRC
[23:48] BigScott notes that White leaves when I produced some facts that could not be refuted....
[23:48] Aquinas noticed
[23:48] <JWafk> ROFL
[23:48] DarkKnight notes that Bigg Scott takes too long to answer basic questions;-)
Ad Hominem Alert!
[23:48] <JWafk> You men are the most desperate, sad little folks I've ever seen.
[23:49] <Aquinas> ahhh... a variation of the "lol" argument
James issues a challenge (but still hasn't answered):
[23:49] <JWafk> Call in and see how well your "facts" that cannot be refuted do.
[23:49] <Scott Windsor> James - what about 1 & 2 Clement?
[23:49] <Aquinas> he got ya Scott
[23:49] <JWafk> What about them, Scott?
[23:49] <Scott Windsor> they were considered part of the canon for quite some time
[23:49] <skyman`> By who?
[23:49] <JWafk> And the significance is?

[23:50] <Scott Windsor> the Codex Alexandrinus
So, when they ask a question I/we answer - and what's the follow-up from them?
"Attack the messenger" instead of dealing with the facts raised!

[23:50] <JWafk> I see......
[23:50] <JWafk> You are a textual scholar, Scott?
[23:50] <JWafk> You know a lot about Alexandrinus, Sinaiticus and the like?

[23:50] <Scott Windsor> can't answer so challenge the person now?
[23:50] <Aquinas> elitism
[23:50] <DarkKnight> lol
[23:50] <JWafk> You just seemingly assumed that if a manuscript contains a work, it was considered canonical by the maker of the manuscript.
[23:50] <JWafk> Care to expound upon your reasons for coming to that conclusion?
[23:51] <JWafk> What sources you used, etc.?

[23:51] <Aquinas> no answer?
[23:51] <JWafk> Just because you can't *recognize* answers, Aquinas, does not mean they are not offered.
[23:51] <JWafk> I'm waiting, Scott.
[23:51] <Aquinas> same to you
[23:51] <JWafk> Are you going to keep me here all night, and when I finally go to bed, claim victory?
Noting the timestamp, not even a minute has gone by, and James complains about the time...and within that minute, I did answer!
[23:51] <Scott Windsor> (I) scanned several internet sources, but didn't save them all... I still have the last one...
[23:51] <Aquinas> don't tell me... "lol"
[23:52] <JWafk> Ah, INTERNET SOURCES. Yes, that is a sound source for all things, is it not?
Noting, White has again attacked the stated source, but has not dealt with the substance (diversionary tactic in play here).
[23:52] <skyman`> The presence of 1 & 2 Clement in the Codex Alexandrinus doesn't make them canonical - That's Roman imagination at work. name one Church father who regarded 1 & 2 Clement as canonical & cite the source please.
[23:52] <Scott Windsor> are you saying I am incorrect?
[23:52] <Aquinas> James... you quoted Yahoo News for the Bishops Conference... YAHOO!!!
[23:52] <DarkKnight> That is good enough for me.
[23:52] <DarkKnight> And he did it in 15 minutes.
[23:52] <JWafk> Well, Scott, let's put a few things to bed. Just because a book was included in a manuscripts did NOT indicate the canonical views of the person creating the manuscript. Error #1, though, I'm sure you will repeat it in the future, since you never listen to the refutation of your errors in the first place.
[23:53] <JWafk> Next---what does any of that have to do with the issue at hand? No one has argued that there were not a small handful of books looked upon as canonical, mainly in the area of their production, but never across the entire spectrum of believing communities.
[23:53] <Scott Windsor> your saying that doesn't make it NOT considered canonical either, (your "error #1")
[23:53] <JWafk> Uh....OK, that's deep.
"Uh....OK," but it's a true statement - just because James White says something in an IRC Chatroom doesn't make it so.
[23:54] <Aquinas> Som james... when did it happen?
[23:54] <DarkKnight> and insightful.
[23:54] <Scott Windsor> those were a couple I mentioned... Aquinas also mentioned a couple others...
Another personal attack...(and non-answer)
[23:54] <JWafk> Never mind, Scott. You are so far over your head it is not worth the time to get you up to speed.
[23:54] <Scott Windsor> the Didache was one
[23:54] <Aquinas> really
[23:54] <Aquinas> and (The Shepherd of) Hermas

[23:54] <JWafk> And the relevance is?
The relevance is, we're offering substance - and there's been little, if any, in return.
[23:54] <Aquinas> and Athanasius mentioned Baruch
[23:54] <Scott Windsor> that the canon wasn't settled yet...
[23:55] <Scott Windsor> that's the relevance
[23:55] <Scott Windsor> that's the point

[23:55] <James White> I see....and it remained unsettled until Trent?
[23:55] <Aquinas> How can the Scripture be the final authority?
[23:55] <Scott Windsor> no, it was pretty well settled by Carthage and Hippo - but not "closed" until Trent.
[23:55] <JWafk> Ask Jesus....He held men to it, Aquinas.
[23:55] <skyman`> Aquinas, because it's God's word.
[23:55] <Aquinas> Yeah... the OT
[23:56] <DarkKnight> oh brother.
[23:56] <Aquinas> Dark... you think Jesus had the KJV?
[23:56] <DarkKnight> uh?
[23:56] <JWafk> Let's see....since minor groups briefly held to the canonicity of a handful of books, we need Rome. Yup, there you go kids....another example of the desperation of Rome's apologists.
Where is the substance to James' allegation that this was "minor groups?" All we have here is his personal statement in an IRC chatroom.
[23:56] <DarkKnight> Do you even think through your questions, Aquinas?
[23:56] <skyman`> Now there's a Catholic Answers original <g>
[23:57] <DarkKnight> Absolutely absurd.
[23:57] <Scott Windsor> Aquinas, no, Jesus - it seems - used the Alexandrian canon, which included the deuterocanonicals...
[23:57] <Aquinas> James... what was your argument about Jerome, then?
And James quits, so Aqunias and I bid him goodnight.

[23:57] <JWafk> Enough. Good night.
[23:57] <DarkKnight> Sky: Is this the only kind of apologetic Rome has to offer?
[23:57] <Aquinas> 4since minor groups briefly held to the canonicity of a handful of books
[23:58] <Scott Windsor> Goodnight James....
[23:58] <Aquinas> Nite James...
[23:58] <Aquinas> :)
*** Log file closed: 06/25/2002 11:59:29 PM

On that note, I left the channel - did not "claim victory" as James predicted - and I don't have to, this logfile "speaks volumes."

Now, for some research:

  • The Ethiopian Orthodox church adds four extra books to its New Testament, and another two to the Old Testament.
  • Writing around 300 AD Eusebius, the historian of the early church, listed Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2 & 3 John, Jude and Revelation as dubious or false.
  • The Syrian Orthodox and Chaldean Syrian traditions continue to reject 2 Peter, 2 & 3 John, Jude and Revelation.
  • Irenaeus, who is credited with standardizing the number of gospels at the present four, included a book called The Revelation of Peter in his canon.
  • Codex Sinaiticus, the oldest complete New Testament manuscript that has come down to us (fourth century AD) includes Barnabas and The Shepherd of Hermas.
  • As late as the fifth century the Codex Alexandrinus included 1 & 2 Clement.
While the canon in the West proved to be relatively stable from the late fourth century, the canon in the oriental churches varied, sometimes widely. The Syriac church at the beginning of the fifth century employed only the Diatesseron (in place of the four gospels), Acts, and the Pauline epistles.58 During the fifth century the Peshitta was produced and became the standard Syriac version. In it the Diatesseron was replaced by the four gospels, 3 Corinthians was removed and three Catholic epistles, James, 1 Peter and 1 John were included. The Apocalypse and the other Catholic epistles were excluded, making a twenty-two book canon. The remaining books did not make their way into the Syriac canon until the late sixth century with the appearance of the Harclean Syriac Version.59 While the Syrian church recognized an abbreviated canon, the Ethiopic Church recognized the twenty-seven books of the New Testament plus The Shepherd of Hermas, 1 & 2 Clement and eight books of the Apostolic Constitutions.60

Even in the West the canon was not closed as tightly as commonly believed. A case in point is the apocryphal Epistle to the Laodiceans. In the tenth century, Alfric, later Archbishop of Canterbury, lists the work as among the canonical Pauline epistles. Westcott observes that the history of this epistle "forms one of the most interesting episodes in the literary history of the Bible."61 He notes that from the sixth century onward Laodiceans occurs frequently in Latin manuscripts, including many which were prepared for church use. So common was the epistle in the Medieval period, it passed into several vernacular translations, including the Bohemian Bible as late as 1488. It also occurred in the Albigensian Version of Lyons, and while not translated by Wycliffe personally, it was added to several manuscripts of his translation of the New Testament.62

On the eve of the Reformation, it was not only Luther who had problems with the extent of the New Testament canon. Doubts were being expressed even by some of the loyal sons of the Church. Luther's opponent at Augsburg, Cardinal Cajetan, following Jerome, expressed doubts concerning the canonicity of Hebrews, James, 2 and 3 John, and Jude. Of the latter three he states, "They are of less authority than those which are certainly Holy Scripture."63 Erasmus likewise expressed doubts concerning Revelation as well as the apostolicity of James, Hebrews and 2 Peter. It was only as the Protestant Reformation progressed, and Luther's willingness to excise books from the canon threatened Rome that, at Trent, the Roman Catholic Church hardened its consensus stand on the extent of the New Testament canon into a conciliar pronouncement.64

The point of this survey has been to demonstrate that the New Testament canon was not closed in the fourth century. Debates continued concerning the fringe books of the canon until the Reformation. During the Reformation, both the Reformed and Catholic Churches independently asserted the twenty-seven book New Testament canon.

58 The Catholic epistles and the Apocalypse were omitted. Hebrews, viewed as Pauline, was accepted, while Philemon, was either unknown or rejected. The fourth century Syrian fathers included 3 Corinthians as canonical (W. G. Kummel, Introduction to the New Testament 14th revised ed., translated by A. J. Mattill [Nashville: Abingdon, 1966], 353).

59 Ibid.

60 Ibid. The Ethiopic version is dated as early as the fourth century by some. Others would attribute it to the seventh century (Bruce Metzger, The Text of the New Testament (New York: Oxford University Press, 1968), 84.

61 B. F. Wescott, A General Survey of the History of the Canon of the New Testament, (3rd ed., London: MacMillian, 1870), 426.

62 Ibid., 429. C.f. Metzger, Canon of the New Testament, 238-240.

63 Ibid., 443.

64 It is significant that the early Lutheran Confessions did not contain a list of the canonical writings


More Canon Research

Return to ACTS Homepage