Unformatted text preview: Formation of the Christian Canon Some argue that canonization was a concern among Christians in the 4th century A.D. Some argue that canonization was part of the process at the very beginning reflected in the concern for passing on authoritative traditions. Formation of the Jewish Bible By the 2nd century B.C. the Law (Pentateuch) was widely regarded as scripture in both its Greek and Hebrew version (cf. Letter of Aristeas) By the 2nd century B.C. the Law, the Prophets, and other books were being widely regarded as scripture. Sirach (Prologue) Qumran (DSS) "The Law, the Prophets, and other books that followed" Texts of all the books of the Hebrew Bible except Esther + Jubilees, Enoch, Tobit, and several other non canonical books laws, sacred oracles by the prophets, hymns Moses, the prophets, and the Psalms Philo (De vita contemplativa 25) Luke 24:27, 44 By the end of the 1st century A.D. there was a stable 22/24 book Jewish canon. Josephus (C. Apion 1.3743) For we have not an innumerable multitude of books among us, disagreeing from, and contradicting one another, [as the Greeks have], but only twentytwo books, which contain the records of all the past times; which are justly believed to be divine; and of them five belong to Moses, which contain his laws and the traditions of the origin of mankind till his death. This interval of time was little short of three thousand years; but as to the time from the death of Moses till the reign of Artaxerxes, king of Persia, who reigned after Xerxes, the prophets, who were after Moses, wrote down what was done in their times in thirteen books. The remaining four books contain hymns to God, and precepts for the conduct of human life. It is true, our history has been written since Artaxerxes very particularly, but has not been esteemed of the like authority with the former by our forefathers, because there has not been an exact succession of prophets since that time; and how firmly we have given credit to these books of our own nation, is evident by what we do; for, during so many ages as have already passed, no one has been so bold as either to add anything to them, to take anything from them, or to make any change in them; but it is becomes natural to all Jews, immediately and from their very birth, to esteem these books to contain divine doctrines, and to persist in them, and, if occasion be, willingly to die for them. Refers to 24 Jewish books which were to be read publicly and 70 which were not to be so read. 2 Esdras 14:4448 Sometime in the 2nd century A.D. the Jewish canon with its tripartite division was closed as a result of rabbinic discussions. M. Yadaim 3:5 Records a debate about which writing render the hands unclean (3:5 "All the Holy Scriptures render the hands unclean."). The speaker then declares that the Song of Songs and Ecclesiastes render the hands unclean. There follows a debate whether one or both of these writings render the hands unclean. The conclusion comes back to an affirmation of both. Formation of the Christian Bible
The Christian Old Testament The early church regarded itself as a sect of Judaism. They received the Jewish sacred writings as their own because their founder (Jesus Christ) regarded them as authoritative and found his identity and mission defined therein. Some form of the Jewish Scriptures was the earliest Bible of the church They used predominantly the Greek translation (LXX) of the Jewish Scriptures which also contained a larger group of writings than the 22/24 of the Hebrew Bible. E.g., Jude 9 refers to the Assumption of Moses and Jude 14 15 refer to a prophecy in 1 Enoch 1:9 E.g., Hebrews 11:35 alludes to 2 Macc 7 Marcion In the 2nd century A.D., challenged the authority of the Jewish heritage and authority of the Jewish Scriptures in the church. Substituted a Christian canon consisting of a version of Luke and 10 letters of Paul with all references to the Jewish Scriptures eliminated within these texts. Rejected by the majority of Christians who retained the Jewish Scriptures as their OT. Two positions developed in regards to the contents of the Christian OT in the 4th/5th centuries A.D. Jerome Prologue to Samuel and Kings / prologue to the three books of Solomon Hebrew canon only for establishing "ecclesiastical dogma" On Christian Doctrine 2.8.13 A fuller 44 book OT canon represented by the LXX (all books of the Hebrew canon ([JeremiahLamentations Baruch / Esther + additions / Daniel + additions] and Tobit, Judith, 1&2 Maccabees, Wisdom, Sirach) Augustine Formation of the Christian Bible
The New Testament By 125 A.D. there is a 14 letter collection of Paul and the fourfold Gospel collection. Marcion published the earliest collection of Paul's letters. 10 letters (not including the Pastorals or Hebrews) By the end of the 2nd century The Muratorian Fragment (our earliest canon list) gives us a glimpse into the state of the NT canon
The fourfold Gospel "bearing witness to one and the same faith," Acts, the 9 letters of Paul to the 7 churches plus the 3 Pastorals and Philemon, 1 John, 2 John, and possibly 3 John, [the apocalypses of John and Peter, and the Wisdom of Solomon--the place of these books in the list indicate that they may have been disputed]. In the 3rd century A.D. Tertullian identifies the two parts of the Christian canon as instramentum/testamentum Origen refers to a collection of texts as the New Testament and classifies them in 3 categories: (1) undisputed--4 Gospels, Acts, 13 letters of Paul, 1 Peter, 1 John, Revelation (2) disputed--Hebrews, 2 and 3 John, 2 Peter, James, and Jude (3) false In the 4th century A.D. Eusebius (Hist. eccl. 3.25.17) lists 4 categories of books (1) Acknowledged--4 Gospels, Acts, 14 letters of Paul, 1 John, 1 Peter, Revelation (2) disputed--2 and 3 John, 2 Peter, Jude, and James (3) spurious books--orthodox but not to be used in worship (Acts of Paul, Shepherd of Hermes, Apocalypse of Peter, Epistle of Barnabas, Gospel of Hebrews) (4) heretical Uncial, Sinaiticus, contains all 27 books of the NT + Epistle of Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermes Athanasius's 39th Festal Letter (A.D. 367) lists all 27 books of the New Testament for the first time, no more and no less Three basic categories of books: canonical (undisputed and disputed); ecclesiastical books (useful for edification); heretical books (rejected) In the 16th century Most Protestants accepted the 27 book NT canon Luther challenged this by relegating Hebrews, James, Jude, and Revelation to the status of NT apocrypha (in his German translation he enumerates 23 books of the New Testament and lists these at the end without enumeration). Conclusion The canon is a collection of collections Today there remains disagreement about the exact limits of the Christian canon The influence of ecclesiastical centers (e.g., Alexandria, Rome, Antioch, Carthage) The influence of ecclesiastical leaders (e.g., Athansius's 39th festal letter) The experience of persecution (which books would one die for?) The use of codices (which books does one include and exclude) What were the influences that shaped the Christian canon over the first 5 centuries A.D.? What were the criteria of NT canonicity employed in the first 5 centuries A.D.? Catholicity: applicable to the church at large Orthodoxy: in accord with the rule of faith preserved in a succession of bishops in the church. Predominantly a negative criteria to exclude books. Apostolicty: from an apostle, from the time of an apostle, from those associated with an apostle, in accordance with the apostles' teaching Traditional use: those books that were handed down and used in the churches' liturgy and held in common among most of the churches. No one criteria secured the status of any book in the canon. They were variously implemented to demonstrate the legitimacy of books traditionally used in worship among the churches. ...
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