3_Formation of the Christian Canon

3_Formation of the Christian Canon - Formation of the...

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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 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 A prosperous shipowner living in Rome, who 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. Why did Marcion do this? Marcion's goal was to purge Christianity of any Jewish influence. He believed the CreatorGod of the OT was a wrathful, legalistic, vengeful demiurge. The unknown God revealed by Jesus was, however, loving and full of grace. Jesus had come to ransom people from the oppressive bondage of the demiurge. He believed that such Jewish apostles as Peter and James were false apostles who had corrupted with Jewish elements the Christian faith that had been accurately taught by Paul (and his companion Luke). Thus he rejected the OT and the typological/allegorical methods of interpreting the OT in order to make it relevant to the Christian faith. Marcion ended up founding Marcionite churches that spread rapidly over the Roman Empire and endured for centuries. (Irenaeus Her. 2.25.3, pg. 25 Readings Vol. 1) 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 Most Protestants follow Luther who followed Jerome's opinion of limiting the OT canon to the Hebrew Scriptures. Roman Catholics Council of Trent 1546 declared all works of the Latin Vulgate (inclusive canon) canonical (Prayer of Manasseh and 1&2 Esdras published in an appendix) Synod of Jerusalem 1672 RC canon + 3 Macc and Ps 151 RC canon + EO canon + 1&2 Esdras Eastern Orthodox Russian Orthodox 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. By the end of the 2nd century Irenaeus affirms the fourfold Gospel tradition (Haer. 3.11.8) 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 testamentum/instrumentum 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) By the fifth century, the West, Egypt, and North Africa had agreed upon the 27 books of the NT published in Athanasius's festal letter. The Ethiopian church, however, had as many as 35 books in its NT canon. In the East, the Syrian church had only 22 books. 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. These books were found to be adaptable to the changing circumstances of the church. 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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