Canon  of  the  New  Testament

                     The Catholic New Testament, as defined by the Council of Trent, does not differ,
                     as regards the books contained, from that of all Christian bodies at present. Like
                     the Old Testament, the New has its deuterocanonical books and portions of
                     books, their canonicity having formerly been a subject of some controversy in the
                     Church. These are for the entire books: the Epistle to the Hebrews, that of
                     James, the Second of St. Peter, the Second and Third of John, Jude, and
                     Apocalypse; giving seven in all as the number of the New Testament contested
                     books. The formerly disputed passages are three: the closing section of St.
                     Mark's Gospel, xvi, 9-20 about the apparitions of Christ after the Resurrection;
                     the verses in Luke about the bloody sweat of Jesus, xxii, 43, 44; the Pericope
                     Adulteræ, or narrative of the woman taken in adultery, St. John, vii, 53 to viii, 11.
                     Since the Council of Trent it is not permitted for a Catholic to question the
                     inspiration of these passages.

                     A. THE FORMATION OF THE NEW TESTAMENT CANON (A.D. 100-220)

                     The idea of a complete and clear-cut canon of the New Testament existing from
                     the beginning, that is from Apostolic times, has no foundation in history. The
                     Canon of the New Testament, like that of the Old, is the result of a development,
                     of a process at once stimulated by disputes with doubters, both within and
                     without the Church, and retarded by certain obscurities and natural hesitations,
                     and which did not reach its final term until the dogmatic definition of the
                     Tridentine Council.

                     1. The witness of the New Testament to itself: The first collections

                     Those writings which possessed the unmistakable stamp and guarantee of
                     Apostolic origin must from the very first have been specially prized and
                     venerated, and their copies eagerly sought by local Churches and individual
                     Christians of means, in preference to the narratives and Logia, or Sayings of
                     Christ, coming from less authorized sources. Already in the New Testament itself
                     there is some evidence of a certain diffusion of canonical books: II Peter, iii, 15,
                     16, supposes its readers to be acquainted with some of St. Paul's Epistles; St.
                     John's Gospel implicitly presupposes the existence of the Synoptics (Matthew,
                     Mark, and Luke). There are no indications in the New Testament of a systematic
                     plan for the distribution of the Apostolic compositions, any more than there is of
                     a definite new Canon bequeathed by the Apostles to the Church, or of a strong
                     self-witness to Divine inspiration. Nearly all the New Testament writings were
                     evoked by particular occasions, or addressed to particular destinations. But we
                     may well presume that each of the leading Churches--Antioch, Thessalonica,
                     Alexandria, Corinth, Rome--sought by exchanging with other Christian
                     communities to add to its special treasure, and have publicly read in its religious
                     assemblies all Apostolic writings which came under its knowledge. It was
                     doubtless in this way that the collections grew, and reached completeness within
                     certain limits, but a considerable number of years must have elapsed (and that
                     counting from the composition of the latest book) before all the widely separated
                     Churches of early Christendom possessed the new sacred literature in full. And
                     this want of an organized distribution, secondarily to the absence of an early
                     fixation of the Canon, left room for variations and doubts which lasted far into the
                     centuries. But evidence will presently be given that from days touching on those
                     of the last Apostles there were two well defined bodies of sacred writings of the
                     New Testament, which constituted the firm, irreducible, universal minimum, and
                     the nucleus of its complete Canon: these were the Four Gospels, as the Church
                     now has them, and thirteen Epistles of St. Paul--the Evangelium and the

                     2. The principle of canonicity

                     Before entering into the historical proof for this primitive emergence of a compact,
                     nucleative Canon, it is pertinent to briefly examine this problem: During the
                     formative period what principle operated in the selection of the New Testament
                     writings and their recognition as Divine?--Theologians are divided on this point.
                     This view that Apostolicity was the test of the inspiration during the building up of
                     the New Testament Canon, is favoured by the many instances where the early
                     Fathers base the authority of a book on its Apostolic origin, and by the truth that
                     the definitive placing of the contested books on the New Testament catalogue
                     coincided with their general acceptance as of Apostolic authorship. Moreover, the
                     advocates of this hypothesis point out that the Apostles' office corresponded with
                     that of the Prophets of the Old Law, inferring that as inspiration was attached to
                     the munus propheticum so the Apostles were aided by Divine inspiration
                     whenever in the exercise of their calling they either spoke or wrote. Positive
                     arguments are deduced from the New Testament to establish that a permanent
                     prophetical charisma (see CHARISMATA) was enjoyed by the Apostles through
                     a special indwelling of the Holy Ghost, beginning with Pentecost: Matth., x, 19,
                     20; Acts, xv, 28; I Cor., ii, 13; II Cor., xiii, 3; I Thess., ii, 13, are cited. The
                     opponents of this theory allege against it that the Gospels of Mark and of Luke
                     and Acts were not the work of Apostles (however, tradition connects the Second
                     Gospel with St. Peter's preaching and St. Luke's with St. Paul's); that books
                     current under an Apostle's name in the Early Church, such as the Epistle of
                     Barnabas and the Apocalypse of St. Peter, were nevertheless excluded from
                     canonical rank, while on the other hand Origen and St. Dionysius of Alexandria in
                     the case of Apocalypse, and St. Jerome in the case of II and III John, although
                     questioning the Apostolic authorship of these works, unhesitatingly received
                     them as Sacred Scriptures. An objection of a speculative kind is derived from the
                     very nature of inspiration ad scribendum, which seems to demand a specific
                     impulse from the Holy Ghost in each case, and preclude the theory that it could
                     be possessed as a permanent gift, or charisma. The weight of Catholic
                     theological opinion is deservedly against mere Apostolicity as a sufficient
                     criterion of inspiration. The adverse view has been taken by Franzelin (De Divinâ
                     Traditione et Scripturâ, 1882), Schmid (De Inspirationis Bibliorum Vi et Ratione,
                     1885), Crets (De Divinâ Bibliorum Inspiratione, 1886), Leitner (Die prophetische
                     Inspiration, 1895--a monograph), Pesch (De Inspiratione Sacræ, 1906). These
                     authors (some of whom treat the matter more speculatively than historically)
                     admit that Apostolicity is a positive and partial touchstone of inspiration, but
                     emphatically deny that it was exclusive, in the sense that all non-Apostolic
                     works were by that very fact barred from the sacred Canon of the New Testament
                     They hold to doctrinal tradition as the true criterion.

                     Catholic champions of Apostolicity as a criterion are: Ubaldi (Introductio in
                     Sacram Scripturam, II, 1876); Schanz (in Theologische Quartalschrift, 1885, pp.
                     666 sqq., and A Christian Apology, II, tr. 1891); Székely (Hermeneutica Biblica,
                     1902). Recently Professor Batiffol, while rejecting the claims of these latter
                     advocates, has enunciated a theory regarding the principle that presided over the
                     formation of the New Testament Canon which challenges attention and perhaps
                     marks a new stage in the controversy. According to Monsignor Batiffol, the
                     Gospel (i.e. the words and commandments of Jesus Christ) bore with it its own
                     sacredness and authority from the very beginning. This Gospel was announced
                     to the world at large, by the Apostles and Apostolic disciples of Christ, and this
                     message, whether spoken or written, whether taking the form of an evangelic
                     narrative or epistle, was holy and supreme by the fact of containing the Word of
                     Our Lord. Accordingly, for the primitive Church, evangelical character was the
                     test of Scriptural sacredness. But to guarantee this character it was necessary
                     that a book should be known as composed by the official witnesses and organs
                     of the Evangel; hence the need to certify the Apostolic authorship, or at least
                     sanction, of a work purporting to contain the Gospel of Christ. In Batiffol's view
                     the Judaic notion of inspiration did not at first enter into the selection of the
                     Christian Scriptures. In fact, for the earliest Christians the Gospel of Christ, in the
                     wide sense above noted, was not to be classified with, because transcending,
                     the Old Testament It was not until about the middle of the second century that
                     under the rubric of Scripture the New Testament writings were assimilated to the
                     Old; the authority of the New Testament as the Word preceded and produced its
                     authority as a New Scripture. (Revue Biblique, 1903, 226 sqq.) Monsignor
                     Batiffol's hypothesis has this in common with the views of other recent students
                     of the New Testament Canon, that the idea of a new body of sacred writings
                     became clearer in the Early Church as the faithful advanced in a knowledge of
                     the Faith. But it should be remembered that the inspired character of the New
                     Testament is a Catholic dogma, and must therefore in some way have been
                     revealed to, and taught by, Apostles.--Assuming that Apostolic authorship is a
                     positive criterion of inspiration, two inspired Epistles of St. Paul have been lost.
                     This appears from I Cor., v, 9, sqq.; II Cor., ii, 4, 5.

                     3. The formation of the Tetramorph, or Fourfold Gospel

                     Irenæus, in his work "Against Heresies" (A.D. 182-88), testifies to the existence
                     of a Tetramorph, or Quadriform Gospel, given by the Word and unified by one
                     Spirit; to repudiate this Gospel or any part of it, as did the Alogi and Marcionites,
                     was to sin against revelation and the Spirit of God. The saintly Doctor of Lyons
                     explicitly states the names of the four Elements of this Gospel, and repeatedly
                     cites all the Evangelists in a manner parallel to his citations from the Old
                     Testament From the testimony of St. Irenæus alone there can be no reasonable
                     doubt that the Canon of the Gospel was inalterably fixed in the Catholic Church
                     by the last quarter of the second century. Proofs might be multiplied that our
                     canonical Gospels were then universally recognized in the Church, to the
                     exclusion of any pretended Evangels. The magisterial statement of Irenæus may
                     be corroborated by the very ancient catalogue known as the Muratorian Canon,
                     and St. Hippolytus, representing Roman tradition; by Tertullian in Africa, by
                     Clement in Alexandria; the works of the Gnostic Valentinus, and the Syrian
                     Tatian's Diatessaron, a blending together of the Evangelists' writings, presuppose
                     the authority enjoyed by the fourfold Gospel towards the middle of the second
                     century. To this period or a little earlier belongs the pseduo-Clementine epistle in
                     which we find, for the first time after II Peter, iii, 16, the word Scripture applied to
                     a New Testament book. But it is needless in the present article to array the full
                     force of these and other witnesses, since even rationalistic scholars like Harnack
                     admit the canonicity of the quadriform Gospel between the years 140-175.

                     But against Harnack we are able to trace the Tetramorph as a sacred collection
                     back to a more remote period. The apocryphal Gospel of St. Peter, dating from
                     about 150, is based on our canonical Evangelists. So with the very ancient
                     Gospel of the Hebrews and Egyptians (see APOCRYPHA). St. Justin Martyr
                     (130-63) in his Apology refers to certain "memoirs of the Apostles, which are
                     called gospels", and which "are read in Christian assemblies together with the
                     writings of the Prophets". The identity of these "memoirs" with our Gospels is
                     established by the certain traces of three, if not all, of them scattered through St.
                     Justin's works; it was not yet the age of explicit quotations. Marcion, the heretic
                     refuted by Justin in a lost polemic, as we know from Tertullian, instituted a
                     criticism of Gospels bearing the names of the Apostles and disciples of the
                     Apostles, and a little earlier (c. 120) Basilides, the Alexandrian leader of a
                     Gnostic sect, wrote a commentary on "the Gospel" which is known by the
                     allusions to it in the Fathers to have comprised the writings of the Four

                     In our backward search we have come to the sub-Apostolic age, and its
                     important witnesses are divided into Asian, Alexandrian, and Roman:

                          St. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, and St. Polycarp, of Smyrna, had been
                          disciples of Apostles; they wrote their epistles in the first decade of the
                          second century (100-110). The employ Matthew, Luke, and John. In St.
                          Ignatius we find the first instance of the consecrated term "it is written"
                          applied to a Gospel (Ad Philad., viii, 2). Both these Fathers show not only
                          a personal acquaintance with "the Gospel" and the thirteen Pauline
                          Epistles, but they suppose that their readers are so familiar with them that
                          it would be superfluous to name them. Papias, Bishop of Phrygian
                          Hierapolis, according to Irenæus a disciple of St. John, wrote about A.D.
                          125. Describing the origin of St. Mark's Gospel, he speaks of Hebrew
                          (Aramaic) Logia, or Sayings of Christ, composed by St. Matthew, which
                          there is reason to believe formed the basis of the canonical Gospel of that
                          name, though the greater part of Catholic writers identify them with the
                          Gospel. As we have only a few fragments of Papias, preserved by
                          Eusebius, it cannot be alleged that he is silent about other parts of the
                          New Testament.
                          The so-called Epistle of Barnabas, of uncertain origin, but of highest
                          antiquity (see BARNABAS, EPISTLE), cites a passage from the First
                          Gospel under the formula "it is written". The Didache, or Teaching of the
                          Apostles, an uncanonical work dating from c. 110, implies that "the
                          Gospel" was already a well-known and definite collection.
                          St. Clement, Bishop of Rome, and disciple of St. Paul, addressed his
                          Letter to the Corinthian Church c. A.D. 97, and, although it cites no
                          Evangelist explicitly, this epistle contains combinations of texts taken
                          from the three synoptic Gospels, especially from St. Matthew. That
                          Clement does not allude to the Fourth Gospel is quite natural, as it was
                          not composed till about that time.

                     Thus the patristic testimonies have brought us step by step to a Divine inviolable
                     fourfold Gospel existing in the closing years of the Apostolic Era. Just how the
                     Tetramorph was welded into unity and given to the Church, is a matter of
                     conjecture. But, as Zahn observes, there is good reason to believe that the
                     tradition handed down by Papias, of the approval of St. Mark's Gospel by St.
                     John the Evangelist, reveals that either the latter himself of a college of his
                     disciples added the Fourth Gospel to the Synoptics, and made the group into the
                     compact and unalterable "Gospel", the one in four, whose existence and
                     authority left their clear impress upon all subsequent ecclesiastical literature, and
                     find their conscious formulation in the language of Irenæus.

                     4. The Pauline Epistles

                     Parallel to the chain of evidence we have traced for the canonical standing of the
                     Gospels extends one for the thirteen Epistles of St. Paul, forming the other half
                     of the irreducible kernel of the complete New Testament canon. All the
                     authorities cited for the Gospel Canon show acquaintance with, and recognize,
                     the sacred quality of these letters. St. Irenæus, as acknowledged by the
                     Harnackian critics, employs all the Pauline writings, except the short Philemon,
                     as sacred and canonical. The Muratorian Canon, contemporary with Irenæus,
                     gives the complete list of the thirteen, which, it should be remembered, does not
                     include Hebrews. The heretical Basilides and his disciples quote from this
                     Pauline group in general. The copious extracts from Marcion's works scattered
                     through Irenæus and Tertullian show that he was acquainted with the thirteen as
                     in ecclesiastical use, and selected his Apostolikon of six from them. The
                     testimony of Polycarp and Ignatius is again capital in this case. Eight of St.
                     Paul's writings are cited by Polycarp; St. Ignatius of Antioch ranked the Apostles
                     above the Prophets, and must therefore have allowed the written compositions of
                     the former at least an equal rank with those of the latter ("Ad Philadelphios", v).
                     St. Clement of Rome refers to Corinthians as at the head "of the Evangel"; the
                     Muratorian Canon gives the same honour to I Corinthians, so that we may
                     rightfully draw the inference, with Dr. Zahn, that as early as Clement's day St.
                     Paul's Epistles had been collected and formed into a group with a fixed order.
                     Zahn has pointed out confirmatory signs of this in the manner in which Sts.
                     Ignatius and Polycarp employ these Epistles. The tendency of the evidence is to
                     establish the hypothesis that the important Church of Corinth was the first to
                     form a complete collection of St. Paul's writings.

                     5. The remaining Books

                     In this formative period the Epistle to the Hebrews did not obtain a firm footing in
                     the Canon of the Universal Church. At Rome it was not yet recognized as
                     canonical, as shown by the Muratorian catalogue of Roman origin; Irenæus
                     probably cites it, but makes no reference to a Pauline origin. Yet it was known at
                     Rome as early as St. Clement, as the latter's epistle attests. The Alexandrian
                     Church admitted it as the work of St. Paul, and canonical. The Montanists
                     favoured it, and the aptness with which vi, 4-8, lent itself to the Montanist and
                     Novatianist rigour was doubtless one reason why it was suspect in the West.
                     Also during this period the excess over the minimal Canon composed of the
                     Gospels and thirteen epistles varied. The seven "Catholic" Epistles (James,
                     Jude, I and II Peter, and the three of John) had not yet been brought into a
                     special group, and, with the possible exception of the three of St. John, remained
                     isolated units, depending for their canonical strength on variable circumstances.
                     But towards the end of the second century the canonical minimum was enlarged
                     and, besides the Gospels and Pauline Epistles, unalterably embraced Acts, I
                     Peter, I John (to which II and III John were probably attached), and Apocalypse.
                     Thus Hebrews, James, Jude, and II Peter remained hovering outside the
                     precincts of universal canonicity, and the controversy about them and the
                     subsequently disputed Apocalypse form the larger part of the remaining history of
                     the Canon of the New Testament However, at the beginning of the third century
                     the New Testament was formed in the sense that the content of its main
                     divisions, what may be called its essence, was sharply defined and universally
                     received, while all the secondary books were recognized in some Churches. A
                     singular exception to the universality of the above-described substance of the
                     New Testament was the Canon of the primitive East Syrian Church, which did not
                     contain any of the Catholic Epistles or Apocalypse.

                     6. The idea of a New Testament

                     The question of the principle that dominated the practical canonization of the
                     New Testament Scriptures has already been discussed under (b). The faithful
                     must have had from the beginning some realization that in the writings of the
                     Apostles and Evangelists they had acquired a new body of Divine Scriptures, a
                     New written Testament destined to stand side by side with the Old. That the
                     Gospel and Epistles were the written Word of God, was fully realized as soon as
                     the fixed collections were formed; but to seize the relation of this new treasure to
                     the old was possible only when the faithful acquired a better knowledge of the
                     faith. In this connection Zahn observes with much truth that the rise of
                     Montanism, with its false prophets, who claimed for their written productions--the
                     self-styled Testament of the Paraclete--the authority of revelation, around the
                     Christian Church to a fuller sense that the age of revelation had expired with the
                     last of the Apostles, and that the circle of sacred Scripture is not extensible
                     beyond the legacy of the Apostolic Era. Montanism began in 156; a generation
                     later, in the works of Irenæus, we discover the firmly-rooted idea of two
                     Testaments, with the same Spirit operating in both. For Tertullian (c. 200) the
                     body of the New Scripture is an instrumentum on at least an equal footing and in
                     the same specific class as the instrumentum formed by the Law and the
                     Prophets. Clement of Alexandria was the first to apply the word "Testament" to
                     the sacred library of the New Dispensation. A kindred external influence is to be
                     added to Montanism: the need of setting up a barrier, between the genuine
                     inspired literature and the flood of pseudo-Apostolic apocrypha, gave an
                     additional impulse to the idea of a New Testament Canon, and later contributed
                     not a little to the demarcation of its fixed limits.

                     B. THE PERIOD OF DISCUSSION (A.D. 220-367)

                     In this stage of the historical development of the Canon of the New Testament we
                     encounter for the first time a consciousness reflected in certain ecclesiastical
                     writers, of the differences between the sacred collections in divers sections of
                     Christendom. This variation is witnessed to, and the discussion stimulated by,
                     two of the most learned men of Christian antiquity, Origen, and Eusebius of
                     Cæsarea, the ecclesiastical historian. A glance at the Canon as exhibited in the
                     authorities of the African, or Carthaginian, Church, will complete our brief survey
                     of this period of diversity and discussion:-

                     1. Origen and his school

                     Origen's travels gave him exception opportunities to know the traditions of widely
                     separated portions of the Church and made him very conversant with the
                     discrepant attitudes toward certain parts of the New Testament He divided books
                     with Biblical claims into three classes:

                          those universally received;
                          those whose Apostolicity was questions;
                          apocryphal works.

                     In the first class, the Homologoumena, stood the Gospels, the thirteen Pauline
                     Epistles, Acts, Apocalypse, I Peter, and I John. The contested writings were
                     Hebrews, II Peter, II and III John, James, Jude, Barnabas, the Shepherd of
                     Hermas, the Didache, and probably the Gospel of the Hebrews. Personally,
                     Origen accepted all of these as Divinely inspired, though viewing contrary
                     opinions with toleration. Origen's authority seems to have given to Hebrews and
                     the disputed Catholic Epistles a firm place in the Alexandrian Canon, their tenure
                     there having been previously insecure, judging from the exegetical work of
                     Clement, and the list in the Codex Claromontanus, which is assigned by
                     competent scholars to an early Alexandrian origin.

                     2. Eusebius

                     Eusebius, Bishop of Cæsarea in Palestine, was one of Origen's most eminent
                     disciples, a man of wide erudition. In imitation of his master he divided religious
                     literature into three classes:

                          Homologoumena, or compositions universally received as sacred, the
                          Four Gospels, thirteen Epistles of St. Paul, Hebrews, Acts, I Peter, I
                          John, and Apocalypse. There is some inconsistency in his classification;
                          for instance, though ranking Hebrews with the books of universal
                          reception, he elsewhere admits it is disputed.
                          The second category is composed of the Antilegomena, or contested
                          writings; these in turn are of the superior and inferior sort. The better ones
                          are the Epistles of St. James and St. Jude, II Peter, II and III John; these,
                          like Origen, Eusebius wished to be admitted to the Canon, but was forced
                          to record their uncertain status; the Antilegomena of the inferior sort were
                          Barnabas, the Didache, Gospel of the Hebrews, the Acts of Paul, the
                          Shepherd, the Apocalypse of Peter.
                          All the rest are spurious (notha).

                     Eusebius diverged from his Alexandrian master in personally rejecting
                     Apocalypse as an un-Biblical, though compelled to acknowledge its almost
                     universal acceptance. Whence came this unfavourable view of the closing volume
                     of the Christian Testament?--Zahn attributes it to the influence of Lucian of
                     Samosata, one of the founders of the Antioch school of exegesis, and with
                     whose disciples Eusebius had been associated. Lucian himself had acquired his
                     education at Edessa, the metropolis of Eastern Syria, which had, as already
                     remarked, a singularly curtailed Canon. Luician is known to have edited the
                     Scriptures at Antioch, and is supposed to have introduced there the shorter New
                     Testament which later St. John Chrysostom and his followers employed--one in
                     which Apocalypse, II Peter, II and III John, and Jude had no place. It is known
                     that Theodore of Mopsuestia rejected all the Catholic Epistles. In St. John
                     Chrysostom's ample expositions of the Scriptures there is not a single clear
                     trace of the Apocalypse, which he seems to implicitly exclude the four smaller
                     Epistles--II Peter, II and III John, and Jude--from the number of the canonical
                     books. Lucian, then, according to Zahn, would have compromised between the
                     Syriac Canon and the Canon of Origen by admitting the three longer Catholic
                     Epistles and keeping out Apocalypse. But after allowing fully for the prestige of
                     the founder of the Antioch school, it is difficult to grant that his personal authority
                     could have sufficed to strike such an important work as Apocalypse from the
                     Canon of a notable Church, where it had previously been received. It is more
                     probable that a reaction against the abuse of the Johannine Apocalypse by the
                     Montanists and Chiliasts--Asia Minor being the nursery of both these errors--led
                     to the elimination of a book whose authority had perhaps been previously
                     suspected. Indeed it is quite reasonable to suppose that its early exclusion from
                     the East Syrian Church was an outer wave of the extreme reactionist movement
                     of the Aloges--also of Asia Minor--who branded Apocalypse and all the Johannine
                     writings as the work of the heretic Cerinthus. Whatever may have been all the
                     influences ruling the personal Canon of Eusebius, he chose Lucian's text for the
                     fifty copies of the Bible which he furnished to the Church of Constantinople at the
                     order of his imperial patron Constantine; and he incorporated all the Catholic
                     Epistles, but excluded Apocalypse. The latter remained for more than a century
                     banished from the sacred collections as current in Antioch and Constantinople.
                     However, this book kept a minority of Asiatic suffrages, and, as both Lucian and
                     Eusebius had been tainted with Arianism, the approbation of Apocalypse,
                     opposed by them, finally came to be looked upon as a sign of orthodoxy.
                     Eusebius was the first to call attention to important variations in the text of the
                     Gospels, viz., the presence in some copies and the absence in others of the final
                     paragraph of Mark, the passage of the Adulterous Woman, and the Bloody

                     3. The African Church

                     St. Cyprian, whose Scriptural Canon certainly reflects the contents of the first
                     Latin Bible, received all the books of the New Testament except Hebrews, II
                     Peter, James, and Jude; however, there was already a strong inclination in his
                     environment to admit II Peter as authentic. Jude had been recognized by
                     Tertullian, but, strangely, it had lost its position in the African Church, probably
                     owing to its citation of the apocryphal Henoch. Cyprian's testimony to the
                     non-canonicity of Hebrews and James is confirmed by Commodian, another
                     African writer of the period. A very important witness is the document known as
                     Mommsen's Canon, a manuscript of the tenth century, but whose original has
                     been ascertained to date from West Africa about the year 360. It is a formal
                     catalogue of the sacred books, unmutilated in the New Testament portion, and
                     proves that at its time the books universally acknowledged in the influential
                     Church of Carthage were almost identical with those received by Cyprian a
                     century before. Hebrews, James, and Jude are entirely wanting. The three
                     Epistles of St. John and II Peter appear, but after each stands the note una sola,
                     added by an almost contemporary hand, and evidently in protest against the
                     reception of these Antilegomena, which, presumably, had found a place in the
                     official list recently, but whose right to be there was seriously questioned.

                     C. THE PERIOD OF FIXATION (A.D. 367-405)

                     1. St. Athanasius

                     While the influence of Athanasius on the Canon of the Old Testament was
                     negative and exclusive (see supra), in that of the New Testament it was
                     trenchantly constructive. In his "Epistola Festalis" (A.D. 367) the illustrious
                     Bishop of Alexandria ranks all of Origen's New Testament Antilegomena, which
                     are identical with the deuteros, boldly inside the Canon, without noticing any of
                     the scruples about them. Thenceforward they were formally and firmly fixed in the
                     Alexandrian Canon. And it is significant of the general trend of ecclesiastical
                     authority that not only were works which formerly enjoyed high standing at
                     broad-minded Alexandria--the Apocalypse of Peter and the Acts of Paul--involved
                     by Athanasius with the apocrypha, but even some that Origen had regarded as
                     inspired--Barnabas, the Shepherd of Hermas, the Didache--were ruthlessly shut
                     out under the same damnatory title.

                     2. The Roman Church, the Synod under Damasus, and St. Jerome

                     The Muratorian Canon or Fragment, composed in the Roman Church in the last
                     quarter of the second century, is silent about Hebrews, James, II Peter; I Peter,
                     indeed, is not mentioned, but must have been omitted by an oversight, since it
                     was universally received at the time. There is evidence that this restricted Canon
                     obtained not only in the African Church, with slight modifications, as we have
                     seen, but also at Rome and in the West generally until the close of the fourth
                     century. The same ancient authority witnesses to the very favourable and
                     perhaps canonical standing enjoyed at Rome by the Apocalypse of Peter and the
                     Shepherd of Hermas. In the middle decades of the fourth century the increased
                     intercourse and exchange of views between the Orient and the Occident led to a
                     better mutual acquaintance regarding Biblical canons and the correction of the
                     catalogue of the Latin Church. It is a singular fact that while the East, mainly
                     through St. Jerome's pen, exerted a disturbing and negative influence on Western
                     opinion regarding the Old Testament, the same influence, through probably the
                     same chief intermediary, made for the completeness and integrity of the New
                     Testament Canon. The West began to realize that the ancient Apostolic
                     Churches of Jerusalem and Antioch, indeed the whole Orient, for more than two
                     centuries had acknowledged Hebrews and James as inspired writings of
                     Apostles, while the venerable Alexandrian Church, supported by the prestige of
                     Athanasius, and the powerful Patriarchate of Constantinople, with the scholarship
                     of Eusebius behind its judgment, had canonized all the disputed Epistles. St.
                     Jerome, a rising light in the Church, though but a simple priest, was summoned
                     by Pope Damasus from the East, where he was pursuing sacred lore, to assist
                     at an eclectic, but not ecumenical, synod at Rome in the year 382. Neither the
                     general council at Constantinople of the preceding year nor that of Nice (365) had
                     considered the question of the Canon. This Roman synod must have devoted
                     itself specially to the matter. The result of its deliberations, presided over, no
                     doubt, by the energetic Damasus himself, has been preserved in the document
                     called "Decretum Gelasii de recipiendis et non recipiendis libris", a compilation
                     partly of the sixth century, but containing much material dating from the two
                     preceding ones. The Damasan catalogue presents the complete and perfect
                     Canon which has been that of the Church Universal ever since. The New
                     Testament portion bears the marks of Jerome's views. St. Jerome, always
                     prepossessed in favour of Oriental positions in matters Biblical, exerted then a
                     happy influence in regard to the New Testament; if he attempted to place any
                     Eastern restriction upon the Canon of the Old Testament his effort failed of any
                     effect. The title of the decree--"Nunc vero de scripturis divinis agendum est quid
                     universalis Catholica recipiat ecclesia, et quid vitare debeat"--proves that the
                     council drew up a list of apocryphal as well as authentic Scriptures. The
                     Shepherd and the false Apocalypse of Peter now received their final blow. "Rome
                     had spoken, and the nations of the West had heard" (Zahn). The works of the
                     Latin Fathers of the period--Jerome, Hilary of Poitiers, Lucifer of Sardina,
                     Philaster of Brescia--manifest the changed attitude toward Hebrews, James,
                     Jude, II Peter, and III John.

                     3. Fixation in the African and Gallican Churches

                     It was some little time before the African Church perfectly adjusted its New
                     Testament to the Damasan Canon. Optatus of Mileve (370-85) does not used
                     Hebrews. St. Augustine, while himself receiving the integral Canon,
                     acknowledged that many contested this Epistle. But in the Synod of Hippo (393)
                     the great Doctor's view prevailed, and the correct Canon was adopted. However, it
                     is evident that it found many opponents in Africa, since three councils there at
                     brief intervals--Hippo, Carthage, in 393; Third of Carthage in 397; Carthage in
                     419--found it necessary to formulate catalogues. The introduction of Hebrews
                     was an especial crux, and a reflection of this is found in the first Carthage list,
                     where the much vexed Epistle, though styled of St. Paul, is still numbered
                     separately from the time-consecrated group of thirteen. The catalogues of Hippo
                     and Carthage are identical with the Catholic Canon of the present. In Gaul some
                     doubts lingered for a time, as we find Pope Innocent I, in 405, sending a list of
                     the Sacred Books to one of its bishops, Exsuperius of Toulouse.

                     So at the close of the first decade of the fifth century the entire Western Church
                     was in possession of the full Canon of the New Testament In the East, where,
                     with the exception of the Edessene Syrian Church, approximate completeness
                     had long obtained without the aid of formal enactments, opinions were still
                     somewhat divided on the Apocalypse. But for the Catholic Church as a whole the
                     content of the New Testament was definitely fixed, and the discussion closed.

                     The final process of this Canon's development had been twofold: positive, in the
                     permanent consecration of several writings which had long hovered on the line
                     between canonical and apocryphal; and negative, by the definite elimination of
                     certain privileged apocrypha that had enjoyed here and there a canonical or
                     quasi-canonical standing. In the reception of the disputed books a growing
                     conviction of Apostolic authorship had much to do, but the ultimate criterion had
                     been their recognition as inspired by a great and ancient division of the Catholic
                     Church. Thus, like Origen, St. Jerome adduces the testimony of the ancients and
                     ecclesiastical usage in pleading the cause of the Epistle to the Hebrews (De
                     Viris Illustribus, lix). There is no sign that the Western Church ever positively
                     repudiated any of the New Testament deuteros; not admitted from the beginning,
                     these had slowly advanced towards a complete acceptance there. On the other
                     hand, the apparently formal exclusion of Apocalypse from the sacred catalogue
                     of certain Greek Churches was a transient phase, and supposes its primitive
                     reception. Greek Christianity everywhere, from about the beginning of the sixth
                     century, practically had a complete and pure New Testament Canon. (See


                     1. To the Protestant Reformation

                     The New Testament in its canonical aspect has little history between the first
                     years of the fifth and the early part of the sixteenth century. As was natural in
                     ages when ecclesiastical authority had not reached its modern centralization,
                     there were sporadic divergences from the common teaching and tradition. There
                     was no diffused contestation of any book, but here and there attempts by
                     individuals to add something to the received collection. In several ancient Latin
                     manuscripts the spurious Epistle to the Laodiceans is found among the
                     canonical letters, and, in a few instances, the apocryphal III Corinthians. The last
                     trace of any Western contradiction within the Church to the Canon of the New
                     Testament reveals a curious transplantation of Oriental doubts concerning the
                     Apocalypse. An act of the Synod of Toledo, held in 633, states that many
                     contest the authority of that book, and orders it to be read in the churches under
                     pain of excommunication. The opposition in all probability came from the
                     Visigoths, who had recently been converted from Arianism. The Gothic Bible had
                     been made under Oriental auspices at a time when there was still much hostility
                     to Apocalypse in the East.

                     2. The New Testament and the Council of Trent (1546)

                     This ecumenical synod had to defend the integrity of the New Testament as well
                     as the Old against the attacks of the pseudo-Reformers, Luther, basing his
                     action on dogmatic reasons and the judgment of antiquity, had discarded
                     Hebrews, James, Jude, and Apocalypse as altogether uncanonical. Zwingli could
                     not see in Apocalypse a Biblical book. (OEcolampadius placed James, Jude, II
                     Peter, II and III John in an inferior rank. Even a few Catholic scholars of the
                     Renaissance type, notably Erasmus and Cajetan, had thrown some doubts on
                     the canonicity of the above-mentioned Antilegomena. As to whole books, the
                     Protestant doubts were the only ones the Fathers of Trent took cognizance of;
                     there was not the slightest hesitation regarding the authority of any entire
                     document. But the deuterocanonical parts gave the council some concern, viz.,
                     the last twelve verses of Mark, the passage about the Bloody Sweat in Luke, and
                     the Pericope Adulteræ in John. Cardinal Cajetan had approvingly quoted an
                     unfavourable comment of St. Jerome regarding Mark, xvi, 9-20; Erasmus had
                     rejected the section on the Adulterous Woman as unauthentic. Still, even
                     concerning these no doubt of authenticity was expressed at Trent; the only
                     question was as to the manner of their reception. In the end these portions were
                     received, like the deuterocanonical books, without the slightest distinction. And
                     the clause "cum omnibus suis partibus" regards especially these portions.--For
                     an account of the action of Trent on the Canon, the reader is referred back to the
                     respective section of the article: II. The Canon of the Old Testament in the
                     Catholic Church.

                     The Tridentine decree defining the Canon affirms the authenticity of the books to
                     which proper names are attached, without however including this in the definition.
                     The order of books follows that of the Bull of Eugenius IV (Council of Florence),
                     except that Acts was moved from a place before Apocalypse to its present
                     position, and Hebrews put at the end of St. Paul's Epistles. The Tridentine order
                     has been retained in the official Vulgate and vernacular Catholic Bibles. The
                     same is to be said of the titles, which as a rule are traditional ones, taken from
                     the Canons of Florence and Carthage. (For the bearing of the Vatican Council on
                     the New Testament, see Part II above.)

                     3. The New Testament Canon outside the Church

                     The Orthodox Russian and other branches of the Eastern Orthodox Church have
                     a New Testament identical with the Catholic. In Syria the Nestorians possess a
                     Canon almost identical with the final one of the ancient East Syrians; they
                     exclude the four smaller Catholic Epistles and Apocalypse. The Monophysites
                     receive all the book. The Armenians have one apocryphal letter to the Corinthians
                     and two from the same. The Coptic-Arabic Church include with the canonical
                     Scriptures the Apostolic Constitutions and the Clementine Epistles. The Ethiopic
                     New Testament also contains the so-called "Apostolic Constitutions".--As for
                     Protestantism, the Anglicans and Calvinists always kept the entire New
                     Testament But for over a century the followers of Luther excluded Hebrews,
                     James, Jude, and Apocalypse, and even went further than their master by
                     rejecting the three remaining deuterocanonicals, II Peter, II and III John. The trend
                     of the seventeenth century Lutheran theologians was to class all these writings
                     as of doubtful, or at least inferior, authority. But gradually the German
                     Protestants familiarized themselves with the idea that the difference between the
                     contested books of the New Testament and the rest was one of degree of
                     certainty as to origin rather than of instrinsic character. The full recognition of
                     these books by the Calvinists and Anglicans made it much more difficult for the
                     Lutherans to exclude the New Testament deuteros than those of the Old. One of
                     their writers of the seventeenth century allowed only a theoretic difference
                     between the two classes, and in 1700 Bossuet could say that all Catholics and
                     Protestants agreed on the New Testament Canon. The only trace of opposition
                     now remaining in German Protestant Bibles is in the order, Hebrews, coming
                     with James, Jude, and Apocalypse at the end; the first not being included with
                     the Pauline writings, while James and Jude are not ranked with the Catholic

                     4. The criterion of inspiration (less correctly known as the criterion of

                     Even those Catholic theologians who defend Apostolicity as a test for the
                     inspiration of the New Testament (see above) admit that it is not exclusive of
                     another criterion, viz., Catholic tradition as manifested in the universal reception
                     of compositions as Divinely inspired, or the ordinary teaching of the Church, or
                     the infallible pronouncements of ecumenical councils. This external guarantee is
                     the sufficient, universal, and ordinary proof of inspiration. The unique quality of the
                     Sacred Books is a revealed dogma. Moreover, by its very nature inspiration
                     eludes human observation and is not self-evident, being essentially superphysical
                     and supernatural. Its sole absolute criterion, therefore, is the Holy inspiring Spirit,
                     witnessing decisively to Itself, not in the subjective experience of individual souls,
                     as Calvin maintained, neither in the doctrinal and spiritual tenor of Holy Writ
                     itself, according to Luther, but through the constituted organ and custodian of Its
                     revelations, the Church. All other evidences fall short of the certainty and finality
                     necessary to compel the absolute assent of faith. (See Franzelin, "De Divinâ
                     Traditione et Scripturâ"; Wiseman, "Lectures on Christian Doctrine", Lecture ii;
                     also INSPIRATION.)

                     GEORGE J. REID
                     Transcribed by Ernie Stefanik

                                       The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume III
                                    Copyright © 1908 by Robert Appleton Company
                                    Online Edition Copyright © 1999 by Kevin Knight
                                 Nihil Obstat, November 1, 1908. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor
                                 Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York

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