Prof: What is scripture,
and what is canon? These are not necessarily the
same thing. When you call something
“scripture,” what you simply mean is it’s
some kind of writing that is taken by somebody as holy and
authoritative, somehow sacred.
Now, different religions–some
religions don’t have what we would normally think of as
scripture, in Islam, Judaism or Christianity.
They might have lots and lots
of holy writings, but they don’t have a
particular, bounded body of writings that they call
scripture. They have lots of scripture.
What makes something scripture,
though, is that it’s taken to be authoritative and holy by
some particular community. Now, notice that does not
necessarily mean it’s canonical because scripture in some
religions refers to a bunch of stuff.
But they don’t have a set list
of things that make something the canon.
Judaism, Islam and Christianity
all have, basically, canons.
That is it’s the Qur’an for
Islam. It’s the Hebrew Bible for
Judaism. And it’s the Hebrew Bible,
plus the New Testament–and we’ll talk about some of the
other writings, too–for Christians.
What does it mean to call
something “canon” that makes it different from
scripture? By calling it canon,
we’re saying there’s an actual list that a religion body
adheres to, with books that are either in or books that are not
in. So “scripture”
can refer to any kind of writing that a bunch of people
consider holy or inspired or authoritative.
But when you call something
“canon,” you mean that there’s a group
of writing that has boundaries to it.
And, of course,
it just comes from the Greek word canon,
spelled with one “n,” not two.
This Greek word means a list.
It can mean a rod, a staff.
It can mean a measuring rod.
And so it comes to be a list
that accounts as authoritative in early Christianity.
So that’s what it means to call
something “canonical.” When you talk about something
like the Shakespeare canon, the canon of Shakespeare or the
canon of great Western Literature that’s actually using
the term in a bit of an expanded sense.
Because we don’t really
consider Western Literature to have an actual closed canon of
authoritative texts. In Christianity,
though, it means the list of texts that are scripture and
recognized as different from other things.
We have to first,
also, recognize that the early Christians,
it seems like, from the very early period,
at least a lot of them, accepted Jewish scripture as
their own. So for example,
when the Apostle Paul says, “Scripture says,”
he’s not talking about the New Testament.
He’s talking about Jewish
scripture. So almost all the early
Christians, they didn’t know–the people writing the New
Testament didn’t know they were writing the New Testament.
They just thought they were
writing a gospel or a sermon or a letter or something like that.
So when you see the term
“scripture” in the New Testament,
every time except, maybe, one time–
and we’ll talk about this when we get to it–
it refers to Jewish scripture that Christians accepted,
followers of Jesus accepted, as their own.
The oldest materials that we
have for Christianity– and so what the lecture today
is going to be about is how did the particular twenty-seven
books that came to be the New Testament canon,
how did those get chosen? By whom–who made the decision?
When did they make the decision?
And what were the criteria they
used? Why did they allow some books
in and other books not in? The oldest written materials of
Christianity are actually the letters of Paul.
This may come as a surprise,
because you get to the gospels first in the New Testament.
And most people assume,
“Oh, the gospels, they’re about the life of
Jesus. That must be the oldest
stuff.” Well, the gospels are actually
all written after the letters of Paul were written by 20 or 30
years. So the oldest material we have
are the letters of Paul. And the oldest one of those
letters is 1 Thessalonians, probably, dated to around the
year 50 or thereabouts. Pretty quickly,
though, different churches, probably Paul’s churches,
initially, started sending around copies of Paul’s letters.
Remember, there’s no printing
press in the ancient world. Whenever your church would get
a copy of one of these letters from Paul,
you would have scribes, often slaves,
because slaves were especially trained to be scribes.
They would take that letter,
and they would make a copy of it.
And then, they might keep the
original, and they’d send the copy off to somebody else.
Or they might keep the copy and
send the original off to somebody.
And so letters would be copied,
and books would be copied and sent around from different
communities. This obviously happened.
In Colossians 4:16,
which is actually, I’ll argue, not written by
Paul, although it claims to be written by Paul.
The writer says,
“When this letter has been read among you,
have it read, also, in the church of the
Laodiceans, and see that you read,
also, the letter from Laodicea.”
So notice this author–who I
think is a pseudepigrapher. He’s writing in the name of
Paul, but not really Paul. He’s saying that there’s
another letter sent by Paul to the Laodicean church.
So let them send you their
copy, and you send a copy of this letter to them.
So we quickly see that even in
the letters under Paul’s name, this activity’s being spread
around. Also, we see the letter of
Ephesians–again, claims to be by Paul,
but I’ll argue is not by Paul when we get to that lecture,
way into the semester. The letter to the Ephesians
looks like it was not actually written to only one church.
It looks like it was a circular
letter meant to be circulated to different churches.
And one of the ways we think
this– one of the reasons we think
this is because in some of the old manuscripts of Ephesians,
“To the Ephesians” is not there.
It’s either blank or it’s to
somebody else. So some scholars have suggested
that maybe the letter to the Ephesians was originally
intended as a circular letter. And, maybe, the original
writer, sort of, even left some copies blank so
that somebody could fill in. “Oh, well,
we’re in Laodicea. Let’s say ‘To the Laodiceans,’
and we can act like Paul sent it just to us.”
So the manuscript tradition
suggests that it was a letter that was a circular letter in
itself. We also have imitations of
Paul’s letters developing. For example,
I said, Colossians I don’t think is written by Paul,
but by a disciple of Paul, maybe after his death.
Ephesians was written by a
different disciple of Paul, and he was using as his model
for a Pauline letter the actual letters of Paul,
or at least some of them that he possessed and knew of.
But he was, also,
using the letter to the Colossians.
So notice this guy,
another guy sort of forging another letter by Paul.
And he’s using another forged
letter by Paul as his model. In fact, he almost quotes it in
places. So we can tell that the writer
of the Ephesians seems to have been a different author.
But he used the letter to the
Colossians as one of his models. So Paul’s letters were being
imitated, new ones were being written, and they were being
circulated. Paul’s letters actually became
so famous and respected, and at least in some aspects of
early Christianity, that they were called
And this is the one exception I
said to when in the New Testament you see the word
scripture, it refers to Jewish scripture.
The guy who wrote 2
Peter–again, not really Peter,
but a writer writing in Peter’s name–
talked about Paul’s letters as if–and he calls them scripture.
He says, “There are many
things in Paul’s letters very difficult to understand.
And some people twist them to
their own destruction as they do other kinds of scripture.”
So already by the time 2 Peter
was written, which was much later than the
letters of Paul, Paul’s letters have come to be
regarded by at least some early Christians as scripture
themselves. So collections of Paul’s
letters were gradually being made and copied and circulated.
That’s the first development of
what you have a collection of what would be considered holy
writing among Christians that was more than just the Jewish
scripture. We also know,
though, about oral traditions in Paul’s letters.
And this gets us back to how
did the gospels come about? So Paul’s letters came about
that way. How did the gospels come about?
We know that there were oral
traditions about Jesus. People would tell stories about
Jesus in their churches. Sometimes, they would tell
sayings. So in Romans 12:14,
Paul says, “Bless those who persecute you.
Bless and do not curse
them.” Now, he doesn’t say this is a
quotation of Jesus. But it sounds an awful lot like
you find in some of the gospels, like in Matthew 5:44.
So Paul’s saying this,
probably, passing this along as a quotation of Jesus.
In 1 Corinthians 11:23-26,
here I’ll read this to you. Start bringing your Bible to
class if you haven’t today. Because, you know,
you can’t trust me, and so you have to check me out
and make sure I’m not lying to you.
Oh, I should do this,
now, perhaps, since it’s the beginning of the
semester. The official motto of the
class–you have to memorize this: de omnibus
dubitandum. Say it with me, please.
De omnibus du…
Students: De omnibus
dubitandum. Prof: With feeling.
Students: De omnibus
dubitandum. Prof: About twice as
De omnibus dubitandum.
Prof: Write it down. Say it tonight,
before you go to sleep. Say it in the morning,
when you wake. Every day of the semester say
it before you go to sleep. Say it when you wake.
Can anybody tell me what it
means? “Doubt everything.”
And that includes me,
because I’m going to lie to you a lot all semester long.
Or, at least,
somebody will accuse me of that I guarantee.
1 Corinthians 11,
if you’ve got your Bible follow along with me,
verse 23. “For I received from the
Lord,” Paul says, “what I also handed on to
you, that the Lord Jesus on the
night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread,
and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said,
‘This is my body that is for you.
Do this in remembrance of me.’
In the same way,
he took the cup, also, after supper saying,
‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood.
Do this as often as you drink
it in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this
bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death
until he comes.” Where did Paul get this?
He says, “I gave it to you
as I received it myself.” This is traditional Greek
language of passing on tradition.
So Paul knows he’s passing on a
bit of tradition, very, very early Christian
tradition. But Paul was not a disciple of
Jesus during Jesus’ lifetime. Paul never saw Jesus,
except in his visions. Paul saw Jesus in apocalyptic
visions, but he never saw Jesus’ flesh and blood.
And so Paul was not his
disciple. He must have gotten this from
other disciples of Jesus. So what does this tell us?
This tells us that different
disciples of Jesus were remembering some of his sayings
and passing them around to other people after his life.
Now, the first time–well,
also, there’s another interesting passage in 1
Corinthians 9:14, where Paul says this.
“In the same way,
the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should
get their living by the gospel.”
Now, we actually don’t have a
saying in the Gospels that Jesus actually says that.
It does sound a little bit
like, maybe, Luke 10:7. But this is a saying that Paul
attributes to Jesus that’s not actually in our gospels.
It also shows,
though–it’s interesting, too, that Paul says preachers
should make their living from preaching the gospel.
That is, churches should
support the preachers and missionaries.
Paul says that’s a command from
Jesus. He, actually,
doesn’t obey it, though.
Because he makes the point that
he, himself, is not going to take money from his churches at
that point. So the earliest Gospel,
though, that pulled together some of these things that we
possess is the Gospel of Mark. It probably was written around
the year 70. And in the next couple of
lectures I’ll show you why we think we can pinpoint around the
date that the gospel of Mark was written.
It’s a very interesting little
process. Then, Matthew and Luke were
both written after Mark, and they used Mark as sources.
When you get to the discussion
section on the synoptic problem, which is your first discussion
section, you’ll learn all this theory
about the relationship between Matthew, Mark,
and Luke. Who was written first,
who copied whom, who used whom,
and that sort of thing. The beginning of Luke,
though, starts off like this. “Since many have
undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events
that have been fulfilled among us,
just as they were handed on to us by those who from the
beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word,
I, too, decided after investigating everything
carefully from the very first to write an orderly account for
you, most excellent Theophilus,
so that you may know the truth concerning the things about what
you have been instructed.” Now, what does that tell us?
That tells us that whoever
wrote the Gospel of Luke– and again, I’ll tell you that
it wasn’t the historical person called Luke,
who’s a companion of Paul, probably.
But whoever wrote this says
that he did some research. He collected other sayings
about Jesus. He even looked at other written
accounts. And from those different
things, he, himself, compiled his own gospel.
So we can tell that the gospels
start off with oral tradition that’s being passed around,
different sayings and stories about Jesus.
And then, gradually,
but only about 40 years after the death of Jesus,
the Gospel of Mark is in the year 70.
If Jesus was crucified around
the year 30 that’s a 40 year period of time between the death
of Jesus and the appearance of the first gospel that we
possess. Although there were other
written materials being passed around during that time.
Now, what does this say about
this? Some of this–we tend to think,
as modern people, that a written text is actually
the best thing. It’s better than just rumor or
hearsay or oral tradition. It’s interesting,
though, that some ancient people didn’t think that.
In fact, there’s a guy named
Papias. He’s on your handout.
He was a Christian leader who
lived, probably wrote about some of this stuff around the year
130 or 140. And he says this about his own
little research: “I shall not hesitate to
put down for you with my interpretations whatsoever
things I well learned at one time from the Presbyters,”
just meaning the old guys, elders, “and well
remembered, confidently asserting
truthfulness for them. For I did not take pleasure as
the multitude does in those who say many things,
but in those who teach the things that are true.
Nor did I take pleasure in
those who recall strange commands,
but in those who recall the commands given by the Lord to
the Faith and coming from Truth itself.
But if, per chance,
there came, also, anyone who had followed the
Presbyters,” the elders,
“I made inquiry concerning the words of the Presbyters,
what Andrew or what Peter had said,
or what Philip or what Thomas or James,
or what John or Matthew, or any of the other disciples
of the Lord said. And what things Aristeon and
the Presbyter John, disciples of the Lord used to
say. For I did not suppose that the
things from the books would aid me, so much as things from the
living and continuing voice.”
Notice what Papias says he’s
doing. He doesn’t interview the actual
apostles. He’s too long after their death.
But he tries to find people who
are old men, who knew the apostles.
And he says he questioned them
about what they said Jesus had said.
because it shows this continuing tradition.
But it’s also interesting that
he says he trusted that traditional living voice more
than he trusted written documents.
So that’s important to keep in
mind. The next time we see some
development in how this New Testament starts coming about is
around the middle of the second century.
We have a guy named Justin
Martyr. He’s called that because he was
martyred for the faith around the year 150.
He mentions “the memoirs
of the apostles.” We think he’s,
probably, talking about the gospels,
but he doesn’t actually use that term as much as he talks
about “the memoirs of the apostles.”
So he knows that there’s
written documents. We also know that around this
time there are several different things being passed around that
look like gospels. There is Matthew,
Mark, Luke, and John, which are in our bible.
But there’s also the Gospel of
Thomas that we know about very early on.
And then, you’ve heard the news
about the Gospel of Judas being discovered recently and
published. So there’s a Gospel of Mary.
There are several other gospels
that are floating around the second century.
So that’s how these written
documents came about. How did they settle on these
four, though? First, then,
we have to talk about Marcion. I think he’s on your handout,
is that correct? Yes, Marcion,
who died around 160. Marcion was this guy from Asia
Minor, modern day Turkey, and just get used to that term.
Because whenever we say,
“Asia Minor,” we’re talking about that
section around the Mediterranean that now is called Turkey.
But it was called Asia Minor,
generally, in the Roman Imperial Period.
Marcion came to Rome from Asia
Minor. He seemed to be a successful
businessman, a ship builder. He gave the Roman church a huge
sum of money. And so he got a lot of honor.
But then, he started teaching
some doctrines that struck other Christians in Rome as being a
little bit off. For one thing,
Marcion said that the God, who’s mentioned in the Jewish
scripture, the God who created the earth, is not the father of
Jesus Christ. He’s a bungling or evil or bad
god. He gave all these people these
bad rules. And he punished them if they
didn’t obey the rules. That’s not the God that Jesus
talked about as being the God of grace and love and mercy.
So he said, “That God is
not the father of Jesus Christ. That’s not the God that Jesus
was talking about. So what we need to do is throw
away Jewish scripture.” So he said, “Christians
don’t need Jewish scripture. That’s all about a wrong god
anyway. It’s about a false god.
We don’t need that.
What we need,”
he said, “is the gospel.”
And in fact,
he chose one of these gospels. He took the Gospel of Luke.
Why did he take the Gospel of
Luke? Because he believed Luke had
been a companion of Paul. And Luke correctly passed on
Paul’s gospel. Because Paul was Marcion’s
fave, fave apostle. Marcion believed that Paul had
been the only one of the different apostles who got it
right. Because he taught people,
“You don’t have to obey the Jewish law.”
In fact, he taught people,
“You shouldn’t obey the Jewish law.”
So Marcion said,
“Paul got it right.” He threw out the Old Testament.
He threw out the Jewish God,
and he introduced the correct gospel of Jesus.
And Luke recorded that in his
gospel. So Marcion said the only thing
that should be scripture for us is not all that Jewish
scripture. Get rid of that.
We just need the ten letters of
Paul that he knew about. Now, there are actually
thirteen letters of Paul–that claim to be by Paul–in our
bible. Marcion seemed to know only ten
of them. That might be interesting later
on in the semester, too.
But he seemed to only include
ten letters in his list. So the ten letters of Paul,
and Luke. Now, you may have noticed if
you’ve actually read any of the letters of Paul,
and the Gospel of Luke, that these people seem to
believe that the creator God mentioned in Jewish scripture
actually was the father of Jesus Christ.
Marcion noticed some of those
places, too, like when Paul seemed to be quoting Jewish
scripture. So Marcion said, “Aha.
The other Jewish apostles,
the bad apostles, got hold of Paul’s letters.
And they got hold of the Gospel
of Luke, and they adulterated it.
They put all this other stuff
in.” So Marcion claimed that he
could edit out all the added stuff out of Paul’s letters and
out of the Gospel of Luke. And this edited version of the
Gospel of Luke and the ten letters of Paul,
that’s what Marcion published as his canon.
This is the first time we have
in Christianity someone attempting to say,
“This is the authoritative list.
And all these other things are
not part of the list.” Marcion, who came to be
considered a heretic by orthodox Christians–remember that at
this time, there’s a lot of different kinds of Christianity.
So how do you tell an orthodox
Christian from a heretical Christian?
Well, it’s your judgment call
or mine in the second century. You hadn’t had,
yet, the creeds that would try to settle these things for good,
like you did in the third and fourth century–the fourth
century. But a lot of Christians in
Rome, the Bishop of Rome, a lot of other people,
considered Marcion a heretic for this.
They kicked him out of the
church. They gave him back his money,
that he had given to the church, and they kicked him out.
And they declared this is
heretical. The creator God really is God.
The Jewish scripture really is
our scripture, and the God of Israel is the
God of Jesus Christ, also the father of Jesus
Christ. But Marcion seems to have
really put the scare of bejesus into the Roman church.
If you didn’t accept Marcion’s
canon, his list, what was going to be your list?
If you said that the other
gospels were just as important as the Gospel of Luke,
who said so and why? And who’s going to pronounce
this? Marcion, though,
seemed to have spurred other Christian leaders to decide what
they thought Christian scripture should do.
So what do you do about the
gospels? You have four different gospels
accepted by some people, five or six by other people.
Generally in Rome around this
time, the four gospels that we have
in our bible seem to have become the most popular accepted
gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
Now, some people still try to
figure out that you’ve got four. Why do you have four?
So you have other people,
like Tatian. He’s on your handout list, too.
He decided to take the four
gospels and do an edition that would string all the stuff from
the different four gospels into one book.
So he made what we call the
Diatessaron, which is a Greek word that means through four.
He took four books and created
one gospel out of it. You had other people who said,
well, you accept the gospel of Mark because Mark was a disciple
of Peter. This is the way Papias believed.
Elsewhere, he said that Mark
had traveled with Peter to Rome, and Mark wrote down Peter’s
version of the gospel. And so Papias said that’s why
Mark isn’t reliable. Or people would say Luke wrote
down the gospel that Paul had preached, so Luke was
authoritative. They also said,
well, Matthew was actually one of the disciples of Jesus.
He’s mentioned in the gospel.
So the Gospel of Matthew is
also by a good one. And John, also,
was believed to be that. Now, the problem with this is
that Papias and these other people didn’t really know what
they were talking about. Papias, for example,
thought that the Gospel of Matthew had originally been
written in Hebrew, and only later translated into
Greek. This is wrong.
Any of us who know Greek and
know Hebrew can tell that the Gospel of Matthew was written in
Greek. It doesn’t look like a
translation from Hebrew. So we tend to doubt all of
these different traditions. That Mark was the disciple of
Peter who wrote Peter’s gospel. That Matthew was written by the
actual disciple Matthew. That Luke was written by the
disciple of Paul. And that John was written by
the disciple John. Basically, what modern scholars
believe is that all four of these gospels were anonymously
published. They don’t tell us who their
author is. Notice, they’re not
pseudonymous. There’s a difference between
pseudonymous writings–easy for me to say–and anonymous.
Anonymous means we don’t know
who wrote it. It’s published without an
author’s name being listed. Pseudonymous means it’s
published with a false name, a false author attributed.
The four gospels are not
pseudonymous because the earliest manuscripts of these
gospels, we believe, did not contain the
titles, “Gospel of Matthew,
Gospel of Mark, Gospel of Luke,
Gospel of John.” They just published the text as
it was. If it ever did have an author’s
name attached to it, we don’t have any evidence in
the manuscript history. Nor do we have any evidence in
any other historical place. What happened was,
these names got attached to these documents.
And that’s, eventually,
how they got included into the canon.
People thought that these
documents eventually were written by the people whose
names that they possess. And therefore,
they thought they had some kind of connection to the apostles.
Notice what the canon list
eventually have. This is on your handout, also.
Look at the Muratorian Canon.
Remember, the word canon just
means list. So this was a list of books
that some author believed were scripture and should be read by
Christians and churches. And he mentions others that he
believes they should not. Sometimes he didn’t believe
they were bad books. Sometimes he believed they just
weren’t supposed to be included with the highest canonical
books. There’s a big debate about
whether this canon list was composed around the year 200 or
around the year 400. Scholars tend to line up on one
side or the other. It used to be when I was in
grad school that most people said, “Oh,
it was written around the year 200.”
Now, I understand that probably
the majority of scholars would say, “No.
It comes from a later
period.” That’s not really all that
important for us because what’s important for us is to see at
this point, either 200 or 400,
what was included and what was not.
This canon list includes these
books that aren’t in our bible: The Wisdom of Solomon,
which is actually in the apocrypha–
and I’ll talk about that–and the Apocalypse of Peter.
We do have an Apocalypse of
Peter, along with the Apocalypse of John.
It’s just not in our bible.
It’s considered New Testament
apocryphal writings. Also, this writer excluded
these books that are in our bible.
The Letter to the Hebrews,
one letter of John, he rejects the Shepherd of
Hermas, which is a book that we include in a groupings of
writing we call the Apostolic Fathers.
It was written in the second
century sometime by a guy in Rome named Hermas,
and it’s called The Shepherd. And he excludes other books he
calls gnostic books. We’ll talk later in the
semester about what does gnostic mean at this time.
So notice that this could be a
very early canon list. And it doesn’t match our list.
It does have the four gospels,
though. Then, the first time you get a
list by any Christian that we still possess,
that is extant, that survives,
that has the twenty-seven books of the New Testament that is in
our bible, is in the year 367.
It’s the Easter letter by the
Bishop Athanasius, who was Bishop of Alexandria.
Bishops at this time,
especially of major cities, would sometimes send around
what we call a paschal letter, an Easter letter.
In which they’d give
instructions or different kinds of things to their churches.
And in one year when he’s doing
this, he says, “These are the books that
you should read and should not read.”
And this is the first time that
the precise twenty-seven books that he lists are the
twenty-seven books that we list. It’s interesting,
though, he does list the letters of Paul last,
behind the other letters, rather than before them,
as we have in our list. And then, we don’t really start
getting any kind of consistency with this until into the third
and fourth and fifth and sixth centuries.
So what I’m saying now is it
took a long time for this to solidify.
And one of the things we think
made it solidify was the development of codices,
a codex. What is a codex?
Early books were all scrolls.
So if you had a book as long as
the Gospel of Matthew, it’d take up a pretty thick
scroll. Now, what happens if you want
to read not the whole book of Matthew, but you just want to
read Matthew 13:13? Well, you have to unroll your
scroll, and unroll, roll, roll, roll,
roll, roll, roll, roll.
You have to find the place,
then, roll it all back up. And what happens if you want to
move back and forth between a bunch of different letters?
Well, you have to unroll
different scrolls. Scrolls in synagogues,
they didn’t have books like this.
They just had a basket or a box
or a place called a geniza.
And they just had scrolls all
in it. So if you wanted to read
Isaiah, it actually was more than one scroll.
So you’d have to take that
scroll out and undo it. Now, what some scholars may
have speculated–we don’t know this for sure.
Some time around this period of
time, in early Christianity,
somebody got the big idea, “Hey, let’s cut up the
scroll into pages, and sew the pages together.
And then, put it all in a book.
And that way you can flip
around in it a lot easier.” Some scholars have even
speculated that Christians may have been the first to do this,
because they were arguing with their friends,
the Jews. Or their enemies,
the Jews, in some cases. And if you want to prove that
Jesus really was born of a virgin,
well, you need to go to that passage in Isaiah where,
at least the Greek version–it’s not in the
Hebrew– but the Greek version of the
Jewish scripture said that this man would be born of a virgin.
That’s the prophecy that we
read around Christmas time. A virgin will bear a son.
But you might have to,
also, refer to a Psalm over here or to another passage over
here. And it’s too difficult if
you’re unraveling scrolls and everything.
So some people believe that
Christians, precisely because they wanted
to proof text a lot, they wanted to run around
through a lot of different texts,
they actually invented the codex.
I’m not talking about tampons.
Codex, with a “d,”
okay? All that means is this is a
codex. It just means pages sewn
together and placed within the covers of a book.
So when you see the word
“book” in ancient Greek or Latin,
they didn’t think of this. They thought of scrolls.
So when you see the word book,
the mechanical thing they’re actually talking about is a
scroll. This was an interesting new
invention of a new piece of technology.
Maybe not quite as
revolutionary as the computer, but close.
Because all of a sudden,
cumbersome scrolls– what would be contained in the
codices we have– the plural of this is,
is either codexes sometimes, or if you want to act like you
actually know Greek– I mean, Latin,
you’d use the old Latinized plural, codices.
And you’ll see both of those
written in different sources. A Codex of the bible would be
pretty big, maybe that thick and that wide.
The ones we have,
they are stored in the Vatican Museum.
We have a few of them that
survived from this period. They’re pretty impressive
looking. But they would be big,
but still that would be a lot easier to transport and handle
than a whole box or closet full of scrolls.
So this was a very innovative
piece of technology. But one problem that this also
caused is if you’re going to put all the books,
the documents that you think are scripture,
between two covers and not just have a bunch of scrolls lying in
a box or a closet– with the scrolls,
you can take one out and put another in.
If you decide that you think
Daniel is not scripture, or you think the Revelation of
John is not scripture, just take it out of the box.
Put it somewhere else in the
synagogue or the church. But once you start publishing
things in between covers, you actually have to decide
what goes in and what goes out. And so around this time,
the third, fourth, and fifth century,
we get different codices, different codexes,
that is books. And we can tell,
then, what sorts of books they included in their scripture.
And notice on your handout just
some examples of this. The canon of Mommson,
early fourth century canon, includes Matthew,
Mark, John, and Luke, in that order.
So it has our four and only our
four, but in a different order. It excludes the Letter to the
Hebrews, the Letter of James, the Letter of Jude.
And this is one of the
interesting things about it. It argues that the books must
be exactly twenty-four, because Revelation 4:10 has
twenty-four elders in God’s throne room.
Convincing argument; right?
which is around the year 350, we think, is one of the
earliest codices of the bible we have.
It includes the Letter of
Barnabus, which we don’t have in our bibles, but we do possess
it, and the Shepherd of Hermas, which I already talked about.
Which was written somewhere
around the year 100 in Rome or right after that.
It also excludes Jude.
So it has two books that we
don’t include and excludes one that we do include.
Codex Claromontanus from the
sixth century, so in the 500s,
includes Matthew, John, Mark, and Luke.
Again, it has all four,
but they’re in a different order.
It has the Letter of Barnabus,
the Shepherd of Hermas, the Acts of Paul,
along with the Acts of the Apostles, and the Revelation of
Peter. So it has that Revelation of
Peter, again. It excludes Paul’s letter to
the Philippians, which is in our bible,
Hebrews and 1 and 2 Thessalonians.
Now, notice that means that
some people would say that they use that 367 date,
when Bishop Athanasius sent around his Easter letter.
And they say that’s when the
Christian canon of the New Testament was set.
Because it’s the earliest that
we have. But that’s not really right.
He was just bishop of one area.
His letter was not binding on
anybody else, except the churches in his
Alexandrian diocese. So it didn’t set the canon.
367 is simply the time when we
get the earliest list that matches our list of twenty-seven
books of the New Testament. But you can see when you look
at all these different codices, different canon lists,
from a century later in the 400s,
two centuries later in the 500s, three centuries later in
the 600s, you still get different lists.
So it took a long time for the
twenty books that we have to get settled on.
And we’ll talk about how that
actually happened, also, still.
What really happened was
consensus. Different bishops in different
major cities and different councils would sometimes try to
decide, and they’d put out decrees.
But they never completely
settled the question for all Christians everywhere around the
world. This is surprising.
But what counts as the bible is
still not agreed upon by Christians around the world.
the canon of the New Testament, our twenty-seven books,
is accepted by all Christian churches, generally.
Except that the Revelation of
John is still not part of the lectionary or canon in some
Eastern and Middle Eastern churches.
So, for example,
if you–I can’t remember which of these there are–but there
are churches all through the Middle East and the East,
also. And some of them don’t have the
Revelation of John in their New Testament.
The canon of all the scripture
therefore has never been completely the same for all
Christians everywhere. The Western Roman Catholic
canon, and the Greek Slavonic bibles,
have for example, Tobit, part of the Old
Testament, Judith, the Wisdom of Solomon,
Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, and the letter of
Jeremiah, and 1 and 2 Maccabees.
They also have a longer version
of Daniel and a longer version of Esther.
So the Western Roman Catholic
canon and Greek and Slavonic bibles will include our canon
that you have, probably.
But they’ll also,
maybe, include things that if you grew up in a Protestant
church, was not in your Protestant bible.
The Greek and Slavonic bibles
also accept 1 Esdras, the Prayer of Manasseh,
Psalm 151–they have another Psalm–
and 3 Maccabees, another Maccabean book.
You don’t need to memorize all
this. I’m just trying to give you an
idea of the variety of different canons for different churches in
different regions. The Slavonic and Latin Vulgate
also accept Psalm 151 and 3 Maccabees.
And the Greek canon also
accepts 4 Maccabees. Why is the Protestant canon
like it is? Well, at the time of the
Reformation, Roman Catholics had not only
the 27 books of the New Testament canon that we now
have, and they had what Protestants
came to accept as the Old Testament.
But they had several other
books that we now call the Apocrypha, such as Judith or
Tobit or the 1 and 2 Maccabees. When you buy your bible,
if you buy the one I ordered, it’s called the New Oxford
Annotated Bible with Apocrypha.
And they take these certain
books, and they put them in a special section of the bible.
To show that they’re not
exactly part of the Hebrew Bible, but they’re also not part
of the New Testament. But early Christians accepted
all these books. Early Christians didn’t read
the Hebrew bible in Hebrew. They all read it in Greek.
So when they were first dealing
with Jewish scripture, they didn’t read it in Hebrew,
they read it in Greek. There were several other Greek
Jewish documents that weren’t part of the traditional Hebrew
bible. But they were still accepted by
a lot of Jews, and therefore by a lot of
Christians as scripture. Those books were accepted by
Catholics, by Roman Catholics and by Christians up until the
Reformation. At the Reformation,
the reformers, Martin Luther,
Calvin, Melanchthon, they decided that–this was,
remember, after the Renaissance and the
beginnings of the rediscovery of the study of Greek and Latin
text in the original documents. They wanted to go back to the
Hebrew. So they learned Hebrew.
They started reading the Hebrew
Bible in Hebrew, not in Greek or Latin
translation. They, also, tried to come up
with the correct Greek text of the New Testament
documents, by doing textual criticism.
They were practicing what was
burgeoning scholarship of the period,
in the sixteenth century, to go back to the original
texts, as close as they could get.
What these reformers then did,
they said, “Wait a minute. Look at all these Greek Jewish
books that aren’t part of the Hebrew Bible.
They don’t exist in Hebrew.
They only exist in Greek.”
So they said,
“We’re not going to accept those as part of the Old
Testament.” They decided to go back to what
the Hebrew texts of the Old Testament, and not accept the
Greek Jewish documents. The Roman Catholics decided,
“No. We’re going to keep these
documents, also.” Which is why the Roman Catholic
Old Testament is larger than the Protestant Old Testament.
The Roman Catholic Old
Testament has the same books that the Protestant Old
Testament has, but they kept these other Greek
Jewish documents. We call those the Apocrypha,
“the hidden writings,”
is what it means. Yes, sir?
>Prof: When and how did
Jewish scripture become settled? The Jewish bible started
developing in the Rabbinic period.
So what the rabbis–now,
this is all after Jesus and Paul.
So we’re talking about the
third, fourth and fifth, sixth centuries.
They started teaching people
that only the Hebrew scriptures in Hebrew should be used.
In other words,
the rabbis, eventually, started rejecting the use of
the Greek bible, also.
This took time, though.
Because at the time of Paul and
Jesus, more Jews actually had Greek as their first language
than had Hebrew as their first language.
Most Jews in the first century
would’ve used Greek as their first language,
not Hebrew or even Aramaic. So they read their scripture in
Greek. And some people would
believe–this is a debated question–
I would even say that one reason the rabbis started using
Hebrew more and taking the Hebrew Bible is because they
were reacting against the predominance of Christianity,
as it grew more and more strong. So as Rabbinic ideas and as
Rabbinic practices developed in late antiquity,
they taught that they should reject the Greek bible,
not use the Greek bible. Except, I mean,
you could use it, but not use it as
authoritative. And they started teaching that
the Hebrew Bible should be the one that Jews use.
So the Jews today,
what they call it is Tanakh, which is an acronym from Torah
and then, prophet–the Torah, the Law, the Prophets,
and the Writings. So they will call their bible
Tanakh often, or just the bible.
And it includes only those
Hebrew documents that the rabbis eventually said were part of the
Hebrew Bible. Good question.
So notice how Jews have one
bible that’s basically centered on the ancient Hebrew.
Protestants have followed the
rabbis, in a sense, and accepted the Hebrew Bible
as being the Old Testament. Roman Catholics actually
followed more what was ancient Christian tradition of accepting
not only the Hebrew Bible, although it was translated into
Latin and Greek most of the time,
But also Jewish documents that came from that period and were
surviving in Greek, itself.
So that’s why Christian,
Protestants have one set of texts, Roman Catholics have
another, and Jews have another. Now, what about those
Episcopalians? As one of my friends says,
They decided to be in the
middle. So they wanted to be somewhat
Protestant and somewhat Catholic.
So if you go to an Anglican
church, they will also, most of the time,
accept the Roman Catholic canon, along with Roman
Catholics. Even though a lot of
Episcopalians and Anglicans–a lot of them, not all of
them–will consider themselves Protestant.
So Anglicans follow the Roman
Catholic canon a bit more. Protestants and Jews have
different ones. That’s kind of where we are
right now. But notice how long it took us
to get there, how many centuries it took.
Now, the big question is who
did it and why did they do it? Basically, some councils in the
early church, councils that would be called
by the Emperor, for example,
by Constantine or his successors.
Sometimes they would get so
tired of churches–you know how Christians squabble all the
time. You know, when I was a kid
growing up in Texas, one of our sayings was,
“Let’s make like a Baptist church and split.”
So, you know,
Christians are always squabbling.
So the emperors would try to
call together councils to get them to agree on things.
To get them to agree on
doctrine, to get them to agree on the canon.
So some councils did try to set
the canon. And so you had some councils
doing this. But generally,
the canon developed over time through a process of general
consensus. And then, as I said,
through these different institutions of Christianity
ending up coming to somewhat different decisions.
But why do they include things?
Why were some texts included in
the New Testament and other text not included in the New
Testament? The reason is not the one that
most modern people think is the reason.
Most modern people say,
“Why is this text scripture?
Why is it canon?”
And most Christians will say,
“Because it is inspired.”
That’s not what the ancients
believed. They believed that
inspiration–there were lots of texts that were inspired,
and there were different levels of inspiration.
So just because a text is
inspired, or even if you believe it’s
inspired by God and that God told somebody to write it,
that wasn’t enough for ancient Christians to include it in
their bible, in their canon. So inspiration,
contrary to modern assumptions was not the criteria you hear
ancient people talk about. Apostolic authorship was one
thing they talk about. So for example,
Papias and other ancient writers,
they said, “Well, we accept the Gospel of Mark
because, well, if it wasn’t written by
an apostle, it was written by someone very
close to an apostle. And it was Peter’s gospel that
Mark just published. Or Luke published Paul’s
gospel.” So, often, some people in the
ancient world, if there was a gospel they
didn’t like, they didn’t want it to be
included, they would argue against it
being authored by an apostle. So that at least,
they claimed for some that through these texts that they
wanted apostolic authorship or close to apostolic authorship.
The problem was we can tell
historically that these texts were not written by apostles.
Nor do we believe they were
written even by the close disciples of apostles.
They’re anonymous texts.
So if that was the reason they
were included in the ancient world,
it’s not the reason they’re still in now,
because modern scholars don’t believe the apostles actually
wrote all of these texts in the New Testament.
Flexibly, here are the criteria.
If it’s not necessarily
apostleship, and it’s not inspiration, what are the real
reasons? First, it seems that the text
that at least these people believed were the most ancient
and had the closest proximity to Jesus.
Like I said,
they wanted them to be traced back to the apostles.
So even if they weren’t,
it’s because that’s what people believed about these texts.
A second big reason was simply
general acceptance. Apparently, the texts that were
the most popular over a bigger geographical space tended to be
the ones that got in. Now, it’s true,
there were different gospels that were popular in different
parts of the Mediterranean. So for example,
the Gospel of Thomas seems to have been especially popular in
certain parts of the East. And in Rome there would be
other document–or different parts of the Roman Empire.
as time went on, it seems like Christian leaders
tried to include those gospels, those documents that were more
generally accepted. In fact, if you wanted to argue
against, say, the Letter of Hebrews
being included, you could say,
“But all the people in the East don’t accept the Letter of
Hebrews as part of their canon, so we shouldn’t, either.”
So general acceptance was big.
But the most important
criterion–this probably won’t shock you, especially if you’re
as cynical as I am–theological acceptability.
People tended to want to
include the documents that matched their own theology.
In other words,
you believed something was apostolic if it taught stuff you
believed. So, of course,
documents that did teach that the creator God was an evil
demonic god and not the father of Jesus Christ–
and there are early Christian documents that teach this–
they were excluded. Why were they excluded?
Well, some of them claimed to
be by apostles. Nobody exactly knew how old
they were. They were excluded because they
taught a doctrine that other Christians thought was heretical
and not accurate. So when you say,
though, theological appropriateness is what ended up
being the most important criterion for including stuff in
the canon, you actually have to say then,
“Appropriate to whom?”
And of course that means you
have a judgment call. But generally,
the documents that came to be accepted were the ones that
people we call the “proto-orthodox.”
This is a term that Bart Ehrman
uses in his textbook. You’ll see it.
And he explains what he means
by this. In the second century you can’t
really use the term “orthodox
Christianity” versus “heretical
Christianity,” because there wasn’t–
orthodoxy hadn’t been established, yet.
It was all in a state of flux.
People believed all kinds of
different things. And what this class will do is
talk about how did orthodox– what became orthodox
Christianity–how did it become orthodox Christianity,
rather than one of the other kinds of Christianity?
And we’ll talk about that
repeatedly. In the second century,
though, it’s anachronistic to talk about orthodox Christianity
versus heretical Christianity. So what some scholars have done
is create this word “proto-orthodox.”
And all they mean is those
Christians who believe the kinds of stuff that would later be
proclaimed as orthodox in creeds and councils.
So what happened was the people
who were the Christians in the second century,
and the third century, who resembled what later became
Nicean, Orthodox Christianity,
they were the ones who had the most say,
eventually, in what became part of the bible.
So in the end,
the canon is a list of the winners in the historical debate
to define orthodox Christianity. Questions?
Rantings and ravings?
If the books were written
anonymously how did the names that are associated with
most of the stuff that we’ll say has a wrong name attached in
the New Testament is not anonymous, although there are
some. It’s pseudonymous.
But there are some that are
anonymous, too. The gospels we say are
anonymous, because they didn’t come attached with a name,
as far as we know. How did those names get
attached? By different people–partly it
was because they wanted this text to be authoritative in some
way, and so they tended to attach
the name of a particular apostle to them or a particular
disciple. Or in some ways,
for example, the Gospel of Luke may have
gotten its name Luke, because in the Acts of the
Apostles, which is also written by the
same author, Luke is an actual character who
follows Paul around. So it may have been that the
name Luke and the Acts of the Apostles got connected with the
acts of the apostles, and the Gospel of Luke as its
author. So sometimes,
it’s something in the text itself that may have prompted
someone to think that. Often, we just don’t know how
it got it, and it just happened because somebody just said,
“It’s authoritative. It must’ve been written by an
apostle.” We have time for one more
question. I think I saw a hand up.
Then, we need to dismiss.
No more questions?
See you next time.
Remember, we are meeting on