A Historical Introduction to the New Testament by Robert M. Grant
Robert M. Grant is professor of New Testament at the University of Chicago, A formost scholar in the field, his books include Gnosticism, The Earliest Lives of Jesus, and The Secret Sayings of Jesus. Copyright 1963 by Robert M. Grant. Originally published by Harper and Row in 1963.
Chapter 1: What the New Testament consists of -- The Cannon
The New Testament canon consists of those books which the Church came to regard as definitive expressions of its faith and life as set forth in the earliest period of its existence. The books were by apostles or by disciples of the apostles, though the question of authorship is not especially significant; the Church itself was the Church of the apostles.
The existence and the nature of the canon thus implies the existence of the Church. This is to say that without the Church there would be no New Testament. Just as the New Testament expresses the response of the apostles and their disciples to Christ, so the Church expresses the same response; but the New Testament is the product of the Church while the Church is not the product of the New Testament. The Church could have proclaimed, and in fact did proclaim, the gospel without possessing the New Testament; but the New Testament could not have come into existence apart from the Church.
Indeed, Helmut Koester has cogently argued that several of the Apostolic Fathers (the earliest Christian writers outside the New Testament) did not even make use of written gospels. Instead, they relied upon oral traditions of the same sort as those recorded by the evangelists. This means that these early Fathers differ from the evangelists in the degree of their closeness to the earliest traditions, not in the kind of relationship to them. The proximity was recognized in the early Church by those who treated the writings of the Apostolic Fathers as scripture or called their authors ‘apostolic men’ (apostolici). Later on, however, it was recognized that the concerns of the Apostolic Fathers were primarily related to the second century, those of canonical writers to the first. On some basis like this the Apostolic Fathers were excluded from the canon. But it is evident that a very sharp dividing line could not and cannot be drawn, except in so far as the New Testament writings reflect the apostolic age as later writings do not.
In dealing with the canon of the New Testament we must begin with some rather negative statements. First, the earliest Christian Bible was not, and did not include, the New Testament. Instead, it was the Old Testament, usually read in Greek, and often interpreted in the light of a number of apocalyptic documents which were not generally recognized as canonical. Thus the Epistle of Jude contains a quotation from the apocalypse of Enoch and an allusion to a strange lost book known as the Assumption of Moses. Until the middle of the third century, Christian writers often regarded these documents as authoritative. The reason for regarding the Old Testament itself as canonical scripture was, of course, that Jesus and his apostles had so regarded it: they had believed that in Jesus the Old Testament, viewed primarily as prophecy, had been fulfilled. Second, no New Testament as such came into existence for several centuries after the beginning of the Christian movement. At an earlier time there were oral traditions, along with books of varying authoritativeness: but there was no New Testament.
It is a little hard to tell just at what point the idea that Christian documents were scriptural arose. If we can make a distinction between documents and their contents, we can say that the contents were always authoritative, though the form in which they were expressed was not quite so important. For instance, Paul clearly regards his own letters as important and expects that what he says will be heeded; but he does not speak of them as scriptural. On the other hand, when the apostolic council at Jerusalem sends out an encyclical letter, this letter is hard to differentiate from its contents; and the decree which it contains begins with the words, ‘It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us.’ Similarly, the Revelation of John is really a revelation of Jesus Christ through his angel to John; it contains a blessing upon those who ‘keep’ what is written, and a curse upon those who add to or subtract from its contents. Clearly the author of Revelation regards his book as the equivalent of scripture; and the equivalent of scripture is scripture.
If we look for some early Christian writer to whom the Pauline epistles have come to be scripture, we can find him in the author of II Peter. II Peter 3:15-16 says that we are to regard the forbearance of the Lord as salvation -- ‘as our beloved brother Paul, in accordance with the wisdom given him, wrote to you -- as in all the epistles speaking about these matters -- epistles in which there are some things hard to understand, which the ignorant and unsteady pervert, as they do the other scriptures, to their own destruction.’ The remarkable thing about this sentence is not only its loose syntax but its implicit meaning: (1) the Pauline epistles are regarded as addressed just as generally as II Peter itself is; (2) they have been collected and are regarded as scripture; and (3) among them are the Pastoral Epistles, for the forbearance of the Lord as leading to salvation is mentioned in I Timothy 1:15-16 . By this time whatever the time is -- the Pauline epistles have formed at least the nucleus of a New Testament.
Of course we cannot be certain that the ‘development’ of the canon took place everywhere in the same way at the same time. We do not know enough to say more than that it is possible that (1) within the first century all Christians viewed the gospels and epistles as authoritative; (2) only occasionally did they speak of them as scripture; and (3) the presence or absence of the word ‘scripture’ is partly due to chance.
If we are willing to limit our inferences in this way, we shall perhaps not find Marcion as striking a figure as church historians have often made him to be. It is true that Marcion, expelled from the Roman church in 144, rejected the authority of the Old Testament and for it substituted three volumes of his own: (1) the Antitheses (a collection of Old Testament passages which he found contradicted in the Pauline epistles, in Luke, or -- sometimes even in Matthew); (2) the Gospel (that according to Luke, but freed from what he regarded as interpolations; and (3) the Apostle (ten relatively non-Jewish letters of Paul). Marcion was impressed by the newness of Christianity and he wanted to cut it loose from its connection with the Old Testament and Judaism. He admired Paul as the one apostle who really understood Jesus, and Luke as the one disciple who really understood Paul’s gospel about Jesus. He therefore rejected the other gospels then in circulation, as well as a good deal of Luke, which he viewed on literary grounds -- of some sort -- as interpolated into the authentic document.
Scholars have sometimes thought that Marcion created the canon of the New Testament. Certainly he gave impetus to the tendency to produce a list of authoritative books from which those without authority were to be excluded. But it is likely that we should give him credit not for the idea of a canon but for the inclusiveness of the canon which the Church did produce. There are second-century analogies to his work and its effect. For instance, before the rise of Valentinian Gnosticism, Christological doctrine was not always carefully formulated; afterwards, Christian authors expressed their ideas more carefully. We should assume that Marcion, then, did not so much formulate a canon as compel more orthodox Christians to use more carefully the authoritative books which they already possessed.
Even before Marcion’s time we encounter Christian interest in the origins of New Testament books. Papias of Hierapolis tells us about Mark’s intention of preserving all the traditional materials he knew, as well as about Matthew’s compilation of ‘the dominical oracles’, whatever they may have been. It is sometimes suggested that Papias’s correlation of Mark with the apostle Peter was due to his reading of I Peter, where Mark is mentioned as Peter’s ‘son’. We know that Papias knew I Peter. But what we do not know is that in speaking of Mark as Peter’s interpreter Papias was restricted to what he could get out of this epistle. Presumably there were a few Christians who could tell what had actually happened. This interest in historical fact may not have been the chief concern of early Christians; it was a real concern, however.
Actually, when we compare Marcion’s ideas with those of Papias and other contemporary Christians, it can be said that for the first time we encounter the problem which has constantly recurred in Christian history. On the one hand, there is the rather matter-of-fact Papias with his rather simple notions about the work of the evangelists as recorders or compilers; on the other, there is Marcion, with his view that the work of the evangelist Luke had been interpolated by ingenious advocates of Jewish Christianity. The true and authentic gospel, in Marcion’s view, was to be recovered only by deleting from the Gospel of Luke those passages which the Judaizers had added. Now if one were to ask Marcion, ‘How do you know that these passages are interpolations?’ he would tell you that the answer is rather complex. First there was the authentic, non-Jewish gospel of Jesus, not written but transmitted -- and corrupted -- by the Jewish apostles. Then, since this gospel was already being corrupted, there was a reiteration of this gospel in the teaching of the apostle Paul. One might suppose that Paul was not altogether hostile to Judaism; but this idea, Marcion would claim, is due to the form in which the Pauline letters were transmitted. They too were interpolated by Judaizers. Only Marcion had been able to recover that true, authentic gospel of Jesus and Paul which was to be found in his -- i.e. Marcion’s -- writings.
The difference between Marcion and more orthodox Christians was not simply that he was more dualistic than they were; it was that he insisted upon a uniform theological view to be derived from his picture of Jesus and his picture of Paul, while the others were willing to face the difficulties presented by a much more complex picture of both. Around this time such Christian writers as the apologist Justin were speaking of the gospels as reminiscences of the apostles’ and recognizing four of them -- two by apostles, two by disciples of apostles. Justin did nothing to solve the difficulties raised by the existence of various gospels, but at least he was willing to take the risk involved. Similarly, other Christians were accepting not only the Pauline letters which Marcion had recognized but, in addition, four more -- to the Hebrew’s, to Timothy, and to Titus. It is not necessary for us, and as we shall see it was not necessary for early Christians, to maintain that all of these were actually written by Paul. We can now see that when they were included with the other, more genuine Pauline letters, one result was that just as Jesus could not be pin-pointed (since there were four gospels), so Paul could not be pin-pointed either. A Marcion could not say that ‘just exactly this and this is what Paul taught’ and proceed to construct a dynamic but thoroughly one-sided theology. The inclusiveness of the early Christian canon, as it was coming into existence, meant that Christian theology had to be inclusive too.
To be sure, sometimes the orthodox became alarmed when minority’ groups made use of one or another of the canonical books, and they were tempted to remove them from the canon. For instance, Montanus, founder of the ‘new prophecy" in the middle of the second century, taught that he himself was the Paraclete promised in the Gospel of John. Christian critics then compared John with the synoptics and denied its apostolic origin. Their view, however, was not widely accepted. The Church as a whole resisted the temptation to shrink the canon because of the use being made of some parts of it.
On the other hand, there were limits beyond which inclusiveness could not go. The second century saw the production of apocryphal gospels, acts, epistles and apocalypses, usually written in the names of various apostles and almost always reflecting special points of view. Christians hesitated to reject such works if they were close to books regarded as canonical. In the case of such a treatise as the Gospel of Thomas, recently recovered in a Coptic version, they did not hesitate at all. They could recognize that everything in this gospel, no matter how close it might seem to be to authoritative tradition, had been given a special Gnostic twist.
By the end of the second century there was no longer any question about the core of the New Testament, at least among those writers who in their time and later were regarded as orthodox Christians. There were four gospels, neither more nor less. To be sure, the arguments of Irenaeus (c. 180) on this subject are not very convincing. He says there should be four because there are four beasts in the Apocalypse and because there are four corners of the earth. But the very weakness of the argument -- to us -- may suggest that it was not really necessary to prove the point. Again, in the writings of Irenaeus we encounter the first extensive use of Acts and the Pastoral Epistles. When these books were used, a more balanced picture of Paul and of the early Church could he drawn; it was not necessary to rely solely on Romans and Galatians, and to fall into the jaws of Marcion. Because a more inclusive New Testament was being used, it was possible to produce a more inclusive theology, one which took into account the materials and viewpoints provided in such books as I Peter and I John and Revelation. Irenaeus made considerable use of Revelation and reported that the visions were seen by John ‘practically in our own times, towards the end of Domitian’s reign’. In his view, therefore, the New Testament reflected a wide range of Christian insight, even in regard to time, for it included a book written at the very end of the first century. In addition Irenaeus regarded the Shepherd of Hermas (certainly) and I Clement (possibly) as scripture. The fact that he neither mentioned nor alluded to James, Jude and II Peter, then, suggests that he did not know them, for he wanted as wide a range of books as possible, though within the limits of the apostolic faith.
Irenaeus’s silence about these books, and his problematic use of Hebrews, brings us to consider the varying views held about Hebrews, the Catholic epistles, and the book of Revelation in the early Church.
The ‘canonical’ history of Hebrews is somewhat confused by the fact that while it was used by many early Christian writers, some of them were aware that as it stands it cannot have been written by the apostle Paul (see Chapter xix) We first encounter clear traces of Hebrews in the letter of Clement to the Corinthians, written at the end of the first century; but Clement does not say what he is quoting from. On the other hand, the teaching of the Roman Hermas (early second century) contradicts that of Hebrews, and Hermas therefore cannot have regarded the letter as absolutely authoritative.
The views of Irenaeus (c. 180) are not altogether clear. He certainly alludes to Hebrews (1:3) when he says that the Father created everything ‘by the Word of his power’ (Adv. haer. 2, 30, 9); but this is the only clear allusion in his writings, and he speaks of the Christian ‘altar in the heavens’ (4, 18, 6) in such a way as to show that he is not relying on what Hebrews has to say on the subject. According to Eusebius (H.E. 5, 26) he made use of Hebrews in a book of ‘various discourses’: according to Stephen Gobarus (sixth century) he held that Paul did not write the letter. This was also the Roman view: Hebrews is absent from the Muratorian list and was not accepted by Hippolytus, Gaius or Novatian. It was also the African view. Tertullian quoted Hebrews only once and ascribed the quotation to Barnabas (De pudic. 20).Indeed, the first Western writer to regard Hebrews as canonical was Hilary of Poitier’s (d. 367).
On the other hand, Hebrews was highly valued at Alexandria and elsewhere in the East. Pantaenus (late second century) argued that Paul wrote it anonymously because he was addressing Hebrews who might be suspicious of him. This theory does not explain the stylistic differences between Hebrews and the Pauline epistles, and Clement therefore suggested that Paul, wrote the letter in Hebrew while Luke translated it into Greek. Origen further developed this view by maintaining that either Luke or Clement of Rome -- both, in Origen’s opinion, disciples of Paul -- relied on Paul’s ideas but expressed them in his own style and provided his own arrangement. Origen was unwilling to reach a definite conclusion. Only God, he said, really knew who wrote Hebrews. This lack of precision is reflected in Origen’s writings. In addressing another scholar he criticized those who ‘reject the epistle as not written by Paul’, but in his own treatises he sometimes ascribed the letter to Paul and sometimes did not. Later Eastern writers regarded the letter as Paul’s.
There was considerable confusion in the West at the end of the fourth century. Philastrius of Brescia (d. 397) regarded Hebrews as written by Paul but not canonical; on the other hand, African synods held in 393 and 397 accepted the canonicity of ‘thirteen letters of the apostle Paul’ and ‘of the same, one to the Hebrews’, thus maintaining a distinction without a difference. Augustine quoted Hebrew’s as Paul’s in what he wrote before 409, but after that year he cited it simply as ‘the Epistle to the Hebrews’. He may have been influenced by Pelagius, who published his commentary on the Pauline epistles about this time and did not include Hebrews among them. Considerations of simplicity seem finally to have carried the day, for a council held at Carthage in 419 spoke of ‘fourteen letters of the apostle Paul’, and thereafter the question was not discussed.
In the earliest period for which we have evidence -- the second century -- Christian writers made use of only I Peter and I John (though II John was sometimes treated as part of I John). This usage is reflected in the third century by Hippolytus, Novatian and Cyprian, and by Origen, who mentions doubts about other Catholic epistles but not about these (so also Eusebius in the early fourth century). Still later, only these two Catholic epistles were accepted by Diodortis of Tarsus (d .c. 394) and Nestorius (d. 451). The Cheltenham list, reflecting North African usage about 360, goes somewhat beyond early practice by including I-II Peter and I-II-III John.
The Muratorian list (c. 200) includes Jude and I-II John; it says that ‘some among us wish to have the Revelations of John and Peter read’, but makes no mention of I Peter. On the other hand, both Clement and Tertullian, writing at about the same time, accept Jude, I Peter, and I-II John.
A much more complete list can be derived from the writings of Origen, who accepted all seven Catholic epistles but expressed his doubts about James, Jude, and II Peter, as did his admirer Eusebius. Most of the Greek writers of the fourth century, however, had no doubts about any of the letters, and their view! came to be current in East and West alike, except in Syria.
The Syrian view, a reaction against the growth of the canon, is reflected in the Doctrine of Addai and the writings of Aphraates and Ephraem, all in the mid-fourth century. According to it none of the Catholic epistles was acceptable, and the same opinion was expressed in a canon list about 400 and in the writings of Theodore of Mopsuestia (d. 428). Even in the sixth century the Greek traveller Cosmas Indicopleustes shared this view.
A mediating position was held by John Chrysostom, patriarch first of Antioch and later of Constantinople (d. 407) and by Theodore’s pupil Theodoret (d. 458): the Catholic letters were James, I Peter, and I John. The same view as reflected in the Syriac version known as the Peshitto and is mentioned by Cosmas.
Revelation of John was highly regarded by nearly all the second-century writers whom we know, although when the Montanists used it in support of their ideas about the imminent coming of the kingdom, some Christians in Asia Minor and at Rome tried to get it rejected. In the Fast, Clement of Alexandria and Origen accepted it as canonical Origen ‘demythologized’ it by treating it allegorically. His disciple Dionysius found the book hard to deal with, since millennarians were making use of it. He therefore analysed it by means of literary criticism, noting the differences in style, vocabulary and thought between it and the Gospel and ‘the Epistle’ of John. The literary differences proved that two authors were involved, and since the apostle John wrote the Gospel. Revelation was written by someone else. He was willing to retain Revelation in the canon. He claimed, however, that since its author was not an apostle his work therefore did not possess the apostolic authority of the Gospel of John. Similarly, Dionysius would probably have said that Hebrews was inferior to the Pauline epistles and Mark and Luke to Matthew and John. This kind of distinction means that an apostolic’ canon is being set up within the New Testament canon. All New Testament books are authoritative, but some are more authoritative than others. Not all Christians were willing to make such subtle analyses. In the fourth century, Revelation was rejected by all Eastern writers outside Alexandria; West Syrian writers did not accept it until the fifth century; East Syrians, as far as I know, never accepted it. Even in the ninth century, many Greek-speaking Christians still had doubts about the book.
We have thus seen that in the cases of Hebrews, the Catholic epistles, and Revelation, there was a long process of hesitation which preceded acceptance. In other words, for many Christians as late as the fourth and fifth centuries the New Testament was considerably smaller than ours is. On the other hand, especially at Alexandria a good many books were read in the early days which later were not regarded as belonging to the New Testament. Books which we usually classify as among the Apostolic Fathers were especially prominent, usually because they were regarded as written by persons mentioned in the New Testament. Thus Clement regarded the Didache or Teaching of the Apostles as scriptural; both he and Origen viewed the author of I Clement as the Clement mentioned by Paul in Philippians 4:3 and the author of the Shepherd as the Hernias of Romans 16:4. Apocryphal books were also sometimes read in church or otherwise regarded as authoritative. About 190, Serapion of Antioch had some difficulty in displacing the so-called ‘Gospel of Peter’, and a mysterious fragment recently discovered by Professor Morton Smith shows Clement claiming that at Alexandria there was a ‘secret gospel of Mark’. Both Hippolytus and Origen made use, of the ‘Acts of Paul’.
With the passage of time and the development of some critical sense, most of these documents were kept out of the New Testament. Towards the end of the second century it was recognized that Hermas, for example lived long after New Testament times, and that the ‘Acts of Paul’ had been composed not as history but as edifying fiction. One criterion, therefore, was historical authenticity. Another was orthodoxy, not in a rigid sense but in the sense that most of the apocryphal documents had special axes to grind, axes different from those ground in the central New Testament writings. Related to both these criteria was that of apostolicity. In addition, there was the criterion of traditional usage; similarly, this criterion was both historical and theological in nature. It was historical in that it was related to investigations into the books which early Christians had actually employed; it was theological in that it was assumed that these early Christians would not have used unorthodox books.
Perhaps the most important single figure in the history of the New Testament canon was Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea in Palestine early in the fourth century. His basic principle was the same as that of some of his predecessors: church usage implies canonicity. Following a scheme apparently used by Origen, Eusebius classified the books which had any claim to be canonical as (1) ‘acknowledged’, (2) ‘disputed’, and (3) ‘spurious’. Obviously the first and third categories were more easily settled than the second. The first included the four gospels, and Acts, fourteen epistles of Paul (including Hebrews), I John, I Peter. and Revelation. The third included the Acts of Paul, the Shepherd of Hernias, the Apocalypse of Peter, the Epistle of Barnabas, and the Didache. These writings, though earlier used at Alexandria and elsewhere, were rejected in Eusebius’s time. As for the ‘disputed’ books, they consisted of James, Jude, II Peter, and II-III John.
Eusebius knows that various views are held about the book of Revelation: ‘Some reject it, while others reckon it among the "acknowledged" books.’ Again, some accepted the Gospel according to the Hebrews (he may be referring to Origen). He himself does not accept it, any more than the gospels ascribed to Peter, Thomas, Matthias, and others, or the Acts of Andrew and John.
Eusebius’s difficulties arise in part from his deficient conception of church history; in his view the Church was semper eadem, and this theory did not prepare him to deal with the variety found not only among various early Christians but even within the thought of individuals. The fact that at Caesarea Origen’s canon was somewhat smaller than it was at Alexandria escaped his notice.
At the same time, he was an important and influential witness to the gradual stabilization of the canon. Though he made no use of Jude, II Peter, or II-III John, he referred to a collection of ‘the seven so-called Catholic epistles’ and frequently quoted from the letter of James. Though he himself did not regard I Clement as canonical, he knew that some churches so regarded it, and he accepted Hebrews as Pauline in substance, though in his view it was actually written by Clement of Rome.
The books which finally came to be generally regarded as canonical are those which Eusebius treated as ‘acknowledged’ and ‘disputed’. They constitute the New Testament as listed by Athanasius in another influential document, the Easter letter of 367, and even though differing opinions as to the relative importance of the various books have been expressed and continue to be expressed, from the fourth century onward the canon has been fixed -- with the exceptions we have noted.
Some questions obviously arise. Athanasius lists the books, but his grounds of judgement were apparently much the same as those of Eusebius, and we do not know that anyone but Eusebius thoroughly investigated the question of early usage. What, then, are we to make of the nature of early usage? No one reading the Church History of Eusebius can fail to be impressed by the gaps in his information about the early Church. Did he actually have information sufficient to make a judgement as to whether or not the New Testament books were read in the early second century (for example)? This question is probably unanswerable; and because it is probably unanswerable we are driven to seek for some ground of canonicity other than early usage, important though this is. We have already seen that early Christians themselves did not use the criterion of apostolicity in any rigid sense, and certainly those New Testament books which view the apostolic age as past (e.g. Hebrews and Jude), or on other grounds seem to come from a later period (e.g. II Peter), cannot be viewed as precisely apostolic.
Perhaps we must be content with a less exact definition of what the New Testament consists of; and a definition in which historical and theological concerns are blended. What is it of which all the New Testament books speak? Who is it to whom they bear witness? ‘If we ask these questions, involving the intentions and purposes of the New Testament writers, we may be able to say that the New Testament books are those which bear witness to Jesus Christ and to God’s act of revelation and redemption in him. Once more, we must go a little beyond such a general definition; we must consider the question of time, of closeness to the event and events of which the authors speak. The New Testament writers are those witnesses to Christ and to these acts of God who stand closest in time to the events. This is not to say that earliness is all-important. Had Pontius Pilate written a report on subversive activities in Palestine, his report would not be part of the New Testament. But it is to say that the New Testament cannot contain writings which are addressed primarily to situations in the second century and later. The sub-apostolic age was obviously a time of much New Testament writing. From it came certainly the Gospels of Mark and Luke and the Epistle to the Hebrews and the book of Revelation probably a good deal more. But the Christians who preserved the New Testament books and compiled the canon were finally unwilling to include such a letter as I Clement, addressed primarily to a situation at the very end of the first century.
These considerations are important in determining what the canon of the New Testament contains and why its contents were chosen. It must also be stated, once more, that the canon was and is the creation of the Church. If there were no Church there would be no canon, for the canonical books are those which the Church chose to preserve as reflections and representations of its faith, life and work in the earliest period of its life. The New Testament therefore contains testimony not to a ‘pre-Christian’ Jesus but to the Jesus to, whom the Church was the response.
Supplement to Chapter 1
The Muratorian Fragment
. . . at which he was present and so he set them down. The third book of the gospel, according to Luke. This Luke was a physician whom, after the ascension of Christ, Paul took with him, since he was a student of the law (?). He wrote in his own name and according to his own view, though he did not himself see the Lord in the flesh and therefore [described events] as far as he was able to ascertain [them]. He began his story from the nativity of John. The fourth of the gospels, of John, one of the disciples. When his fellow disciples and bishops exhorted him, he said, ‘Fast today with me for three days, and what will be revealed to any of us, let us tell one another.’ The same night it was revealed to Andrew, one of the apostles, that they were all to certify but that John should write everything down under his own name. And therefore, though various beginnings are taught in the several books of the gospels, it makes no difference to the faith of believers, since by one guiding Spirit all things are declared in all of them, concerning the nativity, the passion, the resurrection, the life with his disciple and his double advent, the first in humility and lowliness, which has taken place, and the second in royal power . . . and glorious, which is to come. Why, then, is it remarkable if John so constantly sets forth each item in his epistles, saying of himself; ‘What we have seen with our eyes and heard with our ears and our hands have handled, these things we have written to you’ ? For thus he professes himself not only an eye-witness and hearer but also a writer of all the miracles of the Lord, in sequence..
And the Acts of all the apostles are written in one book. Luke briefly intimates to ‘most excellent Theophilus’ that the several events took place in his own presence, as he plainly shows by leaving out the passion of Peter and also the departure of Paul from the city on his journey to Spain.
And the epistles of Paul themselves make plain, to those who wish to understand, what epistles he sent and from what place and for what reason. He wrote first of all to the Corinthians, forbidding schisms and heresies; then to the Galatians, forbidding circumcision; then at greater length to the Romans, setting forth the plan of the scriptures and showing that Christ is their first principle. It is not necessary for us to discuss these individually, since the blessed apostle Paul himself; following the order of his predecessor John, writes by name only to seven churches, in the following order: (1) to the Corinthians, (2) to the Ephesians, (3) to the Philippians, (4) to the Colossians, (5) to the Galatians (6) to the Thessalonians, and (7) to the Romans. And while for the sake of admonition there is a second to the Corinthians and also to the Thessalonians, yet one Church is recognized as spread throughout the world. For John too, in the Apocalypse, though writing to seven churches yet speaks to all. But to Philemon one and to Titus one and to Timothy two were written down from affection and love, to be in honour with the catholic church for the ordering of ecclesiastical discipline. There are current one to the Laodiceans and one to the Alexandrians, both forged in Paul’s name for the heresy of Marcion, as well as many others which cannot be received into the catholic church; for it is not right for gall to be mixed with honey.
Certainly the epistle of Jude and the two bearing John’s name are accepted in the Catholic [Church], as well as the Wisdom written by the friends of Solomon in his honour. We also accept the Apocalypses of John and of Peter only, which some of us will not have read in the church. But Hermas wrote the Shepherd very recently, in our own times, in the city of Rome while his brother Pius the bishop was occupying the episcopal chair of the church of the city of Rome; and therefore, while it ought to be read, to the end of the ages it cannot he read publicly in church to the people, either among the prophets (whose ranks are complete) or among the apostles.
But we receive nothing at all of the Arsinoite (Egyptian) Valentinus or of Miltiades, who have also composed a new book of Psalms for Marcion, and, along with Basilides, the Asiatic founder of Cataphrygians (?).