Christian History

Canonical Books

Canonical Books (ISIasir Ward) In the first century the choice of reading material for the Christian depended on language. Those who were Jews, the vast majority, had available the Old Testament writings and the books of the Essenes in Hebrew. The Jews who could not read Hebrew had recourse to the Septuagint and the few books which had been translated into Greek or Aramaic. Probably the learning of Hebrew was a necessity for earnest converts. Many of the books of the Essenes were not translated directly, and so the 2nd century church was deprived of much of its foundation of knowledge. Interpreters such as Mark and Luke made simplistic notes of the apostles’ teaching according to tradition and these were compiled, gradually into enough material to make a book in Greek. The New Testament in its present form simply did not exist. Moreover, each church had its own list of writings which were either read by or to congregation: there was no unanimity of material. With the passage of time new writings came to light, were added to those already available and were used according to preference. As there could only be one original of each document, the most each community could hope for was an accurate copy. To make this was a slow and very laborious process and the omission of a single vowel could sometimes completely alter the meaning of the author. Probably the oldest Greek document we have in existence is the Didache or Teaching of the Twelve Apostles. This has been dated by Pere J. P. Audet as originating about 60 A.D. Certainly it is a simple teaching, modified for converts, of a strictly Jewish form of worship. The early date therefore may not be out of place. At this time there had obviously been no break with the Jewish roots of the Christian community and the later developments of the eucharistic doctrine by the church had not yet taken place. The agape or love feast, or eucharist as it may be, is simply a communal meal for the congregation following their worship. It could easily have taken place in any synagogue without causing undue offence, and probably did in some. How then did the dogma of transubstantiation arise? — that the Christians are actually eating the flesh and drinking the blood of Jesus — because at a later date, the leaders of the church decided this was what was really taking place in the eucharist. Previously it had not occurred, so we may ask, why should it 8 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS begin to happen at a much later period of time? No amount of double talk will arrive at this theory from the basic teachings of the Didache, so if the 1st century Christians had no intention of eating the body and drinking the blood of Jesus were they in error? It is quite impossible for a later generation to know more about the religious teachings of their founder than the first. Those who knew Jesus and his disciples, must by human nature, have possessed a greater knowledge of his teachings than those who had never seen or heard him, much more than those who lived one or two centuries later. To discover the true teachings of a religion we must go back to the source and analyse what was being taught then. In the case of Christianity this was purely Jewish teaching. After all, isn’t this what is meant by apostolic succession? If the later beliefs do not conform to the original ones, then naturally, someone has imposed a meaning on them which was never there. It is difficult to see how Jesus could have meant his disciples to be literally eating his body when he himself was physically present with them at the last supper. This would appear to be an anomaly. Similarly, as Jesus lived all his life strictly in conformity to the Mosaic Law, although differing in interpretation of it from the religious authorities of his day, it is quite obtuse to believe that he advocated its removal to his followers. James the Righteous was no philosopher; it was only simplified for new converts until they could accept. The Jewishness of Christianity is again exemplified in the letters of Clement, third bishop of Rome. He is aware of some of the letters of Paul and his first epistle is full of Jewish Old Testament references; Rahab the harlot is justified by her faith and hospitality. Although he may have been an associate of Paul, there is no trace of any of the latters’ more peculiar doctrines in his letter. As Marcion had not grappled with them yet, this is hardly surprising. Christianity to Clement is the New Israel’, nothing more than that; a purification of the old Mosaic Law by the explanations of Jesus, the Messiah. The Second Epistle is of debatable authenticity. Some scholars place it as a 3rd century compiliation as it contains many references to celibacy and monasticism, but this may be a continuation of the Essene tradition. By the 4th century, when the church had become the official state religion, the bishops could afford to sit down in council and sift through the collection of books and letters which every church possessed. The aim was to impose a unity of texts upon the churches and so bring about a unity within the Empire which would justify Constantino in his preference of Christianity. When the bishops conferred together they were using the criterion of 4th century dogmas and politics, which they assumed, or wished to believe had always been the teachings of the church. Consequently, they judged each book in the light of their own knowledge and beliefs. Many sects had fallen foul of the church authorities in the preceding three centuries and their books were automatically disposed of. These sects, of course, were not represented in the CANONICAL BOOKS 9 councils. The Jewish tradition and the churches which still held to it were regarded as misguided, their founders as having low intelligence because of their low opinion of Christ — that is they didn’t regard him as a god. These churches, nevertheless continued in existence for some time after the Constantine declaration, before the church, acting as the executive of the Roman emperor, began to take steps to actively suppress them. There was no need for the emperor to persecute the Christians, when by a twist of policy he could get the church itself to do the job for him. So the endless age of persecution of the Christians began as the bishops sought to play the part of the emperors and in the end, to supplant them. The original teachings of Christianity had been largely lost over the centuries as one idea encroached upon the other. Jesus had becqme hellenised, in fact it was only when this process had been complete that Constantine and the emperors felt they could accept him; he had of them, no longer a threat to the social order, but a supporter of it. The Jewish elements had been filtered out and the hellenised remnants had passed through to be assimilated by the population, who though they may not have liked the ideas put forward, could fully comprehend their meaning. With the gradual destruction of the original principles of Christianity went the understanding of what some of the early Christians had been doing. The Ebionites had been founded by Ebion and were “poor” because of their poor opinion of Jesus. Fourth century ideas determined the worth of any teachings, the authenticity of any book, and these ideas were rigourously imposed, amid much confusion. Eusebius, writing in Constantine’s time is quite unable to see the foundation of early communities as Christian ones, He takes the view that all these heretical sects have added to their original teachings throughout the years, but the church which he represents has maintained the teachings exactly as they were in the beginning — an assumption which completely disregards the tendencies of human nature and the principle of teachings being purest at their source. The books of the church had to reflect the teaching of the apostles as the bishops of the 4th century possessed it. Those that did not were discarded as heretical; those which had been widely used by many churches but did not support the contemporary doctrine were placed in the apocrypha; those writings which generally supported the doctrine but had several passages to the contrary were quietly amended, which was in accord with the literary practice of the day in placing speeches in the mouth of the author, which the editor felt he should have made. Where a book was felt to be lacking, it was fabricated and the name of a famous writer of the past attached to it, again following the contemporary practice. Those who felt no scruples at forging books to support the true faith, would have felt no compunction at inserting or removing “difficult” passages from earlier works. This is why Marcion makes Paul say: 10 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS . . . “And if I give the lie to the greater glory of God, why am I to be judged a sinner?” For the present the books could simply be edited and their circulation, after approval, controlled, but when this proved an inadequate weapon, and the books of the “heretics” did not disappear or lose favour, a policy of bibliographical persecution was adopted. Fortunately, the owners of the Nag Hamadi collection and some others, managed to bury theirs in time for them to survive into the 20th century. As has been said before, those who burn books very soon begin to burn people. To return to Eusebius, once more he refers to the 1st century sect of Nicolatians, founded by Nicolaus, no doubt; a Jewish Christian, who had been appointed with Stephen to supervise the relieving of the “poor.” Eusebius considers them to be merely “poor” people because of his lack of understanding of the term, but in all probability, he was given an administrative position in relation to the funds of the “poor” — the Ebionites. Clement of Alexandria1 (c. 190) gives an account of Nicolaus, who was accused by the apostles (c. 35 A.D.) of jealousy, whereupon he brought his wife before them and told any one of them to take her if he wished; following the injunction, “the flesh must be treated with contempt.” By Clement’s tune, the Nicolaitians had taken this quite literally to the extreme and had become utterly promiscuous. This would seem to support the Roman charges made in the 2nd century about the Christians, or at least some of them. However, Clement states quite categorically that Nicolaus and his family never indulged in any such practices in their lifetime, adding that Matthias taught the same principle of renouncing the flesh. Presumably some of the later Christians took his teaching rather too literally, causing quite a scandal. The Nicolations are referred to in Revelations 2:15, causing some doubt as to the authenticity of this book which was for along time not accepted by the eastern churches. The book of Revelations was supposedly compiled by John, or one of his pupils at Ephesus or Patmos some tune before 95 A.D. It comprises two parts, the first of which is quite different in style to the second and it is in this part that the reference to the Nicolatians and other “heretical” sects is made. The second part contains the actual revelation and it is this which corresponds to the Essene Book of Revelations2 in style and content. The reference to the “heretical” sects would appear to be a later composition to discredit those which are mentioned. This would make the whole of the first part of the Book of Revelations a forgery of the 2nd or 3rd century and helps to explain why it was unacceptable to the eastern churches for so long. Needless to say, this part of the Revelation is not found in the original Essene work. 1. Clement of Alexandria — Book II, quoted by Eusebius op. cit. 29:4. 2. Szeckeky op. cit. CANONICAL BOOKS 11 Another “heretical” sect, founded by Cerinthus (c. 70-110) is mentioned by Eusebius. His main complaints seem to have been over the language Cerinthus used. Cerinthus reputedly foretold an earthy kingdom for Christ, though Jerusalem would remain corrupted. In this kingdom, the followers of Christ would receive all the rewards due to them, expressed in terms of luxury and sensuousness; a thousand years would be given over to celebrating what he terms a wedding feast. Cerinthus is said to have received this teaching from the apostle John. Again Eusebius is judging by his own standards of 4th century doctrine. Had he any knowledge of early Christian writings he would have realised that Cerinthus was merely expressing the kingdom of Christ in terms of allegory and the Messianic Banquet, described at Qumran. Not comprehending this and not having any original documents to consider, Cerinthus is condemned. If he had grasped the meaning of the Epistle of Peter3 he would, have realised that Cerinthus was merely expressing the views of the church to which he himself subscribed, “. . . with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day.” Papias, a disciple of John according to Irenaeus, also believed in the physical kingdom of Jesus as Cerinthus taught. According to Eusebius, most of the Early Christian Fathers, including Irenaeus, held this same belief, yet Eusebius discounts it as being incorrect (as it hadn’t occurred by his time), due to a misunderstanding and the “very small intelligence,” of Papias. This accounts for the principle apostolic teachings which conformed to the views of the 4th century bishops such as Eusebius; other apostolic teachings were obviously due to misunderstandings, presumably by the apostles themselves. To pull the rug out further from poor Cerinthus, Eusebius quotes a concocted story about the apostle John, “on the authority of Polycarp” but actually put out by Irenaeus, to whit; John was going to the public baths, when he discovered Cerinthus was inside. He left immediately, whereupon the roof of the place fell in. This account seem to completely disregard the strictly Jewish practices of John and the Essenes, it is not likely that someone who lived in seclusion, visiting the gentile churches when asked, would suddenly decide to adopt the Roman custom of bathing at the public baths. However, Apollonius of Tyana, it will be remembered, also had an episode in the public baths, this time in Rome. It would appear the Christians were against public bathing as an immoral practice. It is hardly to be expected then, that a disciple of Jesus should have indulged in the practice and who, according to Polycrates in his letter to Victor of Rome (c. 190), describes him as a sacrificing priest in the manner of James the Righteous, Jesus’ brother. 3. 2 Peter 8. c/f the same idea at Qumran and also in the Holy Quran. 12 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS In the same passage about Cerinthus quoted by Irenaeus, Marcion is also reviled, this time by Polycarp, who describes him as the “first born of satan”. These appear to be nothing more than later interpolations to denigrate the founders of these supposedly heretical sects, inserted no doubt by a zealous writer in order to further the cause of the true faith and make the heretics well known to the ignorant populace. The Acts of Paul and Thecla provide a similar example, where the fictitious account of the martyrdom of Thecla was composed by a Presbyter of Asia (again the areas where John resided), who “confessed that he did it out of respect of Paul” in the words of Tertullian (c. 200). This did not prevent many churches from accepting it as a genuine work, including Eusebius’ at Caesarea and numerous works eulogising the virtues of the imaginary martyr Thecla. The emperor Zeno himself (c. 590) received a vision of the noble Thecla in which she promised him the restoration of his empire. A church was dedicated in her honour at Seleucia in Isauria, and the account of Paul and Thecla was considered to have been written in the apostolic age, on the basis that it agreed with what were then considered to have been teachings of the apostles. In fact there was no criterion other than this, however much Eusebius elaborates it, for deciding whether a book was genuine or not. Papias also gives us some information regarding the compilation of the gospels as they later became. “Mark wrote down the discussions of Peter in a haphazard manner, while Matthew compiled the sayings in the Aramaic language, and everyone translated them as well as he could.” This seems to indicate, if genuine, that the gospel writers compiled only a list of sayings of Jesus, quite unsystematically, which were later produced in the form of the present books. Whether or not they were the same as the original “Sayings” is a moot point. It would not be too unfair to believe that anything which appeared not to correspond to the accepted doctrine was edited out as untrustworthy. This appears to have been the case if the Gospel of Thomas and the other Gnostic gospels are considered, though in fairness, each compilen.of sayings would have reproduced only what he himself knew. It is quite possible, therefore, that some of the Gnostic gospels are equally, or more genuine than the present synoptic ones, which represent only a biographical account of the teaching of Jesus. The Gnostic Gospels, on the other hand, sought to convey the teachings of Jesus in completely different language and style, one which the church of the 3rd and 4th century no longer understood. It is not too exaggerated, I would suggest, to regard the synoptic Gospels as being prepared for the novices, those who required an elementary introduction to the life of Jesus, and the Gnostic gospels as material for those who sought an esoteric or inner meaning to that teaching. This would appear to have been the method adopted by the Essenes, who had two levels of believers — the mass of the members and the elect, who dedicated themselves to the inner teachings of the Mosaic Law. The B ook of Revelations also has a CANONICAL BOOKS 13 place reserved for the elect, who remain celibate, as does Paul, or Marcion, in the Epistles. The Gospel of Thomas describes a small elect in the body of the church. It is quite likely, therefore, that the Roman church, being composed largely of converts who did not fully accept the whole teachings of Moses, were deprived of this esoteric tradition and sought to reduce the story of Jesus to a simplistic level as in the present canonical Gospels. The Gospels of other churches which drew out a hidden meaning were rendered by definition heretical as the Roman church did not possess their traditions and knowledge. It must be remembered that the manuscripts we have of the Gospels themselves date from the 4th century at the earliest. What editing went on before that time we can only surmise, as in the example of the women caught in adultery. Eusebius relates: “Papias also makes use of evidence drawn from 1 John and 1 Peter, and reproduces a story about a woman falsely accused before the Lord of many sins. This is to be found in the Gospel of the Hebrews.”4 By implication this would appear to be the story of the woman taken in adultery, which now occurs in the Gospel of John, but presumably did not in Eusebius’ time or he would have mentioned it. This Gospel is available to us in fragments only, but was extant in the 4th century Epiphanius refers to it in his list of heretical books: “They have (the Norzoraeans) the Gospel according to Matthew quite complete, in Hebrew; for this Gospel is certainly still preserved among them as it was first written, in Hebrew letters. I do not know if they have even removed the genealogy from Abraham to Christ.”5 The Stichometry of Nicephorus of uncertain date, lists, the Gospel of the Hebrews as having 2,200 lines, whereas the Gospel of Matthew has 2,500. As it is admitted by Eusebius that Matthew wrote the Gospel in Hebrew originally, (confirmed by Papias and Epiphanius) it seems 300 extra lines have been added to it, if the Gospel of the Hebrews is the original, or copy of the original Gospel. Possibly the genealogical listings may account for some of these, and the transference of such incidents as the woman caught in adultery to other Gospels make answer for the rest. Whatever the facts, it is quite clear that the original “Sayings” of Matthew have been changed in some form. There is one reference to what appears to be the present shroud of Turin, or its counterpart, quoted by St. Jerome from the Gospel following the “resurrection” of Jesus: “Now the Lord, when he had given the linen cloth unto the servant of the priest, went unto James and appeared to him. . . .”6 4. Eusebius op. cit. 39.17. 5. Epiphanius Heresy 19:9.4. 6. Jerome Of Illustrious Men, 2. 14 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS Origin 3rd century also quotes from the Gospel:7 “And if any accept the Gospel according to the Hebrews, where the Saviour himself saith, ‘Even now did my mother the Holy Spirit take me by one of mine hairs, and carried me away to the great mountain Thabor,’ he will be perplexed. . . .” Naturally they would be perplexed unless they had the Gospel of the Essenes also in their possession, where the angelic term “earthy mother” is fully explained. It will not be lost to the reader, I am sure that this is also the explanation given of the Holy Spirit. The perplexed ones had erroneously assumed it to be a part of the divinity. This is the trouble with most translations. We shall come across the gospel again, later. The letters of Ignatius have received the same treatment as those of Paul. Most scholars consider them to have numerous interpolations of the 4th century, seven possibly being genuine and six definitely forgeries. Their content is very unreliable, concerned with warnings against heretics, as ever, a refutation of the Jewish law, (from one who had been a pupil of the apostles), and what appears to be an exhortation to believe in the Nicene Creed, which had to wait some two centuries yet before it came into existence.8 Most of the doctrine propounded by Ignatius is quite obviously 4th century in origin and undoubtedly represents an effort on someone’s part to influence in favour of the particular view of the church they represented — that the apostles and Early Fathers had all taught and believed the same things. Although we may consider many of these works as forgeries now, it should be remembered that the early Christians were greatly influenced by these writings and used them to frame their own doctrines and dogmas. This in part may exonerate the majority from open complicity. Of course, the church has continuously referred to them to the present day in support of their dogmas, citing them as proof that they were taught in the age of the apostles. The letters of Polycarp have of recent years similarly been regarded as unreliable. A Latin version is extant but the Greek text has been changed. Mention is made in them of some 2nd century heresies, once more, but there are some doubts as to whether these sects were prominent at the time of Polycarp. On the other hand the Epistle of Barnabas has been frequently quoted by the Early Fathers such as Clement of Alexandria, Origin and Eusebius, and was considered quite genuine by them. Notwithstanding this, it is now excluded.9 If this is a complaint against Christians, it is also a complaint of them. Justin martyr is of the opinion that the Jews had deliberately cut out the prophecies, 7. Origen on John, 2, 12. 8. Epistle to the Trallians 2.10. 9. Early Christian Fathers F. Ross (Duckworth). CANONICAL BOOKS 15 used by the Christians, from their scriptures. In particular he cites the verse, “the Lord shall reign from the tree” as an example. More likely is the explanation that some of the Christian churches had inserted this verse to support their own benefits, although it must be said, Josephus informs us the Jewish books were continually being chopped and changed in his time (c. 80 A.D.). Insertion can be deduced again in the letters of Paul. Clement of Alexandria,10 concerning himself with the question of marriage for Christians, which was a great controversy in the 2nd century, points out for support a passage from Paul’s Epistle”.11 Clement, writing in support of marriage, shows that both Peter and Philip had families and also that Paul was married. In actual fact, the copies of Paul’s epistles we possess do not show that he was married at all, perhaps due to the influence yet again of Marcion who firmly disapproved of Christians’ marrying. But the striking aspect of this particular verse in Corinthians is not the verse itself, but the one which immediately follows it. This states that all the apostles, Jesus’ brothers and even Cephas were married, yet Clement does not quote it in support of his belief, contenting himself with the much lesser statement that only two of the apostles were married. This must surely lead us to one of two conclusions: (a) The verse was not extent in Clements copy, or (b) at his time someone removed the reference to it. In view of the marital controversy it seems more likely that the verse was inserted in Corinthians, especially as in the rest of his epistles, like Marcion, Paul does not advocate the institution of marriage. This would mean that Marcion’s was not the only hand which tampered with this work. Dionysius, bishop of Corinth in the second half of the 2nd century, has a similar grievance against the interpolators. “When my fellow-Christians invited me to write letters to them I did so. These the devils’ apostles have filled with tares, taking away some things and adding others. For them the woe is reserved. Small wonder then if some have dared to tamper even with the word of the Lord Himself, when they have conspired to mutilate my own humble efforts.”12 The vast number of interpolations, lack of original texts, and desire to support particular doctrinal points make it virtually impossible to say which, if any, can be classed as completely authentic books and which not. Added to this may be the custom of the Essenes and the Christians to attribute their writings to historical persons for reasons of style and in the latters’ case, to lend authenticity. The 2nd century bishops, not being able to read Hebrew 10. Clemens Alexandrinus-Miscellanies-quoted by Eusebius op. cit 30:1. 11. I Corinthians 9.5. 12. Quoted by Eusebius op. cit. 23.8. 16 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS and not being aware of the historical beginnings of Christianity to any great extent, had no means of knowing what was genuine and what was not. They could only judge in the light of their own beliefs at the time. This is why so many books were regarded as scripture at one time and were considered heretical at another. Doctrines and beliefs had changed and so too must the books change to support those beliefs. Melito, bishop of Sardis in Asia, had received letters from Onesirnus, a colleague, asking for information about the recognised Old Testament books. Melito did not have the information, but on making a trip to Palestine, took pains to discover the facts, (c 170-80). “So when I visited the east and arrived at the place where it all happened and the truth was proclaimed, I obtained precise information about the Old Testament books, and made out a list which I am now sending to you.”13 Evidently Melito and his churches were using what we would regard as New Testament books only. This would have made it somewhat difficult to maintain the Jewish traditions. Presumably no one nearby in another bishopric possessed the information either, therefore the knowledge of the. congregations would have been similarly limited on the subject. Perhaps it would be worth while to quote his list of genuine books. These were: Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, Deuteronomy. Joshua, Judges, Ruth Kings (4 books), Chronicles (2 books), Psalms of David Solomons Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Job, Isaiah, Jeremiah (inc. Lamentations), the Twelve in a single book, Daniel, Ezekiel, Ezra With the exception of Esther, this would appear to present a full list of our present Old Testament books. In the 1st century the catacombs in Rome and the works of Christian writers abound with Old Testament references; with the changeover from Hebrew into Greek and Latin, the Old Testament references gradually disappear, the New Testament books gradually spreading to replace them. Knowledge of the Old Testament seems to have been lost with this changeover also; when Eusebius relates the account of the persecution in Gaul by Marcus Aurelius 13. Melito — Extracts quoted by Eusebius op. tit. 27.4. CANONICAL BOOKS 17 (177 A.D.) nearly all the quotations in the passage are from the New Testament, but curiously, a great number of them are misquoted. Either the writer suffered from a lapse of memory, or the wording in the Gallic copies of the New Testament books was different then than now. The measures taken by the emperors following the second Jewish rebellion to actively prohibit circumcision in new converts meant that converts to “Christianity” could never be fully accepted as full members of Judaism (ger tzedek), should they have wished to do so. The most they could hope for was to be regarded as half-members of the Jewish community (ger tashav). Only a few writers were advocating the Jewish law for Christians; Justin thought it permissible, though most considered it undesirable especially as the Jews had recently been completely humiliated yet gain by the Roman armies. This was their punishment for failing to accept Jesus, therefore to follow their law was tantamount to joining the disbelievers. Around the middle of the century Marcion produced the first list of Canonical books; prior to this there was none agreed by all the churches. Fearful of Marcion’s growing influence, this superior form of organisation encouraged the Roman church to publish its own list of approved books; this we can see in the Muratorian fragment, a mutilated copy of what is regarded as a canonical list in Rome c. 180 A.D. This document may be a copy of a genuine list, but its authenticity cannot be proved satisfactorily. The four synoptic gospels are included in it at the beginning, followed by: “Moreover the Acts of all Apostles are included in one book, Luke addressed them to the most excellent Theophilus because the several events took place when he was present and he makes this plain by the omission of the passion of Peter and of the journey of Paul when he left Rome for Spain.” If correct, the above two descriptions have been omitted on rather spurious grounds. The j ourney to Spain fits in well with Apollonius of Tyana’s j ourney there in the account given by Philostratus, but evidently these two omissions must have existed in some form in order for the copyist to have mentioned them. A passion of Peter is now classed as apocryphal. The epistles of Paul are described as: 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Galatians, Thessalonians and Romans. Those to Alexandrians and Laodicians are considered forgeries by Marcion. Letters to Philemon, Titus and two to Timothy are allowed as authentic, as well as the two epistles to John, Jude, and the Wisdom of Solomon. The Apocalypse of John and (probably) that of Peter is also included, together with the “Shepherd” by Hernias. 18 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS This, of course, refers only to the Roman church; other churches had their own preferences. Of the New Testament canon in the present day, the following were omitted by the Roman church: 2 Corinthians, 2 Thessalonians, Hebrew, James, I and II Peter, 3 John and Revelations, and of the Muratorian list, the Apocalypses of John and Peter, the Shepherd and Wisdom of Solomon have now been omitted. By any standards this is a great discrepancy in judgement. Was the error in the bishops of Rome and their congregations in including some and excluding others, or was the fault with those who changed the Muratorian list? Which were “imposed” as the present term denotes it, and which were not? What is genuine in one age cannot become false in another and vice-versa, unless we judge, not according to religion, but the need of the times. Let us compare the list with that presented by Eusebius (c. 330) to see what has changed in a century and a half. Eusebius accepts the four gospels and Acts, Pauls’ epistles (all?). I John, 1 Peter and is undecided about Revelations. Those which are disputed include the epistles of James, Jude, 2 Peter and 2 and 3 John. “Spurious books” are designated as Acts of Paul, the Shepherd, Revelation of Peter, Epistle of Barnabas, Teachings of the Apostles, Revelation of John (if not accepted in the first category), and Gospel of Hebrews. The rest are heretical. Quite why the Gospel of the Hebrews, written for Jews in Hebrew to outline the truth of Jesus’ mission, should have been forged must remain a mystery. If the book was in Hebrew, Eusebius would not have been able to read it; if it was aimed at the Jews it must not have contained any ideas opposed to the Mosaic Law, and perhaps this explains why it was disputed, although the original was the translation for Matthew. It is quite possible that none of these books mentioned by Eusebius is exactly identical with the ones we have at present. We do not know the text of the works for the first three centuries and it may be that some changes have been made to them, as was common practice.* We must also account for the Theodotionic readings in New Testament books. Theodotion of Ephesus, referred to by Irenaeus in the 2nd century was a convert to Judaism, or an Ebionite according to St. Jerome. He revised the Septuagint from the Hebrew text, used by Origin (c. 245) in his “Hexopla”. Theodotion is credited with the present translation of Ezra •—• Nehemiah and Daniel and possibly some others unknown to us because the text is lost. In the New Testament, the text of his translation occurs particularly in quotation from Daniel (Hebrews) and Revelation (Hebrews 11: 33 also 9, 20; 10; 6:12; 7: 13, 7: 19, 6: 20, 4: 20, 11). Fragments and the texts of some books do exist from the 3rd century. CANONICAL BOOKS 19 Barnabas, Clement and Hennas also have Theodotionic references. As these books are supposed to have been composed before the lifetime of Theodotion this presents us with something of a problem. Either Theodotion used an alternative version to the Septuagint, unknown to us, but perhaps used locally, or the books referred to were composed, using Theodotions’ translation, much later than is thought. If the latter is the case it would fit in quite nicely with the policy of editing manuscripts which appears to have been commonly practiced by the Christian churches. It would certainly appear to be another example of tampering with the texts, or alternatively forgeries. Hennas alone would be excusable as having Theodotions’ translation available. The Diatessaron of Tatian (c. 170-80 A.D.) present us with what is probably our oldest glimpse of the four New Testament gospels. After studying under Justin Martyr in Rome, Tatian returned to his native Syria where he compiled a harmony of the four gospels, though in what language exactly is not known. This harmony in all probability represented a selection of sayings from the four canonical gospels compiled into one book form. It is unlikely that the four gospels existed as separate entities at this time and the Diatessaron remained the main form of Gospel narrative in Syria until the 6th century, when bishop Theodoret replaced it by the Peshitta version. The Diatessaron itself has since been lost to us. In close relationship with Tatians’ work are the Syriac manuscripts — the Sinai and Curetonian. These are generally placed in the 4th and 5th centuries respectively, though again there can be no certainty of dating. They both contain numerous readings which differ from the present gospels, both being extant in fragmentary form only, but for detailed comparison a closer study than can be provided here is recommended. One or two examples may suffice to whet the appetite; the wording of the Lords Prayer is different to the present official version; the verses describing the Last Supper are in an alternative order, while the wording above the cross is omitted by both manuscripts. The Sinaitic version has the quite remarkable addition, “Why are they taking away the stone?” delivered outside the tomb of Jesus in the garden, and which may present a much more prosaic explanation of the resurrection than has previously been considered. The Sinaitic manuscript is the shortest New Testament text we have available and perhaps contains the bare bones of the Gospel narrative in its simplest form before later additions were made. The extent codices and manuscripts generally fall into the distinct types — the western and the eastern, probably representing the two traditions in the Greek and Latin. The western text, compiled by the Roman and western churches contains many interpolations, if we assume the eastern text is the earlier or more authentic. 20 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS This is only to be expected from extensive translation. The Sinaitic Syriac omits all the major western interpolations, though in itself does not represent the original text of the gospels. With reference to the disputed ending of Mark’s Gospel, the Sinaitic omits it altogether, -as do the majority of Armenian manuscripts, together with the Georgian Adysh and Opiza. The text of the Latin Bible existed in one form or another from the end of the 2nd century. Victor, bishop of Rome is reputed to have been the first ecclesiastical writer to compose in Latin. Tertullian, Cyprian and others all quote from what appears to be the Old Latin text, but there was such a multiplicity of versions, each with its variations, that Pope Damasus felt compelled to ask St. Jerome to revise the Latin Bible in 382. This he did, though probably he did not go beyond a revision of the four gospels. Jerome attempted to bring the Latin versions into line with Greek manuscripts to remedy the complete disorder into which the Latin Bible had fallen. The choice of Greek manuscripts was left to Jerome himself, but like all ecclesiastical authorities of that date he could only judge their worth according to their correlation with the contemporary doctrines. Jerome’s finished version is the Vulgate, which did not gain universal favour until some considerable time after his death. However, it eventually became the official western Bible for over a thousand years. With the supremacy of the Roman church, all translations were made from it until the 16th century and the growth of Protestanism. Today it remains the official Bible of the Roman church in its revised form. It is not difficult, therefore, to visualise how it has shaped our view of Christianity to the present time.

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